Monday, December 31, 2012

A Lovely Holiday....

It's been a busy week preparing for my family, who came down to Sarasota for the holidays....Everything went really, really well and the kids were thrilled with their little mini trees....
I'm gonna miss knitting and crocheting these little mini ornaments....I'll have to think of something mini to make for Valentines Day. There's a craft bazaar here at Sun 'n' Fun once a month. I don't have enough inventory of anything non-Christmas, so I'm going to start getting really working on some things that are quick and fast for February, IF we stay another month.

But Kerry has plans for this crafty grandma...She thought of a "Busy Book" or a "Quiet Book" --for my little grandson...and I love this idea. When my girls were little, I made an ABC busy book. I don't think it was a pattern, I think I checked the book out of the library. It was a wonderful fabric book made from vinyl, fabric, snaps, and lots of cool things to play with that lasted a long, long time. To this day, my youngest daughter says she remembers playing with the pages for hours, even after she started school. 

Some of the few pages we collaboratively remember are:
"B"--banana--the peel was velcroed to pull up and down,
"I"--igloo...a felt igloo with pieces that snapped into place like a puzzle...
"J"--jack in the box, an elastic loop opened and "Jack" was inside,
"K"--kite--kite string, tie loops on the kite string
"N"--nest...something to do with the eggs in the nest
"S"--sneaker--practice tying the laces.
"U"--ukelele--pluck the elastic strings--that was a nightmare to try and get the elastic tight enough so it would pluck and not pull out when you tugged on it,
"X"--X ray--a skeleton you had to assemble and snap together

Wish I could remember more to recreate a modern book...But we found a "Winter" quiet book on Etsy and I'm going to make it for my little grandson.....

But AFTER I rest and relax from a very hectic week of having all our families! See you later!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Pressure is ON!

Well, got my little tree ornaments for the families almost done. Here are some more minis finished....sox, hat, and mittens...

I'm making these cardinal tags, (photo from the internet) cut from Christmas scrapbooking paper, decorated with rhinestones and glitter. They are a little too large for the miniature trees, but I might use them as gift tags or just to decorate the RV. I was going to buy some tags from a seller on Etsy, but the person making them didn't have any more for sale, (the ones pictured are the seller's) so I thought, heck, I'll make my own. I went looking for a cardinal tracing pattern by googling it. Success! 

Crocheted these little snowmen made of half double crochet.. Make a chain of 4, join with a slip stitch. Round 1, is 10 hdc in the ring joining with a slip stitch to the top of the first chain, round 2 is 1 hdc in the first stitch, then 2 hdc in the next stitch, 1 hdc in the next stitch, 2 hdc in the next stitch, repeat around, and you are done in two rounds! Used fabric paint for the eyes and nose, or use orange scrap pieces of felt for the nose to make them look a little better. And if you REALLY wanted to make them look even more polished, you could sew little black beads for the eyes and mouth. Too fussy and too little time for me to do that. But they sure look cute on a mini tree!

Made a little hanging Santa ornament that is too big for the miniature trees, but would be cute hanging on a doorknob of a cabinet. This pattern was called "Ho, Ho, Ho" by Mary Triplett and I got it off Ravelry, a great site for patterns, free and otherwise.

Time's a wastin'! Got to get back in gear....One of my daughters is coming Dec. 22, Eldy's kids are arriving the 23, and my new little grandson, now 6 months old, is arriving with his mommy Dec. 26th. He is already standing up in his crib at 6 months old! Yikes!
That boy is going to be a BUSY boy! Can't wait to see him and smooch him unmercifully. He's going to hide his face when he sees his grammy coming, I bet! :-)

Until next time.......

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

To Do or Not to Do? That is the Question!

Geez....Make Christmas stuff or try new things? I'm having trouble making up my mind! What to do? So, I'm vacillating back and forth between continuing to make little Christmas sweater ornaments, starting a new pine needle basket and  making bibs for my little grandson! 

I just haven't felt like getting out my sewing machine which is buried in the bay, along with all the sewing supplies. The basket and the mini sweaters won for now. This basket is going to have walnut shells for decoration, the bottom starts with a walnut shell. Just love the look of the slices! I'm using upholstery thread which is not so heavy looking. I like it so far!
It's going to be another round basket, but I'm already thinking about an oval one for me that will fit better in the RV. Somebody I talked to the other day said their cardinal rule for storage in an RV was NOTHING ROUND...everything stacking and rectangular. No wonder I'm having so much trouble getting stuff to fit in my cupboards! I ought to toss all those little round containers and switch to rectangular or square.

I went to a lapidary class the other day, and now my short attention span and interests have been drawn to polishing rocks and perhaps making some jewelry items. The instructor is going to teach wire wrapping with square sterling silver wire in two weeks. He had some beautiful pieces and facets on the wires which I have never seen in wrapped stones and jewelry. He says the square wire enables you to make the facets, showing off the stones better. Here are a few of his pieces....
I think what I'm going to do is polish a bunch of rocks, take them with me, and that way I'll have some stones to wrap without having to worry about a rock polisher.....

Too many projects in too little time....Ahhhh...But I'm retired, I've got all the time in the world to craft...If it doesn't get done by Christmas, there's always next year!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My First Pine Needle Basket--TADA!

I learned a lot of course...First, the lady that taught me how to do this, gave me this thick, cotton thread--Coats Red Cotton. I didn't like it, it twisted and knotted upon itself constantly. I don't like how it dominates the basket, but it was part of the lesson/materials in a little kit she gave me, so I used it. It overpowers the shells, I think. 

I'm going to make another one right away, same design, but with a more delicate thread. I found some great nylon thread at Hobby Lobby, in really pretty colors. You can use upholstery thread as well, and I bought some of that in a few different colors.  Artificial sinew is something else you can use and find at Hobby Lobby in the leathermaking section, but it looks a little thicker, and right now, I'm looking for a more blended, thinner look. I think it will be the difference between night and day on the next basket.  There are some cool stitches that can be used in sewing the needles together, so I might try that, too! 

