Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hole in the Basket Solution

My new passion: Fair Trade Arts.  Fair Trade items are crafted by women in many countries as a way to increase their income, so they can provide food and education for themselves and their children.  These cottage industries are making a difference in the health and well being of thousands of women and children around the world.

I have known about such items for a long time, but their importance was made very clear to me after I read Half The Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Kristof and WuDunn.  So my plan is to buy something, some jewelry, or other item, whenever I can, to support my global sisters. That can only help make the world a better place for all human beings.

Last time I was browsing through the Greater Good end hunger site, this darling little basket made in Nicaragua called out to me. Do you ever have things that 'sing' to you, "buy me, buy me !"?  Well, this basket did. I can't imagine having the patience to wrap those coils and have such nice even spacing for the threading.  It is a fine piece of work. Very colorful and it 'sang', how could not BUY it??  I also ordered a coil bead bracelet from Africa, that I've been eying for while.....

The order came today.  I am delighted.  The basket is oval, about 4" x 6" and a couple inches deep. A great size and there are tons of things it could be use for.  BUT the bottom is not completely woven, so there are holes in each corner, limiting how useful this little beauty could be.  NEVER FEAR, I have a quick and easy solution.

 Cutting mats.  That's right, I took a piece of clear cutting mat that I bought at Dollar Tree, (2 per pack, a generous 11x14") traced around the bottom of the basket and cut it to fit.  I have plans to cut the rest of the mats to fit a wire shelf so none will go to waste.  Anyway, now this gem of basket is ready for useful prettiness. 

I'm going to use it for jewelry.  Often when I get home in the afternoon, I take off my jewelry:  necklace, earrings and rings, but know I'll need them again when I go out later, so I set them on the dresser.   Several times earrings and rings have been knocked off dresser requiring a game of hide and seek to retrieve them.  That's not going to be a problem anymore.  This basket will be the new temporary holding bin for jewelry pieces.

There could be many other uses for a basket this size. Think how darling it would be with a floral arrangement.  OR filled cookies as a gift.  OR it could be a candy dish.  It is also a great size for things like alcohol wipes.  If you're someone that needs regular injections why not have a pretty place to keep your med gear.  OR it could be a desk organizer for holding post-its, paper clips and pushpins. I'm sure there are dozens of other uses, that is just a few that popped into my head.

And here is my shameless plug for  where you can click once a day to support a number of great causes. I found my pretty basket and some fun folk art jewelry on the 'hunger' section. Take a look around and maybe snag a pretty something for yourself or as a gift for someone else.  While you're there sign up for an email reminder and make a daily habit of clicking for a cause or two. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Singing Time Kites Poster

Primary Singing Time here I come !!

I finished a kite poster for March Singing Times today. I'm not much of an artist but a few lines I can manage. I'm please with the result; it is bright and fun.  The kites are removable, each has a number on back.  The numbers indicate a song on my song list. I can the change the songs on the list each week for variety and as needed for song reviews. The children will select a kite and we'll sing the song indicated by the number on the back. 

My kites fly on bright blue poster board from Dollar Tree. (don't you love that place!)  The kites and knots are cut from scrapbooking paper, but construction paper, cardstock, or even white paper you decorate would work. Once I had the cutting done, I laid the kites and knots out on the poster board until I had an arrangement I liked.  I made pencil marks lightly at each corner of the kites to mark the placement.  I used a black sharpie and a straight edge to outline each kite.  I penciled in the string lines and then used the sharpie to draw over them.  Then I glued down the knot shapes.  If you don't want to glue, you could simply draw the knots.  The lines on the kites are lightly drawn with a regular ink pen to add some dimension.

 Finally, I put a piece of packing tape on the back of each kite and in the middle of the kite shape on the poster.That way the scotch tape I use to hold the kites on won't tear up the paper so they will be useable multiple times and I avoid laminating everything.

Below is a link for the kite shape and knots if anyone wants to make a kite poster too.

Kites PDF

Monday, February 3, 2014

Scratch Off Valentine's Day Riddles

Homemade scratch off Valentines with riddles! These were so much fun too make. Of course I had to make a couple samples to see if they really worked. Now I better get the finished cards in the mail to the Grandkids soon, or I'm going to scratch them all off myself. It's addicting !

