Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

As 2009 comes to a close, it's a great time to reflect on the year past and think about the possibilities in the year to come. Thank you for reading and all your comments. Wishing you and your dear ones a safe and happy new year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Handmade Dolls by Kids

My oldest son set to the task of making gifts for his brother and cousins. I pulled out some canvas fabric scraps, backed them with freezer paper to make it more stable and got out some fabric markers. My son did the rest.

After the pictures were drawn, I ironed them to set them. My oldest son picked out some fabric for the backing. I sewed the two sides together, right sides facing, turned them inside out, and we stuffed them. My oldest son really enjoyed giving gifts.

The dolls were very well received.

One for his cousin:

And two dolls that quickly became pillows for princesses:

I got the idea from Sycamore Stirrings via the ever clever The Crafty Crow.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Swap Offerings

I made a few different items for the swap, so different people received different items. I made these hand sewn felt birds from the free pattern from Spool. I learned of it through fellow stocking stuffer swapper Like It Or Lump It, who made this sweet bird for her mother. The felt came from the craft supply store at the Pasadena Waldorf School. The bird on the left is made of plant dyed felt.

I made two of these owls from a recycled felted sweater I picked up from a thrift store many moons ago with the idea of making some felted project. The feet are also an upcycled thrifted sweater. I went freestyle and made up the body by marking a general outline with a fabric pencil before I cut. And I made a pattern for the talons and beak.

I've been meaning to make some blank books after reading The Small Object's fabulous tutorial on how to do so. Great fun to make. I suspect they will become a staple in the Camp Ramshackle craft supplies from here on out.

These pennant/flags were an last minute idea I had. I made a pattern for the flag and used bias tape to make the ties to the post. The post is harvested from one of our many homegrown toyon trees. I hope to post a tutorial on this project in the days/weeks to come. We're still celebrating the holidays around here, slowly returning to our regular schedule.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stocking Stuffed & Unstuffed

What a wonderful experience to participate in the Stocking Stuffer Swap organized by Leah of Our Yellow House. I found myself anticipating the arrival of the post each day. Throughout December, I'd open my mailbox to find a sweet homemade surprise, eight in total. It felt like, well, Christmas.

It took a great deal of self-restraint to wait until the 25th to share these wonderful gifts.

A hand knit and felted mushroom from Nap Knits.

The pirate eye patch and beard from Going to Graceland.

(Starting lower left & moving counterclockwise) The lavender eye pillow from Little Bird, the handmade books from Ex Libris Handmade, the knitted tomato, carrot and felted acorns from Like It or Lump It, Thimbleberry Kitschen's cupcake bath bomb, Leah's sweet doll and the beautiful wooden puzzle/toy from On Being a Farm Wife. I could barely snap this photo before my sons pulled them back into their play.

Thank you to everyone for your thoughtfulness and generosity. And special thanks again to Leah for organizing this swap.

Time to get back to playing.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. And wishing everyone peace and joy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cut-Your-Own Tree Lot

This year we cut our own tree from a lot that uses the land under the power lines to grow holiday crops of pumpkins and Christmas trees. I assume that the crops are irrigated from the river that runs along the edge of the farm. The greenest option is probably to buy a tree in a pot and replant it but I wouldn't know where to replant a pine tree every year. We compost our tree every year or use it for kindling.

Team work in action. I think it's good for the kids to connect the Christmas tree in the house more directly to its origin. Most of the trees in tree lots here in Los Angeles are trucked down from Oregon.

Here they are hauling off their prized tree.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Handmade Ornaments

This is the first year my oldest son (age 5) is truly anticipating Christmas day. He is a real lover of the magic of the season: the lights, the music, the baking, the making.

Each morning, he usually sets up at the dining table with markers, crayons, pencil and paper and creates a few drawings. Since discovering the nifty project of making a spiral ornament, he has made at least two (usually more) each morning.

When we brought our tree home on Sunday, he and his younger brother set to the task of decorating the tree together in the afternoon.

Can't stop the season for this guy. The handprint antler hat was made all on his own from getting the paper, tracing his hands, coloring, cutting out and stapling it together.

To make a spiral ornament:
Draw a spiral on a piece of paper (my son uses 8 1/2" x 11" with a swirl that rings about 4-5 times).
Cut out the circle and along the spiral line.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pinecone Bird Feeder

My mother gave the boys a Charlie Brown advent calendar. Behind each door is a different project or task. One project was to make a bird feeder. The assembly of the feeder was defined by a simple pictogram: pinecone + peanut butter jar + bird seed.

We had two pinecones on hand.

We slathered them with almond butter (what was in our pantry).

We sprinkled our buttered pinecones with bird seed.

Then we hung them in the tree and bird feeder. The milk carton bird feeder was a prior project from Big Bird's Busy Book.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Rain falls. We settle in. Together as a family we indulge in a movie online: Andy Goldsworthy Rivers and Tides. My oldest son fights against the comfort of warmth while still captivated by the movie. I assure him that we can return to the place in the film when sleep overtakes him.

Today while his young brother naps, I suspect we will return to the last fifteen minutes of the film.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Native Bee on a Dandelion

I saw this little green bee feasting on a dandelion as I walked past a patch of weeds on my way to lunch.

