Monthly Archives: August 2012

Random acts of craftiness – man’s bracelet

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Every time I make a gift for someone, my husband says to me, “gee, it sure would be nice to have something made by you.” While I usually give him the evil eye, he does have a point. Over the years, I’ve made sweaters for every member of my family (including M), as well as numerous pieces of jewelry for almost everyone I know. Except for a really ugly hat, my husband doesn’t have a single thing made by me.

In my own defense, I have started a number of projects that were intended as gifts for him. There was a lovely sweater that came in a kit with hand-spun wool. Except there was a problem with the pattern and I could never figure out how to correct it. It’s still in a box somewhere.

Then there was the Norwegian wool sweater that I started for myself and then decided it wasn’t the right colour for me. It was a beautiful light grey, with a brown and dark grey patterned yoke. But it had been sitting in a bag for a couple of years and I couldn’t seem to get tension in the new section to match the original stitches. I’m not even sure where it is now.

A couple of years ago, I decided to make my husband a bracelet. I spent a fair amount of time looking for the perfect focal piece and finally selected a pewter ceramic link from FusionBeads.

As usual, I had more things to do than time, so I wrapped up the link with a length of black rubber tubing and put it in his stocking. Over the course of the next year, I’d find it in my beading supplies and think, “I must do something with this.” Periodically, over the next year, I would pull it out with the intention of finishing it. But somehow, I never seemed to get it quite done.

Last year, I bought him a bracelet with a hand-cast pewter barrel-shaped bead and a button on waxed linen cord. I thought it was a good replacement for the bracelet I’d never finished for him. But while he liked it, he said he preferred the other one, even though it was still unfinished.

While we were on our holidays, I pulled the bracelet out of my beading bag where it had been lurking for several months and sat down to finish it. Originally, I had planned to attach the rubber tubing to each end of the connector and then add a clasp. But the tubing didn’t lie flat and I didn’t like how it looked. I tried some other options – cotton cord, waxed linen, but nothing really clicked. Finally, I went back to the rubber tubing, but added a couple of largish seed beads to keep the tubing from twisting.

Once I had the design figured out, it only took a few minutes to add the clasp and finish the bracelet. Finally, it was done. Hopefully, my husband thinks it was worth the wait.

I have linked up to the following: Craft Envy – Saturday Spotlight; Think Pink Sundays at Flamingo Toes ; Monday Link Party at Craft-O-Maniac; Motivate Me Monday at Keeping It Simple; Making Monday Marvelous at C.R.A.F.T. ; Made by You Mondays at Skip to My Lou ; Get Your Craft on Tuesday at Today’s Creative Blog; Take-a-Look Tuesdays at Sugar Bee Crafts; Wednesday Wowzers at oopsy daisy; Flaunt It Fridays at Dotted Line Crafts; The Cure for the Common Monday at Lines Across My FaceSix Sisters Stuff – Strut Your Stuff Saturday

Clover all over

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I have a red clover plant that was given to me years ago by a very dear friend. Clovers, as I have learned over the years, are pretty hardy plants, as long as they are happy. With the right light and comfortable pot, a clover will do fine and won’t need much attention, beyond regular watering. An unhappy clover won’t do much.

Fortunately for me, my red clover likes living on a plant stand that looks out a west-facing window (I have two that face south, so I’m not sure direction of the light source is critical for clovers – the plant just needs to like where it is). Recently, I noticed that it was looking a bit droopy and the stems were getting soft. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the soil looked mouldy – it had nasty white fuzz on most of the surface.

Rather than treating the soil, I decided to dump it out and start over with fresh dirt. I also cleaned out the plant pot, in order to avoid re-infecting the new soil with whatever organism had taken up residence with my clover.

Clovers plants send leaves and flowers up from little tubers. A lot of the tubers on my clover were soft and squishy. I only replanted the healthiest ones. I made sure not to bury the top of the tuber in the soil, much like you would plant an iris.

Once I replanted the best-looking pieces, I watered the plant and left it alone. I have learned from experience that clovers don’t much like being transplanted and tend to look miserable for the first few days. After about a week, the plant was bouncing back and by the time we got back from our holidays, it has over a dozen big red triangular leaves, waving on the end of strong stems, about 4-6 inches long. This may not seem impressive, but considering I didn’t have any healthy leaves after transplanting, I’m pleased about how well it is coming along. A month ago, it was just about dead.

