Monday, December 30, 2013

The Rock Pendants And Some Morning Chatter

It has been a morning of crankiness at the Casa de Cupcakes. Both children were up about a million times last night so they're tired and fussy. I was up with each of them, of course, so I'm tired and fog brained. The Husband worked third shift so he's tired and more tired. Everybody is tired. Even the cat. Of course, she's a lazy floor pillow, so she's always tired. Her life is so hard.

To combat the tired crankiness, we're taking the Christmas tree down today then going outside and facing the icky cold temps(it is TWO DEGREES right now) to pick out paint chips and maybe some paint. I've decided to paint the fireplaces green. Yes, green! Jadite green...ish. And the playroom is getting a new 1940's Superman comic inspired color palette. I think we need to pump up the color around here and make this house feel a little more playful and happy. No time like the present to start!

Before I go, I wanted to share a few wire wrapped pendants we picked up a few weeks back while we were Christmas shopping. Two went to the Moms and two went to me.

Can you guess which ones went to who?


If you guessed that the ginormous geode is mine, you're correct. It was the biggest one he had! He actually said he hoped I wasn't buying it as a joke. I assured him I was not. I love it!

I tried to capture the crazy, glittery sparkle of the substantial stone but I just could not get it quite right. If you've ever seen a geode up close, then you know that sparkle that I am referring to. It reminds of how the snow glitters like thousands of diamonds after the first fall.

This weird, white and carmel bubbly stone is also mine. The gentleman who made the pendants told us it is some type of coral(I don't remember what kind-Mommy brain). It is such a weird, pretty, strangle little piece. I loved it immediately.

This teeny little geode went to my mama. Out of all the pendants he had, this reminded me of her the most. Strong rock outside. Delicate and glittery crystals inside. Earthy and pretty. Simple yet complex. I think I chose well. She seemed to like it.

Or she's a brilliant actress. Heh.

And finally, this pendant went to The Husband's mother. I cannot for the life of me remember what it is, nor can I explain why we picked this one. It was just a pretty stone that we liked and thought she might like too. She seemed to think it was neat. She wears it on a small seed bead necklace, which is a nice contrast to the stone.

Serendipity. That's how we came across these.

I knew you were wondering.

The artist who made these pieces was selling them from a seasonal  booth in the middle of the Quincy mall. The juxtaposition of the slightly shy, artistic rock lover, quietly wrapping his stones in his booth, which was catty corner from a big name, conventional jewelry store that was full of shoppers making their Christmas purchases a few weeks away from the "big day" was so interesting, and even a little sad(to me) in some ways.

Here was this man, who clearly loved all these rocks he had cut and/or tumbled/polished/wrapped, and was very knowledgeable about them(as he had acquired many of them from their places of origination), selling absolutely one of a kind, handmade pieces of art, for far less than he could or should have, and people were passing him up left and right for the expensive, mass produced, conventional gold and lab created stone and/or blood diamond jewelry. Many of them opening credit cards just to afford their purchases(The Husband and I both did this during our first couple years together. I to buy him a watch and he to buy me an opal ring. Ha.).

Don't get me wrong, gold and silver and diamonds are financial investments, and they are pretty, and they stand the test of time(Except for opals! They are big fat weaklings that crack and fall out of their settings when you least expect it...can you sense my bitterness?) I know. Those items are always worth something to somebody.

But, sometimes it is nice to invest in people and their gifts too, though. They are always worth something as well.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Geese And Ducks And Eagles, Oh My!

Merry Christmas!

Ok, I know that was a little late, but the past week has been a flurry of baking, cooking, Christmas present wrapping, gift giving and gift receiving plus all the clean up that a truly busy holiday has to offer. We've also been busy writing up a game plan for the new year. We've got a lot of house to continue working on, a business to start building back up and a family life that needs some serious focus, organization and change if we want to start living the simple kind of life we have always talked and dreamed about.

Plans for the new year include growing and preserving more of our own food, living a less "plugged in" life, being more active, being more spontaneous, parenting with time and not toys, refraining from accumulating more clutter and seeing/taking every opportunity to bless those around us. Especially when we don't want to.

Look, I'm almost thirty. And I'm really starting to see just how much time and money we are bleeding out and wasting each day by not having any sense of adventure and a tendency to live in a lackadaisical haze of homebody reclusiveness. My biggest goal for our lives, from here on out, is just to utilize our time better and be more productive humans, in all aspects of our lives. There's just so much to see, taste, hear and do before we die, and I want to pass on a sense of vitality and healthy spontaneity to my children, not fear of getting out in the world and trying something new or making something happen. I don't want them to sit and wait for good and exciting things to come to them, I want them to see the value in getting out there and making your own adventures, whether big or small.

Soooo what does that have to do with the birds mentioned in the title?

We live in a town nestled against the Mighty Mississippi. Lots of birds travel through our area as they migrate each year. However, we also have a group of geese who hang out year round. I've known about them for several years, but back when I first started to see them hanging around the boat ramps and the boat club, before I actually lived in town, there were only a few of them. They've really grown in numbers over the past few years. I used to drive down and watch them waddle around before I met The Husband, but once we had babies I did not really have the time to drive down to the town where the geese reside. I forgot about them.

