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December 16, 2011

I saw this on Pinterest this year, and couldn't resist making them. The original instructions can be found on the Magic Bean blog. I made a few alterations as detailed below. But first: pictures!

I used photos of family members to make my silhouettes, and was lucky enough to find sticky-backed felt with a protective paper backing onto which I could draw the outlines. I had to track down carbon paper. Do you know how hard it is to find carbon paper these days? I glued fabric onto cardboard instead of sewing, because the trim I wanted to use wasn't easily sewable.

They were an instant hit. Now I want a set for MY tree. However, I think that I'll make mine out of scrapbooking paper. It might go over a little easier! I'm going to see if I can borrow a Cricut and cut the cutting job in half.
December 15, 2011

That's right. The space between our front door and the glass security door gets hot enough to melt fake Christmas wreaths. I am appalled and amused, and now wondering what would happen if I were to string bacon there on a sunny day.

I am also ready to tackle the unique challenge of figuring out what I can safely decorate my front door with! Any suggestions?

Here's a before photo. Apparently I hung it on the front door upside down? Oops.
October 27, 2011

Soon after getting into my yarn hobby I realized I needed better storage for my tools, so I started looking around for ideas. I wasn't really pleased with what I saw. I didn't want a fabric rollup needle case, it just didn't seem secure enough to me. I wanted everything in one container. And by everything I meant crochet hooks, knitting needles, all the various accessories and tools, and instructions. Everything but the yarn, in fact. And right now, I think I have it.

What I bought:

A Mead Five Star zippered 3 ring binder. It has two mesh zippered pockets, one inside and one outside. There is an accordion style pocket thing on the inside left that is for loose papers, with about 3 compartments. It's big, big enough for my ever so slightly oversized Leisure Arts books.

What's inside:

Rubbermaid Magazine holders. These are narrow strips of plastic with 3 ring binder spaced holes and a long slot. You slip your magazine or booklet through the slot and it can now be held in place in the rings. It wasn't big enough for the oversized booklets, but those can sit nicely in the back.
A 3 ring binder folder, for loose instructions that I don't feel like hole punching.
A small pair of scissors for cutting yarn.
A retractable tape measure.
A pencil.

What it holds:

I'm still new to the hobby, and I'm trying very hard to behave and only buy tools as I need them. I did buy a 'learn to knit' kit which came with quite a few items.

Front pocket:

A stitch counter
some plastic rings that I assume are stitch markers but I haven't figured out how to use them yet
yarn needles
A knitting gauge
a stitch holder
a cable needle
retractable tape measure
tatting shuttle (yes, I DID mean everything)
my custom made row reminders (I made these when I was knitting my first scarf and repeating four rows over and over. I kept forgetting where I stopped and found it difficult to tell by looking at it. Basically they look like plastic bread tags. I took white fun foam and cut small rectangles, and then cut an X in one half of the rectangle. I wrote a number on the other half. The needle slides through the X (it also worked pretty well to keep the yarn from sliding off!). I picked the number of the row I stopped at and slid it on when I was done. Saved me a lot of confusion!)

Two pairs of knitting needles, sizes 6 and 8

Inside zippered pocket:
two sets of circular needles
set of double pointed needles

Accordion Pocket:
Crochet Hook Board

I made this, too. I bought the Crochet Guy's hook set, and it came with the weirdest hook case I've ever seen. I can only guess how it was supposed to work. I did like how the hooks were held in place by elastic, but the stupid thing was held closed by VELCRO. Let's think about this. Yarn. Velcro. Yarn. Velcro. THIS IS NOT A GOOD COMBINATION! It's disaster waiting to strike. So I took some heavy cardboard (actually the board you put behind cross stitch when you want to frame it, very rigid stuff) and made a fabric slipcover for it, onto which I sewed my own strips of elastic. I stitched enough tiny pockets for each crochet hook (about 16!) and it pops neatly into the accordion folder. If the accordion pocket hadn't been there, I would have made the slipcover wider, and sewn appropriately spaced buttonholes into the edge to slip it onto the rings. I don't expect to get any more crochet hooks, but I can easily make similar ones for future knitting needles.

The only thing I couldn't fit in the case was the paper towel tube I reserved for making center pull yarn balls. I haven't even tried it yet, so it may not work at all. I'm going to try to find a smaller hollow tube that can fit inside the rings.

Overall, I'm pleased. It's a bit heavy, but I've got everything I need in there except the yarn.
October 11, 2011

I took a break from yarn to acknowledge the season. I wanted a little bit of Fall color for the house, and had a wooden basket, and found some pretty flowers half off at Michaels, and got this:

The basket in itself is awesome. Brian's Grandpa Leitner made it. It collapses flat! And as far as I can tell, it's only three pieces. The handle, the narrow base that runs underneath, and the basket part, cut in a spiral that acts like one of those travel cups. The handle pivots so the whole thing becomes a flat piece which can be tucked away when not in use. I don't understand why it works, and I'm afraid to ask in case it stops working.

The autumn colors really make the wood pop, and it goes really well with the soft cream in the living room, where I have on display the other arrangement because I bought way too many fake flowers for this little basket! I was glad to finally come up with an idea, though. I wanted to display it so much, and leaving it empty didn't feel right. Most flower arrangements seem to be vertical, so I was at a loss for ideas. I didn't want to put fake fruit in it, although cherries or small berries might be interesting, or round red beads. Acorns might have worked, too. I still have plenty of time to fuss with it - I can already see a few spots that need some extra attention.
September 16, 2011


Ta da! No no, not the camera, the sweater! (in future years, historians will look at all these photos of people holding cameras and wonder, 'what the heck?' and then create complex theories regarding them.) Anyway. I only got 1 non-blurry shot before my camera battery died again. Naturally I'll post more later. I haven't washed or blocked it yet, but I'll get to that eventually. This sweater DEMANDED to be finished. The best part is, if I decide the sleeves are too short, I can add a few more rows!
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September 15, 2011

So the fall semester starts, and I'm on the downward spiral towards graduation, with my dreaded 499 writing intensive course present and lurking.  So what do I do?  Take up crochet!

 Growing up, my mother tried with varying degrees of success to teach me to crochet.  Her being right handed, and me left handed, we usually only ended up confusing each other.  Eventually I got the hang of it, but never was willing or felt able to progress behind the basics.  Until this month.

This is why the Internet is so wonderful.  There are instructions and how-to videos everywhere, for lefties, righties, and probably amputees.  And patterns!  It takes forever to decide which ones to do first, not where to find them!  I have been in a crochet nirvana, and grateful to have something to do with my mind and hands that isn't a computer screen.

I am currently working on a sweater.  This Chevron Lace Cardigan, in fact, but mine is a dark blue.  So far, it looks nothing like the picture, and I have the feeling it never will.  But, I had to start somewhere, and it's easy to destroy the evidence.  Just pull!
August 28, 2011

Easy yellow cake in a cup!

My miniatures group has been discussing microwave cake for a while now, but this is the first time I tried it.  You can use a microwave safe mug or a ramekin.  I used a bouillon bowl, because that's all I could find in the store.  It's kind of like a small soup bowl.  The cake ends up about two inches high in this bowl.

