Consternation - a new way to play Boggle

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I'm working up to posting about our favorite Christmas traditions - including a recipe for our favorite Christmas Eve Clam Chowder - but i don't have time today. Suffice it to say that our family loves to play games - and we particularly love word games. One of my favorite holiday memories is that of a killer round of The Minister's Cat with my Brother-in-Law. He and I beat everyone else but we couldn't beat each other.

That was years ago before motherhood co-opted most of my vocabulary synapses. I now have a hundred ways of saying "Stop that right now!" but it takes me longer to think of interesting adjectives to apply to said minister's feline.

Consternation is more my speed. This is a slow game - played over several days.

One player takes the Boggle game out and spells a word, preferably a very long word, and places it in the game board. The more convoluted the layout of the word, the better. And make sure that the letters face in different directions or you'll give yourself away before the game even starts. (The word in the photo above is consternation.)

The game board is left in a central location - dining room table is good, or next to the hearth, with a pad of paper. Other family members look at the board throughout the day and write down the words they find within the board. The game is won when someone finds the original word. The winner gets to put their own long winded word in and the game starts over. There is no timer, no rush and makes good use of time huddled near the fireplace or while chewing Peanut Butter and Jelly. It is a great vocabulary builder for older homeschoolers and a good spelling exercise. It is like a traditional word find but more social and competitive.

Mo-Ziggy the Mighty Hunter

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I woke to an interesting surprise this morning , , which I will tell you about in a minute. First, let me remind you that a couple of weeks ago, I featured a product from Twin Birch Bath and Body and mentioned that it might be time to get some Shake! Dry Doggy shampoo for my Zig-wiggy because Bry has been complaining that he is getting stinky.

I tend to disagree. Ziggy is a clean dog - he hasn't rolled in the mud or played with anything rotten or hiked through a swamp or tangled with a skunk lately. He just smells like a dog.

I like dog smell. Little Puppy smell is one of the best possible smells in the world, in my opinion, but I had an unusual childhood. I spent a great deal of my pre-school childhood - most of it, in fact, living at my paternal grandparents' home. There were rarely any other children to play with but there were always 5 or 6 dogs around the house and at least one batch of pups a year. If I was really lucky, there would be two batches of puppies at a time! I woke each morning to a joyful gathering of doggie tongues and snouts and paws and tails waiting for me outside my bedroom door. I don't think my feet ever actually touched the stairs on the way down - they just sort of swept me along on their backs. I played and cuddled with dogs inside and outside all day long. Dog smell is good and I prefer the company of dogs to that of most humans. A house without a dog is like a mausoleum, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, as a concession to the Holiday spirit, I agreed that Ziggy needed a bath. I don't like to wet bathe Ziggy in the winter because he has so very little fur on his belly and he generally resists bathing anyway. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a Shepherd/Boxer mix to stay in a tub of water? Ziggy can leap straight up about 3 feet in the air without any warning whatsoever and land wherever he wants to in the room. Bathtime is very messy.

So I bought the Dry Doggie shampoo and we gave it a go. Ziggy had to sniff the bottle of powder and seemed to find the contents agreeable because he stood patiently while I sprinkled it on him and rubbed it in. Then we waited a few minutes and brushed his coat with a comb. Boy, does he love to be combed! Mollly must not have been doing a thorough job lately because I combed and combed and when I thought I was done, he has stayed and leaned against my legs looking up at me until I combed some more.

He does smell sweeter now (sort of an outdoorsy, herbal scent) but the really amazing thing is how soft his fur is. He feels like a puppy! As he has aged, his fur has gotten a bit coarse along his back but today his coat is shinier and softer than it has been since he was young. So, happy Ziggy not only smells more agreeable to those who do not think that dog smell is the best smell in the world, he is also nicer to touch.

He must be feeling younger on the inside as well, because he had a great, victorious adventure in the early morning hours today.

We have been growing a great monster of a mouse here. I think Ziggy has been raising it, actually - he is rather messy with his food and gets it behind the fridge and the cupboard all the time. Lately, he has taken to barking and sniffing at little corners and under the piano and behind the stove. If you say "mousie," to him, he will jump up and start barking and snuffling and whining all over the house. So we knew one was here, and that it was big, so we put little "mice cube" traps out in hopes of catching it safely. We hadn't had any luck, though, which seemed strange - the traps usually work quite quickly.

I had to come downstairs around 5 this morning and as I stepped down the last stair, a large mouse shaped shadow scurried across the floor.

Actually, it bounded. The floor shook. It was a big mouse. I was worried that it might not be a mouse, it was so big.

Ziggy had been sleeping but as soon as he head the pounder-patter of big-little feet, he jumped up and gave chase. He missed it the first time around but the mouse must have been either stupid or bold or too big to squeeze into his favorite hiding space because I head a great commotion in the living room after I went back to bed. The was a great deal of scuffling, some barking and thumping and then things settled down.

When I got up to get Maxx ready for school, I turned on the light downstairs and saw the carnage left behind. There was blood all over the couch and scattered throughout the room. The mouse monster was dead on the floor. Ziggy was so proud!

