Meet Olivia Opossum, the newest member of the Happy Handmade family. She’s a bit shy. You’d most likely find her hiding in a nearby bush or hanging from an overhead branch. But, if you’re lucky, she might take a liking to you and come out for a snuggle or a good fur brushing.
This Valentine’s Day, whether you have a prince charming (or princess) in your life or not,
remember, there are LOTS of different types of love to celebrate,
and that love can be found in unexpected places…so keep your eyes open and your head held high.
Hope this Valentine’s Day finds you feeling loved.
This Christmas, my best friend gifted me this awesome book:
I have been dying to jump into it with my son, Jhonen, and complete a project a week, not really even for my kids, but for myself! My son likes art projects, but he has a short attention span for it. I have had a near impossible time encouraging him to even hold a pencil, marker or crayon, much less sit and draw or color with me. He has just never been interested before, mostly because I think drawing is hard for him and he is intimidated by it. But the first project in the Art Lab book was contour drawing and I really wanted to try, so I thought, if he wouldn’t draw then at least he could learn what a still life drawing was and he could set up the still life for me to draw.
First, I did a Google search of still life drawings. I showed him what a still life drawing was and how still life drawings often use simple, everyday household objects like fruit, pitchers, or flowers as the subject of the drawing. Then I set up some blocks at varying heights and talked to him about how many artists set up their still life models in a triangular shape with the tallest items towards the middle. I talked to him about shadows and light, foregrounds and backgrounds. Then I let him pull out a big box of action figures and set them up on the blocks however he wanted. He really had fun and kept changing his mind and rearranging them.
I sat down with drawing paper, pastels, Sharpies, and drawing pencils and began drawing (very badly…wow). To my surprise, Jho wanted to draw, too! I let him choose his materials and he sat down and got right to work! He chose a green Sharpie and, after a few tries, he ended up with a very cute symbiotic alien based on the plastic one he had found in the box. He was so proud of himself!
The book suggests that you do a contour drawing every day for a month, so the next day I thought I’d try and build on the previous day’s success. I wanted to make a loaf of apple cinnamon bread with him, as baking is one of our favorite things to do together. As I was setting out the ingredients for the bread, I thought, what better still life than these ingredients. The apples, eggs, salt container, and baking soda box provided varying shapes to try to draw and a perfect way to talk about 2D vs. 3D shapes (rectangles vs. rectangular prisms, circles vs. cylinders and spheres).
Again, he was excited to draw the bread ingredients, but asked for help when he got to the bottles, which he found difficult to draw. Frankly, so do I.
Drawing the ingredients also made him even more excited to bake with them and both the drawings and the bread were fun to make!
This project reminded me that the best outcome of any creation isn’t necessarily the creation itself, but the bond you form with the subject matter your creation explores. I will forever feel close to that silly, green, plastic alien that came from the bottom of Jho’s toy box. That alien is what helped Jho proclaim to his grandma over Skype a couple days ago, “Guess what! I can draw now!”
I don’t think we’ll ever look at that box of toys or that salt container the same way again. Our still life drawings gave those simple, familiar household objects more meaning.
Life is usually anything but still. Sometimes a simple drawing can be just the kind of stillness you need to actually notice your life.
p.s. I also have a particular bond with this apple cinnamon bread, but less for the drawing and more for how yummy and simple it is. I’ll share the recipe with you so you can enjoy it, too. It came from one of my favorite cookbooks, Gooseberry Patch Flavors of Fall, a recipe from Elisabeth MIller of Rocky Mountain, VA, and it makes two loaves.
Apple Cinnamon Loaves
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 c. oil
- 3 c. sugar
- 2 c apples, cored, peeled and grated
- 3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 t baking soda
- 1 T cinnamon
- 1 t salt
- 3/4 c water
- 1 t vanilla extract
Mix eggs, oil, sugar and apples together; set aside. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix into apple mixture, alternately with water. Add vanilla; blend until smooth. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9″X5″ loaf pans, filling 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes.