Here are my two favorite recipes.  I didn't bother mixing in a separate bowl or using cooking spray, and it didn't seem to make any difference.  I also ate it directly out of the bowl.  Be careful when removing - it will be HOT and you're going to have to WAIT.  Good luck.  I sprinkle chocolate chips across the top right after removing it from the microwave.  It melts quickly and acts as frosting. 

Single Serving Microwave Chocolate Cake

2 TBSP flour
1.5 TBSP sugar 

1/2 tsp baking powder
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
A pinch of salt
2 TBSP milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp oil

Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.  

Single Serving Microwave Yellow Cake:

2 TBSP flour 
1.5 TBSP sugar 
1/4 tsp baking powder 
1/8 tsp salt
 2 TBSP milk 
3/4 TBSP oil 
1/4 tsp vanilla extract


Mix ingredients together and microwave on high for 1 minute.

The photo above is yellow cake, but made with brown sugar.  It tastes just as good as white sugar!

August 23, 2011

There I was, shopping in Walmart.  I needed a dish pan, because filling up our cavernous sink is a chore.  I wanted to try the ammonia and ziploc bag technique to clean our burners, and maybe a pan.  I wanted a cheap pitcher, and to look at storage for the craft room. 
Walmart was all screwed up due to reconstruction.  Temporary entrance, all the windows boarded up, everything all over the place.  Plus they had recently rearranged all the aisles, so nothing was where it should be, and the ceilings seemed to be much higher and farther away.  I felt very disoriented.  Walmart's previous layout had been logical, and made sense.  Now it didn't!

I was looking at ziploc bags, trying to figure out what size they actually were, when the shelf started shaking and I heard something rumbling.  Must be doing something weird with their construction.  Funny, I didn't see any equipment big enough to make that noise.  Huh.  Still shaking and wobbling.  Harder.  Is someone moving the shelf?  obnoxious kids?  Stop moving, shelf. *touches it*. Still shaking and rumbling.  Earthquake?  No, Can't be. Could it?  and then my common sense started yelling at me.


I hurried out of the aisle into a wide open space, and soon the shaking slowed down and stopped.  Walked back a few paces.  A wide eyed lady asks me,"was that an earthquake?"  I said, "No! we don't get those here!"   I went back to looking at ziploc bags, but by that time thought, screw it, go home.  Then the lady came back, carrying her phone. "It WAS an earthquake! Everybody's talking about it!"  THEN the Walmart employees began combing the aisles, telling us to leave the store so they could check for damage.  So I dropped the dish tub and the bags and left.  All sorts of cranky old women were yelling at the employees to let them check out up front.   We heard a little bit of a beeping warning, but no real alarm.  Kinda sad. 

I went to my car and started making calls and listening to the radio, along with everybody else, then went home and checked the house over carefully.  A broom had fallen over, and a plastic LED candle in the guest room.  Yay for the house being sturdier than we thought!  
My mom was fine, and had my grandmother and nephew with her. One aunt had to rush down 12 flights of stairs, my sister had to deal with 5.  My cousin slept through it all, or was driving and didn't notice.  totally surreal. 

August 22, 2011

Moberg Gallery: Artist Portfolios

I'm dazzled. and I have so much useless wall space . . .
August 11, 2011

I thought perhaps if I gave Robin a new set of shoes (considering the condition of the old pair) she might relax a little. I found that working with cloth to make shoes turned out to be a bit better than working with leather, but as you can see, I'm still terrible at getting glue everywhere. that's the bad thing about the macro setting on my camera! I don't see the glue at all when I look at them!

The soles are made from white fun foam, the rest from plain old red cotton. I trimmed with red and white bunka. They come off!

It was very easy to do.

Step 1. Trace around her feet onto white cardboard or whatever heavy thin material you happen to have handy. Not too thick. Cut out.

Step 2. Trace THOSE patterns onto fun foam. Felt or leather could work, too, but I was gooing for a thick shoe base.

Step 3. Cut out a circle about an inch in diameter using your desired shoe fabric.

Step 4. Cut that circle neatly in half. This will make the toes of the shoe.

Step 5. Cut out two strips of fabric about a quarter of an inch wide and about two inches long.

Step 6. Using the cardboard foot pattern for this step. I placed a sole against the bottom of each foot and then wrapped the fabric around her foot to make the desired shape. Glue the fabric to the bottom of the sole (the side opposite her feet). The long strips go around her heel, and the half-circle goes over her toes, straight edge closer to her ankles. Trim as necessary.

Step 7. Glue the fun foam sole to the bottom of her shoe. This hides the glued edges.

Step 8. Trim with bunka around the edges, or wherever you want to decorate the shoe.I ran red bunka around the open edge of the shoe, and white around the sole to add texture to the base and hide the glued tucked under edges.

I'd say make sure you don't glue the shoe to the doll, but really, with this plastic doll, it'd be easy to remove if necessary. You might find it easier to apply small bits of glue with a toothpick or similar to prevent the mess I made.

I'm hoping the other dolls won't make cracks about ruby slippers and falling houses.

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August 7, 2011

My shoemaking skills have not improved, but at least I got something that will work, and minimizes his duck feet. Robin may get a new pair of shoes, as the current pair don't seem to be holding up too well.
"Now THAT's a knife!"
Here's a better lit shot, with Theo doing his Crocodile Dundee impression. (I'm glad he didn't notice the mitre box saw.  He would have been doing a Sagara Sanosuke impression with his zanbatō.) Moving pictures were JUST starting to appear when Theo got buried, so he readily took to their advanced stages when Robin got sick of explaining things to him. "Go watch some videos! I'm busy!"

Oh, sweet Netflix.
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August 6, 2011

This is another Heidi Ott doll, one of the early generation dollhouse dolls. (I've seen the later ones. I want them.) It's probably pointless to say that he's been in my stash a while. ALL of my dolls have been in my stash a while at this point.

His story is bizarre, possibly because I was watching Highlander at the time I acquired him. Netflix reruns, anyway. Yep, that's right. Robin and her team disinterred him in the underbelly of a church. It took a while to convince her that it wasn't an elaborate prank, he really was buried there at the end of the 19th century. Now he's trying to learn about the 21st century and basically driving Robin nuts.

Modern styles are difficult to do, and it's hard to find patterns that would transfer well to this scale. I struggled and futzed and this is the current result. I want to redo the shirt because I had problems with the cuffs, and I need to redo the vest because I got lazy and used too much glue. For this doll I had to sit and think about what a man might wear in the 21st century if he were accustomed to Victorian/Edwardian fashion, yet wanted to fit in with modern casual society without compromising TOO much.

I consider this a trial run. Now that I know what works for the look I want, I plan to make up a pattern and post it. Most Ott dolls look like they're simply drowning in cloth, and this strikes me as unfair. There doesn't seem to be anyone providing patterns or clothing to suit them, and I want to fix that. This style hides his funky hips and hopefully makes him look taller, although it's hard to make a 5.5" doll look tall. (Most male dollhouse dolls come in at 6".)

