2012: Feb 17

Faced with a second sick day with the kids, and a sky full of rain, I put up the chalkboard wall decals that had previously sat unopened in a corner. In their first day of usage, they functioned more as energy release than conduits for artistic expression.

Little accomplishments


Nearing the end of the Great Roman Shade drive of 2010/2011 I started getting antsy to work on more immediately-satisfying projects. It's partly what makes these projects take so damned long to complete. A sort of Inceptionesque, project within a project syndrome. What ends up pushing the completion back is my shoe-horning of new tinkerings into the final drive — always at the end of the project — when, if I'd just put my nose down and grind out the job on the ol' sewing machine it'd just be done already.


So, with rod pockets aligned and staple gun set to merge hardware to software, I scanned Teux Deux for instant gratification. It was when I glanced up from my computer, though, that the next project jumped out at me. Set back into my side of the desk/bookcase/hutch is my little message board, half corkboard, half magnetic whiteboard, handy for list creation, postage stamp wrangling and amusing-thing-I-tore-out posting. But cork and whiteboard surfaces are uninspiring things, and I'd already aestheticized similar surfaces elsewhere. And The Boy, on a not enough snow to make it worth going out on a too cold day, was rallying for a project of his own. So together we taped off the whiteboard side, and applied one then another then a third coat of chalkboard paint over the course of a day.


Before I tackled the cork side, though, I interrupted that project to chop a couple inches off the bottom of a pair of pants. Because that's how much shorter I am than producers of corduroy jeans would like. Now, normally, cutting into designer cords would leave me near paralysis with the fear of misstep. I would measure not just twice, but likely five times, marking the incision line with chalk, then measuring another few times for kicks and giggles. But, when the said pair of pants is snagged off the tightly-packed rack of the fluorescent-lit bottoms aisle at Value Village, and brought home without the benefit of a visit to the fitting room because the two children you brought with you would surely escape under the door while your pants dangled from your knees (but you found they fit perfectly anyway once tried on at home during naptime!) you can be more cavalier about cutting precision. And a half hour after I started, I had pants neatly hemmed to a length that didn't have them dragging under my soles in the rain and mud in constant flow here.


That nagging concern out of the way, I could once again focus on the cork side of the message board (remember that?), and I turned to the iron-on-fuse method with some fabric sitting in the stash. Sanded down the rougher spots on the chalkboard side, and returned the board to it's custom fit nook in the bookshelf. 


Now, I'm going to take a little breather here, from all the small jobs, to show you perhaps my favorite tool from my ever-growing collection of crafty paraphernalia. The handy 'lil chalk pencil, with tidy little refill chalk sticklets in a lovely pastel array, sharpen-able with any stationary aisle pencil sharpener. Perfect for pattern marking and penning your autobiography (legibly!) one slate at a time. Remember that chalk holder your high school English teacher kept locked in the top drawer of his desk? Remember how you'd come in before class and try to sneak a scribble with it? Right. Sometimes I forget not everyone is such a school supply nerd.


Ok, one final, little thing before I get back to searching for the perfect cleat to complete that first roman shade, already. And I've already shown it to you, so this'll be quick. My new, hermaphraditic camera strap. A cheater project, says Mr. New Media, because instead of working a new one from scratch I simply encased the strap that came with the camera and put a few stitches on it. This one, too, came together in little time (interrupted with the business of feeding a family), and I never quite got to the little lens cap pouch I wanted to build into the strap. So, just add this to the list of projects not quite done.

Tags: camera strap, chalk, cork board, hem, white board


Not what you're thinking. Actually, probably the opposite. Or maybe not. I'll just leave it at that level of mystery.

Message board, redone

So, not exactly uncluttered or anything, but I never claimed to go for that look. Cork side covered with an Ikea home dec fabric that had been sitting uncut in my stash. White board side treated with three layers of chalkboard paint. I fit the shelves in the bookcase (which I still love) to create the perfect nook for the board. Books I don't like to acknowledge ownership of sit behind.