Every Christmas I try to crochet something for Ben. Last year he found a Slime in his stocking. (I’m planning to sell multi-colored Slime keychains in my shop soon, btw).
Before that, each holiday would grant Ben some amigurumi Adventure Time character or another.
This year he asked, specifically, for a scarf. I spent some time researching men’s scarf designs and didn’t find many that I liked, so I asked him to design exactly what he would want and I would try to implement his design the best I could. One of Ben’s favorite videogames, Sword and Sworcery, and a Tumblr of fan art inspired the design for this scarf, especially the ones titled “For Glory & Spite” - Alex Ander aka @filltheglassup and “Lone star” (Track art by Dan Almasy).
I find that I get a little panicked when asked to make something wearable. I don’t often crochet flat…I crochet more sculpturally and, usually, in the round. I wanted to knit the scarf, but I haven’t knit in so long, I was afraid it would take too long to remind myself how. And since I almost always crochet toys, I don’t usually need to concern myself with whether or not something “fits” except to make each piece of an ami fit together in proper proportion (which is usually the trickiest part of designing an ami, too).
My husband is really tall, and I’d heard that I should make the scarf the same length as his wingspan. His wingspan is incredibly wide and so I made an incredibly long scarf. I wish I’d measured better because I made the scarf too long. I knew that I’d rather the scarf be too long than too short, so I just kept going….which is why Ben didn’t get his scarf until a week after Christmas.
It didn’t turn out perfectly. If I’d been braver I would have figured out how to actually block out the color changes for the triangles so they would have been crocheted into the scarf instead of sewn on top. I also realized, after nearly completing the last row, that I’d messed up the color change of the teal green stripe, which meant my triangles were not placed as high as I’d intended. And to further nitpick (knitpick?) if the scarf had been a bit shorter, I would have redone the stripes so that they were all on the “right side” of the work. If you look closely, two of the stripes look a little different than the other one because the color change happened on different sides of the scarf.
On a positive note, I really like the color scheme and was happy to discover that using two different types of yarn worked fine. I was worried that using one wool yarn and the three acrylic yarns would look weird or create a pull down the scarf, but that didn’t happen and I actually like the sheen of the stripes against the matte, but slightly mottled green background.
The perfectionist in me could be happier with the result, but the wife in me was relieved that I was able to crochet his design at all and even before he had to go back to work after the holiday break.
Here it is! I’ll try to write up a little scarf explanation/tutorial below the pictures for anyone interested. I didn’t keep track dof exactly what I did, so I’m not going to write out an actual pattern….just an idea of how I made it and what materials I used, in case you’re curious.
blue skies and vivid colors,
winding stone paths,
scrunch-nosed smiles, farms, and matching sweater sets,
rocks , water, and bridges,
rainbow striped leggings and pom-pom hats,
a seat with a view,
ropes and anchors,
bright colors against the gray,
moments of solitude and sparkles,
adorable kids in beautiful places,
cables and ruffles,
cactus in mist,
silouettes and sunsets,
Years ago, at a family church camp, we were set to the task of finding one word to describe someone else in the room. I was paired with a friend’s father…someone I didn’t know well but had always liked. He had a really pleasing twinkle about him. His eyes crinkled when he smiled and he had really nice, white teeth. I was probably ten…maybe twelve? I remember being surprised, but deeply satisfied and pleased with the word he used to describe me. His word for me was “happy.” I took his one word description of myself to heart and accepted it as my personal definition.
Lately, I haven’t been unhappy. Not at all, actually! But I haven’t felt like myself and so I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection. Feel free to skip over this post. It won’t have any tutorials or crafty updates. I just feel like, to move forward, in every possible facet of my life, I need to put the self-reflection into words. Plus, you just never know when sharing your own experience might touch someone else in a meaningful way.
