I finally, finally finally finished this gift that had been on my mind since Raya was born (only a year plus ago). My mom made my son a set of bean bags (rice filled) when he was a year old and 4 years later they are still played with daily. They have been fish, weights to hold down blankets for forts, food, jack be nimble candle sticks, bombs (not as proud of this one) and many many other things. My mom put shapes and numbers on ours, but I thought maybe name arranging might be a hit when Raya is around 4 and I really want her to keep her English skills fresh so I can talk to her. They have been shipped off to Sweden (empty for cost reasons and with a bit of guilt at sending an unfinished gift to a mom of the newly walking) and for being so so late she got the bonus set pictured below.
I had a bunch of sweaters that I liked, but didn't like to wear for various reasons and instead of sending them off to Goodwill I decided to reincarnate them. This red sweater that I happened to buy when I was with Raya's mom (way back in our early 20s when we didn't have a clue what was in store for us) has morphed into a hat and matching pants set, because don't we all have matching hats for our pants? The pants pattern AND hat pattern were found on pinterest but here they are to cut out the middle man. HAT is here and PANTS are here. Or you can find them on my pinterest board. They were super easy, well easy enough that I only had to pull out a few stitches here and there. My seamstessmanship leaves much to be desired, but I often had a kid on my lap running the presser foot or was furiously sewing in my two precious hours a week when one is at school and one is napping.
We are still heavily into pirates at our house and I've learned I can't turn my back on Eliot when the face paints are out (he painted his entire face and arms black in the five minutes that I was distracted on the phone). And I really wish that joyous smile on Eason's face was because he was so delighted in the craft we were working on, but alas it's because Eliot (in the five seconds in took me to go grab the camera) decided to take a big bite of the fake snow that we were making (ingredients ivory soap flakes and water). I guess lesson learned is there aren't really many situations where I can turn my back on Eliot.
We've been hiking. The wildflowers are starting to bloom and we're trying to do at least a hike a week so we don't miss out on any. I think we've finally (I hope I don't jinx it) hit a critical development in our hiking where both boys can now do a great deal of it on their own. It's especially helpful when you can fly most of the way down the trail.
Definition of a short sale: you lose all the money you put into your house, your credit is ruined and therefore you can't purchase another home and are tossed into the increasingly competitive renters market, you have to send in endless endless mounds of paperwork over and over because the bank keeps losing it, you can't even strip the home of the upgrades you made, you have to suffer the silent bitterness of someone else getting your great home at half what you paid AND your supposed to be happy about it.
Our house is now in the process of a possible short sale. And that's supposed to be great news in this new American dream right? If you can avoid foreclosure you're supposed to be one of the lucky ones. But is this something we should really be thankful for? Maybe we don't have to check yes to the dreaded foreclosure/bankruptcy/you are scarlet lettered for life box on random paperwork that seems to ask you this question (ie renters insurance), but our credit is still in the garbage, we lost a ton of cash on our house and our housing options are SEVERELY limited for the foreseeable future.
BUT, hey what great news, now the government is settling with the banks and those that went into foreclosure between certain dates get 2,000! Wow, yipee! Are they serious (and what about those that fall outside those dates)? 2,000 seems offensive to me. How about a clean bill of credit and a low interest rate to get back into the housing market. It seems like every plan they come up with reeks with mediocrity. If we, the people are not financially sound then the banks won't be. PERIOD. There is going to be a continued terrible housing market if so many of the potential buyers out there can't enter the market because of spoiled credit due to short sales and foreclosures. How about removing that credit ding from the equation and factoring in all the before and after and then granting loans?
Again, not that I have this following or anything, but to anyone out there reading this here is a brief summerization of our last year... job loss, job gain, move back to the good old Northwest, really super super difficult time finding a place to rent while dealing with the bank on the imminent loss of our house, settle on a nice albeit temporary rental and now begin the search again for a place to land for a bit. I realize I have so much to be appreciative of and many people are in much worse positions, BUT I have never felt my blood boil so much as it has over this past year.
I never really thought I would face housing discrimination. I knew it was out there, have heard about it, but didn't really think it was out there this much or in reference to MY situation. So what is the awful thing that we are trying to move into these people's houses??? OUR CHILDREN. Yep, as soon as they inquire about number of residents and ages of those residents all of the sudden I no longer receive those promised emails and phone calls and our references are never even checked. I keep feeling in disbelief that time and time again the reason we are not deemed worthy renters is because we have two kids, two kids, just two kids. No dogs, no smokers, no bad history, no unemployment, etc. etc. Just two kids.
We've begun the search again and again all possibilities drop off once the mention of children is brought up. Yes, we could report them. But then do we really want a landlord who has been forced to rent to us. And honestly, I am so sick of trying to get the "system" to treat us fairly and follow the rules, I just want a straight forward rental signing agreement. One year please, is that too much to ask?
Please look forward to my next rant on foreclosure, short sales and the banking system!