Until we moved, this year. Now we live only a mile or so from the flock, which I rediscovered a couple of months ago. Since then, we've made a point of taking the kids on warmer days(above freezing) to feed the geese. And ducks. And gulls. And whatever else shows up!

According to an older gentleman we met one night(he feeds the flock corn every night), they started out as a few domestic geese who were "dumped off", but they've mixed and mingled and now they are quite the integrated flock of domestic and wild geese, plus their hybrid offspring, plus some ducks. Many of them are injured in some way or another, and many cannot really fly, thus they hang out year round. He says there isn't much for them to eat in their little hang out spot, and if people don't feed them they will starve.

I do not know how accurate that is, but they sure are fun to feed. I used to be terrified of geese. Really terrified. My previous experience with geese led me to believe they were all  just loud mouthed buttholes who would chase you down and bite you. But these birds, they've unexpectedly changed me. Some definitely are loud mouthed buttholes. I catch them nipping others in the butt with a loud honk and a short(very short) chase. There are others, though, who shyly waddle up to me, cock their heads and quietly stare at me as if you ask, "Please ma'am, may I have some more of that corn?"

Some are bossy and gossipy, others sweet and patient. Some are rude and spiteful, some are gentle and generous.

Some have no fear, and others step back and peer at you with unsure eyes if you advance towards them. Some are pushy and selfish while others wait in the back of the crowd to eat the leftovers. Each one has a personality, and it is truly delightful to watch those personalities clash and click.

Can you tell I'm in love?!

The Husband and The Kid are too. And Babycakes is quite amused by it all. Neither of the children are afraid of the large, loudly vocal flock of birds. The Kid goes right up to them to chuck corn at them, and the baby just hangs out in one of our arms, taking it all in.

Where as the geese are quite social, the ducks are rather cautious. They are always on the water when we arrive, while the geese are hanging out on shore, prepared to loudly beseech any passing cars to stop and feed them.

As soon as one of the geese spots a potential food bearer, the race is on and a mass of fluttery wings, thick bodies and sturdy beaks makes its way up the shore.

The ducks hang out in the background until they feel secure with the situation.
Eventually, a few of the more fearless ducks will begin to mingle with the geese and snatch up as much corn as they can before the rest of the flock catches on.
The big male is quite friendly, though somewhat narcissistic. He's not the brightest penny in the glass milk jug, either. On this day, he kept slipping and sliding across the ice, despite my attempts to lead him elsewhere.
These were sliding around too. I couldn't help but laugh, though I also took pity on them and we eventually just fed them separately from the others.
Goose down!
Does this snow make my butt look big?

Swiping snot. Ah, quality family time!

There are also a bunch of blackbirds hanging out right now. They like to pester the other birds. A couple of days ago, we watched one continuously pound his head into the ice for a good ten minutes. Nutty birds.


Oh and hey! We've got bald eagles right now too!


The eagles are a real treat to observe. They are so regal, so majestic. Just very strong, graceful birds. It is no wonder they are our national bird.

The last time we went to feed the birds, a couple of days ago during an unseasonably warm afternoon, we arrived to find the geese hanging out further up the shore, behind a gigantic mud pile. It took a little bit of thinking, some muddy Uggs, and a lot of coaxing and directing to get them into the water, around the mud pile and back onto the concrete where they get the most out of their food since little gets lost(like it does in the water or the mud), but we did it. So not only did we get the fun of feeding the birds with the sun warming our faces, but we had a little lesson in problem solving as well. And lessons learned in organic ways are always pretty cool, in my opinion.

Personally, I have gleaned so much creative inspiration from these trips to see the flock as well. Everything from color palettes to textures and illustration ideas are waddling through my head.

And I get a chance to recharge. Though the children and husband are always with me, there is no crying or screaming or whining or nipple pinching while we feed the birds. Just the quiet of the river, the chatter of the geese and the occasional request by The Kid for "MORE CORN!". I get some quiet time in my own head, which is in extremely short supply back at the house. We all get some fresh air, some movement and some quality time together, away from home, too.

We're buying fifty pound bags of corn, at this point, and plan to continue feeding these animals as long as we're able and they are willing. I'm excited for spring(or summer?) when I suspect babies might be making an appearance. You'll know when I know, believe me.

And I'll be sharing some of my goose inspired projects with you all too!

So, here's to a new year, full of spiritual, emotional, creative and family progress. And geese. And corn.

Lots and lots and LOTS of corn!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Almond Cinnamon Rolls From Scratch

Babycakes decided that he wanted to be awake at six, a few mornings ago, while the other half of the family was still snoozing. We normally shoot for about seven or so as wake up time, so he was a little ahead of the game that day. Seeing that we had about an hour on our hands until the other two awoke, I decided to whip up some cinnamon rolls.

I used this recipe, altered just slightly.

They were, amazerolls. Seriously. So superior to the ones in the cans at the grocery store, and really easy to make.

Here's what you need.

