a little bit of color & sparkle…

I own a jewelry chest. The year I got it, it was so thoroughly wrapped in cardboard, bubble wrap, and clear plastic (I think) that we joked that I had received a cannon for Christmas. In fact, I can still refer to it as my “cannon”, and my more observant brothers will know what I’m talking about. Unfortunately, it’s been in my storage unit for a few years now, waiting patiently to come home with the rest of my stuff. DSC_0022

Of course, when you go overseas, you can’t even consider bringing such a large piece of furniture, so I went the more normal route. My Bahamian jewelry box went with me, for my year Down Under. But while in Oz, for the first time ever, I came across one of those mannequin-looking jewelry stands that I actually LIKED. You know the ones, they usually look like a corset with a hoop skirt attached, but all other designs I’ve ever seen gave me the creeps. Maybe they had faces, I don’t remember. Why would I display something in my room that would frighten me, or any child that happened in there?DSC_1013

But this one had a twirly, artistic looking wire skirt, of such a fascinating design that I was completely torn. I don’t need a jewelry stand, I have a jewelry box. Eventually, I will have a jewelry chest again, I don’t need a jewelry stand. I don’t usually like this kind of thing, I insisted to myself. They even had the creepy ones in that store, but this one didn’t look anything like them. My protests were to no avail, and I packed that stand carefully into one of my many suitcases for the trip back to the U.S. DSC_1014

Originally, I used it as a display for both earrings and necklaces, as you’ll see in my pictures from Minnesota. The flare of the skirt was perfect for displaying a few necklaces, and my dress-up watch snapped onto the stand, like a belt. But gradually, my headband collection began to grow, and I started to put the earrings on one side, and the headbands on the other. As the poor stand really needs to be re-soldered on the main bolt, it’s a bit wobbly (I’ve hot-glued it, several times). So, the balancing act I put that poor “girl” through is quite something.DSC_0020

DSC_0021And then, I began longing for my bulletin boards, again. If you’ve ever heard me complain about Pinterest, of which the point still slightly escapes me, the idea of a virtual bulletin board gets on my nerves. MY bulletin boards are always covered with photos and odds-n-ends that I’ve picked up from memorable events. And they’re collaged onto the board, not just set about in straight lines. I would happily fill my whole house with bulletin boards, with collages of photos on them, rather than ever put another photo in a frame. IMG_7640

IMG_7643IMG_7644When I was in Australia, I didn’t have a cork board (as they call them), but I had blue putty to stick things onto my cupboard (closet) door. That would have to do, until I could get home. But it was satisfying to display little items that reminded me of special times, as the year went by. When I was in Minnesota, I had two small bulletin boards to work with, and promptly displayed my Australia and home pics on them. DSC_0018

DSC_0017Now that I’m back in South Carolina, my bulletin-board-less-ness was getting to me, when I remembered a blue “board” that I bought a few years ago. It’s purpose is to display birthday cards and other things, using the elastic cords strung across it. For some reason, I thought it had cork board under the fabric. When I finally managed to hang it on my wall, I realized that it did NOT have cork board in it, but some kind of wood that allowed thumb tacks to be pressed into it… if you pressed them REALLY hard. My poor fingers took days to recover.

It couldn’t be used for pictures, because if there’s something I won’t do, it’s bend my photos or put holes in them (unless it absolutely can’t be helped). Pounding push pins into them wouldn’t work at all, so here I was, with a board hung up on my wall… and what was I going to use it for?

I love to collage photos. My bulletin boards are a more organic form of the photo collages that I put into picture frames. Those take a lot of time, with careful cutting and taping into place. The biggest one I’ve ever made, I left with my Aussie family, as a Christmas present. The smallest one I ever made is in a 4×6 picture frame, made of lots of miniature photo bits that I collected after making several other collages.DSC_0052

DSC_0058I think my collage habit is somehow related to my love of gluing broken things back together again, but that’s a theory I’m still working on. A broken pitcher has a requisite way of going together, one that you can see easily. A photo collage has a cohesiveness that is less obvious, but once you know the point of the whole collage, you can see how it will all go together. Like I said, still working on that one.DSC_0097

DSC_0181Well, why not make a collage of jewelry? Or rather, a jewelry display on this board, with all the nice cords strung across it. Of course, the weight will be too much, after a while, so several push pins were placed judiciously, keeping the cords from sagging or breaking. After I’d hung up most of the earrings, I realized I could put most of my necklaces on it, too, which were a little more difficult to place, without creating a tangled mess that no jewelry could be retrieved from. But eventually, you figure out the best way to design it.DSC_1016-001

And with that, my poor jewelry stand, brought all the way from Australia, had nothing on it but headbands. I’m still not sure it’s the best use for it, as they all have different weights and don’t hang up to advantage. You know, the design piece on each one is heavier than the band, so it wants to follow the dictates of gravity, for some reason, rather than stay up in the air, to look pretty for all viewers. Strange how that works. But until I find a better use for my Aussie stand, I’ll leave “her” as is.DSC_1017

DSC_1019I was quite pleased with the end result to the gift card board, though I’m still not a fan of the color. Obviously, a blue board was never meant to hang on my green and white wallpaper. But as I wasn’t crafty enough (or didn’t plan enough ahead) to buy fabric and drape it on it (that would be WAY too much work for me), I’ll just swing with it for now. At least I can see all my earrings, and rotate them for work. I wonder what the professors who like to compliment me on my “collection” would think, if they could see the entire display?DSC_1021

