Friday, October 23, 2009

Serging Ahead!

As if I didn't have a long enough list of craft projects and new ideas waiting to be explored, I had to stumble upon a new toy!

Purchased from Goodwill for only $39.99, I knew it was a gamble. But with Goodwill's 10 Day return policy for electronics, I knew it was a sure bet to pick up this Simplicity Easy Lock Serger and give it a whirl. After finding a PDF of the owner's manual online, I knew I was in great shape! All of the original accessories were included (rare!), plus four full cones of black thread - that's $15 in savings right there! After 45 minutes of using the manual to learn how to thread the darn thing, and another 15 minutes adjusting the various thread tensions and stitch lengths, I was finally in business!

Now, I was under the impression machines were invented to make life easier for humans. My new Simplicity Easy Lock Serger does just that - it enhances simple projects and simplifies certain tasks. But on the other hand, a whole mew world of crafting and sewing possibilities open up for me, making my life anything but easier!

I'm eager to try some of the fab ideas in "Ready, Set, Serge!" by Georgie Melot. Check back to see just how I put my new toy to use!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Owl of the Week: Saw-Whet Owl 83163

Title: 83163

Banded: October 10, 2009

October 17, 2009

Gender: Male

Location: Banded and Released at Woodland Dunes Nature Preserve in Two Rivers, WI

Unique Characteristic(s): At this year's annual Owlfest at Woodland Dunes, we had the very unique opportunity to learn about and interact with Saw-Whet Owls. These breath-taking creatures were the star attractions at this fund-raising event. For a small donation, we were even able to "adopt" one of these captivating creatures. We'll be able to track his progress if he's ever captured and released again!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Gourd-geous Designs: Halloween 2009

Check out our two carved beauties we did up for the annual Halloween party!

Pumpkin on the left uses another idea from The Best of Martha Stewart Living: Halloween to create a starry, magical glow. Small round holes are punched over the entirety of the gutted pumpkin. We used a screwdriver. A larger hole is punched unobtrusively in the backside of the gourd, near the base. White Christmas lights are strung through that base hole, and are then individually inserted into each punched hole. Left over lights on the strand easily fit in the center of the hollow pumpkin, enhancing its warm glow. Small hands work best in the confined space, so get the kids to gently assist you on this one. Icicle lights work just as well as single stranded lights do. On a medium sized pumpkin, we punched 50 holes and used a 100 light set.

Our other gourd-geous pumpkin was created by doctoring a clip-art image to suit our needs. This handsome little owl was found doing an image search. It's best to use images with simple lines, few details, and using 2-3 colors in its design. That way, its easier to mark on the image what design elements are cut away and what design elements are formed by the pumpkin itself. We also utilized a linoleum cutter to shave away bits of the pumpkin to emphasize the overall shape and outline of the owl, without having to make intricate slices. If by chance you do cut out an element, say an eye, but want to add back in detail, say an iris/pupil, bamboo skewers work wonders at holding pumpkin chunks in place. Plus, they're relatively unnoticeable!

Hope this gives you a little inspiration to enhance your pumpkin carving. I'm already gathering new ideas for myself...

ext year i just may have to try these little guys!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday's Feisty Feast: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

We get into the festive Halloween spirit with quite a flourish around here! I'm always eager to stumble upon new holiday decorating ideas and new holiday recipes. Today's blog post rolls them both into one!

Browsing the craft section of my local library, I came across The Best of Martha Stewart Living: Halloween. I was very inspired by several of her ideas and used them to carve a few pumpkins for the annual Halloween party we attend. More photos coming soon! We scoured local hardware stores and big-box chain stores for the perfect tool to make 1" round holes in our first pumpkin (see above). Don't waster your time doing the same. Nobody could help us with our carving supply needs. But as luck would have it, we had access to old metal wind chime pipes. This worked far better than expected and produced smooth, round results! A large Phillips screwdriver punched smaller star-shaped holes for a glittery effect around the larger holes. It was gourd-geous! (Get it? Gourd-geous instead of gorgeous? Very punny...)

