February 01, 2010

Lisa: Who will tell the internet these things if I don't?

1) In roughly an hour I am seeing an ENT about the possibility of getting my tonsils out. I have to admit, I am somewhat terrified. But...if it means that I get strep less often (or even maybe NEVER), then it will be worth it.

2) A lot of things have been happening lately, and I've been crossing things off my list (yay!), but I haven't gotten up the energy to actually blog about any of them. SO. I have just decided to attempt to post every single day of the month of February. I'm sure the one reader we have left will be shocked. Plus, depending on how much Lortab they put me on for my (possible) tonsillectomy, things could get a little crazy. At the very least, there will be a lot of drool. Something to look forward to.

3) Dripped pie filling had made a smoky mess in the bottom of my oven, so today I decided to run the self-clean cycle. It's been going for three hours so far, and everything in my house smells and/or tastes like burning. My eyes feel like burning. Nora actually asked to go down for a nap early--I'm guessing in self-defense. Moral: put a drip pan under the stupid pie next time, goofus.

4) I am presenting for your enjoyment photographic proof of my billboard doppelganger. She can be found on Highland Drive, directly east of the Home Depot, advertising the Generations Project on BYU TV. Uncanny, isn't it? I, for one, am completely freaked out.

February 02, 2010

Lisa: Nintendo Cross-Stitch

My decision to make all homemade Christmas gifts this year gave me a great excuse to try some crafts I've been wanting to do and to finish some projects I'd started and then abandoned. These cross-stitched dish towels featuring classic Nintendo characters are one of the latter.

With their matching gun-arms, I always thought Samus and Megaman would make a cute couple. Almost as cute as Angie and Dave, who I hope are using these towels in their tiny kitchen right now.

The cross-stitchable towels are available at most craft stores--I think I got mine at JoAnn's. For the patterns, I found pictures of the 8-bit characters online (try looking for game packaging and sprites), and then mapped the pixels out on graph paper as best I could.

February 03, 2010

Lisa: Typewriter Cover

Another homemade Christmas gift for you today!

For Sarah, my favorite typewriter collector, I made an oilcloth cover for one of her typewriters. She and I bought matching IBM Selectrics at a county surplus sale, so I had a handy-dandy model at home to try the cover on.

My Selectric came with the standard-issue black plastic cover, which was getting brittle and had a few holes in it. I carefully cut the original cover apart along the seams and used it as a pattern for the new one.

The oilcloth is from the adorable Corner Station, and I'd been hoarding it until I found the perfect use. One precut piece was exactly enough for two typewriter covers--so I made one for Sarah and one for myself to replace the one I cut up.

The super-skinny bright green binding tape is from JoAnn's. I forgot to bring a scrap of the oilcloth with me to match when I picked it out, but I think I actually like it better less matchy-matchy.

February 04, 2010

Lisa: Model Train Photos

My father-in-law has the most incredibly intricate display of model trains that I have ever seen. He has been asking me for years to take photos of all his trains and the little vignettes he has set up, so that he can a) have a record of them in case he ever dismantles things or starts over, or b) write an article about them for one of his beloved train magazines. This Christmas, I finally got around to taking the photos, and I think it was the most well-received gift I have ever given.

I took about 70 photos and burned them onto a CD, printed around forty of the good ones on my little 4x6 photo printer (my second-best Ebay purchase ever), and got three 8x10s of my favorites printed at Walgreens. Bam. Favorite daughter-in-law of all time.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Not bad for a point-and-shoot, right? Plus, it was fun to take the real version of these photos.

February 05, 2010

Lisa: Voices Photos

I got to use my trusty photo printer for another Christmas gift--framed photos for the girls in Voices, the a cappella singing group I joined in the fall.

First, I made Sarah come to one of my concerts, with the express purpose of taking a workable photo. She performed admirably. Next, I got rid of red-eye and flash-related clothing transparency in Photoshop (very advanced for me).

I printed the photos and put them in a bunch of RIBBA frames I found at IKEA, and finished them off with a raffia bow. Easy peasy--and I think it definitely counts as homemade.