While I love articulated dolls, they're also hard to dress because you can't take shortcuts, like sewing or gluing cloth directly to the body. I dislike the feet of these dolls because they're short and paddle shaped, making it difficult to produce a shoe that doesn't look like duck feet. (He stole Robin's shoes for the photo. I SUCK at shoe-making. When I get a non-horrible result I'll reshoot.) The new Ott dolls have better feet, and shoes that go along with them, but they're also more expensive. I had to compromise.
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August 2, 2011

My photos of my Archaeologist's study are actually quite old. Since I moved, they are no longer in the same room, or on the same bookshelf. The bookshelf I did move it to is actually bigger, meaning that not only do I have more space to spread out, but I also HAVE to make changes.

It's looked strange for a while, and finally I decided I needed to make those changes. I wanted to add some architectural details so that it no longer looked like I'd thrown a bunch of random objects on a shelf. I felt the best and easiest way to do this would be to make it a split level room, or possibly add stairs. (I could always add a 'second floor' to the shelf above!) Below is my mock-up of my idea.

I think it will work. I can even hide wiring underneath the platform, although that leads to my next problem. My lighting supplies are a mess. None of the lights I have seem to be appropriate for this modern setting, and the ones I've looked at online just don't seem right. I may just add one of those tiny LED undercabinet bulbs. I need SOME sort of light in there!

I also discovered a chair problem. Like my own house, there's not enough seating, so I dug through my stash and stole a few chairs meant for my neglected Edwardian house. Then I brought Robin over to see if I'd gotten the scale right for the platform. She noticed the new chairs immediately. "Where's my green 1920's chair?" She demanded. "It was perfect in here! why'd you leave it out?" I dug around for it and then finally remembered - I'd given it to Nora. This earned me another rant about giving away her furniture to perfect strangers. Apparently I'd whisked Nora away to the guest room when she arrived, and had never had her with the other dolls. The elves are also in the guest room, but I doubt they'd associate with the likes of her. Fortunately, Robin seems to have forgotten about her new laptop that I'd also given Nora. I brought them all down. maybe Nora would like an MP3 player instead.

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July 18, 2011

More books made! The top shelf features books from Treefeathers on the left, and the rest are from one of those big classical literature book kits. The bottom two shelves are all new and handmade. These are not the only books I have made, but are pretty representative of what they look all look like. for the moment I've given up on decorating them and am just covering with papers. I'll make them fancier when I get enough done.
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July 3, 2011

"We should go to the Green Valley Book Fair!"
After two years of saying this, we finally went!  I had been as a teenager with my family, where we always found something to satisfy our reading habits at a fair price.  I certainly wanted to go back!

We made a weekend trip of it, planning out a route, eating places, and other touristy stops.In particular was Luray Caverns and Eidelweiss, a German restaurant in Staunton, VA. 

It was a pretty weekend, if a bit hot.  We took our time getting there, knowing we had no plans until our 7 pm reservation at Eidelweiss.  We stopped for lunch at the West Main Market in Luray, a nice little sandwich shop in an old, old storefront.  It was a pretty little town, and very quiet at the time, so we decided to explore a little bit before moving on.

Up the street was Bank Street Books, so I suggested we pop in there.  It was a used book store, taking up most of a former house.  Nicely organized, very big selection, and . . . owls.  Everywhere.  Enough to have filled a small shop by itself.  There were big owls, little owls, furry owls, wooden owls, pewter owls, cutesy owls, owls that looked like they were going to eat you, overly dramatic owls, and even an owl that made noise when you walked by it.  (the proprietor demonstrated it and quickly turned it off again.)  Ever since I made those owl bags, I have been encountering owls in my shopping trips and excursions.  This was the ultimate.  I was rather surprised to find out the rather mundane name of the shop, instead of, say, "The Owlry" or "Wise Old Owl Used Books."  Although, you'll notice if you visit the web site, I obviously had the right place.  Sadly, the owls were not for sale. 

After the book store (I bought a copy of "Peter and the Starcatchers") we headed over towards Luray Caverns.  We had been warned in the Market/Deli that there was a bluegrass and mountain music festival going on there this weekend, so we decided we would just go and look and see how bad it was.

It was pretty bad.  People parked everywhere, and worst of all, a big crowd congregating outside the building with no shade in sight.  Had I known about the festival, I would have made plans to go to that, but I wasn't prepared to deal with outdoors and big crowds.  We vetoed it and headed out towards Harrisonburg, where we had hotel reservations at the Sleep Inn.

Eventually I noticed the big Hollywood style sign for Endless Caverns.  "We should go there.  Or at least see if it's as crowded."  So we turned off and drove down a nice long country lane, to eventually come up to a nice, half-empty parking lot in front of a sweet little country style building and old style stone covered walkway to one side.  There was one tour left for the day, conducted by a teenager on summer break.  It was a nice tour, over an hour, with very little hoopla or crazy gimmicks, just oohing and aaahing over nature and history.  The cave had been found and explored and toured since 1879, and as part of the tour they showed how they used to give tours, pointing out natural shelves where candles once stood, or chandeliers hung, as well as  Alexander's Ballroom, a large room in the cave that once housed speakeasy parties during Prohibition.  Sadly, we missed the bats, who hung out in the woods during the summer where they could get all the mosquitoes they could eat. 

Of course, right at the very start of the tour, as we're starting down the deep dark staircase, the strap on my owl bag gave way and my bag went tumbling down the stairs.  (I think my bag was jealous that I wanted all those other owls earlier.)  Fortunately, nothing fell out and the bag wasn't damaged, but it was a bit embarrassing.  I lightened the load of the bag and tied the one end up with a knot.  Hopefully this week I'll install the sliding buckle I purchased a few weeks ago for it.

After the cave tour we headed to the Sleep Inn in Harrisonburg.  It was a nice little hotel, best of all with free, easy to use wifi.  We only stayed long enough to drop off our bags and then headed even further south to Staunton.

Eidelweiss was a cute little log cabinny type restaurant.  There was a cat lying flat out on the gravel walkway at the entrance, pretending to be a rug.  He didn't move or care about us at all.  Inside we found an accordionist with a sense of humor, and varying degrees of waitresses, some in standard waiting outfits, some in German frocks.  Our food came very quickly and was pretty typical German fare.

When we left the cat had moved about 3 feet away, still flat out, and flicked the tip of his tail at us in response.  We returned to Harrisonburg and collapsed, full of rich German food and lots of cave walking.

The next morning we checked out, stopped for breakfast at Sheetz, and headed to the book fair.  Yet another nice little country roads, passing cows.  Fortunately, it wasn't very crowded there, so we could park fairly close to the building.  I grabbed my big, currently empty NWF bag and we headed in.  Two hours later we ambled back out.  Only 8 books, but I was struggling with my 'don't buy books you haven't read' stigma.  There were, as usual, lots of books there.  I remembered the layout, except we went through a different door than usual and so everything felt backwards to me.  I felt better once I hit the original entrance and we worked our way back through.  The prices were excellent.  I don't feel paperbacks should cost more than $5, and very few of them were over that.

We stopped for lunch and to pop in an antique mall in Harrisonburg, and then headed back home, taking Skyline Drive.  It's a much better drive in a taller vehicle, but it was nice and leisurely for a Sunday afternoon.  We stopped at a few places in Sperryville, drove past my great-uncle's salvage yard outside of Warrenton, (marked by me suddenly yelling, "Oooh, there's Uncle Arthur's place!"  And then we were past it, and Brian's saying, "the place with the windows?")  We grabbed dinner in Gainesville and just barely beat the thunderstorm home.

