Thursday, January 31, 2008

Snow Hitchhiker

Ds wanted to make a hitchhiker (a letterbox that travels) to plant on our trip, so I made one with the theme of Snow. This stamp is really bad. Hope I will improve with carving practice.

My container is too large. I think you are supposed to fit the hitchhiker into another letterbox, which means they would be really tiny, but I didn't realize that until I had made this one and didn't have time to find more supplies. The other hitchhiker that I picked up is only slightly smaller than mine. So far, most of the boxes I've found have been in places that had room for another boxes (bases of trees, under rocks, similar locations), but I understand that many of them are hidden in tight spaces.

I added a crocheted mini snowflake as a first finders prize (along with one of ds's paper snowflakes he's so proud of). I'm not sure if Hitchhikers are supposed to have first finder prizes, but I included one anyway.

I also pulled out my embossing powders and markers from my scrapbooking supplies. Fun, fun. I haven't played with them in so long -- in fact the hair dryer that I use for rubber stamp embossing and shrink wrapping soaps was so gummy and disgusting, my hand was stuck to it when I finished using it. Ewww. . .

I think letterboxing appeals to me for several reasons. First, it satisfies my inner nerd/Nancy Drew tendencies, my arty/creative tendencies, and my outdoor/walking tedencies. Can't wait to plant this box over the weekend.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Making a Letterbox

I decided to make and place a letterbox. It needs to be in a public place, but kind of off the beaten path, and I didn't want it to be in a park with a lot of other boxes. I decided to choose the city park where my dd does cheerleading for the football team. There might be some other boxes there, but I couldn't find any, unless the clues were all in code causing me to miss them. I used a megaphone image and named the box *Go (insert team name)!* Here's a scan of the original clip art image, plus all my test stamps.

I'm not totally loving it, but I think my skills will improve with some practice. Here are some rubber stamp carving tutorials that I've run across recently. Very inspiring.

One thing I like about it is that you can make a stamp even if you can't draw. It's so easy to find clip art online. I'm hoping that I'll be able to carve from photos when I get a little better.

I found the official Letterboxer's favorite box at Linens N Things.

Here is the box with its contents out.

The little green note is a First Finder's prize. Yellow logbook, stamp and little ink pad. You're not supposed to leave a stamp pad, but I wanted to make everyone use the correct team colors. Also, I live close by and can check on it and replace it if I need to. Freezer ziplocks are below for storing the stamp and book.

I probably won't get a chance to go place it until next week. I think ds will enjoy hiding it and helping me write up the finding clues.

Last night we went to the park while dd was at math tutoring and found one letterbox. We almost got a second one but it got dark on us. I feel like we should get as much of the local boxes found as possible before poison ivy season is here. . .


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Goodies from Brussels

Dh's company is headquartered in Brussels, so he visits a couple of times a year and brings me goodies. There is a fancy olive oil shop, where you taste samples. This is what he brought me. Look at the corks--I'll need a wine opener for these. Time to make the no knead bread again and have my own tasting.

The chocolates. Need I say more? We tasted these as soon as he got in the door.

This has been a week of kids with stomachaches, so yesterday and today I have one home with me. The big question in my mind -- how do you know if a kid is lying?

The extra hometime results in extra knitting time. Here's the Modern Quilt Wrap so far. I expect to get exactly halfway today.

I've been making some snowflakes on and off.

This is from the Lacy Snowflakes booklet from Leisure Arts.

I'll try to take some sewing room photos today, and do a post on that tomorrow. Making some progress there at last.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Snow Day II

Thanks to everyone for your good wishes about Maggie. We had her for so long, it almost became impossible to believe she would ever be gone. . .

It had been at least 3 years since it snowed here, and then it snowed twice in the same week. The kids were blissfully happy, of course.

The snowman is wearing the Santa Hat from Handknit Holidays and the Griffyndor Scarf from Charmed Knits. The buttons are Painting Red Rhinos leftovers. I bought a pound of these buttons in a coop many years ago. Most recently, the kids have used them for games pieces for a school project.

