Monday, August 29, 2011

Fairy houses

I recently took the girl to a Fairy House festival, hosted by children's book author Tracey Kane.  The goal was simple enough - use natural materials found in the immediate area, plus a few extras that they provided, to build a little house for any fairies who might have been hanging around Winter Park.  The girl is a major fan of fairies, so she was delighted to give it a go and had so much fun.  We found a patch of daisies up against a tree and wove them together to create a little structure that we decorated with flowers and grasses and rocks.  Here's our house, and a pulled back shot so you can see how it blended into the area.

The funnest thing about this was watching the girl use her imagination to scout out building and decorating materials, interacting with nature.  She took it very seriously and carefully considered the function of all the pieces she was adding.

We went back later in the day for the second session that was being hosted, and built a second house.  This time we used old branches to build a teepee like strcture against the back of a little aspen tree.  There's even a bed of flowers for the fairies to sleep on.

At the end of our weekend in Winter Park, we took a walk back over to where we had built our houses, so the girl could admire her handiwork once more... and check to see if maybe, just maybe, any fairies had found their way to her house.

I've since looked around online at some fairy house building and miniature garden websites, and it's seriously amazing what some people put together.  Here and here are two great sites to look at if you're interested.  Being restricted to materials in the immediate area definitely kept our fairy house nice and simple, but the girl would really like to build something more intricate in our own garden... and no doubt give some lucky fairy a beautiful place to stay. 
Friday, August 26, 2011

Project 52 - Week 34 {dahlia}

After the amount of thought I put into black and white photographs last week, I had to go for gorgeous color this week.

Dahlias are my one of new favorite flowers, I think.  I've never planted them before, but this year we bought a princess gardening kit for the girl, and it included dahlia seeds.  I didn't have high expectations for these seeds actually sprouting, and even planted them without a thought in the front of a flower bed.  Now they've grown into gorgeous 3 foot tall flowers... and let's just say that the other plants growing behind the dahlias are not even close to 3 feet tall.  The poor things have been totally hidden and overwhelmed by the dahlias.

I posted this picture on Earth Day... I didn't think about it until I was writing this post, but that was one of our dahlias way back when it was just a little seedling.  Ahhh, they grow up so fast.

ETA: I've been informed that this may be a zinnia rather than a dahlia.  It's possible... the princess kit came with seeds of both flowers.  A little internet research tells me that different variations of each of those flowers look remarkably similar.  If anyone has expertise in this matter, please let me know!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Time for crafting

How do you find the time to make all that?

I get this question sometimes, or some variation of it.  Usually it's asked in a complementary way, but every once in awhile someone says it in a way that makes me feel as though I've frittered away my time doing something ridiculous.  It makes me a little defensive.

I got this sort of comment more than once after I posted about the projects I worked on last month (though, thankfully for my self esteem, none of them were of the condescending sort).  There was a lot of fun stuff made last month... but I assure you, that was a rarity and it won't happen again for awhile.  Remember I said I don't do enough crafts to write a craft blog?  I meant it.

The funny thing is, I get less than half of the time I would like to have, to work on projects or photography.  I have to make the most of the time I do get.  My crafting opportunities usually occur during nap time or on the weekends after the kids go to bed -- assuming that those times aren't already being taken up by something else.  Any project I've done, has probably been done in spurts, 15 minutes here or 30 minutes there.  To sit down, and complete a project from start to finish - it just doesn't happen.

Finding time to craft is easier - and funner - if it's something I can get the kids involved in.  The boy is still too young (and for that matter, too much of a busy little toddler) to be involved in much, but the girl loves to help out and most of the projects I complete have a contribution from her somewhere.  She has her own cut out states hanging on her wall from the map project, and houses made from the pretty papers I made pinwheels from, and paintings hanging on the fridge from when I get paint out.  I'm lucky, really, that she likes to have crafting time together when the boy goes down for nap (soon enough, she'll be too old to think hanging out with mom is any fun!).  The two of us spent this last weekend in Winter Park, and when I asked her what she wanted to do after dinner, when we were at the hotel, she told me she wanted to make fairy dresses.  We went prepared.

