Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Adventures in Self Portraits

Why is it so hard to take a good picture of yourself?

This is the question I set out to find the answer to.  And I have to tell you, the answer doesn't come easy.  After a little research, I found that there are a bunch of different ways to take a self-portrait.  Some of these methods are involved, and a good project for the serious photographer.

However, I am not a serious photographer.  I would even use the term photographer in the loosest sense, if I was describing myself (seeing that I have only taken one photography course.)  So for the past week, I have tried to get some self portraits in different places.  This was not an easy task.

Not easy at all.

For starters, I am not an easy target to shoot.  I squint.  I have freckles.  One of my nostrils is bigger than the other.  I have a lot of hair to get in the frame.  These are all problems that I convinced myself I had.

So needless to say, none of my initial pictures made me happy.

I had to take a long hard look in the mirror.  I started to make a list of things that I liked about my face.  This is a hard task.  I swear it is.  Most days I like what I look like.  But some days, I don't.  So for 5 days, I had to look in the mirror and find 2 different things (that's 10 total) that I liked about my face.  Here is the list:
  1. I love my hair.  It is unique, and curly, and dense like a wild overgrown forest. 
  2. I like that my face is not symetrical. I have a mole on my cheek.  My mom used to call it my beauty mark.
  3. I have great teeth.  It took a lot of work and time to get them this way.  I appreciate that.
  4. I like my freckles.  Only some people notice them. 
  5. I still love my nosering.  My mom flipped when I got it. Remembering that still makes me laugh.
  6. I have nice lips.  I like 'em.
  7. I like that my face changes daily.  It never looks the same.
  8. I have a very expressive face.  I wear all my emotions on my face. 
  9. I like the small wrinkles that I have around my eyes.  I take that to mean that I laugh a lot.
  10. I like my blush.  I blush at almost anything.  When the men in the musical I'm in are getting ready to change in front of me I turn red.  Its inconvenient, but I think its endearing.
Try to make a list yourself, it is tough.  It took me 5 days to figure out that there were 10 different things about my face!   But I'm glad that I did, because it has given me a whole new perspective on pictures of myself.

So armed with the list of "face-likes," I tried to focus on each of those things in a picture.

I learned that not every pic is going to be one that I think is great- but all the pics do have something great in them.  I put the 2 I liked the best in this post.

I like something in each of them. After my self-portrait project, I took to the blogosphere to see what people had to say about taking self pics.  I found some really inspiring pictures (link).  And some really great advice (link).

I think that I will keep trying to take that great self-portrait. 

Friday, 23 March 2012

A Star Bunting and the best invitation ever

I forgot that I crocheted all these stars.  I couldn't remember why I made them, so I decided to do something with them.  I made a bunting!  I'm a little obsessed with buntings lately; there are so many beautiful fabric ones to buy on Etsy.  I've been meaning to make one, but I haven't got around to it yet.  So when I saw these stars, I had to turn them into something I could hang in my room!

I love it hanging under the window, but I'm not sure how to stick it up.  It is being held on with tape which is kind of tacky (pun intended!) and really temporary.  I could put some nails in the wall, but I have a hangup about holes in the wall.  Even most of our pictures hare hung on sticky hooks.

The little stars are cute!  I have a thing for stars.  Last year my classroom was decorated in stars (I had a theme for the year and it was space travel).  I love the shape of them, and I love the colors of these.

Do you want to make a star bunting?  Well, it so happens that I wrote out the pattern!

Little Crochet Stars

I used worsted weight wool with an H/ 5.00mm hook

Make a magic ring (adjustable loop) and chain 4

First round: in the ring ch 1, 3 dc *ch 2 3 dc. Repeat * 3 more times, ch 2 and join to the first ch 1.  You should have 5 groups of dc clusters separated by ch 2 spaces.

Second round:  sl st in the next dc. *In ch 2 space work 3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc. Skip the next dc and sl st in the middle dc of the cluster. Repeat * around.

Third Round: sc into each st of round 2.  In the ch 2 spaces work 2 sc, ch 3 sc. End the round with a sl st.

Make as many stars as you would like in the bunting.  I used 9 (4+1+4) so that it would be symmetrical.  Attach stars together in the ch 3 points using coordinating yarn.  On each end, attach a length of yarn, and crochet a chain for as long as you need to attach bunting.  I chained 10 on each side.

After the bunting is attached, on a medium iron, iron your stars flat.  I used a little bit of laundry starch, but you could use watered down white glue using this technique (link) too.  After the stars are dry and flat, your bunting is ready to hang!

