Tuesday, March 3, 2015

An Announcement

I've been really dreading saying this. I've been avoiding saying it ever since the facts sank in and the decisions were made, but I suppose I can't avoid it much longer. I could just not say it and then one day just disappear, but that would probably be worse than just saying it.

My little family is moving.

Just for the record, it wasn't my idea.

We are leaving our cozy corner in Ashburn, and moving to, wait for it, waaaaaait for it....

Buena Vista, Virginia.

I know. I know! Its one of the last things I ever thought I'd say....again. (Actually, technically, this is the 5th time in my life that I'm moving back to Buena Vista, heretofore referred to as BV.) But this time, more than every other time, its kind of totally cray cray.

Let me explain.

I first moved to BV in 2001 as a freshman at Southern Virginia University. Good times, good times indeed. I came and went over the next 6 years, always getting sucked back in, but finally left for good in 2007 when I came to the DC area. In 2010 I got married and moved to Ashburn, VA with my lovely husband. Now we have two little boys and life is very, very different.

For the last few years, Kyle and I have been dreaming up goals for our little growing family. What do we want to do, where do we want to be, what does our ideal future look like? Goals are important. They are part of the faith process, a way of creating things spiritually before they appear physically. We have loved Ashburn. It is lovely, quiet, and safe. It has every feature and amenity one could reasonably want. Most of all, the people we have met and friends we have made will stick with us for the rest of our lifetime. Our church family has meant so much to us. Those who have supported and mentored us through so many huge life changes will forever have an impact on our life and our family.

I am so sad to leave my comfortable Ashburn life, and I would rather be in total denial and not press publish on this post. But, we all knew this was coming sooner or later--

We have decided to move right now for the following reasons:
1) Kyle works from home, so he can do that anywhere.
2) Living in southern Virginia on a northern Virginia paycheck will help us save a lot of mullah.
3) The home we purchased in BV has a side apartment and we will renovate the basement and rent it to students, making living there very financially smart.
4) We are excited for more of a country lifestyle, and are looking forward to all the great outdoor activities readily available in Rockbridge County.
5) I am excited to go back to my old stomping grounds and be a member of the SVU community again. Sports games, plays, cultural events, and just generally supporting the ol' Knights will be a lot of fun.
As I said before, and this can't be understated, it will be hard to leave Ashburn and this life we've loved for the last 4.5 years. I will especially miss serving as Primary President in our ward. Living farther away from Kyle's parents will be the hardest loss. Life is about progressing and becoming better, and for us, with our future goals in our sights, this move will challenge us with new opportunities to learn and change in ways that we hope will get us closer to those goals.

We plan to move at the end of May, after we do some repairs and improvements to the house in BV. Now comes the hard work of putting our house on the market, packing, etc. Which obviously no one looks forward to.

I want to express my most heart-felt gratitude and love to those who have been such a blessing to our lives these years in Ashburn, as well as our friends from our "single life"; The Soundry family and Langley Ward. I came to NoVA 7 and a half years ago alone, with no idea what life would bring. I have felt the guiding influence of God every step of the way, with every decision, every milestone, and every relationship. I have experienced miracles--like that time I just wandered into The Soundry completely randomly and it changed my life, or the time a tall blonde nerd continued to talk to me after I blew him off and ended up being my everything, or the time my life and my child's life were spared because of modern medicine. The list goes on and on.

We are excited for a new chapter, and look forward to reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. Here's to slow sunsets, blue ridge mountains, Appalachian Trails, floating rivers on a hot summer day, hiking trails and mountains minutes from our front door, no traffic, the scent of honeysuckle and rain, and southern accents. In a way, for me, its kind of like going home.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Print on Fabric Using Freezer Paper

There are a lot of different ways to get an image onto a piece of fabric: screen printing, iron transfer, stamping, photo emulsion, etc. My most preferred method is ink and freezer paper. Let me explain.

Freezer Paper
Speedball Fabric Ink
Exacto Knife
Firm Paint Brush
Optional: Computer and Printer

Choose or design an image that you want to put on fabric. (I've primarily used t-shirts and baby onesies, but you could use denim, tote bags, skirts/dresses, etc. I even did a little hat once.) Here are some images that I have designed and printed:

Step #1:
Create the image.
You can find images online or design your own. I design/draw my images on my ipad using Sketchbook Pro, then export them to my computer.

Step #2:
Get the Image onto the Freezer Paper
I use Microsoft Word to print the image because I can resize it using the ruler on the side of the document and make my image the exact size I want. Of course, you can also use Photoshop or whatever program you're comfortable with, or good old-fashioned pencil and paper. I've never tried printing right onto the freezer paper, but I will probably try it in the future, I have no idea if it will work. So, I print the image, tape it to a cutting board and tape the freezer paper over it. The freezer paper is transparent enough to accurately and easily trace the image underneath. Trace the image onto the paper side of the freezer paper (not the plastic side) with pencil.

