Clean slate: a house transformed, 2014 can officially begin

creativity-is-messy

That pretty much summed up my December. I started January still reeling from the December mess that had still suffered from my November neglect and then added a house guest. For months, I was under the impression that we’d have to move out of our house in February, so I never fully fixed some of the organization problems in my house, thinking I’d just have to pack it all up anyway. Why bother actually moving in properly when we were just going to have to move out again?

Then I found out we wouldn’t have to move after all! Suddenly, I couldn’t bear another day in the house the way it was. I couldn’t crochet or write or play or even eat or sleep. All I could do was clean and organize and move furniture until this place was perfect. I needed the house to feel like a clean slate. I could barely have a conversation, I was so focused on the task of making this home a comfortable and productive place to be.

I started by flip-flopping the location of my piano – a very sadly neglected household dust-collecter that had become more a piece of furniture than an instrument, mostly because we feel it is too loud to play in our townhouse. I figured if we moved it into a small room with a door we can close and get it off our neighbor’s wall, we might actually play it.  It has worked! I moved the big shelf cubes into the piano’s old place and now our living room feels like a living room. The toys live there instead of the tiny understairs closet I couldn’t go into without hitting my head. My most-used craft items live there, too, so I make sure to put the things I use away, instead of let them sit on our dining room table.

Clean House

The office had a big, underutilized closet with annoying, large sliding  doors that squealed loudly when opened, so we just never opened them. I removed the closet doors and put them behind the piano to help as added sound-muffling material. Now I have a big open craft closet that stores my newly color-coded yarn drawers and streamlined shipping/packaging shelves.

Craft closetCraft Closet12107383656_48f01d194c_b

I learned that teal must really be my favorite color as I had somehow aquired enough teal yarn to justify its very own drawer.

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I have never lived so happily in a space as I have this past week, since the house was transformed. I can enjoy the treasures I have – things that weren’t displayed since I had had no room to display them before -things like my handbound books and Ben’s colorful collection of Moleskine notebooks.

Handbound books

Things like my West Wing box set, the colorful giraffe my Mom bought me, and my favorite books (also color-coded of COURSE).

Display shelves

I can play with my kids and feel like the house might not be totally destroyed because their toys actually have a place to live. I have been continuously channelling my Gramma-who-isn’t-actually-my-grandma who once told me “the key to keeping the house picked up is for everything you own to have a place. If you give everything a place, it will always have a place to go.”

For example, I had no real place to crochet! I’d tried everything to solve the problem. Yarn baskets next to the couch always got overfilled and messy and hard to find things in…plus, on the couch, I had no surface on which to work. I tried a little lap desk that held my work well, but, when I wasn’t working, there was nowhere for the lap desk to go! I tried keeping a basket near the dining room table where I always found myself working because it was the most convenient and centrally-located spot in the house with a flat surface, but then I’d cover the dining room table in crocheting projects and we had nowhere to eat.

When I rearranged the house I realized there was a perfect spot for a long narrow desk to go behind the couch. Then I could sit at a flat surface and watch TV at night while I work while also being close to where the kids play with their toys and eat their snacks. While walking through IKEA the other day I saw THE desk, bought it without measuring and hoped for the best. It’s perfect.

12107372346_ba82556716_b craft desk

So now, when you order a crocheted buddy from me, it will probably have been made while sitting at that desk.

Besides keeping the house clean and organized, I also feel like I really need to squeeze in some time for some of the things I haven’t done in a long time, but have always loved doing…things like reading and making music. I am pleased to report I have actually gotten to page 44 (!) of the Walt Disney biography I’ve been wanting to read for years. You can see it sitting on my now clean nightstand along with some of my favorite things (gerber daisies, Kurt Halsey prints, and Burt’s Bees lotion) and my new  (teal, of course) comforter.

Some of my favorite things

My husband also bought the family a ukelele for Christmas and we all love it! I can’t seem to spend more than 30 seconds with the red little beauty, though, before a family member comes and steals it from me.

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I even found the perfect spot for kite girl to fly. I really think, if the house were on fire, kite girl would be among the top five things I’d save.