The thing was a good 6 inches long NOT counting the tail and weighed a full 4 ounces after significant blood loss. That mouse represented more protein than many third world families get in a week.

It was not a rat - it had a nice, furry tail and was built & colored like an average field mouse - just a really, really well fed field mouse. The reason that the Mice Cube traps hadn't worked is because the thing was far to big to have fit inside one. The idea of catching a monster like that one with such a trap is laughable! It took a bold, leaping dog to catch that mousie!

Today I had better re-inspect my food storage to make sure that Mousie and his possible family have not also been eating away at that and then I need to paint 2 more scarves, cure and embellish 6 other scarves, post new products at Goblins Market and make Peas & cheese for tonight's Christmas party.

And make a special snack for my mouse-slayer.

Silk Painting

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First, Let me say that it is COLD.

And I am sick of it. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired and cold already. Doesn't bode well for the rest of he winter. :) I'm seriously considering putting the computer out by the woodstove and the TV in here where the computer sits. You can huddle with all of your extremities in a blanket when you watch TV - which we don't do much of, anyway - but your finger have to be thawed and mobile in order to type.

I'm sitting here wearing Bryan's fleece Balaclava, two sweaters, a pair of fleece pants and a thick, fuzzy blanket. All you can see of me are my glasses, my nose and my mouth. I look like Mrs. Who.

It will get better - we finally have all the insulation up in the living room, Bry is ready to hang sheetrock and we will be putting the windows back this weekend whether or not we get around to stripping them first. They can always come back out for painting in the spring and as soon as I get curtains, they will be covered most of the winter, anyway.

Anyway, here is a little of what I have been doing when I'm not huddled around the woodstove.

I started some silk painted scarves over Studio Tour and I have been comissiioned to make five of them for a friend before Christmas so I've been stealing a few moments here and there for painting up in my studio. (It stays pretty warm up there)

Above is a photo of my stretcher frame that Bry made me. It is not great for very wide pieces of silk but it can handle 1/2 to 3/4 of a yeard easily. The real genius of it is that its length is adjustable and the silk is held on the frame using rubber bands. I sew my silk to a dowel at each end, set my frame up to be about a foot longer than my scarf and attach the dowels with rubber bands. The rubber bands keep tension on the silk as it is being painted so that it does not sag and touch the table while it is wet.

In the photo you can also see my secret recipe resist. Elmer's school glue gel is great. I can brush it on a stamp and stamp designs onto my silk or apply it in lines with an applicator bottle. It is incredibly inexpensive, non toxic, no fumes, washes out easily if I make a goof, is sturdy enough to stand up to several layers of dye and can be tinted with silk dye to a pale pastel color should I want that option. Plus, if I run out, I don't have to special order it. When I cure my silk, it just disappears and leaves the resisted area just as soft as the rest of the scarf. I can then leave that area white or I can highlight it with metallic textile paint.

The scarf on the frame is a design that I call Thethuthinang - after the name of a rabbit in Watership Down. The name means "Movement of the Leaves" nd I think that describes this design well. I start with a series of flowing lines and simple leaf shapes drawn onto the silk with the applicator bottle and I paint the first layer of color on. I generally start with ver soft pastel shades in blues, greens & yellows or or pinks and oranges. It doesn't seem to work well with purples for some reason.

When the first layer of dye is dry, I apply another layer of resist in a similar lines and leaves motif.

I may paint up to three layers of resist and paint on a Thethuthinang scarf. This particular one has three but I wonder if I should have stopped at two. I use salt effects generously in this design and when it is completely dry and cured, I will iron it out and paint on some metallic highlights. I've tried using metallic gutta for the whole design but that looks terrible and I hate gutta. It actually has a greater tendency to fail than the Elmers' gel does. Plus it is expensive, stinky and usually impossible to remove.

I haven't got to the highlighting part on this scarf yet, but I will be sure to post photos when I do.

Here are some other scarves I'm working on for my friend. She requested one scarf each in blue, purple, green, orange and red. I've been taking the color schemes and developing my own designs for each one.

The first has a carnation bud & blossom motif with dragonflies and moons, painted in purples & violets.

The next one has a blossom motif painted in blues. One photo looks like there is a lot of purple there but it is really a deep indigo blue - my camera sometimes has trouble rendering blues well when there are aquas and indigos present.

The carnation, moon and dragonfly stams are handmade. Someday I will do a tutorial on making these stamps. It is very easy and they are great for aplying resist, thickened dye or paints to fabric and also handy for home decor. They are a bit big for card making but they would work well on paper if you had a large area you were working with.

I'll post photos of all the scarves when thy are cured and highlighted - but for now - it is time to go stoke thefire and get warmed up again!

Wire Wrapping Tutorial

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Welcome to my first video Tutorial! I'm sure it will be a terrible disappointment! Molly and I are newbies at documenting technique. We'll practice again another day, but for now, here's what we've got.

