Friday, October 31, 2014

Diva Challenge #191: Betweed (And a couple of random ZIAs!)

Just a quick post with this week's Diva entry: Betweed as a monotangle
It's been a rough week around here: my mother in law's visit from across the country managed to coincide exactly with my 3-year-old's sudden fever, headache and respiratory illness that had us into the doctor twice. By the time my MIL was ready to leave, it had also spread to my 18 month old. My 5 year old is also hacking (although thankfully not nearly so sick as the other two got!) and even I am feeling some postnasal drip and congestion.  Thankfully the girls are both much better now, and neither my husband or MIL seem to have caught it!

In any case, I didn't have much opportunity to tangle until last night. I've always liked Betweed, and it crops up fairly regularly in my unplanned tangles. It was a bit of a challenge to use it as a monotangle, however - which, come to think of it, is kind of the point!
To keep it interesting, I used sharp, square edges in the central shape and round, organic edges in the surrounding shapes. I rather like how it turned out! Moreover, in classic Zentangle fashion, it did help me bleed off some of the stress of the day and week.  :)
By the by, before I learned Betweed, I played around with a pattern I found on Pinterest called Plait. I realized later that the end result of Plait is visually indistinguishable from Betweed, although it is drawn quite differently, beginning with the zig-zag.  Interesting how there can be many ways to do things!

I did actually manage to find a few minutes here and there to work on a little seasonal project: this is a pumpkin from the Dollar Tree

I used Shattuck and Flukes, which I think meld together fairly nicely. I experimented with different ways of drawing Shattuck, and managed to get the arcs going completely the wrong direction on one pumpkin rib - I'm just going to keep that one turned away! :)
I'm not sure if the chrysanthemum design on top of the pumpkin has a name - it just seemed a good way to fill in the empty space.

Finally, before the kids were sick we were able to visit our local science museum and it just happened to be the day of the partial solar eclipse. It was a typical rainy, cloudy October day in Oregon, but the clouds rolled away just in time for us to see the eclipse at it's 60% occlusion peak.

It was a very cool experience for all parties. When we got home I was inspired to try this little ZIA

 This is a monotangle of Vano, a newer pattern up on that I quite like.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Last Minute Parrot Costume

James (5) was talking about his Halloween costume Months ago. Thankfully for his mommy, he'd decided to be a pirate by sometime in September. Grace (nearly 4) agreed to be a Pirate Princess, and I decided that a Parrot would be a perfect coordinating costume for Lucy (18 months.) The costume turned out to be doubly appropriate as in the last few weeks Lucy has entered wholeheartedly into the parrot phase of language development: she will attempt to say almost anything you ask, with frequently hilarious results!
(Of course, in the mean time Grace has reneged: she wants to be a straight up princess. Oh well!)

Lucy's parrot costume turned out to be nice and easy. I didn't take photos during construction, but if you have just a wee bit of crafting confidence, you can probably figure it out from the photos of the completed costume. I probably spent under three hours on it, mostly working on front of the TV and sewing by hand since my machine is broken.


* Polar Fleece in 2 to 5 colors (see notes)
* 1/4 or 1/2 inch wide elastic
* 1 pipe cleaner
This Free Pattern for the hat from
* Butcher paper or a cut open paper grocery sack for pattern making 


* Needle and thread, or a sewing machine. 
* Sharp fabric scissors
* Pins

Materials Notes: 

An 18 month old isn't very big, and I was able to use remnants of fleece left over from other projects.
The width of your largest piece will be your child's "wing span:" wrist to wrist, and the height will be the distance between the nape of her neck and the small of her back. The other pieces will be a little smaller.

If you're looking to save $ on yardage and there's no sale at JoAnn's, take a cruise through Goodwill or the Dollar Tree for solid color fleece blankets. You could also use felt.

I used roughly 2 feet of elastic for the costume; obviously you'll need more for a larger kid.

Step 1: Making Your Pattern

  • You will be drawing a right triangle on your pattern paper. (Or, live on the edge and draw directly on the fleece!)  
    • Measure from your child's wrist to the center of her back.  This is the long side of the triangle. 
    • Measure from the nape of your child's neck to the small of her back. This is the short side of the triangle. Draw these on your pattern paper. 
    • Lightly draw in the hypotenuse of the triangle. 
  • Depending on how precise you want to be, you can either draw in scallop shapes for the "feathers," or you can just eye-ball them when you cut the fabric. I only did about 3-4 scallops. 
  • Again depending on how exact you like to be, draw in the other two layers at this time. I am pretty sure that I eyeballed them, but if I was working on a larger child's costume I probably would have drawn them first. 

