30.3.11

Tip-Top

This wonderful project was originated by Kristin of the blog Kleas. I came across the project on Crafty Crow and had to try it out. It's a perfect project -- very simple and a lot of fun to play with!

To get started making these sturdy little wooden tops, all you need are 1/4 inch thick dowels and some small wooden wheels from the craft supply store. Use a pencil sharpener to make a points at the ends of your dowels and then sand with sandpaper just above points. Keep working at it, round and round, until your dowels are thin enough to fit the holes in the wheels.

Cut your dowels to 1 3/4 inch lengths, sand the ends and insert the dowels into the centers of your wheels. They should fit snugly... if they're loose, you can apply a bit of glue.

Then paint, paint, paint...

Ta-daaa!

Little Mr. B. said, " They sort of look like dancers standing on tip-toes, spinning around..."

I hope you have as much fun with these as we've had!

28.3.11

Another Blue Bird

Last week I was browsing through a beautiful paper craft book called Creative Paper Cutting and stumbled across a project based on Maurice Maeterlinck's story The Bluebird. You might remember the story from this post here...

Post haste, I enlarged the project pattern from the book, dug through my stash for some heavy-weight scrapbook paper, unearthed an old, dull craft knife and got to work...

Given the pathetic state of my craft knife, I simplified the project (and have since purchased a new craft knife...)

To secure the hanging-strings, I used a hole-punch to cut out little circles of matching paper & then glued the strings in place, sandwiching the ends between the tiny circles of paper & the house silhouette.

Happy bluebirds to you...

25.3.11

Taking Flight

A few weeks ago Mr. Bloom decided to put together an album of photos. The photos he chose were a mixed batch -- some from vacations over the past 3 years and others taken around the house. It was an odd assortment and fun to look through, but the best thing about this photo album were the captions my husband wrote. When I saw these photos of Little Mr. B. (and their captions) I couldn't stop laughing...

Little Mr. B. took flight...

And kept going.

23.3.11

Soup


Can you believe I've kept my newest best friends stuffed away at the back of a kitchen cabinet all these years? Yes, I have discovered that my beastly-blender and little hand blender really are useful things after all.

We live in a tiny house with a tiny kitchen (i.e. insufficient cabinet space and no counter-top space to speak of) so finding a place for something like a blender, a cuisinart or a rice-cooker is really a challenge. I'd rather do without then have to deal with managing these large & heavy kitchen implements. To top it off, the thought of washing out a blender or cuisinart makes me want to curl up on the couch and go to sleep (yes, I really am that lazy, plus I'm afraid of the sharp blades.) So, all these years, I've been slicing, dicing, chopping and grating by hand. And if I ran across a nice looking recipe which required a puree, that recipe was automatically ruled out as just too difficult and complicated.

Well, all that changed 3 months ago when, on a whim, I decided to make cream of cauliflower soup. I have seen the light! I am in love with my blender and mad for cream-of-any-darn-thing soup!

So, just for you, I'm going to jot down my favorite soup recipe-du-jour (with a 2nd variation, just for fun...)

Cauliflower Soup (with Mushrooms)

In a large soup pot, saute 1 chopped onion & 2 chopped cloves of garlic in 1 TBL unsalted butter & 1TBL olive oil.

When onion & garlic are just starting to brown, add 5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock & approx. 2 lbs. chopped cauliflower. Bring to a boil then reduce heat & simmer approx. 15 minutes (until cauliflower is tender.) Using a blender (or hand blender) puree until smooth. Adjust salt & pepper to taste & simmer again briefly.

While the cauliflower is on for it's first simmer, saute 15-20 chopped mushrooms in a pan in 1 TBL unsalted butter & 1 TBL olive oil. When mushrooms are lightly browned, sprinkle with salt and set aside.

After cauliflower is pureed (and simmered again briefly) add sauteed mushrooms (and some fresh chopped parsley if you wish.) If you like a milder flavor and richer soup, stir in 1 TBL 1/2 & 1/2 cream to each bowl prior to serving.

* * *
VARIATION:
For a variation, add an extra cup of broth, a chopped carrot (or two) and a stick of celery (or two) to the onion saute. Then, just before you puree your cauliflower, add a cup or two of roasted, mashed pumpkin or squash. Season soup with some thyme & juice from half a lemon. Voila! Another lovely soup!

Do you have a favorite soup recipe you'd like to share?

Happy soup-day to you!

20.3.11

Happy Bluebirds to You

Happy little bluebirds sing,
"Tra-la-la, it's time for Spring!"

17.3.11

A Bluebird Picture Lantern (and a Bluebird Story for You)

When I was about 5 or 6 my mother took me to a screening of the 1940 movie The Bluebird starring Shirley Temple, based on the 1908 play by Maurice Maeterlinck. The story is about a brother & sister, Tyltyl and Mytyl, who are sent out by the fairy Berylune into various magical realms to search for the Bluebird of Happiness. Returning home empty-handed, the children see that the bird has been in a cage in their home the whole time. When Tyltyl gives the bird as a gift to a neighbor's sick child, the bird flies away. The moral is that, ultimately, happiness can be found within oneself.