Cute, huh? It only took ds an hour to knock him over.

I posted about my hate for the Modern Quilt Wrap, but I decided to go buy some bamboo needles before I gave up. I am so weak when I enter a yarn shop. Not only did I get the needles, but also I bought 4 skeins of the new Noro Kureyon sock yarn.

I'm not that much of a pig, y'all. Two skeins are for my mother for her birthday. . . I also picked up a copy of New Pathways for Sock Knitters by Cat Bordi. I've seen great reviews and I can't wait to try some of these patterns.

I'll show an update of the Modern Quilt Wrap this week. I'm making much better progress with the new needles. I have such a big investment in the yarn, so I'm glad I didn't give up.


Saturday, January 19, 2008




Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really. ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull

We will miss her.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Almost a Snow Day

This was going to be a post about No Knead Bread but instead it's about bitter disappointment.

We had all this:

And still, they had to go to school today.

Behold the remains of a stamped on, rained on, snowman.

The kids played in the snow for almost two hours last night, and then I let them stay up even longer because I thought *surely the roads will ice up tonight*, but no. Only rain and holding steady at 34F. So close, so close.

More bitter disappointment. I got the latest Cook's Illustrated which has a new version of the recipe in it. Basically you add some vinegar and beer to it and give it a light kneading instead of no kneading. Like a fool, I followed their instructions for cooking times (not remembering that last time I burned it slightly) which was a mistake. Next time, I'll reduce the temp to 450, and only cook it for 25 mins covered, with no uncovered time.

Oh and BTW, last night I had a slice buttered (cutting off the burned bottom crust) and it was delicious, although my undiscerning taste buds couldn't tell much difference from the addition of the beer and vinegar.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rubber Stamp Carving

Making your own rubber stamps is a big part of Letterboxing. I've always liked rubber stamping and use it a lot for scrapbooking, but I didn't realize it was so simple to make your own.

Here's my first handmade stamp. (Bad Cats is our letterboxing trail name, chosen by my kids.) The name is a little hard to read, but I think you can tell it's a cat.

Here's the original image. I found some clip art that I liked and then added the name below in a word processing program. I used the tissue paper to trace it off with No. 2 pencil, then I taped the tissue facedown onto the carving block and rubbed it with my thumbnail to make the transfer. The nice thing about this is that it mirror-images it for you correctly. I lost a lot of detail though.

That's what the carved stamp looks like. This tutorial has lots of info. I followed their recommendations and found the Speedy Stamp Kit at Hobby Lobby in the printmaking section. The kit has carving block, a carving tool (called a gouger) with two nibs (although I bought another package of nibs with a size 1 in it for detail work), and a booklet with some instructions and sample art.

Here's the mess. It really was fun. Now I have to decide whether to mount it on a block of wood. I might leave it as is, because it's small and light without the mounting.

In knitting news, I cast on for the Modern Quilt Wrap.

I'm not feeling the love yet, but I keep being interrupted and I hate all the color changing. I can't carry it with me either (too many color changes), so it will be a home-only project. I really need to start a pair of socks to carry around. . .


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2008 Reading List


The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant. This was a boring, silly book, a bunch of implausible weirdness. Maybe if you were knowledgeable about Italian Renaissance art or had been to Florence, it would have been interesting.

The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks. This is very much a "male" book, in that it deals with a lot of action and violence and very little time is spent on the character's interior lives. The characters are shallow stereotypes and you are only allowed enough info to puzzle out their motivations. It's a paranoid book. I noticed on Amazon that the next book in the series is out. I think I'll skip it.

Cruddy by Lynda Barry. Yes, I read it last year too, but I needed to reread it since I suggested it to my book club and I'm leading the discussion on it in week or two. It only gets better the second time. This time I was able to relax and enjoy, because I was familiar with the plot. Horrifying, graphic, wonderful.