DSC_1022While I still don’t really understand or have a significant interest in Pinterest (I’m trying, people, I’m trying!), I did create an account with a picture of the gift card board. Maybe one of these days, I’ll pin a picture of the jewelry stand, too. Also, there’s a change jar at work, made of soup lids, that I still need to take a picture of. I’ve been told I should pin that, too, but I don’t think it’s THAT interesting. When I remember to take my PowerShot camera to work again, I’ll try and do it.DSC_1007

The really funny thing is that I don’t consider myself all that “into” jewelry, though I do enjoy wearing it. But some of the bigger earrings were bought purposefully to defeat the effects of my work shirt’s dinginess. Is it working? I sure hope so.DSC_1008DSC_1010

wand’ring through the olden days…

Near the end of my road trip, last month, I made sure I had time to visit the local antique mall near Chambersburg, PA, because it was a favorite place for me to “take a wander” when I was living there. With 4-5 buildings loaded with all sorts of antiques (and some handmade crafts), who wouldn’t want to stop by?

I’m always fascinated by the immense variety, not only of the items themselves, but in how well some have been taken care of through the years. You can tell that some people go looking for antiques in thrift stores, so they can keep their booths well-stocked with treasures that are in good condition. Other people are just looking for a buck or two, in order to get rid of their junk.

Looking through the kitchenware is a must, for me, because I’m always looking for Mirro cookie presses, but some of the other things are very tempting. It makes me want to buy random items for cool-looking storage, and not always to be put to their original use.

Some people collect old bottles, but I’m not really familiar with the ins and outs of what makes a good one. I have some beautiful matching green bottles with a wave pattern running around them. They look like vases, almost, but they’re too narrow at the top and too tall to get any flower or plant into. I’d been searching for a bottle to give a friend that collected them… and ended up keeping them for myself. But I still look, when I’m in the antique shops.

I love the freestanding drawers that come from old sewing machines. If you see the picture with the “Our Leader” metal plate (near the top, after the rolling pins), the drawers are behind it. When you pull the drawer out to use, there’s no outer “wall” to it, so you see the gap it leaves. Someday, I’m going to buy one to put on my desk or dresser. They’re beautiful.

As I wandered through the stores, I was surprised at how much I liked the dancers figurine and the busts, atop the wooden cupboard (below the deer head). But then, right next to them, on a lower table, I was almost alarmed at how creepy some other clay faces can be.

The sleds reminded me of one we had when I was little, but then, that was the last time we lived anywhere near the “serious” snow. No point in buying another, when you live in the south. Some other kitchen gizmos were interesting, but some of them, I had no idea what they were for, even after looking at the tag. I thought some ladies would be thrilled to have that sign about what their husband called to say.

I can’t help looking closely when I come across any thick ceramic crocks. My family has a huge one that we use for a trash can, and I have memories of playing in it when I was little. It only had sewing room scraps in it, then, and we were small enough to fit into it. We occasionally got stuck, too, and had to be pulled out. But try as I might, I can never find one that’s as big as ours, and they’re mightily expensive, even when they get close.

The glass telephone sign was pretty neat, and I wished I could come up with a place to put it, but until I have my own place again, there’s really no point in stocking up on more stuff. The glass doorknobs were beautiful, reminding me of some I had at my last house. And though I couldn’t think of any use for the balls of thick carpet cord (that’s what the tag says!), I’m pretty sure my crafty cousins would have come up with something.

Amidst the fun of old Star Wars glasses and classic kids’ books, you’ll find terrifying items like this yellow-eyed baby doll. I wouldn’t give it to any child of mine, because they’d probably have nightmares until they were fifty. It reminded me of a booth that used to be in that building, which had a mannequin that was dressed in vintage clothing. But one of my little cousins was scared to death of it, and would have to leave that area, in tears, not willing to even walk by it. I should let him know that it isn’t there anymore.

The wheel that was meant for rubber stamps put me in mind of getting my library book stamped, when I was a child, and of the scenes in The Music Man, where Harold Hill sings to Marian the Librarian, and she ends up stamping his hand, several times.

The old-fashioned rolling tea cart was fun and charming, and the glass table with the bear holding it up made me smile. And the metal lunchboxes and Smurf glasses made me think of my childhood. My grandma collected the Smurf glasses, and we always used them when we visited her in Pennsylvania.

From that very last antique building, there’s a door into a craft section, where local artisans sell their furniture, candles, soap, and many other interesting items. I have as much fun in this section as the previous one, and unlike being at a craft show, I can stick my nose anywhere I want, and not have to worry about talking to the booth owner, since they aren’t in the store.

The old-fashioned crates that they often use to display items, I usually wish they would sell those, too. In my last house, I was always looking for extra shelves for my books, and those crates would have answered admirably. Or they could have displayed other fun items, hiding in different corners of the house.

You can’t live in the south and not appreciate some of the humor that’s always aimed at rednecks. But if you didn’t know it, all rednecks don’t live in the south. Strangely enough, in that section of PA, there are a number of locals that pronounce “fire” as “fahr”. I’ve never figured out why, because it’s the local accent, not just some southerners that came north. You know, like Fayetteville is pronounce “Fattville” by those that are from there. Yep, you’re still in the north!

The candles were the last items that I came across before leaving the store. Some of them had nice names and smelled wonderful. Others had some very strange names. I’m afraid that “Elf Sweat” smells kind of sweet, not necessarily a nice smell, but not quite a bad one either. If Legolas smells like that, I really wonder what he eats when no one’s looking. Some of the other oddly name ones, well, they smelled revolting, so I don’t know why the maker named them that.