It was a nice trip.  There were owls, caves, books, and accordion music.  What more could you ask for?

P.S.  The radio stations down there were much better.  This is not fair.
June 26, 2011

Yep.  Now I'm on a book-making binge.  Finally back to miniatures! 
Needs more books!
 Harken back to my Archaeologist's Study.  I designed a huge shelf for display items and books, but never managed to fill up the shelves.  Then I decided I was going to create a steampunk library, which, of course, needs books.  And then, the other week, I saw an online idea for a wall-hanging 'window box,' kind of like a shadow box made to look like a storefront with a big display window.  I got a wonderful mental image of an old fashioned shoppe window filled with used books.  Which means even MORE  books.  So I had to get moving.

About a year ago I had purchased a leather book kit by Jeanetta Kendall.  I had also slowly been collecting scrapbook papers that I thought might make suitable book covers.  Then, on Friday, I went to the scrapbooking show with my mother, grandmother, sister, and aunt, where I kind of went a little crazy tracking down appropriate book papers.  In all, I think I've spent about $100 on materials.  I figured I better justify my madness and actually produce some books!

28 books here, 12 over there, and 900 more to go . . .
So far, I've made forty, and absolutely no dent in either the supplies or filling up holes in the shelves.  I've figured out which papers work and which ones don't.  I still need to try some fabric coverings, and somewhere I have a gold pen that I need to find and test.
Jeanetta Kendall's book kit is amazing.  It comes with super-thin sheets of leather-like paper, printed with gold ink, and three sizes of little wooden blocks to serve as the interior.  There are tiny crop marks as guidelines on the 'leather', and you can use either scissors or an Xacto knife to cut out each book binding.  I painted the edges of the blocks with gold, and used Aleene's tacky glue to paste the binding to the block.  Everything fit perfectly, I had no problems, even when messy me got glue on the outside of the book.  Wiped right off!  Since I used an Xacto knife to cut them out, I still have plenty of leftover 'leather' to cover other books with - particularly if I make smaller ones.

I purchased balsa wood to use for book interiors, but the quality hasn't been that great.  Since we just got a new set of unwanted yellow and white pages dropped off, I thought I would use the white pages to cut and make up my own interiors.  It might be a bit more work, but hopefully it will add some extra realism.

I'm not against buying books.  I'd like to buy one of each at Treefeathers, if only she had that option!  I just need to be careful and get books that are properly in scale - so many look too big!  I also want to design my own, particularly the spines.  I can pull lots of covers off the internet, but not so much the spines, which is generally all you get to see of a book on a shelf, anyway.  Maybe I should just take a camera in to a library or bookshop and photograph those.

Yes, I have a book issues. There are books in every room in the house, and I think there should be more.  Lone books just look so sad, they need lots of friends!
June 9, 2011

Local Neighborhood Information for Centreville, Chantilly and Fairfax County, Virginia Provided by Spencer Marker

I'm hopping up and down inside.

I grew up in Herndon, where the historical society is very active and vociferous. I had the opportunity to work with them in my position at the local TV station, and so got to know Herndon history very well. Yes, it was a hokey little dairy town on the W&OD railroad, but people lived there and influenced other's lives.

When I moved to Centreville, I was a little disappointed at the dearth of historic information. I managed to dredge up a 1970's book on Centreville from, of all places, GMUs library. I fortunately had a professor who lived in one of Centreville's few historic houses, and provided me with a lot of information on the area.

I began a summer internship with Fairfax County Park Authority last week, where I will be cleaning up their document and photograph section in the computer database. The transfer from paper to PC was not exactly successful. Since I have OCD tendencies towards organization, and I can beat any computer into submission, I feel this position is right up my alley. History AND Computers!

Sadly, the computer I was slated to use was abruptly upgraded before I began work, and the database program has not yet been installed!

In the meantime, I've been acquainting myself with the paper database and some of the original documents and photos. Each item has an accompanying work sheet detailing the information about it. The items are in archival safe boxes, sorted by location, and assigned its own archive number. The work sheets are in numeric order in binders according to whether it's a photo or a document or the dreaded 'miscellaneous.' From what I saw before the upgrade, the computer just has the assigned numbers, and may or may not have any detail information.

I thought I would begin by creating a spreadsheet of the work sheet information, so all I would have to do is copy and paste into the database program once it's installed, after checking that the item matches the number and the work sheet description. This means I get to read lots of descriptions of photographs of local places, some of them unfamiliar.

I've taken to conducting a little internet research and adding that information to the description so that I have a better idea of what an item is. So far I've corrected a mislabeled church, added the name of a park to a description just labeled 'battle monument' (and learned why Monument Drive in Fairfax is CALLED Monument Drive!), and added pertinent information to archived newspaper articles. (title, author, publication, date! c'mon, that's important!)

I also discovered a few extra historic sites in Centreville, such as listed the website posted above, and other websites like and

I haven't yet seen the pictures to these descriptions yet, and hope that I'll be proved correct. I'm having a blast and I haven't even gotten started!
June 5, 2011

The first movie is still the best.  This one lacked  the energy, although I do admire the historical details. 

The premise is a race to the Fountain of Youth, stopping to collect all the items needed to make it work.  I sense a video game in the future.  The racers? Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, for whom Sparrow worked under duress, our old friend Barbossa, now sporting a pegleg and technically working under the English Crown as a privateer, and some Spanish prince. We never really learn anything about him, except he's snooty and holier-than-thou.

I was pleased with the first appearance of Blackbeard.  A solid, rough looking man, with burning fuses tied into his great beard, glaring fiercely at his mutinous crew.  Excellent entrance.  And then . . . he pulled out his magic sword.

Now, I have nothing against swords.  I LIKE swords. And magic.  Magic rocks.  For a historical pirate adventure movie, a little bit of magic and a little bit of swords is perfectly acceptable. Voodoo and other beliefs were/are present in the Caribbean, and there's no reason they shouldn't be in these movies.  I mean, after all, they are looking for an epic fountain!  This magic sword, however, was just too much.  It was jarring.  He could control the entire ship and everything on it with it, performing complicated rope tying and etc with a wave.  Certainly, I can accept cursed coins.  They did one simple thing: prevent the holder from dying until it was returned to its home.  Jack Sparrow's compass?  It too, did one simple thing - point toward the holder's heart's desire.  This sword?  It probably baked bread and made coffee while it was adjusting the sails.  It begged the question:  if he had that sword, which performed necessary ship tasks quicker and more efficiently than the losers below decks, WHY DID HE NEED A CREW?

That's the other thing.  My main answer for the crew's presence is to use them in close combat.  However, Blackbeard's ship, The Queen Anne's Revenge, was equipped with . . . wait for it . . . FLAMETHROWERS.  That's right.  Two of 'em, tucked in the bow of the ship.   I'd like you to pause and think about 18th century sailing vessels.  What are they made of?  What are they covered in?  What do they carry when they're looking for a fight?  Wood, you say?  Tar and swaths of cloth, yes?  Gunpowder, right?  Things that catch fire easily? Is having flamethrowers in the FRONT of a hard-to-steer wooden and tar-covered ship carrying gunpowder REALLY a good idea?  No.