Find somewhere that needs a little cheering, and set it up! 

 In other news, I got the greatest wedding invitation in the mail today.  My lovely friends Kate and Ian are getting married!  And this was what they sent out:

Isn't that so funny?  I got the card, and you pull off the mustache for the date!  I love it.  And Kate and Ian are two of the funniest people I know, so this card is completely suitable for their event.  This invite really made my day.

The guy on the card kind of reminds me of a face from the game "Guess Who?" Remember that one?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Hexagons a go-go!

I'm a little addicted to making these hexagons.  I have this book on quilting, and inside there's a tutorial on paper piecing, so I thought I would try it.

Now I know what all the hoopla (link) was about.  It is a lot of fun, and not so difficult.  I am having a great time going through my stash for blue fabrics to make hexagons out of.  I'm making a table runner for my table.  I have some blue stoneware on it and a painting with lots of blues in it.  I thought a quilted table runner will be great!

The only thing is that it will take at least 60 hexagons to make my runner.  Thank goodness I like making these little hexagons.  If you live around town here in Hamilton, I know that Needlework (link) will have a class on English paper piecing in the near future, so keep a look out on their website.

I should go and make some more hexagons! 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Made: Striped Baby Sweater

I finished it!  I have been working on a sweater for a friends first baby.  They don't know if they are having a boy or a girl, so I chose some neutral colors, ecru and a brown color.  I think it is cute, and its even cuter with the buttons I found:

They are wooden leaves!  I thought they would go with the sweater, and I'm glad they do!

I went back to the store I bought these, and I couldn't find anymore of them.  When I asked the lady if they would be getting any more, she said that they never had buttons like this in the store.  Strange? Or serendipitous?

I hope that he and his partner like it.  I used sock yarn which is wool and nylon.  It is a little itchy, but I think that a baby would have one of those undershirt thingies on, so I hope its okay.  I'm going to rinse it in some Soak (link) and see if that reduces some of the itchiness.

Also, the sock yarn is washable so they can throw it in the machine and its wont shrink on them.  I like to make things for people's first babies.  Everyone should have something handmade for new babies! 

Now that I finished it, I wonder what I should knit next?

Vintage Loves: My scarf collection

I used to wear a lot of vintage clothing.  I loved it!  It was cheap, and original, and fun!  My jam was clothing from the 70s.  I had a long leather jacket, and cool hats to match my afro.  Much to my mother's chagrin, I had some awesome shirts.  I think my dad just found it amusing, and on a couple of occasions, he loved some of my stuff.  As I moved through my career, some of my workplaces were more formal than other places, so I had to give up my polyester and cords, and get some grown up clothes.

One thing I could never get rid of were my scarves.  I love 'em.

The cool thing about vintage scarves is that you can still wear them dressed up or down.

The other cool thing is that in the past, they made scarves to commemorate anything.

Like in the top picture, I have a VOTE scarf which I bust out for every American election.  (My family is American so I always watch the elections with a keen interest in the outcome. ) Or in the picture above, I have a scarf from the Dominican Republic in the 1960s.

These are my two favorite scarves; the ones I wear the most.  One is from the 70s in San Fransisco, and the other is a cotton scarf from the 1940s.

I must have 50 or so scarves.  And I can't wear them all.  I need to find ideas on what I can make with them to use them.  I would like to keep them around, but how?  Maybe pillows?  What else can you make with old scarves?

Maybe I need to get this book (link).

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Made: Plant Pot Cozy

While we were grocery shopping, there was a sale on plants!  So I bought a new one, but the pot was not very pretty.  So while we were watching a movie I made a little cover for the plant.  Now it looks pretty.  I want to make some more for some jars I have.  I don't really have a pattern for it, but here is what I did:

  • I made a crochet chain long enough to almost fit around the pot.  
  • I joined the chain so it was a large ring.  I worked the cover as a tube.
  • For the first row, I worked sc in the chain
  • For each following row, I chain 2 and worked dc in each stitch
  • Work enough rows as necessary to cover the pot.
  • For the last row, I worked one row of hdc
And that was all I did.  It was really quick and easy.  

Monday, 19 March 2012

DIY Spice Rack

I was so excited I had to post this even though I already posted for today!  This is along the same lines as the home post, so I thought I would tag it on.  I needed somewhere to put all our spices.  As someone who loves to cook, I like my spices to be where i can reach them.  For the longest time, all my spices were kept in my cupboard where I would have to fumble around to fine the right one.  Not anymore!  Because I don't have the room for a traditional spice rack, we had to find an alternative solution.

