Monday, January 23, 2012

I'm not the only one dreaming of backpacking...

Mark and I inadvertently started a tradition with our grandchildren in 2007. We took Josh, then 7 years old, on his first backpacking trip.

Josh (age 7) , 2007 - Opal Creek

We discovered that 7 is a pretty good age to take a grandchild into the woods. Big enough to carry a small pack, ready for an adventure with grandparents, not so little that they cry and need their parents when the sun goes down. We've continued every year, adding in his sisters the year they turned 7.

 Josh (age 8), 2008 - Eagle Creek Trail

 Josh (age 9) with his friend Cameron, 2009 - lakes near Olallie Lake

 Kat & Sarah (age 7), 2009 - Twin Lakes

 Kat, Sarah (age 8) and Josh (age 10), 2010 - Ramona Falls

Sarah (age 9), me, Kat (age 9), Josh (age 11),  2011 - Opal Creek

Of course I can't help but talk up "when you get to go backpacking with us..." to our other grandchildren. Especially the ones who will soon be seven.

And Katie will be next to join the summer backpacking trips, because she just turned 7 last week!

This afternoon her mom noticed she was working on a little writing project, all on her own. No prompting, just being literary all by herself. After a while she went to play somewhere else, and Polly took a peek to see what Katie had been up to...
"I will be going bac[k]pac[k]ing with my grandma, granpa, cusuns, me! I will like it."

I love love love this fabulous artwork and the fine writing that accompanies it.

Be sure to notice that along with her illustration of all of us backpacking is a trail sign to Ramona Falls.
The last time we visited, Katie was fascinated to hear that I had taken her cousins backpacking to Ramona Falls one year. Katie loves the Beverly Cleary books about Ramona, and she immediately said that's where she wants to go backpacking!

Sounds good to me. Stay tuned for a summer backpacking trip with Katie and cousins to Ramona Falls in 2012.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Grandbaby withdrawal

We've been missing grandkids! Luckily there is no shortage of little ones for us to enjoy.

Last night little Jocyeln came over with her parents for dinner. Her mom wanted to make a fleece hat for her, and I had plenty of fleece and patterns!

Here's Jocelyn modeling her new chapeau.

Jocelyn with her personal Letia.

Then this evening we got a call to spend some time with Maple. She came over to play while her mom and dad went out to dinner. Even though she's not technically a granddaughter, she knows us because she is cousin to Ender and Arora.
She enjoyed a bite or two from Grandpa Mark's plate. What a sweetie pie! She loves to play with toys and "talk" to us about them. We've had a couple of fun evenings playing with darling babies.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Around the World with Fabric Balls

Last week I received this sweet photo in my email:

Another fabric ball spreads peace and love throughout the world!

This ball was made by Cleo in Indonesia. It looks beautiful, and I'm sure Cleo's darling baby will enjoy this new toy.

The internet is a marvel. Who would have dreamed that a simple little pattern, shared with me in Relief Society 30 years ago, would be making its way around the world today. I am always amazed when I look at the widget map or the live traffic button in my right-hand sidebar, and see all the places that the fabric balls are traveling on any given day!

Cleo closed her email with a farewell greeting: "Semangat." Google Translate said it means "spirit," which I think is a lovely way to say farewell. Thank you, Cleo! Sending peaceful thoughts to you.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bead Maze: take one

I had a darling two-year-old boy sitting next to me in church today. We're old friends from the nursery. His family lives on a farm, so he kept asking me to draw tractors for him. Hahaha. I'm no artist. But I'm very fond of this little guy, so when I got home I decided to tackle a tractor bead maze. I'd like to entice him to sit by me again next Sunday.

I had seen a couple of darling bead mazes that my daughter, Polly, made for her children. I looked on line for more instructions, but didn't see any, so what you have here is my best guess on how to do it. When Polly posts a tutorial, I will also link to that. She's sure to have more ideas and suggestions for you.

First of all: I am NOT talking about this kind of bead maze.

What I am talking about is made of fabric, and it's approximately the size of a hot pad. The fabric has a maze sewn into it, and there is a bead inside the whole thing that you can push with your fingers.

So. The bead maze.

To begin with, I needed a tractor, and you'll recall that I am no artist. I googled "coloring pages tractor" and got about a jillion tractors to choose from. I chose a nice, simple silhouette.

