30 March 2011

Messy crafty goodness

 I've seen this online in several places, and my Aunt Barbie and her ilk have done this on occassion in their card making adventures. So V and I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
 We started with a cheap can of shaving cream, and filled a couple of cookie sheets. V made a few snowpeople and some sort of merengue.

Then we dripped food coloring, and used various utensils to swirl. We just used the basic food coloring in those cool little droppers, and plastic forks and spoons.
V had the red and orange, and I had the blue and green. Then we laid sheets of drawing paper over the top, and pulled them back to see what we had wrought.
 Then we scraped off the shaving cream, and enjoyed the magic we'd created. Again and again and again!  It was messy as hell, and fun, and V got a bath  afterwards and we lived happily ever after.
I'm sorry we don't have any pictures of the finished product, but you get the idea. And we had lots of fun.

21 March 2011

Never Eat Shredded Wheat

I love mnemonic devices. Love. When Shaun and I were first dating, I bought my first vintage Samsonite suitcase (which is a whole nother series of posts. Lord), and it had the initials EP on it. We spent a good 45 minutes imagining what they may have stood for, and it's one of my fondest memories of our early courtship (The two I remember most are Elvis Presley and Edible Panties).

The other day, V was asking what direction we were driving, so I explained north, south, east, and west to her. And then I shared how I remember them: Never Eat Shredded Wheat. Now, V and I both enjoy the occassional shredded wheat, so she was not comfortable with this sentence. Today, she put the letters N  E  S  W up on our fridge and worked on new sentences.

No Easter? Soon winter.
Never eat soft wombats.
No, Edith. Say what?
Never eat singing worms.

She read each dramatically, especially the one about Edith, and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

I can hardly wait until we get to Every Good Boy Does Fine. What are your favorite mnemonic devices? And have you seen this helpful online tool?

Edited for spelling. Thanks, Cousin!

20 March 2011

Girl in a Cute Dress, part 2

 V needed a new spring jacket (she just grows and grows and grows!), so just like with her winter stuff, we went off to the thrift stores to see what we could find. Savers came through for us again.
First, this sweet vintage dress. It's a JCPenney's size 8, no iron, lightweight summer dress. It was hanging next to the knit dresses from Target and the Children's Place, which pill after 5-6 washes. This one looks brand new. Well, brand new 35 years ago. The ratty knit dresses were all $3.99 and up. This one was $1.99.
I am crazy about it! Those bows on the neckline just kill me. And V loves any dress in which she can pretend to be Alice in Wonderland.  It reminds me, in the colors only, really, of this dress from two years ago.
 Hopefully she'll be able to wear it for a few summers. Because I seriously love it.
 But wait, we weren't shopping for dresses, were we? Never fear. V was more than willing to try on jackets, which makes everything easier. This navy and pink number is her favorite. I like it because it has a hood, and it's a size 9-10, so by rolling the sleeves  just a little now, it should carry her through 2 springs. Maybe. It is from Target, several years ago, though it's not been worn much at all. It was $2.99.
Next, because we like camping, and I want her to be able to layer something over or under that windbreaker, and I'm a sucker for jean jackets, we got this one, too. It's American Girl brand, and we paid $3.99.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Our most recent Savers trip was definitely a success: sweet vintage summer dress and two spring jackets for less than $10. I just love when I walk into a thrift store thinking, "hm, maybe we can find..."and then we do.

18 March 2011


As part of our life restructuring, we've hired a professional organizer. She was fantastic, non-judgemental but firm, and totally creative. We got rid of approximately 24 garbage bags of stuff for donating, another 9 or so bags of trash, and that was only on the main floor.  We hope to have her back again in a few months to help us get through the upstairs (i.e. my clothing), if I can't do it on my own. It was worth every penny we paid her.

But still, I love stuff. I mean, I really love stuff. It's not right. If I lived alone, I would probably past the point of that show Hoarders. I don't love new stuff, or crappy stuff. I love cool old stuff that smells like someone else's basement, or jars of washers and bolts, or bags of buttons. I love old books, dolls, belts, and ribbon. Oh, I do love ribbon.