Last month on Pinterest I noticed several ways to make DIY scratch off tickets. They didn't look too hard and seemed adaptable for fun, kid friendly, Valentine's greetings.  Since all the kids live too far away for coupons for cookie baking or even hugs, I needed something that would make their cards fun. Riddles seemed a good way to turn their Valentines a game.

First, I searched the web for cute riddles and line drawings to go with them. To find the pictures I searched for 'Valentine Elephant' and 'Valentine squirrels' for example.Adding the words 'coloring page' to the image search makes finding the drawings quicker.  Then I spent some time with the computer publishing program until I had a design I liked. I used 1/4 page postcard size for each design and printed 4 to a page on white cardstock.

Once the Valentines were printed, it was time to make them scratch games. This is mega simple.  You simply color over the area you want to be 'scratched off' with a WHITE crayon. Cover the area well, the wax protects the printing, and you can still read through the white. I put a line box around the riddle answer so I would have a defined outline to work in. 

Next you paint over crayon colored area with acrylic paint mixed with dish soap. I used a silver paint, but any color would work.  Mix 2 parts paint to 1 part dish washing liquid.  I used 1/4 teaspoon of paint and 1/8 teaspoon dish soap. It didn't take much to do the dozen valentines I made. Let the paint dry and you have a scratch off games.

That's it. Simple, fun and made with love. I hope the Grand-kiddlets enjoy them. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Simple Mine Craft Party Cake

Retro is turning 14 this weekend and asked for a Mine Craft Party.  My first look over the internet for cake ideas was sort of discouraging.  I do not have the time or interest to work fondant and that seems to be how most of the cakes were decorated.  Then I found a 'cake block' cake and knew we were in business.  It was simple, and didn't require an expert cake decorator.  I'm not masterful with a pastry bag, but I can do some basic piping and that is all that was needed for this cake.

I baked square 10"cake layers and leveled them off.  I used white buttercream in the middle to put the layers together.  Then I piped square shapes on the side with chocolate frosting and frosted the sides to the bottom using my small spatula.  I piped in the white squares next to chocolate on the sides and frosted the top also with the white.  I smoothed things out a little.  Then placed red *twizzler squares on top and piped a round edging at the bottom. 

*Twizzler squares are easy to make.  Put a red twizzler in the microwave for 6 -10 sec until it is soft, but not melted.  Roll it flat with rolling pin while still warm and cut into the squares the size you need. 

We are serving with vanilla bean ice cream cut into cubes. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Battered to Blue Beauty Night Table

A couple weeks ago we rearranged rooms and moved Retro and Mando into separate bedrooms.  Mando got the blue captain's bed and dresser, and Retro the queen bed and furniture that had been in the guest room.

Mando's room was looking pretty sparse.  He really needed a bedside table for a lamp and an alarm clock.  I looked in a few stores and on line for one.  Of course I couldn't find anything in the dark blue to match the captain's bed we bought 6 years ago.  And anything that wasn't pressed paper and plastic cost over $150.  Scratch that.  Off to thrift shops I went.   I found this little gem for $12.  It is all wood, no veneer.  Very Early American style, probably was used as a lamp table next to a couch at one time. It looks like it served as a TV stand too, because there has been a hole punched in the middle of the back for cables, which will actually be useful for us too.  The poor thing had been used hard and was very battered.  The flash in this picture actually makes it look better than real life.

I liked the size and how sturdy it was, so I bought it.  Mando was NOT impressed when I told him it was for his room.  I had expected that, and wasn't hurt by his lack of enthusiasm and went to work.  First I cleaned it inside and out.  There were lots of cobwebs on the underside and I didn't want to bring them into the house.  I removed the the Early American drawer pulls and metal decoration thing from drawer.  Next out came the sandpaper and sanding block and 130 grit sandpaper.  The sanding block worked well for the top, shelf, sides and drawer front.  Then I quickly hand sanded the spindles.  My goal was to get rid of any gloss and scuff up the finish so it would take paint better.

A quick trip to Lowes with the small dresser drawer from the bedroom set for color match was next.  I found a color chip that matched well and had it mixed in a latex enamel satin finish.  I used a sponge roller and brush to apply the paint.  I really like the Velspar signature line of paints, all took was one coat, with some touch up.  After the paint dried, I gave it a couple coats of spray-on clean acrylic for extra protection.  Seriously, this is going in a 10 year old boy's room. 

I used an egg carton and some wood skewers for painting and drying the new little 5/8" round drawer knobs.