For ten years now, my husband and I have imagined ourselves moving to California. He wanted a job that allowed him a creative voice, but not necessarily the only voice. He enjoys teamwork and the companionship and inspiration that comes with working with really talented people. He wanted to work on video games he would like to play and would be proud to show to his children someday. I wanted to be somewhere where we both would have lots of career options. I wanted to be in a city with classes to attend and cultural events to enjoy and share with our kids. Ten years of wishing for it and then, at the end of last year, it happened.
We knew that we would love the Bay area. We knew there would be amazing things to see and do. Other than that, it was hard to imagine what faced us once we’d moved. We were simply going to revel in a decade-long goal reached.
The move was hard, the goodbyes harder, but we knew that, on the other side, things would be perfect. And it’s not at all like things aren’t wonderful here, but the holidays away from our family and friends was sad. Our neighbors complained about our dog and the noise the kids make. We’re already ruining the nice wood floor. Suddenly all these little worries and sad moments started to nag at us and we just started to feel strangely…vulnerable. I’m most comfortable when I’m free of conflict, feel like I’m doing a pretty good job balancing the different parts of my life, and have plans and goals set. I’m a Libra, after all.
Then there was the school shooting.
After that, I walked around in a fog, crying all the time. I’d look over at my four year old boy sitting on the couch and picture him with a bullet in his chest. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stop myself.
Everywhere I went I’d lose things. Three of my daughter’s pink blankets just disappeared. On the train. On a walk to the library. I’d follow my GPS and end up accidentally running a toll booth. Suddenly, just going out my front door was dangerous. What mistake would I make next? What could it cost me? Who’s lurking around with a gun? I actually found myself scared of my own shadow on a walk to the movie theater.
For the first time in my life I felt fearful. I’m good with happy. I’m very comfortable feeling sad. I’m used to being moody and I’m the very best at guilt. But I’m not good with fear and I’m not good with violence.
Then New Year’s Eve came along and I realized that, for the past ten years, my resolution had always had something to do with us being in California and I was hit hard with the question, “what now?” Instead of congratulating myself and celebrating all that we’d accomplished to get here I was feeling frightened having not really considered what would be next.
Luckily for me, my Mom arrived on Christmas Day like a big old Christmas present. She came with lots of hugs, with words of pride and encouragement, with helping hands, and fresh eyes eager to take in her daughter’s family’s new digs. And, in showing her how beautiful and fun and full of endless activities this place is, I reminded myself why we’d come. And, after getting off the plane ride she said, “I don’t know how you did that with two kids by yourself,” I was able to say, “Yeah! I did that! Yay me!” I found myself afraid driving down the steep and crowded San Francisco streets, but, once we arrived at our destination she said, “we made it! Good driving,” and I couldn’t help but feel good and feel some of that fear dissipate.
Then Tuesday came along. I scheduled a tour of a school I was considering for Jho next year. Here in California, he is eligible for Kindergarten in the Fall, unlike back in Florida where he’d still have another year of preschool. I was looking forward to the tour…until the morning of. I woke up feeling sick to my stomach and cried like an idiot on my Mom’s shoulder over breakfast. Kindergarten already? School? I wasn’t mentally prepared to think about my son going off to any school full time, much less a school that, albeit sounds really amazing, is in a less than desireable neighborhood, considering what had just happened.
But I cried and I drove there and went inside to find the wonderful place I had hoped to discover. I felt a little fear and guilt lift off me as I drove home. I was on a path to finding my children a new life here, new friends, new goals for us all.
That brought me back to my own goals and new years resolutions. I had so many to choose from. Be a better, more generous friend. Work on making decisions boldly and confidently. Expand my business. Schedule my days better. Take better care of myself. Spend as much quality time as possible with my kids.
I realized, though, that all of those things would be wonderful things to work on, but that, for now, I neede to allow myself a little congratulatory reprieve. To forgive myself for not busting through the gates of 2013 with fervor and vigor. To give myself a little extra time for healing, contemplation, and rebuilding. To read this Bruce Barton quote over and over again until I believe it and absorb it enough to put it into action:
Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.