As an olive branch, Shaun said the organizer did not have to tackle the basement (an olive branch to me or to her, I'm not sure yet). So everything down there is my fault, and my problem, and my haven. Wanna have a look?
 I keep my needles in the lampshade. And my brass cats, too. Obviously.
The light in this room is fluorescent, so my 6-armed lamp helps with lighting (as does the needle-lampshaded lamp). The laundry line above has a postcard of the Ingalls family, photos of me and Jess and me and V, paintings by V, and the Queen of Spades. The two other prints, nearest the window, I won years ago from The Black Apple (We have at least two prints by Emily on every floor of our house). And on top is a lovely doll using a sewing machine, from Wee Wonderfuls.
 This is the southwest corner, with photos I've taken, an Easter card from our friend Kathy, my embossing tool, some purse handles, and a fantastic wicker-ish purse I bought while garage saling with my sister a couple of years ago. It was $3, and I had to promise I'd hang it up right away before she let me bring it home.
 A corner of my machine, a Shark. I love baby food jars, especially wee ones. These seem to have sequins and buttons in them. I love little ceramic containers and vintage tins, and there appears to be a wee crow bar in this photo, too. Don't ask.The rubber stamp says "Asylum for the Chronic Insane," and I bought it from Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers (now owned by these folks) some time ago.
 The needle/cat lamp, further back. The orange and blue shelf is one my daddy made with leftovers from some great bookshelves he made us, and the shelf is full of things I like: stencils, an octopus V and I made when she was 3, photos, a postcard of Marilyn Monroe, a birthday card from my brother-in-law Brad, a jar full of beads, some buttons...the nails hold supplies (E6000, dollmaking needles, teddy bear eyes, pins, a flamingo streamer thing...). The print in the cream frame is another from the Black Apple, and the robot print in the lower left corner was a thank you card from an order I made to Wee Wonderfuls. It's a knitting robot! The photo in the upper right is me at Glensheen, from this trip.
 My pièce de résistance: I  took one of those trouser hangers, one that's supposed to allow you to hang 4 or 5 pairs of pants, and loaded up my ribbon collection. It hangs from a hook in the ceiling, just to the left of my sewing machine, so I can always see what's available, get inspired, and easily cut off what I need. The last bits or pieces of ribbon and trim that I buy off a spool get hung up on the final rungs, alongside a birthday card from my friend Crystal, ca. 2008 or so.

This shot showcases some of my favorite ribbons, ones that make my teeth hurt with love. Lavender velvet? Rainbow grosgrain? Yellow and red tulips? That crazy green, orange, and yellow on black? Mercy, I love them all.

These are bits of my beloved sewing room. And I've only shown you the organized parts: note you haven't seen the floor. Mostly that's because the floor is buried under 2-3 feet of fabric and other sundry items: it just doesn't make for the most compelling photos. Every few months I get a hankerin' to hunker down there, with my supplies and lamps and ribbons. Come on down and visit me, sometime. I promise most everything will still be there, so long as I can keep the organizer away. 

16 March 2011

For Kari Jane

I first met Kari in the summer of 1991, on a visit to Morris. Her laugh was infectious, and when I learned we'd be floormates, I knew we'd soon be friends. She was the kind of friend that I would've lived with, the kind of friend I could call out of the blue after two months and it would feel as if we'd never been apart. I can still hear her bubbling laugh.

Sixteen years ago, Kari was in a terrible car accident. She survived for nearly a month on life support, and at first we all hoped...but while her face and bones healed, it became clear in that month that her brain would not. She died January 9, 1995.

She would've been 38 today. I miss her so.

I wrote this poem for her in 1997.

   for Kari Jane, 16 March 1973 to 9 January 1995

I am with you in the windy light
when the voice of our last tear is silenced
with nothing to remember
nothing to remember us by.
             --Mark Vinz, "Elegy: from a North Country Journal"

You braced for the impact.
It crushed both your wrists
and left knee, snapped both ankles.
Thrown against the windshield,
your body yielded,
let the bones around your left eye
shatter in eighteen places.
The glass tore your cheek through
to your teeth inside.
Your corn silk hair
soaked up blood
until the rescue squad wrapped your head
in a towel to hold the skin in place.