Step #3
Cut the Image from Freezer Paper
Using your most awesome Exacto Knife skills, cut out the image you just traced. Be precise! In your image, there will likely be little bits that "float" (I don't know the technical term for this, so "floating" is what I call it). For example, if you were to cut out the letter "O", the middle of the "O" has to "float" inside the ring, otherwise you are just cutting a circle. Get me? So, I always secure the "floating" parts with little extra, uncut pieces of freezer paper, like this:

(This particular design has two layers (two colors), the blue circle in the middle with the negative space "Big Brother", and the black outline and words "Best Ever". I printed the blue circle first, let it dry, then printed the black layer over the top so the ring in the middle of the words "Best" and "Ever" outlined the blue circle.)

Step #4
Iron the Freezer Paper onto the Fabric
Using a hot cotton setting on your iron, arrange the image exactly where you want it to appear and iron the freezer paper directly onto the fabric. This whole techniques works because one side of the freezer paper is like parchment paper and the other side is covered with a thin layer of plastic. When you iron the plastic side to the fabric, it melts enough to form a great seal, but not enough to damage the fabric, in fact it peals right up easy-peasy. That's why this technique is awesome. When ironing, press directly down, taking great care not to rub the iron around on the freezer paper until every little bit is firmly in place to avoid folding or crumpling any part of your design. The motion with your iron is more like patting, less like rubbing.

Step #5
Cut Away Extra Bits
Remember all those extra pieces of freezer paper you left on your design in order to keep the "floating" parts in their exact right locations? Well, now cut them off, you don't need them, but, TAKE HEED, you must do this extremely carefully with a sharp Exacto Knife. I definitely have cut through my t-shirts when I haven't been careful enough. It is easy to cut off the extra paper without cutting your fabric or displacing your "floating" bit, but it is also easy to mess it up. BE CAREFUL. When done, iron everything back down for good measure.

Step #6
Apply Ink
I use Speedball Fabric Ink. It is made for this and it is the best. It goes on evenly and thickly, doesn't bleed, and there are great colors available. I've used other inks and fabric paints and I don't like any of them as much as Speedball.
Using a stiff bristled paint brush (usually pretty cheap, like dollar-store cheap), apply the ink to the design. Apply enough ink to thoroughly cover the exposed fabric, but not so much that you're frosting a cake.  You want the ink to saturate the area you are coloring, but not gloop on--too thick and the ink will look cracked and could peel later on.
 Step #7
Allow Ink to Dry and Peel Freezer Paper
I usually let the ink dry for a few hours until it is dry to the touch. Then, my favorite part, I peel up the freezer paper with great anticipation and anxiety--did it turn out right? Did any parts bleed? Did I mess anything up? No! Excellent!

I iron over the whole thing again with a super hot iron to seal the ink. Viola! You're done!
Wash and dry the garment as normal.

This is how we announced our second pregnancy. I have no doubts he'll live up to the title.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Ferris Bueller Day

My days are not particularly "busy", per se.  Of course, every day I am constantly and endlessly employed with the care of my son, my home, and my family.  Those things keep a body busy. However, I don't go "out-and-about" as much as I used too, and spend most of my days at/near home.  Its a nice little life. Yesterday was an out-and-about day, and by my current standards it felt like my own personal Ferris Bueller's Day Off. 

 (not a "day off" at all, but you follow)

First stop: Social Security Office

Otherwise known as "a day in hell".  What a parade of humanity that was. The office is open from 9am-3pm and is located in Manassas.  MAN-ASS-AS. For those unfamiliar with the sprawling suburbs of Northern Virginia, that means a 45 min drive for me (with no traffic).  It also means that a tiny government agency, with 4 service windows, is meant to serve 3 counties worth of citizens, which totals about 1.9 million people, with a huge immigrant population (people who need SS cards). Here's the short story:

I arrived at 11am (first mistake) and the line was out the door and down the sidewalk in the blazing heat.  I stood there for 30 minutes and didn't move a step.  A very kind officer told us that it would likely be over an hour just to get in the building, then probably about 2 hours waiting inside. (Makes you want to sit down and cry, right?) BUT, he said, if you come back at 2:45, right before "closing", the line goes much faster.  You see, they don't "close" at 3pm, they close the line at 3pm.  They serve everyone who is still in line, and they get people from other parts of the office to help process everyone through.  So, are you kidding me?, I bounced.

Little Man was at grandma's and having a grand time, so I went to do my grocery shopping. I was listening to NPR, as I often do.  Kojo Nnamdi was hosting an awesome show about the DC music scene, and I tuned in just in time to hear them talking about house concerts and local venues.  So I called in, knowing that it is very rare to be let through, but thought it would be fun to participate in the conversation.  And, whaddya know!, I got through and talked on the radio about house concerts and other nervous, rapid ramblings--it was thrilling!  You can listen here, I called in with about 8-10 min left of the show, I think.