The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett. I have really enjoyed her previous works, The Voyage of the Narwhal, in particular. She typically has a scientist as her main character and it's interesting to see her painting the inner emotional life of people who we think of as being unemotional. This novel is set in the 1910s in a tuberculosis clinic. It also deals with class issues -- most of the inmates of the clinic are poor immigrants sent there by the state to *cure*. It was an okay read, but it just didn't have the excitement of her other books which are set in 1850s arctic expeditions and involve life-threatening danger and the characters' responses.

The Good German by Joseph Kanon. This was a nice murder mystery/romance kind of a story. I had trouble getting interested in the beginning, so I missed a lot of the names and characters, but it got a little better after the first hundred pages or so. I watched the movie yesterday and it really sucked. Bad. They completely changed the plot, made good characters into bad, etc. Don't bother with the movie, I'm now wishing I had those two hours back for something else.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Loved it, loved it, loved it. This is a story about the history of the Dominican Republic over the last century as well as a story about a particular family and their role in that history. The style is so interesting because the author uses street language and spanglish almost entirely. My spanish is bad, and I almost picked up dd's Spanish dictionary to look some things up but decided there's no point since most of the words were *bad words* and wouldn't be in there anyway. You can totally get it from the context though. . . There were a lot of Lord of the Rings and sci-fi references that I didn't get and I'm sure it's a lot funnier if you know these. . . Fantastic book.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. This is a ghost story/mystery, definitely a reader's read. I liked it really well, except it had one of those annoying twists at the end, (trying not to spoil it here). I hate being told one set of facts for an entire book, only to be told in the last chapter that none of it was true. Very convenient for an author to wind up those loose ends, I guess. I liked it up until that point, but this is why I don't read mysteries as a rule.

Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood. This was a nice collection of short stories, which deal with a woman and her life as a child raising a much younger sibling, her young adult life, where she has continual affairs, and eventually, as an adult, has an affair with a married man. Even though it's in the form of short stories, the book has good continuity. I really liked it and it was much too short. I would have liked a story or two from the main character's mother's point of view.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. This was a really good read. It's a mystery/romance/thriller all in one. A reader's book. The city of Barcelona is almost a character in it as well. Makes you want to go to Barcelona and the book even had a short walking tour in the back.

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. This is a story of a mentally ill woman who is visited by a woman of the future. There are two versions of the future, a Utopian agrarian one, and a nightmarish, technology-based version, and the woman must choose to act in order to make the Utopian version come true. I'm not typically into science fiction-ish stories, but I enjoyed this one. It was written in the 70s and has some 70s affectations (tans are viewed as healthy, for example). It would make a great book club discussion book.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. This is an incredible book and the circumstances of it being published at all are even more unbelievable. The story is about the evacuation of Paris after it was occupied by the Germans in WWII. The fact that the author, who was a Russian Jew, was sent to a concentration camp and killed before she finished writing it makes the whole book so poignant and sad. It includes heartbreaking letters from her husband trying to find her and excerpts from her journals which explain how the story would have continued if she had lived to finish writing it.

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. Ugh. I thought maybe since it had some knitting content I might be able to overlook the lameness of the story, but no. It's a typical romance novel, with a little twist at the end in order to avoid being called a typical romance novel. Sorry, Kate, but you are not Jodi Picoult.

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Fantastic. Wonderful. It's a graphic novel which tells a young woman's story of coming of age in war-torn Tehran. A great general overview of the recent history/political situation in Iran, as well as the culture. It's eye-opening in many ways, plus the drawings are great.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. I really loved this book and couldn't put it down. It was so funny and every single line has a cite to a book, to describe something. It's definitely a book lover's book and the wordiness that made me love it could be a turn off for some people. It gets much more interesting toward the end, where the plot finally takes off, but I didn't mind getting there at all. Fun! Now I want to go read all the books that the critics are comparing to it.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I never heard of this book until recently when one of my online book clubs read it. Next, it was mentioned as inspiration in The Thirteenth Tale and as a chapter heading in Special Topics in Calamity Physics. I had to find out what it was about. Basically it you took Jane Austen and crossed her with a good detective novel, this is your book. LOVED IT. Fantastic suspense, wonderfully convoluted plot.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This is a read for my real life book club. I was dreading it, because I remember The Kite Runner being very sad, but I was pleasantly surprised to pick it up and find how easy and simple the author's writing style is. It's a very sad story, this time focusing on the lives of women in Afghanistan. I liked it well enough and I think it's good for citizens of the U.S. to have a little more understanding about our role in that country.

