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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Things the Beadboys Have Used as Ornaments on the Tree

Various toys
A spoon
A fork
A bowl
My car/house/office keys
Scraps of paper
Used tissues
A pair of Diego underpants

Friday, December 23, 2011


Chocolate-Peppermint Thumbprints (the Martha Stewart website does not have the recipe yet):

Pan de polvo:

Misshapen Pepparkakor (from Prairie Moon, in 2005's Christmas Ornaments):

Mint M&M Cookies (my own "recipe," by which I mean the Tollhouse cookie recipe with m&ms instead of chocolate chips):
They'd be prettier if I'd added the m&ms in one by one after the cookies were partially cooked, but that would have been too much labor on a Monday night.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Pudding

Mr. Beadgirl's father is from England, so this seemed an appropriate ornament for the Bead-in-laws:

It is made from wool felt and hand-sewn, although had I used the machine (it's in the shop) I think I would have been able to stuff it more firmly. The design is from the 2009 issue of Holiday Crafts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dear Jane Part Deux

Beadmom liked my Dear Jane quilt so much she hasn't stopped talking about it. I had a few squares left over so I thought I'd make some more so she could have her own Jane. But she's running out of wall space . . . what to do? Bags are always useful, so I used nine squares for each side. I used a heavyweight iron-on interface to protect the stitching and add heft to the bag. A three-inch piece of doubled fabric serves as the bottom and sides, so the squares don't get distorted when there is stuff in the bag. I lined the bag with a cheery yellow batik, Beadmom's favorite color, and I used strips of black webbing for the handles (fabric wears too easily). And just in time for Christmas!

Good thing Beadmom is skeptical of blogs, and never reads mine.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Jumping on the Bandwagon

Monkeys, and in particular sock monkeys, are very popular right now. My cross-stitching allotment is being taken up by the Three Kings so I could not cross-stitch this and this (this year), but what about making the actual monkey? I don't knit, so these adorable guys were out of the question, but I do sew.

I took two pairs of this:

And turned them into this:
I added buttons for eyes, to match the eyes of the Beadboys. Astute viewers will notice that one monkey's arms are inside out; oops. I'm a little apprehensive as to how well these will hold up given the rough play the boys subject everything to, but the monkeys will look adorable peering out of the top of stockings on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

O, Christmas Tree

The Beadboys tend to clump ornaments together on the lower third of the tree, so over the next few days I need to shift some of them around.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Forgot!

Beadmom needlepointed this for me a few a years ago. She even picked the branch it hangs from from her backyard and spray-painted it gold (she has always been one for twigs and branches in her decor, a habit that drove Beaddad crazy.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

We Three Kings

As I wrote earlier, the Mill Hill kits inspired the decorations for the mantel this year:
The main pieces are my Santos from Puerto Rico. Santos are wooden carvings of saints and other Catholic figures. Originally devotionary in nature, they are now a big part of the art and culture of the island. I've loved the Three Kings ever since I was a little girl, so when I started my own Santos collection, that's whom I gravitated to.

My first set, bought by me on one of my trips to P.R.:
A triptych style Beadmom gave to Mr. Beadgirl the Christmas we got engaged:
And Beadmom's, which she gave to me when we moved:
Poor Balthasar -- his present broke off, and no matter how many times I glue it back it falls over.

I also have another cross-stitch Three Kings:
This was a pattern from the defunct British magazine Needlecraft that I made in the 90s.

I also have some of their camels. A Prairie Schooler design:

An ornament from one of those international fair-trade-type stores (made in India I think?):

And a felt camel, from I forget where:

The pillar candles to the right of the mantel are my Advent Wreath:
Pillars last a lot longer than tapers, and they are harder to knock over -- an important consideration because of the Beadboys and the Beadcats.

Once, when I was a little girl in P.R., I remember coming back late one night from a holiday outing with my family and my godfather and his wife. I was half-asleep when my godfather pointed out the car window to a house which had plastic statues of the Kings on its front yard. "Look!" he said. "Those are the Three Kings, stopping at that house to deliver presents. But they saw us driving by, so they are pretending to be statues." I spent the rest of the trip staring intently at other statues on other lawns, trying to catch a glimpse of the Kings moving and giving themselves away.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Felt Garland

This idea came from the winter issue of Stitch, and was super fast to make. I freehand cut a bunch of circles between one and two inches, then ran them one after the other through the machine (chain-piecing) until I got the length I wanted. I occasionally added a smaller circle of felt on top, and afterward sewed on a few buttons by hand. I'll have to remember this -- I can easily make garlands to match any color scheme (this one, darkish but vibrant, is to go with my Three Kings).

Friday, December 2, 2011


I got all excited when I saw Mill Hill's Three Magi kits -- the Three Kings are my favorite Christmas . . . symbols? Characters? Iconography? Anyway, I snapped up the kits in the fall, and once I finished the Paisley Pumpkin Melchior became my next cross stitch project.