Chalk pencil

What's not to love about whittling a sliver of chalk down to a pencil-sharp nib?

Boarded up


Here's something telling about us. In our new home, by leaps and bounds my favorite of the roofs under which we've gathered our family and myriad of useless tchotchkes and less useless pets and supplies for happiness and craftiness, the room Mr. New Media and I allotted ourselves for sleep is the smallest. A grand Master Bedroom, with areas for dressing and lounging and letter-writing, 5-piece baths with nooks for floral arrangements, headless busts and cavernous shoe and purse receptacles… not in the cards for us, my friends.  And truth be told, my shoes make up a pretty modest quartet. One for busing to work and walks to the library and longer walks down to the really good park . One for days when I'm wearing more brown than black. One for running. And one for when it's rainy. None sport zebra stripes. None require the masochistic determination of a Cinderella stepsister (I'm talking Grimm stepsister, here) to don.

So when, on the eve of our shipping container's arrival, we came upon the conclusion that the little room in back that could fit little more than our queen sized mattress would, in fact, be our bedroom, it was the quintessential a-ha moment. Our first happy decision in this place (after, of course, our decision to actually move into it), was to take the largest room in the house, the one designated Master Bedroom (though without an attached bath its claim to masterliness is dubious at best), and craft a work space out of it. That's the large airy room we spend a good deal of our non-sleep hours in. It's the one whose french doors we cavalierly throw open on sunny days to entertain a bit of breeze and fresh air while plugging away at computer code and ripped seams, allowing the cat to wander in and out, curmudgeonly snarling at the birds who heckle her from the trees. It's the one whose previous owners saw fit to build in two additional closets spanning the entirety of the north wall, flanking a bank of drawers that The Boy will one day discover can be pulled out in a gradient to fashion a sort of staircase to the ceiling. The room fits desks to hold our adult computers, a small table to support the much larger, toe-crushingly heavy, kid-designated computer, my beloved orange table covered in thread snippets and deciduous leaves and coniferous offshoots gathered from our latest playground-excursion, cabinets and chests to secret away fabric purchased surreptitiously on my days off from work, a pile of blankets and pillows not put away after recent overnight guests, now suitable for the rumblings and tumblings of a four-year-old and his sister.

And it's got walls. A simple thing, really, but, while our last home-office space, the one in our rented Houston house, was loaded with custom built-ins, walls of windows gazing out onto our Stepfordian street, and a murphy bed to handily collapse back into its frame when not in use, it had no wall space. None. No space to pin a simple photo to the wall, let alone an entire board for writing on and drawing inspiration from. Not, that I've got such a board, mind you. And the starkness of one of those ginormous expanses of cork don't quite appeal to me. But those fussy, tufted numbers with diamond grids of silk ribbon and glassy buttons eyes aren't quite my thing, either. Something middling that continuum, perhaps. 


I started with an assortment of frames picked up at our local emporium for all things second-hand. Not requiring the glass to be intact nicely opened up my options here, but where the frames did come complete with glass, I just put those panes aside for another day (I don't think I need to mention here that those ample closets have quickly filled up). I happened to have one can of spraypaint in black laying around, so that's what was used to get all the frames started on the page. Then, the fun part. Taking those cork tiles you can get at office supply stores, I cut panels out to fit the frames and attached swatches of fabric to the cork with some Heat n Bond. Would've used a simple spray mount, but didn't have any of that sitting in a drawer. The iron-on adhesive worked nicely, though, creating a nice, tight seal, and still pierce-able by your typical pushpin. Hung the frames up on the wall, and called it good. Give me a couple months of unchecked snippet-hanging. Undoubtedly, I'll need more pin-able space. But this is a good start, one I can always augment with more frames.