I hope you enjoyed my little trip. At the time, I was enjoying having my Canon PowerShot working again, so I could keep it in my pocket, and be unobtrusive, for once. It still takes nice pictures, but I will say that I’ve learned a lot from taking pictures with my Nikon for so long, and I won’t easily revert back to my little camera.

a craft from the past…

When I was growing up, every December, we would go to Holiday Fair, in Greenville, SC. In “those days”, the art and handiwork that was on sale was still mostly handmade, though nowadays, this particular show was given in to goods that are cheap and sometimes mass-produced. Hence, we tend to go there to stock up on Southern Supreme fruitcake, because they always have a booth, but not so much for the crafts, anymore.

This isn’t to say that it’s a bad show, in case you’re crossing it off your schedule for this year! It’s still very nice, and not to be despised, as I’m sure there are some real quality craftsmen hiding between the pots-and-pans salesmen. But if anyone can tell us where the majority of the great local artisans are holing up at Christmas, we’d like to know.

But “back in the day”, we visited, and then for several years in a row, we actually went there to sell our own crafts. I say “our”, though my skills were not really behind any of what we sold, but I helped run the booth. It was great fun, though the hours were long, dressing up in your most Christmas-y outfits, and wandering the show, when someone else was manning the booth. I made friends with the other artisans and those running their booths, and could get some interesting conversations going, when they came to ours.

My parents had seen a particular type of angel doll, and decided to make their own. Dad put together all the woodworking parts, Mom sewed up the dresses and cut up the yarn for the hair, and they worked together to put them together. I helped glue the hair on, if I remember correctly.

At the same time, my dad built knick-knack shelves and coat racks (we used the wooden racks to hang our stockings, at Christmas). The racks had holes drilled into the tops, for snowmen. The snowmen were originally created to be free-standing, or to sit on some wooden sleds that my uncle had made. But then we cut the wooden spheres in half, to make half snowmen to go on the coat (or stocking) racks.

According to the dolls’ feet, they were made in 1996, so we would’ve had our own booth at Holiday Fair for several years after that, and at least one year, we went to the Spring Jubilee in Pendleton, too. So, from age 16 to 20, I was dressing up for the show, and helping my parents and my aunt and uncle with our booth.

So, of the dolls and snowman racks that didn’t sell, we took some of them to The Mercantile and some to Mountain Made. And at Mountain Made, some of them have remained ever since. They wrote to us, telling us that there were some left, but we never got the message. Not until I walked into the store, and started talking to the owner, and mentioning that my mom used to sell her dolls there.

A box of five dolls, some of the best my parents had made, were waiting for me to retrieve, and two racks, completely with their snowmen. Yes, one had lost his head, but I found the head in the box, afterwards. Plus an extra snowman, or rather, snowchild. Several of them have bumped noses, so that’ll have to be fixed eventually.

But looking through all of them was quite fun, because of the memories that were surfacing. I didn’t have a lot to do with the making of the dolls, except for gluing on yarn hair. But I helped paint the snowmen, and their hats. I put lots of earmuffs on the snowchildren, tied on neck scarves for the daddies and the children, put on the head scarves for the mommies, and hot-glued them into place. My dad drew all the faces, glued the snowpeople together, and put their noses in. And glued in the pegs, for the half snowmen, so they would attach to the wooden racks.

It was a bit of a family project, you might say, and we still have our own sets of everything that we get out at Christmas. I had my own snowman coat rack, when I was living in Pennsylvania, and I used it regularly. It held all my jackets during spring through fall, and then in the winter, I flipped the rack over, and dug out my half snowmen, to put them up.

And while clearing out the basement, recently, we also found the wood and nails “frame” that my dad used to bend the angel dolls’ wings into that particular shape. Unless I decide to use it to hang jewelry on, we’ll probably donate it. But it’s a fascinating contraption, and I wonder how many people would see it in a thrift store, and wonder what in the world it was used for?

I don’t suppose any of you would be interested in having their own angel doll or row of snowmen? We’re considering putting them on eBay or etsy, so you get first dibs, if you’d like any of them.

what could be better than mountain made?

In my travels down the Square, I came to my other favorite store to visit. Mountain Made is half handmade craft store, half antique store. And in case I’m not describing that well enough, the “crafty” side of the store is where local artisans sell their wares. From canned foodstuffs to toys, from pottery to Christmas ornaments, everything that you would find at a craft show, where everything is handmade, locally.

I admit to drooling whenever I’m around pottery, and I have a deep-set hankering to learn how to do it myself, someday. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the skills involved that created all of the other items in the store. Even when a jacket or hand-knit scarf isn’t of a style that I would wear, I can tell that much care (and probably many hours of work) were put into it.

My walk around the store started, as usual, with me going to talk to the owner, wanting to request permission to take photos in their store. Aside from generally being flabbergasted at the request, I’ve never yet had anyone say no. But this conversation began a little differently, as I was trying to tell Mrs. Grossman that I’d been in there before. In fact, that they used to sell some dolls that my mom had made. But she was looking confused, until I mentioned that the dolls had blocky, wooden feet, and then she said, “Oh, the angels!”. I had forgotten they had angel wings, too.

So, aside from my usual conversation about photos, I got sidetracked into finding that they’d had my mom’s dolls in storage for years, because somehow the letter had gone astray, saying that they had some left. Also, some snowman shelves. I’ll put this in a later post, but I did walk out of the store, looking like I’d bought a huge bunch of things, when I was actually reclaiming some handiwork from years ago.

Also during that conversation, I found that Mrs. Grossman actually knew my older brother, back to when he was taking life-guarding courses in high school. She was his instructor, and had kids in the grades between my brother and I. So, that was an interesting chat, as he graduated in ’95, and she hasn’t seen him in a “few” years.