It's practically holiday law that you can't play surgeon to a pumpkin without properly attending to his innards. That's where today's recipe comes in. Roasting pumpkin seeds makes a great snack, is the perfect addition to home-made trail mix, and is popular with all the boys and ghouls at holiday parties!

Traditional Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1-2 cups fresh Pumpkin Seeds
Olive Oil Cooking Spray
Salt to taste (Sea Salt works great!)

Clean pumpkin seeds with water. Easy method: Throw seeds into a large colander and rinse off in the sink. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment and spray with olive oil cooking spray. Add the pumpkin seeds in a single layer and coat with another layer of olive oil cooking spray. Season with salt to taste. Bake in oven for 30-45 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy!

Go Un-traditional! Try some of these exciting twists on this traditional recipe. (Tip:Olive oil or olive oil cooking spray may be used in place of butter in any of these recipes.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Owl of the Week: Dirk the Dutch Style Owl

Title: Dirk the Dutch Style Owl

Late Summer 2009

Ceramic glazed in Dutch blue, light brown, black, and green over an unglazed grey clay

5 inches tall

Currently adding whimsy and charm to our bookshelves

Unique Characteristic(s):
Painted in a style reminiscent of one made popular in 19th Century Dutch Potteries, this colorful and bold bird aptly needed a Dutch name.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Idea Journal = Instant Inspiration

If you're anything like me, you read a magazine or browse a catalog and inevitably find tons of inspiring projects or home decor ideas you'd love to try someday. You tear out or photocopy the items or articles you like the most and squirrel them away in random places around the house. Or even worse, you save the entire catalog or magazine in fear of besmirching it's integrity and the inspiration it contains.

Stop all of that silly nonsense and buy yourself a blank journal. I prefer the orderliness of a lined journal, but get yourself whatever is most functional for you. Gather up all of those random clippings and copies and determine any major themes among them. For me, it's Home Decor Ideas, Holidays, Special Occasions, and Gift Ideas, but for you it could be more specific like Color Ideas and Fabric Samples for the Living Room or Garden Tips or Anniversary Vacation Destinations. Now make tabs for each of your categories by placing same-shaped stickers back-to-back on the edge of a journal page. Space these tabs out throughout your journal and evenly down the side edge of the journal.

Now start pasting in your fabulous articles and pictures, leaving plenty of room to jot down notes. Record your initial reactions or ideas on how to take the project and make it better with your own special touches. And no need to do this all in one day. I continually add to my Idea Journal and use long car rides to do any of the note jotting I need to do.

This is a great way to always have ideas at the ready and to keep control on that inescapable creative clutter!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Crafty Quick Fix: Instant Ensemble

We all have those days... You wake up and realize you haven't a thing to wear, despite a closet bulging with clothes. I've developed a simple way to always have an outfit at the ready for any occasion, without the hassle of trying a dozen things on. Set aside a rainy afternoon, grab your digital camera (or better yet, a Polaroid!), and head straight to your closet! Start piecing together outfits you've worn in the past and have felt fabulous in. Snap a photograph or two of it. Be creative and be daring. Heck, it's only a photo!

The goal here is to create an album of pre-determined outfits you can turn to when you're fashionably at a loss. You can even jot down notes for each outfit, describing what type of occasion its appropriate for, what shoes to wear with it, and what accessories would dress the outfit up or dress it down for a casual event.
"Make it Work." - Tim Gunn, fashion guru

Take it a step further. Invite a best girlfriend over and see what combinations she fancies. She might see potential in that green silk blouse of yours you never had the courage to wear. Even ask your boyfriend or significant other what outfit they like best. Star that outfit in your album and remember to wear it on an anniversary or birthday!

Check out some of the outfits I've created for myself, mixing in some of the tips from Real Simple Magazine's Essentials of a Well-Balanced Wardrobe. Challenge: Can you spot the thrift store finds?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Owl of the Week: Funk the Owl

Title: Funk the Owl (named after the German verb "funkeln" which means to sparkle)

Adopted: Spring 2009

Material: Ceramic glazed in mottled light and dark brown with black metal insert to hold votive or tea light

Size: Short & Squat, approximately 5 inches tall

Location: Anywhere! (As long as its never left unattended when lit!)

