Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy July!

July is a happy month, but a very picked-upon month in calendar land. I always thought the calendar makers used it as a place to put their worst leftover photo: usually some cactus-y place in the desert, a dry and dusty scene taken at high noon, all in shades of hottest yellow. July deserves better than that! 

I know that there is at least one loyal reader of the Times overseas, and I think a few more have visited even though it has been a while since the last post. I am glad that the big computer is fixed and I can once more type on a regular keyboard, The "smartphone" one-fingered typing style I have almost mastered, but there is no way I was going to attempt to write a whole post on one of those things! 

I now know why people are always walking around, head bowed over their smartphone, in deep concentration: they are trying to figure out how to use the dumb things. There ought to be a parking section at the end-cap of every grocery store aisle so people can stop and fool around with their smartphones, that way there won't be traffic jams in the aisles.  The phone calls people randomly, sends things where they weren't supposed to go, talks to you out of the blue, makes strange noises, and finishes your sentences for you. I'm used to reading strange emails now, where the "auto correct" has taken over, unbeknownst to the sender, who is concentrating on trying to get their finger to hit the right letters on the wee keyboard (see the article on loosing things). The new style of smartphone emails are like one of those brain exercises with the scrambled words that we are somehow able to read normally.

I have typed newsletters on the typewriter in the previous photo, which I got for a dollar many years ago, before the magazine stylists and decorators made them surge in popularity. I'd be lucky to get one for under $60 now! The quilt on the lawn above is a family heirloom. It obviously used up a lot of scraps for the maker, and I wonder what each fabric was originally used for. I like the blue material with the roses and open books. 
The lace-wrapped bouquets are another pretty print.

I think these rosebuds are back in style!

Here's a hot summer month tip: water guns are fun until some little imperative plastic part breaks off inside, or they sprout a leak, or just plain fall apart. Try empty & washed "squeezable" ketchup bottles & lids instead. There are no tiny plastic parts to break, and though they don't spray as far, they are fun for the little kids.

Enjoy your July!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Fancy Fiddle Case

What to do with an old fiddle case? One which was okay on the inside, but starting to get beyond "scuffed up" on the outside?
Handle wrap coming off the metal handle, the main clasp kind of "sticky" (have to use the side clasps...)
...back fabric peeling up...

I thought about putting the case on Craigslist. There may be someone out there who wants something like this. So I tucked it out of the way until I had time to list it. 
Months later, it occurred to me that I could renovate the still-unlisted case and make it uniquely my own! 
It was all wood underneath the fake leather. The covering was fabric and bootblack maybe? I thought I would tear it off and paint the wood underneath. Whatever they used back in the old days to equate pretend leather, it came off almost in strips and left a lot of powder behind. 

  I didn't spend a tremendous amount of time sanding all the remaining glue off, so the surface was very rough. That didn't matter too much because I was going to decoupage the case. I painted the metal hinges and parts, rust and all. The rust does show through, but I was going for "shabby chic" style anyway.
Out came the scrapbook papers...
...and the bits and pieces of papers saved just for times like these... a paper bag from the music shop (printed with teal sheet music!), music score tissue-paper, doilies, stickers, clip art...
...I also printed some images of little girls with violins off of the internet, and hand-tinted them.
This little girl had three howling dogs with her, but I thought that was a bit too many...
...especially since the other little girl on the front of the case had a howling dog, too! 
The painting is by Charles Burton Barber, "The Broken String." The other painting had no title, but I suspect it is either by Charles Burton Barber or a Sir Arthur Elsley.
The Broken String

Isn't it a cute painting? You see the kitten is playing with the broken string. The poor little girl is trying to practice as best as she can on the remaining three.

Another print out from the web just fit on the side, it can be found here.

As the project came together, I discovered that it was no longer for me, but was claimed by a little fiddler of mine, so I wrote her initials on the labels. The dove is from a calendar, the labels made from various punches and dies. 
Sheet music from an ATC paper pad.
Stickers and doilies.
 The pink bit of paper "lace" came from packaging. Real lace and even a real chiffon ribbon rose glued on just fine, and are, after five coats of Mod-Podge, as stiff as a board. 
 I found a flourish printed on scrap-book paper and cut it out. A flourished-shaped die would be so handy to have!
This project took a couple of days just to "compose" the new covering, and then many more days to put on extra layers of Mod-Podge to make a clear finish. I hope it will last a long time. 
My best friends turned out to be the sheet-music tissue paper and the paper sack! They were great for moulding around hard-to-cover spaces, and yeilded themselves to be glued very nicely. I covered the handle with scalloped grosgrain ribbon from the dollar store. 
Overall, I am very pleased with how it turned out.

The only mistake I felt that I made was curving the paper around to the inside. You see, I did the whole project with the case open, flat on the table. It did not occur to me that the case might not close with layers of paper and glue added to it! I did some sanding and trimming of paper, but still it was a tight fit. I should have sanded the box down at the closure edges ahead of time to make room, or closed the box, marked where the lid came down, and only put the paper up to that point, maybe finishing off with some kind of decorative tape. 