I had trouble with joining threads and not having the knots show, but if you follow the directions in Judy Mallow's book, Pine Needle Basketry-From Forest Floor to Finished Product, which I didn't do at first, then your knots will blend in better. The further I got along, the better I got at joining threads.

The other problem I had was keeping the coils straight up as I started the shells row. The finished basket has the shell sides bending in a bit. It's tricky adding the shells, stitching and coiling at the same time. Next time I will try to be more aware of how the sides are shaping up. All in all, I think it turned out nicely. 

The finished basket was coated with two coats of Modge Podge Matte finish--thinned with a little water-- that helped seal the ends. I'm not real crazy about Modge Podge on this basket, but that's what the instructor uses. You can see the some little spots of Modge Podge that look like dried glue that. I don't know if that's the way I brushed it on and didn't blend it in enough, or it was too thick to blend in and dried that way. I might use brushed on varnish on the next one. Judy Mallow, the author of the basket book, uses shellac flakes...That sounds like it might be a finicky process and more expensive. I'll have to do some research on that... In the meantime, now I need to find some two inch cedar log branches. They make cool bottom starter pieces sawed into chunks! Doesn't have to be cedar, but I liked the look of these. 

Basket making appears to be a new interest and hobby for me...It's enjoyable, it makes me sit for long periods of time, and it's not that complicated....Anything that gets me sitting for awhile and slowing down is a good thing! :-) But first, off to the woods I go!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Readin' up a Storm...

And I should be crafting...well, I am...working on my very first pine needle basket...It's coming along nicely...I'm trying to figure out how to add shells to the sides while still coiling the basket around. Haven't figured it out yet....
But I'm loving my new Kindle Fire HD...It's really fun downloading books to it...Less than two minutes and a whole book awaits to draw me in and capture my imagination and deteriorating thinking skills. I say deteriorating because I haven't read an entire book in more than five years. I love magazines instead. Guess that sort of fits my ADD personality...Quick read, lots of pictures...  :-)  I love "light" magazines---People, Shop Smart (published by Consumer Reports), Oprah, and the Woman's World and First magazines. Those last two are truly "light" reading. 

So when I got my Kindle, I had previously made a list of books I wanted to read if I ever thought I'd slow down enough, put down my crafts and read seriously. I started working my way through my list....Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir about a young woman, Cheryl, trying to find herself by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, over 1000 miles. A woman who had made many bad decisions, she had never hiked a day in her life. It's a compelling read, and hard to put down...I enjoyed it! Made me think briefly about hiking the Appalachian Trail....I think about that a LOT, off and on, I'd really like to do it, despite my age (62). You are never to old to follow your dreams. There are just a lot of things demanding practicality that are preventing me from fulfilling this dream at the moment..And if I never get to do it, that's ok...I'm hiking while traveling, and that's pretty wonderful, too!

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen....all about Germany in 1933 through the eyes of Walter Dodd, a very ordinary man reluctantly chosen to be the ambassador to Berlin. Dodd served for four years, the worst time to be in Berlin. Larsen chronicles Ambassador "Dud" as he was known in political circles, as he tried to maintain his dignity and convince America of the rising dangers of Hitler's command. The flirtatious exploits of his daughter, Martha, as she dabbled with the enemy, were intriguing. It was interesting to see  Germany's and Hitler's rise to power from a different angle. I found this historical narrative hard to follow at times. But anyone interested in world history would probably find this a fascinating read.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins--the final installment in the trilogy, The Hunger Games. These are young adult novels, (Catching Fire was #2, which I also read) but appealed very much to me, having taught teenagers for many, many years. The author was inspired by the Roman gladiator battles and Greek mythology. I really got into these books, and the themes of hardship, starvation, poverty, the effects of war, making moral decisions and persistent loyalty had me glued to the books. They were hard to put down!

As a child, I read an amazing number of books of all different kinds of genres. We had to read lots of different types of books in middle grades and high school..The Good Earth by Pearl Buck stands out in my mind. I remember reading LOTS of science fiction, that seemed to be one of my favorite types of reading while in elementary school. I used to read the Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia for fun (!) as a grammar school kid. Reading was an escape for me from a very unhappy childhood. Then, as I went off to high school, college and beyond, graduating, starting a family, reading became a lost art to me. For years, I worked hard, raised my girls as a single parent, and kept working at a frenzied pace in my spare time after the girls got older, to make stuff...I crafted all kinds of things. Crafting became a way to have some beauty come into my life, to forget about unhappy times, difficult times and very lonely times.  I submersed myself in my crafts and forgot about reading. I didn't have time! Once I retired, I had trouble sitting still and relaxing. I couldn't seem to just sit and read...I was still going 100 miles an hour....

Finally, this year seems to be the year after 2 1/2 years on the road, where I'm starting to slow down a bit...You just can't plan some kind of outing or exploratory trip every day to see the local sights. So I thought by getting a Kindle, since I like technology so much, I might like reading a book on a Kindle, and I do! I'm on a roll. Getting my books through the public library...Next book is Anna Quindlen's Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. With only two weeks allowed to hang onto the book, it forces me to take time to relax and read. I should have thought of this a long time ago! :-)  

It's so weird...the book "disappears" from your device...where does it go? How does the library "store" a digital book? They seem to have only a limited number of digital copies. That I understand, it costs money to have them. But how does the library get the book "returned"? And how about "the Cloud"? I know that's digital storage space "out there" but I still don't get it. Some of my books are stored in the "cloud", some are stored on my device and I don't know why. But I'm working on trying to get a handle on it. Some technology I'll never quite grasp, especially as it moves faster and faster to new technology. But I sure enjoy the fruits of it!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another Craft? Just What I Need!