Beadboy2, upon seeing him: "That's one of the kings that gave Jesus presents. Is that ice cream?"

The kits have also served as my inspiration for the mantle this year, which I will use to display my various Three Kings.

If I want to complete the trilogy by Christmas, I'd better get cracking on Gaspar.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Time to Make the Ornaments

I spent most of Wednesday sewing rather than cooking (not a complete dereliction of duty, given that I had Tuesday unexpectedly off from work). The results:

The first two are from the BH&G 2011 Holiday Crafts. I changed the embroidery slightly on the two: star stitch (or couched cross stitch) for the snowflakes rather than a five-pointed eyelet, french knots for the eyes of the snowman, and turkey work stitch for the pompom on his hat, rather than a tiny circle that was too fiddly to machine applique. They will be given to Beadaunt1 and Beadmom. The bottom one is for me, and was heavily inspired (if I can even call it that) by the first two.

I also made a garland for my mantle, but that is awaiting a few buttons.

Monday, November 21, 2011


I bought Spicecrafts years ago, and I love it. In addition to a brief history of spices, it has all sorts of crafty ideas for using spices, and even a few recipes.

It taught me how to dry oranges for traditional pomanders, which I keep in a bowl on the mantle with a dried pomegranate, pinecones, cinnamon sticks, acorns, and other fallish sundries:

I made a lovely little grapevine wreath decorated with chili pods, cinnamon sticks, and star anise, after many years and many moves across state borders, it finally gave up the ghost.

I made a spice sampler, but that did not work out so well (fabric issues), so I have to think about how to fix it.

I also made several modern-style pomanders, styrofoam balls covered with cloves:
red peppercorns:

and cardamom pods and star anise:

This year, I added a fourth, using beautiful indigo-colored juniper berries I got years ago (spices may go tasteless after a few months, but their craftiness lasts a lot longer):
Now I have to make a fifth, because as Beadmom says when decorating, "odd is better than even."

Do I have time to make it by Thanksgiving?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Apple Harvest

I finally broke down and bought an apple peeler, and it is wicked awesome. I'm generally not interested in gadgets or unitaskers and I don't have much storage space, but the apple peeler is so fast I don't know how I got along without it.

With the peeler's help, I've worked my way through the pounds and pounds of apples we picked in October.

Apple Sauce (lots and lots of it):

Apple Butter:

Apple Pie, to be frozen now and baked later:

Apple Crisp (a great breakfast):

(For all recipes except the apple butter, I cut the sugar in half -- I don't like my fruit desserts to be too sweet, and it's healthier this way.)

The apple skin left from the peeler looks so neat, I kind of want to find a use for it:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Round-Up

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull: This was one of the first books written in the sub-genre "urban fantasy," a style that incorporates fairies and magic in an urban setting (specifically amongst artists and other "alternative" people; fairies seem to have no interest in corporate types). War for the Oaks is highly regarded, so it's no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed it. What distinguished it the most from other novels for me, however, was the description of music. The protagonist, Eddi, is a rocker who manages to put together an amazing band while dealing with the fact that she is a kind of totem for a major battle between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Bull herself was in two moderately successful bands so she knows music, and it shows in the way she describes how it feels to make music, and how that music brings out Eddi's latent magic.

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard: For some people when they read, they "hear" the characters' voices in their head, each distinctive in its own way as if it were an actual person speaking. That's never been me; while I "hear" the words I am reading in my mind, the voice (or whatever it is) always sounds the same no matter what I am reading. Until I read Lunch in Paris, that is. It was written by a good friend of mine from high school, and while we lost touch in college, we recently found each other online and I learned that she had just written a book. Reading her words on paper brought her back to me -- her voice, her mannerisms, her love of rhubarb -- it all came back in a flood, leaving me with the odd sensation that I was listening to her catch me up on her life.

The book itself is subtitled "a Love Story, with Recipes," and while it does depict her Parisian romance to the man that would become her husband, I actually found it to be less about their relationship and more about her relationship with France as an ex-pat. Elizabeth is candid about both the wonderful and not-at-all-wonderful aspects of living in a different culture, and her writing is witty and insightful. I enjoyed the memoir and I'm glad to find out what she has been up to.

The Mathematical Traveler by Calvin C. Clawson: This book was not really about number theory as I had hoped, but it was an excellent overview of the different "kinds" of numbers, including some I had forgotten about (oh yeah, transcendentals!). Although Clawson's prose is occasionally a little clumsy, he does a very good job of explaining complex ideas in simple terms.