Transplanted clover

Healthy and happy

But the real surprise was finding red clover growing at the end of my driveway. I had transplanted the clover outside and had thrown the bits of clover tuber I didn’t transplant into a patch of dirt beside the hedge that lines our driveway. I figured they would just decompose.

Surprise! New red clover plants

New growth – more red clover on the way

Our driveway slants towards the back, so rain tends to push loose silt into this spot. Apparently, the clover bits weren’t as dead I though they were and they re-rooted on their own. My husband noticed then and asked me if I knew why red clover was growing in our driveway. I don’t really know why, except the clover thinks that this is a happy spot and decided to grow. Far be it from me to disturb a happy plant.

I will probably dig up the clover when the weather gets cooler, as I am not sure it would survive the winter. I know it won’t like being disturbed, but I’ll put it is a pot with fresh soil and find a nice window for it to hang out in over the winter. Winter is long where I live and it will make me happy to look at my clover plants when it is cold and dark outside. For the moment, I will enjoy my new plants, inside and outside.

Back to school – tying on a new pair of shoes

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Green Redd Shoes

Green Redd Shoes (Photo credit: Cloned Milkmen)

 

Lately, it seems like I can’t turn on the television without seeing a back-to-school ads. Despite the fact that advertisers would like nothing more than to separate me from my money, I’ve never been keen on loading up on new school clothes for M. For one thing, he tends to have a growth spurt in the early fall, so buying a lot of stuff in the late summer doesn’t make a lot of sense. Plus, I prefer to buy stuff on sale throughout the year. I probably don’t spend any less money, but by spreading my purchases out over the year, it seems a little less painful. Kids clothes, even on sale, are expensive. And M, being an active kid, is hard on his clothes.

 

The one thing I do buy for M before school starts is a new pair of shoes. Since he was little, M has been very fussy about what he wears on his feet. He doesn’t care so much what they look like, but they need to “feel right, Mommy.” I gave up buying cheap shoes, because they never seemed to fit right and both M and I would end up frustrated.  Also, as a rule, cheap shoes don’t last through the school year. So every August, M and I go down the street to the high-end kids’ shoe store, pick a number and wait to try on shoes. The last couple of years, he has been keen on Geox  with flashing lights., but he’s very hard on his shoes and they haven’t held up very well – the velcro stops sticking by about March and then M complains he can’t do up his shoes.

 

This year, M didn’t want Geox – apparently they let sand and water in. He also didn’t want shoes with velcro. No problem, except M didn’t know how to tie his shoes. I learned to tie my shoes before I went into Grade 1, but that was before the advent of velcro closures for shoes. In the primary grades, most schools prefer that the children wear shoes with velcro, because they are easier to put on and take off. From what I could tell from a quick look around the shoe store,  girls’ shoes are more likely to have laces than boys. Nearly 3/4 of the boys’s shoes at the store had velcro. My husband jokes that because of velcro shoes, there will be a generation of boys heading off to university, who can’t tie their own shoes.

 

M would only consider shoes with laces, including a pair of Converse (they got rejected early on, as being “too tight”). One of the clerks showed him how to tie the laces. For someone who had never even expressed any interest in tying his own shoes – he always asks his dad to tie the laces on his soccer shoes – he caught on very quickly. He hadn’t fully mastered the technique by the time we left the store, but he was able to tie the laces in a rough bow. I expect by the time school starts, he’ll be a pro.

 

It may seem strange that M would suddenly decide on shoes with laces. But this is M’s modus operendii – when he decides to do something, he does it. If I had suggested last year that he try shoes with laces, he would have refused to even consider them. This year, apparently, he was ready.  As I remarked to him as we were walking home from the shoe store, he can do pretty much anything once he sets his mind to it.

 

I have been thinking about how we could build on the success of shoe tying and apply it to the upcoming school year. More specifically to writing, which M really struggles with.  In Grade 6, he will be expected to write even more than he did last year, in Grade 5. it is pretty common for a child with ADHD to have difficulty writing – it’s hard for M to get all the thoughts in his head out through the pen/pencil and onto the paper. Using a computer in class does help, but based on M’s recent psycho-educational assessment, his writing is significantly below grade level. Most times, he just shuts down and refuses to do the assignment. As I’ve explained to him, this makes it hard for his teacher to evaluate whether or not M understands the material.  Fortunately, his school doesn’t advocate homework, because working with him to complete even the occassional written assignment is stressful for everyone.