Oh, boy...something new to learn and kinda fun, until you start having trouble...Pine needle basket making! I saw a lady down our street at the RV park making baskets and just had to stop. Her name was Carol Moore, and she had some beautiful baskets in the works in front of her. She offered to teach me how to make one for a small fee for the materials. I said sure, and sat down to learn....She gave me a small kit that had some Coats Red cotton for lacing the needles, a piece of copper tubing that her  husband had flared at one end, which is your gauge to know how many needles to gather at one time, an upholstery needle for sewing, and some pine needles. That's really all you need to get started: LONG pine needles 10-18" long, an upholstery needle, a certain type of twisted nylon thread, or waxed thick thread, or even artificial sinew, a gauge to thread bundles of needles through and a base with holes to start the bottom of the basket. You can use a drinking straw for your gauge if you want to. The gauge helps keep the bundles of needles at a consistent circumference as you wind them around to make your basket.

Carol had the coolest bases for her baskets...circular sections of wood which have predrilled holes in them, agates which her husband coated with rosin and then drilled holes all around the edge and leather pieces which had been etched with designs....She got me started with a simple wooden base....I started stitching. It looked fairly easy. She recommended a book that is VERY clear and well written to get started making baskets, so I ordered it. It's called Pine Needle Basketry and it's by Judy Mallow. Judy has supplies on the Prim Pines website...Carol says that her prices are very reasonable.

I went home and thought, I can do this! It looked easy. HA! But it wasn't. There's a real trick to feeding your pine needles through the gauge. You have to feed them through the center of the previous bunch of needles, and you are supposed to insert them just halfway through to the center of the gauge.  It's hard to tell where the needles are in the center of a copper gauge. You also have to keep feeding needles through the gauge before you run out of needles and they all stop at once, giving you a bunch of ends. Then it's hard to start another bunch of needles. (Ask me how I know.) It's hard to know where the center of the  copper gauge is, so I kept shoving needles through the gauge too far which ended up being too close to the open end of the gauge. After stitching awhile, the needles seemed to all stop at once, and I was having bunches of ends sticking out. Trying to stitch those down, I got really frustrated.  Way too many pokey ends sticking out!

The other hard part is the actual stitching. There seem to be two basic styles of stitching the bundles of needles as you go along. Once is sort of a straight stitch from the back side to the front side, and you just keep "wrapping" the needle bundles catching part of the row below as you go. The other way is to stitch diagonally from the BACK left side of your previous stitch coming forward and through the pine needles to the RIGHT and front of the previous stitch row. It's a much more slanted stitch, but makes for a prettier up and down lacing look to the basket. You'll have to either get a book or watch a Youtube video for how the stitching is done. I'm still trying to figure it out! Carol has been making baskets for over 15 years and her stitching is wonderful!

I ended up trying to take out the stitches and start over. I had made so many "extra" stitches to secure all my loose pine needle ends that it was no simple matter to pull the needles out and use them again. I ended up cutting through the needles with a pair of wire cutters and scrapping the whole thing. Now I have to go get more needles to make a basket. It takes a LOT of needles to make a 6" basket.  But I'm determined to try again.  It's also not easy to find really long needles..The best ones are 12" and longer. They are called appropriately enough, "long needle pines". There are LOTS of long needles in Gulf State Park, but not 12" and longer. Long needle pines for basket weaving are also found in Missouri, Mississippi and Florida. 

The cool thing about pine needle baskets, is all the neat bases and nuts you can use to decorate your baskets as you go...Hickory nuts and walnuts seem to be favorite accent pieces on the baskets. Agates are another popular bottom for the baskets. I am so disappointed I didn't get some agates back at the Diamond Caverns gift shop when we were there. But the agates have to be dipped in some kind of rosin to be able to drill holes in them before using them as a base. Oh, well...I'm sure I will find some on our travels this year....The leather bases with designs burned into them were cool, too....Here's one Carol has started using a leather base.

I am inspired and I am going to try and keep learning how to do this...We leave in a week, and I want to try and get my first basket made with Carol's help before leaving and having to do it on my own....Wish me luck! Hopefully, next time, I'll have a photo of a finished basket I've made--or not!  Sigh.......

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hats Off!

To those who serve our country....

I am so proud of my daughter who is a first lieutenant in the Virginia Army National Guard and who has served in Iraq. She's a great logistician for the Army and a great leader. She does her job well, and makes me so proud! It's Veteran's Day today, and I really enjoyed seeing the photos posted on MSN in their galleries, and reading Facebook and blogs with special mentions about Veterans' Day--loved the poems and stories I saw today....
To those people who, when reflecting a difference of opinion on blogs, aren't afraid to say who they really are, instead of hiding behind "anonymous" and making nasty, rude comments. I'm amazed at how rude some people are on blogs I read..But then, I shouldn't be, because the world is made up of all kinds of people and rudeness seems to be the norm these days. Why that is, we could discuss for days, so I won't. It just bothers me that kindness, respect, caring and politeness are rare.  I've tried very hard to bring my daughters up to be kind, to respect their elders, to show compassion and empathy for others. I think I have succeeded!  My daughters are both loving, caring, compassionate people....
Speaking of hats off, I made a hat today...crocheted, for my youngest daughter..Did I pay attention to the gauge? Nope....It WAS going to be for her, but it ended up being too big, even for me, and I wear an extra large hat size! She has a smaller head, so the hat is going to get donated somewhere....And I'm off making it again, two sizes smaller crochet hook than what the pattern called for. Hope it works this time and I did check the gauge....  :-) I know the yarn was ok, it calls for worsted weight and a size G hook. The hat pattern was purchased on Etsy (5.00)...It's called the Checker Beret, an original design by Yoshie Wakabayashi for Momohana Kobo and is "sized to fit most adults". [with big heads, haha!] This would probably be a great hat for warmer weather/cool nights as it has a lot of "breathing" holes in it...
I enjoyed making this hat, even if it did turn out too big. The directions were excellent and easy to follow. Maybe I'll start making hats instead of minis (ornaments) for awhile....But first, I gotta get the size down right! I'm going to try an "E" hook and see how that works.

Until next time......

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Christmas Presents?