The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer. I couldn't resist this novel because the story line is almost exactly the same as my own. It's about several women leaving their careers to care for kids and then making decisions about returning to work. It also looked into the lives of the women's mothers, which turned it into a study of feminism and its effects on the next generation. It also dealt with midlife crisis and what happens to marriages over time. I liked it because it raises many of the issues I'm thinking about these days. .


The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen. I had already read some of these essays in The New Yorker but I was so happy to find them in a book, particularly the one about the 70s church youth group. My brother, mom and I all read this and loved it -- my brother trying to explain to my mom the dynamics of the group we were in as teens. Franzen describes it so well -- a bunch of misfit kids following a charismatic, Jesus-like leader, trying to fit in. The other essays are great too, he has such a great way with tying in disparate things and finding something in common. I saw a terrible review in The New York Times -- what was that person smoking??

Sedaris by Kevin Kopelson. This is a book of literary criticism of the writings of David Sedaris. If you are a Sedaris lover like me, then it's worth a read. The author spends most of the book analyzing Sedaris' relationships with various people in his life (father, mother, brother, sisters, teachers, etc.). He also makes an ongoing comparison with Marcel Proust. I don't think I've ever read Remembrance of Things Past, which makes it hard not to snooze when someone else is making the comparisons. He does quote large sections of Proust and I thought he was going too far to make a small comparison to Sedaris, usually. He assumes that everything Sedaris writes is influenced and shaped by being gay (and by his mother), and to me that understates his universal appeal. Sedaris shows himself being human with all the greed, vanity, and ultimately self-realization, which ain't necessarily only a gay thing. I hated how this author made up the word *assholic* -- annoying. His writing style was a bit hard to understand, but it was worth it because he paraphrased all the best and funniest parts of Sedaris' stories and essays. What fun. Also, I loved this quote on the back cover. *If I were to read a book on David Sedaris it might be this one.* Paul Reubens. Talk about with damning with faint praise. . .

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. This book is a combination of a travelogue and history of three presidential assassinations -- Lincoln's, Garfield's, and McKinley's. Before reading this book, Lincoln was probably the only one I could name, so it was interesting to read details about the who/what/when/where/why in each case. The books is well-written and funny, the author is great a pointing out little hilarities and ironies along the way.

The Letterboxer's Companion by Randy Hall. A nice little book, with lots of information on making, placing, and finding letterboxes. Also has a section on rubber stamp carving. I like having all the info in one place, although most of it can be found online.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006 edited by Dave Eggers. Very nice pieces, some military blogs, graphic novellas, personal essays. I loved the one by Julia Sweeney on losing her religion.

Freedom Writers' Diary Erin Gruwell. This was a book club selection about a teacher in Long Beach, CA, who inspired her students to write diary entries telling the stories of their lives. It was a little long for my taste, I'm not big on reading a lot of sad true stories. I prefer fiction because I want to escape sad true stories. I think all new teachers should read the book, because it's bound to be inspiring for them in how to break through to their students.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I bought this for my dad a couple of years ago and read a couple of chapters at the time, which I had completely forgotten about. So, I picked it up again and read the whole thing this time. It has some interesting ideas about how trends get started, but I think its only real life application would be for marketers of products, so I wasn't all that excited about the theories contained in it.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Letterboxing Sunday

First of all, THE PATTERNS ARE SOLD. Hooray! It's really not the money, but I typically give away everything to Goodwill and you never know if things are going into the trash if they're not saleable. I love knowing that they'll go to someone who will either appreciate them or sell them on Ebay for more. . .

