Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Letting Yourself Be Yourself: A Holiday Lesson

 I thought I would repost this from a couple of years back, given that its the season of resolutions and all---the lessons are still valid and I am still learning them.

The holidays and thinking about resolutions reminded me of something that happened several Christmases ago, and what I learned from it.

Ugly Doll
Perhaps you have seen those "Ugly" dolls that are all the rage with children? Perhaps you know some kids who have some? Well, several years ago, just before they were starting to get really popular, I had a family Christmas to go to and nephew to get a present for. I didn't have hardly any money but I did have (and still do, by golly!) a bunch of fabric scraps and some imagination. The Ugly Dolls inspired me and so I thought, hey, I can make a monster doll for my nephew! It'll be great and no one else will have one like it!

And so I made one with the freehand newspaper pattern I made that you see at the top. I used plaid fabric and I gave the monster a happy, non-threatening smile while still retaining its "monster" qualities. It was so darn cute I wanted to keep it for myself.

Well, I should have.

Christmas day came. My nephew opened the monster. He was noncommital about it---after all, he had a towering stack of plastic toys made in China to get to!! And I knew from the start that I couldn't compete with that.

What I didn't expect was the reaction from his mother. She was horrified and she didn't keep it a secret. Later, when she thought I wasn't looking, I saw her pick it up off the pile of presents, gave it a disgusted look and hurled it into the corner. Whether she was upset because it was a quirky monster or because it was hand made, or both, I'll never know.

I was just sick at heart. I lay all night in the guest bedroom thinking about whether or not I should creep out and steal the monster back. That sweet little monster is probably moldering in a landfill right now.

I let that one incident stifle me for about a year. I didn't sew at all or make any more monsters.

Then one day I was looking at a huge vintage 70s tie I had and something about it made me think, hey, I could fold it this way and make an owl!

And I did. I put some up in my Etsy store and I have sold all the ones that I have listed. (and one of my resolutions for the new year is: make time to make more!)  Updated note: I have a bunch of these ready to list in my new shop, Moss and Root!

Somewhere during this time I also came across this book:

Fitting In Is Overrated

I'm not all that big on the self-help stuff but this book made an impression on me. The section on family is especially good.

I guess what I am trying to tell you is:  sometimes people aren't going to appreciate your vision, sometimes they might even be mean to you, BUT GO ON ANYWAYS. Because it is your life and your vision. Don't let people with pre-conceived ideas and a lack of imagination dictate your progress. Don't let them stifle you. Because then it is really YOU stifling you. I let a whole year of sewing creativity be wasted because an unimaginative and unkind person didn't approve of my vision and I let that affect me.

Don't let that happen to you, dear viewers. Let yourself be yourself.

Friday, December 26, 2014

My Cheaty Buche de Noel!

A couple of posts back I talked about how I am obsessed with buche de noel and how this was the year I would make one.

And here it is! Now, I will let you in on a secret---I "made" it by buying a pre-made rolled cake from the grocery store and pre-made frosting. Then I stuck a bunch of plastic decorations on it. The mushrooms aren't even meringue. They're paperclay. *for shame*

 But you see, I just had to have a log cake with gnomes on it this year. And time, as it does around the holidays,  ran out on me.  This cake is a carrot cake and the frosting is cream cheese. The frosting was white, and to make it a brown color I added a bit of cocoa powder.

Now I am gonna be honest with you. Visually, the whole thing turned out the way I wanted it to. Taste-wise, however, not so good! Standard grocery store (I will not name names) cake and frosting in a can is simply just not very good. They use so much weirdly processed sugar that just a thin slice of something like this can cause a stomach ache. So, next year I will get on it earlier and make something that is actually edible, ha ha!!

Hope your holidays have been going well----here comes the New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Birthday of the Sun

Happy Solstice!! I had to rush like crazy to get these photos done and up today----shortest day of the year, and darkening already by 3:30!!

I always bust out this garland on the winter solstice---a reproduction of an old early 1800s American  sun design.
Stay warm, and may the good cheer flow, the sun is on its way back :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fairy Tale Tea Cup

One of the DIYs I keep seeing on Pinterest that I have been meaning to get around to is the Sharpie mug project. Basically, you draw on a mug with a Sharpie pen and bake the cup in an oven at 350 degrees, for half an hour, to set the design. There are various opinions on whether this method "works" or not. Obviously it won't be as good as firing a glazed design into a cup in a high temp kiln. But how many of us have kilns? I don't---so Sharpies it is!

My experience is this---if you don't put the item in the dishwasher, and you don't apply abrasives to the design (don't rub it with a scrubber sponge, for example) it will last for quite awhile. I first did a few standard mugs---then I realized that vintage tea cups would make a good medium. Especially for a design that says "Fairy Tale", no?