Kite Girl

Now that she’s hung in her new and improved spot, 20 months since we moved to California, I think I’m feeling officially moved in, fired up for 2014, and ready to make you crocheted cuties like this black bear (Or you can make it yourself! I just posted the pattern on my Etsy site for purchase!)

Black bear amigurumi

Any other patterns you wish were available? Please let me know! I am going to try and create more this year and it’s hard to decide which ones to make first.

OK! Off to crochet a frog at my new, pretty desk. Creativity IS messy, but that doesn’t mean my whole house has to be.

 

Cardboard Mobile

The best thing about living in a new city is that, around any corner, you might happen upon something new and inspiring. A few days ago, while out on one of our double stroller walks through the new neighborhood, we happened upon an art gallery. My four-year-old, Jho,and I peeked in the window and found ourselves intrigued with the display of box art. We ventured inside after reassuring the gallery owner that my son could keep his hands off the art. I’m constantly shocked at how interested he is in looking at and talking about art when he is often impatient with making it himself. He was particularly obsessed with a simple mobile. It was made of small rectangular pieces of wood strung intermittently down a white string.

I had taken him inside with the intention that we would go home and make our own art box (we might still), but he was so interested in the mobile that I decided to help him make his own mobile first and you should make one, too! They came out really pretty and the only materials needed are cardboard, string, scissors, and a hole puncher/awl of any kind.

We had no shortage of boxes or cardboard after the big move, so I decided cardboard would be used instead of wood. We started by cutting different sized cardboard rectangles from long strips of cardboard I had already prepared for him. He decided where to make the cuts. Then I asked if he wanted the cardboard to be painted or plain like the wood mobile we saw. He decided to paint his cardboard pieces blue and green (his favorite colors).

I set him up with a sponge brush and blue and green acrylic paint. We painted both sides and let those dry.

Then I introduced him to my awl tool and he helped me carefully poke a hole through the middle of each cardboard piece. Then I showed him how to thread a big, blunt tapestry needle with white ribbon and he learned to poke the needle through the holes.

I helped him tie knots above and below each cardboard piece so they would hang a few inches from each other and knotted a loop on the top for hanging.

I was actually really pleasantly surprised at the result and could imagine making lots of these in all different colors for beautiful party decorations.

We moved just after Jho had started a preschool program in Orlando and I have been feeling so guilty about his lack of structured, fun things to do with other kids. I’m trying to have fun projects and outings ready for him until I can figure out a school (or not?) for him. We live right next to a children’s art museum and, on their website, I found this really cute Fall project to do next.

It’s the perfect project for this week because we just discovered this beautiful section of town called Preservation Park surrounded with trees like these. I love our new neighborhood!

 

Florida Fun Friday: Rain?

What does one do in Florida when it’s stormy outside? Crochet! That’s probably what I’ll spend most of my time doing this weekend. I am loading up on inventory for my first craft show. Today, feeling bummed out by bad weather, lack of sleep (teething baby), and just general frustration about stupid things, I went to the craft store and did some yarn-shopping therapy (cheers me up every time!) Now I have exactly the perfect colors to make some adorable turtles and a couple more hot air balloons (my new FAVORITE thing!) I would take pictures and post them, but today’s not the day for good pictures. No rain on the product!

Other than crocheting, this rainy weekend will probably entail an IKEA trip for new lighting in our kitchen and maybe the hanging of billions of pictures for our picture frame wall project (long overdue!)

Since my weekend will be pretty blah and uneventful, I’ll share a project I did with my three-year-old two nights ago. I’ve been looking for inspiration in strange places lately, trying to be extra attentive to the world around me. While cutting some baby bok choy for dinner I noticed that the cut part looked like flowers! People try really hard to cut vegetables into flower shapes and here were perfect rose garnishes ready to go with one chop!

Jho and I always have fun playing with my stamps, so I thought we could use the baby bok choy ends for some print-making. We started rummaging through the pantry to find some other foods that might make good stamps. Leftover red onions made great concentric circles. We threw in a couple banana slices and leaves, too. 

I unrolled a section of white newsprint (purchased very inexpensively at IKEA) and poured out some tempera paint and went to town.

The results weren’t beautiful, but it was fun and messy and different. Next time, we’ll  paint with our feet.  Happy weekend!

