Earlier this year I had an Instagram photo picked up for a book being published by Chronicle Books called This Is Happening, which is a great little collection of stellar photos from Instagram users. I was very excited by this for three reasons:
1.) Chronicle Books has always been my favorite publishing house, because they published the Griffin & Sabine series. Plus a whole lot of other wonderful things over the years.
2.) The first seven months of 2013 were devoted to designing/marketing/pulling off The Phone Photography Project so it was nice to have a little external confirmation that my phone photos did not stink.
3.) The photo that was selected is, in my opinion, one of the best Cheyenne Frontier Days photos ever taken. Heh.
I also discovered when I got my advance copies that my photo appears next to a photo taken by Bakerella, which makes me both hungry and excited.
I am a blog of modest means (read: zero means) and little advertising (read: zero advertising) but in the spirit of December, I thought I'd follow the lead of Cathy Zielske and her One Days of Giveaways and give away my extra copy of This Is Happening + a $15 iTunes card (that I received at OfficeMax for buying a kazillion ink cartridges—easy come easy go) to a friendly and loyal reader out there : ) All you have to do is leave a comment telling me the last thing you purchased on iTunes. Or your favorite title from Chronicle Books. Or just say hi, that'll do, too! Comments will stay open until they're closed (ha) but probably until Tuesday night-ish, so don't delay.
I've updated the banner, dusted off some broken links that are now working again, and will now jump into a mish-mash of Christmas news/giveaways/projects!
1. I have some really fun projects featured today over at the Cosmo Cricket blog! I had the opportunity to make some things with their new Show Toppers™ Mason jar lids, which turn a regular old wide-mouth Mason jar into something crafty and clever. I wanted to share a little more about the tickets that are in the top of the Nutcracker jar here, because they are one of my most favorite Christmas projects ever. I thought I had shared them here already but it might have been over at Write.Click.Scrapbook. a few years ago.
Since I already had the tickets made from a 2010 performance we attended, I decided one of these jars needed to be Nutcracker-themed to display them (with the idea that next time we go, I'll update the tickets for display). Bridget and I found the little Nutcracker at Hobby Lobby for $2.99 and I glued him to the bottom of the jar with heavy duty glue. He slipped the tiniest little bit while he was drying even though I held him in place for a good four minutes, but that's OK. Drop in a little fake snow, hang a mobile of bells from the inside of the lid (there is a HOOK in there for this purpose!!) and ta-da! Done.
Back in the olden days when Matt and I were dating tickets were lovely, fun, and full of character:
So, armed with my experience designing tickets for high school theater in Montana, I knew I could make that turn into this:
So much better, right? It's a lot more fun to share pretty tickets (and better for scrapbook pages later) than ugly e-ticket printouts! Go check out the other projects at Cosmo Cricket too... easy, fast ideas that can easily be replicated/adapted for teacher gifts, neighbor gifts, and personal decorations.
2. Have you registered for the newest offering from Big Picture Classes yet?
It's called December Duos, and it's all about a slightly different way to document your December memories. Here's the official rundown:
The "December Duos" concept is easy, stress-free, and inspiring. Every day for the twelve days leading up to Christmas Day, two of our twelve instructors will share a scrapbook layout, video message, and a page prompt in the form of a duo ("warm & cold," "give & receive," "near & far"). That's a total of two-dozen inspiring ideas!
You can follow the instructor's lead or march in your own direction as you snap your photos for the day. Then, after printing our fabulously free journaling cards and title cards, you'll either slip the cards and your photos into a Project Life mini album from American Crafts or use them on a traditional (or digital) scrapbook page.
12 Days of Christmas: December Duos makes it easy to capture all of your most important holiday moments—in a festive new format—while keeping up with all the parties, presents, and pageants that make the holiday season magical.
Learn more and register here.
The class begins December 12, and I have three spots to give away today! Leave a comment on this post between now and Friday night and I'll post the winners (along with another giveaway!) this weekend. Go!
You know the "Today I..." lists, right? They're always so quaint and fun. Well. My "today I" list is just weird.
Today I... sawed two 6 ft+ banana plants down to the ground. Took 45 minutes from start to end. Contemplated yelling timber. Did not.
