Saturday, January 28, 2006

surf's up, dude

today* you can catch a wave...

...right off my roof... long as you don't mind the just-above-freezing temperatures.

They're melting fast, so hurry!

*well, actually, this was three days ago, and now it's 45 degrees out! (that's 7 celsius, for those who aren't stuck in the 19th century...) ... but I didn't have time to post it until now, and it just didn't sound as exciting in the past tense.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

tiny pencils, tiny mugs

It all started with little birds and her post about the book above.

I was smitten with her tiny pizza and tiny sleeping bags. Both Amazon and had the book for under a dollar... surely that must be a sign?

And I have a five-year-old daughter, I could pretend to be doing all of this for her, right?

So we got the book in the mail last week. The first thing my daughter wanted was the felt book bag. So we made it together.

And then, just for me, I made the tiny pencils out of half a toothpick.

And then I needed a place to put my tiny pencils, and it occurred to me that the cut off end of an old Crayola marker cap would be just about the right size. And then after putting the pencils inside, it occurred to me that the bottom of the marker would also make a nice 70s-style travel mug. And then I realized that if I cut another 1/8" slice off of the marker cap and cut that slice in half, I could hot-glue the C shape on to the mug and make a nifty handle for it.

Then I had to stop to take photos.

And then my sons decided to get in on the photo shoot.

Meanwhile, my daughter needed some tiny paperwork to go in her tiny book bag. It occurred to both of us at the same time that she needed a tiny Friday Folder. (the kids at our school bring home their homework each Friday in such a folder, which the parent has to sign and return each Monday.)

So we scanned in each side of the folder (100% at 200 dpi) and then shrunk it to 20% of its original size, put the pieces next to each other so that they would fold into a folder, sharpened and brightened the image, and printed it out. I cut it out, covered it all with packing tape, and used the edges of the packing tape to wrap around and make the folder into a folder. The wrinkles of the battered back-and-forth-every-week paper folder scanned right in and gave an authentic look to the tiny replica (also shown above inside the purple book bag.) In fact, it worked so well that we're making them as valentine envelopes for all the kids in BigE and Chickie's classes.

We're using my niece's handwriting font to write the correct name and teacher and grade on the digitally-erased lines. We'll even scan in a few of their more colorful homework assignments, shrink them to size, and write "Very Good" marks and smiles and stars in red all over them. I'm thrilled, since the throwaway tagboard valentines the kids give each other annoy me - both impersonal AND required by the "if you give any valentines, you have to give one to every child" rule. I even hated that idea as a kid. Here's something, we hope, that at least a few of the kids will actually enjoy.

But I have to confess that my heart, like Bubbie's fingers, is still on the tiny pencils and tiny mugs.

Too late for both of us, as Chickie has claimed them all as her own.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dover coloring books

We have a few of these coloring books, from the Dover Pictorial Archive series. They all have beautiful designs and illustrations to color. We've liked most of the series, which ranges from optical illusions to trains, butterflies, cowboys, spaceships, Native American designs, Tiffany stained glass...

And the best part about this Dover series is the copyright, which allows you to make copies. The inside front cover of each book says, "This book belongs to the Dover Pictorial Archive Series. You may use the designs and illustrations for graphics and crafts applications, free and without special permission, provided that you include no more than four in the same application or project..."

So when we bought the books (and/or got them for Christmas), we scanned all the pictures in to our computer, and we print whichever one we feel like coloring. Over and over again, if we want.

Most of the illustrations are too detailed for young children to color well. But they're perfect in that they take up where normal coloring books leave off. My favorites are the kaleidoscopic and geometric designs, where you can color each picture hundreds of different ways. Coloring someone else's pictures may or may not be artistic, but I often find it therapeutic and relaxing.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I knew we had beautiful children, but... sure is nice to have it shown scientifically, by showing how much they look like celebrities. This online toy utility is a great way to waste time verify how beautiful your loved ones are.

Thanks to (and a tip-off from my sister Kim) we have proven that Big E (top middle) looks 44% like Elijah Wood... and 69% like... uh... Shirley Temple.

Chickie looks 61% like Olivia Newton-John, and 43% like Janet Jackson.

Mac looks 53% like Herman Hesse and 44% like Truman Capote.

Bubbie looks 60% like Yul Brenner and 42% like Oscar II of Sweden.

Of course, what more could you expect from such attractive parents:

Dan's 71% Andre Agassi and 56% Gene Hackman

and I'm... I'm... uh... I'm.....

44% Saul Bellow and 49% Margaret Thatcher.

Well, wasn't THAT fun. Um, moving right along...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

fonts and gnomes

OK, so I did work on this a little yesterday for my self-declared Font Tuesday, but didn't have time to blog about it. Above is another sample of my friend's handwriting. I've copied about half of her letters and pasted them into a grid, erasing any parts of other letters that come along for the ride. This will allow me to use Scan Font to turn them into vector images (stretchable outlines) for Type Tool.