Step 2: Cutting Out the Cape

  • Fold your base piece of fleece in half lengthwise and pin the pattern to it. (If desired, cut out the pattern first. I didn't!) 
  • Cut through both layers of the fabric.
  • Repeat for the other layers of the cape. If you drew them in on the base pattern piece, you can just follow the lines. Otherwise, be brave and eyeball it! 

Step 3: Cutting out the Feathers 

  • If you're an exacting type of person, make a pattern piece for a feather about 5-6 inches long and cut three of them. Once again, I eyeballed it. (Are you seeing a theme here?!) 
  • The crest feathers will be threaded onto a pipe cleaner, so you will need to cut an identical front and back piece for each. I made two crest feathers. 

Step 4: Sewing the cape 

I have seen instructions for this type of project calling for hot glue, or hot fabric glue. Personally, I hate glue, and was more than willing to do this little amount of hand sewing. 

  • Using thread that matches or is slightly *lighter* than your second layer, arrange layer two on top of layer one and sew either by hand or on your machine. 
  • Repeat for layer three. 

Step 5: Sewing on the Straps

  • At this point you need to go chase down your child and do a little fitting. 
  • Hold the cape up to her back and mark a spot an inch or so to the left and right of her neck. 
  • Attach the straps here, perhaps 1/2 an inch below the top of the fabric. 
  • You might find it easiest to pin (safety pin?) before sewing, because now you need to find the bottom of the strap. Each strap will cross the body and attach an inch or so under the opposite arm pit. 
  • Either mark this spot or pin the strap. 
  • Now sew, using the method of your choice. Note that the stitching will show at the bottom of the strap so use a coordinating thread. 
  • Finally, sew a small loop of elastic to the very tip of each "wing" to hold the cape to your child's wrists. 

Step 6: Sewing on the Tail Feathers 

  • Arrange the feathers in a bunch at the bottom of the cape and pin. Sew in place. 

Step 7: Sewing the Hat

First, sew the feathers.
  • Loosely baste a tube into each of the crest feathers, sewing front and back together. You will thread this tube onto a pipe cleaner. You could also use glue, or you could hand-sew your pipe cleaner directly to the feather if it is a coordinating color. 
  • Fold a pipe cleaner in half, and insert one end into each of the feathers. 
Next, the hat
  • Print the hat base pattern pieces from the pattern linked to above and cut them out of your fleece. 
  • Sew the hat according to the instructions. 
    • While you're looking at the hat instructions anyway, take note of the way the dinosaur "horns" attach. You're going to use a similar placement for the crest feathers. 
  • Before sewing up the "V" in hat, place your feathers into the crown of hat. Leave about 1-2 inches of the pipe cleaner on the inside of the hat to stabilize the feathers against your child's head when the hat is on. 
  • Remember you're sewing it inside out, so they will be "inside" the hat when you place them, with the remnant of the pipe cleaner sticking "out." You're going to want to do this sewing by hand since I doubt your sewing machine needle will like running over a pipe cleaner. 
  • Finish sewing the hat according to pattern directions. 

That's it. You're done! Easy peasy and cute as all get out!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Diva Challenge #190

This week's challenge from The Diva is to use pink on our tiles in honor of breast cancer victims, either specific or in general. There probably aren't many who's lives have not been touched by this disease: while I have very thankfully not lost a relative, my cousins lost an aunt about five years ago. My own grandmother was a survivor until her death from heart disease 10 or 15 years later. It's a nasty one.
That said, I consciously abstained from making my tile entirely pink or incorporating the ribbon shape that's become practically eponymous with the disease. Perhaps it's because I really haven't been up close and personal with cancer of any sort, or maybe it's because I had at the back of my head sort of sensed some of the frustrations with "pinkwashing" I later saw eloquently put to words here. Or, maybe it's just 'cause I'm not all that fond of pink! :-D
Anyway, here it is. A bed of Lanie - which I used a couple of weeks ago, but not nearly so well as here - with a curly bracket feather that my husband put into my head looked more like a fern, so I went ahead and highlighted it with a green metallic gelly roll pen.

When I stopped working on this one after the Lanie was (finally) done, I fully intended to come back the next morning and put something in the white space above the fern. However, after sleeping on it, I realized that I was probably not going to improve upon it by adding anything up there. So there's quite a lot more empty area than I am used to leaving - but I think the balance is right.