There are two scenes from this movie which have stayed in my mind all these years later... The first magical realm the children visit is a cottage where their deceased grandparents live. The children have a nice visit with their grandparents, however as they prepare to leave, there is sadness. The grandparents reassure the children that, although they no longer reside in the world of the living, as long as the children hold them in their memories, they will still be awakened to life.

The second scene I loved showed Tyltyl and Mytyl visiting a misty realm where children are waiting to be born. In this realm they are guided by a personification of LIGHT and meet a child who will be born as a new baby into their family. The scene ends in this way:

(The sails of the galley of the Dawn pass and disappear. The voices of the CHILDREN in the galley are heard in the distance: "The Earth! The Earth! . . . I can see it! . . . How beautiful it is! . . . How bright it is! . . . How big it is!" . . . Then, as though issuing from the depths of the abyss, an extremely distant song of gladness and expectation.)

TYLTYL (to LIGHT)
What is that? ... It is not they singing.
... It sounds like other voices ...

LIGHT
Yes, it is the song of the mothers coming out to meet them...

I hope you find the Bluebird of Happiness in your home and within yourself... always...

15.3.11

Visits from the Tooth Fairy

A Spell for Summoning Fairies

Sit where the cat sits. Cross your toes.
Close your eyes. And smell a rose.
Then say under your breath:
"I believe in Fairies, sure as death.

Gadflykins! Gladtrypins!
Gutterpuss and Cass!
Come to me fairily
Each lad and lass!"

(From Lady Cottingtons Pressed Fairy Book)

In addition to our wee Bloom getting his first teeth, our Little Mr. B. has been losing his baby teeth and getting a set of new ones. Hence, the tooth fairy has been a frequent visitor at our house. Up until now, this has been a perilous proposition for our dear local tooth fairy. She has had a choice, you see, of coming down the chimney (rather sooty) or using the cat door (perilous, indeed.)

So, I solicited the help of a marvelous and magical maker of fairy doors...

Nothing, however, gets past this cat. I'm afraid, the tooth fairy is still going to have to brave the dangers of our lurking kitty on her next visit (I suppose the spell for summoning fairies does, after all, say to, "Sit where the cat sits...")

14.3.11

Flower Lanterns for Spring

Until a few weeks ago my winter garden was looking dreary, drowsy & dormant under somber skies. Then who should emerge from their wintertide dreams but the jonquils... They rubbed the sleep from their eyes to make their pretty faces shine. Now, they seem to laugh at the antics of the squirrels & chickadees, and make mockery of grumpy Mr. Sun who prefers to hide his face these days under blankets of gray.

Inspired by my sunny little friends the jonquils, I have made some picture-lanterns. I love this project because it is so gratifyingly easy. In December, my seven year old created an elegant lantern striped with circles of green, blue & brown with hardly a word from me (he just got busy, and when I looked up from my own work, he was nearly done!) I also made an ocean-themed picture lantern which you can see here.

To create your own picture lanterns, all you need are some recycled jars, mod-podge and German kite paper. To start off, I like to cover my jars with white kite paper or tissue paper. This creates a uniform background for the pictures you will create and candles will have a softer glow when lit inside.

To cover your jars, brush a thin layer of mod-podge all over the glass and then lay the paper on top of it. If any areas do not stick well, you can also go over the top of your paper with a bit more mod-podge. The paper will wrinkle as you wrap it around the jars (as you can see in my photos) but I personally like a bit of texture anyhow!

Either before you put your base-layer of paper on your jars (or after the mod-podge has dried) you will want to measure the height of your jars and also around the middle. Then trim some plain white pieces of printer paper or newsprint to the measurements from the jars. This will allow you to know how much space you have for your picture-collage and help with the design...

Then you can start cutting and arranging...

Once you are satisfied with your design, brush a thin layer of mod-podge over half of the jar, arrange your bits of paper and then proceed with the rest of the jar. Note: After I have placed my colored bits of paper on the jar, I usually brush them over again quickly with some mod-podge to help them stick and lie flat.

If you wish, after your design is set on the jar and the mod-podge has dried, you can go over it all once again with a thin layer of mod-podge. This will seal things up nicely.

The Vernal Equinox will be here in less than a week... I wish you endless flowers to welcome Spring with joy!

10.3.11

Another Book by M. B. Goffstein

As you may have noticed from yesterday's post, I am utterly enchanted by M. B. Goffstein's book Goldie the Dollmaker. I was aware she'd authored & illustrated a number of other books, however I'd only ever seen two others. Our local library system owns 7 of her books; I wanted to have a look at the others so, a few nights ago I went Alibris to see what I could find. Today a package arrived with a bundle of books!

My favorite among them is Me and My Captain. It's narrated by a small wooden doll who imagines what her life would be like with the captain of a toy fishing boat set on the window sill below her shelf. It's a tiny book filled with whimsical melancholy & the loneliness of a little doll:

I dream of her captain somehow coming up to see me. He would notice at once that I have a ship in a bottle and a collection of sea shells, and ask me to marry him. Then I would invite him to stay for dinner.