Six months after the funeral
I woke up, sobbing, dreaming
of your body, frozen, embalmed.
Three weeks before the accident,
you taught me how to roll down hills.
I held your hand and promised
to always love you,
swore I would be godmother to your children,
would room with you in the nursing home.

Instead I was your pallbearer,
not your bridesmaid,
thankful they let me escort you to your grave.

14 March 2011

Spring break

So I'm on spring break and I have a mild to moderate amount of grading to do (about 70  three page essays), and a dining room table to clear off, and crafty things, and oh this always happens during spring break, when I start to feel stressed that I'm not getting enough out of every moment or doing enough around the house or accomplishing the things I always hope to accomplish on break. And this year it's even stranger because V's just getting over strep and Shaun just completed his 2 weeks in partial and it's so good to have us all together and feeling well but it's also so strange it's almost confusing and I should be blogging more and taking more pictures and so it goes.

10 March 2011

My friend Friday

Friday is the sweetest of boys with the tenderest of hearts. He also has a fantastic belly laugh and a talent for details, imagination, and hugs and kisses. "Jen, this is my new toy." He just wants to tell me what he's up to, what his new ideas are, and how much he likes celery. He'll probably be an English major when he grows up. Or a trucker. I am so happy to know him.

Lunch with V

We were running late, so we grabbed hotdogs at the gas station (I know. Nutritious). She crawled up in the front seat to eat and be goofy.
She put on my sunglasses, and I told her to act famous. I'm not sure where she got this idea of fame, but I like it.
Parenthood is exhausting, but man, it's hilarious, too.

A path to madness

First, impulsively purchase a watch at the thrift store for $1, knowing it doesn't work. Convince yourself that $1 isn't that much, and you can probably figure something out, and if not, it's still pretty.

Be pleasantly surprised that the new battery ($3.15) makes it work perfectly, after a 38 minute struggle to get the back of the watch back on.
Try not to cry when the leather watchband disintegrates as you put on the newly working watch for the first time. Spend two hours looking all over the internet to find a watchband that might work (those pins don't come off). Curse the fact that there are apparently two million watch band designs in the world and none appear to be what you need. Consider how difficult it might be to sew a new leather watchband on your sewing maching. Remember some painful incidents and the frightening size of a leather needle.
Go to the Basement of Crafty Treasures and find the bag of embroidery thread/cotton yarn you bought at the thrift store last year for $2.99. Consider color options, weight of yarn, patience of self. Choose blue to match the pretty blue watch face.
Make two lark's head knots on either side of each pin. Flashback to junior high school friendship bracelets, and begin the magic of modern macrame.
Reuse the hardware from the disintegrated watchband. Realize you are unprepared to end this is a pretty way, and tie a knot and call it good.
Stop knotting before it gets too ridiculous. Tie another knot. Trim threads. Try it on, tuck and criss-cross the ends. It's not perfect, but it's pretty close.

Pat self on back with hand that has pretty new watch attached. Prepare self-aggrandizing blogpost.

The end!

08 March 2011

Sorry I blew up.

Shaun is making fantastic progress at Crazy Work, as he calls it. In his off time, he's watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Girl Interrupted, and I'm thinking What About Bob is next in our queue. The outpatient psych program is just exactly what he needed, and we are all so thankful and relieved. It's so good to have him back.

And then, on Sunday night, he got a terrible headache. Sudden and fierce and throbbing, it was an 8 on a scale of 10, he said. And with it came a strange shoulder pain. But because we're not smart people, he didn't go in until this morning, before the start of Crazy Work. At 8 am, he had bloodwork and an EKG. (This is our life now, apparently). Everything's fine, according to those two tests, and the walk-in doctor gave him some Tylenol with a barbituate of some sort, to help with his headaches. (Cardiomyopathy patients can't take ibuprofen or aspirin, and should avoid caffeine. It's Tylenol or nothing, but I guess adding barbituates is okay).

