Saturday, April 30, 2005

beauty & vicarious joy

This week's vicarious joy was sponsored by Mac and Bubbie, as we watched the county highway trucks scrape up the gravel on the side of the road. Brrmm!

Joy was also brought to our household by Buzz Saw Louie, the newest occupant of our one-acre farm. Louie was discarded as being too dangerous by my husband's bosses, now restored to well above his former glory.

The object of hours of fascination for our four children while Daniel saws up a big pile of birch, Louie also generously provided enough sawdust to mulch my strawberry bed, enabling me to replace last year's dead leaves with fresh golden sawdust. Brrmm! Brrmm!

I also had a moment of selfish joy, making another paint chip card, this one with a pun. (And the hardware store employee told me if I came back tomorrow when they closed, I could have all the paint chip cards I wanted, plus the wallpaper and fabric sample books. Woo hoo! Oh wait, this might be greed, not joy...)

This week's beauty was brought to us, as is typical for early spring, by our scilla siberica*, blooming Apr 23 and - a first for this year - our anenome blanda, blooming Apr 30.

*see post above

Surprisingly, though, the winner of this week's beauty award went to the skeletonized leaf of a Silver Poplar I found while raking.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Paint Chips

The local hardware store is going out of business - the final sale starts today. I thought today I would go and ask them if I could have all their old paint chip cards. (Or buy them for cheap. I'm terrible about asking for favors.)

Anyways, last night I was dreaming about paint chips and all the things my sister and I had talked about doing with them... (for instance, I'd wanted to scatter them all over the kitchen floor artistically and then pour a few gallons of polyurethane on top of them. My husband and my sister weren't as enthusiastic about that idea, for some reason.)

I started thinking perhaps I could just glue whole paint chip cards onto blank greeting cards. Then I wanted a reason for the colors I chose. Then I thought it would be more fun to make my own names for the colors that would be meaningful to the recipients.

So I made my own paint chip cards from scrap paper, based on my favorite camp's table grace, with four colors: Pleasant Trees, Silver Rippling Waters, Flowers & Clouds, Undimmed Sunlit Sky.

And then I made one with local late summer flower colors: Tansy, Goldenrod, Aster, Fringed Gentian.'s a detail of it, for anyone interested.

Also finished another one I'm not quite as happy with yet, with spring things: Ladyslipper, Harebell, Fringed Polygala, Black Morel. The colors don't quite go together as well, and the harebell color isn't bright enough.

More cards in the works, after I buy some more blank cards:

Winter (red ozier, birch, cedar and spruce)
Midsummer (coreopsis, wild raspberry, blueberry, ?daisy)
Sunset looking east over the bay (sky above - medium blue, high clouds-blue violet, low clouds-golden pink, horizon-pinkish purple)

I'll have to start selling these guys just to pay for my habit. I'll start a cottage industry and call it Local Color.

...nah, maybe I'll just make lunch for my tribe, and then get them off to their naps so I can do the dishes and laundry I failed to do last night.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Postage stamps everywhere

Long, long ago in a life far away, even before children... nearly ten years ago... I worked at a place that received lots of mail each spring. I loved all the postage stamps, but I knew I didn't want to collect them. I wanted to use them.

Enter Mod Podge. I covered small cardboard boxes with postage stamps. I covered photo mats. I even covered the inside of clear plastic napkin rings I found at the dollar store.

I gave almost all of them away, thinking I'd make more. Sadly I don't have the time, or the large amounts of mail to harvest stamps from, anymore. Sadder yet, I can no longer find any clear plastic napkin rings. (sources, anyone?)

While working with envelopes I discovered that cancellations make pretty fun boxes, too. I liked using the subtlety of different envelope papers, and red and black cancellation marks.

It also proves how long ago I made all of these... as if you couldn't tell by the 32-cent postage!

Monday, April 25, 2005


In A Minute Ago mentioned Fontifier in her blog, and I immediately went to check it out. Just $9 for a handwriting font?!

My six-year-old son has been wanting to make his own fonts for the whole past YEAR, ever since he heard it was possible... so when we saw this we went ahead and spent the $9 to try it out. He got a little silly with his letters, making some into icons and transposing others. But had fun. The program isn't the greatest... you upload 1/2" high letters at 100 dpi... but given those limitations the font is actually pretty good!

for what it's worth, rather than strictly following their instructions I scanned in my son's sheet at 300 dpi, increased contrast and decreased brightness 100%, digitally moved his letters to be consistent with the baseline, cleaned them up, shrunk it to the mandatory 100 dpi, repeated the contrast/brightness, and this is what I got. Not professional quality, but definitely worth the $9. I think next time I'd skip the final contrast/brightness, that may have added jagginess to the letters. One problem with the font preview is they show you it at about 36-point, so you can't REALLY see how good (or bad) it turned out.

This is part of the preview of my map font, which I decided not to purchase because they looked too thin. (the preview does include all the other characters... a full 99 characters.)

My husband, with his black belt in common sense, pointed out that it would only take 18 font purchases before I could get a utility program, Scanfont, to do the same thing. $200 seems like a lot... but on the other hand I'm only slightly font-addicted... creating 18 would not be a problem for me.