And here it is, all done.  Blue Beauty Night Table.  Mando could hardly wait for the paint to dry to get it to his room.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bath Tub Plant Shelf

It happens every winter.  I miss cooking with fresh herbs from the garden.  Each year we consider growing some herbs inside, but there isn't a good place in the kitchen for that.  In fact, the room  with the best light for growing plants is the master bathroom.  There is a large window over the jetted tub that is made from glass blocks.  It is on a south facing wall and gets sun most of the day in the winter months.  I have a couple house plants there.  We have considered putting shelves across the window, but I thought that might give the space a crowded feel.  The answer, use the tub.  Well, not the inside of the tub, but the tub sides.

Mr N cut me a piece of plywood to fit over the jetted tub.  I covered it in contact shelf paper to protect the wood from water and to make it look better.  Simple but effective.  It is small enough to not block the faucets, and easy to move if someone needs a good soak.  Now we have place to grow herbs and start seedlings during the winter months.  My first planting is going to be cilantro seeds.   

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Not so Stately Estate Planning

We had an appointment with an Estate Planning Attorney yesterday.

What is it about our society that can make anything as natural as  dying complicated?  It is already an emotional charged event. How did it become so entangled in legal complications that you have to preplan it.  And how are you supposed to plan for every eventuality that could happen tomorrow or in 10, 20 or 50 years anyway?  

Estate Planning is not a favorite topic with most people.  I know it is something I'd rather not spend my time thinking about.  I keep hoping the need for it is still far, far, far in the future. But every once in while you sort of - have to - think about it. Or at least you should if you don't want to embroil your heirs lives with legal complications of probate, estate taxes and other nifty government inventions. At least once in a while you have do something about it, if you're a responsible adult.

The last 2 years since my mother died it is something I have been avoiding.  Too many decisions.  I don't mind making little choices like do I want juice or milk or should I wear the green or blue.  But big decisions that are hard to reverse and you have to live with a long time, I balk at making.  You know those decisions like what major to declare in college, or what car to buy. I never did declare a major, my degree is a general Liberal Arts one, and it can take years for me to pick a car.  Mr N as threatened to go buy the next one without me, because I take so long to decide.  The point is,  I struggle with those kind of choices.  Maybe it is just the magnitude, or  how permanent they feel. Or that I can't be sure it will be right.  I'm big on being 'right' and don't like to make mistakes.

We had set up our Trust 13 years ago, before the youngest was born.  It seemed time, our wills were about 20 years old and everything had changed included our address 3 times and the ages of our children, our income and the quantity of our processions. And we were having another baby 15 years after that last one and my father had died the summer before.  He had a trust, it worked well. I had discovered the difficulty and expense of probate listening to a friend dealing with it after her divorced father died and the whole legal rigamaroll complicated her grieving process.   We decided we should have a trust.  We went to an attorney friend and had a trust set up.  Good, that's settled, done.

Well........sort of done.  You see you have to revisit these things when your circumstances change.  We had moved to another state almost 6 years ago.  Was the old trust valid here?  And after learning what dealing with a parents' trust is like from experience, did we still think ours was the 'right' plan.  Mr N. finally asked around and found the name of the guy to call.  I put that off for about 6 months, and one morning put it on the to do list and made an appointment.  Before the consultation I took my 'Trusty Notebook' over for the lawyer to review it.  That is to say the notebook with all the BC and DRN papers in it. For the last 13 years I have been going to that notebook for copies that banks and title companies require to put thetrust name on documents.  I showed all the kids, several times, where  the 'Trusty Notebook' is kept, so they could find our living wills in a medical emergency, and I was secure in the knowledge that we had a plan. We had prepared.
At Mr Jacobs office, we are greeted cordially, and escorted to a well appointed but not overly lavish  conference room.  We sat down and exchanged some general pleasantries before he hit us with the bombshell.  Some of the papers in the 'Trusty Notebook' aren't signed. WHAT??

He opens the 'Trusty Notebook' and points to blank lines where our signatures are supposed to be, page after page of them.  There are some pages that are signed, but there are others where our signatures are supposed to be that are BLANK.  A mystery. He says perhaps you have the Original trust someplace else?  Perhaps at the attorney's office?  Nope, that attorney quit practicing law and went to medical school shortly after he finished with us.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't us that drove him out of law, but you never know.  Anyway, no office to contact. And no, we don't have safe deposit box, and the fire safe was sold in a yard sale before the last move 6 years ago. 

