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Monday, February 28, 2011

Poor Boo Kitty

BB and I had to take our cat, Butchie, to the vet today. For BB this was a grand adventure. For Butchie, it was much less pleasant. Butchie turned 16 last month -- she's been with me since she was 6 weeks old, and she's travelled with me from Oklahoma, to Arizona, to California. She's very dear to me. Here we are a few weeks ago. Cat purring in lap and good book at hand: life doesn't get much better.

I'm sad to say she's not doing very well.




During the last two years, almost all of the energy I had available to worry about the cats was invested in our sweet Socksie, whose tumored leg finally got to be too much to bear in July. While Socksie's condition was worsening, I was aware on one level that Butchie wasn't doing all that well either, and then once Socksie had passed I convinced myself that Butchie was perking up a bit. But I think I was in denial. I kept thinking, "Oh, I should bring her in to the vet, get her a check up, make sure everything is okay." And then another day would go by without a vet visit.



Amazing how time flies. It had been a little more than 2 years since we'd last taken her to the vet. Sigh -- I really hadn't realized it had been so long. During that time she'd lost a lot of weight. She was 12 pounds two years ago. Now she's 7 pounds and pretty frail. She has that bird-bone quality that old cats get. (My parents had two Siamese cats that made it well into the geriatric stage -- one we know for sure was older than 20 when he passed, I want to say 22? The other was likely almost as ancient. So I'm somewhat familiar with elderly felines.) I wanted to think it was just aging, nothing to worry about. But at the same time part of me knew that things didn't seem good.



What finally compelled me to get her seen today was the fact that her right eye had swollen up over the weekend until it was almost closed. Red, oozy, and looking quite painful. Talking over all the symptoms with the vet, the likely diagnosis is kidney failure. She's constantly thirsty, pees a LOT, her fur just feels unhealthy, she's lost all that weight... problems with the kidneys and problems with the teeth are apparently often related, and there may be one or more teeth with problems that are actually causing the eye trouble, or it may be a separate infection in the eye. They gave her an antibiotic injection and sent us home with ointment. They are also doing some bloodwork to see how bad things really are, and we should have the results tomorrow.



We'll take it from there once we know more about what we're dealing with. But I'm feeling sad tonight for my poor boo kitty. It's so hard to see a beloved animal hurting. I think I'm going to grab a book and coax her into my lap, if she'll consent to come down from the spot where she's spent most of the day. And that's probably how I'll spend the rest of the evening.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Etsyblogger's February Carnival -- Going Green

This round of the Etsyblogger's carnival asked us to write about "green" topics -- either St. Patty's traditions and memories or ways in which we are being greener in our lives or businesses. We've never done much to celebrate St. Patrick's Day around here, so I thought I'd write about my efforts to live a little greener. Today, for instance, I:



  • used my own cloth tote bags instead of plastic shopping bags. I always travel with at least one re-usable shopping bag in my purse, a Flip and Tumble 24-7 bag that I love. It packs down to a little bundle about the size of my fist and when unfolded it holds a lot. I would love to have another one of them -- anybody looking for a gift for me in the future, the purple one here would be perfect!

  • shopped at a thrift store instead of buying new -- today I scored $114 worth of clothes for the kids, S, and myself. That filled four good sized shopping bags (including the Flip & Tumble -- and the other three bags were even bigger! I remembered to bring additional ones, knowing that my one Flip and Tumble probably wouldn't be enough!) Frugal and green, all in one.

  • used vinegar instead of chemical fabric softener in my laundry

  • used organic ingredients in our meals (milk, eggs, Annie's mac & cheese, broccoli)


Here are some other green things we do in the usual course of things:

  • walk! Both the kids walk to and from school. S walks to work. We walk to the grocery store. (I love my little wheeled grocery cart!) It's not uncommon for days to go by without anybody driving the car. This is probably the most important thing we do to reduce our carbon footprint as a family.

  • buy local! We shop at the farmer's market most Saturdays, and I try to buy local (and handmade!) whenever possible.