I used black and gold Sharpies and baked the tea cup in an old toaster oven I keep just for crafts. I would recommend NOT drawing in the area that you are going to put your mouth on---in other words, don't decorate the rim. This tea cup already had a classic vintage gold rim.

I noticed recently that Mod Podge has a "dishwasher safe" glaze that can be used on mugs. Perhaps a coating of that over the design would prolong its life. Something to try, eventually.

All in all, a satisfying project that can really be done for pennies, if you get your mugs or tea cups at the thrift store. I bought this particular cup/saucer at the Salvation Army for .99.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Buche de Noel


I have been obsessed with the holiday cake "Buche de Noel".  The woodland style is right in my aesthetic zone, and I have been planning to make one for years. This may just be the year I pull it off. Have you ever made one?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What I Did On Black Friday

I have essentially been boycotting Black Friday for years. The crowds, the noise, the excessive consumerism, the chance of bodily harm....not worth it for me and most of the stuff out there in the malls and big box retailers isn't what I want or would want to give to other people, or could even afford on sale. Last year I started a tradition of posting my alternative activities on this oh-so-American day (although I was appalled to see that it has spread to London!!!). Last year it was all about not getting dressed and drinking tea and reading books. This year, a trip to the coast and appreciating the dramatic beauty of our ocean:

Hobbity coastal forest

And look, another amanita!! 

It was so windy I could barely keep the camera straight to take this small snippet. The ocean foam was blowing off the sea and coating the shoreline like whipped cream.

All in all, much more refreshing than standing in line at Walmart :)

Today is Small Business Saturday and I will be leaving the house to visit a couple of local stores to pick up some small gifts. I am not anti-retail. I have Etsy shops after all! But I am a proponent of small businesses, whether on the web or based locally.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Video Games as Cultural Transmission

Never Alone
I play some video games. Occasionally, I watch other people play them online. I have always been fascinated with these games in the sense that they are one of the strongest widespread continuing storytelling traditions that we have in the modern world---the games themselves, with their story lines and their use of mythology or cultural mores, and also, the stories that gamers tell about games and their experiences playing them. By now you may have heard of Minecraft; this game has generated gazillions of different story lines, has its own terminology and its own legendary players.

I was really excited to come across a brand new game, Never Alone. This is the first video game to be created in collaboration with the Alaskan Inupiaq Native community.  The whole thing is based on an indigenous story about an extremely harsh blizzard and features a girl and her fox companion who go through eight chapters of adventure, in a puzzle-solving format, to find the source of the blizzard. I watched about an hour play-through of this game and in it I saw a variety of helping spirits (as depicted above) and an intriguing shaman-like character called Owl Man. The whole game is interspersed with asides that explain various cultural aspects. And, it is extraordinarily beautiful, with gorgeous animation.

This is genius. What a profoundly effective way to transmit intergenerational knowledge. And, it gives me hope. While I like video games and play them regularly (I'm big on sword and sorcery games) I realize that there is a lot of crap out there. Gratuitously violent, prurient, misogynist, empty, hollow. And wasteful of an excellent opportunity. Never Alone takes that opportunity and makes something fun, exciting, informational, beautiful and, dare I say, even spiritual---and it assures the preservation and transmission of at least a small amount of important cultural heritage.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Moss and Root

Hand-stamped ocean rock available here

My new handmade Etsy shop Moss and Root is up and running, just in time for the holiday season! Right now, I have a small selection of the ocean/river stones that I have personally collected and hand stamped with phrases. More will be on the way. It's ridiculous how many heart-shaped rocks I have collected over the years, but that's the ultimate benefit of being a hoarder. At any rate, I am offering my blog readers 10% off if you use the code YOUROCK at checkout. xoxo

Thursday, November 6, 2014

More Amanitas!

I was surprised to come across these amanita muscaria at a coastal wayside. As you can see from the above picture, it looks like they are growing in a combination of pine needles and sand, which I was not aware they could do.

These seemed to be in an advanced state of decay, beginning to turn into mush. But how fabulous to see them in a place where I had never seen them growing before. A true harbinger of fall :)

Friday, October 31, 2014


Carving the big orange pumpkins that we do nowadays is a relatively new thing, and is considered a very American thing as well. Though gourd carving has been practiced all over the world, back in the day, at least as far back as the 1800s (and doubtlessly even farther back), people in Europe, especially England and Ireland, would carve lanterns out of turnips and beets. I decided to give beet carving a whirl this Halloween and was very pleased with the results.

I love very primitive, simple figures and these beet carvings certainly fit the bill.

A small tea light will just barely fit into these---also, I threaded some wire-covered ribbon through the sides of the beets to make handles.