I hardly watch any TV, I don't play video games, I'm almost never on Facebook, I don't like chatting on the phone for more than a few minutes, and  I won't work a job that steals any of my time outside of work hours.  Heck yeah, I feel defensive to anyone who thinks I'm wasting time with crafts, or proclaim that they don't have time for "that stuff" in a tone that appears to indicate they clearly have more important things in their lives than I do (<-- yup... overheard at the library recently, though not about me).  To them, I wonder... what ARE you spending your time doing?  Does watching the Bachelorette or some other reality show make you feel more fulfilled than my craft time does for me?  Does working late hours, away from your family, make you more satisfied than I feel when I'm sharing my creativity with my children?

I doubt it.

So there it is, I've said my piece.  If you're reading this... well, those of you that would be here, probably get what I'm saying... and those of you that I know in "real life," this certainly isn't aimed at any of you.  No, I don't have enough time for all the things I want to do, and yes, I also have things in my life that are time wasters... but crafting isn't one of them.

Monday, August 22, 2011

School is awesome

Back in May, when the girl turned 5 and the whole summer loomed in front of us, I made this prediction about how the first day of kindergarten would go for us.

I was right.

In my defense, I didn't completely break down.  But it was hard not to tear up as she lined up with her other classmates and marched into her new classroom, so full of confidence and without a care in the world.  After school, the only thing she had to report was that school was "awesome" and she was hungry for lunch.  Of course.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Project 52 - Week 33 {quiet time}

So who noticed that I did something different than normal with the processing on some of the pictures I posted last week for the scavenger hunt?

Okay, I know the answer to that question is probably none of you... but it was a big deal for me.  Some of those pictures are in black and white!

They're the first black and white pictures I've posted on this blog.  Switching a color photograph to one in black and white is something that I rarely do, for three reasons: first, getting a GOOD b/w conversion isn't easy.  Second, I'm not always good at knowing WHEN a photograph would be good without color.  I don't think that every picture would look in black and white, even with the best conversion.  The final reason I don't do the conversion very often - I love color! :)

That being said, I keep a list in the back of my planner, of things I want to read about or learn to do regarding photography and guess what? Black and white conversions are on that list.  When I first saw those two pictures from the scavenger hunt, I knew instantly that they would be better in black and white.  With this photograph, it wasn't so immediate, but after playing around with it for awhile and not getting it right, I found that I felt better about the picture once it had been converted.

I decided to convert this one to black and white because I wanted the focus to be on how hard the boy was concentrating on his reading.  The bright colors of the books, combined with the colors of the carpet and the colors of the pillows behind him (before I cropped those out) made me feel like my eye was wandering around the picture a little.  It also seemed noisy compared to the way the moment actually was, which was quiet and contemplative.  (relatively speaking, of course, considering the subject of this photograph is a two year old boy).

I love to read.  And I love that my kids enjoy reading also.  I'm hoping that's something that they'll carry with them as they get older.  And that they'll always be this cute when they're doing it.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monthly craft post {a tale of five canvases}

I like blank art canvases.  Enough so, that a short while ago, I had no less than 13 canvases of various sizes sitting on the floor waiting to be used for something.  Here's 5 ideas I used to dress up some of those canvases... and they all cost under $10.  All of the canvases have been bought from Michael's using 50% off coupons, and paint, ribbon, paper, and a stencil were the only other things I purchased.

1. Painting:
This one was totally copied inspired by this print (for about $130) at World Market.  My version:

I used a foam stencil brush to get the (mostly circular) shapes onto the canvas.

Also, this is my favorite way to create an art palette to hold my paint.  It's a bowl with aluminum foil on it.  Clean up is super easy.  And when painting with the kiddos, it gives them a chance to mix colors without making too big of a mess.

I'm also really liking this piece of art from the same store and have an idea of how to do it... if it works, I'll come back and share.