Ds and I went to our regular park where there are at least 4 letterboxes hidden.

We actually found a Hitchhiker, which is a letterbox that travels around. The one we found started in Japan inside the Totoro at Miyazaki land in Tokyo. Remember how much I love Totoro? I think I'm going to take the Hitchhiker box to Gatlinburg and leave it in a letterbox there. It seems much more exciting to take it to another state rather than leave it in my town.

This is a Jeep, which I would never have figured it out if the name had not remained.

Navy blue mold or lichen on this stick.

Since we had photographed the navy blue mold, ds made me photograph the yellow and green moss.

We found all the boxes I had instructions for except one. I think the problem is that the park has repaved the footpath into a road and erased the landmarks for that particular box. (Or maybe I just don't know my tree identifications well enough.)


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Patterns For Sale

I sold the big lot of Kwik Sew patterns through a patternreview classified ad, but now since my member renewal is up and I used paypal to pay for it, they are waiting for my Echeck to clear for five days and I am persona non grata. I'll have to wait to post the ads there, so I think while I'm on a roll, I'll put all the info here first.

First is a lot of 4 Burda and 1 Ottobre kids patterns -- I think all the Burdas are OOP. (I want $5 plus shipping.)

Ottobre 209, boy's sweatsuits in sizes 92 - 140 cm. Burda 3164 Girls Yoked nightgown and Pjs in sizes 128 - 176, Burda 9929 children's raincoats in sizes 2-6, Burda 3041 windbreaker jacket and pants in sizes 3-8 (98-128), Burda 9975 boy's zip front shirtjacket and zip off leg cargo pants in sizes 2-8.

Next, six heirloom children's patterns. These are all unused and uncut. I'm asking $12, plus shipping.

Children's Corner Kinsey (girl's dress) in size 7-8
Children's Corner David (boys button on suit) in size 3-4
Children's Corner Jeffrey ( boy's and girls jumpsuit w/smocking panel) in size 3-4
Collars, Etc. Princess Dress and Coat size 7-8
Chery Williams Boys Button On Suits size large 3-6 years
Classic Heirloom Collection by Ellen McCarn Bishop Dress in sizes 5 yrs to 12 yrs
Sunrise Designs Playland (throwing that one in as an extra)

Last is a group of costume patterns. I went over to Ebay and some of the Disney Princess patterns are for sale from $2 to 10 over there. I'm asking $25 for the 20 patterns, plus shipping.


Simp.9902 Disney Princess Belle in sizes 3-8, Simp. 9383 Disney Princess Cinderella in sizes 3-8, Simp. 9382 Disney Princess Cinderella in Adult size 8-18, Simp. 9384 Disney Princess Snow White and Sleeping Beauty in sizes 3-8, Simp. Disney Princess Ariel and Jasmine, in sizes 3-8, Simp. 5871 Toddler boys' Uncle Sam, Policeman, Engineer, Fireman, Builder in sizes 1/2 - 4, Simp. 7317 toddlers' cow, lion, bear, bunny, dinosaur in sizes 1/2 - 4, Simp. 8838 Flower/Ribbon Fairy in sizes 3-8, Simp. 8318 Ren. Fair style dresses and boy's Knight and Prince in sizes 3-8, Simp. 8581 Barbie fairy and mermaid in sizes 3-8. Simp. 8328 Mermaid, princess, Belle in sizes 3-8, Simp. 7374 toddlers' Pooh, dalmation, bunny, Piglet and Tigger in sizes 1/2 - 4, Simp. Crafts Vintage Retro Girls' Aprons in sizes 3-8.

Kwik Sew:

KS 2618, girls' princess and ballet costumes, with hooded cape in sizes 4-12, KS 2906, Unisex Jester/Clown costumes in sizes 3 - 10.