Unique Characteristic(s): Includes a metal hook at the top for hanging. Distinctively constructed with no wrong side or backside, i.e. with a face on either side of its body - providing a pleasant visage from any side!

***WARNING*** Geek Tangent: Being the classical mythology geek that I am, Funk the Owl totally brings to mind Janus, the two-headed Roman god. He too had no backside and could face forwards and backwards at the same time. Because of this special trait, he became the token god of city gates and doorways. Our month of January is even named after him, because the month looks back on the year before but also looks forward to a new year. Janus is the god of endings and new beginnings, because as Green Day puts it, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end..."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What A Joy's Real-Ly Simple Wardrobe Guide

On a serendipitous jaunt around the Internet, I stumbled across quite a boon: Real Simple Magazine's Essentials of a Well-Balanced Wardrobe. Like any person of the female persuasion, I already had a hankering for a slight wardrobe update, this list just helps reign me in and focus my spending on items that coordinate well together and with items I already own.

Although Real Simple's ideal demographic is someone with a career and a real income, my ever eco-friendly and money-thrift nature first led me to my own closet to see what goodies were hiding out in there, and then on a roadtrip to the nearest metropolitan spread of Goodwills, Salvation Armies, and generic thrift stores. This method may have taken a little extra gas money and a little extra patience scouring racks of donated clothing, but it sure made up for it in the money I saved and the thrill of spotting a great find. Not to mention, I wasn't limited to the hottest and latest but often hideous fashion trends department stores carry. At a thrift store, I'm able to shop for a style that not only appeals to my personal fashion sense, but also suits my body type and is age appropriate. (I hate being twenty-something - too old for the Juniors section but still feeling too young for the Misses section!)

I've already directed my mother and my sister to try out this guide too! And feel free to edit down the list to only the items you know you would wear. To be honest, I don't quite have any desire or any reason to own a pair of velvet pants as Real Simple suggests. And the idea of wearing a bold patterned sweater instantly causes me to crave Jell-O pudding and do Bill Cosby impersonations! Go ahead and make the list your own!

With all of that said, stayed tuned for Friday's post which exhibits a quirky yet functional way to always know the perfect outfit to wear! And I'll include some sneak peaks at some of the cute new clothes I bought (and their unbelievable purchase price)!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Crafting for a Cause: Cool Rice Therapy Bags

ack in May, I formed a unique collaboration with Heartland Hospice Care. I'm now a volunteer with their organization who gets to spend all of her volunteer time sewing and crafting! What great luck for a craft-a-holic! It's a wonderful way for me to focus my creative energies and as a bonus, patients and volunteers of Heartland Hospice Care benefit from my creativity.

My goal as a "crafter with a cause" is to work with the volunteer coordinator to discover the needs of the hospice patients and volunteers and design a craft project to both fulfill those needs and quench my creative thirst. Thanks to Sew, Mama, Sew, I was able to create these amazing Cool Rice Therapy Bags. I altered the size of the pattern provided by Sew, Mama, Sew and used a medley of fabric scraps and remnants. I tried to achieve a balance of both masculine and feminine color and pattern schemes.

Each Cool Rice Therapy Bag includes a decorative sleeve, a muslin rice-filled pouch, and a tag of directions. The muslin-filled rice pouch contains approximately 1 cup of rice and is to be stored in the freezer. When you're in need of some cool, soothing relief, just slip over the decorative sleeve and rest the therapy bag on your forehead, neck, over your eyes, etc. The flexible rice bag conforms to the shape of your body, providing targeted relief.

For the patients of Heartland Hospice Care I made 10 Cool Rice Therapy Bags, 2 each of 5 designs. Now I can't wait to try my hand at other shapes, sizes, and fabric choices for some Cool Rice Therapy Bags of my very own!