I continued to putz around the store, paying more attention to some things than I normally would have. I don’t really have an “artist’s eye” for seeing the best way to photograph something, but at the very least, you have to pay attention to what’s around you. I look for anything and everything that’s interesting, and I find things that are interesting, even when I might not buy it for myself. That doesn’t make it any less fascinating, that such intricate care was put into all of these items.

The toy section is one of my favorites, as I’d love to get those letter trains, when I have children of my own. I could spend a long time looking at the neat little quilted stuffed animals, and many more things of this type. Just because you don’t have kids or you’re not working with them anymore (for the time being) doesn’t mean you can’t pay attention to toys. I have little cousins with birthdays a-comin’, you know.

Then, I took a step up into the next room, and wandered back to look at the antiques. This small store has competition from several local antique stores, but I think the combination of handmade crafts on the other side, and the small room that’s easy to make your way around, works well. There are several large shelves of books, and I have to resist looking, because prices can vary, and I have a hard time saying no to a fascinating tome.

I thought the little toy fort, with it’s plastic cowboys and Indians, as well as a plastic moose, was a great find. I don’t recall seeing one quite like it before. I’m not certain whether the little figurines are Hummels or Berta Hummels (there’s a difference), but they’re still adorable. A store like this can be a treasure trove, if you just look carefully. I’ve heard of weddings where centerpieces were made of old books. The furniture can be just as interesting as the items placed on them.

Eventually, I had to resurface, sooner than I wanted, because nature was calling, and I still had to go retrieve my car from The Mercantile’s parking area. I was not carrying the angel dolls or the snowman shelves down the street. Once the car was loaded, I headed for home, to surprise my family with my haul. But more on that, later. You’ll have to drop by again, if you want to see them.

visiting a piece of my childhood…

After my visit to the Clemson University campus, I thought it was time to go to another old stamping ground of mine, located in Pendleton, the next town over from us. It’s home to a number of historical buildings that you can tour, but the place my family always heads for is Pendleton Square. I’ll post photos of the Square itself, later, but it really is an old-fashioned Square with shops on all four sides.

One of these stores, The Mercantile, is owned by friends of our family. In fact, my grandfather knew the owner, Bill Earl, before he even met my grandmother. So, their friendship could be dated back to the 1940’s. We all knew each other, when I was a child in Alfred, NY, and then when my family decided to relocate to South Carolina, the Earls had already beaten us there.

From the age of eight, and on, I remember going to visit their store, and taking an interest in the things that you would expect. They had puppets, toys, and Boyds Bears (both stuffed and figurines), as well as rows and rows of candy, in old-fashioned jars. We would save up our allowances to buy rock candy, button candy, Sour Patch Kids, nonpareils, and anything else that struck our fancy.

When I was older, I would save my allowance for a longer stretch of time, in order to buy a dragon puppet that I had wanted for… well, it seemed like forever. I still have that puppet, and I’ve never seen another like him. My mom and I both went through a period of time where we collected Boyds Bears, the resin figurines, and I spent a lot of money in that section, over the years. Eventually, The Mercantile phased out their Boyds section, but I wasn’t royally upset, as my interest was starting to wane. There were still many more things there that I was interested in.

And then there were the rubber stamps. When I was little, their rubber stamp collection was not as large, and they hadn’t expanded into so many other craft areas. My brothers and I all would buy rubber stamps and ink pads to decorate paper or to make cards. I had the largest collection of stamps in our family, as well as a lot of containers of different colored emboss, and an embossing gun, to go with it.

If you’re not familiar with rubber stamping and embossing, then let me explain. Instead of using a colored ink pad, you would use a special clear embossing pad, thoroughly coat your stamp with the ink, and then firmly press it onto paper. Then, you open your container of emboss (gold, silver, or any color you please), and pour it onto the ink. Carefully picking up your paper, you pour the excess powder back into a container, and the design now shows up beautifully, with the powder stuck to the ink. Then, you get out your embossing gun, which is similar to a hot glue gun, but with a heating element like in a hair dryer. Aiming it carefully at your powdery design, you move it around until the embossing powder melts. Once the whole design has melted, it will be permanently affixed to your paper.

In later years, I remember one Christmas where we actually made all our Christmas cards, and I don’t know how many designs I embossed onto cards. When that was finished, I wore out several special pens, that I used to color in between the lines. It’s a lot easier than regular coloring, with embossed outlines that are easy to stop at.

Over the years, while my Boyds and stamping interests lessened, The Mercantile expanded their craft section, especially the rubber stamps, and started giving classes on every craft imaginable, and some that I hadn’t imagined. When I went to visit them, the other day, they were having a jewelry class, where they were working on a Viking Braid, which involves making a wire design, and then creating a similar design inside of the first. I’m not sure how it’s done, but it looked both beautiful and fun.

When I was eighteen, I worked at The Mercantile over Christmas vacation, and though it was only for about two weeks, the Earls’ son-in-law took the time to teach me to drink coffee. Now, my family has always had several coffee drinkers, but I’d never taken to it, because I can’t drink the coffee without sugar. But The Mercantile sells flavored coffee, and my coffee teacher assured me that I just hadn’t put the right amount of sugar into it. So, he poured me a wonderful flavor (I don’t remember what it was), and loaded it down with sugar and cream. And I’ve never looked back.