They were making these magnets at Michael's one day (or was it Craft Warehouse?) and after making one in the store I was sold on buying all the goods to make our own at home. It's a great use for all those scraps of pretty paper that you can't bear to throw out, but have not idea what you're going to do with them. These were one of the things we gave as Christmas gifts this year. You don't need much, some strong magnets to glue on the back with a strong glue, these round clear glass things that you can buy at craft stores, the glue pictured below that works great on glass and some nice paper. Through experimentation I discovered that slightly thicker paper works the best. We made a few with newspaper print and the glue sort of ruined the print before it dried.
This is the glue we used to affix the paper to the glass round. We just put a few drops of glue on the glass and then placed the glass on the paper (print side). We tested it first to see where it should be placed, but the glue is pretty forgiving and if you make a mistake you can remove it before it dries.
Here are a few waiting to dry.
This is the glue we used to adhere the magnets to the back after we trimmed them. It's pretty toxic smelling, so I took them outside to do and let them dry out there too.
This was very kid friendly project. My five year old loved to count out the number of magnets and glass rounds we would need and to pick the paper we would use for each magnet. I did the gluing, but after they were dry he trimmed the edges.
I saw a set similar to these in a store a few days after we make them. They were selling for 6 for 15.00. I didn't exactly add up the cost, but maybe they were .25 each? I really love all the possibilities of combining colors and prints. We plan to make these again soon. We got so into making them for everyone else that we forgot to make a set for ourselves.
I've been wanting to write about my candle making experience, but first I
needed to put some distance between myself and 12 lbs. of beeswax. I
was making candles almost daily before the holidays. It's not that 12
lbs. is sooo much, but when you only have a few molds, it's a drawn out
process and my product seemed to get increasingly worse as I went
along. So, by no means am I an expert, but in the end they turned out
pretty well (and once they were lit all the flaws that I was obsessing over just melted away). Here are a few things I learned along the way...
I got a bulk discount at a great store in Portland called the Portland Homestead Supply. I LOVE this store, it has all of the things you can't find anywhere but online and they offer lots of great classes, like pig butchering (I found myself interested in signing up, but only if they started with a live pig. Is that strange?) Initially, I found beeswax a bit cheaper online, but after they said they'd give me a bulk discount it was much cheaper to support the local guy and not pay for shipping. I paid 8.00 a lb. BUT, I have recently discovered that I could get it from a local beekeeper for around 4.00 a lb. I'll go that route next time, but thus far the beekeeper hasn't returned my calls.
To break the wax it was easiest to put it in the freezer for a bit and then use a chisel and hammer to break chunks apart, and satisfying too. Cutting it with a warm knife did not really cut it (pun intended). I must say though that my first batch of candles used from the wax that I didn't freeze before cutting turned out the best. I'm not sure if it was beginners luck or if freezing the wax somehow changed the chemical structure. I couldn't find any reference to this, but I also couldn't really figure out why after the first batch I got more cracking after the candles set.
I just picked up some molds, wick and wick holders from Portland Homestead Supply and got the melt pot from Goodwill. Lots of people suggested using a separate pot as your double broiler, but I found that if I just warmed everything I used in the oven afterwards that the wax came off easily with a dry towel. I guess if I was using other waxes I wouldn't want it to mix with our food ware, but I wasn't too worried about beeswax tainting our food.
At first I tried to tie the wicks to skewers, but that didn't really work. I found that wooden clothes pins were the best option for the votives (just clip the clothes pin before pouring wax, hold it aside and then center it after the wax is poured). I also had some pillar molds, but they came with wick holders and putty to keep them in place.
As mentioned above, I did get lots of cracking in the candles. For the life of me I can't figure out why. I troubleshooted left and right, but couldn't come up with any resolutions or conclusions. The best thing about the candles are if you really don't like the way it turned out you can just remelt the wax and start over, sometimes the wick is even salvagable. But, having this option meant that I poured about twice as many candles as I ended up with. The other nice thing about having cracking problems, as opposed to other problems I read about is that once the candles were lit and then cooled you couldn't tell at all.
I did some calculations as to how much money I saved making my own and depending on what source you went with for prices, it was a lot. Wax isn't cheap and the molds aren't either, but store bought beeswax candles are expensive!
I think I'm ready to harass the beekeeper some more and go for another round (without the pressure of an early Christmas gift exchange). I loved the way the house smelled like honey for the month leading up to Christmas. And they are very nice to have lit around the house.
Oh, and the candle holders were just some burlap stamped and cut to fit a glass candle holder and then glued with a hot glue gun. I kind of like the way they turned out, maybe a bit too plain? I made a few of these too from an idea I found over on pinterest. I really liked the way they turned out. It's a great use of extra thread on a bobbin. I didn't make a mold, I just wrapped the thread around the glass and then painted some modge podge on. I was a bit worried the glue would melt when they were lit (or smell bad) but neither occurred.
Couscous bird was inspired by a little glom of mixed couscous that my, at the time three year old, exclaimed "hey that looks like a bird." Why yes indeed it does, a couscous bird. The name stuck with me and when I decided to start a blog I couldn't shake the catchiness of the name. It also seemed to describe the focus of the blog or lack of: something out of some random other something. I'll just blog about what interests me, what we're up to and where we're going which seems to loosely shape into a blog about cooking, gardening, raising kids, raising chickens and traveling as much as we can with two little ones.