Now I know what my resolution for 2013 will be: clearer vision, fresh hope, and just maybe some progress…
I know I want to keep creating, keep crocheting, keep crafting with my kids, keep connecting with you here. Thank you for any part you played in helping me reach those 2012 goals and for your patience and support as I figure out what IS next.
I do know that my next few posts will be sharing some of the best pictures I’ve ever taken of some of the prettiest spots I’ve ever seen with amazing people who love me and who I love more than anything. When I remember the amazing past two weeks in that light, with a grateful heart, I can’t help but get my happy back.
Here’s to a 2013 full of gratitude, creativity, clearer vision, fresh hope, progress, and lots of adorable crocheted creations. Here’s to a 2013 free of fear.
I have a habit of saving paper shopping bags. In fact, before moving here I actually snapped a picture of some of my favorite shopping bags collected from around the world before I gave them up to the recycle bin.
I find myself reverting back to old habits…I have already been tucking away a shopping bag from Lush and several from Trader Joe’s.
This year I really wanted the presents to have a rustic, handmade feeling to them and went to Michaels looking, specifically for a big roll of kraft paper…the kraft paper that looks like a paper bag. They weren’t in stock, though, and I bought a roll of white kraft paper instead. But when I got home, while putting away the groceries, I felt like an idiot because there was a bunch of brown paper in the form of Trader Joe’s paper bags sitting right there in my pantry. Not only would I get the look I wanted, but I’d reuse and recycle the bags instead of hoard them.
When I began to cut them up I noticed what pretty designs they had and started to feature the bag’s design in my wrapping. The handles even served a fun purpose as a wrapped up a bottle.
I also ADORE the red and white baker’s twine I got at Paper Source and was lucky that it matched the Trader Joe’s bags so perfectly. The twine looked so pretty simply wrapped around a little twig.
The paper is stiff, so I had to get a little creative with it to make it work, but that was part of the fun! Unique, free gift wrap that reuses something that can then be recycled? That’s a bunch of win-win-wins.
Here’s the latest custom order creation from Happy Handmade Headquarters:
Meet Max and Roxanne:
For those who don’t know, Max and Roxanne star in A Goofy Movie, which features Max at 14 years old and a finishing freshman in high school. We are introduced to his love interest, Roxanne, in a dream sequence where everything goes well until she is scared off by Max turning into his father, Goofy. Max is convinced Roxanne doesn’t notice him and thinks the choke/laugh he inherited from his father (a-hyuck) is to her disliking. He thinks that ‘she looks right through him’, though several moments tell us otherwise. The movie revolves around Goofy believing he is losing Max and taking him on a fishing trip for some ‘father-son bonding’ while Max lies to Roxanne that he was going to the famous Powerline’s concert in L.A. and that was the reason he couldn’t take her to a party he promised. By the end of the film, Max and Goofy note they are stuck together but wouldn’t rather it be anyone else and actually do make it to the Powerline concert, even appearing (accidentally) onstage. Max arrives home to apologize to Roxanne and introduces her to his dad (after he crashes through her roof). (excerpt from Wikipedia)
I’m always so worried about body shape and hair, but when it comes down to actually making one of these, the noses are usually the hardest things to do right. I like their little body shape! I might use that body shape again for other guys in the future.
We all have just one more week before Christmas! I can’t quite believe it. I’m feeling the need to prioritize the last of my holiday plans so that I can relax and enjoy what’s left of the holidays. In recent years I’ve sent handmade Christmas cards to my close friends and family. I have loved the process of making and sending them, but this year, in the midst of amigurumi orders and having to, for the first time, ship off all our family’s Christmas gifts so they’d arrive by Christmas, I just couldn’t come up with a new card design in time.
But then, while I packed up my very last box, the package of matching goodies inspired me to get my watercolors out and try something. I wish I’d tried it sooner, because I like the results and the technique was SO simple. You don’t have to know how to draw or paint to make your own customizable handmade watercolor cards.
