September 30, 2023


Mr. Geek took a day off of work, so we went out (alone!) for the afternoon while my mother-in-law kindly watched S. We went to a very charming cafe, called Cafe Chocolat, which had lots of chocolate items. The Chili con Chocolate was tasty, with vegan sausage and brown rice, and Mr. Geek enjoyed his Cubano sandwich.

Anyway, I wanted to just share some photos of the play area I made in our living room this past week. Do I ever take "before" photos? No. But just imagine a cavernous area that is not used for anything.

Here's kind of a before photo, from July. Yes, Soren uses the Learning Tower as a jungle gym (and man, my feet are embarrassingly dirty! I go barefoot all summer, and that's the proof--yuck).
If you look to the back left, you'll see just a bookshelf with some toys on it, and not much else.

Our living room is weird. The house is 106 years old and the living room used to be separated into two teeny rooms--a living area and a dining area. The previous owners had torn down the wall between the rooms, leaving a long space that is impossible to furnish. We tend to live more on one side of it, where the couches are, but the other side of the room is underutilized.

I had visions of my grandma's antique Singer sewing machine there, but that's still rusting in the basement. We'd also considered a desk, but haven't found one yet in the alley on garbage day. So it's become an area dedicated to play. (PS, I wish our living room was brighter, because it's hard to get good photos of it without the obnoxious flash)
I kept the bookcase there (which by the way, I found sitting at the curb on trash day) and "shopped" the house for some things to add to the play area. From the attic, I scrounged a blue IKEA rug to define the area and bring in some color. I also brought in the red toolbox that I found in the dumpster to hold books.

To the left of the bookcase is a tool bench that our neighbors gave Soren, since their boys have outgrown it. He loves playing with the obscene amount of tools that are in there. We've since had to hide the hammers, since he's been pounding them on the windows. I imagine one day soon the child-sized art easel I have in the attic will replace the workbench.

My mom found that cute kid-sized red wicker chair in her neighborhood on garbage day too. It was funny because it's the exact same red as the kid Adirondack chair we already had. What is it with people throwing away perfectly good furniture? At least send it to Goodwill or Freecycle it!
That purple basket (from our local shop Bamboula) was upstairs, holding yarn, but I decided to move the yarn into another container and use the basket for blocks. I just love looking at the color.
And then I added a few more fun decorations, like this string of animals from Taraluna
and amuseument park photos from Alicia Bock (left) and Irene Suchocki (right).
and of course wind-up German bicycle man and the Cheekeyes animals, facing off in a break-dancing duel. So that's it, the play space, ready for fun.And please don't think any less of me because of my filthy feet and dumpster diving.

September 29, 2023

Fair Thee Well

As I mentioned, we spent Saturday at the Bloomsburg Fair, a huge state-like fair near where I grew up.
It's an annual tradition in our family, and I remember getting an extra day or two off from school during Fair week, which was mostly for the farm kids who had animals and exhibits to tend to at the fair.
When I lived in the area, I used to enter my artwork, baked goods and plants from the garden. I've won prizes for nearly everything I entered, like watercolor paintings, pumpkin bread, and my herbs. My proudest moment was when I walked through the horticultural building to look through the displays and came across my herbal arrangement (kind of like a flower arrangement, using only herbs) which had a huge Best in Show ribbon on it.

So we did what most people do at fairs, eat greasy, unhealthy food like the Polish food from this church-run stand
Haluski (cabbage and noodles, drenched in butter) and potato pancakes. My dad is Polish-American, so this is a must-eat.
And ice cream, of course. Sojo enjoys the cone best, and calls it "cracker". He wants the cracker before we even eat the ice cream from it.
He nursed that cone for a good 10 minutes. I'll have to just keep a box of them on hand for when I need a mommy break.
And what fair doesn't have outdoor music? And how fitting that it was a Polka band, while we were eating our greasy lunch.
Soren likes to dance, and I got a little video of him dancing to polkas. I was having trouble uploading it though.He wasn't too into the animals yet, and was a bit timid around the giant Clydesdale horse.
His two favorite things by far were the corn box, a big box filled with corn instead of sand. What a great idea! Unlike sand, the corn doesn't get into every crevice of kids' bodies.
And favorite thing #2 was the helicopter that was giving rides over the fair. Every 10 minutes or so, it would take off and fly around, and each time Sojo was thrilled.
Here he is pausing to watch it. We saw it close up on our way in, and it's the first time he saw a helicopter up close. We have a toy one we talk about at home (I make chopper noises with it) and he actually recognized what it was when we saw it.

So we had a great time, even without anti-social Mr. Geek. I just wish there was more time in the Autumn to do all the fun outdoor stuff we want to do. We've been busy every weekend this month, and will be into next month too. But since fall is my favorite season, I certainly don't mind spending it outside.

September 25, 2023

No Need to Jump Through Hoops When Silk Painting

I've worked with dyes a lot as an artist, particularly on silk scarves, and let me just say that I don't miss the dye part of those projects. Whenever I mix dyes, I inevitably end up getting some on myself, even when wearing gloves. It's just the nature of the beast.

Jacquard, purveyor of high-quality dyes and fabric painting products, let me try out yet another one of their kits, the Hoop Painting Fun Bag, which includes all the materials you need to create 3 paintings on silk-stretched hoops.
Jacquard makes it really easy to use the dyes, as they come in small pre-mixed bottles with built-in eyedroppers to control the application of the dye. Also included are 2 Chinese ink brushes for painting.