It's only a few weeks till Christmas as I write this blog...My kids are coming to visit us for about a week. Their present is a place to stay with us in Florida...But I still want to give them something, so I've been working on little knitted gifts. At least I was for awhile, but the whole month of October got by me with very little getting done...We were visiting family and friends, getting appointments out of the way, and indulging ourselves in our favorite things to do...ride our bikes and eat at our favorite hometown restaurants.

I hurt my wrist when I fell off my bike. I don't think I broke anything, because I have very good range of motion with no pain in the wrist part. But I do have pain on the side of the wrist that shoots up my arm in doing certain activities, and knitting has been one of them...sigh! So I bought myself a wrist guard, and it's helping. I know I should go to the doctor, but have such a high deductible, I have been putting it off. I figure immobilizing the wrist would be what they would do if I have fractured a tiny bone somewhere. It's been hurting too long for it to be just a tendon. 

I have been knitting little sweaters for ornaments for a Christmas tree in the past and got back into making them again....They are quick and easy. The pattern comes from an amusing blog title by the name of Chewy Spaghetti. It's a free pattern she posted for an ornamental mini sweater. Here are two done from leftover sock yarn..They take very little yardage to make---she doesn't say how much in the pattern. I used size 2 circulars for the body, then switched over to DPN's for the sleeves...The blue one is a lot smaller because I was afraid of running out of yarn so I made the body and sleeves shorter and used size 1 needles.

I'm going to make little handmade mini hangers for the sweaters and give them as gifts to my kids or they'd make cute package tag ties....I love making minis!    Happy knitting!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

He's Getting Bigger...

My little grandson is growing by leaps and bounds...He's in the 95%ile as far as height and weight. Can't wait to see him again. Those little cheeks are going to get so much smooching in December when they come for a visit!
So I went looking for a little present to make for him. I went to my absolute favorite craft store while visiting here in Elkhart, IN. The craft store is Erica's Craft and Sewing Center. They have a huge selection of wonderful sewing machines and a store packed to the rafters from ceiling to floor with yarn, fabrics, projects, counted cross-stitch, felting, wools, kids' crafts, needlework, punch needle supplies and tons more stuff. 

What I like about this store is that there are model after models displayed next to the patterns. How could you not want to buy the pattern when you see these beautiful projects made up in the store?

I saw the baby bibs and was hooked. I bought the pattern and two bibs for now...(You can buy the bibs at Babies 'R' Us) 

I also bought three little kits to make the bibs. That's another thing I love about this store. If you don't have the "eye" for finding your own fabrics, the store sells little kits of fabric pieces, notions and everything you need for the pattern. 

I fell in love with these little coin purses....
So I bought the pattern and two little kits. Not sure what I'm going to do with them once I make them, I wish I could sell them and make a little money while traveling on the road. Maybe I'll post a little "for sale" gadget on my travel blog or Facebook and see if there are any nibbles! I'd better get busy and start crafting!  Until next time.......

Monday, October 1, 2012

Let's Get Real!

It's hard for me to reveal myself in a blog...But I need a place to be able to do that...When I was working through some family problems, I went to a counselor for a little while. She wanted me to journal. I had no idea how to put my feelings down on paper. I had no idea where to start. I would sit for long periods of time having no clue what to write. I ended up giving up trying to journal. I think it was because it was going to open up some old wounds and old stuff I didn't want to go back to. It was buried, and I was going to leave it there.....

But I really need a place where I can write and talk more openly so my girls learn lots more about me. They know me as "Mom", and I want them to know me better as a person, as an adult. When my mom passed away in 2008, I realized I really didn't know all that much about her other than her in her role as my mom. What did she really think about things? She kept a LOT to herself. Hm-m-m-m, guess that's where I get that from!  I'm going to try and write a little more personal stuff in this blog from here on out.

I'm going to give myself little writing journaling prompts now and then to get myself going...I will still write about my crafts, but as my sister is battling cancer and not creating along with me, I think I would like to just have a place to "talk" for now. I do like to write....and maybe things will reveal themselves as I go along, who knows? And with this blog, I'm not going to worry about followers, or who's reading, or who decides not to...

I'm just going to be me....warts and all.....Not sure about photos just yet...might have to practice getting myself in front of the camera more. Not an easy thing to do.

Where did the week go?  It went fast....I went bike riding for twelve miles TWICE in one week. I love my new bike, I really do. It's a Trek 7300, last year's model. It's lighter and fun to shift gears. It gives me JOY to ride it. I would rather ride my bike than walk around the mall or the neighborhood any day. I like to FLY on my bike...12-15 miles an hour...I'm finally getting the hang of the gears and starting to shift according to how it feels, and not by looking at the numbers...Woo-hoo! Watch out! Here I come!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Time to Make Chemo Hats

I've got the blue one done...Decided to model it first...I have a big head, about the same size as my sister, so if it fits me, it will probably fit her. It's made of fun fur by Lion brand, and their microspun acrylic fiber as well. You hold the eyelash yarn together with the microspun yarn--two strands as you knit it on large needles. I think they were size 13, if I remember right.  Free pattern on the Lion brand website. This turned out to be an extremely soft cap.
The hat was really fun to make and easy! I like it so much myself, I might make one for me...So many colors to choose from on the Lion yarn website.

I started another hat for my sister....The pattern was called "Lace Trim Chemo Cap" by Maureen Keenan, a free pattern on Ravelry. It had a very pretty simple lace pattern trim at the edge. It seemed very easy. For some reason, between casting on 120 stitches and making sure they didn't get twisted, and getting through the lace part, I tried THREE times to make it, one time getting all the way to the decreases and messing up the count. I figured three times of frustration was enough and that just wasn't the pattern for me to try right now. I'll try another time......When it's not fun, it's time to move on to something else!

My sister has started chemo....she's very tired but other than that, no nausea or hair loss yet. She's having treatments about two weeks apart to start and has only had one so far. She had to get a shot to keep her white cell count up, and that makes her bones hurt. Her spirits are good, and that's important....