I remembered a wax crayon I’d saved from an easter egg dye kit I’d bought earlier this year. It is called Dudley’s Magic Crayon which, after a quick Google search, looks like may only be available in easter egg kits? However, a white wax crayon or candle are said to accomplish the same thing: resist the watercolor paint so that the design you’ve drawn shows through the paint.
I got out my trusty Strathmore watercolor cards and hastily drew a basic Christmas tree and star shape on the front with my crayon. I found some of the inexpensive watercolor palettes I’ve had forever that had exactly the three colors I wanted and, with just a few swishes of my brush, I had this!
OK, I think that one was my second or third try. The first couple times I tried this resist technique I hadn’t gone over the lines with my wax crayon enough times. It’s really hard to see where you’ve drawn because the wax crayon I have is clear. I could hold the paper up to the light to see it, but that doesn’t help when you’re drawing. I found that if I went over each line a couple times, the watercolor paint resisted better. Thus, the design needed to be simple, without any intricate detail. Luckily, that’s what I was going for. I also wanted the color to be more vivid, so once my first coat was dry, I did it one more time: a couple gold swishes, wet my brush, a couple green swishes, wet my brush, a couple rust swishes. Then I tipped my paper a bit so the colors would bleed into each other a bit, and here’s the result!
So simple! I had a few failures, but the process is so fast, who cares!
I used an old snowflake stencil I had stashed and came up with this one:
Hey, they aren’t masterpieces, but they are handmade and doing something creative, even though it left my dining room table a mess, helped perk me up one chilly evening last week. I hope the cards perk up their very few recipients. I may have to perfect the designs and use them again next year.
I’ll have a few more Christmas-related posts before the holidays. I just put my shop on vacation so I can finish up a project or two for Christmas and start the new year refreshed. Thank you so much, everyone, for your support, encouragement, time, and orders this year! I can’t wait to see what creative adventures await in 2013.
It’s the time of the year when I begin to feel like Santa’s helper. Yesterday, I put the finishing touches on six packages filled with crocheted buddies being shipped to all four corners of the country, put them in what happened to be a red reusable grocery tote to take to the post office and felt the glowy feeling I imagine Santa would feel on Christmas Eve as he heads out from the North Pole with his red sack of presents. The glowy Christmas feeling was exaggerated knowing the fate of my creations.
One of my turtles was headed to a grandmother who was replacing her granddaughter’s “travel turtle” that had been lost somewhere in the Caribbean. When I asked where this replacement turtle would travel first, I got a little teary-eyed when I learned that the replacement turtle’s first trip and photo shoot would be to none other than my previous home-away-from-home, Walt Disney World. They would be travelling there for the Goofy Marathon. When I read this news, I couldn’t help but send them an accessory their travel turtle couldn’t live without.
One of my custom orders, Weenie the Dachshund, was just sent off to Canada to replace a beloved stuffed dachshund toy that had been lost in a house fire.
I made a big space egg for a lovely little lady and return customer who collects all things Angry Birds, which intrigued my son who is currently also obsessed with the game.
It is so fun to think about how these crocheted creations will be pulled out of stockings and gift bags on Christmas morning. Someone out there is getting a corgi and a turkey, a Pokeball and a jellyfish, a narwhal and a Baneling, a monkey and a pig.
I’m always torn at Christmastime because it’s the busiest time of the year for my shop, but it’s also the time of year when I want to make everyone I know something special. Slippers and scarves, cats and hats…there’s never enough time to make everything I want to make for my own friends and family. Maybe my new years resolution for 2013 will be to think further ahead so that, by this time next year, I’ll have a full inventory for my shop and all my homemade gifts ready to ship by Christmas. ::sigh:: Yep, maybe next year.
I hope you all are enjoying all the beautiful things the holiday season has to offer and that, at some point along the way, you feel glowy, too.