February 06, 2010

Lisa: book character softies

When I saw this adorable dollhouse created for homemade versions of Lauren Child's Charlie and Lola on sweet sweet life (found, I think, via loobylu), I knew Nora had to have her own Charlie and Lola dolls.

From there, things sort of spiraled out of control, and she had to have dolls of ALL of her favorite book characters. Luckily, it was harder than I thought to find suitable illustrations of the characters standing alone in a way that made sense for being cut out of context and played with, so the pool was limited a bit. As you can see, we also ended up with George and Martha, the Powerpuff Girls, Cynthia Rylant's Hansel and Gretel, the No No Yes Yes baby, Alice, Eloise, and Edith.

I scanned the images from Nora's books and printed them onto iron-on sheets with my hand-me-down inkjet printer. I love printable iron-ons, and I always keep a few packs on hand for spontaneous crafting. Anyway, I ironed the images onto some off-white cotton duck I already had--actually some old curtains from our first apartment--and cut matching backs out of a set of coordinating fat quarters from JoAnn's. You can kind of see the backing fabrics in this photo:

Nora's still a bit young for her dollhouse, but I think the more she gets into it, the more these little softies will get used. And they're so easy and inexpensive to make, I could always add in a few new ones (maybe even mini family members?) to keep things interesting. Plus, I like the idea of incorporating her favorite characters but retaining the feel of a homemade, non-commercial toy.

February 08, 2010

Lisa: Laptop Sleeve

You guessed it, another homemade Christmas gift! This one was for Angie.

I had been thinking about making a minimalist laptop sleeve, possibly out of pretty oilcloth, when I saw this one at geeksugar. It was exactly what I had in mind: no fussy extra handles or pockets, just a pretty, slim sleeve that would protect her computer inside another bag.

I struck a deal with Sarah for a piece of her Corner Station oilcloth (which is exactly the same print as the one in the article photo), and purchased a pattern I thought would work from Etsy.

The pattern--from Sew Spoiled--is great and easy to sew. Overall it was clear to follow and I was happy with the result. I had hoped the sleeve would fit a bit more closely, like the one in the geeksugar photo, but it has a little extra room. At least this way the zipper won't scratch Angie's laptop, and maybe she can throw in a little makeup bag for cords and a USB key or something.

My major regret is that I didn't choose more carefully the way the pattern would lie on the outside of the sleeve. I was so concerned with using as little of Sarah's oilcloth as possible that I didn't even check what the squares I was cutting would look like. On the pieces I ended up with, the arched feather motif seems VERY prominent (and Angie is not what I'd call a bird lover), and it's a little off-center as well. She was really sweet about it, though.

I do like the bright green fleece I found for the lining, and using fleece kept things cushy and protective--minimizing the repercussions from my not interpreting "heavyweight fusible interfacing" in the instructions as "fusible fleece."

Like a lot of my handmade gifts, I'd say this project was generally a success, but there are a few things I would change if I were to make it again. If only I could have made rough drafts for each present! Angie (or anyone else) if you want a revised version in time for the next appropriate holiday, let me know.

February 09, 2010

Sarah: Google

How did I watch the entire Super Bowl, yet miss the only good commercial?

Lisa: feather earrings

Mallory's present was another one that could have used a bit more advance planning.

I decided to make her some crazy feather earrings, which I've seen around a lot (most notably on the lovely Jillian), and I just grabbed some feathers and jewelry findings at the craft store and figured I'd wing it.

Luckily, I tried on my first attempt before wrapping the box. They went down past my boobs. Now, maybe if you are Jillian you can pull this off, but I think it takes a certain level of commitment to accessorizing that I wasn't sure Mallory shares.

I ripped them apart carefully, cut the feathers down several inches, and tried again.

I didn't take a photo of my third version, which came about because I remembered after wrapping the box that Mallory doesn't have pierced ears. Luckily it's not hard to swap out hooks for clips. If you think about these sorts of things before you start, though, this project is easy and fun! I want to make a pair for myself now.

February 10, 2010

Lisa: a cunning piece of knittery

I made this Jayne hat for my "shiny"-saying baby brother, Jeff. He didn't recognize it immediately, which I admit did make me doubt his Firefly credibility a tiny bit. I didn't doubt the accuracy of my hat replica, because it is clearly spot-on.

