make me happy

Decked out


We picked out our tree from the neighborhood nursery over the weekend with one child a pathetic, sickly pile on Mr. New Media's shoulder and the other too little to have any interest in the matter of Christmas, present-filled or otherwise. A fine tree it is, though, perhaps the best we've ever gotten. It's certainly the largest, threatening the ceiling with such gusto, it's difficult not to admire. Usually, when we get around to getting the tree, it's either the super cheap one we get at Ikea's promotional tree lot, or the settle-for-what's-left, misshapen, unideally-sized, not dense enough tree that needs to be backed into an obtuse corner to conceal the awkward gaps and protrusions. This year's tree, by comparison is perfection.

So we hauled down the boxes of accumulated decorations from the attic, and upon opening the first box, I was flooded with memories of Christmases past. Which was mostly images of cobalt blue orbs and candy-colored fruits and icicle-shaped glass things sent to their painful deaths on the hard floor below by the indelicate hands of a curious toddler. This year, I decided, and likely for the next few years as The Girlie enters and grows out of the rattle-all-the-ornaments-off-the-tree stage of development, those ornaments will remain boxed. Which means that new decorations are in order.

First off, the topper. We'd had this brassy angel thing that we picked up years ago because it was just a smidge better than everything else on the the shelf. But we've never really liked it. And really, it should be a star up there, anyway. So, while I  let The Boy go to town with a glitter pen and piece of yellow linen, I traced and cut out a star from some red felt. Cut out some diamonds for a reverse-applique look, and stitched all together. Easy-peasy and sparkly. With a good helping of snot from a runny toddler-nose. Perfect.


While I had my pile of felt out (how I do love a good pile of wooly felt) I decided to cut out millions of little swatches, vaguely leafy and roundish. Stitched them together to make twenty feet of garland, which was enough to go around the tree two and a half times. Note to self: cut out another couple million swatches next time, and maybe that will be enough. More felt was sacrificed for some stuffed orbs. 

Somewhere out on the Interwebs recently, I'd seen seen a tree festooned with vellum origami balloons wrapped around the strung lights, making for a lovely glowy aura. Our vellum is of the brittle card stock variety that cracks and tears when you try to coerce some crisp lines out of it. So I turned to, of all things, my stash of origami paper which is durable AND translucent AND has interesting textures and patterns that make for some very cool effects when lit up from inside.


Then, of course, we needed to finish off those gingerbread men with some bright quick-drying paint. After that, all that was left to do was let The Boy hang the goodies as high as he could on the tippiest of toes. Which is about halfway up the tree. Which makes for a tree that doesn't photograph terribly well in its entirety, but does have some pretty interesting close-up shots. So that's where I leave you, today. More shots of our tree in its macro glory here.




The happiest day of the year for me isn't Christmas or my birthday or the first day of school, when all those pesky kids stop running errant through the neighborhood all aclamor with a lack of real responsibility. No. The happiest day of the year is the one when that crotchety UPS woman arrives at my door with the bottles that I will proceed to fill with goodness, alcoholic and otherwise, for the coming gifting season. 

The first year we bottled up the liqueurs, we went around town, touring all the boutique-y cookware shops (plus our beloved Archie McPhee's, oh how I miss thee) and managed to eke out a very small number of bottles of the cork top variety. Those bottles ended up costing more than the supplies for the liqueurs themselves, and shipping proved a nerve-racking endeavor. So sourcing an affordable and consistent bottle supply became an early priority for the next year's batch. And that's how I came across this outfit, which I have since dubbed the Happiest Company Ever. 

Mr. New Media will readily attest that I'm a sucker for empty bottles, boxes, tins, jars, things that hold other things. Some people can't walk by a mirror without checking themselves out. I can't pass an unfamiliar box without cracking it open and maybe taking a whiff (I'm also always smelling things... how weird is that?). So when I open that box that Ms. UPS gruffly plops on my doorstep, it's like I'm revisiting a collection of old baby photographs. I pull each one out tenderly, marvel at its perfect little cuteness, sometimes letting tears well up. Happiest day of the year. 


A close second is the day we fill the bottles with the good stuff. Now, the world is made up of two classes of people. The upper strata is comprised of those who can perfectly and effortlessly decant liquid from one vessel to another without making a sploshy mess, rivers of liquid dribbling down the sides and puddling in a sad little mess on the counter. These people can also usually manage to put a fresh garbage bag in the can without it ballooning outward and inward and in every which manner save the one in which trash can actually be stored. I am not so blessed. So the task of transferring the liqueurs from the large glass canning jars to those happy little bottles falls squarely on Mr. New Media. He's happy enough to do it because (1) it's his sole responsibility in the whole holiday making arena, and (2) because it may be his only chance to sample the liqueurs for himself. So now our bumper crop of liqueurs are all huddled together all cute and innocently awaiting deployment to the gift-receiving public.

Happy, happy, happy.


I'm particularly smitten with the tags which I created using a few of my favorite things (cue Julie Andrews): the Gocco, reclaimed paperboard and blackboard paint (what can't it do?). Oh, I'm on a roll with this paperboard stuff. Can't get enough of it. When I informed Mr. New Media of the New World Order, the one in which we'd be putting aside all cereal boxes, cracker boxes, the envelopes our photo prints arrive in, instead of sending them to the recycling bin, his eyes glassed over with that you're-crazy-but-I'll-just-smile look he gives me. And he gave me the yes-dear nod. And he promptly forgot. And then ensued a few weeks of me picking things out of the recycling whilst cursing that good-for-nothing-husband of mine. But now there's a bulgy bag in the corner of my already over-stimulating (read: cluttered) workspace just waiting for crafty things to happen. Which should be any moment now.