I'm going to go see her in a couple of days, meeting her in Harsen's Island, near St. Clair, MI. We're going to have lunch or dinner together, heck, maybe both!  We'll spend the night with her and her hubby at a rented cottage house, then drive back to Hopkins, MI. Should be fun!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Some Difficult News....

My heart is heavy, and I'm so sad....My sister, Lyle,  has breast cancer for the third time. It's been 24 years since the first time, and 13 years since the second. She's had breast cancer twice on both sides. She found a lump. She also has a spot on her lungs they are looking at. She is getting ready for all the crap you have to go through to fight it once again...biopsies, chemo, visits with this specialist, that specialist...Since she has had it in both breasts, she's talking about a double mastectomy in January.

I feel so helpless. When I heard the news, I felt like throwing up...I'm far away, there's not much I can do but call and tell her how much I love her and come when she needs me. She has a LOT of family nearby, so that's really great. Two of her three sons are there nearby, with their families. She has a wonderful, hilariously funny husband who bolsters her spirits each and every day. I just love my sister to pieces...she's so funny and witty, too, she always makes me laugh! Since my mom passed away, she's been like a mom to me, as she is eight years older than I. She's my connection to my mom. My three brothers are typical guys. They don't write or call much. They love me, but they just don't keep the connections going like sisters do. She and I have gotten a lot closer since my mom passed away. I get really panicky when I think about life without my sister. I can't imagine what it's like to be living with a terminal illness, how you keep going....And then I get scared thinking, when is it going to be me? It's so discouraging reading about women who are getting this disease. I just read about Judy Blume, the wonderful author for teen girls, and she is battling breast cancer. She is 74! It's crummy that we have this phantom in our closet all our lives, wondering when it's going to reveal itself. There seems to be no window of age where you can quite worrying about it as you get older. I try not to worry and I try not to think about that. 

She's in for a long fight...

What do I do when I have heavy feelings in my heart? I either eat, or I go spend money on crafts to make something. I started researching chemo hats. I've got some really pretty fun fur and microfiber yarn to make her a couple of hats. I found this Lion Brand hat pattern.
I bought some really pretty lavender fun fur and microfiber, from Lion brand. Lavender is one of her favorite colors. And she loves the colors of the ocean, so I got her some colors of the sea....

I just about finished the lavender one and made Eldy try it on, knitting needles still in it. He's the closest thing to a bald head I could find to see if it fits. It did. What a guy! My sister will look a lot cuter in it, I think!  

Now I'm working on the ocean blues one. It's just about done. I sure hope she likes them and that they will cheer her up. Right now, she feels well, and hasn't started treatment yet. I hope that she continues to feel well for a long time! At least until the chemo starts, probably this week. I'm hoping that the drugs they use in chemotherapy have gotten better and more successful since 13 years ago, and that maybe she won't get as sick from them. With everybody, it's different....Please say some prayers for my sister, Lyle...Thank you....That's about all I can do right now is pray....

An update:  My sister's lung spot is NOT cancer...that's good news. And the cancer has not spread anywhere else in her body. That's great news, too....

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How to Take a Better Photo

I've been learning some wonderful things through a couple of workshops here at there...a little online, a little at the Canon workshops at the national parks, and I'm excited to apply some of these things towards digital scrapbooking.

Everybody who does photography talks about "composition", "telling a story" and getting meaning from your surroundings in your photos, or "context"...It's easier to remember this, for me, as "the three C's"...composition or context, characters, and close up--all of these things are mentioned in Elizabeth Dillow's Big Picture Workshop class--Photo Challenges. Being a former special ed teacher, it reminds me of the three R's--reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. I can remember context, closeup & characters easily this way. I see this mentioned all over the digital scrapbooking world. Debbie Hodge, of Get It Scrapped! is another great resource for these principles and more in scrapbooking, both digital and paper.

When I used to take photos, I just snapped away..I never thought about what was in my photo, other than people, I never thought about the message I wanted to see after I came back to the photo later, I never thought about focusing in tightly to something at the moment and then backing off to take another photo perspective. But things started to change when I started traveling. At that point, I hadn't had any exposure to photography classes. I just had my little point and shoot, I didn't have a fancy camera. But now, my focus seemed to change in my photos. I started paying attention to the little details, how the sun hits a leaf early in the morning...dew on a spider's web, kids playing in their own little world, an architectural detail and I started naturally paying closer attention to telling my story. It was only natural that starting a blog would follow.

And so, a little over two years ago, I started my travel blog, "Where's Eldo?", and just this past year, and this craft blog.  I knew I didn't want to have the typical landscape photo after photo after photo in the travel blog. I wanted more from my photos, not realizing that I was becoming a storyteller...And now, being introduced to the wonderful world of online classes, many free or inexpensive, I can develop my skills further, hopefully! 

Here's a photo of where I tried to show context in the large photo--we were at the beach, and I was looking through the little cabana tent are always great characters, and the closeup of the crazy orangy red flower umbrella makes it all come together! I just got lucky that the lime green in the little boy's outfit is repeated in the flower beach umbrella.
The collage was made through a free online website called Big Huge Labs. Fun place to do some fun things with your photos! 

I am really loving these experiences I'm having with online photography classes. It's perfect for a full time traveler to learn new things! I have to watch myself or I could be online all day learning about this stuff. As it is, I try to wait for a rainy day so I don't miss the great big beautiful outdoors!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Photos to Take Right Now

This is assignment #3 from the Big Picture classes is to take a photo of your favorite fruit. I skipped it and went straight to #4 last week. Oh, well! Had to get some fruit first in order to be able to do assignment #3!

Strawberries are my absolute favorite summer fruit...I like 'em plain, just straight from the container. I don't put whipped cream on them, only sometimes, when I have a little angel food cake or those little sponge cakes you put the berries on. THEN I will add a little whipped cream. And it's gotta be whipped cream, not Cool Whip! I'm a little picky when it comes to my food.