They always have a coffee sample container out, so I always get one, when I come to visit. And I always visit, even when I’ve been living several states away. Because wherever I moved to, whenever I would come home, The Mercantile was on my list of places to go, right after I arrived. I would pop in to have a good wander around, and have a good chat with whoever was working that day. I’ve had many good chats with Mr. Earl, keeping him up-to-date with the doings of my family, and he would do the same for me, concerning his family. He knew all of my parents’ generation, when they were younger, so I can tell him who has grandchildren, who got married, and so many other things.

Of all my brothers, who also enjoyed going there for candy, when we were younger, my youngest brother is the only one that continues to come in, now and again. But unlike me, who wants to catch up and see everything that’s new and everything that’s the same, Joe comes to go jewelry shopping.

When he was in his teens, and still looking at the toys and candy, Joe discovered that The Mercantile sells beautiful jewelry, and that it’s classier than the stuff you’ll find at Claire’s (that’s an American youth-aimed jewelry shop). Also, that it’s not extremely expensive. So, he began to buy earrings for my mom and me, for birthdays and for Christmas. He knew he had found a good thing, and he stuck with it. As the years went by, he also found out that the jewelry displays in the back of The Mercantile, by the work table for the craft classes, are not for sale, but you can ask them to make you one of them. In other words, he can commission them to make jewelry, from a wide selection of gorgeous samples. Oh, the possibilities are endless.

So, I wandered through the same building that I’ve been visiting since I was a little girl. I bought people Christmas presents there, and bought many things for myself. I marveled that Terri Earl could come up with so many amazing designs with rubber stamps, but I always stuck to the simplest designs. I wished that I could take every class they had, but never found the time to take one. And still, I always come back. Because they make you feel welcome, whether they know you or not, you feel at home immediately, and what they sell and craft are both beautiful and unique.

Also, I still come back for the candy. For those of my Aussie friends who remember me trying to tell them the perfect three candies to eat together… and then I drew a complete blank, here they are. Semi-sweet chocolate nonpareils (not milk chocolate or dark chocolate), Swedish Fish, and Sour Patch Kids. The combination of chocolate with something sweet and something sour is absolutely perfect. The only way to make it better would be to eat pretzels with it, and add in the salty element. When I was a child, I’d come in and get a half pound of each, but now, I buy their small bags with a dollar’s worth of candy in it. Just a little bit, not overdoing it any. Since I’ve been eating this combination since I was ten, or less, I think I can say that I know what I’m talking about.

If you’re ever in Pendleton, and you haven’t visited the Square, then you should. Over the next few days, I’ll be showing pictures of the Square itself, as well as another favorite store, Mountain Made, and a surprising discovery that I made there. I didn’t have time to go into the antique stores, that are on the corner of the Square. Take the time to visit and you won’t be disappointed!

the last of the crafty kids…

Well, I hope it isn’t really the last of my Aussie kids being crafty, but I will no longer be there to think up crafts for them to try out. Actually, I’m not very good at coming up with these ideas, as you’ll have noticed by my NOT posting about this subject very often. But every once in a while, I would have an “apostrophe” (yes, I mean an epiphany), and we’d settled down to something fun and different.

My last idea was to introduce the kids to the game of Mancala, and keep Sadie occupied for part of the morning. Since it’s easy to make your own game, we went looking for an egg carton, and then tried to find the paint. Instead of bottles of paint, we came across a can of gold spray paint. Leaving her on the veranda, so she couldn’t accidentally get sprayed, I set the egg carton in the grass, and thoroughly coated it with gold paint.

While it dried, we went out into the yard, and started picking up pebbles, though we picked more than we needed, because I couldn’t remember how many went in each Mancala hole. The sun was beating down hard, so Sadie went to pick pebbles in the shade, while I dripped into the dirt, picking my last few.

Rinsing the pebbles, we left them to dry on a towel, and our game was pretty much ready, but it was nap time. So, while she slept, I counted out the prettiest, smoothest pebbles, and put them in the egg carton. Discovering that the carton had a few little spiders in it, I gave it a good shot of bug spray, which made the pebbles look shiny.

I went online to review the rules to one of the oldest games in the world, which is still played in Africa, India, and many more countries. I guess you can play with different numbers of pebbles, but the suggestion was three per hole.

If you’re playing with an egg carton, you pretend you have a “home base” on each end, and your own home base is always to your right. The game goes counter-clockwise. My family has been playing it wrong, for years, so I think I have it correct now, but if you’re confused, look online.

One player starts by picking up the pebbles out of one cup, and going counter-clockwise, dropping one in each hole until they run out. If your last pebble goes into your home base, you can take another turn. If your last pebble lands in an empty cup, with pebbles on your opponent’s side, you can steal their pebbles. You keep taking turns until someone runs out of pebbles on their side of the board, and when that happens, the other picks up all the pebbles on their side, and puts them in their home base.

The trick is to not empty your side too early, because your opponent could beat you, if they have more pebbles on their side, than you have in your home base. It takes some strategy, and there are numerous variations to the rules, so don’t rely on me completely, if you’re confused.

When Sadie woke up from her nap, I taught her to play, first, but as she’s only four years old, she was easily distracted, had trouble remembering which direction to go, and forgot the rules, regularly. I taught Kit to play, later, and then her dad, so Kit will keep them at it, following the rules correctly.

It was a fun project, and Sadie was very pleased with our golden egg carton and all the beautiful pebbles. Of course, you can make your own using seeds, buttons, marbles, or anything else you can think of. You just have to keep it out of the hands of any bubs that happen to be in your house.  : )

a box from home…

I really wanted my phone from home. It doesn’t matter that I won’t be touching down in any airport, between South Korea and Atlanta, Georgia, unless there’s plane trouble. When I left for Australia, I didn’t have it to keep in touch with anyone, and had to rely on my computer, when I really wanted to keep in contact with my family. So, this time around, if my plane has to land, for any possible reason, before I arrive in GA, I have my phone, because my parents sent it to me.