  • support local organic through a CSA. We get a box from Catalan's Laughing Onion Farm every other week.

  • recycle! (Of course! Having grown up in a place where we had to separate everything and haul our own recyclables to a recycling center, it still surprises me how easy they make it to recycle here. Just put the recyclables in their own dumpster, and that's it!)

  • repair, reuse and repurpose! I am all about fixing or finding new ways to use old things in different ways. This past week, I patched a pair of jeans, repaired a hole in a sweater, and put aside some old bead necklaces that I will salvage for components some time in the future.

  • eco-conscious crafting. At Mama's Magic Studio, and in all my crafting, I do what I can to source sustainable materials for my handcrafting and to be as eco-conscious as possible. For example, I get fabrics from FabMo and I use eco-friendly wood in my handmade knitting needles.

That's just a short list, and I'm sure there's more -- many of the things I do to try to live a greener life are things I do almost without thinking. And I know I could be doing more! Often, I find that my impulses towards frugality coincide with my attempts to be more ecologically conscious, so it's a nice synchronicity.



What do you do to be a little greener, every day?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Feature -- Faerie Garden Fancies

This week's featured Etsy artist is also the Etsyblogger of the month! Congratulations to Faerie Garden Fancies! This shop is full of wonderful, whimsical treasures, from handmade jewelry to adorable art like on this super cute bookmark:


Enjoy the interview!
1. To which Etsy Teams do you belong?

EtsyBloggers Street Team, Fantasy Artists of Etsy (FAE Team), Queer Etsy Street Team (QuEST), and Super Kawaii Pop Team

2. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?
Most of my items are handmade jewelry, but I also have some original art in water colors or pencils. I am self-taught, mostly by reading books and tutorials on the internet. Usually something inspires me and I start creating, there's no set *process* per se.

3. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.
Well, by day, I am a substitute teacher, certified for grades 1-6, although I sub for Kindergarten through grade 12, working my way toward a Masters in Science Education for grades 5-12. I live a few miles from Lake Ontario in the woods with my life partner, Jacqueline, and our 4 still-at-home children, who have been unschooled since birth.


4. What is your biggest challenge related to your Etsy shop?

Promoting. I am not a big salesman and you really have to be I think to get lots of sales... So I am trying to teach myself more of the business aspect of it, but it's just not one of my strengths.

5. What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?

Definitely Melusinia and her treasure box! I love her story, making her was so much fun, and her hair is so wild! Even her box was a foray into a new style for me... ^-^

6. What crafting skill(s) do you wish you had or hope to learn someday?

I'd like to work with precious metals and stones, real clay, oils paint... and I *think* I'd like to make glass beads or stained glass, but I'm sure I'd get burnt and cut...

7. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?


Blog
Website
Facebook
Flickr
Twitter




Congrats again to Faerie Garden Fancies! Be sure to visit her shop for more lovely items.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Simple Pleasures

We've been having a nice week, full of simple pleasures. The kids have been getting along really well with BJ home from school, which helps enormously. It's fun to see them getting better and better at entering each others' imaginative realms, overlapping and compromising so that they can better enjoy each others' company. Case in point: an extended voyage through the solar system, visiting each of the planets in turn (a longstanding joy for BJ), while searching for The Fairy Planet, of which BB was the queen. Here they are, The Queen Fairy and The Astronaut, standing on the surface of Mercury (a piece of butcher paper that they decorated appropriately, coloring it in together).
Today, while BB was at preschool, S and I took BJ to the local used book store, an outing that is quickly becoming a favorite of his as well.
I love how excited he is by books. A kid after my own heart for sure (and his dad's too). We especially like this bookstore because of the cool bookstore cats. This one in particular was fond of S, crawling right into his lap and making herself at home.
After the bookstore, we went to one of our favorite places to eat, the fish market. One goes there for the food, not for the ambiance. And it was indeed yummy! Here's BJ satiated by grilled shrimp.