I'm screaming in my head, IT CAN'T BE.  For 13 years that has been THE 'Trusty notebook'.  It is all in there.  Everything they gave me all those years ago, I'm sure of it.  It is all I have for trust papers. I've been passing out the 2 page summary document left and right (at least that is signed).  When we moved, the 'Trusty Notebook'  was packed in a box with tax records, marked on six sides in special colors: Tax/Trust. It was stuff I was not going to lose.  This has been part of my security, the plan, the keep death's destruction away, my comfort that I was as prepared as I could be, for the whole of life of our baby boy almost 13 years old, going on 30.

We talked about some of the things we would like our Trust to accomplish, and all the while my head is buzzing, not signed, not signed? not signed.  A lot of what we want to have happen can be done with beneficiaries assignments and proper titles.  That's good to know.  BUT what have I done with the signed the papers, I know we signed them at one time, we sat in Wayne's office and did about 50 signatures apiece with a witness and a notary.  The only other time we signed on more lines was buying a house.  What have I DONE. I'm shattered, our plan isn't a plan, we haven't been prepared all these years, I've feel shaken, unsteady.......

And then the rest of the bad news.  "If we don't have the signed originals,"  he suggests "we will need to write a new trust." Of course, that makes sense. Mr N is all calm and agreeable, we can't change the past, we'll fix it now.  (inside I feel the beginning of a panic attack)  "A simple trust would cost about $1500.  The more complicated, the higher they go, three to five thousand possibility." My stomach is churning at this point, doing stupid things like losing the signed Trust papers makes me ill. It is a terrible feeling to discover that you have been hanging out there all this time unprotected when you thought your were covered. I've even let Mr N go back to riding motorcycles KNOWING we had everything in place, heck I picked the Harley for him.  My brain re-engages in time to hear: 
"But," he adds with a kind expression on his face,  "Yours is fairly straight forward, so it should be under $2000, in fact I can do it for the $1500".  He is being good to us, I must look distressed.   (YIKES, no wonder people put off doing this stuff.) 

"Why don't you go home and look for the originals."  I visualize the storeroom, the 2 filing cabinets, the upstairs closet with 35 boxes of family history papers and photos. No way to find them in all that assuming we still have them. I'm sure, the only place they would be is in the tax/trust file box. In the 'Trusty Notebook' that is where they are supposed to be. "If you have them, all we have to do is write an amendment for these changes you want, and that I will do for 150 dollars."

It is going to cost me 100 times more because somewhere in the last 13 years I lost the original papers.  I can see how it happened.  We were moving, we had people helping, I was over tried and over stressed and the office was one of the last places packed and whatever the orginials were in it was NOT my 'Trusty Notebook' so it wasn't important and I must have thrown it out.  ACK.  Certainly sets in.  I threw them out. I hate it when I do stupid things, I hate it because it almost always costs us money and me embarrassment, and my good husband doesn't get mad at me, but is understanding and THAT makes me feel worse, because surely I should be punished, not treated nicely for doing something stupid.  Did I say I hate it when I do stupid things?

I don't know how I can stand it.  Two errands before I can go home.  I want to go crawl under the covers on my bed and indulge in a good cry.  My stomach has turned to acid and head is pounding.  I remind myself to breathe.  I try to look normal, not like the crazed woman that loses important papers and believes for over a decade that important things are safely completed and are not.

I pull into the driveway.  Throw the car into park and walk in the door.  I go straight to the 'vault and   open the Tax/Trust box that is the usually home the 'Trusty Notebook'.  I need to see reality.  I have to accept that the originals are gone. Here it is.

There is sits.  A white envelope.  It is even labeled  ORIGINAL Estate Planning Documents and the words are highlighted in yellow.  Right there, in the right box, all this time.  Forgotten.  Unused.  Unnoticed. Untouched.

I'm feeling pretty foolish now.  The only thing worse that doing something stupid, is thinking you did something stupid when you didn't.  Well, at least I didn't do the stupid thing I thought I had. I hadn't thrown them away.  I only forgot them.  I still have the headache, and we still have to make all those big decisions about what kid gets stuck with what responsibility and tell them all what work they will do for a paltry sum of inheritance. Maybe this Estate Planning stuff isn't all bad, I get to boss the kiddos around one last time, even from the grave I get to be parental.  I can live with that.