When my girls were little, we used to be able to go to "U-Pick" farm fields outside of South Bend, IN and we'd pick and eat, eat and pick those wonderfully tasting strawberries, they were SO sweet! Is it just my imagination now, or are the berries not so great tasting? The fields are gone now, we just have our memories. Did I take any pictures? No...I wish I had...Documenting your life is so different now, with everything digital. I didn't have time to stop and take photos with a film to be developed camera. I do wish I had....

When we were in California last year, there was a field of strawberries outside the town of LaQuinta, CA. The berries were picked daily right there at the field. They were the VERY best tasting strawberries I have ever eaten, even since the ones we had when the girls were little! Traveling full time make it a lot easier to try local, fresh food. What a difference in taste as opposed to buying it in grocery stores!

Now we are in Maine, and it's tiny WILD blueberries as opposed to the hybrid large berries you find in the grocery. That's probably my second favorite fruit, now that I've tried Maine's WILD blueberries. The taste is a little milder, but they seem to be sweeter. They are just wonderful, tiny little berries! Fantastic antioxidant properties, I hear. Seeing the wild blueberries in Maine always makes me think of a favorite childhood story, Blueberries for Sal....What's wonderful about traveling full time, is we have been in Maine for five weeks, and the author's daughter was giving a talk about her father, who wrote this book and many others, about her family growing up in Maine. She was presenting the talk not too far from us. Unfortunately, things didn't work out to where I could go see her.
But it's just great to see these personal connections in your travels and to take the opportunity to make the connections, if you can.....We'll see what next week brings as far as photo ideas might be....

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer Assignment #4--Outdoor Play

That's an easy one for me....One of my favorite ways to play as an adult is kayaking...Here I am in a rental...or rather, here are my feet!

I've just gotten done paddling across a busy channel, narrowly being hit by a big yacht that wasn't watching for little boats. I paddled like hell to get across the channel, misjudging the speed of the yacht. Kinda scary seeing that big honkin' ship barreling down towards me! But I got across safely and took a much needed breather. My heart rate was definitely up!

I love kayaking. I started ten years ago, paddling the rivers in the northwest and northeast parts of Indiana. I had an eleven foot "Tupperware" boat, one of those polypropylene, some kind of plastic boat. It was great for rivers. It got pretty banged up, lugging it around all over northern Indiana, in and out of rivers, banging up against rocks. It was great! I didn't have to worry about knocking a piece out of it, like you do with fiberglass. But it was HEAVY, about 40 pounds.  I considered it great exercise, getting the boat up and down off the roof of my car. Being single at the time, I didn't have anybody to help me.

I had Thule saddle kayak holders on the top of my CR-V. It was the type of setup where I could load the boat myself. Put the bow up against the car against a towel, lift up the rear end, slide it forward, and TADA! All that was left to do was tie down the boat. I went all over the rivers in the northeast corner of the state. I'd paddle every weekend in the fall. Sometimes I'd paddle with the Fort Wayne group of paddlers. They were a FAST bunch!

Getting underway
It wasn't long before I was wishing for a longer, sleeker boat that would boogie across the water. The Fort Wayne kayakers paddled mostly lakes in the area. So I bought a fiberglass boat. That boat would FLY across the lake waters. But you really had to watch for rocks and be extra careful launching the kayak. Unfortunately, not long after that, I was going to start full timing in the motorhome, and two kayaks just didn't want to be schlepped all over the U.S. on a car rack, worrying about being stolen. So I sold them. Sigh!

Wherever we traveled and there were kayak rentals, I would rent one and head out on the water. I love the peace of the water, the quiet, the solitude. In our travels, most of the time, we are in areas with quiet water, not the whitewater rapids. I ended up getting a Sea Eagle 330 inflatable kayak to be able to go out anytime. It's a great kayak for RVers, inflates easily, is extremely sturdy, it tracks really straight and is holding up well. It's my play of choice...out paddling for several hours, looking for wildlife, watching the birds. I don't have to paddle fast any more, I just need to paddle.....It's my favorite summer play.....

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Time to Get Focused

I decided to take a look at Big Picture Classes for some inspiration to get me going in a photography  direction, since it seems I'm happiest when I'm behind a camera, and doing something with my pictures.  They have free online classes, so I signed up for a couple, and signed up for a couple of inexpensive ones, too. That ought to keep  me busy for awhile, and not dwelling on some very sad news I received this week.

Big Picture Classes has self-guided classes as well as classes with a defined starting and completion date. That means STRUCTURE, and since I'm retired, I chafe a little at anybody telling me I have to be somewhere, someplace at a certain time or heaven forbid, perform activities every day in a routine. I've gotten to be even MORE independent and willy-nilly about what I do every day being a full time traveler in a motorhome. I LOVE it!

I signed up for the free class "Ten Summer Photos to Take Right Now"...and it's fun! You get a pdf. guide with your class, email access to the teacher, and you can start or stop at any time. The other workshops offered by Big Pictures are more structured with more help, gallery boards to post your projects and all kinds of extras. The cost, depending on the class, ranges anywhere from 5.00 to 99.00.

So I started the class today...Assignment #1...."Take a photo of your favorite summer accessory." Boy, that's a hard one...a bike is not an accessory, is it? But maybe it is, it's an important part of's an extension of myself.

I love my Trek Navigator 3.0 bike. It's what they call a "comfort bike." That's sort of a nice term for a little old lady bike. That's not me! It is designed for easy short rides around town or for biking on well paved trails a few times a year. It's got fat, knobby tires and totally upright handlebars. The bike is on the heavy side, and the rolling resistance is tougher than if I had different tires, a lighter frame, a different style bike. I bike everywhere we travel, and seek out the rails-to-trails paths. I've put hundreds of miles on it, and it's time for new tires or maybe even time to explore buying an upgrade, since I bike so much. I'M NOT AN OLD LADY! Well, not quite yet....Hybrid, here we come?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Beautiful Blogs

I've been reading a few of my back issues of Artful Blogging...what a wonderful resource of artistic photography and writing talents of online bloggers...I went exploring this week...and found some wonderful blogs....While reading my magazines, I came across a blog that talked about "Photo Styling" interesting concept to me and it really hit home of what I wish I could do "in my next life".  I'd like to explore a class in photo styling if I could find one in my travels, or maybe I could take a class online. I LOVE this idea!