Mr. New Media's got a serious thing for white boards. And while he's still making his case for a  be-hammocked man-cave lined with white board walls, there's little I find less inspiring than that slick white surface grimed up with foul smelling markers. Sorry, Babe. Sorry that you had to hear it here, but I hate whiteboards. Chalk boards, on the other hand, I can do. Chalkboark paint, which sits in permanent residence among my crafty supplies (in that drawer designated for painterly pursuits), I can always rely on to transform something simple, say a standard-issue clipboard, into something more multi-taskworthy. Hung those in a grid, and called that good, as well. And I'm already thinking more of these are in order. I've been using them to anchor down wayward thoughts and to give unfinished projects a forum from which to nag at me and to keep of-the-moment swatches at inspiration's reach. And off the floor. Which is important, because that's where the children are happily wrestling.


Miniature goodness


There was a time, pre-kids, pre-marriage, pre-Houston, pre-asthma, when I was a smoker. I took it up in college to satisfy a serious need for vice. That and for something to do during breaks in classes. It was never one of those buy by the carton-full, wake up thinking cigarettes, strike out in the middle of the night for a pack, kind of addictions. I kicked it pretty handily a few years later, married and having recently purchased a condo whose carpeting and poor circulation brought to the fore my apparent allergy to the cat I'd owned for four years. My lung capacity, reduced to nil, somehow dampened the appeal of the cigarette buzz, and it was an easy tradeoff to make for the promise of a wheeze-free lifestyle. 

But the accoutrements. There was the lighter, cool and scary, looking uncannily like a mini flamethrower. Even pre-9/11 I didn't dare bring it near an airport. And the cigarette case, just a simple metal tin that would hold all twenty in two neat little rows. When They talk about the glamorization of smoking, it's this stuff that they're really referring to. The lighter and case were dangerous and sexy. The cigarettes themselves… meh. So when I restructured this particular vice out of my life, the hardest part was boxing up the paraphernalia. But that's probably just my own version of addiction.

It's been a near-decade of family-building since then, and when I unboxed the cigarette case after our last move, I saw it differently. If I was struck with a sudden urge to smoke, it was only so the case could see some action again. I just had too much fondness for it to be stashed in a drawer or tossed or given away. And so, while I examined it for possible re-uses, it struck me. I had The Best Idea I've Ever Had. An eight-pack of crayons would fit perfectly in one half of the case, the other half ideal for holding little bits of discarded paper, business cards, anything one could take a crayon to. And there I had it. The perfect little on-the-go kid diversion kit.


This year, for holiday kid-gifting, I decided to bring The Best Idea I've Ever Had to the masses. I opted for Altoids-style tins over actual cigarette cases, simply because they were easier to source. However, an assortment of your typical crayons doesn't really fit into the candy tins. And putting twenty cents worth of crayons in a tin with some discarded business cards isn't much of a gift. So this is where I went a little crazy with ambition. I could mold my own crayons using one of those silicone ice cube trays. And stitch together little moleskine-y notebooks. And the wholesale tins need some kind of embellishment… chalkboard paint. Which of course needs chalk, which would also need molding. The easiest part would be cutting felt swatches for an eraser. 


The Best Idea I've Ever Had has been in progress for months. Many, many months of working in fits and starts, sometimes melting down crayons, sometimes cursing over the consistency of the chalk, sometimes scrounging for cardboard to cover the notebooks, sometimes painting and sanding and repainting the tins, sometimes being overwhelmed by the whole endeavor and pushing it aside for weeks. Enthusiasm and inspiration come and go as I take on other projects that are either more pressing or smaller in scope. But the other day, as I assembled another little batch of notebooks, I got really excited about it again. Something about lining up the notebooks, clad in cut-up cracker boxes and artist tape, finally having enough of each component to see it all together, made me think how much I would have wanted this as a kid. A compact box full of miniature goodness to be squirreled away in pockets or stored under pillows as munitions in the childish, flashlit rebellion of staying up later than you're supposed to. Who knew I could package all that in a little kit?