Aside from that, it’s really a bit of home, as silly as it sounds, because right before I left the U.S., I set all my ringtones, text beeps, and alarm sounds to Minion-related stuff, from Despicable Me. Yes, I love those Minions. If my phone makes any kind of noise, it’ll be Minion Chatter, Minion Arguments, and Minion Laughter. It makes me want to laugh, when I heard it.

I have distinct memories of hearing those sounds, every morning, when I got up to go work at my part-time job at the school food-court, before leaving for Australia. I was sleeping in the basement, so there was no natural light that came from anywhere, so if I didn’t have an alarm, I’d sleep until afternoon, and never know the difference. It reminded me of our cabin on the cruise ship, when we went to the Bahamas. Pitch dark, without your room lights, and even when you stepped into the hallway, it could be day or night.

So, Thursday morning, my Aussie phone died. Yes, the second one that has done so, though thankfully, they waited until my time here as almost done. I had a bad hour, unable to find an alarm clock, but wanting another hour of sleep. So, I slept lightly, constantly waking to check my watch. I was grumpy, at the time, thinking that if the Aussie mail would just quit hanging onto my things in Customs, I’d have been able to use my American phone. And wouldn’t you know, my package arrived at lunchtime, that very day?

Of course, with no access to Verizon, anywhere on the continent, my phone can’t adjust to Daylight Savings Time (East Coast, U.S.), and won’t change it’s settings to Australia time. So, in order to set my alarm, I have to set it back fifteen hours, rather than fourteen, which is the present time difference between home and I. In order to wake up at 6:30am, my phone is set to 3:30pm. I can’t use my phone for anything else, but that’s ok. I get to wake up to Minion Laughter, so what does anything else matter?

Also, in that box from home, came some gifts for my Aussie family. My beautiful, oh-so-talented aunt makes handmade jewelry, fired in her own kiln. The leaves and flower patterns are from real plants, pressed into the clay, and then it burns off in the kiln (I think that’s how it works). So, Mrs. B got a beautiful set of earrings and a necklace, as did Bea and Kit. Aren’t they just wonderful?

Of course, the girls do not yet have pierced ears, so we knew this would come into play, with them lobbying for this to happen sooner. We figured that they could put aside the earrings until they’re old enough to have their ears pierced, but Bea has already wangled a possible promise of getting her ears done on her next birthday. They both loved theirs, as well.

The little girls will have to wait until they’re a bit older, to get fragile jewelry like this to wear. As it is, Bubby seemed to find all the necklaces fascinating, and endangered several of them, before they were put out of harm’s way.

Oh, and yes, that is The Hunger Games Official Illustrated Movie Companion that my phone is sitting on. Can I help it if I love looking through books about the making of these movies? I love the books, and can’t wait to see the movie on THURSDAY. My goodness, I do believe we get it a day earlier than everybody at home.  : )

fixing what’s broken…

Several mornings ago, I came downstairs, wondering why a certain chook sounded so loud. Turned out, it was because the chicken was IN the house, and couldn’t seem to figure out how to get out. At the moment I let the chicken out the door, one of the cats ran in, and they both had near heart attacks, as they collided. I thought it was pretty funny, but Taggle (the cat) bumped into the door, and I was distracted by an odd sound from behind it. The sound of a door bumping into broken ceramic, and breaking it further.

Pulling the door aside, I found a pile of broken pottery, complete with leftover gravy, all over the floor. The cats must have knocked it off during the night, and none of us had even heard it. It must’ve made a great smashing noise, but we slept through it. I just cringed over the breakage, as I do when I find anything broken, that’s made of ceramic. Because it feels all wrong to me, that it is broken, and that my fix-it job will never make it the way it was.

But I am the Super Glue Queen of my family, and I can’t walk by any broken ceramics, without attempting to fix it. I often joke that it’s my only inheritance of the ceramic engineering genes, aside from my love of dishes. You will think I am very strange, and you won’t be the first one, but I actually ENJOY gluing things back together. And because I do a really good job, if I do say so myself, my mom (and at least one other person) always save their broken stuff for me. If I heard correctly, those two people have been saving me broken stuff for the last year, so I can fix it all when I get home.

This particular job would need some work, first, as the pitcher had congealed gravy in it, when it fell. So, I found a clear plastic box to put all the pieces in, and filled it up with water. Later, I would rinse them all off, carefully, and I tried to not think off all the pottery scraps that were going down the drain. It had to be done, but I sure didn’t like knowing I might lose a crucial piece. Then I left them to dry, until I could load them on a cookie tray, and take them upstairs.

The small piece on the right is comprised of 5-6 smaller pieces.

Whenever I go into super glue mode, I try and figure out why I like it so much. On the surface, it really makes no sense to me, or to anyone else. I just find it satisfying to put the pieces where they’re supposed to go, and especially, if I can make it look as good as new. There’s even a set of South American chimes, made of terracotta, waiting for me at home. Over a year ago, they fell and broke, when I was packing to leave PA, and though I’ve done some work on them, I haven’t yet finished. And no, I couldn’t just throw them away. That would be admitting defeat.

Obviously, that's where the pitcher struck, with all the smallest pieces located right there. Difficult to get that small piece to adhere to anything.