Photo styling is taking every day items and photographing them in an artistic way to make them look exceptionally appealing, that's my own personal definition. Everything you see in catalogs, in ads, is "styled" to make you see the item in its most flattering light. There's food styling, "off the model" clothing styling, furniture styling, and product styling and more, I'm sure. Lighting is critical, angle and positioning of the item are critical, there are lots of design aspects where training and a great eye would come in to play. Sometimes I think I have a photographer's eye, and sometimes I don't. My daughter, the new mom, says I should get a job as a Wally World children's photographer. I actually looked into that at one time, and they wanted ridiculous hours from anybody who works for them. You had to work holidays...yuck! She says I have an obsessive problem...I take too many photos every day! Hm-m-m-m...awareness is the first step, right? :-) But it makes me really really happy to take photos and have some good ones turn out. It's now my retirement hobby, and if it takes up a LOT of my time, who cares? I swear that my new little grandson was starting to have an awareness of Grandma and her camera before I left. He would slow down his little arms and legs flailing away when I came near with my camera and just watch me.

Back to the photo styling, I digressed, something I do often in my life....Here is my own primitive attempt at photographing some yarn....A photo stylist would change the angle of the needles to show off their color better? Have a different placement of the sock in progress? Maybe use a different background?  I'm just guessing here, but it gives you some idea that there is a LOT of work and a LOT of time involved setting up items for a photo shoot. But I do like this photo regardless. I like the way the grey picnic table plays up the fun color of the yarn. I like looking at this photo. It makes me happy just to look at this Pagewood Farms bright rose/orange/salmon sock yarn.

The Artful Blogging magazine is full of "styled" blogs...They are eye candy to look at and aspire to, with the way that the writers delve into their psyches, or report about the ordinary, and the way they photograph and document their lives...just really beautiful blogs. I'm going to post some of my faves next time.....

Sunday, July 29, 2012

First Digital Layout W/O Template

We are in Acadia....and there's so much to do, and the weather has been so beautiful, that we are hiking, biking and here's a digital layout celebrating the end of one of my wonderful days  at Acadia.  My first attempt at NOT using a template! Boy, do I have a lot to learn about that! Mostly Katie Pertiet elements, brushes and stamps from Designer Digitals were used.....Katie's products are: Worth Repeating #6, Letter Box Overlays #4, Vintage Photo Frames #18, Stitched Journal Strips #3, then I used another product from a different line, ITM Moments Time Labeled, which is still Designer Digitals, I think!

I've got an overlay on top of my digital paper, I've got a few embellishments, a brush "Remembered" on top of my paper, and a frame. I kept trying to add a cluster of embellishments, but my eye kept being drawn to the embellishments and not to the beautiful sunset, so I'd take them back off. Sometimes simpler is better. I was thinking of using a black photo strip border as a frame, but then thought it might be too black. For my first effort at totally putting something together digitally without any template, I'm happy!...The sunset is at our campground at Mount Desert Narrows in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Too Busy to Craft!

We had our grandkids for two weeks...too busy to craft, too busy to knit, too busy trying to keep the kids entertained. But I did get one layout done...Here it is, my little grandson once of Katiet Pertiet's "A Heart That's Happy" template...

And how my layout turned out....
I should get busy and do some travel layouts...and I should try to do some digital layouts of  my own...sigh...maybe this week I'll give it a go, and do one on my own from scratch! Until next time.....

Monday, July 9, 2012

Another Digital Layout...Practicing Opacity

This is my daughter, Kerry, with her little son, on about the second day home from the hospital. The photo is not a good one, so I thought I would use the opacity feature to dim it in the background, placing it behind the photo mask. I didn't know how much to dim it! But I think it looks ok.....What do you think? I'm also thinking that the shade of digital paper should have perhaps been recolored to match Kerry's shirt a little more closely? I could spend lots of time doing and redoing these layouts, I tend to fixate too much on is it perfect or not? Should I redo it or not? But sometimes I analyze till I'm paralyzed and then get too discouraged to enjoy the process and that's not good!

I forget almost every time to make a note of the digital paper at the time I am making these, it's so fun to jump in and get going. So I don't remember the designer name of this paper. I have so many digital paper files,  buried somewhere, so I will have to do a better job next time of giving credit for the designer. The template is a Katie Pertiet one, called "family memories" purchased from the Designer Digitals website. I've sure been giving them a lot of business lately! :-) Her templates are amazing! The only digital files I put on this layout were 1) a photo, and 2) the digital paper. You can change the other elements if you want to, because of the layers in Photoshop Elements (version 8) I just liked the ease and quickness of using her template as is.

I did another layout which I'm happy with...
This is another Katie Pertiet  template...Stamped and Framed Layered Template No. 21. This definitely makes my heart happy when I look at my little grandson and his cute little smile, that's for sure.  Until next time....

Monday, July 2, 2012

Digital Scrapbooking--Baby Layout #2 and #3

This time I used a different style of template. I've had the template so long, I'm not exactly sure whose it is, but I think it's from Page Maps. The templates are very plainly styled as far as how the layering looks, and they give you a much broader interpretation of what you want to put in for your elements. Here is an example of what I started with:

The different shades of purple color are for different digital papers. The bars are for digital ribbon files, or solid color bars that you can make any color you want to match colors in your photos or papers. Unlike Designer Digital templates, templates from Page Maps are much more generic. YOU make ALL the choices of elements, what kind of elements, what colors you want to use for the photo corners, for example, or the bracket. Page Maps gives you the design principles so you don't have to struggle WHERE to put things, but you DO have to struggle with coordinating papers and elements, unless you've purchased a digital kit that makes it easier to coordinate everything for your layout. 