We're making simple dangle earring using a couple of easy wire wrapping techniques. First, some photos. (If you really like tutorials, you might want to check out Contrariwise ramblings - she's got some really nice ones over there!)

This is what the finished earring will look like. It consists of a lucite briolette, a brass filigree bead cap, a 3mm swarovski crystal, some brass wire colored to match the antiqued finish on the bead cap and a brass lever back ear wire with a loop. You will wnat to cut your wire about 5 inches long if you are a beginner. Shorter lengths can get hard to hold onto and longer lengths get in your way.

These are the tools you will need - a pair of wire cutters, flat nose pliers and round nose pliers, all in jewelry making size.

Start by threading the wire onto the briolette, leaving one end of the wire long (about 2.5 to 3 inches) and one segment short - about 1.5-2 inches. Bend both ends snug up against the top edge of the biolette. Kink the longer end of the wire so that ithalf wraps along the top of the briolette and then continues straight on above the briolette.

Bend the short wire so that it crosses the long wire. Wrap the short end of the wire around the long end one or two times. Trim off the excess from the short wire.

Slide the bead cap and the swarovski crystal onto the wire. Put a 45 degree angle in the wire about 2 or 3 mm abovethe swarovski crystal.
Holding the long wire with your round nose pliers at the edge of the 45 degree angle, loop the wire up over the pliers and then wrap it around itself until the wire is snug againstthe swarovski crystal and the crystal is snug against the bead cap.

Trim off the excess wire. You can use the flat nose pliers to tidy up the end of your wrap.

Open the loop on the brass lever back earwires by twisting the loop open to the side. Never wrench the loop open by pulling it wide, that will stress the metal and will be hard to close neatly.

And here's our attempt at video taping this process. It was a bit gloomy in the studio this afternoon and we're still learning how to use the video feature on the Dimage, but for those of you who like to see the steps and hear someone talk you through them, this may clarify a few things.

December Image Special at SurLaLune

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I was over at SurLaLune this morning looking for inspiration for a Christmas project and saw that they are having an image sale in December to celebrate their 10th anniversary. I LOVE this website. I'm a fairy tale fanatic and an armchair anthrolopogist and I love the illustrations of Fairy Tales from the Victorain age. This site draws all of those interests together.

For the past ten years, Heidi Anne Heiner has been compiling a vast Fairy Tale resource library. She has annotated versions of almost 50 fairy tales on the site, countless illustrations from all of the most wonderful Fairy Talle illustrators (Rackham, Gobel, Dulac, Tarrant, Wilcox Smith, Parrish, Billibin - etc . . .) You can search the illustrations site by artist or by fairy tale and you can support Heidi's work by purchasing wonderful goodies with the images on them - journals, trivets, shirts, tote bags, stickers and lots of other things!

She also has brief reviews and links to purchase new fairy tale literature, films based on Fairy Tales and new reprints of old tales and illustrations.

When you have a minute and want to relive your childhood memories of reading Fairy Tale stories with beautiful illustrations, pop over to SurLaLune and take a peek. And if you have a fairy tale lover in your family - forget the ultra commercialized Tinker Bell nightie you can buy at Walmart and go check out Heidi's daily Image Special.

Today's image is Dulac's illustration of Cinderella and her Godmother.

One thing I did notice missing from her bookstore is a link to buy Jim Henson's The Storyteller collection. This is one of our favorite DVD's. I don't know how I missed that series when it was being broadcast - it was probably during one of my TVless phases - but I was thrilled to discover it on DVD a few years ago. Henson's Creature shop created incredible costumes and creatures for the show and created a truly magical atmosphere for the retelling of 9 Fairy Tales and 4 Greek Legends. The greek Legends are intended for a slightly more mature audience (8 or 10 and up) but Maxx loves the Giants, Devils and Monsters in the Fairy Tale segments!

Now I'm off to make a photo and video tutorial for creating these earrings:

Wish me luck! I've never posted video to the blog before, but I feel that it will be necessary to give everyone the feel for how to wrap the wire. You can get the kit over at GoblinsMarket!

More Etsy Deals Today

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What a weekend we had around here! The kids had fun with their cousins at Gramma's house and I had a few nice sales from good friends over at Etsy. I've got a list longer than my arms and legs combined for this week but I wanted to post a few of my favorite Etsy Blogger's Cyber Monday deals here.

Ziggy is getting stinky. It might be time for me to order something from Twin Birch Bath and Body:

I love this hand carved Morning Glory stamp from winemakerssister.

My favorite tree Skirt is one that my Mother-In-Law made years and years ago and gave to us for our first Christmas. But if I needed one - I might get one from BrightBlack's shop.

I know they are not Christmasy - but AthenaWorkman hs some fun prints and photos in her shop - including these wonderfully grainy gargoyles.

Maclancy's shop amazes me! She collects vintage images and reproduces them - sometimes with tinting. I love this one of the little French boy on his scooter.

That's all I have time for today - I have to get Maxx ready for another trip to the doctor. :( This being sick thing is getting old.
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