Then I flipped the paper over and drew my maze pattern. I simplified the tractor a bit and made the maze channels large enough for a pony bead to fit between.

Rather than try to trace my pattern onto the fabric, I just pinned the pattern to the fabric...

...and sewed through the paper as well as the fabric. What you can't see very well right here is that I have two layers of the green fabric. It was a little thin, so I also have two layers of white fabric inside, just to bulk up my fabric a little. This was the only green fabric I had on hand, and I wanted to make my tractor kind of John Deere-ish. (Which is also why I'm using yellow thread.)

After I finished sewing all the different lines, I carefully peeled the paper away. I left an opening at the bottom so I could slip the bead in, then I sewed up the bottom seam. You can see the bead bulging inside the fabric here.

I wouldn't say that my first try was an unqualified success. The bobbin tension was a little off, so I resewed the whole thing a second time. I'm not sure if that's because I was sewing over paper, or if it's because I wore my machine out over Christmas, and it needs to get serviced. In any case, I'm not particularly proud of the stitching lines you're seeing here. Oh, well. It's for a two-year-old, right?

Also, I had to take out some of my maze lines because the bead wouldn't fit through some of the places. Polly's bead mazes were made from left-over tee shirt fabric, which has more give. I think it would be easier to slide the bead in the narrow spots with a stretchier fabric.

Still, I'm pleased enough with the outcome to share it with you here. To finish the whole thing off, I took some red seam binding and quickly zigzagged around the edges. I was planning to just zigzag the raw edges, but I found the red binding in my stash box, and thought it would make a nice finishing touch.
I think this little bead maze will be attractive enough to my two-year-old friend that he'll come sit by me again in church. Which was the whole point.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ukulele love

Mark has been researching stringed instruments on the internet for a couple of months now. Not violins and cellos. He's been stalking youtube videos of mandolins, lutes, dulcimers...

One evening I asked him why.

Turns out he was searching for an instrument he could play and enjoy. He had tried guitar, even took lessons a few years ago, but his fingers never toughened up enough for him to enjoy playing. The guitar has been gathering dust for some time now.

He researched video tutorials, samples of musicians, different brands of instruments, music available. He thought about mandolins long and hard, but eventually settled on...

...a ukulele!!??

Yup. We visited Guitar Center last week and he came home with his new love.

Now, what makes this really fun for me is that I have owned/played a ukulele since I was a teenager. I used to know lots of chords, remember a few of the basics, never got good at strumming. Now that Mark is learning to play the ukulele, we've been having some fun together with this. I had no idea there were so many tutorials on youtube! Mark is learning chords and I'm finally learning to strum. Mark is picking up (pun...sorry...) how to pick the notes for some songs, too. (Can you imagine "Ode to Joy" on a ukulele? It's true.)

Here we are with our instruments. Mine is an heirloom banjo ukulele. (I just looked it up on wikipedia, and it's also known as a banjolele.) My banjo uke belonged to my great-uncle when he was a student at Stanford in the 1920's. They were popular back then. It has a higher, more banjo-ish tone than Mark's concert ukulele. They sound pretty good together.

We bought a very cool little tuning gizmo called a Snark when we bought Mark's ukulele. I thought maybe the salesman was just trying to get us to buy something, but it turns out he was right. The Snark makes it so quick and easy to get our ukes tuned up and ready to go.

We're currently working on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." We'll make a little video for the grandkids as soon as we get it down, and I'll post it here for your listening pleasure.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Quick & Easy Upholstery Tips

Yesterday I spent $35 and 3 hours going from this...


These are beloved pieces of furniture from my grandparents' homes, shared with me over the years by my parents. The oak rocking chair had been hiding in the attic, waiting for rescue. "Old pink," a comfy occasional chair was getting ratty, but it (kind of) worked when we had our old sofa.

However, we recently had an antique sofa and arm chair (originally belonged to my great-aunt, also came to us via my parents) reupholstered. Something about that shiny new gold upholstery just didn't go with the scruffy pink chair any more! Also, since our kids moved out last week, we rearranged a couple of rooms, and we needed another chair to fill in the living room. Time to haul the old rocking chair with its worn leather seat out of the attic.

How worn, you ask? Take a look. Sadly, this is way beyond vintage.
Happily, this kind of chair is easy-peasy to recover.