It's all on a 4 inch bar coaster in the traditional micron and graphite combo with the pink metallic highlight from an off-brand Sharpie analog.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Toddler-proof your Fridge's Water Dispenser

As frequent readers already know (all four of them!), we have a real spitfire of an 18-month-old on our hands just now. She has incredibly strong opinions about everything from food to footwear, Loves to mimic her parents and older siblings, and is absolutely impervious to any amount of shouted "No's", scolding, or any other means of getting her attention when she's decided on a course of action. (I know, shouting never works. Sorry. I seem to keep doing it anyway!)

The last month or three she's decided that she wants nothing to do with sippy cups. No, she wants her water in an open cup. To her credit, she often spills only a little when she's paying attention, but the problem is when she's done. Not willing to let the fun end, she proceeds to dump the remaining water on the nearest surface, then play in the mess.
Even more recently, she's discovered that she can, with the proper vessel, reach and activate the water dispenser in the refrigerator door. (Which does not, needless to say, have any sort of a child lock. I checked. Twice!) A couple of days ago I'd left her unsupervised for 10 minutes or so (bad Mommy!), and when I came down to investigate the suspicious quiet, found that she'd been repeatedly filling up a tiny paper cup, walking across two rooms, and then pouring the contents on the kid table in the living room.
It was my final straw: I went looking for some cardboard and duct tape, and soon my fridge door looked like this:

"But Mommy, how will we get water?!" whined my eldest.  "You'll have to walk down to the bathroom," I replied. "How will we get ice, though?!" he demanded. "Well, you won't. You don't really need it anyway," I answered, perhaps a tad crossly.

Less than 24 hours later, however, the whole question was moot: the baby found removing the whole assembly a trivial task - not to mention one that made a Great ripping noise! - and we were back to square one.
Yes, I could have used 3x as much duct tape and probably prevented her getting it loose. But the fact was, everyone in the household is really used to getting their beverages from that dispenser, and I didn't want to give it up.

Googling for solutions didn't really turn up much, at least on the commercial side of things. I did find a discussion board in which a parent suggested using a block or other object to temporarily disable the lever.  Since most of the other responses could be grouped into one of two unrealistic or untenable categories (1. Teach your kid not to do it, and 2. Disconnect it at the back and drain the hose), I was interested.

I cast about in my kitchen for a likely object, and picked up this plastic lid from an empty peanut butter jar:

Not really expecting much, I fiddled around with the dispenser, and found that it could just hang off the back of the lever like this: 

To my delight I found that it effectively disables the lever, and yet can be easily removed and replaced by a competent adult.

Our baby isn't tall enough to reach this high, so unless she finds a step stool (we try to keep them hidden and away from the kitchen already!), she'd not going to be able to get past it.
The other two kids are probably going to find it a bit of a challenge - especially putting it Back - but I intend to train them to get me if they're unable to put things back the way they found them.  Or they can always get their water from the bathroom.  :-)

Now, a couple of quick notes before you run off to pilfer a lid:

  • This lid has a fairly deep lip. I don't think a metal lid such as the kind that come on a commercial glass jar would work. I tried using the metal rim from a Mason jar alone, but it is in fact the solid part of the lid that stops the lever from being depressed. While it is deep enough to hang on, you'd have to use rim and lid in conjunction. 
  • I am assuming that my dispenser's design is reasonably standard, but have no simple way of testing this. So your millage may vary. (In fact, this does Not work on my parents' older fridge.)

Hey, if it Doesn't work for you - and better yet, if you have a solution of your own! - let me know in a comment!
Just don't tell me to  teach my kid to leave it alone. I've tried that. I AM trying that. Really! But I need a mechanical solution in the interim, and you may too!

UPDATE: This post is from October. By early December my incredibly intelligent now 20-month-old had figured out how to remove the "lock" - a trick that actually still often defeats her four-year-old sister.
I am milking a few more weeks or months out of the solution by using a lid from a vitamin bottle. It's just as deep as the peanut butter lid, but only about 1/2 the diameter. This extra inch or so puts it out of her reach, for now!
Now, if only she'd use her powers for good rather than evil... :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Diva Challenge #189: Yuma

Black and red Micron with pencil on 4 inch bar coaster

I was immediately drawn to Yuma when I saw it on a few weeks back, but I had a surprisingly difficult time grocking how to use the seeds, where the "rays" should start and end, etc. On this attempt, I decided to simply let it go (sorry, fellow over-Frozen parents!)  I am not sure that it looks exactly like the step-out - actually, I know it doesn't  - but it felt like it was flowing pretty well while I was doing it, and I am reasonably pleased with the result. 
I actually started with LG and then added a single iteration of A1 (it's the spiral-y thing center right - sorry, no link*) and finally added the Yuma, using the first  variation growing out of the LG aura lines. Oh, and of course some Fescu cropped up on top! 