I could just have my friends fill in the grid with their letters, but trial and error has shown me that their handwriting looks more authentic if I have them write whole sentences and then I pull the letters out of it. So... halfway through the cut and paste, I should be able to import it for next week.

But I did finish SOMEthing which I've owed someone for over a year now!

This sign:

to mark the trail to this place:

with a gratuitous picture of my sister's family, four years (and two children) ago.

I couldn't find a more recent picture. It must be that we don't go hiking as much as we used to. Hopefully that will change as Mac and Bubbie become confident walkers (and once the ice and snow melt!) All the little holes in the big rock are filled with smaller rocks that have gnomes painted on them. Fortuitously, I think I know four kids who would love to paint some more gnomes to commemorate our return to the world of hiking this spring!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

miscellaneous things that have brought me joy

I couldn't figure out how to tie these together into a nice story, but here's a bunch of stuff that's brought me joy thus far in the new year.

I sent six jars of colored bubble soap across the country to a friend in the southwest. After pouring out 10% of the bubble soap and squeezing out a bit of the air to create a partial vacuum in the jar, they were sealed with duct tape with a layer of paper towel and Saran wrap on top. I had a bit of trouble getting the lids on over all of that and hoped that meant the seal was tight. After the jars passed their "three hours laying on their side on the table without leaking" test, they were each put into a Ziploc bag and then into their duct tape bubble soap carrier which was generously lined with paper towels. More paper towels lined the sides, and the whole thing was enclosed in a large Ziploc bag. Amazingly, my friend reports that not one jar leaked in the whole trip from Michigan to Arizona. (Thanks, Dad, for the packing recommendations!) She and her children had fun making colored bubble greeting cards for a very late Christmas.

The U.S. Post Office might have raised their rates a few cents, but who cares? I'll gladly pay extra for cute stamps like these new ones! My mom (known to the kids as Moogie) was up for a visit (which was even more fun than the stamps) and we got to enjoy their cuteness together.

Shortly after Christmas, we got a new (to us) table and six chairs, all of which look a lot nicer than our old ones. And the chairs actually all fit under the table, which does NOT bow in the middle like our old one did.

And not only do they look nice, but they are virtually indestructable, being of heavy oak, with a laminate table top. Which is exactly what we'd been wanting, only we didn't know it. And we didn't have to pay anything for it. Sometimes I am still taken aback by God's goodness to us. As you can see in nearly all the photos above and below, the table gets a lot of use!

My daughter let me borrow her Rainbow Art paint set to make more different greeting cards. It was easy and fun... and actually made nice cards (in my humble opinion, anyways.) Top are the cards, bottom two are envelopes.

Some friends of ours left Michigan for a job in Wisconsin. Though we're sad to see them go, it was an enjoyable goodbye party with good food and bedtime stories from Narnia. I even got to cut Wisconsin-shaped slits in the apple pies. At least I think they are Wisconsin-shaped. It's amazing how you think you know the shape of a state until you try to re-create it from memory!

In other cooking-related news, I got a bunch of spices for Christmas from several friends, most of which were in glass jars. So I emptied plastic jars, threw out old spices, labeled, organized... and emptied out one of my kitchen drawers and made a spice drawer with all my spices in it. Alphabetized, even. (I detest cleaning, but I do so love to obsessively organize.) Who knows how long my alphabetical spice drawer will last in a house with two curious chair-dragging toddlers? But for the time being it makes me happy to have all my spices organized and easily found.

Angry Chicken, one of the craft blogs I visit often, had a link to a new-to-me blog, MeggieCat, which in turn had a link to some fun papercrafting activities, including Keri Smith's free Secret Note Dispenser from her new book "Tear Up This Book."

BigE and Chickie and I had tons of fun making a bunch of these for some young cousins of ours (oops, did I just give too much info away to certain cousins?) . We used the "adjust hue" feature of our graphics program to turn Keri's teal box into a whole rainbow of boxes. Thanks again, Keri! After BigE and Chickie went to bed, I made two more dispensers for them and wrote "secret notes" for their lunches. I don't often take the time to do that sort of thing for them, but I ought to more often because they always thank me profusely for the extra fun.

And here I thought these two weeks had been sort of blah... until I remembered all of this all together in one place. I think blogging, as an intentional public declaration of joy, has been good for me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Font Tuesday: S, Q and Y

Maybe, just maybe, I can start Font Tuesday again...

Introducing S, Q, and Y, the latest members of the Stuffed Animal font family. They join the previously (way back in June and July!) created A thru F, J, G, K and V:

...bringing the total to fourteen letters. I've made it half way! Half way with the cartooning and scanning,anyway. I still have to get them into the font program and clean them up and re-size... but we won't think about that yet.

Next week, though, when my "real" computer comes back from its lobotomy, Font Tuesday will be set aside for making a handwriting font for a friend of mine whose handwriting is so nice that the font creation will be a joy. Despite the fact that I've had her handwriting sample for (ahem!) uh, about two months now and (cough, cough) haven't done anything with it to date.

I'm hoping to get Stuffed Animal finished before the snow melts. Not my highest-priority goal for the winter, but certainly one of the more fun goals...