The Dark: New Ghost Stories, ed. by Ellen Datlow: This seemed an appropriate choice for the weekend before Halloween, and I am always a fan of the collections Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling put together. This collection I bought for the Kelly Link story (I obsessively collect all her fiction), and hers was as expected -- creepy, fragmented, pop-cultury, post-modern. Some were traditional ghost stories ("The Ghost of the Clock" by Tanith Lee), some were modern horror stories ("An Amicable Divorce" by Daniel Abraham, which had an underlying current of misogyny I hope was unintentional), some had an old-fashioned feel ("Seven Sisters" by Jack Cady and "The Gallows Necklace" by Sharyn McCrumb). "Dancing Men," about a modern Golem, stood out because it reminded me of Beloved of all things -- the ghosts that slavery and the Holocaust leave. I enjoyed the stories well enough, but reading them all together I realized why I prefer mystery to horror. Horror thrives on the unknown, on not quite understanding what is going on. Mysteries, on the other hand, are to be solved, and I love solving puzzles, putting things together, knowing as much as possible. Take "An Amicable Divorce" -- the ending, and the events that precipitated the story, are deliberately left ambiguous, but I wanted to know more. In "Dancing Men" the life of one of the characters between the relevant instances of horror is glossed over, but it was the implications of that life that I was interested in. That's why I find horror to be unsatisfying (even the brilliant and creepy House of Leaves, which I adored, left me hungry for answers).

Scary Godmother Comic Book Stories by Jill Thompson: Spooky-cute comics, created because Thompson wanted spooky but not scary stories she could read to her niece. This collection consists of all the comic issues, but not the books/graphic novels (I think). Thompson's writing is heavy on the puns and gentle satire, and her illustrations are wacky and cute (she is famous for her chibi interpretations of Neil Gaiman's Sandman characters), albeit a bit cluttered, especially when in black and white. My favorite was "Ghouls Out for Summer" (see what I mean about the puns?) which featured a great flashback to the Scary Godmother's youth, when she was an cute little girl who was too weird to be a fairy godmother and too nice to be a witch.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Autumn Leaves

This craft comes from a book I bought way back when I was still in school (the first time around). I've since given the book away, because the majority of the projects were not my thing, but I always kept this one in mind.

Earlier this fall I got a large maple leaf on the way to Beadboy2's bus stop, and traced it onto paper with a fine point sharpie. I placed very fine gauge copper wire mesh (the manufacturer calls it "mesh fabric") on top and traced it again, and then cut the shape out, resulting in a copper leaf and lots of little nicks on my hands. I then squeezed puffy fabric paint along the edge to make it less lethal, and in the center to mimic leaf vanes.

The result:
You can see that the puffy paint in the lower right is all screwed up. It got a little mussed while drying, so I reapplied the paint and laid it carefully out of the Beadboys' reach, only to have Mr. Beadgirl toss his jacket onto it five minutes later. I fixed it as best I could and laid it back down to dry, only to have one of the cats walk on top of it ten minutes after that. Sigh.

Beadmom suggested I make lots and lots of them and put them on a wreath. I'll get right on that.

Leaves made by actual metalsmiths:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Friendship Bracelets!

Remember those? In early fall I got a hankering to make them again after they popped up on the blogosphere. I made three for my friend's birthday, using the three techniques I knew as a girl:
The bottom one I made too short, so to make up for it I embellished it with pearls, shells, and sea glass to make a beachy bracelet.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Halloween Costumes

I really did not want to make costumes this year; instead, I thought Mr. Beadgirl could go buy the boys transformers or superhero costumes, saving valuable craft time for projects for myself. (I've come around on commercial costumes -- they are not the waste of money I thought, given that the Beadboys are still playing with the Batman and Robin costumes we got them two years ago. Their refusal to grow more than an inch a year helps.)

But then I learned at the beginning of October that Beadboy2's school wanted everyone to dress up as a literary character for Halloween. A literary character from a book, they repeatedly emphasized; Optimus Prime would not cut it. I refused to buy a second costume (and I doubted places like Ricky's had literary costumes anyway), and I still refused to make one. After much grumbling and discussing with another parent, I came up with The Man in the Yellow Hat -- perfect! Beadboy2 loves Curious George, he could wear Beadboy1's yellow jacket and carry a stuffed monkey, and I could paint yellow a plastic pith helmet from a long-ago party.

Unfortunately, Beadboy2 rejected that immediately. After explaining he had to dress as someone from a book, he started going through his books. The Lion King was out, because that was a cartoon first. A character from Dora the Explorer was out because that was a TV show. Beadboy2's next suggestion, Superman, is a literary character, and of course comics are a valid literary form. But I suspected that Beadboy2's principal and teachers would not agree -- they struck me as the type to dismiss comics as juvenile cartoons, and I was not interested in a fight. Beadboy2 then grabbed a children's religious book given by Beadmom (we call them "Grammy books" in our house) and declared he would dress up as God. But that's a fight I'm even less interested in having with the principal of a public school.