There are all sorts of possibilities---carved zucchinis, apples, acorn squash, etc etc. I used an apple corer to hollow out the beets and then just a small knife to carve the simple faces. I love how it is an older tradition, but makes my Halloween display look different, edgier somehow.

Happy All Hallow's Eve!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Found Art Project---Paper Masks

As we turn towards Halloween, it occurred to me that this is an excellent time to do another art storm. Especially since I had some paper masks left over from a recent thrift trip that were very spirit-of-the-season. None of them had strings on them, so I made some fasteners out of some left-over yarn I had from a previous art storm and soaked the yarn in one of my favorite fragrances, the aptly-named "Autumn".  I then took the masks out and left them along a running trail. This time I decided to group them all together in a thicket at a turn in the trail system.

This way, when someone comes around the corner, at least from one direction, they will be met with all these faces hanging from the bushes. Had I more time, I would have made some masks of my own to go with these pre-printed masks---I think it would be incredible to have dozens of these hanging off of bushes and trees---maybe next time :)

Boo! Happy Halloween :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Further Mushroom Festivities

 In keeping with the mushroom theme of my former post, I thought I'd share some pictures from this weekend's Yachats Village Mushroom Festival. Located in a charming coastal town, this festival is smaller than the other one I usually attend, but it more than makes up for it's size with it's overall spirit---the whole town gets into a mushroomy mood. 

I have to say that our weather has been very dry and hot this year. I was a little worried about how many mushrooms might actually be out by the time the festival occurred, given how little moisture there was. Fortunately, it rained a few days beforehand and when I stopped with my friend to go on a favorite little forest path, we saw tons of new mushrooms sprouting out of the pine-needle carpet:

This bode well for the festival and, indeed, there were plenty to be seen, both on the walk we attended and the display that was set up in the Lion's Hall.

Amanita Muscaria

Cauliflower Mushroom

The mushroom walk revealed not only amazing mushrooms,

Lobster Mushroom


But also this guy, who was nestled down in the moss next to a clump of small fungus:

A newt? A salamander?

We also visited the Giant Spruce Tree which has an opening under it large enough to get inside:

In town, we made a stop at the Lion's Thrift Store and, in keeping with the woodland flavor of the day, we found these awesome fabric fern napkins for a quarter apiece!

I have to share this with you, a present my friend got on Etsy and gave me in honor of our mushroom celebrations:

Cart Before The Horse

Incidentally, if you are interested in Amanita Muscaria and it's presence in folklore and history, please see my friend's blog Raven's Bread, where she has long been collecting various images of the Amanita in art and culture.

Ye olde disclaimer--I am not a mycologist. I present these pictures for our mutual enjoyment, not for identification purposes. If you are going to collect mushrooms, do so with an experienced mushroomer.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Owl Tea Party

I'm a firm believer that if you have really amazing vintage china, then you should use it. Sure, keeping it safe high on a bureau or in a china cabinet is better for it in the long run, but these things were made to be used---they long to be used.

So that is what I did around the turn of the Fall Equinox when I invited my friend over for some tea in my prized owl teapot, and for some "glamourbombing".  I had never heard of the term "glamourbombing" before I met my friend Dver---I had always known the practice as "found art", "guerilla art", or "artstorming"  (see another example of one we did in the past here). The reasons for doing this can range from the simple joy of creating an art piece and releasing it free into the world for someone else to find, to serious devotional offerings. And sometimes, for all reasons together. The theme we chose for this session was mushroom appreciation. And, no, we didn't drink mushroom tea (the mushroom in the picture is a maitake)---we drank the Lavender Tulsi tea you see in the picture above. Quite good, BTW.

I did make mushroom-shaped sugar cookies for the occasion and they turned out great!! You can buy all kinds of wacky, glittery frostings that probably aren't especially healthy, but they look fabulous. You have to make concessions sometimes:

Fall is an excellent time to appreciate mushrooms as many varieties of them choose to pop out of their mycelium carpet during this time. They are some of the most amazing organisms on the entire planet. And, they have a significant presence in religion, myth and folklore. Dver and I chose slightly different mediums for our glamourbombs this time around---she made some wonderful paper clay mushrooms painted in metallic colors:

 some great little paper mushrooms on popsicle sticks:


 and some hanging tags made with mushroom playing cards (off to the left):

I ended up making the mushroom/lichen tiaras you see in the picture

We took our treasures/offerings to a wooded park and distributed them along the path and in the trees:

While we were placing our glamours a woman came up to us and said she was an art instructor at the university and that she loved what we were doing---art should come off the "white walls" and out into public.

Couldn't agree more :)

All the pictures in this post, except for the owl teapot and cookies pictures, were taken by Dver.