Today I... went to a Cajun store to buy 18 pounds of rice. Tried to not gawk at the Confederate flag hanging above the checkout.
Today I... discovered I might be the only person who doesn't know the book/song The Christmas Shoes, and was informed that this actually means I lead a charmed life.
Today I... packaged up an order of photographs for the base museum in Wyoming and dreamed of a white Christmas.
Today I... wore sandals. Cursed the weather.
Today I... tasked Matt with finding me a list of not-sandal shoe possibilities to buy with my birthday gift card.
Today I... obsessively checked the 10 day forecast again and discovered with glee that it's supposed to get cold and nasty this weekend. I might be the only person in Louisiana to react with glee to this news.
Today I... put off grocery shopping at the commissary on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving weekend. Am engaging in a full-on game of grocery shopping chicken. The cupboards are (almost completely) bare but I will make it work for one more day. And if it goes well, maybe even two.
Matt recently took a free online Myers-Briggs personality test for fun. Free means not as exhaustive as the real thing that a trained psychologist might administer, but he was still a little spooked by the uncanny description the test spat back out at him upon completion. If you're familiar with Myers-Briggs, it breaks personality types down into 16 different categories; more accurate tests give a percentage of which characteristics are strongest, but even the freebie online test assigned a personality type. Matt is an ISTJ. I cannot fathom why we would need to spend a penny to have a more accurate test result.
ISTJs are faithful, logical, organized, sensible, and earnest traditionalists who enjoy keeping their lives and environments well-regulated. Typically reserved and serious individuals, they earn success through their thoroughness and extraordinary dependability. They are capable of shutting out distractions in order to take a practical, logical approach to their endeavors, and are able to make the tough decisions that other types avoid. Realistic and responsible, ISTJs are often seen as worker bees striving steadily toward their goals.
It goes on for a while, being eerie and accurate about many things. This particular passage is my favorite, because it confirms a well-known personality trait of Matt, aka The Sunbeam of Knowledge:
ISTJs respect facts. They hold a tremendous store of data within themselves, gathered through their Sensing function. They may have difficulty valuing a theory or idea that differs from their own perspective.
Of course once he shared his results I had to go take a free online Myers-Briggs test, too. Apparently I am an ENFP. Hold on, look at that again:
I S T J
E N F P
That right there is the dictionary definition of polar opposites.
Some of my results:
People with the ENFP personality type tend to be curious, idealistic...they seek meaning and are very interested in other people’s motives, seeing life as a big, complex puzzle where everything is connected. Not surprisingly, ENFPs tend to be very insightful and empathic individuals...
ENFP personalities are usually characterized by high levels of enthusiasm, especially when it comes to things that spark their imagination – in such cases, ENFPs can be very energetic and convincing, able to easily convince other people to join their cause. Ironically, this trait can also turn against the ENFP, when they suddenly find themselves in the center of the stage, being seen as leaders and inspiring gurus by other people. ENFPs strive to be independent and, unsurprisingly, do not always welcome such attention.
ENFPs are also likely to have difficulties dealing with routine, administrative matters. They are more interested in freedom and inspiration than security and stability, and this attitude is usually clearly visible – an ENFP would rather try to come up with an interesting solution or an idea, no matter how difficult that is, than deal with simple yet boring tasks.
Ha ha ha. Busted.
Finally, ENFPs are non-conformists, following their own path and trusting their intuition. Their talents are numerous, but they all rely on the ENFP being given enough freedom. People with this personality type can quickly become impatient and dejected if they get stuck in a boring role, unable to freely express themselves – but when the ENFP finally finds their place in the world, their imagination, empathy and courage are likely to produce incredible results.
Very interesting indeed, but wait! There's more! Matt was reading more about all of this and came upon a list of good jobs for the various personality types; he emailed it to me, but I made a little graphic because I have other things to do:
Anyway. We've been rental-house-hunting in earnest over the last week for next summer's move to Montgomery, Alabama. It occurred to me today after all the ISTJ-ENFP fun we've been having that our approach to house-hunting is very much shaped by our personality type. For example:
Me: Look at the charming old 1920 house bathed in sunshine!