If you click on the picture you can see a bigger version.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nasturium Transplants

This time of year, our yard starts to thicken with nasturtium volunteers. I planted some seeds with students in my son's classroom garden, but they didn't sprout. If these transplants remain hearty, I will bring them to his school for another attempt on nasturtium planting.

More on the mighty nasturtium:
Nasturtium vs. Foxtail

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thrifted Glasses

I found these glasses this afternoon at the Sierra Madre Woman's Club Wistaria Thrift Shop. At two bucks each, I may have made my most expensive purchase there. I thought these were so pretty and figured I could use them as a candle votive or as a glamorous nightcap glass.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Candle Making Time Again

Our stubs were overflowing so last night I made some more candles.

I bought a roll of wick last time I was in the hobby store. This stuff doesn't have a wire in the center like the last wick string I bought. I think I like it better without the metal. I made this wick holder out of a twisted paper clip. I've found that if I dip the wick in the hot wax and let it cool it will become stiffer and easier to straighten prior to pouring the wax in. It's best if the wick goes straight through the center of candle.

Here is the last of the wire filled wick string. The nice thing about this kind is it will stand on its own.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Shoe Repair

Just when it got cold, my cold weather shoes came apart. I've been eying a nice pair of Clarks boots which are similar to these but probably much more comfortable. I was tempted use the excuse of the sole delamination to justify the purchase of the new shoes but these were just starting to grow on me and I have to try to fix them.

I brushed on some Weldwood contact cement. This stuff is not environmentally friendly - high VOC. I try to keep the can open for as short a period as possible but I figure if I were to take these to a repair shop they'd use a similar glue. I've use the same small can for many similar projects.

I painted both pieces with glue wherever there would be contact. After 15 minutes of letting the glue dry on each piece, I put them together as carefully as I could and then stood in them to set the cement. I rolled my foot a little to distribute pressure which is probably what caused the heel to slip a bit. It doesn't quite match up around the back but over all it turned out pretty good.

Now I have a kind of history with these shoes. They are imperfect but gaining character and therefore gaining interest to me. It should be "reduce, reuse, recycle, repair."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Humanuer Composting Concept is Popular?

One of my favorite ways to keep up to date on news and trends is to visit the Yahoo! news page of most emailed stories (full disclosure: I work there but have been reading news this way long prior to my employment there). The list is a great mix of newsworthy and human interest stories. It's a ranking of the stories most frequently forwarded to friends.

Imagine my surprise today when I saw this headline at number four:
Humanure: Goodbye, Toilets. Hello, Extreme Composting
I was further surprised to see our friend Erik Knudsen from Homegrown Evolution quoted in the article from Time Magazine.

When I saw it the article had been Sent 498 times that morning! And check this exerpt out:
"Not long ago, Nance Klehm, 44, a self-described radical ecologist in Chicago, invited her neighbors to stop using their toilets and start saving their poop. More than half of them - 22 of the 35 households - accepted her proposal."
That is amazing to me. I think that the more people are exposed to "radical" ideas the less radical those ideas seem. And certainly if folks could be persuaded to save their poop, what about rainwater collection and food scrap composting and vegetable gardens instead of lawns? No-brainers right? Could this be the beginning of a new normal?

You can get the book pictured above directly from Joseph Jenkin's website which also has a bunch of videos.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fixing the Truck Brakes

Much of my youth was spent with my Dad in his garage with my head under the hood or chassis of his '33 Ford. My heart squeezed when my sons readily slid under the car to join Eric while he bled the brakes of his truck.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

My Son's Outdoor Living Room

Our family has a wall tent on a platform that serves as a much loved outdoor living room. My oldest son, all on his own, created his own living room in the Saint Catherine's Lace buckwheat. He made a plaque and hung it in the bush to spruce up the place.

He recruited me to wield the loppers for a bird of paradise to decorate his flat.

We receive many heartfelt props for the comfort of our tent outdoor living room, but I think my son's take on outdoor living really hits it out of the park. Note to self: plan a visit replete with delectable treats to this fine destination in Los Angeles.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Stocking Stuffer Projects Completed

I finished the last of my projects yesterday. No, that's not bragging. It's relief. I started into the task right after Leah set up the swap. Even so, I had a flashback to late night term paper writing in the wee hours of the morning. I added a last minute project that I had been contemplating. I'm so happy I threw caution to the wind and made it. I will post later after it ships and is received and possibly add a tutorial for those who are interested.

The swap has been a real pleasure. I've enjoyed getting to know each of the swappers online: Our Yellow House, 4Keith aka Going To Graceland, Thimbleberry Kitschen, Like It Or Lump It, Ex Libris Handmade, On Being a Farm Wife aka Rural Mama, Nap Knits and Little Bird.

I've also enjoyed reaching into my stash and using some special materials. The bias tape pictured was bought at a yard sale in my neighborhood. Never opened. Until now. And used with great pleasure.

Off to the post office this morning to get these gifts in the mail.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stocking Stuffer Swap Update

I'm enjoying some quiet evening time to finish the last of my stocking stuffer swap projects. The holiday lights are up the earliest ever thanks to my oldest son. I'm a firm believer that no Christmas decorations go up before Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time here at Camp Ramshackle.

The work continues. The swap packages are to be mailed the first week of December. Two people in the swap have already mailed theirs.

I like the first week of December deadline. When I'm done with this fun swap, I will turn all my focus on to family projects.