Ornamental grub


We arrived home in the early evening yesterday, worn from travel, and sick from whatever it was that The Boy was throwing up earlier in the week. Ours is the kind of neighborhood where people are ON TOP of the holidays, and as the light grew dim yesterday, we could see that the residents of our street had already decked their porches and trees with twinkly lights and stars. Even our neighbors next door, who didn't return from their Thanksgiving trip for a few hours after we did, had managed to emblazon the behemoth of a tree in their front yard. Not sure how that happened, exactly. But I'm sure it required a certain dedication to the season. And a willingness to pay other people to do things for them. At any rate, I was impressed.

So, between the shame at not having prepped the house for the upcoming holidays, and having spent a week of relative un-craftiness in the Colorado wilderness (suburbia, wilderness, same diff), I was amply inspired to get in some seasonal making. 

Step 1: Rustle up salt dough recipe

It may have looked like autumn out there today, what with the overcast sky and occasional shower, but at 77° (what gives, Houston Weather In November?) there's no way I'm turning on the oven, so I made sure my recipe was an air-dry one. I added the appropriate spices to give it a gingerbread-y aroma. I also tossed in some molasses to try to darken the dough a tad, but it didn't really work out that way. Oh well.

Step 2: Gather materials

We were given these fun little cookie cutters a few years back, but we seldom make roll-out cookies. So, we had long ago given them over to The Boy for his play dough fun. First things first, they needed to be reclaimed. Then I decided, for extra adornment, I'd make a little stamp of sorts out of my beloved metal type. I just clamped the letters together with a mini binder clip and called it good. (It's kind of nice having a name that's also a word. Makes it a little less narcissistic to put our name on things. Just a little.) Brought the toy rolling pin down from the top of the bookcase, where we'd banished it after The Boy used it as a whacking device one time too many.


Step 3: Reach really freakin' deep for my inner reserve of patience

Once the dough was mixed and kneaded into submission, I called The Boy over and we got down to business. I let him roll out small batches of the dough, as much as he had the attention span for, which is to say not much. He'd give the dough a couple passes with the rolling pin and run off to the other room where he was working on some lacing cards. Fine by me. I finished the rolling and called him back for the cookie cutter stage. Then, his favorite part — stamping the dough with the metal type. Then I added the hole that we will later string yarn through to make it an ornament. Actually, very little patience was needed, as The Boy was, for once, happy enough to take instruction. All in all, 'twas a nice, relaxing way to inaugurate the crafting season.


So, I went through the trouble to find an air-dry recipe, but several hours later the dough is pretty much still as soft as it was at inception, so I may just have to pop them in the oven. Maybe I'll wait for tomorrow, when the temperature will approach a sane level for this time of year. We'll keep some here for the tree we'll eventually get. Some will go out in Christmas packages. Maybe we'll make up another batch for teachers. I remember my childhood tree being adorned with one of these, brought home from a hard half-day spent at pre-school. I also remember licking it for the saline hit. Because that's the kind of kid I was. Hopefully, The Boy's memories of these ornaments will be so rich.


In a nutshell


You know in that movie Wonder Boys, when Rip Torn’s character gets up to the podium and opens his sure-to-be-gaggingly-pretentious oratory with “I am a Writer” and is met with blustering applause? In my head, it’s my “I am a Maker” that gets the gushing response.

What do I make? Anything, really. I spend more time than I care to enumerate, culling the internet and less digital sources for makeable things. Sewn things and knitted things and printed things and glued things and cooked things and generally-crafted things and picked-up-off-the-ground-and-put-in-a-jar things. Bonus points for anything requiring a specialized gadget.

Oh sure. I’m also a mother to two of the sweetest, funniest, most frustratingly stubborn kids ever, who shall be known here as The Girlie Bear (she’s just a toddler, man) and The Boy (pre-schooler; hell on two feet). And wife to Mr. New Media Something-or-Other, who, like all good makers’ spouses, finds endless opportunity to point out that the things I make have perhaps less expensive and time-consuming counterparts to be found at places like Target and the back of our closet.

Professionally, I make things, too. I’m a some-time writer and graphic designer. A print designer, for newspapers and magazines, mostly. What’s a print designer, you ask? Doesn’t matter -- there’s no professional demand for one of those these days. There was this thing called the internet, but I paid no mind, leaving it to my husband to work with things like that. After the birth of my son, I left full-time employment to do the stay-at-home thing. When I was ready to go back to paying work, I landed what I knew to be The Last Design Job On The Planet That Did Not Require An Internet-Based Skill Set. When my daughter was born, I left that job, too. I'm at work again, now part-time, which leaves just a little bit of time for blog-type things. But I'm still at it. 

I enjoyed designing things to be released to the world. I imagined lives and well-beings hinging on a well executed clipping path or expertly kerned font. OK, not really, but hell, I really enjoyed the work. But you know what might be even better? Making something for my family that ends up being so well-used and loved that it’s actually taken for granted. And now for my thesis: Making things makes me a better person, a better parent. Hyperbole, maybe. But I don’t mean that makers are better people than the rest.

Time for another movie reference: Remember in 40 First Dates how Drew Barrymore’s character only sings on the days she meets Adam Sandler’s? Well, on the days I can’t sit down to some creative tinkery, I’m downright cranky. I’m impatient with the children. I’m in no mood to make meals. I’m much more prone to fits of blind, throw-things-at-the-walls-until-they-shatter-into-itty-bitty-pieces-that-I-now-have-to-explain-to-the-husband rage. The lesson? I make things for the common good of all.

Lovelihood is where I get to share this process with you.