Yesterday, we had the lovely simple pleasure of a playdate with some of our most favorite people. Wagon rides and a snack outside in the sun? Yes, please!
Especially since the kids can now pull each other in the wagon for some of the time!

In the afternoon, BJ and BB had great fun watching ants at the base of the tree outside our apartment. Between watching the ants, digging for the ants, deciding they should make ant homes (to make up for the bits they dug up) and then making the ant homes, they were busy for quite some time.

It was so good to be outside yesterday. While the kids did their thing with the ants, I contemplated the plants coming in to bloom. Trees budding and flowering, daisies in the grass, and a gorgeous patch of poppies across the lawn.
It was particularly good to be outdoors because the rain has returned today and is likely to stay through the weekend. There's even talk of the possibility of snow here on Saturday!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

DIY Digestion

This week is the February break for local public schools, so BJ and I have had some really nice one-on-one time. Almost all of yesterday, while BB was in preschool, we went from one thing to another doing stuff he wanted to do. It had been a long time since he had that much of my undivided attention, and it felt like really good parenting to "feed the meter" with him. Plus, it was fun!

We did a few science "experiments," read a bunch of books, did some puzzles, went on a bike ride (well, he rode his bike around "the loop" while I watched and read a book), and just generally enjoyed each others' company. We also finally re-organized the storage of all his art and drawings, which really needed to get done.

But the highlight of the day for him was probably what happened after he declared, "Let's make our own digestive system!"

Yes, the kid remains fascinated with the human body and all its various systems and workings. (He may yet become a doctor, who knows?) He had definite ideas about what this project would involve: a piece of bread to be "digested," and then various baggies, bowls, and containers to represent the different parts of the digestive system. Don't forget the washcloth that he wanted to use as villi, to "soak up the nutrients" like in the small intestine! Or the coffee filter that represented the large intestine, removing the rest of the water. All the important parts of the system were represented, from mouth to anus. That's my boy.

I was so tickled by how much fun he was having that I knew I'd want a record, but I didn't want to break our flow and interrupt with a bunch of pictures. So afterwards I asked if he wanted to describe it for video. He was delighted with the idea! So here you go -- How To Make Your Own Digestive System, According To My Son the Kindergartener:


video

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Birthday S -- at Happy Hollow Zoo

As I mentioned yesterday, we celebrated S's birthday in part with a visit to Happy Hollow Zoo. It was somewhat of a miracle that we found parking (for free, even!) since this whole February School Break thing, combining with a welcome break in the rainy weather, meant that most of San Jose also thought it was a good afternoon for a HHZ trip. We had to walk over from Kelly Park, since the usual lot was full, but it was worth it.





BJ wanted to visit the animals first, so after a quick ride on the carousel we headed over to the zoo area. Here is S with BB, watching....

the meerkats! They were super active and very fun to watch.


It was a more than half hour wait to ride Danny the Dragon, but the kids were super patient. And when it was finally our turn, we were at the very front of the line so we got to pick our seat!
Naturally both the kids wanted to be in front. So I got to snuggle up with my sweetie and watch the back of their little blond heads throughout the ride. Not a bad way to spend five minutes, even if it did take more than 30 for it to happen.
Of course it wouldn't be a visit to HHZ without getting to see Danny!

BB was feeling brave -- had obviously grown up a lot in the months since our last visit -- and declared that she wanted to ride the Frog Hopper for the first time. S and BJ kept her company, and they all seemed to have a good time.



She also decided to take a spin on the swings for the first time. Love the little "I'm so brave I can barely stand it" coy look that she was giving me the whole time she was waiting for the ride to start...







It was a lovely afternoon. We really ought to head over there more often!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Birthdays!

Yesterday was my dad's birthday, and today is my dearest S's birthday. Many happy wishes to the two most important men in my life! We just got back from a nice dinner out to celebrate S's special day -- yummy Italian at Buca di Beppo -- and we spent the afternoon at Happy Hollow, at his request. He's such a good dad to want to spend his birthday like that! We'd had a spot of sun this afternoon, and it was lovely to spend some time outside, especially after all the rain we've been having.