So we went to Ikea and looked around, and I found these Ribba Picture Ledges:

...which is the perfect size to hold all my spice jars!  So we bought two and attached them to the wall in the kitchen, and voila!  A handy spice rack!

I just felt so clever and just had to share! 

And yes those are Nelson Mandela and Michel Foucault finger puppets on my fridge.

Home in 600 Square Feet

In our apartment, there is not a lot of space.  D and I have to share 600 square feet for all our stuff and hobbies.  Luckily for me, D's hobby is writing, so I only have to make space for a laptop.  Poor D; I have a large number of hobbies that require a large number of workspaces and equipment.  So I want to show how we make it work with a little tour of our little place.

Our Living Room, 3 views

The living room is where most of our activities happen.  So we had to section it into some "zones."  Zone 1 is the sitting area where we watch movies and relax.  Its cozy, and super comfortable with our new furniture.  We love it in here now.

Zone 2 is my craft table.  Behind the couch I can paint or cut and paste, anything to scratch my crafty itch.  D actually convinced me to make a dedicated area since I woud leave little craft projects all over the place.  This works out better for everyone.

Last is Zone 3, my music area.  I'm a music teacher, and a musician so I have equipment that I need to store and use.  So the back of the living room is a music room.  Currently, I'm playing saxes and flute for a theatre version of Hairspray the Musical, so I have some saxophones laying around.  If I wasn't practicing so much they would be put away.

It took us a long time to organize all our things together so that the living area wouldn't look so crowded.  I think it is pretty good for now.

Kitchen Corridor, 2 views
 I love to cook and bake, but we only have a corridor for a kitchen, so it can be tricky.  We added a cart for more counter space and that has helped.  We also have a small antique cupboard that is our pantry.  There was no way to get a good picture of it, since its trapped in the corner... I also store my serger and sewing machine on top of it so I can sew whenever I want with ease.  This kitchen pretty much holds only one person, so I do a lot of cooking alone, or D helps at the table.  I have made Thanksgiving dinner for 8 people in this kitchen. It takes a lot of organization and multi-tasking.  Maybe I will write a post about cooking in small spaces?

Tiny bathroom.  No storage in here.  A small bathtub, small vanity and sink. We don't store anything in here.  Most towels and stuff are in the linen closet outside the bathroom.

Bedroom!  I have a thing for light and airy bedrooms.  I also have a thing for Paris, so all the pictures in the room are of Paris.  There are also more books in here.  We have to do something about all these books.  In the corner of the room is a bookshelf filled with paperbacks.  I read in bed every night, so it seemed like a good idea to put a shelf in there. But then we kept buying books.  It seems I need to get re-acquainted with my library.  Stop bring so many books home to stay.

So that's our home in 600 square feet! Its not tiny, but it is small.  We love living in the small place, there not so much to clean!  Things that I learned living in small places my whole life:
  • Storage containers are your friend.  I have storage containers under our bed; in our closets and in the living room under the couch.  I have them in all shapes and sizes to help hold and organize all our things.  Under the bed I store my wool for knitting and crochet.  It's out of the way but accessible.  I even have a weather proof box on our balcony to store our air conditioner.
  • Zones hep organize space and minimize (and localize) clutter and messes.  Because my craft area is in one spot, all the mess is in one spot.  If I mess up that area, the rest of the living still looks ok.  And it looks like a smaller cleaning job.  
  • Living in a small apartment helped me and D simplify our lives.  We don't have the space for extra things we don't need, so we don't have them!
I hope you liked the tour!  We are starting to be proud of the work we put into our space.  We even learned to to change the light fixtures this weekend:

Yay for new skills!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Purpose of a Pet

Growing up, we never had a pet.  So it is understandable that it would take me into my adult years to understand the purpose of a pet.  The animals that come into our homes, are special kinds of creatures.  They have no idea what they bring into our lives. But people with pets know.

Shiloh, my lovebird died today at 11:30am.  

My pet was a lovebird that no one wanted.  No one but me and D that is.  Before us, he was passed around 3 times.  Each time given away because he was too noisy, or too needy.  No one knew if Shiloh was a boy or a girl.  We didn't even know how old he was.  When we got him, he was easily frightened.  But we got to know him.  And he got to know us.  Soon he fit into the rhythm of our lives.  He developed his own habits and quirks.  He was a really smart bird.  He would chirp and jump around his cage when I got home.  He would blink and flirt when I stood beside his cage.  He would sit on my shoulder as I worked on the computer.  