And so, the shabby-chic-victorian-scrap-fancy-fiddle case is done, and it's a keeper. When not in use, it it sure does look nice laying around the house!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Peek-a-boo Card

 This fun card changes pictures as you open it! I followed this tutorial to make a get-well card for a friend. It was not terribly confusing to do, but reading through all the instructions first (and watching the video) is a must. I made two cards and was quite happy with them.
 As you open the card...
...a new picture slides into view. If you have a couple of rubber stamps that go together, or an image and a greeting, this is a good card to use them on.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Your House Beautiful

Golden Sunlight
Golden Sunlight
Philip Leslie...
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It might come as a comment on a post, on your social media, or an email in the inbox, and usually goes something like this: "You are so perfect. Your house is so perfect. Your family is so perfect. There's not a thing wrong in your photos. It makes me feel like such a slob [makes me feel like mud-- makes me feel bad-- discourages me from even trying]. I wonder if you have real-life problems. Can you show us all your kitchen when it is filthy and with dirty dishes in the sink?"

As a blogger, it is very tempting to let others "contribute" to the blog, steering your subject matter and making you add or retract things according to comments. Feedback on a blog can appeal to the blogger's sense of generosity and friendliness, or make the blogger feel guilty, backward, or as if they omitted something. Some of these comments can become downright discouraging, taking the wind our of your sails. The worst feeling is when a blogger thinks she has alienated her readers by coming across "snobby" or perhaps given the mistaken impression that she is a "perfect" housekeeper, organizer, etc.. To correct the misunderstanding becomes top priority!

The remedy to this is to have a "tell all & let it all hang out" post, in order to humbly let readers know that you, too, are human. There must be many admissions plus photographic proof that you are not a liar. Blog owners lower themselves to the dust-under-the-rug and show pictures of the messiest parts of their house, their children in PJ's at noon, or the blog author herself in some unflattering photo. This exercise may be to strip bloggers of the last shred of dignity they might have, or to get her to scramble to show the behind-the-scenes of the photo shoot instead of the photo shoot. This gratifies the readers who somehow assumed that you, the blogger, were from another planet or perhaps a fake, temporarily quiets the complainers, and provides amusement to the back-seat-blog-drivers who are probably snickering in their sleeves at the whole thing. For a while, the blogger feels better, too, and let's hope all suggestions of such a nature will stop and let her get on with her life.

I don't know if my opinion counts for anything, but I, as a reader, am sorry to see those kinds of posts. I go to many blogs on purpose to see something clean and pretty; to rest my eyes on beautiful vignettes, like a vase of flowers in a well-lit room. I go to see someone's table made beautiful for a tea party-- someone's table that isn't covered in projects at the moment. I go to see the ideas in decorating. Sometimes the decorating isn't even my taste, but I like the colors, or the arrangement, or just to see someone else's style. Sometimes it is a homemaking blog I go to for ideas on how to organize my home, or homeschool my children, or to see a new crafty project. 

Sunday Tea-Time
Sunday Tea-Time
Stephen ...
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I don't go to see blogger's dirty dishes, their piles of laundry, or clutter on the coffee table, I can see that without the aid of the computer screen. I know those things exist in everyone's home; I also know that as soon as I see those posts, the poor blogger got that email or comment.

I never assume that the person who posts fabulous photos of her clean and pretty home is a perfect person! We all have sick days, sick children, busy family schedules, Thanksgiving-and-Christmas-aftermaths, big projects, house renovations, tons of company, or just the plain old "I'm too tired" day. If my house was ever all clean at once, it would be enough of an event to warrant a photo shoot, too. All that assumed already, I can go and enjoy the moment of beauty that a blogger spends time to set up and share with the public, without worrying that they never have a mess in their house. I don't think that a blog has to have a "mess" post just to justify its existence.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't ever post something "real life." Some messes say "home," such as the flour on a cutting board next to a bowl of bread dough, or a game with all its pieces out, sitting on a side table. There are the posts that have an amusing story that we all enjoy, about housekeeping mishaps or what the kiddos did to make a mess, but those are published for the humor and not to humor. Construction or renovation posts are interesting and sometimes informative to follow along with. At the same time I'm sure that the blogger who is living through a renovation must enjoy setting up a photo shoot of a pretty, undisturbed part of her life to share on her blog.

There is nothing wrong with staging a photo shoot for the art of it. If the kids are playing with their toys strewn over half the house, I think it is okay for a blogger to set up a photo shoot of a toy-less part of her home and stage a pretty picture. I've never ever seen a photo caption that says "this is the way my house is: perfect all the time" and I doubt I'll ever see one.

I can also understand the reader longs for a pretty house, well-mannered children or a better organized space, and writes to ask the blogger "how do you do that?" As a matter of fact, I enjoy the "how to" posts very much. A post on "how to fold the laundry" is one thing, but I hate to see bloggers intimidated to the point that they start showing pictures of the dirty laundry just to appease a few.

For further thoughts on similar subjects, see  qualifying your blog posts and  cold-water dumping.
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