I'll have pics to post tomorrow!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Child Labor



BB has decided that it's fun to play Cinderella. Apparently, this mostly involves wiping the floor with a wet washcloth, in between extended conversations with imaginary step-sisters. While they harangue her about substandard work, she pleads with them for permission to attend the ball.

I confess that given the state of my floors, it's tempting to encourage this pretend play.... I never was much for mopping!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another Week...

It's been another busy week -- full of quotidian fun and a lot of family stuff. Nana J came for a visit and was able to join us in watching BJ's final performance for the school play. It was BB's first time watching a play, and both the kids did wonderfully! We've been listening to the soundtrack from Beauty & The Beast in heavy rotation (I think "Be Our Guest" was part of my dream soundtrack last night).


Valentine's Day was nice -- I made my annual batch of gingerbread heart cookies yesterday, and S had a sweet card for me along with some of my favorite cinnamon lollipops and a lovely cobalt blue vase. Very thoughtful of him. Over the weekend, I helped the kids make Valentines cards. BB had to make 20 and BJ had to make 28!

BB was much more into it than BJ, but we finished them all and bagged up the cards along with a little package of crayons and a color-your-own Valentine's Day bookmark for each of the kids' friends. By all reports, BJ enjoyed the festivities at school, and BB and I went to the preschool especially for the Valentines exchange.

Unfortunately, by the end of the day BJ was running a fever of 102. He's home from school today with a fever and cold symptoms but in fairly good spirits regardless. I'm trying to catch up on a lot of stuff. In other words, nothing too much out of the ordinary.

I hope your hearts day was full of love!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

20/20

In the "good news/bad news" department: I found out today that my eyesight has actually improved during the last two years. But the reason I was prompted to get this information is less than wonderful.

Shortly after BB was born, I had my eyes checked and was given a prescription for glasses, particularly for reading, computer work, and driving. It was a fairly mild prescription (don't recall the specifics) and I could see OK without them, but life was definitely clearer when I wore my glasses. I wore them pretty regularly. (Much to S's satisfaction, since he has confessed, more than once, that he finds girls in glasses attractive. And I admit that made it easier to wear them!)

About a year ago, I stopped wearing my glasses (in spite of S's enthusiasm for seeing them on my face) because it seemed my vision was better without them. I was overdue for an eye exam, but being a busy Mom I just let it ride figuring I was doing OK.

Then, last Thursday, I had my first migraine. Wow, I had no idea how horrible such headaches could be. A childhood friend of mine was afflicted by them, and I still remember part of a poem she wrote about her migraines -- "the biting pain of mind." Now I understand what she meant. This one hit me hard: nausea, vomiting, strange effects on my vision, and crushing pain all around the crown of my head. I slept off most of it, but for two days afterwards I still had a mild headache and the vision in my left eye wasn't quite right.

Scary stuff. Scary enough to get me to the doctor, who did a full checkup and said everything seemed OK at the moment, but it sounded to her like I'd had an ocular migraine. So she sent me to get my eyes checked, which I finally did today.

Which leads to the good news: I now have 20/20 vision! (Funny the things one is proud of -- not like I could control this in the least, but it's obscurely satisfying that my eyesight is so good, especially since not so long ago I was wearing glasses.)

And the other good news is that the opthamologist today didn't see any problems with my eyes that would be of concern. Hopefully, the migraine will be a one-time event (which is possible, apparently). I've thought and thought about my day and evening to see if I could identify a possible trigger -- but to no avail. No unusual foods, no extraordinary stress, no particular eyestrain (I'd been working on the computer for a while, but that's not unusual for me in the evenings). I've been instructed to really try to stay aware of eye fatigue, and to take breaks from jewelry work, reading, and computer work on a regular basis. But if I get another one, I will have to figure out what is triggering them. Fingers crossed that this is a puzzle I don't have to solve!