2. Map

Inspiration came from this website's homepage.  To start, I used masking tape to lay out a border around the canvas.  Then I painted the whole canvas with a light blue.  (sidenote:  remember when I mentioned here that we spilled paint on the carpet?  It happened while we were painting this canvas.  And unfortunately, I can still kind of see where this blue paint landed.)  I pulled the tape off and had a built in frame for the map.

I used a generic map that I found on google, copied at 200% magnification, and cut out all the states to serve as a template.  I traced those templates onto pretty scrapbook paper, making sure to write the name of the state on the back since my geography apparently isn't as up to par as I thought it was.  I started with California and used Mod Podge to put down the pieces across the country.  Before I glued, I made sure the pieces fit together perfectly.

I finished it off by putting map pins into the places we've travelled as a family.  Still trying to decide if I want to add pins for the places that the hubby or I have traveled to sans children.  There's a special red pin marking where we live.

Here's a close up.

This was my favorite project, but was more time consuming than I expected, mostly due to my Type A crafting insanity -- I couldn't accept the states not being perfectly lined up and had to re-trace and re-cut a couple of them to make it work right.  (Confession: I had to finally give up in one section of the country, and there is one state that is not the correct proportion.  But I'm not telling which state...)

3. Pinwheels
Okay, I lied.  I said the map project was my favorite, but I'm actually really in love with this one too.

There's a few crafting trends that I'm not in love with (anyone else not like chevron patterns?) but I am completely on the bandwagon with pinwheels.  I have a vase of them sitting on the kitchen counter, left over from the girl's birthday back in MAY, which I haven't taken down yet.  They're incredibly easy to make yourself and I'd been trying to think of something to do with a set of them, when I found this simple project.  I used pearl tipped straight pins (that I already had on hand) and a dot of hot glue to stick the pinwheels to the canvas.  The blue ribbon on the sides is from the clearance bin at Michael's.  This is for the girl's room, she helped pick out the paper.

4. Splattered paint
Definitely the easiest project!

We actually have a set of four of these in our playroom.  I stripped down the kids, took them outside, poured paint in their hands, and let them throw it.  The girl can still identify exactly which ones were hers.

5. Stencilling
This was my least favorite project.  As in, didn't enjoy doing it, didn't love the outcome, please don't ever ask me to do it again.

I've seen some amazing stencilling projects, and thought I would give it a try using this train stencil that the boy found in Hobby Lobby, and then walked around the store hugging it to his chest.  I went through not one, not two, but three canvases trying to do this.  I don't know if it was bad luck, or lack of stencilling mojo, or a combination, but it just wasn't working for me.  Paint seemed to end up everywhere that I didn't want it.  I can't put my finger on exactly why I don't like this, but the boy loves it and keeps asking when I'll put it in his room.  I wish I could say I would try stencilling something else, but I'm definitely crossing this off my list of techniques to try again.

So there you have it, five projects, five new pieces of art to hang in the house.  I still have six canvases I could do something with.  Maybe I can find some inspiration on pinterest... which depsite trying to avoid for the last few months, has totally sucked me in during the last week or so.  Come and find me if you've already signed up, or let me know if you need an invite!
Sunday, August 14, 2011

Scavenger Hunt Sunday

I've mentioned already that I've been having trouble finding the motivation to bring out the camera lately.  So in an attempt to push past it, I decided to try out a Scavenger Hunt hosted by Ashley Sisk.  This week's items were:

1. Against the Light
2. Frame Within a Frame
3. Best Part of Your Day
4. Buttons
5. Ink

This is the first time I've done the scavenger hunt, and doing it definitely helped me get out of the rut I've been in!  Ashley hosts this every week, so it's something I'll likely be visiting again.  Here's what I got:

1. Against the Light

I wanted to capture a great backlit photograph but no such luck. (really need to figure out how to do that.)  Anyway, I decided instead to interpret "Against the Light" by shooting the shadow my girl cast when she was dancing in the sunlight.

2. Frame within a frame
I was going to capture flowers within this frame, but the girl ended up making a much prettier subject.