Matt: Cracked foundation! Frankenheating radiator system! Weird closets!
Me: Well, that one has a pool, wouldn't that would be an awfully fun way to spend free time together in the summer?
Matt: researching researching researching pool chemicals
Me: If we had that house our furniture would go here, here, here and here. And our pictures there, there, and there. But if we had this house, our furniture would go here, here, and here. And our pictures there, there, and there. But then there's also that other house... [repeat 550 times daily]
Matt: Here's what x house costs over the course of a year.
You get the idea. It's all right there in the free online personality test summaries.
Even though we might drive each other crazy sometimes with our, uhm, unique perspectives on the world, at the end of the day we've always managed to pick the right home for us. I always (though occasionally begrudgingly) know that Matt's attention to detail and unflagging persistence when it comes to making the dependable choice serves us well. He always (though occasionally begrudgingly) knows that I can see things will be OK—or not OK—and that my intuition about such things is usually pretty accurate. He saved us from a glorious but fatally flawed old house on Pebrican Avenue in Cheyenne years ago, and I rightly convinced him that the 1938 House in Arlington would charm us and put us in the mix of some really valuable opportunities. We were both right. Maybe therein lies the explanation: in houses and life, we know when to back off and when to dig in, and when to admit to being too ISTJ-y or ENFP-y and agree to see things another way. Most of the time.
It's been a while since the last installment.
Dear Angelina Jolie,
I know it's a coincidence that your new movie comes out the month someone here turns seven (right? May 2014, not summer 2014?), but thank you. She's not even afraid of you, even if her parents might be just a tiny little bit.
Dear Eleanor Estes,
If only you were alive to know that the same girl who might make a paper chain to count down the months until evil Malificent hits the theaters also burst into tears recently in the middle of Barnes & Noble when her mama had to break the news that you died in 1988. She loves your sweet books, and has read The Moffats, The Middle Moffat, Rufus M., The Hundred Dresses, Ginger Pye, and Pinky Pye since school started and is almost done with The Moffat Museum. There are only a few books of yours left for her to read that are still in print, and she will no doubt love every last one. Thank you.
Dear Jeni Britton Bauer,
It took me a while to finally make my first batch of ice cream with your cookbook, but OH MY GOODNESS. The Buckeye Classic I made yesterday? RIDICULOUS. Best ever. I can't believe I made it. You win everything.
Maddie and Gracie were really excited to get to attend your signing ceremony with the University of Minnesota last night at the gym, and we hope very much that you'll make the U.S. Olympic team in 2016. Hooray!
Dear Lauryn Hill,
People are still talking about you, yearning for what could have been. This pretty much sums it up: "What’s followed (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill) has been series of bafflements, each more baffling than the last."
Now that you're out of jail, though, what do you say? Sing for us a little more when you're not so mad at the world? You sound pretty mad. Like, madder than Zach de la Rocha on a bad day.
Dear LeBron James,
We're house hunting again, but we refuse to rent even the nicest house on LeBron Avenue in Montgomery. Hmph.
Dear former Lt Col Richard Cole, former Lt Col Edward Saylor, former Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, and former Lt Col Robert Hite,
I didn't know about your yearly toast of the Doolittle Raiders until this past weekend, and I am sorry for that. Now that I know, it will remain one of the most touching stories of patriotism and loyalty I've ever heard. Thank you.
Disclaimer: this tutorial will be neither slick nor polished, but as I am eternally grateful to the handful of people who shared their Astrid costume tips/photos online, I wanted to add mine too in case someone out there wants to try their hand at making this costume. Who knows, Astrid might make a comeback for Halloween 2014 since How To Train Your Dragon 2 hits theaters in June!
How To Make an Astrid Costume
Gracie settled on being Astrid for Halloween long before Decision Day (October 1) and while it became increasingly clear that I was going to have to make said costume, I couldn't possibly say no—it is awfully hard to say no to someone who has read every single book in the series, watched the movie multiple times, and is up to date on every single episode from the Cartoon Network series via Apple TV and the DVR. So I studied the image of Astrid a lot, searched for as many tips online as I could find, and started scoping out supplies. Here is what we chose to make:
+ shoulder armor
+ arm wraps
+ outer skirt
+ fur-covered boots
We left out the little pouch she carries, and bought toy weaponry at the last minute.