I calmly accepted mermaids, zombies, fountains that granted immortality, voodoo dolls, compasses that that pointed to heart's desires, and even actual shrunken ships in bottles.  I could not get my head around that sword, and refused to accept the flamethrowers. 

It was fun if you're looking for lots of action and a simple plot.  Sam Claflin was hot.  Jack's complex escape from King George Vernon Dursley's chamber was highly amusing.  I'm sure I'll add it to the collection.
May 31, 2011

Yup.  We went on another cruise. 9 days, Royal Caribbean, out of Baltimore on Enchantment of the Seas.

Pictures are here, here, here, here, there, here, and here.

I was going to do a play by play, but 9 days is a long time.  Let's see if I can sum up.

Day 1-3: Baltimore and at sea.  Got a US coast guard escort down the Chesapeake.  Teeny boat with a mounted machine gun.  Got oriented on the ship.  Made a few friends or at least people we waved to when we saw them in the hall - The Hershey couple, Dave and Clarissa 'we're not alcoholics' (seriously, that's how they introduced themselves - they were just NY Italians), the hyper short newlyweds, Jerry the drunken Scot (I repeat myself) (he kept trying to hire Brian to play piano at his Glasgow club) Frank and (probably Linda) the quilting couple who taught the classes, and crew members Resa, Fitzmorris, Yadira, Orce, South African jewelry shop lady, two Australian dancers (one who looked a lot like my Dad when he was young), and Captain Gus, who seemed to be doing more PR stuff than running the ship.

Day 4: San Juan.  Took a Walking Tour of Old San Juan.  Was fun and informative, and based on the amount of cars just SITTING in traffic, I was glad we didn't take the bus tour.  Amusing to be walking down an old, narrow, brick road and see: people having a party in a Hummer, since traffic wasn't moving, lots of cats, a Marshalls, a street beggar all in black, playing an accordion.  Found a cannon.

Day 5:  St Thomas.  Brian went snorkeling, I made a necklace.  We wandered around, ate lunch at Cuzzins, tried Conch, wandered in a local fabric store and an overpriced antiques shop, and a few random shops. They drive on the left side of the road, but in cars where the wheel was also on the left.   Pretty much EVERY car we saw had some sort of damage to it, but they were also more into customizing them.  Saw some interesting airbrush work!

Day 6: Dominican Republic.  Took a cave and mangrove tour, mostly by boat.  Beautiful national park (Los Haitises.)  Lots of birds and even some bats.  Didn't bother with the town, but to get to our tour boat we got to go to Deck 1 and through part of the crew quarters.  We also got to see how they loaded the tenders back on the ship.

Day 7:  Labadee, Haiti.  The cruise line's personal land resort.  Wandered around and took some pictures, but Brian slept in. It was soo humid I didn't want to do anything else.  Found some cannons, but no one was around to take my picture with it.

Day 8-9: at sea.  lots of cruise activities, lots of food, lots of sleeping. There were mostly comedians as guest performers for the nightly show, but we did have 'The Unexpected Boys' as a Four Seasons cover band.  The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers were  OK.  The singers couldn't act, and the dancers couldn't sing, but they worked it out.

It was a great cruise, but I'd like to make a few proposals.

Clocks.  Why are there no clocks in the cabins??  Serious oversight.  Along with putting the phone on the far side of the room instead of on the nightstand.  When there's no clocks you have to resort to call wake up, which is at best awkward when you're sleeping in pitch blackness and have to stumble across the room in the dark.

Classes.  This cruise had arts and craft classes every day.  It was awesome.  Varying levels.  Appliqued towels, pineapple totes, knotted scarfs, tied, bracelets.  They had jewelry making classes, and scrapbooking classes.  Lots of fun.  It was nice to have a free souvenir of the trip that I made.  Not only did I get the item, I got the memories and the bonding with the other class-takers.  Keep it up! 

Other things I'd like to see would be destination introductions.  Before arriving at the next port, have a little documentary - a brief history of the place, a few photos, highlights of special places to visit.  The excursions are fun, but they're not ALL of the possibilities, and they give minimal information.  We did attend one thing that I hoped would be this format, but it turned out to be only about shopping on shore - where they wanted you to buy diamonds, watches, jewelry, etc.  I can do that at home!  I'm in a new place - I want to know what's unique about it!  It was very disappointing.  There were shows on TV, but they weren't specific to the ports we were visiting. 

As for my travel organization, it varied.  My hip bag worked out quite well once I learned the trick of getting the passport in and out.  I ended up cutting the adjustable strap off a spare passport holder that you tuck under your shirt, and that worked much better than the belt.  I made a little emergency medicine bag that was nice, except I forgot to add more aspirin, and totally didn't think about sunburn medicine.  Next time I'm going to take extra, since the shop AND the clinic ran out.  I never did find Tums.  Otherwise it was nice to have.  I had found a little zippered pouch at the thrift shop for a quarter. See through and the perfect size.  I may have to go back there and see if there's any more - they had a big container of them up by the cash register.  I had a little separate bag for clothing emergencies - wipes, safety pins, a tiny roller brush, sewing kit.  I could go right to it when I needed it.  I don't think I really missed or needed anything else - except maybe a travel sized toothbrush.

It's nice to be back, sort of.  It was about 80 degrees the entire time, we come back to 90 degree temperatures!  I think it's time we move to a cooler climate.
May 29, 2011

The True Cost of A Wedding Knot at Credit Sesame Blog

Average cost is 27k? I don't think we spent much more than 8. AND we had a church, a restaurant dinner reception for over 80 people, a dance floor with DJ, a 1940 Rolls Royce to cart us around, and a photographer. In June!

Where did we save money? My mother made the gowns and the pew bows. I made the invitations, the favors, the place name cards, and the table IDS. (we had a semi-tropical theme and named each table after a Caribbean island so guests would know where to sit.) The photographer was only there to take pictures. She gave us the copyright, and I did all the post editing. (she was awesome, too). The baker happened to be a former boss and was excited enough to cut us a deal. The flowers we got at the grocery store, and I had a tiny wrist corsage that I wrapped around my confirmation Bible. (Why sneeze my way down the aisle?) We kept the wedding party down to a single best man and maid of honor. We were also fortunate that our parents helped with the rehearsal dinner, flowers, and gowns. Brian already owned his tux.
My engagement ring? Pawn shop. Seriously. Not that we didn't try the regular shops first. My hands are so small that every ring I tried on at a regular shop just looked ridiculous, or would have warped the ring too much to have it sized down. I found EXACTLY what I wanted in a bizarre little shop in Leesburg. My wedding band belonged to my great-grandmother. Brian wanted the plainest, simplest style band imaginable as he was concerned that he would hate wearing a ring.

And everybody claims they had a good time, which, I guess is what we were aiming for.
May 18, 2011

 I added a flap today in the middle of running around doing all sorts of random last minute things.  It's rather useless and just handstitched on.  I cut off the back of the brass button and glued it on for a decorative bit.  I hope it holds!  I have some brown ribbon somewhere that I need to find and test.