Here's my layout after I finished it....I'm printing them in 8 X 8 to fit in the same size album.
Layout #2
Again, I struggled with movement, coloring basic elements my own colors, but after researching a bit, I managed to color the photo corners, and recolor some bar elements. I deleted the zig zag ribbon as I coudn't find what I wanted in my digital "stash".  I would have rather placed some teal polka dot ribbon where the plain bars are, but didn't want to spend hours on this layout by having to teach myself stuff as I went along. I'm kinda pressed for time to get at least eight more pages done before we leave Texas in two days. As it was, it took me awhile to get this one done. One disadvantage to digital scrapbooking, is it's hard to see mistakes until after you have "flattened the image" and melded all the digital stuff into a final file for printing. I see that I forgot to add drop shadows to my zigzag stitching on the sides of the layout. There are so many advantages to digital scrapbooking, especially for RVers, that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, in my humble opinion. I was on a roll, so I did another one! Here's the template first....from Studio DD #125, at the Designer Digital Studio.
Here's the final result...this is not an original interpretation. This design was shown in the Designer Digitals ideas gallery. I went back to try and find it to credit the person who did it, but was not able to locate it. Most of the elements and papers used were Katie Pertiet's, and the "hello sweet baby" is Ali Edwards, another digital designer I like very much. And the adorable baby is my grandson, Barron.

One of my problems is, I have files and files of digital stuff, but it takes forever to see the thumbprints and color schemes on a laptop monitor. You are looking at little squares of patterned paper and other items. Once you open the file, then it's bigger and easier to see, but assembling the digital files that you need at first is not an easy visual task. I have all my digital scrapbooking stuff organized into five basic folders on my desktop--digital paper, alphas, embellishments, stamps and brushes and templates. Then it's a major search into the subfolders, and more subfolders under those to look at the thumbnails and place on my desktop. Good job for a retiree....Get better organized! There has got to be a better way to view digital files! 

I had forgotten how much fun it is to scrap digitally once you get some basics under your belt. I'll be doing more layouts about our travels, and my little grandson, that's for sure! Until next time.....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Digital Scrapbooking Babies

AHA! I have a way to get around this no taking photos thing of my grandbaby. My daughter has requested Mom, please don't post any more baby photos publicly to the whole wide world, unless you make it REALLY generic. She is concerned for the baby's privacy. So, I am making Kerry a scrapbook of my four weeks here with her. It's a digital scrapbook, so if I post a couple of artistic pages, and don't give a lot of details about the baby, then I think I will still be in her good graces, and still respecting her and the baby's privacy....So here's my first digital layout with my new grandson, six days old.....

I took Katie Periet's "A Moment in Time" template which looks like this:

And started fooling around with it....I have trouble getting things to fit and move around digitally as I am just learning about how to digital scrap, but I think it turned out ok. I moved some elements and the photo. I used Photoshop Elements version 8 for my page and working with the photos...With many digital templates, you simply "drop" down an opened digital paper file onto the background layer, add your journaling and the rest of the elements are all there. I used Katie Pertiet's (my favorite digital designer!)  "My Baby Boy" paper for the background, and added a date. The graph paper had to come out when I couldn't get the elements to group together because I didn't know what I was doing! But it's on to the next digital page, I've got ten or twenty pages to do in just a couple of days before I leave depending on whether I want back to back layouts or not. Time is a factor here.

I think she's going to like it....It's fun when it comes together without too much hassle or having to start over. This one was relatively easy to do. Until next time.......

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Getting the Shot Just Right

Wanted to experiment with photography this week....

Taking photos of my new grandson is of top priority! 
Unfortunately, my daughter wishes I wouldn't post photos of the baby in such a public manner, so Grandma Sparky has to cool it for awhile.....I understand her privacy concerns as a new mother in Kerry's hometown was murdered coming out of a pediatrician's office and the baby kidnapped, not far from where Kerry lives. The baby was recovered. My daughter is justifiably concerned, having been affected by weird things of a criminal nature happening in her young life, much more so than the average person her age. She is just more cautious about everything, with a new baby, and I guess society has really drummed it into our heads that it's a dangerous place out there, and you can't trust anybody. Our identities are in danger of being stolen, our accounts are getting hacked, people are stealing babies right and left, if you were to believe the media. 

So, I am saddened not to be able to post any more photos in the blog or any more personal details about the wonderful joy of being a new grandma, but I respect her wishes. She says if I can do it in a more generic way, that's ok. So I"m going to have to rethink how I post "Grandma" time...So for now,  I turned my attention to our travels this week, in particular, a tour of a craft brewery. I talked about it in my travel blog a bit (Where's Eldo? on Blogger) but I wanted to say more about it.

I liked this photo in particular. I think I got the shot just right for me..Not because it's about beer, which I don't even like, but because it makes me think of the happy time I spent today with Eldy, on a tour of the Saint Arnold Brewery in Houston. (The red chips are tokens you get to sample the craft beers after the tour.)
The tour was short but informative, and after the tour, we sat down at a table in the big tasting room and started talking to two young women who were from Singapore. It was really great to see Eldy, who seldom talks to strangers unless they approach him first, strike up a conversation with the two gals and then from there, it just blossomed into a nice long discussion about traveling. We compared notes about different parts of the U.S., and we talked about the culture in Singapore, and the American culture.  The girls, (they seemed so young to me!) asked lots of questions about our travels and we asked lots of questions about life in Singapore.

It was just really fun to learn about people who are from other places and to learn from them, and it felt so comfortable talking with them. They were fun and interesting, smart young women who were obviously doing well in their jobs. They had traveled all over the world and had lots to say about all kinds of things. We really enjoyed chatting with them today....That's part of the wonderful life of full time RVing, striking up conversations with strangers everywhere we go, and strangers become friends more easily than anywhere else in life.....It was a really great day today and one to remember......