Turn the chair upside down and remove the seat. It will be held in place by screws in the corner. Just unscrew the screws, and the seat will come right off.

Then measure the seat, and add inches to go down around the sides + about 3 inches on every side to tuck in a the bottom.

Use a staple gun (electric or manual) to attach the fabric to the wood frame at the bottom of the seat. Sometimes I remove the old fabric/staples if there are lots of layers, but in this case I left the leather in place and just shaped my new fabric over the existing seat cushion.

 I attached the fabric at the sides first, same as the leather had been.

Corners can be tricky. Play with it different ways until you have a look you like. You can do a 45ยบ angle fold, or you can make a bunch of tiny pleats. Check to see how the original upholsterer did it. Be sure to pull the fabric tight as you're stapling, or it will be loosy-goosy on top when you're finished.

 Ta daaa!!
When you're finished stapling, trim the excess fabric and reinstall the seat with the screws.

"Old Pink" was a little trickier. I started with the seat, and kind of made it up as I went. Which is the point. Someday maybe I'll afford a real upholstery job on these pieces, but for now, at least I can use them and enjoy them! I promise that no one's going to notice the places where my less-than-professional upholstery skills are evident. No one is going to come into my house and turn my chairs upside down to notice all the funky stitching I did to pull everything tight, right?

 This time I didn't take the seat off. I snipped and folded the fabric to fit around the chair structure.
Then I turned it over and did a combination of stapling and stitching.

I stapled where I could, and where the stapler wouldn't fit, I ran long strands of upholstery thread (thicker than regular thread) criss-cross across the seat bottom. Like I said, no one is going to turn it over, right?

For the top of the chair, I cut one piece of fabric long enough for the front and back. I laid it over, inside out, and pinned the fabric to match the shape of the chair. Then I used my sewing machine to stitch up the sides according to my pin placement.

The sides taper in at the bottom, so I sewed the last bit by hand.

To finish off the bottom edge of the chair top, I first tacked the back piece to the old upholstery with a quick hand stitch.

Then I folded over the edge of the front piece and sewed it to the back by hand.

Oh, I love love love my pretty new living room! Thanks Mom and Dad for sharing the family furniture pieces with me!

But you don't have to have family heirlooms to tackle an upholstery project. Thrift store finds...or furniture that you bought new, but it's seen better days...can often be fixed with some ingenuity and a staple gun.

DO start with a simple project like my rocking chair. (DON'T start with a sofa.)
DO buy the heavier upholstery fabric. Mine was $9.99/yard at JoAnn Fabrics, and I used a couple of coupons to cut the price almost in half. (Thanks for the coupons, Polly!)
DO take someone to help you choose the fabric. There were so many pretty options! Thanks to my sweet hubby Mark for helping me make this great selection.
DO have courage! I really wasn't sure I could successfully cover the pink chair. But it has such classic lines that I wanted to try. I kept telling myself that if it didn't work, I had only wasted $35, not hundreds of dollars.
DO use the original upholstery as a guide.
And DO have fun!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Second Christmas in Royal City

We enjoyed a second Christmas and fun family time with Polly and her crew today. We drove here last night after church. This morning we heard a whispered conversation down the hall...

Katie: Be quiet, you'll wake up Grandma and Grandpa.
Seth: I want to open the presents.
Becca: I want the dinosaur. (Apparently Seth had the dinosaurs...)
Seth: No.
Becca: Screech!
Katie: Shhhh. Seth, if you'll share the dinosaurs now, I'll let you sit on my quilt pretty soon.
Seth: No.
Becca: Screech!
Katie: Seth, you should choose the right. Don't you want to choose the right?
Seth: No.
Becca: Screech!
Etc, etc, etc.

It was fun to watch the kids open the gifts we made for them.

 Katie with her monkey neck buddy.
 Seth with a large flannel board and felt planets, sun, moon, etc. Mark did a great job helping me make the flannel board.
 Polly modeling her ear warmer. Katie immediately appropriated Polly's gloves.
 Becca adding stickers to her Shape & Color book featuring family pictures.
 Holly & David sent ping-pong ball shooters to the whole family. The sling shots were an immediate "hit." (Pun intended...)
 Later in the morning we took a walk to see the progress on Polly & Eric's new house. Wow!
 In the living room...
 Becca had fun with Grandma's laptop in the afternoon.
Katie and the monkey did a puzzle on the computer.