I also found a belt strap at the thrift shop that goes ok with it, although it's a little thick, and looks pretty ridiculous as a purse strap, now that I come to try it. While I was there I picked up a cute little NWF book bag for 50 cents.  I couldn't resist.  It's not often I want to advertise a company, but they were good to me, though they didn't share many samples. ;-)   A year or so ago I found TWO NWF travel bags at the same thrift shop and bought both.  Excellent design, lots of room, and even a water bottle/umbrella holder on the outside.  I'll be taking one along on the cruise for land excursions.
May 17, 2011

Having been successful with not one, but two owl bags, I decided I was going to branch out and design my own bag.

I wanted a hip bag, not the bulky fanny packs of my childhood, but something sleeker, streamlined.  It would hold EXACTLY the vitals and nothing else.  What are the vitals?  Stuff I would likely need on our upcoming cruise without having to deal with a purse.  I couldn't find a pattern that satisfied me, but found enough information online that I felt confident in doing my design.  I wanted it just big enough to hold my passport, phone, camera, credit cards, loose change, and maybe a few bandages and pepto bismol pills.     

I designed and designed and designed in my head for ages as I struggled through finals, and dashed to the machine as soon as I had finished.  What I ended up with . . . was more or less what I planned.  I just don't like it!
Camera fits, couldn't get it in the photo!
My plans for the inside was a zippered pocket on one side, a pocket for my passport and/or ipod, with credit card slots on the front of that.  That part was ok, but I had problems with  the interior fabric I originally picked out.  It was a soft cotton teal plaid, and went well with the outer fabric, but was only a fat quarter, and had . . . issues.  It shifted very easily when I sewed.  Plus, OCD me HAD to line up the stripes.  Eventually I got everything cut out and  lined up where I could live with it, put it together . . .  and discovered it was too small for the passport.  The whole PURSE was too small.  I didn't have enough plaid to make a second bag, so I ended up having to make an entirely new one.

Surprisingly, even measuring twice didn't help.  It's STILL too small, but I was still able to wedge my passport inside. Everything else fit inside with it, so I'm calling it good for the moment.  

I need to get cording or a small belt, and quickly, too, because the scarf doesn't go so well with it.  The way I designed the straps on the back, I can wear it over my shoulder or around my waist.  I could probably add a smaller strap and make it a wristlet.

I also need to do something to it to make it look more like a purse and less like a pillow.

Things to remember for the next hip bag:  make it even wider, use less interfacing, and try once more to make it flat bottomed.
May 14, 2011

Inspiration Bag - visit her blog!
While browsing for bag patterns one day, I came across A Wednesday Afternoon and the wonderful tutorial on making an owl bag.  It hopped up and down and hooted "make ME! make ME!"  After sharing on Facebook, my sister subtly hinted that she'd like one.  Why not?  This looked doable!  And I could always make two . . .

My finished bag
Off I went to JoAnns, where in the remnant pile I found a lovely heavy home decor fabric in a minty green.  I grabbed it and wandered the aisles, looking for complimentary fabric.  In a section filled with random fat quarters I found the gold paisley for the wings, its stems exactly the same shade of mint.  It came with me and refused to be matched to any dark browns.  I finally tried the gold and the whole thing just went POP. Sadly, the wing fabric was the ONLY fat quarter I could find of it.  I searched everywhere in the store, with no luck.  I have no idea who makes it!  It was just a leftover.  Hopefully I can find it in another store, because it's really pretty.
I bought buttons to use for eyes, but they turned out to be too small.  (No one likes a beady eyed owl.)  An image search for owl eyes turned up beautiful amber stares, but I couldn't get any fabrics that worked properly without seeming too weird.  Eventually I found the right golden shade in my own stash to use as eyes, but it took a lot of tries. I then decided that it would be a good idea to use four layers of fabric: black, brown, gold, and black to define the eyes properly.  It's REALLY hard to cut out a cloth circle!  Eventually I used iron-on interfacing, after failing twice to come home with the right double stick iron on whatever it is I needed.  Yes, I glued the eyes together and on the bag.  If they fall off, glue them back on, please? 

I made a few changes to the original pattern.  I separated the front panel, wings and body, to make into a pocket.  The body fabric was folded in half and cut out, with interfacing on one side for added strength.  Pull on his beak and it opens!  I also altered the inside of the bag, making the top three inches of it the same fabric as the outside. (The rest is a soft tan colored fabric.  Possibly challis?)   For the strap, I used D-rings, and found a tutorial at Sew Loquacious that allowed me to make a fabric slide so the strap can be adjustable.  I couldn't find the right kind of metal part to do this, at least, not big enough.  If it doesn't work well it will be really easy to undo. 

The instructions were excellent and I had no problems with assembly.  I drew out the owl on oversized paper and then drew all the parts on separate pieces so I wouldn't have to cut it apart.  I added a seam allowance, just in case.

Owl Bag, Jr.
I had JUST enough fabric to make myself a second, smaller bag.  I like small bags, as I need to put my purse in my backpack while at school, and it needs to fit! This bag is a little over 8.5" wide and about 7.5" tall.  I made an interior pocket for my ipod, and added a metal magnetic snap enclosure, along with the front pocket.  I used buttons for the pupils.  I took a picture of the bag full, to be sure everything that I wanted to carry fit inside, and which is why his eyes look so crooked.  At least, that's what I'm hoping!  I gave the bag to Erin last week, which is why I didn't photograph them together. Too bad!

Fun, fun project!  Now I'm experiencing a small bag-making addiction and making plans for two or three others.
May 3, 2011

It finally dawned on me that my blog looks awful.  I had stubbornly tried to change it to make it match my web site and it just didn't want to work.  So I'll be playing with it for a few days until I find something that's more satisfying.

I suppose I should work on my web site, too. 
April 23, 2011

Travel Safely: Create your own DIY first aid kit for the road |

I've been thinking about the last few trips I've been on in preparation for our next cruise. The bad thing about a cruise is you can't always find some essentials, like when I developed a canker sore. I could find deodorant and mouthwash in the souvenir shop on board, but nothing for mouth pain! I was recommended to the ship's doctor, and wound my way below decks to the clinic, just to discover it was unmanned, and gave up. I also neglected to bring a watch, and Brian didn't have one either, and neither one of us wanted to turn our phones on. There were watches for sale on the ship, but they were either REALLY expensive, or the most horrible over-sized impersonations of watches I'd ever seen. Cruises are lovely, but expect to feel a bit isolated from the comforts of society and CVS.

I've been eying 'first aid kits' when I come across them in the stores, and have been increasingly appalled at their lack of content. Several different sizes of (latex) bandaids and a single handiwipe? No good. I need to make my own, then! I've been mentally creating a list of things I want in my own kit, and then came across this useful blog. I'll need to adapt it to my own needs, of course.

First, non-latex bandages, and neosporin.
Possibly petroleum jelly -Vaseline's lip Therapy should work well in a travel kit. It's good for keeping germs out and bandages from sticking to wounds.
Benadryl for allergy attacks - ones you can take without needing water. ( I was going to try to get an epi-pen for my husband, but research and his own experience suggested that the epi-pen is just a temporary solution to get you to the hospital so they can give you benadryl. I HAVE accidentally peanutted him before, and his reaction is slow enough that I think it'd be sufficient to just have it always nearby in my purse.)
Pepto Bismol and Tums, because we have sensitive stomachs that like to complain.
Painkillers. I like buying the travel sizes because they come in awesome tiny tubes that are great for reusing.
Hand sanitizer.
Nail clippers/nail file, because a torn nail IS an emergency! And, well, handwipes. And Ambesol. And a watch. And a bandanna.