I have sketches for at least four picture fonts started, plus all the fonts (and weights) I use for making hand-lettered maps...

So I scanned in and posted samples above, to remind me to finish them someday...

update 6/05: I bought ScanFont and TypeTool, and now would never go back to Fontifier. Details here and here. Fontifier would be great for someone who just wants a single font and is onlyl planning to use it at 72 points or less... but for anyone serious about doing fonts, ScanFont and TypeTool are excellent products and easy to use. I'd be happy to answer anyone's questions about them (or Fontifier) as well, just email me.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

three seasons, one day

Today - even though the calendar says it's spring - today was the first day of the summer season where we work, since we work with college students who have just finished their school year.

So it was ironic to that today was also the first day of winter we've had in at least three weeks. (For what it's worth, it wasn't autumn at all today.)

We also had a pair of mallard ducks in our front yard this evening, after the snow melted. I don't know what they found attractive about our yard.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

the difference a year makes

Couch last year: a place for Kelly the Beached Whale to drag her body to every morning
Couch this year: a place to read stories to my five-year old and three-year-old

Weather last year: grey and sleeting, seen through the windows on a 2-1/2 hour ambulance ride
Weather this year: sunshine, near 80 degrees, seen on a wagon ride (though snow is in the forecast...)

Mac last year:

Mac this year:

Bubbie last year:

Bubbie this year:

Soundtrack last year: beeps, boops, and alarms; whimpers of tiny babies
Soundtrack this year: giggles and lusty screaming, pre-talking babble

Weight last year: Kelly huge, Bubbie tiny (5# 5 oz), Mac tinier (3# 13 oz)
Weight this year: combined weight about the same, but Bubbie is now 21 lbs and Mac is now 17 lbs. (thanks guys, I needed to lose those 30 lbs!)

Location last year: the Neonatal ICU, aka the NICU

Location this year: home

Company last year: Mama, Papa, Mac and Bubbie, 18 other babies and their parents, a host of doctors and nurses
Company this year: the whole family, plus a few good friends

Worries last year: Bubbie can't breathe on his own. Mac's head is the size of a large orange. Bilirubin counts. Daily blood drawings. Beeping monitors. Big E and Chickie (age 5 and 3) being separated from Mama for nearly a month. Whether or not we will get any sleep ever again.

Worries this year: Side effects of Mac being weaned off the last of his preemie medicines. Whether or not the local pizza place will make ham and pineapple pizza for us. Whether or not we will get any sleep ever again.

Baby's menu last year: mama's milk through an OG tube, plus lipids and fluids via IV
Baby's menu this year: Gerber "turkey dinner with vegetables", Cheerios, mangoes, apples, bits of pizza crust...

...and birthday cake for dessert!

Happy first birthday Mac and Bubbie!
God has sure been good to you, and to us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

crocus vernus

My crocus vernus made its appearance yesterday and is in full bloom for today.

this year the rabbits (or whomever was digging last year... I haven't seen many squirrels by our house) didn't touch it. I wonder if when bulbs successfully make it one year without getting eaten, then they have a greater chance of escaping getting eaten in future years? Maybe because the soil isn't disturbed?

Leeks and rhubarb have been up for probably a week. You can actually tell what they are now. Chives, garlic chives, and daylilies have tiny new leaves... and the chive blossoms I didn't clean up last year drooped over my strawberry bed and made a bunch of baby chive plants. Chickie wants them in "her" garden... I had to clean out a whole square of my garden to make little gardens for Big E and Chickie.

Making Crayons

this is the first of many "old" crafts I'm reposting to make the jump off of our ad-filled website. To save time for anyone who doesn't want the instructions, I'll put the tutorial inside the comments on this post

on my website here

...I just discovered I have a lot more space for tutorials on my website if I can move the photos to buzznet!

Recycling old crayons into new ones is a cheap craft - especially when your Sunday school teacher, local day-care provider or neighbor is willing to give you a bucketful just so they won't be thrown away!

Muffin tins and ice-cube trays make nice chunky crayons, easier for little kids' hands to hold, and less breakable than regular crayons.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Manifesto for a Blog

A manifesto is a public declaration of principles, policies, or intentions, especially of a political nature. A manifest, from which the word manifesto comes, is (as a noun) a cargo list for a ship, or a list of cargo and passengers for an airplane.  So this is both the purpose FOR the blog, and the "baggage" that comes with me in the blog.

I hereby resolve to post only things that God would be well pleased to read. This means, at the very least:
  • to post only things which pass the four-way test developed in 1932 by the man who gave the land to a camp I love:
        Of the things we think, say or do:
        1. Is it the TRUTH?
        2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
        3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
        4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

  • to post about things that bring me joy. I'm not going to pretend my life has no problems, but that's not what I want this blog to be about.

  • to post at least two times a week... I'm currently planning on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

  • to post no more than four times a week, so as to build goodwill with and be beneficial to my children (by not ignoring the necessity of cooking supper, doing laundry, and interacting with them on a social level!)