+ two small bags of Crayola Modeling Magic
+ 1 yard of faux leather fabric (this was more than we needed for Gracie's size)
+ 1/4 yard of greenish duck fabric (this was not enough for the underskirt I realized, but I turned it into the arm wraps)
+ brown felt (this was on hand from the owl costume of 2011 and 2012, probably about a half yard)
+ 1/8 yard faux fur
+ sticky back velcro
+ 1/2 inch elastic
+ a sheet of gray craft foam
+ 4 brads
+ leather cording (had this on hand, but used less than two yards)
+ black and beige (technically, "Dune") stamp pads
+ black marker
+ silver and black acrylic paint
+ hot glue
Bird Skulls, Metal Spikes, and Shoulder Armor
This was by far the most fun part, and the part Gracie (and Maddie and Bridget) helped with. I read somewhere that Modeling Magic was the way to go, and that tip did not steer us wrong—it's incredibly lightweight, not messy AT ALL (the polar opposite of, say, MOON SAND) and very easy to manipulate.
We made lots! To make the bird skulls, we studied the image very carefully—then rolled the Modeling Magic into a ball, smashed it flat, pinched out the shape, and used our pinky fingers to poke the eye holes and a knife to create the lines (Maddie and I did the knife part mostly). The spikes were just smaller balls, then shaped into little cones. We needed two sizes: skirt size and shoulder armor size. I later made a couple more flat "rivet" types for the headband. I originally thought we should let them dry for 24 hours before adding color to them, but then changed my mind—they took the color just fine after only a few hours of sitting.
I used the Dune stamp pad to brush a little color on them, then very lightly brushed with the black for a little more texture. We put the black into the eye sockets in a few ways, but decided poking the end of the paintbrush into the ink pad was the best one. I added a drop of water here and there to make them a little less even.
Because the Modeling Magic is bendy, we just bent them a little to add marker into the knife lines. Super easy. It almost looks like working with marshmallows, doesn't it? It was nice to not have anyone trying to eat the supplies... ah, toddlers, how sweet you are, yet how difficult you'd be to have around when making complicated costumes. Sometimes it's OK to be done with that stage.
The shoulder armor took some creative thinking to pull off, but in the end was very easy overall. I originally thought I'd try to cut the strips out of cereal boxes and then paint it silver, but Bridget and I found that craft foam comes in all kinds of colors on one of our trips to Hobby Lobby, including gray. It was also cheap ($.89 a sheet, and I only used 1/3 of a sheet). I cut it into strips, held it into shape THEN punched holes on the ends (vs. punching holes on the ends and then putting into shape—otherwise the holes won't line up properly, if that makes any sense). We used brads to hold the strips together after fanning them out gently.
I started to paint the spikes with a little paintbrush (silver acrylic paint with a splash of black mixed in to darken it up and make it more metallic looking) and it didn't go so well... hard to hold them, hard to paint all sides, they kept slipping into my bowl of paint... until I realized that it would take approximately 1/32nd of the time to just fingerpaint them. Done in about 13 minutes.
After drying, I hot glued them onto the shoulder armor, along wth a bird skull on each side. A few brushes directly from the black stamp pad and we called it done:
Except I hadn't thought about how exactly they would attach yet, but we'll get to that.
Now, the shirt:
My advice is this: if you know how to sew, avert your eyes from this part. If you don't know how to sew, start earlier in your quest for an already made shirt that is green and stripey.
After striking out pretty much everywhere for a shirt or material that looked even remotely green and stripey, I found this women's shirt on clearance at Target. Because I had sort of scanned a tutorial I found on Pinterest about remaking t-shirts, I believed this to be a fine option.
Except that really, I don't know how to sew very well. I can do straight lines and binding strips with my eyes shut these days, but clothes... whoo boy, that's another story. But with the half-read tutorial loosely in the back of my brain, I mostly ignored it and just cut into the purchased shirt in a way that seemed like it would work. (Maybe this is my problem with sewing clothes? If only I thoroughly read tutorials?) I quickly decided to ditch the sleeves, and made it a tank... sort of... as long as you didn't stand within four feet of the neckline, it was fine. Moving on.