I think some of the things on the blog list are a good idea, but they're not particularly something I would want to carry with me on a regular basis. Bug spray and sunscreen are only useful when spending long periods of time outdoors in sunny, buggy areas. I'm thinking I should split these up into 'items I should keep in my purse', 'items to go in my suitcase', and 'items to take on an adventure.'
I also need to figure out (hopefully flat) storage because I like to keep a tiny purse, so I can stick it in my backpack for school. I don't want to get carried away, although I do admit I like being prepared. My favorite moment of preparedness was the last time Dad and I went to the movies together. He sighed and complained about the loudness of the speakers and wished he had earplugs. I whipped a pair out of my purse and handed them to him. he just goggled at me, but I felt awesome. (I then had to explain that I had them because the machinery in the editing room at work was so loud that it was driving me batty.)

Lots of ideas here, and I need to get started. I'm hoping it will involve eating the M&Ms sold in the tube packaging . . .
April 12, 2011

I think I've been planning this ever since we had the house painted.  I know how I wanted it to look, but it took well over a year to get it produced!

I found the fabric at JoAnn's, and fell in love.  I was even more excited to discover that it would work well with the color in the master bathroom.  It's a kind of greeny blue that I can't describe and can't photograph accurately, but it feels a bit beachy.  These photos are a bit too green, and my attempts at photo editing do not produce the proper results.  Just imagine more blue. 

Finding the fabric was the easy part.  Patterns produced nothing close to what I wanted.  I think I bought half a dozen 'this might do' pattens before I found what I was looking for in those do-it-yourself books.   I found that for 50 cents at the thrift shop.  Thank you, whoever decided to weed that from your sewing library!

I've never made full sized curtains.  I've mastered hanging them at this point, but always started out with well-researched draperies.  It's nearly impossible to find curtains in the stores that aren't plain rectangles.  Thank goodness for JCPenney and Burlington Coat Factory.  Making them was . . .  an experience.  Math was involved; actual patterns were not.  I may have memorized the instructions trying to understand them.  I'm pleased to say my math was accurate.  Cutting and sewing in straight lines?  Not so much, but fortunately this design was very forgiving in that respect. It was a bit ornate - if you were to turn it around, you would discover actual rigging with a dowel, plastic rings, and cording.  The instructions even made them adjustable - all's I would have to do is pull a cord once I set up the 1x2 spaced with screw eyes - but I settled for tying them off at the top. 

I will spend the next several days wandering in and refluffing them.  I am very grateful there's only one window.  My next project will be redoing the sheers.  This window is an odd shape - roughly 4 feet square - so I will have to do some trimming.
April 9, 2011

Everybody keeps reassuring me that it's OK to not totally decorate a room/house all at once.  Sometimes it takes time to find that right piece, and to just relax and keep my eyes open.

Lately I've been concentrating on the bedroom.  It's a big room, fairly bare, and yellow.  Very, very yellow.  Daffodil yellow, in fact.   I hate it.  Mostly what I'm trying to do is make it seem less yellow.  I tried to tone it down with browns, but it hasn't worked too well.  Now I'm trying whites and creams to soften it.  I was fortunate in finding a great deal at Burlington Coat Factory.  A soft creamy colored damask set of panels that have an attached valance.  It's got a pretty, unusual drape of sheer fabric attached, too.  Best part - only $20 a panel.  They replaced the dark maroon curtains I bought when Brian first got sick.  He didn't even HAVE curtains, and I figured he'd have a better time sleeping with room darkening/noise dampening panels.  They worked well until we painted the room and bought the fancy bedspread, when they took on a primary color aspect.

The bad part about the new curtains is that they weren't lined.  I had to get blackout liners, and again lucked out, this time at Wal-Mart.  Shockingly, they were on clearance at $10 a panel, and turned out to be eco friendly, which meant no smell!  Boy do they work.  It's actually kind of unnerving to have it THAT dark in the room.  The LED on the fire alarm is annoying now.  I did have a problem with light coming up between the top of the panels and the wall, but solved that with a strip of cardboard wedged between the curtain rod and the wall.

Having new curtains also meant new curtain rods.  I wanted something fancy, and while I couldn't match the flame finials on the bed and the monster chest-of-drawers, I did find an oval shaped finial that mimicked the reeding on the bedposts and details on the chest and nightstands.  I'm still working out how to use holdbacks.   They sort of push the curtains away from the wall, which doesn't look so good.

Since my attention has been devoted to that room, I started thinking about other areas and what I wanted to do.  The new curtains actually make the room look bigger, or at least that wall farther away.  I was afraid that the absence of dark color on that wall would make the chest of drawers loom even larger, but it seems ok.  I turned instead to the bookshelf that stood on the opposite wall from the chest.  It's not quite as tall, and actually looks kind of small and sad.  I thought a vase of flowers would help - something to look at while in the room, plus add height and balance.

With that in mind, I wandered into Michaels to see what they had pre-made.  (More luck - a big floral sale!)  I found one sample on display that I liked, except for the bright yellow tiger lilies in it.  I didn't want to add MORE yellow to the room, and frankly, I have an aversion to tiger lilies.  I know it's weird, it's just they have an awful smell, and it makes me dislike even the fake ones.

So I looked around, and started picking out stems to design my own arrangement.  I found some cream dogwood-like florals, and some big flower things - possibly gardenias? - that matched.  I added some green leaves to the bottom, and also some tall stemlike bits with berries hanging off.  I matched it all with a metal vase made to look like wood - matching the mahogany of the rest of the room. 

I've never really done much floral arranging . . . just a lackadaisical arrangement in my bathroom: pink and blue flowers shoved in a Snapple container.  I enjoyed the challenge of trying to figure out how it should look and how to solve what I felt was missing.  The gardenias made it cohesive, the berries added dark bits of interest.  The greenery was a bit too much, and I still need to mess with it a bit to get a better balance.  I couldn't figure out how to easily take pieces off without resorting to cutting them.

I'm very pleased overall.  Now I'm thinking about wall decorations, as there's nothing hanging on the walls at all.  That could take ages, so I made a side trip and am now working on curtains for the master bathroom.  I've had the fabric since last summer, I think.  It's just taken me all this time to figure out the instructions.  I'm used to one inch scale curtains, where I can just glue them on the wall.
March 22, 2011

I admit, I have lots of tools.  Not just screwdrivers and hammers and glue guns and my don't-call-me-girly yellow DeWalt drill, but little tools, scissors, and X-Acto knives, and tools that really aren't tools, but I use them to create things so they're now designated as tools. 