Outside in


I'm not sure if it's because I never looked at the ground in Seattle, or if it was that our sidewalk was always a smooshy, unwelcome mash of crabapple remains, but it seems to me that, by comparison, the streets and sidewalks of our particular Houston neighborhood are aflourish with pick-upable goodness. So much so, that it can occupy a good hour, taking The Boy around the block with a pail and an eye for anything that can displayed on a dish or seashell or desk or brandy glass or makeshift frame of colored popsicle sticks. 

The Boy sets his sights for flowers in purples and pinks, blue-gray bird feathers, and little red berries from a neighbor's tree ("You know these aren't for eating, right, Boy?" "That's right, Momma"). He glues them to paper or tucks them into boxes or picks out the purplest of the flowers to display in the letterpress drawer. Me, I go for the acorns and air plants. Air plants, because until now I'd never seen one in the wild, thinking they were only to be found glued to gnarly driftwood and sold for crisp Alexander Hamiltons at street fairs. The idea of freely picking up perfect specimens, pre-attached to bits of twigs and leaves, is a thrill akin to finding a Ming Dynasty vase amongst someone else's garage sale discards. And acorns because, having grown up in a rather flora-poor urban environment and then spending the last decade+ in The Evergreen State, I still maintain a cartoonish image of them, something to be wielded by high-pitched squirrels as ammunition against pesky felines. 

So yeah, I've been collecting acorns and air plants, keeping them around for the sheer novelty of it. There's also a sort of Waldorf ideal to it, keeping track of what's going on outside by bringing a piece of it inside. And even I feel these little vignettes around our home are more than a tad contrived and overthought. But they make me happy, nonetheless.


Now, shortly after I took this photo, I discovered that at least one of the acorns had been harboring maggots, thick and grubby and blindly writhing. This made me considerably less than happy, and that batch was promptly chucked. But not wanting to give up on the acorn as a whole, I decided to embark on the craft cliche that is making little acorn replicas by felting little bits of wool roving. These things are everywhere in the craft blogosphere, probably because it's a satisfying little project, fun enough to tackle with The Boy, once you accept that when you put a 3-year-old in front of a bowl of warm soapy water, messes WILL be made. All part of the fun, right? Also, when you let the 3-year-old apply the glue to the inside of the acorn caps, accept that sometimes messes will be made there, as well.


So, we managed to bring in a little bit of the outside. Score one for nature. Then we de-natured it, because I have a strong distaste for bug-life. Whatever. I'm happy with my acorns again.

Tags: acorns, air plants, felting



When it comes to Mr. New Media, there is no place for subtlely laid hints at what I'd like for birthdays or Christmases or anniversaries or Leif Erikson day. Had I earlier adopted the beat-him-over-the-head-with-my-short-list-of-needs-complete-with-potential-sources-and-pricepoints approach, I could have avoided receiving the bubble wrap (that's right, just bubble wrap gussied up with some giftwrap), or extracted a decent marriage proposal out of him. So, no dog-eared catalogs or "Gee, honey, I could sure get more meat into this stew if I had the Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 11-3/4-Inch Skillet with Iron Handle in Caribbean" at our house. Also, no leaving it up to him to actually remember those important dates. Around here it's the shock and awe, early and often approach. I start hitting him three to four months ahead of time, and don't let up until an appropriately sized box is shipped to my door.

Last year, I announced that if he didn't come through with a Gocco, things would not be very pleasant for him around here. And what happened? On my birthday, I opened a primly wrapped Gocco. See? Tell him precisely what to get, and ye shall receive. 

This year was a bit trickier. I've had letterpress on the brain lately. My design work has always been for offset/web presses. And, yes, there is an art to it, and the result is rather nice sometimes. It certainly hits the instant gratification button. But when was the last time you kept a magazine or newspaper because you really liked the way it played on your fingers, how worthy it felt? They're just kind of disposable, right? When you get used to designing for newspaper and magazine, you start adopting a bit of a disposable mindset, too. If this concept doesn't hit, well, it'll only be for this issue. But here, right now, that's not what I'm into. Letterpress has bite. It says "Here is an idea worth pounding into paper, worth stamping out the hot metal (or, you know, polymer plates) for." 

Of course, a nice old-school press, even a more compact one, is still going to be rather large and heavy and pricey and I don't actually know how to operate one. Yet. And with four fumbling little kid hands and a backlog of projects to work on, who has the time to pick up new crafts? So, yeah, there was a little bit of wishy-washyness when it came time to direct Mr. New Media's gift-giving. I think I muttered something like "Gee, Honey, I sure am intrigued by the idea of letterpress, especially those old-school ones," and then directed him to my Major E-tailer Wishlist. But that Mr. New Media is pretty crafty himself, and a few weeks before my birthday, a very hefty, clangy little box arrived. The mailman was compelled to conjecture that it must be gold.


Five pounds of metal type. Hundreds of little characters in various typefaces and sizes. Just thinking about them gets me giddy, but now that they've been neatly (some might say anal-retentively) alphabetized in my newly acquired letterpress drawer along with bits and pieces of sewing gear and trinkets and things The Boy picks out of the dirt… I don't know. It feels like everything's coming together? Sure. It's a nice mesh of things. Fun and pretty and not entirely practical, but serving a little bit of purpose nonetheless. Perfect.