Things I like: 
  • I left a border, which I usually forget to do
  • I didn't fill every single square centimeter within the border - again, something I have trouble doing
  • The basic homogeneity of the patterns which allows them to flow together without obvious "string" breaks. 

Things I am less fond of
  • Still not excited about my red micron. I bought a new one from the open stock area at Michael's, but it turned out to be closer to plum than the brick red I am seeking so I didn't use it here. 
  • I would leave the Yuma seeds white next time
  • Maybe a little less red overall would have been better. 

And now, a little rant PSA regarding the appropriate linking of blogs, yours or others. 

Fellow blog owners may be aware that blog engines such as Blogger display your most recent four or five posts on your "home" page. This is what visitors will see when they visit (in my case)

This is, of course, a changing set of posts - every time you add a new one, the oldest one falls off the bottom. 

"That's interesting Annette," you say, "but who cares?" 
Trust me, You do! 
How many times have you followed a pin from Pinterest for a promising pattern only to find that the page on which you arrives contains absolutely Nothing about the recipe, craft project, or tangle pattern you were all excited about? 
This is almost always because the original pinner linked to the blog's Homepage (i.e. rather than the specific post (i.e. 
Days or weeks went by, and the blogger kept adding great content. Eventually, the post in question fell off the bottom and got lost - maybe forever! 
(*This is what happened to me with the pattern "A1." The image I re-pinned linked to which, while not technically her homepage, is still a page whose content is dynamic rather than static. The blog is furthermore in German, one of many hundreds of languages that I, as a typical American, have never learned. She doesn't have a search function, and my chances of finding more about "A1" - or even giving you a link! - are pretty much nil.) 

"OK, Annette, I get it now! How can I stop this from happening to me?"
Thankfully, it's pretty simple! When you link to anything - or even PIN anything - take a moment to click on the title of the post you are reading. For instance, if you want to link to my little PSA, you should click up where it says "Diva Challenge #189: Yuma." 
When you do, you'll see the page address change from to

This is the address you want to copy and paste if you are (for instance) entering your blog post in the Diva's challenge. Or, if you are pinning an image from the post, this is where you want to click the Pin button.

Having trouble deciding if you are on someone's homepage vs. a specific blog post? Here's your big clue: if you scroll down and see more than one blog post (or post summary), you're either on the home page or another dynamically generated page, and you Should Not Link Here! Again, click the title of the post you are reading, and Then you can link or pin.

Please, Never click the "Pin" button when you're on someone's homepage. 

And, like the Diva says, never put your homepage in the "linky" machine. It may work today. Unless you're really prolific it will probably work all week, even all month. But eventually it won't, and those who really want to see the entries to, say, challenge #126 will be sorely disappointed. 
OK, thanks for listening. Pin safely fellow crafters! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Yeah, We Homeschool!

Today, we did a science unit exploring the concepts of evaporation and the multiple states of water, a math unit and subtraction drill, and a Bible unit - all before we left the breakfast table.
Sounds pretty pretentious, doesn't it?

Here's what actually happened:
I was processing the chicken stock I made overnight in the crockpot. As I divided it into containers I observed that I had only 6 cups of the stuff, although I'd started out with 10 cups of water yesterday evening.

I asked James (5) "so, how many cups are missing, and where did they go?" His off the cuff answer to the first question was wrong, so I pulled out 10 grapes which he lined up in front of him. He ate them one at a time until there were 6 left, and got the correct answer of 4. Next, we discussed where the missing water had gone, and after a bit of prompting he figured out it had turned into steam.

Meanwhile, Grace (not quite 4) thought she needed to get in on the counting. I handed her 10 Cheerios which she proceeded to line up and eat one at a time, counting the remainder on each iteration while I said things like "You ate 4 and now there are 6, so 10 take away 4 is 6" or "look, you ate 5 and you have 5 left, so 5 is half of 10!" This held her attention clear down to the last Cheerio.

Finally, both kids practiced some of the Bible verses we've been working on all summer. They're extra motivated because we recently started a Bible Club (kind of an "AWANA light") at our pre-school co-op where the kids get jewels on their crowns for each successful recitation.
We were done at 5 minutes of 9.

The great thing is, whether you call this a science unit, a math activity, and a Bible drill or whether you just say that we talked about steam and counted some food before trying to earn our jewels, *it still counts!* They were engaged. They used their brains. They memorized. They learned!