You can either paint these hoops, or create really cool sun paintings with them, by placing objects on the wet dyes and letting them "cook" out in the sun.
I decided on a straightforward resist painting, since we had a stretch of cloudy days.

A resist painting/dyeing is created by using a material that resists dye, like the rubber bands in a tie-dyed shirt. In the case of the Hoop Painting Kit, one uses a metallic liquid called Permanent Metallic Resist, which prevents dyes from seeping into those areas painted with the liquid. In the past, I've made my own resists using white glue and even flour and water. But that's another post.

This is how the kit works. First you lightly sketch a design on the hoop. I chose robots as my theme, but you could easily do something abstract or more importantly, let the kids do it!
Once my drawing was on the hoop, I traced over it with the Permanent Metallic Resist.
This might be tricky for some people, as you essentially are drawing while holding the bottle. You hold it upside down and squeeze the thick liquid over your lines, tracing them. It's hard toward the end, as you have to squeeze harder to get the liquid out. Definitely something your kids might need help with. I was pretty careless in applying it, as you can see, since I thought it was going to wash out and leave behind white areas in place of the gold (more to come on that later).

Once the resist dries, you're ready to paint with the dyes. It's as simple as opening the bottles and filling in the areas like a coloring book.
The resist will prevent seepage of the dye into other areas. A tip from my college watercolor professor: tilt your work on a slight angle and work from top to bottom, side to side, letting the dyes naturally roll down the page. It keeps the bottom edge wet and allows you to add more dye without noticeable lines.

The kit also includes salt, which you can sprinkle on the wet dyes for interesting affects.
Salt will absorb some of the dye, creating a speckled affect on the silk. Here are the hoops, drying on the table, which didn't take long.
And in their final, salt-free incarnations.
They'd also be great as suncatchers.
What Jacquard lacks are clear instructions with their kit. I mistakenly thought the resist could be washed out (duh, it does say "permanent" on it), since a photo on the package shows white areas where the resist would have been used. I kept scanning the package, looking for basic instruction for painting. The instructions for sun printing were very clear, just not for the resist painting. Plus I wasn't sure if I needed to iron this to heat set it.

But if you're looking for something unique for your family to do during the long indoor season, definitely check out Jacquard and their amazing kits and products. I highly recommend the Hoop Painting Fun Bag.

September 23, 2023

Wordful Wednesday: How 'Bout Them Apples?

We went apple picking last weekend for a half-bushel of apples for canning. I haven't decided whether to make applesauce like last year or make stewed apples, more like pie filling. But that's another post.
We headed to the local Rodale Institute, an experimental organic farm which is affiliated with Rodale Press, publishers of Prevention, Men's Health, Backpacking, and all those good reads.

We set out early on Saturday, got a half-bushel bucket, and went a pickin'. Sojo loved it!
The orchard was a little hard for him to navigate due to high grass and apples all over the ground, which was great for us because he couldn't run off.
He got the concept of picking apples off the tree, and eating them of course, which was thrilling for him.
He also liked sneaking the rotten ones off the ground and tasting them too.
And like good parents, we watched and took photos. And laughed.

We filled our basket pretty quickly and agreed to make this a yearly tradition.
Even just for the photo opportunities!
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September 18, 2023

Clue Me In

I've noticed a lot of bloggers switching to Disqus for their commenting, and am wondering why? To be perfectly frank, I find the step of leaving comments with Disqus is so time consuming, especially that it doesn't save my info for some reason. It also slows down your blogs, at least on my end, even with a high speed connection. So what's the deal? Is it worth it using it? What are the benefits? Honestly, I've neglected leaving comments on some blogs because of this.

Thank you.

September 16, 2023

Wordful Wednesday: Favors

I mentioned that I spent last Saturday making favors for my brother and future SIL Izabela's wedding, which will be in December (so excited for another wedding in the family! It's been years). We had a great time, bonding with the bridesmaids and Izabela and her mom. We made homemade hot cocoa mix, after all it is a December wedding. Iz's sister found some cute little coffee bags online which worked perfectly for the packaging.
Their wedding colors are black, white, and silver so I designed and printed up stickers for the bags,
and found some black and silver business cards on which I printed instructions for making the cocoa. We also made some chocolate spoons to attach to the bags by melting chocolate, dipping spoons into it, then drizzling them with melted white chocolate. The stripes were lovely. Of course we put them in plastic bags, and will then tie them onto the coffee bags.
We made around 160, and I love how they look all nestled together. The spoons are in the fridge until closer to the wedding, so they don't melt.

Here's the recipe for the cocoa mix, if you're interested. I made it for Christmas gifts one year, and they were a hit. For the wedding, I just came up with a lovey-dovey cocoa title, Love, Sweet Love Cocoa Mix. I believe it cost aroud $1 per bag, which is a great deal. Though volunteer labor helps, of course.

Love, Sweet Love Cocoa Mix

8 cups nonfat dry milk powder
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2/3 cup cocoa (get the best you can find)
1 teaspoon salt
(2 tbsp cinnamon, optional)
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, using a spoon and then a whisk. Scoop into containers or bags. To make cocoa, use 3-4 tablespoons per cup of boiling water. Makes 40 cups of cocoa.

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