The little doll goes on to sing the praises of eternally appetizing doll-house food (which is made of plaster!) Toward the end, she says:

Since the captain of a fishing boat is often gone on long voyages, my dog and I would stay here, and our life would be just the same as before. But we would have someone to watch for and wait for and hope for good weather for...

Even without knowing him, when I look down at the captain's boat on the window sill, I feel happy because he is there.

Sigh... a sweet little book full of longing. Do you have any favorite books which make you sigh?

9.3.11

I Made this Doll for You

...Goldie got out her paints and carefully mixed a flesh color for the doll. She covered its face, neck, and ears, its arms and hands with the rosy tan paint, and then waited for it to dry.

As the day went on, Goldie ate buns and drank tea, and painted the doll's curls a glossy dark brown. She painted a white camisole and matching knickers on the doll's body, gray stockings on her legs and pretty black shoes on her feet. Then she painted a little gleaming black eye on either side of the doll's nose and finally, holding it firmly around the waist with one hand, Goldie smiled and smiled into the doll's eyes in the friendliest, sweetest way, and she painted a smile right back to herself on the little doll's face.

From Goldie the Dollmaker by M. B. Goffstein

In February, I started off my invitation to the wooden peg doll-exchange with the above quote from Goldie the Dollmaker by M.B. Goffstein. For me, this is a very special little book. It was originally published in 1969 and most recently reprinted around 1993. At the time of the 1993 reprint I was given a copy by my brother and another copy by my mother (this is how I end up with multiple copies of the same books on my shelves... I am given gifts by those who know & love me well.)
However, the quote at the top of this post is only half the story... Now I'm going to issue a *spoiler-alert.* If you are planning to track down a copy of this book and want to discover for yourself how it ends, do not continue reading! Stop. Now. You've been warned.

* * *

A little more than half way through the book, Goldie enters a small shop which sells her dolls. It's a shop of treasures and Goldie spots a small Chinese lamp -- the most beautiful lamp she has ever seen. The lamp is painted with pictures of "A Chinese family... having a picnic by a little stream, beneath a lovely drooping tree. Two children... sailing flowers in the stream while an old man and woman in flowing robes sat on red chairs, watching..." She takes the lamp home with her and then regrets the expensive indulgence. In the middle of the night she has a dream:

She dreamed she felt a light tap on her shoulder.
"Please," said a warm, polite voice. "Please!"
"Yes?" said Goldie.
"That lamp you bought."
"Yes?"
"I made it."
"Oh, it's beautiful!" said Goldie... "But who are you?"
"I made the lamp you bought today!"
"Oh," said Goldie, "Oh! I see." And she sat for a moment, smiling. "But you don't know me," she said suddenly.
"Yes I do. I made the lamp for you..."
Goldie laughed and laughed.
"You understand!" cried the voice.
"Yes," said Goldie. "That's the way I carve little wooden dolls and paint their clothes and faces on them."
Through this conversation, the author of the book gently describes how souls can connect through artwork, even if they've never met. This is what I love most about this book. And this is what I love most about the swaps or exchanges in which I've participated. I love making something for a person I don't know very well (or don't know at all.) I love sending my package off with a wish and prayer. I love imagining that, when my package is opened, the recipient will smile with the pleasure of knowing that this treasure was made just for them.

* * *
P.S. For my 1-Year Blogg-iversary Give-Away the winners are as follows: Feltcraft by Petra Berger will go to Arianne of Still Parenting and The House Above the Trees will be flying all the way to New Zealand to Marie of Softearth's World. Congratulations... your books will be on their way tomorrow (along with an extra little surprise...) xo MB

6.3.11

Hoot


A wise old owl sat in an oak.
The more he heard, the less he spoke,
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
How I wish to be like that wise old bird...

These little lovelies were inspired by an upcoming Southern Hemisphere Autumn Exchange.

In November I participated in a Southern Hemisphere Summer Season Exchange. While it felt rather topsy-turvy to me, living in the Northern Hemisphere, to dream up summer-time inspiration, I enjoyed getting to know my swap-partner and it was an altogether delightful experience. Katie will be officially opening sign-ups for the Southern Hemisphere Autumn Exchange on March 14. As the date approaches, you will be able to find out more information and contact Katie through her blog here.

Hoot!

4.3.11

My 1-year Blog Anniversary, my 200th Post & a Give-away!

Today we have a confluence of events. It's the one-year anniversary of my blog and this is my 200th post. In honor of all this I'm giving away 2 books from my own bookshelf. All you have to do is leave a comment under this post. I will randomly draw 2 names (one name for each book) on Tuesday, March 8th.


The first book I'm giving away is a 2007 edition of Crafting with Felt by Petra Berger.

The other book is The House Above the Trees by Ethel Cook Eliot!

And to top things off, today I am, as my friend Shannon would say, "famous in my own pincushion!" I felt so honored when Arianne, of the beautiful blog Still Parenting, asked if I would do a little interview with her. If you'd like to see the interview, please have a look here...

Thank you for celebrating with me... would you like a piece of cake?

3.3.11

8 months





Our wee Baby Bloom is 8 months old tomorrow. It's time to do some baby-proofing... He also gave me a very nice birthday present on Saturday -- he cut his first tooth!