Those of you who have read my blog this summer know that I've been having a bit of an internal struggle as we try to translate all those beautiful visions of pre-school and homeschool into reality. I've written at length on the challenges introduced by our 18 month old. I haven't yet said much about my son's instinctual rebellion to all things that smack of school. In that brief period of formal lessons, he only grudgingly put up with the letter drills, resisted the phoenix practice, and often outright refused the letter tracing worksheets. Informal attempts since then have met with much the same resistance, and I'm slowing getting through my head that he simply isn't ready to learn to read, and (just as importantly) that This Is OK.
I'm also getting it through my head that tricking the kid into learning is going to be the name of the game here for a while. There may be a better word for it - "delight based learning" perhaps? ;) But it all boils down to the fact that he isn't going to passively sit back and soak up things that don't excite him, and even when he's interested, if he senses a "school setting," he may well decide to resist anyway. Frankly, on any two days out of three he could have easily rejected my whole math and science plan - grapes or no grapes! He requires a super gentle touch, which sadly is not my strong point as my Own instinct is to lock horns and insist on compliance. Uh oh!

Still, every once in a while everything aligns and it works. Hopefully both my son and I will grow into the process to the point were it can happen daily instead of weekly, but for now I am marking down another "win," and hoping that, given a few more of these, I will no longer feel like Quite such a fraud when I say "yeah, we homeschool!"

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Diva Challenge 188 - Sort Of

This weekend we were privileged to attend the wedding of two friends we've known for nearly a decade. While it was a traditional wedding in the primary sense, in many others it was wonderfully unusual: the bride wore paisley, the groom wore a huge gold chain, and the guests were encouraged to wear their favorite 70's garb! The pastor wore jeans and sandals with his suit coat, and the couple mixed two colors of M&Ms instead of sand or pebbles. Finally, the bride and groom themselves have been dating the Entire Time we've known them - which is some serious patience And stamina I must say! After watching them begin or renew relationships with Christ, work through many issues, and support one another through health problems, serious injuries, and disabling allergies, we were so very pleased to see them tie the knot at last!

While I applaud the compassion underlying the current Diva challenge, I cannot support or applaud the LBGT movement itself either morally or politically. But rather than skip this week all together I thought I would post the piece I drew as a celebration (and encouragement) of the love between my two friends.

The inscription is a exhortation from the book of 1st John: "Beloved, let us love one another."
I drew it on a blank bar coaster, which arrived just in time for the project. I used Microns for the black and a Stabilo for the red. White highlights are from a Gelly Roll pen and the gold rings are from a Sharpie paint pen. I glued on a loop of black cord so it can be hung on the wall and included it in their wedding gift.  I'm thinking I should have sealed it in some way, but I was afraid to since the red ink is not waterproof. Hopefully someday soon I'll acquire some colors I really like in a good waterproof ink!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Diva Challenge 187: Blind String

This one was kinda fun. No pouring over the string section at looking for something that inspired me. No brainstorming well balanced, visually pleasing strings on my own. Just draw the borders, pick up a pencil, close my eyes and draw!
This is what came out:
I kinda like it, actually!
And building on the "no planning" vibe this week, I just went through my most recent pattern pins on Pinterest and chose a few from the top. I ended up with Star Fanleaf Flower, Paisley Leaf 4 (decorated with some Dragonaire), Tami, Shauna (a fun grid pattern I used for the first time last week on my leaves), Antidots, Lanie, and Heartache.

I can't say that the final product is one of my favorites, but the process was fun and I used some new tangles that I expect will appear elsewhere in the future. I especially like Antidots, which remind me of little mussels nesting in a rocky tide pool. Lanie, the other grid pattern, I didn't actually do properly: I ended up improvising a tangleation when it started to go wrong. I'll be trying it again as written because I think it has promise!

And then, of course, I wanted to do another.  Here's my string:
And here's what happened next

Tangles include Finery, Fescue, Sandswirl, Bunzo (or are they Antidots?), N'zepple, and who knows what all else!
I was really stealing time to work on this one, and didn't make any attempt at all to shade it. I'm OK with that because there's so much color. I used both my Micron and Stabilo pens here, and as you may know the latter are not waterproof - a fact I had reason to recall when, shortly after I took the picture, my 18 month old decided to snack on the finished piece.  Oh well: it's all about the process, right?!

PS: I have a set of Microns in the default colors - red, blue, purple, brown, and green. I find that aside from the brown I am not very excited about them: too "primary." I used a brick red and chocolate brown Stabilo and in the image above, and I like them a Lot - except, again, for the lack of waterproofness (is that a word?)
Can anyone attest to the color variety in the Micron "Heritage" color collection? Is there a nice brick / burgandy red in there, and a deeper brown?
If not, are there any other brands that anyone can recommend that might have these more "earthy" colors available in a waterproof ink?