I have a hard time keeping them organized due to their widely varying shapes and sizes.  Now that I have a big work space, I wanted to reorganize what I had so I didn't have to keep opening various boxes.  Craft organizers didn't meet my needs.  My favorite easy-action Fiskar scissors were so top-heavy that I couldn't store them upright, and I had lots of little items that needed to be within easy reach.  I poked  around on Etsy and eBay, hoping for ideas, but only one thing stood out.  It was a fancy cardboard sewing box with lots of reach-in compartments.  It wasn't what I needed, but it DID remind me of the cardboard suitcase box my grandmother gave me for my birthday a few years ago.  It had done its service in storing ALL of the accouterments for my Archaeologist's Study when I moved, and was quietly sitting empty on top of the bookcase.  I did a little thinking, scrabbled through my stashes, and came up with something I hope will work.

The ruler, the knitting needle, and the dental tool are held on using clip-on earring backs.  The long razor, tweezers, nail file, and doll sewing needle are held on by a magnet.  The compartment with the sculpting tools and pencil was the lid to a small gift box.  The long, narrow pincushion is simply the cotton from that gift box rolled up tight and glued into some extra fabric.  The fancy box is what I use to store my X-Acto knives and blades - I try to keep those as safe as possible to avoid any more damage to myself than necessary.  There is plenty of room for my scissors, wire cutters, and anything else I might need in there.  The glue box has a false bottom to keep the bottle semi-upright.  I glued fancy ribbon to the sides to hold the lid up.  I'm fervently praying that the hot glue I used holds.  I hate that stuff.  If I lay the glue bottle down flat, the entire thing can be closed and moved about by the handle on the front, just out of the photo.  I haven't tested this too thoroughly yet, but I'm pretty sure that everything will stay in place - except maybe the doll needle.  It's metal, but doesn't like to stick to the magnet too well. 

So far, I'm pleased, but I haven't yet had time to do a project and test it out.  Of course there's plenty of other things I can think of to put in there, but I can't put in EVERYTHING.
February 27, 2011

And here's the finished doll! 
Inspiration Gown
She decided she wanted to be called Igraine.  Not after King Arthur's mother, but the time period is hopefully about right.

Her hair gave me some problems, and is still giving me some problems.  The doll had a hole cut out of the top of her head so you can use it for hanks of hair, but I couldn't get it to work right.  I stuffed it with paper and some extra hair to fill it up and just went on without it.  I still need to fix some overly loose strands, and take better pictures.
I think I need a tripod, as I just can't hold a camera steady.  Although, as Harvey would tell me, a monopod works perfectly well.  AKA, get a tall stick.  I have a fancy light box my Dad gave me a few years ago.  On my 'things to do' list is retaking photos of all of my dolls using it.
February 20, 2011

After ages of not doing any miniatures, I've finally been able to  finish one doll, Jane, and have started another.  Both dolls have been heads that I have owned for many, many years.  Jane I sculpted by hand, and the current project was the medieval doll kit I bought from Swallowhill Dolls, my first porcelain acquisition.  (sadly they seem to have gone out of business.)  I've tried for years to dress her but could never get the look I wanted. 

The process changes a little every time.  Yesterday I went feet first, and then made the body.  I got my inspiration from a gown on Arm Street, but the particular doll I had in mind had old fashioned heels on her porcelain feet.

My attempt to disguise this turned into a strange wedge shaped heel, while the shoes appear to be made from burlap.  The nice thing about a macro feature on the camera is that you can see a lot of detail.  The bad thing is you can see all the BAD details, too!    I can see now that I'm going to have to go after some glue.

Inspiration Dress from ArmStreet
I rarely take unfinished photos of my dolls, but here's one so you can get an idea of what's underneath the clothing.  Generally - a big mess.  Since these dolls rarely get their outfits changed, the whole point of the underneath is to support the layers of clothing.  Since the fabric isn't to scale, you have to make adjustments to the body to compensate for the thickness of the cloth in order for it to appear 'normal'.  It's why fashion dolls have tiny waists - imagine making a skirt out of carpet - the gathers would take up a lot more room!  Yes, I took a few shortcuts this time, and the bust on the doll is so narrow I'm having a hard time getting it to fit on the body.  In the end, though, none of this will be seen. 

I'm still debating over her name.  Mentally she's been Lady Hannah for years, but that doesn't seem to be a name that would go with her dress.  I'm considering Hannelore or Rosalind.  Maybe I should let her pick.
January 17, 2011

So over the holidays I decided to branch out into an area I feel more comfortable with - making cookies. 
Growing up, cookie making was a major part of the winter celebrations.  We'd go all out, turning the kitchen and dining room into a production site, playing Christmas carols, or watching related movies as we worked.  Mom had given me several recipes that I wanted to try and/or perfect. 
I was fortunate in that I had discovered that Bloom carried two vital products that would enable Brian to eat my cookies without getting sick.  The first was Enjoy Life's soy/peanut free chocolate chips.  The second was Earth Balance's soy free margarine.  While the debate is still out there regarding butter vs margarine in both health and proper cookie science, I felt a bit better knowing I was using margarine, particularly in regards to cholesterol count.  Along with Trader Joe's sunflower seed butter, I felt set.

First up, of course, was Mom's egg free chocolate chip cookies, from the cookbook Bakin' without Eggs.  These are the favorites of  most of the family.  Brian had requested that I make them smaller so he could pop them in his mouth all in one go. (having to bite into a cookie results in crumbs, and we can't risk losing out on eating any part of the cookie!)  Fortunately Enjoy Life's chips were mini, so they baked up nicely.

Secondly, I made Nestle Crunch Snowball cookies.  As I couldn't use actual Nestle crunch bars (Thanks a lot for your peanut compromised factories, Nestle!) I attempted to make my own.  I used chocolate chips and crisped rice (found some designed for candy making) and poured it into the bottom of a gladware container.  Unfortunately I got it too thick, and it was too difficult to break up into chunks, so I just started randomly dumping the various types of chocolate chips I had around the house into the mix.  They turned out rather well.  The second time I made them I discovered that Enjoy Life made their own crunch bar and used those.  Again, they were a bit too thick to easily break up, and the food processor managed to make a mix of big chunks and fine dust.  I'm going to invest in a chocolate bar shaped candy mold and see if I can't get this right one day. 
There is a LOT of butter/margarine in these cookies, and the dough comes out looking and feeling like stiff cake batter.  I have to stir by hand because it chokes the mixer!

Thirdly, I made the colonial sugar cookies, using the Christmas cutouts my grandmother had given me the year before.  I never got around to attempting icing, so they weren't all that wonderful, but looked festive!

A few days later I attempted to make Rice Krispie treats.  I remember only doing them once before and it being really difficult to stir, but I had no problems this time around.  I pressed in the chocolate chips on top and they came out great. 

Fourthly, I was determined to make Peanut Butter Blossoms.  I love them - I'd even eat them without the kiss on top!  I used the 'easy' eggless recipe from Betty Crocker and the sunflower seed butter.  They turned out great!  I'm so pleased that the sunflower butter works and acts the same way as peanut butter.  Brian was able to eat one, but didn't like it.  I got the rest! 

Finally, last night I tried Muddy Buddies, again with the sunflower seed butter.  I made a mistake and didn't buy enough Chex, so had to cut down the rest of the recipe.  I'm pretty certain I miscalculated, as the finished project had more of a peanut butter than a chocolate taste.  I guess I'll have to try again!

I am so very grateful to Earth Balance and Enjoy Life for caring enough to make these allergen friendly products.  It really made my holidays and gave me a little confidence boost in my kitchen attempts.