3. Best part of your day
I'm not a summer person.  The sooner we get past all this heat, the happier I'll be.  The best part of a summer day to me is in the evening, as the temperatures finally come down to bearable, the sun is setting instead of beating down, and the mosquitos haven't yet emerged in swarms.  It's the best part of the day to be outside.

4. Buttons
Love the colors of these buttons I have left over from a previous project.

5. Ink

We're getting ready for school to start around here... one more week until I send my oldest off to kindergarten. (eek!)

Thanks for looking!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Project 52 - Week 32 {tea time}

Yup, for this week's photo, I'm going with the tried and true, always lovely (to me), picture of the kids.  Looking back, I see this is the first time I've used one of them together for my Project 52.  I think it's about time, don't you?

They were laughing about spraying water in each other's faces.  Nice, right?   It started out innocently enough, with them sharing "tea" (water) together.  By the time they were finished, there was a flood great mess of water on the floor.  So glad now that I managed to have the foresight to suggest they have tea on the kitchen floor where it was easy to clean up.  I have no idea how this whole thing didn't escalate into something worse, something where they weren't giggling hysterically. Something that involved yelling over who started it, and who had endured the biggest insult.   Instead, when they were finally done drowning the kitchen having their tea party, they cleaned up.


So here's the deal: I work an always-exhausting shift in the evenings, and I do it so that I can be home with these two little faces during the day.  I get the best of both worlds - working mom and stay at home mom - but unfortunately I also get the worst parts of both worlds, too.  I often question whether this is the right decision, both for the kids and for me.  The last few weeks have been a more-than-usual time of such questioning.  That's all very vague, but suffice to say that there's been some internal struggle around here.

And then, from nowhere, a day where the kids get along and clean up their mess?!  Maybe I am doing the right thing, after all?  Or maybe the stars aligned just right for a brief moment and I got lucky? (thinking maybe that's the more probable scenario.)  Is it a sign?  Either way, I suppose they've got me convinced, for today at least, to continue spending the days with them.  Besides, as the girl pointed out quite reasonably, I couldn't work a day shift because of how much I would miss her.  And she's right, of course.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Project 52 - Week 31 {color science}

It would appear that the lack of inspiration from last week hasn't improved any.

It's not that there isn't any creativity flowing around the house, since we've been working on a number of different projects, and have lots of ideas flowing for new projects.  But when it came to picking up the camera and trying something out, or shooting something new - I drew a complete blank.  Anyone out there doing this project, or a 365 project, and finding yourself in a slump?  With 21 weeks left in the year, I've got to figure out a way to drag myself away from this lack of interest.

So anyway, when I finally took a series of photographs this morning, it was totally half-hearted.  It was because I "had to" rather than because I wanted to.  Even downloading and editing was a half-hearted process.  On the other hand, maybe that was a good thing.  It's not an original idea, but the kids and I still had fun trying it out, and once I re-opened the file to post to the blog, I actually liked it more than I originally had.  I think it's the bright colors that make me happy, more than anything technical about ths picture.

Although, the oversized test tubes are pretty cool too.

As is the image of a dragon that the blue dye made as it was falling.  Do you see it? (tell me you see it and that I'm not crazy.)

So here's hoping for new inspiration, bursts of creativity, and ideas for something fabulous to try out next week.  What's got you feeling inspired?
Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Another new addition

What a sucker I am.

The kids and the hubby have been hounding me about it for two weeks, since we first brought Mimi home.  There was another kitty at the shelter that we had considered for a time, before we ended up picking Mimi.  And now our kitty needs a playmate, my family tells me, and wouldn't that other one at the shelter make a great playmate for her?

So I caved.  And now we have two pretty kitties to entertain us with their antics and purr while they cuddle with us.  Introducing... Astrid  (a name that stuck after much debate, and was inspired by the girl in How to Train Your Dragon)

And lest you become concerned that we may start collecting kitties at an alarming rate... I assure you that, like children, TWO IS ENOUGH.


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