 

I suggested to M as we were walking home from our shoe shopping trip that once he decided to tackle his writing, there would be no stopping him. I’m not sure he was totally convinced, but school hasn’t started yet. We’ll keep working on it. When he wants something, M’s pretty amazing. Today, shoe laces, tomorrow a novel. Well, maybe a full paragraph with compound sentences.

 

Coming soon…Challenge of Travel blog hop

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As much as I enjoy making jewelry, I like seeing what others are doing. There are so many amazing artisans and designers out there and fortunately for amateurs like me, lots of them have blogs. Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a growing trend towards blog hops – a beading challenge organized around a theme/concept, but limited to a pre-determined number of people. On the “reveal” date, participants post their creations on their blogs.  I love  bead blog hops because they give me chance to view a large number of projects, from the comfort of my sofa. It is a kind of virtual gallery.

From time to time, I have thought about participating in a bead blog hop. The biggest obstacle has been that until recently, I didn’t have a blog. Very often, I don’t find out about an interesting one until after the deadline. I’ve also been a bit reluctant to sign up for a bead blog hop, since there is always a specific deadline and I’m afraid I won’t be able to meet it. Not to mention that many of the participants are professional designers who sell their work. Just adds to the intimidation factor.

Given that my credo for this year is “do more, procrastinate less” (hence, the blog itself), I decided to bite the bullet and sign-up for the Challenge of Travel blog hop being organized by Erin Prais-Hintz. She is a talented designer who also makes her own beads (talk about intimidating).

Participants were asked to select a country from one of the five regions represented in the Olympics – Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania. The only rule was that you couldn’t sign up for your country of origin. I selected New Zealand, because while I’ve never been, everyone I know who has visited it, has raved about their travels. A number of other participants also selected New Zealand, so it will be interesting to see the different interpretations through jewelry.

Deadline for the bead blog hop is September 1, 2012. I am still working on my design. I know I want to include natural elements and reflect the scenery, which I gather is spectacular.  Just based on the photos below, I want to hop on a plane tomorrow and explore the country for myself.

New Zealand's Milford Sound. Milford Sound, on...

New Zealand

New Zealand 2007

New Zealand 2007 (Photo credit: Szymon Stoma)

Please check out Erin’s blog, Treasures Found, for more information on the blog hop (I am working on figuring out on how to add a button to my blog).  Be sure to mark your calendars to take a virtual trip around the world on September 1.

Challenge of Travel Blog Hop

Treasures Found :: Inspiration is Everywhere

When your kid starts sweeping the floor, it’s time to clean house

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colour palette : Housekeeping...

colour palette : Housekeeping… (Photo credit: emma lamb)

We just got back from being on holiday for two lovely weeks. We had a great time, but it was nice to be back sleeping in our own beds.

Being chronically disorganized, we left the house in an untidy rush. Of course, we made sure the fridge was (almost) empty and the garbage was emptied, but otherwise, it was the same messy chaos we live in every day. I knew our cleaning lady was coming at least once while we were away, so I figured we’d come back to a sparkling clean house.

Except she had a family emergency and wasn’t able to come at all. So we arrived back to the same mess we left, pl;us 2 weeks worth of dust on everything. Talk about bursting the vacation bubble.

The first couple of days were spent unpacking and finding places for the mountain of stuff we seemed to accumulate while we were away (for some mysterious reason, we always come back with more than we left with). My husband and I noted the rather sad state of the kitchen floor, usually as we were passing through. I did get out the vacuum yesterday to clean up dried up bits of an asparagus fern that fell on the floor when I cut off some stems that died off while were away. I even wiped a couple of spider webs off the plant stand. But I left the vacuum sitting in the dining room and went onto something else.