That's when I came up with the idea of a lion. Beadboy2 loves lions, and his favorite books, in addition to the aforementioned Lion King, are Aesop's fable of The Lion and the Mouse, and a beautiful Narnia pop-up book Mr. Beadgirl's parents gave him. Beadboy2 was thrilled with the idea of being Aslan, and I had something to work with (having now resigned myself to making something). And hey! Aslan is God, so two costumes in one!

I bought a mustardy sweatshirt hoodie at Target and lots of golden yellow, beige, and tan felt at Jo-Ann's. I cut the yellow and tan felt into inch wide strips and folded them in half, then sewed them in three rows along the edge of the hood. I covered up the logo on the front (why must inexpensive kids' clothes have logos and slogans?) with the beige felt. Finally, I made a tail from a narrow tube of yellow felt, added tan fringe to the end, and sewed it onto the back hem of the shirt. Voila:
As for Beadboy1, he's an easy-going guy, so he was happy to wear his dragon costume from last year (once I made a few repairs and spot-cleanings).

Next year I really truly am not making costumes.

Friday, October 28, 2011

El dia de los muertos

A monsterbubbles design, from Just Cross Stitch's 2010 Halloween issue:
I made a few changes, however. For one, it was to be stitched on metal mesh, but that process is so slow and painful I switched it to linen. I also made a thread color change, since I misplaced the original color, and while I was at it, I slightly re-designed the swirls on the chin. Once the cross stitching was done I appliqued it onto wool felt, and used a running stitch to attach it to a second piece of felt for stability.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Beadboy2's Party

Because Beadboy2 was born a week before Halloween, we have a ready-made theme for him every year. Our parties are pretty simple; we invite a bunch of local families and serve pizza (the really good kind), sort of healthy/sort of sophisticated snacks, juice for the kids and wine and beer for the adults, and cupcakes. I plan an activity for the kids (last year it was painting pumpkins, this year a ring toss game involving a witch's hat), but mostly they entertain themselves by running amok through the house while the adults hang out and are just as noisy as the kids. Poor Beadboy1, not a fan of big noisy parties, often retreats to his room, venturing out only for food and a little quiet play with one of the more reticent children.

For the cupcakes this year I got the idea of topping them with ghosts from a Halloween magazine put out by Gooseberry Patch (I knew the name from cookbooks but otherwise I am unfamiliar with the company). My plan was to top chocolate cupcakes with large marshmallows, cover them with white frosting, and add mini chocolate chips as eyes, but apparently, marshmallows are a summer food and my local markets no longer carry them. Instead I had to use lots and lots of "whipped" frosting, which resulted in rather squat ghosts:
Mr. Beadgirl says they remind him of wampas.

The favors came from the same magazine -- "Trash Mix with Worms," a bowl of dried fruit, pretzels, candy, and popcorn with gummy worms. I put some into little muslin bags to hand out:

Finally, I managed to finish just in time a growth chart from the kids. I got the pattern from a 2010 issue of Stitch Magazine, with the intention of starting a new tradition where we measure the kids and mark their heights each birthday. With almost a year to plan, of course I did not start cutting fabric until the middle of October and I finished the sewing Sunday morning (the day after his birthday, oops), but that's pretty good for me.
The fabric is linen, plus scraps with a gear/robot motif I originally used for a bag for myself.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cross Stitch Pumpkin

I got the idea from Elsie Marley, who stitched a neat-o skull on a white plastic pumpkin. I had a black one, and orange yarn, so I opted for a reverse jack o' lantern:
I did lightly trace the design first, but it is nonetheless lopsided. Were I a more patient crafter, I would have used a ruler to make the grid of holes precise. The uneven stitching gives it that, homey, retro look . . . yeah, that's the ticket.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pumpkin Paisley Part Deux

I surrounded the cross stitch pumpkin with crazy patchwork in autumnal colors, to make a square roughly twelve inches across:
(I'm having colors problems with my camera, again, some more, so the actual piece is not as blue).

Now comes the fun part -- embellishing the square with embroidery, beading, lace, ribbons, buttons, charms, and other assorted doohickeys.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Douglaston Arts Festival

The Douglaston Arts Festival was last Sunday, which meant I spent the previous weeks in a flurry of jewelry making. Most of what I had for sale falls into three groups.

Button and fiber jewelry:

Halloween/Day of the Dead jewelry:
(New this year are smaller calaveritas with just one flower on each skull, and the marigold flowers made out of wool felt.)

Bottle cap earrings:
(Much less involved [and less expensive] than my previous bottle cap earrings.)

I did pretty well again this year given the size of my "business," which makes me happy. Most of what is left I've put up in my etsy store (except the bottle cap earrings, I forgot about those). I sold all of spiderweb earrings I made, but I still have two spider charms left so I can make another pair upon request.

Now back to crafting for me and the Beadboys.