Shiloh was a bird that had a big personality.  For example:

Shiloh knew when his bedtime was. Every night at about 10:00pm, he would make a terrible fuss.  We would cover his cage, and he would make contented sounds of a bird settling into sleep.  He never woke us up.  He would only start to chirp after he heard my voice.

Shiloh was a little manipulative.  D, Shiloh and I would play this game; D would call the bird and Shiloh would ignore it.  I would call the bird and Shiloh would answer.  Sometimes he would answer D with a quick "beep."  But when I called he always sang his song.

One of the funniest thing our bird would do is mimic sounds he heard a lot.  He surprised us once by mimicking a jackhammer in the distance.  The first time he make the sound, we had no idea what it was.  Later that day when we heard the jackhammer, we laughed.  Of all the sounds to mimic, he picked that one.

Shiloh loved to sing with me.  He would sit on the piano keys chasing my fingers as I played; punctuating my singing with his chirps.

The last memory I have of my pet is him struggling to breathe while I held him.  Then his seizing and dying.

When we took him in, I didn't know how attached I would become to this bird no one else wanted.  But I fell in love with my pet.    Now our home is a little more empty, and a little less fun without him. 

Friday, 16 March 2012

This Beautiful Day

Can I just say, it's a beautiful day today?

Oh, it was so great to get out of the house for most of the day!  On this last day of March Break (or first day of my 3-day weekend as Jennie so optimistically put it...) the weather was warm, sunny and a little hazy.   Perfect for a walk around the neighborhood.  So I went OUT!  Coffee and knitting with Jennie (blog coming soon!) this morning; lunch with D, and a walk this afternoon.  No destination in particular, just a nice stroll and I went where my feet took me. I did end up buying a few things-- I mean can I walk around James Street North and not buy anything?

I got a present for me from Hawk and Sparrow (link):

Photo by Sarah Moyal from http://hawkandsparrow.blogspot.com

I bought a mustard yellow circle scarf.  I know its getting warmer, but it is not too heavy, and I can wear it in the evenings, and it's totally cute. Plus I got a deal, and I supported a local crafty-type like myself.  And it was made from recycled materials.  Okay, I'm convinced.  What a good buy!

When I buy myself something nice, I always buy D something nice too .  So I got him from Mixed Media (link):

It is so funny!  I wish you could see the inside (but that would be unfair since it is the income of an independent artist.  But if you see it, pick it up.  You will laugh all the way through.)

There is a story with this gift.  D is a writer.  He has manuscripts for at least 3 novels that I know of.  But, he is nervous to get them out there.  On the inside I inscribed: "If Bigfoot can do it, so can you!" and gave it to him at work.  He laughed.  I hope he felt encouraged.

Lastly, I have been working on something crafty for my bedroom.  I found these letters at a dollar store, and got mine and D's initials.  I made these:

I love that they remind me of patchwork quilts.    I had some beautiful Japanese decorative paper scraps and I wanted to use them.  So I collaged (is that a verb?) them onto the letters.  I didn't plan the placement of the papers, I just cut and pasted at random.

I like cut and paste.  It was relaxing.  It was the earliest artistic skill I learned, and still so rewarding.  After I glued the paper to the shaped, I went over them with a few coats of glossy gel medium.  Voila! 

So simple.  So pretty. And it makes me so happy.  Hope you enjoyed your day!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

What do you do if you're allergic to flowers?

A little while ago, I found out that I have some sever allergies (link) to a lot of different things.  Then, when I was sick, my allergies became too much, and I had to get rid of all the flowers in my house.  Most of the color in our place comes from our plants, so having to give away all our potted flowers made me really sad. 

So for a few days I've been thinking about with what to replace the flowers in my life?  I made some origami flowers, which were lovely, but really angular.  Not an organic enough shape like my real flowers.  And then I saw this idea at Needlework (link) and thought it was perfect!  Wool as never let me down before, why not for flowers?  And these were super simple to make; even easier since I got the felted beads on sale.

Gather your materials: felted wool beads (on sale for $5.49); 20 gauge cloth covered floral wire ($1.00 from the dollar store); some ribbon (had on hand); and a small vase ($0.75 form IKEA).
This project would be even cheaper if you made the beads yourself which is what I planned to do before I saw the beads for half price!

I'm not going to go step-by-step because its pretty clear... But I will add that for the heavier beads I twisted 3 wires together to help hold it up. I also kept them pretty short and let the small beads be longer "flowers."  Arrange them in your vase and voila! Because my vase is so long, I just wrapped the ribbon around the vase.  I twisted all the stems together and I was going to put a bow on the one stem, but I liked it this way better.