Fun in Florida Friday: Easter Eggs Part 1

Easter is a sneaky holiday.  It sneaks up on me every year. I even predicted that would happen in an earlier post. I thought, this year, I will think ahead and prepare accordingly. Again, I failed. I have no bunnies or chicks or peeps to share. I started making a bunny weeks ago and hated it, so I stopped and never tried again. I think bunnies are discouraging to crochet because there are already so many dang amigurumi bunnies it’s hard to think of how to make one special or different. Plus, I’ve had lots of custom orders keeping me busy. That said, yesterday I had such a fun Easter project idea and really wish I’d thought of it weeks ago!

I’ve always found the whole Easter-egg-dying tradition a little underwhelming. First off, I hate eating hard boiled eggs…nothing is worse than faintly pink or blue, rubbery egg. Gross. Second, once you dye them (a messy, smelly process) then what do you DO with them? Do they sit around and rot? Do you actually hide them? What fun is it to find stinky, dirty, cracked eggs? Do you do what I did last year and make beautiful eggs that took up way too much room in my refrigerator until I figured they’d gone bad and just threw them away? And the alternative, blowing out each egg, makes the eggs extra fragile, plus you nearly bust a gut trying to blow the gunk out! Third, you either eat them or you throw them away. They don’t last. It’s just this weird thing you do every year just…because.

So what’s the solution?

Use crocheted eggs! Then (attempt to) dye them!! As long as the fiberfil doesn’t soak through and never dry….my only real concern about this process…I think the results are going to be beautiful. Plus, this is the perfect time to test out a variety of dye brands and shades to see if I can get the colors I need that have been recently discontinued.    

I will write up a complete report in the next two to three blog posts. I only have those three eggs crocheted so far and, as I said earlier in the week, I am crocheting as fast as I can for this Homespun Chic Marketplace event in May. Still, I really love the idea of dying my own reusable Easter eggs….eggs that can double as non-fragile decorations year after year and that can be used for tossing and juggling! I wish that I had been able to make them by the dozen and sell them, but there will not be time. Instead, I will take part in the tradition in a non-traditional way….my favorite way of doing things.

Besides crochet egg dying, this weekend is jam-packed with events all over Central Florida. First I will take my kids to the free story and music time at the JCC of Maitland from 10:15-noon Friday. Then I’ll be meeting a friend at one of my very favorite places to have lunch, That Deli to celebrate National Soup Month (they don’t fake fresh). Then I’ll come home and crazily clean up the house and make Ben’s favorite dish (Linguine with brussel sprouts, bacon and shallots from Good Life Eats, one of my favorite food blogs) for an early Easter dinner with both our Moms. I highly recommend the recipe.

Then I plan to attend the Sanford Food Truck Bazaar on Saturday night to introduce my Mom to the joy of waiting in super long lines to eat delicious food prepared in a vehicle. Never been to a Food Truck Bazaar? Shame on you! They happen all over town. Find your local Food Truck event here. If only the Food Truck scene had been this amazing when Trio Gelato was open. We would have been a hit! Oh well. I’d probably rather be the one eating than the one serving for the time being.

Other than all that, I will also try and get some Easter crafts together for the kids, take tons of pictures of them, maybe go to the giant Deltona Easter Egg event, and hopefully hit up Bok Tower Gardens, which seems like a lovely place to spend an Easter weekend. It’s so amazingly beautiful there with the carillon bells ringing as swans glide by on the water surrounding the gorgeous tower and blooming flowers.

Whew! Stay tuned to find out if my crocheted Easter egg dying was a hit or a flop and I hope you have a great weekend full of fun, too!

Happy Easter, everybody!

p.s. Even though I said all that stuff about dying eggs, Jho and I did go over to our best friend’s house today and dyed really awesome Easter eggs using all-natural dyes she made by hand from ingredients like red wine, spinach, turmeric, pomegranate, and grape juice. Look how cool! If you want to try, this is the website she used for her recipes and info. Look how pretty!

Here were all the natural dyes she made!

Always fun to make an old tradition seem new again. I was glad to get to try it…without having to do all the dishes. 😉