I used this pattern from Heather on Craftster, which was great. The yarn is Lion Brand Homespun, which is the only thing the regular craft store had that was rustic enough and came in remotely close colors. I've had a lot more knitting experience since last time I used Homespun, and besides, I'd say the yarn is easier to knit with than to crochet with. When you're crocheting, you have to figure out what loop to pick up from the mass of your project; with knitting, the loops are already on the other needle. Anyway, since I had to buy three huge skeins, I probably could have spent less on something more appropriate at the real yarn store, but whatever. Jayne hats for everyone!

I am notoriously bad at checking my gauge, and I was worried the hat would turn out way too big for Jeff's smallish head, but it was perfect! Jeff even humored me by wearing his hat everywhere he went for an entire week.

February 11, 2010

Lisa: purse-frame clutch

I meant to post a few blog entries while we were in Spring City for the holiday weekend, but my cute family (and The Invention of Lying) seemed more important at the time. What do you say we just back-date a few entries, get caught up, and pretend this little lapse never happened? It's not like these Christmas present entries aren't already a month or so overdue.

I decided to make Marci a purse-frame clutch, which is another project I've been wanting to try. I started with this purse frame, which I found on Etsy. It was very important to me to find a kiss lock frame with really big balls. I tried looking around for patterns, but I guess there's just too much variation between purse frames for a traditional pattern to work. I ended up following this tutorial from U-handbag instead.

The black-and-pink tweed fabric and the pink lining were from my stash, and I bought some Platinum Bond Super Fabric textile adhesive to glue the fabric into the frame. The gluing was by far the trickiest part of making the clutch. Tucking the fabric edges into the frame opening and getting them all to stay in at once without getting gobs of glue on the rest of the purse fabric was almost impossible. I ended up using the end of a metal knitting needle to poke things into place, and luckily the dry adhesive can be picked off the metal frame.

A little more thoughtful measuring would have served me well here, and I think I also made things more difficult for myself by using thicker fabrics and by deciding to add pleats at the last minute--which made things thicker and even less exact. The sewing involved is really easy, though, and a clutch is really small and can be finished quickly. Quick projects are so satisfying.

February 12, 2010

Lisa: The Eye of Jupiter

For my dad the painting lover, I finished an oil painting I'd started years ago. I realize that space photos are an odd subject for such a traditional medium, but something about the layers of gases around the Great Red Spot reminded me of brush strokes in thick paint. Plus, I think images that seem abstract but are actually realistic are kind of fascinating--maybe I can attribute this to reading Powers of Ten a million times as a kid. Whatever. Clearly I cannot articulate this in an intelligent fashion. Also, sorry about the lackluster photography.

February 13, 2010

Lisa: A New Hope

These gifts for the Bossyths (that is, the beautiful and talented Valori, Jillian, and Kaeleigh) were some of the first I decided to make, and some of the last to be completed.

Perhaps I should explain. 1) The Bossyths love costumes more than anyone else I know. It only seems fitting that they should own one of the most iconic costumes in cinematic history. 2) I happened to already own a very large quantity of stretchy white fabric. 3) Everything is more awesome in multiples. 4) Wouldn't you enjoy arriving at Yuma Haus for a night of relaxed TV viewing, only to find one of the ladies of the Haus lounging in a Leia costume? I thought so.

I improvised a pattern using this helpful advice. I ran into trouble twice: once when I cut the neck openings too large (right after being specifically instructed not to) and again when I left the main body of the dresses twice as wide as they needed to be. Thank goodness, both errors were ultimately fixable.

You can see photos of the ladies good-naturedly wearing their costumes here (on Facebook) or here. E made the awesome matching belts as her gift.

February 14, 2010

Lisa: platters

This is the present that ate Christmas. I don't know why I thought it would be really easy and inexpensive to just throw together a homemade pottery platter for my mom, but I did. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose. On the bright side, 1) she ended up with two awesome and humongous new platters to replace some that went missing from storage, 2) I got to force Sarah to spend a lot of quality time with me, and 3) I think I also get to check "sign up for a pottery class" off my list.