After you're done, you can walk around the house like a lunatic looking for the perfect spot to put it.  It didn't take me that long to do, the perfect spot was right in front of my face:

Oh my, look at the dust!  I know what I'm doing next, it would seem...  Other than the dusty shelf top, it looks nice with m Eiffel Tower in the living room.  And it doesn't make me feel sick!  And its unique!  I like it. 

Monday, 12 March 2012

Re-Learning how to Relax

I'm on vacation this week, March Break!  As a teacher, I work so hard throughout the school year making lesson plans, getting to school early, leaving late, marking and grading homework, report cards.  I often have to apologize to non-teacher friends for being so absent through the school year.  Because I like being busy, I forget how to just step back and chill out.

I don't mind the scheduled existence working in a school.  I like routines (to a point). This week is routine free, and I have to admit I find the idea a little daunting.  So, this week, I am going to re-learn how to relax.  I'm going to try doing things on their own time.  Try doing an activity because I feel like it, or because I want to.  Not because of a schedule I have to follow.  Today was tricky, and I ended up with a headache (mostly due to the weather)... But I managed to do a few things for myself.  I even made myself sit down and not do anything. This was so hard!  I kept telling myself I was wasting time!  Which is why I needed to just sit.  Here's a peek at my day:

Tea and muffin at my fave coffeehouse.  I was having a pretty good hair day, so had to record that.

My favorite muffin!  They make the best blueberry muffins at the Mulberry Street Cafe (link).  I have tried, but I can't get the recipe.  They are just crunchy enough on the outside, and so moist on the inside... Yum.  Perfect breakfast for one of my least favorite parts of acting, memorizing lines.  I'm planning to do an hour each morning and 1/2 before bed.  I should know those lines in no time.

With my coffee was a lovely surprise: art by Andy DeCola (link). I like his poppy, bright paintings.  His statement says he has a "love/hate" relationship with the pop culture of the 80's. But we know my stance, I love the 80's.  I love the names of some of his paintings: a diptych "Shermer High School" and another called "Jack and Diane."  These two were my faves on display.

Shiloh's been amusing me to no end.  We bought him a birdbath that attaches to the side of his cage, because he LOVES baths.  He has yet to use it as a birdbath though.  He drinks out of it, and not much else.  It's funny because if I'm sitting in my chair, he sits on the ledge of the bath, and watches.  Sometimes sleeps.  What's hilarious, is he uses his drinking cup for a bath.  It's hilarious because its not really big enough, and its a little deep for a bath.  But he loves it.  He falls into it head first, and flaps his wings around as well as he can.  It cracks us up, because after he's done, he'll go around to the big basin and drink.

During my nap, D made dinner.  He was so proud of himself, and I was proud of him too!  He made curried chicken and rice.  It was so delish. 

In return for such a great supper, I made D a bit of a treat: a Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie (link) with a link in case you have the urge to make one.  The salt makes this treat awesome.  I didn't think it would work, but it adds... something.  I got to use my dad's cast iron skillet for this.  This skillet is older than me!

So, not the most exciting day, but a good start in relaxing.  I would like to accomplish more tomorrow... Ooops.  There I go again.  I think I'll just take tomorrow as it comes.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Little things I love

While I was out last night, completely on a whim, I bought this cute jar.  I love the punchy red and the polka dots.  Polka dots may be in the "love mosaic" this month because I have been really drawn to them lately.

Because we live in such a small space, everything has to do double-duty around here.  So this jar is a new holder for my kitchen utensils.  I stored the lid just in case I change my mind, and want to use it as a cookie jar.  But it was the perfect size to all all my spoons and such.  This way it gets to stay on the counter all the time and I get to look at it whenever I'm cooking.

I love the flowers on this mug.  I've been drinking tea out of it almost everyday.  I have a thing for mugs and get stuck on one when I just get it.  This one is a great big size, and the colors help my mood during the recent gray days.

The grocery store was having a sale on plants, so I bought some ivy for our living room.  Flowers are so hit and miss with me because sometimes I have allergic reactions to them, and sometimes I don't.  The hyacinth we had was making feel nauseous when I was ill, so I asked D to take it to his new boss.  I know it has a good home at his office.  Instead I picked up some non-flowering plants to green up the place. I love watching them grow from small 4-inch pots like this to big hanging plants.  This ivy is pretty hearty, so that should be sooner than later.