Thinking about this, today, I’ve decided that the basic point is… I like to fix what is broken. When something is broken, it shouldn’t have happened. It was an accident. Nobody meant to drop it, crack it, smash it into pieces (ok, unless you threw it, when you were in a temper). But generally, it was not purposeful. In the pottery pitcher’s case, it was especially not on purpose, as it had been a gift at Mr. & Mrs. B’s wedding, ten years ago. Mrs. B was quite upset to see it in pieces, but she probably would have thrown them away, if she’d reached it first. Most people would.

I know that the broken item will never look like it used to, or be used for it’s original purpose. It will probably not hold water and it will never hold up in the dishwasher. But that doesn’t make it useless. However, I’m not talking about being a pack rat over items that break, but often, something made of ceramic, whether a dish or a figurine, is something special. It holds memories.

If it’s broken, I want to fix it. I don’t care how many pieces it’s in, how small the pieces are, or if some of the pieces are missing. It is difficult to put back together, takes careful planning and the right timing, so that the glue doesn’t dry, and you can’t get another piece back in. But if I had received it as a wedding gift, I wouldn’t care if it wasn’t perfect any longer. I’d still want it, in some semblance of what it was.

Speaking of weddings, or marriages, I’ve had some analogies running around in my head. These aren’t aimed at anyone in particular, but I hope to apply them, when I get married someday. I’m sure it isn’t a perfect analogy, but that’s ok. Just sharing with you what I’ve come up with.

If something is broken, it needs to be fixed. Doesn’t matter how badly damaged, it can be fixed. It won’t be perfect. No one in a marriage is perfect, you’re going to hurt each other, and make it up, hurt each other and then make it up. The point is to keep making it up, fixing the problem, going to the root of the issue, and dealing with it. Don’t leave the pieces lying around, pick them up and patch them back together again. It will take time, cause you to sweat, bring you to tears, and put you on your knees, in prayer. But in the end, your marriage is still together, even though you can see where the cracks and dings are. At a glance, only the people who know you best will be able to see them.

You know, in the Bible, the Lord God is referred to as the Potter, and we’re the clay (Isaiah 64:8). I’m glad He called us that, instead of glass.

Whether it’s your marriage, your friendships, or just a cherished piece of pottery, don’t leave them in pieces. Go find all the pieces, and painstakingly, put it back together again.

And by the way, this pitcher I put back together, it was the hardest fix-it job I’ve ever come across. It’s very obvious how badly damaged it is, and my fingerprints are all over the bottom, forever fused into the super glue. I came the closest I ever have to gluing my fingers to the pottery, or at least to each other. And almost didn’t fix it, as several pieces weren’t put together at the right time (it broke on a swirl pattern, VERY hard to fix!). So, my Aussie family may never be able to use it for water or gravy again, but it’s still there, a testimony to ten years together, and many more to come. So, talk about being worth the hard work and sweat involved!

the saturday books…4…

After enjoying a breakfast at Mickey D’s, which involved way too much coffee, I was off to the library, then the book store. My body continued to debate what to do with all the coffee, as caffeine rarely affects me, but it could have an effect on my digestive system, that’s for sure.

I’m also on my second day of wearing my contacts and new sunglasses regularly, as I’ve been extremely lazy about putting my contacts in, lately. I think it’s because I broke my last pair of “sunnies”, so what was the point? At least that’s what my early morning thought process tells me. So, for the first hour or two after putting my contacts in, I’ve been going through a stage where I feel like I’m cross-eyed, but keeping telling myself that “this too shall pass”. And it does.

Fortunately, none of these ocular or bodily issues caused any interference with my driving skills, so I checked out a copy of Anne of Windy Willows from the library, and then drove to Blossoms. Yes, you heard that right. If you’re an L.M. Montgomery fan, and you live in the U.S. or Canada, then you’re familiar with this book by the title of Anne of Windy Poplars. Apparently, Montgomery’s original choice of a name was Anne of Windy Willows, but the American publisher thought it could become confused with The Wind in the Willows. A book about talking animals, or a book about a red-headed girl living on Prince Edward Island? Yeah, they’re too similar to tell the difference, Mr. Publisher.

So, they changed the name for us North Americans, AND supposedly edited out some of the more “risqué” stories, but everyone else got the originals. Because Americans and Canadians can’t handle a few darker stories, in the Anne books? Honestly. Montgomery’s books were not all light and fluff. Consider Emily’s taste of the second sight, in Emily of New Moon, or all of Montgomery’s short stories that were collected into a book called Among the Shadows.

So, now I have to find out if this is true, that my American copy is an abridged form of the original book. I’ve read it enough times to be able to tell if something’s new in the Windy Willows book. So, that’s something for you all to look forward to me talking about, soon.

Anyway, back to the bookstore. As someone who always likes to read about the Titanic, and considering that in April, it will have been a century since the ocean liner went down, I immediately found and bought Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic: The Ocean’s Greatest Disaster, by Marshall Everett. I already find the tales of Titanic to be fascinating, the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor, all on one ship. The heroes and villains of the story, with some men barging into the lifeboats with the women (or even dressing as women), while others refused to abandon their loved ones. And of course, the horror of the steerage passengers being kept from escaping.

This book, with it’s gold-edged pages, is a reproduction of the 1912 edition, which was published immediately after the Titanic sank. I think this will be a fascinating read, both from the immediacy of the book’s writing, to how people expressed themselves in 100 year old books. It is advertised on the back cover as “a Graphic and Thrilling Account of the Sinking of the Greatest Floating Palace Ever Built, Carrying Down to Watery Graves More Than 1,500 Souls”. Fifteen hundred people. The number is still shocking. Yes, the Titanic will always be of interest, because it was a “floating palace” of extremes, and we’ll never see the like again (and for the sake of many lives, I hope we won’t).

