Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Twelve Month Mantle

I have slipped up!  I though that I had already written about my mantle challenge, but I see that I had not even posted at all about it.  Ah how sad that it got away from me.  Well, no time like the present to catch you up on that.  It occurred to me as I was putting away the Christmas decorations how much I miss the color and sparkle of those decorations.  The house suddenly seems less magical and alive.  Because we spend so much time in the living room, and our view is directed toward the fireplace, the mantle is a prime focal for decor.  ...What?!!!  I never shared a photo of the Christmas mantle?  Well,. here it is...

This was standard for years, and this past year I decided that it would be nice to tweak it a little.  I had been saving a fallen branch (I am just compulsive that way) and decided it would be interesting to use it in some way.  I dabbed white paint over the branch, and used nails that usually hold pictures, to hang the branch with fine fishing line.  Then, I cut stars out of those pieces of cardboard that you find in various retail products.  I could have used cereal boxes, but this kitchen warrior does not buy that sort of processed food.  I used a punch to make a hole for hanging.  Then, I spray painted them silver and when they were dry dabbed them with some Gesso.  That was not necessary, but I wanted to get some texture and maybe relate them to the white branch.  ...Kinda like clouds and kinda shabby chic too. Next, I strung the stars to varying lengths of invisible nylon thread and wrapped them to the branch.  Wrapping the branch about three or four times held just fine, and when dismantled was easy to remove.

 My plan included adding a string of tiny lights, but they refused to light this year.  ...But never mind!

SO, when January came along and Christmas went back into boxes, I just couldn't bear to hide all the cheer away.  There was one box of decorations that had been ignored for many, many years.  It held old wooden shapes that my father had made from a craft project in some woman's magazine.  It was a table centerpiece with cookie cutter trees and children.  Somehow there was never room on the table for that.  Yet here they were, and perfect for the mantle as a January scene of starry forest night. 

I liked that so much that I decided to challenge myself to keep the branch all year, and change the decor to honor every month of the year.  Now, here we are into the last day of February, and I must share what happened this month before it's gone too.  

So what is in store for March?  Dunno yet, but I suspect it will have something to do with Leprechauns and shamrocks, pots of gold or maybe the first hints of spring and nature shaking off the winter.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Necklace Update!

I have finished the necklace and have been wearing it all day.  I love the lightweight feel of it, which is a complete surprise.  I thought it would weigh me down with the weight of the glass, solder, galvanized steel chain and beads.  Pleasantly, it is not even something that I am aware of. 

You can barely see Amanda's photo on the flip side.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Just a Little Cabin in the Woods

the old cabin
 Sometimes I get obsessed with an idea that just stews in my brain until I do something about it.  For months now, I have been obsessing about Amanda, the grandmother I never knew.  One of the things she accomplished was to supervise the construction of a cabin built in the "Endless Mountains" in Pennsylvania.  Long ago, Native Americans named the a portion of the Appalachian Mountain chain as the "Endless Mountains."  Building a cabin had been a plan that she shared with my grandfather before he passed on, and in her strength, she saw the plan through so that the family would have a place of respite.  It was a time when people still rallied together to raise a home for a family, and she was fortunate to have "Great Uncle Barney"  to help out. Great Uncle Barney was a builder of barns, and he knew how to put strength into a cabin.  It could have lasted forever.  I say "could" because we lost the cabin several years ago.  A fraudulent contractor, who was hired to put new shingles on the roof, left his old faulty truck to  catch fire and sent the cabin into destruction.  Since then, a new cabin has risen in the old one's place, but the memories and the feeling of the original will be with me always.

My favorite view in all this world ...from the cabin porch swing
I loved nothing better than to sit on the front porch swing and "zone" as I gazed out into the beauty of nature.  It is a bountiful view full of life and sound.  A shallow creek flows by, happily gurgling it's way over rocks as the sunlight sparkles over it.  Damselflies with the deepest iridescent indigo or jade green bodies and lacy black wings dance off it's surface.  Crows add their voices in disrespect of the peace and quiet as they call back and forth, asserting their territory.  Beyond is a field of tall grasses occasionally dotted with scarlet-red bee-balm, delicate white Queen Anne's Lace and daisies.  Across the old dirt road, deer visit an old gnarled apple tree (it's in bloom in the right center of the photo) in the field where I gathered mint, yarrow and other wild herbs.  I would harvest them in the early morning, wash them and then hang them in bunches over the kitchen's old wood-burning stove to dry.

It has been many years now since I was last there.  It used to be an annual two week stay when my mother was living nearby.  Over a decade ago she sold her home and has been living with me, my sister, and now me again.  Her health and my care-giving will not allow for travel.  So, I travel in my mind to this haven of peace and regeneration.

Recently, I took into my head to honor both the cabin and Amanda with a soldered pendant.  My first effort at soldering leaves much to be desired, but I am making the best of it, as is.  After all, there is a sense of acceptance in shabby chic style, and the cabin exemplified that.  I was in too much of a hurry to play to take photos throughout this project, but it was easy to do.  I had the scanned ancient photos of the cabin and of Amanda on the computer, and scaled them to fit in between two glass slides from Micheal's craft store.  Making sure that the glass was thoroughly clean, I placed the trimmed photos back-to-back between the glass.  Then, I used copper foil tape (Micheal's) around the outer edges.  It needs to be pressed down smoothly with a burnishing tool to avoid any lifting or seeping of solder into the frame.  Now the fun begins!  I am no solder expert, and encourage anyone interested to search out good videos on the internet to learn this skill.  I fluxed the foil and then applied solder to it's surface until it was coated.  Then, I fumbled, wishing for  a few more hands, until I managed to add the rings to the top and bottom edges.  I will not lie, I ruined the tip of my soldering iron, and had to re-do the piece a few times before it was acceptable.  Now, I am playing with making chain and beads of old buttons, rhinestones, glass beads, and old nylon curtain cord that I had dyed the perfect shade years back.  I love it when I can use old things I have lying about.  I am making the chain of galvanized steel.  It has a tendency to rust, so it's aging will be interesting.  I do plan to coat it with a sealant when the piece is finished.  Not in this photo is an old key from the old cabin that is sitting in some salted ammonia to age it with patina.  This necklace has a  way to go yet, but I will keep y'all posted!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Letting the "WILD" Out

...And It's about time!  I don't know when it started, but for the longest time I have been aware of little twinges of frustration with the unrelenting conservatism that seems to surround me.  Now this statement may cause you to pause and think "is she one of those wild and crazy eccentrics?"  Well, it's nothing like that, ...or maybe I am, ...but I think I am pretty normal.  It's just that I like to surround myself with more color than most people, dress more unconventionally, try new things, do everything myself, decorate my home eclectically, eat the way I feel my body wants to, and play with energy.  What's so different about all that?!!!

Anyway, as the hair is getting increasingly gray and each year a few more lines appear to accent my face, I find I am faced with a new thought:  When our youthful physical beauty is finally faded, how will we love what is left in it's place?  How will we present ourselves to the world then?  Well, I have decided to just let it all hang out, and I don't mean the muffin top that suddenly took up residence sometime last summer.   I am talking about letting out all those cravings to be a little bit more creative and express it and not be concerned with what others are doing.

So, what the heck does this picture at the top of this page have to do with anything?  Well, this is not some modern art thing, but my hair!  Just a little chalk run over the gray!  ...Color coordinated to match my outfit of course.