3886 Ballet and Genie Costumes in sizes 2-4 (this one may be cut), McCalls 2885 50s Poodle skirts and boy's jacket, sizes 3-8, McCalls 3349 Cheerleader in sizes 3-6, McCall's 2335 Dinosaurs in size 2.


Butterick 6728 Kids western shirts in sizes 2-5.

I went to the post office a while ago to mail the first package and picked up some Flat Rate Priority boxes while I was there, so I should be able to do decently on shipping costs.

If you're interested, email me at

It sure is nice to free up some space and get these moved out. I've been putting it off for so long, it's just plain silly. . .

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I've listed a ton of Children's Patterns for sale at Patternreview. I guess it's okay to spam on your own site, huh?

Actually this is quite a deal if you're sewing for toddlers. 35 patterns for $25 plus shipping, and these are mostly Kwik Sew, which never go on sale.

I don't have a listing up for these yet, but I have a lot of costume patterns and a few heirloom children's' patterns too. My youngest is 7 now, so all of this stuff is long outgrown.

I decided to keep all the American Girl and other doll patterns in case dd and her friends want to make anything. For the time being, I'm not getting rid of any of my women's KS patterns. I think I'll try to cull those down later -- baby steps.

This week's project:

Simple slouchy beret of my own design (knit ribbing and the rest double crochet). We're going to Gatlinburg at the end of the month and I wanted a new hat. We might ski one day (never know if there'll be snow enough) but will be out walking around in the cold in any event. I'm also making some matching fingerless gloves, which I should finish up today. The yarn is a really yummy baby alpaca blend.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Monkey Socks

So I jumped on the bandwagon along with everyone else (Monkey is the most popular knitting pattern on Ravelry with 181 people listing it as in progress, 3239 total projects either completed or begun. . .)

The only changes I made were to knit one less pattern repeat on the leg (worried about running out of yarn, of course), and to make a slip stitched heel instead of a stockinette heel (I think they wear better). It's a good pattern because the lace is easy to memorize, it looks much more complicated than it is. I think I might like it better in a solid yarn, even though the pattern was designed for hand-dyed yarns. I used Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock Lightweight and size 2 dpns.

I wore them all day yesterday and they stayed up just fine, felt perfectly comfortable. I'm at the point where some of the socks I knit a few years ago are felting and need to be tossed, but I still feel sentimental about them, and want to keep them.

I want to cast on for a hat next -- I have some nice light blue alpaca, but can't find a knitting or crochet pattern I like, so I might invent something.

My next BIG knitting project will be the Modern Quilt Wrap. I've never used the Rowan Kidsilk Haze, so that is exciting.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

January Already

I've been gone longer than I expected. When we got back from Illinois I got sick and spent the next couple of days in bed. I felt good enough to read a little bit, which almost made it worth it. I haven't left the house since we got back from the trip.

The kids are still on holiday, dh has gone back to work, and it's too cold outside to do any letterboxing, like I'd planned. Yesterday I had a friend and her kids over, which always helps with the cabin fever. I think today we'll pull out some of the new games Santa left us.

I tallied the books from my 2007 reading list. I read 40 fiction, 15 nonfiction, for a total of 55 books. I think this is just about right for me, around a book a week. I'm not really setting a goal for this year, but plan to continue as I've been doing. This list doesn't count any of my craft, garden, or cookbooks either.

I'm ashamed to admit that I never tidied and organized the sewing room last year. (Hanging head in shame.) It really is (besides the kids' toys in the basement) the only horrible room in the house and that one is all MY responsibility, no one else's. . .

I'm making absolutely no health/fitness resolutions this year. I'm just not in the right place for that these days. I am planning a real vegetable garden, which should add some healthier foods into my diet -- can't wait for it. The seed catalogs are here and my brother bought me a new gardening book, which has some nice *small vegetable garden* layouts. We have a long growing season here, so it's really not premature to be ordering seeds.
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