We didn't get any photos of our first session at Rob's studio, but we spent a lot of time squeezing blocks of clay into flat slabs, cutting those into circles (for the platter bases), turning those on the wheel and scraping them with spirals, extruding more clay for the platter sides through a homemade template on a Play-Doh contraption on steroids, and painstakingly attaching and shaping the sides on the wheel.

Rob let the platters dry in his studio for a while, and then put them through their first firing. He's the one who suggested we make two platters--so that if one broke in the kiln, we'd still have a presentable gift for my mom. Rob's watchful eye and expertise kept them both intact, and I brought the fired platters home and sanded off the really rough bits.

Back at the studio for our second session, Sarah (who was really sick and a SUPER good sport) and I chose glaze colors and mixed them up by hand while Rob built a form to hold the glaze. It had to be wide and deep enough to dip the platters into, but also maximize the amount of glaze we had. There is a surprising amount of math that goes into pottery-making. We wiped down the sanded platters and carefully dipped them into the glaze. While they dried a bit, we bailed gallons and gallons of glaze back into the garbage-can storage bins. Then we had to scrape the glaze off the bottoms of the platters so the final firing wouldn't melt them onto the kiln shelves.

Rob put in one more marathon kiln session, and the platters were done! Dishwasher, microwave, and even oven safe (if they would fit in any of those handy devices), and large enough to serve four children...to a table of hungry child-eating monsters.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Thank you again to Rob Marquardt, scientist-artist, and most of all to Sarah, for helping me to bring even my most ridiculous ideas to fruition.

February 23, 2010

Sarah: Tool of the Week

I am still not positive how I feel about this iPhone App, but I'm excited enough to tell you to download it:

Sleep Cycle

You plug in your phone, turn on the app, set an alarm, and place the phone, glass down, on your mattress next to your head.

Then in the morning you can see how you slept, based on how much you moved around during the night. This is very entertaining to me, as I've always secretly wanted to spend a few nights in a sleep lab, or record myself (Do I snore regularly? How much? Do I talk in my sleep? Please say yes.). Or video tape myself (not creepy. Okay, a little creepy but how much do I move? I need to know).

So. How do I sleep? If you asked me last week, I would guess that I spend an abnormal amount of time dreaming, then fall into a deep death sleep at the exact moment that I should wake up. But instead, I got this:

Disappointingly normal.
Let's see what the Sleep Cycle website says is normal. Well this is an example of a drunk person:

Wait. That looks like my sleep one day when not drunk.

And what happened here?

So far (I've only had the app for four days) I haven't noticed a significant improvement in my waking-up experience, which is supposed to be one of the perks of using this app. The first night I was more awake because I felt like I was trying to win the game of sleeping. I'll be interested to see if my sleeping changes as I become accustomed to being watched by my phone.

One other thing that's changed: I usually am almost awake/awake but not ready to get up about two hours before my alarm clock goes off. I usually will check my phone at this time, see if I have texts or emails. This app makes it so that I can't use my phone. This is probably a good habit to break, but part of me wishes that it didn't monopolize my phone all night. Though I guess it cant sense my movements if I'm playing a round of 5 am Boggle.

Moral of the story: This app is a fun distraction and my own personal sleep lab, even if it is an ineffective alarm clock.

February 25, 2010

Sarah: Sleep Cycle, Part 2

Welcome to Sleep Cycle, Part 2, otherwise known as My Friend Might Be Undead.

E and I are still fascinated by this iPhone App and compared sleep charts. And let me tell you, the scientific term for E's sleep pattern is "bizarro". I've included some sample charts to explain.

A normal night should consist of 90 minute cycles between dreaming and deep sleep. Your phone registers these cycles based on you moving very little during deep sleep and then moving more while dreaming. That was your lesson for the day. Now here's a typical night for E:

I can only assume that someone knocked on her coffin and startled E at 6:50 am.

E claims that she wakes up several times during the night. But according to her sleep graphs (and every night is like this, you guys), she must hold perfectly still, eyes open and blinking ominously. I am concerned for her well-being.

On the other hand, she would be an ideal bed mate. Until you rolled over and saw her staring at you, immobile but awake.