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Lil' Thespian

BJ had his opening for the school play this weekend, and he did a great job! He remembered his one line, sang through both the songs, and even did pretty good remembering both dance numbers. I was so impressed!

He was one of the village children in Beauty and the Beast, a small part and about perfect for him. Here he is backstage before the dress rehearsal last week:


They have many folks taking pics during the performances and we've purchased one of the picture CDs, so I didn't worry too much about getting pictures. Especially since the best my camera would do in the dark was this, from the dress rehearsal:
Here he is backstage before his First Real Performance. A little nervous but nothing too bad.



Afterwards, I couldn't resist giving him some flowers purchased from the flower table at the show -- I picked out a yellow Gerbera daisy and two carnations. At least it matched his shirt!





He has two more shows this coming weekend, and one rehearsal during the week. It's been a very busy lead up to the show, but I think it's been worth it. BJ seems to have had a lot of fun, at any rate. And he's taught his dance numbers to his sister, which is pretty danged cute!

We have family tickets for the last performance, which will be on Sunday. Really looking forward to it!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

How To Make Mama's Magic Paper Heart Garlands


We're getting ready for Valentine's Day with some of Mama's Magic! I've been making sewn paper heart garlands, and it's been so much fun. I got the idea after seeing a beautiful heart garland at A Work of Heart made from vintage book papers, and I immediately wanted to make one for our main room, where we have a raised ceiling edge that simply begs to be adorned with garland decorations.

After a little experimenting, I figured out two different techniques to make two different kinds of garlands. One method (A) sews across the heart, from edge to edge of the curve.
The other method (B) sews down the middle of the heart, between the top and bottom points. You can use either method for horizontal or vertical garlands, but in the pic below, the horizontal garland uses method A and the hanging trio uses method B.
Both have many possibilities! In this post I'll teach you how to make both kinds.

It's the first time I tried something like this, and it was much easier than I thought it would be. All you need is paper, scissors or a heart punch, and basic skills on a sewing machine.

Start by reading through these directions to the end so that you can consider which type of garland will work best for your decorating. Part of the decision may depend on what kind of paper you want to use, since some paper may look better on the vertical and some may look better on the horizontal. Part of the decision may depend on where you want to hang it. Or both factors may come into play!

A Note on Choosing Paper for your Garland:

When choosing paper, you could upcycle paper that would otherwise be discarded (newsprint, magazines, or even old books) or you could use any kind of decorative paper -- I couldn't resist the Valentine's Day sale at Michaels and bought some scrapbooking paper in reds, pinks, and heart patterns. I used cardstock for mine, but any kind of clean, unwrinkled paper should work.

If you're not sure if the paper you want to use will be suitable, cut out a sample heart or two and do a test run with the sewing machine (see below) before going all-out with the planning.

Method A: Across the Heart (Horizontal)

1. Cut the Heart Shapes

Decide what size(s) of heart you want to use -- either all the same size or a variety of sizes. Then, cut multiple hearts. You can use a heart-shaped punch, if you like.

Or you can make a heart shaped template and use scissors.

How many hearts you need will depend on how long you want your garland to be and how big you make the hearts. Think about whether you want to create a pattern of colors and/or sizes and plan accordingly as you cut out your hearts. You can get a sense of how many you need by laying out the hearts ahead of time, with a small space between each heart. It's better to cut out a few too many than to get stuck at the sewing machine and realize you need more.

I found it useful to lay out a line of the hearts in the order that I'd want them to be attached, so that I could switch things around as needed before sewing everything together. Once you have all your hearts cut out and an idea of how they should be assembled, head to the sewing machine.

2. Sew the Hearts Together

Use a large straight stitch on your machine.
Since sewing paper will dull your needle, this is a good project for using up needles that are already near the end of their useful life. (You do know you should switch your needles often, right? My mom taught me you should put in a new needle after every hour spent sewing, and I'm not that diligent, but I do try to switch often! Dull needles plus fabric equals mistakes!)

Use all purpose thread in a color that pleases you. I like the way white looks.