Having satisfied my occasional need to buy an actual book, and continuing to resist the lure of buying Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (do you have any idea what that might cost me to ship home?), I determined to buy no more books today (and I held to that resolve!). And then crossed paths with a copy of The Midwife of Venice, by Roberta Rich. I still think that the UK publisher does a better job on cover illustrations, sometimes. Looking it up on Amazon, I wasn’t as much a fan of that cover.

But the story still looks fascinating. In the late 1500’s, Hannah Levi is a Jewish midwife, living in a time when Jews are forbidden to attend the births of Christians. And yet, in the middle of the night, she is offered a fabulous sum to attend a woman who has been laboring for days. The money is enough to save her husband from imprisonment, but what will happen to her if it is found out? Torture and death could be waiting for her, but she will do anything to save her beloved husband. The reviews say that this book is a page-turner, and one that just can’t put down. If I can’t get to it any time soon, perhaps someone else could read it, and tell me what you think?

From there, I picked up a hilarious little book, called The A-Z of Unfortunate Dogs, by Adam Elliot. If you’re a dog lover, or even if you’re not, the rhyming lines about each funnily drawn canine will make you chuckle. They are beset with the trials of having a long tongue, fleas, gout, short legs, and all sorts of problems, but the drawings are so cute, you want to chuckle and make the poor puppy feel better about himself, at the same time.

I was intrigued by The Usborne Cookbook for Boys, which advertises itself as being an easy cookbook of things that boys will actually WANT to eat. The implication being that other cookbooks are usually full of fancy, fluffy recipes that girls (and cooks) will adore. I can see the point, because I’m not much into cooking from cookbooks. I like my home favorites, and all the usual recipes call for things I don’t understand or care to even try. Too fancy, too complicated, what happened to simplicity, with ingredients I’ve heard of? So, I’d be tempted to buy this book myself, if I was in the market for an easy cookbook, and I had a boatload of guys to feed.

And finally, I noticed (and wanted!) Jane Austen’s Sewing Box (Craft Projects & Stories from Jane Austen’s Novels), by Jennifer Forest. Full of beautiful illustrations and artwork from Austen’s times, not only does it have directions on how to make many Regency-style needlework projects, it contains descriptions of the history behind the craft work. Discussion of the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the printing press & the availability of novels, the advent of new fabrics and designs, and the results of all these changes on the lives of women in the home, are all covered here. As I find the history behind the novels just as interesting as the novels themselves, I found this part of the book even more interesting than the actual projects. I think I will have to get myself a copy, once I get home.

By the way, speaking of an interest in Regency history, I’ve already read (and loved) Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester. Whether you love Heyer’s books or not (and you should), she followed in the footsteps of Austen and Bronté, perfecting the Regency novel. And Kloester’s book delves into all areas of Regency life, showing you what it would really be like to live back then.

Now, I’ve just checked Amazon, and found that Elizabeth Kantor’s The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After will be released on April 2. I’m not sure if it’ll be on Kindle, and since I’ll be home soon, I probably don’t need to get an e-book copy, anyway. But I’ve been looking forward to this one, as Kantor uses an in-depth study of the Austen heroines (Lizzy Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, Anne Elliot, etc.) to give us suggestions on how to survive the area of dating and relationships in our modern-day world. I look forward to this read, not just because of the subject matter, but because I’ve enjoyed previous books of hers.

So, I hope I’ve livened up your Saturday and given you a few ideas on what books you might like to take a gander at. And now, I’m going to get back to reading Crucible of Gold, the latest Temeraire book, by Naomi Novik.

crafty kids: crowns & place mats…

One day, I found colored paper at the grocery store. I know, you’re stunned. But I haven’t been able to find colored paper anywhere, the kind that comes in a pad of lots of different colors. I’m not paying for individual sheets, you know! Anyway, I brought it home with the groceries, feeling like my craft inspiration had finally arrived.

I don’t know why I feel like I’m on home ground with colored paper to cut out and paste, rather than with paint or just drawing. I have done more painting with the kids, after we picked up more colors, so maybe I’ll get handier. I think part of the problem is never being able to find enough white paper to use. And I never even took pictures of my own last two masterpieces! But here are some of my girls’ paintings.

But back to paper. With colored paper, we can cut out pictures, paste shapes, create paper chains, and make our own jewelry. For me, the possibilities are endless. And maybe I’m being a bit OCD, but I’m keeping the colored paper where they can’t reach it, so it’s used for special projects, every day, rather than for coloring on, whenever they feel like it.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I had dredged up a memory of weaving colored place mats with paper. My little girls each did about half of theirs. I showed them how to weave the first two, and then we took turns weaving them through. They did very well. And if you can call it cheating, we taped down the ends, after each piece, so the girls wouldn’t have to deal with any of their papers coming loose, after they’d been woven in.

My kids like to play princes and princesses. My little one who loves pink always has to be the princess, and my little tomboy always plays the prince. So, you can probably guess that my little pink princess takes dance lessons, while my tomboy takes soccer, because dance is “boring”.  But no dissing the tomboys, anyone. My little Emmie cares for her baby dolls just like any anxious mother, and loves to make beds.

So, I suggested making crowns, and after we made Sadie’s princess crown, we made a prince (or king) crown for her sister, who was at school. It kept her occupied for a while, and thrilled her sister, when she got home. Emmie then ran around in her crown all day, even to putting it back on after her bath, which caused the paper to get wet and tear. Fix-it procedures to commence, shortly.

After the schoolkids returned, Emmie also demanded a place mat making session, and after that, we made little pink books, for them to color the pages. Lots of options available for my crafty kids!