If you look closely, Astrid wears a pointy underskirt and a leather outer skirt. I purchased a greenish fabric for the underskirt, but didn't buy enough so ended up using brown felt I had on hand. It's a little too much brown (Astrid's leggings are more dark blue than brown, but we had brown leggings already so that's what we used) but it worked alright. To make the underskirt, I measured Gracie's waist, added an inch, measured the 1/2 inch elastic and sewed it together at the ends to create a circle. Then I cut out the pointy strips of felt and folded them over the elastic and sewed them down. There is undoubtedly a more sewerly way to do this, but this worked just fine. It was an underneath touch, and less important to be perfect.
Plus whenever I got concerned that it wasn't going to be perfect, I reminded myself: VIKING GARMENTS. Probably weren't perfect all those years ago anyway : )
The outer skirt was a little more precise. Based on Gracie's waist again, I eyeballed the amount of faux leather fabric I thought it would take to make a belt-like waistband; this I sewed from two strips, right side in, and then turned right side out. Note: If you buy faux leather fabric, it doesn't iron well. In fact, you might even melt it just a little at the lowest setting, so just come to terms with unpressed seams. Ahem.
From the same fabric, I cut strips to match Astrid's from the image—about 2 inches wide with a rounded end. In retrospect I probably should have cut them a lot shorter than I did to maintain the right proportion, but not a big deal.
It helps to have a dog supervise this costume creation, if you can arrange it.
After I had the strips figured out, I just sewed them onto the waistband:
Then I added velcro stickyback squares to make a closure. I was going to sew them down but maybe you're not supposed to do that... they made my sewing machine needle all gunked up (two needles stopped working before I realized what was going on) and it was too thick to hand sew with what I had available, so I just added a dab of hot glue to reinforce the adhesive. That worked fine. I hot-glued the spikes to the strips, and then the bird skulls to the waist band. It is extremely easy to use hot glue on Modeling Magic—no melting or distortion in shape from heat.
Gracie already had moccasin-style boots so we just wrapped the part with the design in fur. I couldn't figure out how to sew this fur wrap closed, so I glued it. They slipped over the boot opening, and she was able to slip her foot in without unzipping the boot. Easy-peasy.
For the arm wraps, I cut the duck fabric I didn't buy enough of into strips and sewed them together in a very rustic, Viking arm wrap kind of way. They have a thin finger-strip that I sewed to the side of the strip, so it could slip over her finger before the wrapping part started, and I sewed some leather cording to the very end so it could wrap around her arm the way Astrid's does. We roughed them up with the stamp pads to make them look aged and as if they've been close to dragons. I read on someone's explanation that they had used Ace bandages, and this is also a great idea—except for that we threw out our ratty old Ace bandages before we moved, and I did not want to buy new ones until we actually might need them. I had plenty of fabric to cut enough to wrap the length of Gracie's forearm, though; even if the costume wearer was bigger, you wouldn't need very much fabric to make this work.
The headband is just a strip of the faux leather fabric folded lengthwise and sewn, with a length of leather cording sewn to either end for a tie. Mine was long enough to wrap up her braid a bit. The "rivets" are just hot glued on.
Attaching armor to shirt
You can also see in this picture that the shoulder armor appears to be laying on top of the shirt. This is the part we never fully did figure out even though it looks like we did. I thought we might attach those shoulder things with some elastic sewn underneath, but the structure of that didn't hold properly. Then Gracie had the brilliant idea to punch holes in the shirt and just slip the brads through, which really was brilliant—except that the t-shirt material wasn't really strong enough to get punched without stretching out and turning into a big disaster. I cut little patches to sew on top of the holes as reinforcements, and this worked... OK. It was definitely the most delicate part of it all, and the part I was most worried about lasting throughout the night, but it stayed on right up until the end of trick-or-treat. This would not be an issue if you had a shirt made of thicker material, or were better at thinking up creative ways to engineer garment construction.