But between the EKG and the results, a telemarketer called me. Oh, mercy, that poor man.
"Hello?" I answered, hoping it was good news from Shaun.
"Yes, hello. My name is Dave. How are you today?"
"I'm fine..." The tension in my voice was not being hidden from Dave, I'm afraid.
"I am calling to congratulate you! You have been selected to win a $50 gift card from Wal-Mart."
"Thanks, Dave, but I'm not interested. I'm sorry. Have a good day." I hate telemarketrs, but I see no use in being rude to someone who's doing their job.
"No no no," Dave interupts me. "Just wait..." Oh, Dave. You should've given up easier.
"No, YOU wait, Dave," I snapped. I never snap. I'm nice to assholes, as a rule. My voice turned to a crescendo: "My husband is in the hospital and I AM NOT TALKING TO YOU ON THE PHONE RIGHT NOW. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?"

Dave quickly hung up, without apologizing. And V burst into tears because Mommy was yelling at a strange man.

I only feel a little bad, and that's only because it upset V. It had to be done. Besides, Dave, I hate Wal-Mart.

03 March 2011

Camera bag!

With every new gadget comes a need for a new carrying case. At least in my house. So yesterday V and I braved our cold basement to make up a camera-sized carrying pouch.  I searched through online tutorials and landed on this simple pattern (which I hesitate to link to because their sewing is so much more precise than mine) On the left there is my cell phone case, made in December, to protect our LG Vortex. Cell phone cases are kinda silly, because once it rings you don't want to have to unbutton anything, but this is for general travel, when I have to toss the phone in my purse and am not expecting any calls. It's cute, slightly padded, and simple. Which leads to the camera case, on the right!

 Here's a shot of the back, with the stretch velvet elastic loop:
 And the front (that's my sewing machine. It sounds like a semi-truck, but it sewed through all 16 layers of this little pouch).
Intimate view of the inside of the pouch (burgundy velvet):

 And the sweetest button ever:
Not only do I love love love my new camera, but the new pouch makes me want to carry it everywhere I go. Maybe around my neck on a string? 


I feel a little like my last post was trying to pretend everything was fine, and normal goofy things were all I was thinking of. But you know that's not true, and so do I. At the same time, our current crisis is so acute and personal, it doesn't necessarily make for good blog reading. Please bear with me as I figure out posting in the next few weeks...

I can tell you that Shaun feels very much that he's in the right place. He has a team of people providing him with support in all kinds of areas, and has already made significant progress. I'm hesitant even to write that, because we've seen the one step forward, two steps back phenomenon many times, and "progress" is a hard thing to pinpoint when it comes to mental health.

The plan right now is he'll continue in the outpatient program for a total of 10-15 days, so 2-3 weeks. Hopefully he'll be able to work at least some of his shifts this weekend, too. As things return to normal around here, I hope to have more posts about pictures and 5 year olds. I hope that's okay with y'all.

02 March 2011

My new camera

My mom and sister decided I was having a difficult spring (I can't imagine why) so they surprised me yesterday with a lovely little digital camera to call my own (mine is the brown version: I couldn't make the link come up properly in brown, though, so click around to see the right one. I trust you guys can figure it out). I had hoped to invest in a big fancy camera this spring, but it turns out we needed our tax return to live on, given recent events (and our poor budgeting skills). I was making do with older digital cameras, and enjoying the 35 mm, but, you know how digital photography is just different, and instant, and satisfying, and silly? I've missed that. And this camera is especially fun because it has 12 mega pixels to work with. 12! Who needs that many? Me, apparently.

Normally I feel some pressure with a new gee-gaw: what should my first photos be? I mean, it's important! Something artistic and meaningful and emotionally resonant. But not this time. I just wanted to take pictures of anything, because I could. No pomp or circumstance: just us.
 A shot from last night, to show how Shaun and I are an old married couple, basking in the glow of the television in our respective recliners.
And this morning, with my crazy girl, who loves to take these kinds of pictures.

Thanks, family! It's fun to have a shiny new toy to distract me. And a shiny good family helps too. Languishing will have many more photos to share in the near future, methinks.