This morning, I came into the the family room to find M sweeping. Having checked his forehead and determined that he was not running a fever, I asked him why he was sweeping( M will occasionally sweep if the broom is out, but I didn’t know until this morning that he actually knew where it is stored). M looked up from pushing dirt into the dust bin and said that the floor was disgusting and he kept getting stuff stuck to his feet. So he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Far be it from me to discourage my kid from cleaning. but he did have a point. The floors were pretty gross. Upon closer inspection, those surfaces that weren’t covered in stuff, were pretty dusty. And while we had made some progress in terms of putting things away, the house was still pretty messy. My husband decided to start with the basement and I headed upstairs to the bathroom, where I remembered that while having tile on the walls and the floor is nice to look at, getting in between all those cracks takes time. I eschewed commercial cleaning products in favour of baking soda diluted in warm water. I did have to rinse fairly often, but baking soda, along with a little elbow grease, got the job done.

House-cleaning is a bit like eating potato chips – it’s hard to stop at one room. Having scrubbed and polished the bathroom from top to bottom, I started in on the bedroom by dusting the woodwork under the windows. This led to washing the window frames and the baseboards (the visible parts) on the entire second floor (except M’s room) and all the way down the stairs and into the front hall. Our house is over 100 years old, so we have lots of woodwork. I discovered that a cotton swab dipped in baking soda and water will get into all those hard to reach corners. I am not a conscientious housekeeper – if I was, I probably wouldn’t have needed to clean so much crud from the cracks and  that come with an old house.

Our cleaning lady does a good job but she concentrates on the high traffic areas which need to be cleaned regularly. She does vacuum the baseboards in most of the rooms, but I tend to have stacks of books and magazines piled near my side of the bed, making it impossible to see the baseboards. So before I could wash them, I had to edit down the piles and get rid of useless crap like old receipts and empty shoeboxes, as well as books I had finished.

It took me about 3 hours to clean the woodwork. I had already spent at least an hour on the bathroom. I probably spent more time doing housework just today than I usually spend in a month. I even pulled out the bed and vacuumed up the desiccated apple and gigantic dust bunnies that were lurking on the floor. M confessed to tossing the apple back there – apparently not a preferred snack. It’s a wonder we didn’t get ants or (shudder) mice.

M didn’t escape the cleaning binge unscathed. He had to pick up various games and books that were scattered in the family room and take them back up to his room. He’s running out of shelf space to store all his books, so he and his dad went through his shelves and purged them of books M no longer wants to read. He still needs to put away his laundry and pick up some of the games on the floor, but that can wait for another day.

So it’s back to work tomorrow. The house still has some messy pockets. The floors still aren’t mopped. Now I know why I avoid doing housework as much as possible – it’s never finished.

Maybe I’l just ignore the floors and go upstairs and admire the gleaming woodwork.

You can’t control the weather

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raining sheets

raining sheets (Photo credit: mytimemachine)

It has been a very nice summer so far – weeks of hot, sunny and dry weather. So doesn’t it figure that the week we are on vacation, it has been mostly cloudy? And of course, now that we have guests, M’s grandparents, for a couple of days, it is raining. Not the gentle summer showers type of rain but big heavy dripping buckets of water.

I am sure the farmers are happy. It is sweet corn season – my favourite time of year – and while the farmers’ stall have lots to sell, the cobs are pretty little.

But rain at the cottage always feels a bit unfair. The whole idea of being at the cottage is to be outside, swimming, fishing, or sitting on the deck/dock, enjoying a cool beverage. And while M’s grandparents have been to cottage from time to time over the years, they have never stayed overnight.

Today, it rained pretty much all day. It was too wet for the kids to run around outside, which usually results in more demands from M to play on his iPod or the computer. He and his cousins did amuse themselves this afternoon for a little while by making forts with pillows, towels and various pieces of furniture. And they watched a movie tonight. But the cousins are leaving tomorrow and M will be on his own with a group of adults.

Having spent almost all my summers as a child at the cottage, I am not unfamiliar with amusing myself on rainy days. Long before computers, high-speed internet and even videos, we would play games, read and run around the cottage until one of the adults sent us outside. But I always had my brothers to keep me company, even if they were driving me crazy, as well as groups of cousins. Harder being an only child and keeping yourself entertained when it’s raining outside.

Fortunately, M likes to play games. So today we played Uno. Lots and lots. M is on a winning streak. He also read some of the new books he bought with his birthday money and played with his Chaotic cards. I don’t understand how the game works, but it required spreading the cards all over the dining room table. Plus, he helped tidy up the cottage before our company arrived. Of course, he played on the computer and listened to music on his iPod.