Give yourself at least 6" of "tail" thread at the beginning. This will let you hang the garland easily. Then insert the side of the first paper heart and stitch a straight line from curve to curve. Keep track of how many stitches it takes to get from side to side.

At the edge of the heart, you will want to "sew" a number of blank stitches to create the twisted thread section between the hearts. This section of thread allows the garland to drape nicely. Different lengths of blank stitching will create different effects. Whatever length you decide, I recommend using the same number of empty stitches between each heart. I also recommend making that number of stitches in the blank stitches no larger than the number of stitches it took to cross the heart.

After you've stitched the right number of stitches, feed in the next heart.
Stitch across the next heart the same way you did the first. Here's a pic of what it will look like with the blank stitching between the hearts.

Keep going like this, alternating the stitching across the heart and the blank stitching between the hearts, until you've reached the end of your garland. Then give yourself another thread "tail" of at least 6" before clipping the thread.

Then drape your garland where you'd like it to go!
You can also drape a single garland back and forth, for a different effect. These two garlands use all small hearts from a heart punch and blank stitching between that is the same number of stitches as across the heart.

Method B: Between The Points (Vertical or Horizontal)

For a horizontal garland, I personally prefer the look you get with method A above. But when I'd hung the garland at the ceiling, I decided it needed a little "something" at the corners, so I made vertical trios of hearts to hang where it turned the corners.

You could make a horizontal garland with vertical hearts, attaching single hearts, by using the same method as above and simply stitching the hearts in the different direction:

Personally, I like the way these point-to-point attached hearts look when hung vertically.

But I wasn't entirely happy with the way it looked to just have the single hearts hanging down, so I decided to double them and then fold each heart for more dimensionality. When the hearts spin in the breeze, it looks neat!



Here's how to make a dimensional vertical garland with folded heart pairs:

1. Cut the Heart Pairs

Choose your paper (consider color and pattern) and decide if you want the hearts to be all the same size or a pattern of sizes. For my hanging triads, I wanted to go from smallest heart shape at the top to largest at the bottom, in an alternating pattern of papers. So I cut out two of each heart that I'd need:

If your paper has a lined pattern, you may want to keep that in mind when you cut. If the pattern lines up the same on both heart shapes, it will probably look better.

2. Sew the Heart Pairs Together

Place two hearts of the same size on top of each other. If they are patterned, keep in mind you will get a different effect if the same pattern sides face each other than if they do not. I prefer the way it looks if the same pattern sides face each other so it looks like you have a whole matching heart from the two folded halves.

Sew the hearts together vertically, from top to bottom point. Give yourself at least 6 inches of thread "tail" at the beginning so you can hang your garland.

Do the blank stitching between the hearts, using the same method as described above, then feed in the second heart. Be sure the pair of hearts are lined up perfectly on top of each other when you feed them in.
Here's what it looks like, two heart pairs stitched together with the blank stitching between. I used a fairly small blank stitching section for this method (5 stitches) because I didn't want them to hang too low.

Feed in the next pair of hearts, again making sure they are lined up on top of each other.

If your paper has a lined pattern, it will give a nicely matched effect if you do your stitching with the lined pattern facing up, so that when it is folded you won't have to worry about any mismatched lines.

Like this:

When your garland is the desired length, give yourself a thread tail long enough for hanging if you will hang it horizontally-- or, if desired, cut off to hang vertically.

Or, you can string a bead or two on the thread. I found a bead on the bottom helped give it a little weight so it would hang nicely, plus making it look good. Thread on the bead(s) then knot it off or glue so the bead stays attached. (I put a bead on the top too, to finish off the design.) Trim the end thread as needed.


3. Fold the Heart Pairs

To finish, fold the hearts along the stitch line to get the 3D effect.

Lastly, hang your garland! Here's my Method A garland (using alternating large and small hearts) with the Method B triads at the corners:
I hope you have fun making your garland! I'd love to see links and/or pics if you do, and I welcome any feedback. Happy Valentine's Day Decorating!