  • to not whine in my postings, nor apologize for not posting.

  • to keep a record of craft projects (finished and unfinished) for myself and anyone who wants ideas

  • to reconstruct old craft information in order to transition away from the ad-packed 'free' webpages where my craft website currently is

  • to keep notes on my garden so that I can remember where I planted everything, when things come up, etc.

  • to have fun, to enjoy, to delight in God's creation (and the excellent works of many of his people, too!)

  • ...and to not let my children drink too much ginger ale while I'm busy blogging.

I think that's it.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Crocuses and other bulbs

Our first snowmelt crocuses (crocus korolkowii) bloomed April 2 this year... March 31 the year before. (To have anything blooming in early April in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is wonderful!)

I ordered these crocuses and a few other things two summers ago from odyssey bulbs. I had to. The owner is a humor writer, linguist, botanist and music lover, trapped in a greenhouse. Though it does appear that he enjoys being trapped there. I love his plant descriptions:

Corydalis buschii
"Corydalis are like Vivaldi concertos: just when you think you've discovered them all, a few more turn up somewhere. This recent introduction is valuable not only for its bright red-purple flowers on 6-inch stems, but also for its time of bloom – late May. It flourishes in partial shade and non-alkaline soil, spreading by stolons to form colonies. Modified continental; E Russia to N Korea. Zone 4."

Dracunculus vulgaris
"The dragon arum, named not for its lush, marbled, clawed leaves on reptilian, purple-mottled stems, but for its spellbindingly bizarre (and thankfully short-lived) inflorescence, comprising a livid-purple, ruffled, 2- to 3-foot spathe and a protruding, black-purple, dragon-tongued, roadkill-scented spadix. Gratifyingly grotesque, but best kept downwind during the early summer flowering season. Well-drained soil required. Mediterranean; Corsica to S Turkey. Zone 6. "

Ornithogalum schmalhauzenii
"The cardinal rule of modern-day marketing: invent a catchy name. Hmmm. Let's go to rule number two: mount a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign. Okay, let's just describe the plant and trust to our customers' considerable intelligence. New to the catalog and perhaps to the U.S. trade, this ravishing and refined species bears numerous large, white flowers in a dense, umbelesque cluster that sits just above the attractive, narrow leaves. It is yet another early-blooming ornithogalum that can take on any of the snowflake/snowdrop tribe. We honestly don't understand why these plants are so seldom used. Modified continental; Armenia. Zone 5."

Tulipa whittallii 
"Outside, its solitary, cup-shaped flower – poised on a 10-inch stem – is a bit of a milquetoast, cloaked in subdued tones of pale yellow and green. But – surprise! – inside it's a startling, swashbuckling bright orange. Your inner child (as well as any outer children you might have) will love it. Mediterranean; Zone 6."

And the plants I got (though not the ones mentioned here) are still, two years later, as good as those descriptions.

Last year the tommy crocuses (crocus tommasinianus, above) tied for first to bloom; this year they were later by about a week. My daughter 'chickie' fell so in love with these flowers last year (at age 3), she claimed them all as her very own.

On the other hand, the crocus etruscus Zwanenburg (above) were earlier than last year... go figure.

Last fall I planted iris danfordiae, these from John Scheepers (alas, my fickle loyalty...there were a few bulbs I wanted to try not available at Odyssey Bulbs)... the iris nicely filled in the gap after the crocuses have started to fade. They started blooming about April 10. I wish I'd put them closer together.

I'm curious about the iris. The flower bud pushed itself above the soil before the leaves were even out... they looked very naked without their foliage, not at all like the Scheepers photo.

The same was true of the tommy crocuses last year, but not this year. I'm wondering if it happens to lush "tropical" zone six bulbs that are suddenly planted into zone five soil and left for the winter? Or perhaps it happens if the ground thaws too fast or the air temps go from 35 degrees to suddenly 60 degrees?

Today, April 16, I see the tops of crocus Vernus and asparagus peeping up. My new narcissus 'bulbocodium conspicuus' have had greenery since even before the crocuses.

The grass over the septic field is getting green, too. I think spring must really be here to stay.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

it's true

My name is Kelly. I was a weaving major. Actually, that is only half true. I was half a weaving major and half a graphic design major. That is because my father did most of the funding of my education, and wanted me to have some practical skills. But I'm okay with that now.

It's actually called a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Fibers. At The University of Michigan. [Which, if you attended school there, you have to pronounce properly: THEE University of Michigan. Your nose must be elevated above the person(s) you are speaking to.]

Yes, I really did underwater basket weaving. (I can't currently find a link that is not a joke.) A common misconception is that the weaver herself (or himself) has to be underwater. Actually only the basket does. Which does make it a lot less exciting for anyone but an artist.

No, I really don't do any weaving any more, at least not at the moment. As a friend of mine said about ten years ago, and I didn't really understand until about six years ago when my son was born - a loom takes up about as much space as a baby crib.

My husband and I live with our four young children in a trailer - so I don't have a loom anymore. But I have a garden, and a lot of craft ideas, and a computer - hence a new weblog.