1 (1/4 ounce) package dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
4 cups whole wheat white flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoonscinnamon
1/2 stick butter, softened 
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2/3 brick cream cheese
1/3 cup butter
1/2 tablespoon almond extract
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
few splashes almond milk
powdered sugar to desired consistency      
Here's What You Do.
Dissolve yeast in the warm milk. Add sugar, butter, salt, eggs and flour. Mix well then knead in the bowl. Add a little flour if the dough sticks too much. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
Roll dough out on lightly floured surface(I use wax paper) to about a 1/4 inch or so thickness. If you keep it rectangular, the rolls are more evenly sized, but I don't stress it. Mix your filling ingredients(minus almonds)then spread over rolled out dough. It will be clumpy. Just use your hands and spread it out best you can. Or do it the way the original recipe called for. Your choice. Sprinkle with almonds.
Roll up, slice and place slices into greased pan. I used two glass pie plates-one for us and one for the in-laws.
Bake at 400 degrees. My two pans took about 13 minutes.
For the icing, mix up all but the powdered sugar until smooth, then add sugar until you get the consistency you want. I make it extra thick since it melts when it hits the hot roll.
If you're wondering why there's toothpicks in the photos, it is because I had to photograph the in-laws rolls since ours disappeared almost instantly. The toothpicks are to keep the plastic wrap off the icing. Ha.
The Kid and Husband devoured these. They were the best cinnamon rolls I have ever made.
In fact, I'd make them every day if I could.
Probably a good thing that I can't, though. I have enough rolls in my life as it is...

Monday, December 23, 2013

What A Load of Craft 2013

****If you are family, don't read this post until after Christmas. Unless you want to risk knowing what I bought you. Then, go for it!

Every year The Husband and I like to go to the "Rock and Roll"  craft show, What A Load of Craft in Iowa City, to support our local(Midwestern) artists and crafters, and add some extra handmade elements to our holidays.

Last year I was blessed enough to be a vendor. This year I did not even attempt to get in. I just knew that with the craziness of the new house and the new baby, I would not be able to pull it off if I did get accepted. I was totally right. I'm barely getting gifts pulled together, let alone stock to sell.

So, last Saturday we packed up the kids and told the oldest we were off on an "adventure" in the snow.

We also visited the local comic book store and a few other businesses with locally produced goods, which I am excited to share with you!

This year we spent most of our What A Load of Craft funds on the kids and a couple of Christmas presents.

Each kid received a hand painted wooden animal from Threadbare. The Kid chose hers, the squirrel. I chose Babycakes', the pretty little bunny.

And The Kid picked out a fun plush monster by Monstrosity. She loved all the eyeballs, and likes to count them over and over.

A skein of gorgeous yarn, hand dyed by my friend Katey of Fangrrl Fiber Arts, will be headed to my Mama on Christmas Day. Katey has super unique and funky colorways, but she also has some more subtley gorgeous ones as well. Mom's not one for neon, but this rich plummy brown should suit her nicely.

And this flippin' cool upcycled comic wallet by Iron Swallow is waiting under the tree for The Husband to unwrap it. There were so many awesome wallets to choose from that it felt like I took an eternity to reach a decision. I almost went with He-Man, but in the end, Teen Titans won out.

I always buy a tote too, to show my support. I am particularly fond of this year's lumberjack Santa.

After WALOC, we stopped by White Rabbit. It is one of my favorite places ever, and a must do when we go to Iowa City.

I bought this lovely upcycled turban from Midcoast designs. Pretty sure I owned that sweatshirt in junior high...

And these kitschy switchplate covers. I'm not sure who made the, but if I find out, I'll update. They are decorated with vintage illustrations(from books, I think). The Heidi girl is up in The Kid's room. The cardboard box girls are headed to my studio.

The Kid also picked out a sweet little crocheted kitty for her friend, Grace. It was made by Hooked On Anime.

Next, we stopped by Raygun to pick up a gift for my youngest brother.

It says, "IOWA-75% vowels, 100% awesome". It is, 98.6789567% accurate.

You know you're a mom when you're wrapping your own Christmas presents. Here's mine.

I really love these blank books from Raygun. They are the perfect size for all my embroidery, sewing, illustration and painting ideas. And grocery lists.

This bag had instant appeal for me.

I took it home and the next day, as I was wrapping it, I looked up to The Husband and exclaimed, "OHMYGOSH. I just got it! HEART land! Because we live in "The Heartland!"

He stared at me with a dumbfounded look, the likes of which I had never seen on his face before.

Oh hey, and it has this cool pouch!

And most awesome of all-

I will never again have to rifle through my bag looking for a pen!

And of course The Kid procured more comics.

The kids were pretty darn tired and cranky by the time we finally made it home, but boy did we have fun. It would have been easier to find a babysitter, and go do what we wanted by ourselves, but it was important to us to introduce our kids to the world of craft shows and the concept of handmade things. I mean, no doubt they are constantly around the things WE make, but I want them to know that other people make things too.

And that they can grow up and make whatever they want(within reason) and not just the things they see us making.

I'm already looking forward to taking them to WALOC next year. This year's crop of vendors was so fantastic, I don't know if I stand a chance of getting accepted, but you best believe I will be trying!

Vendor or not, maybe next year I'll see you there?