Tomorrow, he can play Uno with his grandparents. We may go into the nearby town and show them around. guests. There is a small movie theatre, plus a couple of malls and a big bookstore (can’t go wrong with more books). We could also break out the Monopoly game and play a few rounds. If it isn’t raining too hard, then M and his grandfather could  do a little fishing – apparently the fish always bite better when it’s raining.

According to the weather report, the sun will come out in a couple of days. After our guests go home.

My kid is his own worst enemy

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You are your own worst enemy

You are your own worst enemy (Photo credit: macahanC6R)

M had a great weekend. He played morning and night with his cousins who have a cottage down the road from ours. From all reports, M was being polite and considerate. This morning I observed as he instructed several other cousins to watch out for one of the younger children during a game of group tether ball to ensure that everyone got a chance to hit the ball.

Fast forward a couple of hours. I arrive back from a walk to find that everything’s gone to hell in a hand basket. M has been sent home from the cousins for being rude and aggressive, which precipitated a meltdown of epic proportions.

Looking back, it wasn’t a big surprise that M went off the rails. He hasn’t been sleeping terribly well and this morning he woke up at  6am (even for him that’s early). Due to parental slothfulness (aka sleeping in), he’s been getting his meds later which throws his whole schedule off. So he’s tired and over-stimulated from running around for 2 and 1/2 days.

On my way out for my walk, I dropped by the cousins’ to see if he wanted some lunch. He was alternately weepy and snappy with me. I could tell he was on the edge and suggested he come home. But the kids were all getting ready to go on a scavenger hunt – on of M.s favourite past times – and he didn’t want to miss out. He threw a couple of things into the bushes and used a few bad words. Since he didn’t actually throw anything at me or anyone else, I figured he was still under control. But I did walk back to our cottage and asked his dad to go and check on him in a few minutes, just to be on the safe side.

it only took about 5 minutes before the threads on M’s temper snapped completely. He got upset with one of the younger cousins about something minor When he was asked to go home, he refused. Shouting and more bad words ensued. His father was summoned.

I gather from reports after-the-fact that M was very angry. He threw anything in his room he could put his hands on at his dad, including a couple of fist-sized rocks (note to self: remove rocks). He tore his bed apart and slammed the door of his room so hard that he knocked the trim loose. My mother was so alarmed by M’s behaviour that she sought refuge in a neighbouring cottage. Given that her ex-husband (my father) was infamous for his unpredictable temper, it isn’t a surprise that she was frightened.

I missed all the drama. By the time I got back, M was into self-loathing, which is always the final stage of a meltdown – he hates his life, he wants to hurt himself. We know this is part of his cycle out of the maelstrom,. But as soon as M starts to talk about harming himself, we tell him we will have to take him to the hospital for his safety and ours. This is usually enough to bring M back to reality.

When M is calmed down, he’s always embarrassed and contrite. As a consequence of his behaviour, he was not permitted to go back and play with the cousins unless accompanied by me or his dad – humiliating when you are 11. Of course, he missed out on the scavenger hunt. And I stipulated that he had to apologize to everyone he had yelled at or upset, including his grandmother.

Apologies are never easy. But M did say he was sorry, first to his grandmother and then his uncle, who had also witnessed his meltdown. Without any prompting, he apologized and hugged one of the younger cousins. Several hours later, he was able to return to his cousins’ cottage and apologize to the other adults for his behaviour. They all accepted M’s apology and gave him a big hug. He than played quietly with the cousins while his dad and I enjoyed a drink on the patio with adults.

As awful as this incident was for those that observed it first hand, there are a couple of positives to note. While M was verbally aggressive and rude, he wasn’t physically aggressive with any of the kids. He deliberately threw a ball away from the others, rather than at them. In the lead up to the meltdown, as I was talking to him, I could see him struggling to control himself. He removed himself from the group and was off on his own, but he couldn’t take that extra step and go home.

To an outside observer, it probably sounds like I am rationalizing my child’s horrible behaviour. But those people don’t live with M. He is not by nature and easy-going child. He gets irritated easily. The fact that he only used words, instead of objects, is s big deal. So is being able to walk up to half a dozen people and look them in the eye and tell them he was sorry. I knew this would be hard for him. It was supposed to be.

This time, M didn’t succeed in talking himself out of losing control. But he tried. I am realistic enough to know that there will be a next time, but I hope for M’s sake, that he can move the bar a bit closer to talking himself out of a meltdown.