Wegman's grocery shopping. Uneventful. Unless you count the heavenly vanilla streusal muffin.

Back to the SS Office

Yup, I went back.  Arrived at 2:30. Huge line, but about 15 people less than the morning.  Everything moved very fast.  Was finished with my business at 3:45.

I picked up Little Man and came home. We have taken to playing in the water on our deck just about every afternoon, but this time he added another element. Earth.

Kyle had to go in to work, so I was on my own with the child. Dinner. Bedtime.


When Kyle got home we snuggled down to read Lord of the Rings out loud (cause that's how we roll), and what did I find under my pillow? A big box with a BRAND NEW MACBOOK PRO INSIDE! I could have wet myself! I've been bothering him about a new computer for ages because my trusty Macbook has barely been turned off in over 7 years and has begun to limp along. Turns out, he didn't go to work at all, but went to pick up my present. Oh, this new computer is glorious!  Light! Sleek! Quiet! Updated! Clean! I can't believe how stuck in my old ways I've been and how much has changed in the new stuff.  It is just thrilling.


Kyle worked on installing ALL THE THINGS on my new computer and I started baking a lemon wedding cake that will be assembled and gorgeously decorate<id by Saturday. (Said with unfailing faith, as I've never made this kind of cake before and time this week is majorly crunched by the upcoming holiday...it'll happen, it'll happen, it'll happen...)

So, not the best Ferris Bueller Day, but an eventful one none-the-less. And I shall get through this busy week and clean ALL THE THINGS and pack ALL THE THINGS and finish ALL THE THINGS before we leave on our trip out west next week. Major road trip. First in 7 years. With a toddler. I CAN'T WAIT.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

4 Graphs Showing the Ridiculous Discrepency Between the Number of Male vs Female Lead Rolls in Disney Animated Films

The backstory:
I was chatting with my friend Holli about Disney movies.  She is the mother of 2 young girls.  Her almost-3-year-old is obsessed with all things princess.  She seems to have come by this obsession relatively naturally, with far less parental encouragement than one might imagine after observing her intense preoccupation with the illustrious club.  My son is barely over 1 year old, and has not yet shown any interest in watching anything; I wonder what he might become interested in and what there is out there for young boys to admire and aspire to.  So we were discussing male and female leading characters in popular Disney animated films.  I have seen my more-than-fair-share of these films, so when I could hardly come up with a handful of male leads to match their female counterparts (who very readily came to mind), I was quite flummoxed.  I can rattle off the entire princess line with plenty of breath to spare, but when challenged to name male leads, I was coming up short.  My mind hit on a few right off the bat (Tarzan, King Arthur aka Wart, Aladdin), but the names didn't come to mind nearly as easily as I thought they would.

So, I dashed over to wikipedia and began to study the list of Disney Theatrical Animated Features.  What I found was quite shocking.

I had assumed that because I couldn't immediately name a dozen leading men to match the princesses, that such men didn't exist.  I was dead wrong.  I have since poured over this list, and have made a few graphs that I believe illustrate some pretty disturbing discrepancies between the quantity of lead roles divided between the sexes in Disney animated films.  Now, there certainly is a quality argument to be made here as well, but for now I speak only of quantity.

The Science:
I am not a scientist, a statistician, or even a fan of graphs per se.  There are likely many flaws in my research and reasoning.  I am open to suggestions if you believe I have calculated something wrong, misinterpreted the data, or am otherwise way off in my analysis.  But here's what I did:

I took the list from wikipedia and highlighted each film with two colors: pink for female lead character, blue for male.  (A lead character is the person who is singularly at the center of the plot.  In some films, that character is a little hard to distinguish or there isn't one (ie 101 Dalmatians), but in almost all of the films where the lead character was questionable, the top few primary characters were all male anyway.)  Then I highlighted each film to distinguish if the lead character was human or non-human.  The list looks like this:

There are 105 films on this list.  Of those films, 80 had a male lead, 25 had a female lead.
*Including male dominated ensembles and segment films. **Lead females per movie; some characters appear many times.

 That's a pretty ridiculous split, if you ask me. But here's where things get interesting: of all lead roles, 45 (42%) are non-human males.  5 are non-human female (4%).  4 (FOUR) of those 5 films are Tinker Bell movies. *invisible Mickey Mouse glove slaps face*
*Includes segment films ie. "Fantasia", "Melody Time", etc. and films where the lead is both human and animal ie. "Emperor's New Groove", "Princess and the Frog", etc.

*Lady, from "Lady and the Tramp", and 4 Tinker Bell movies.

Its for some grad student somewhere to draw conclusions from these statistics, I don't gots the time.  But I do find it fascinating that there are SO MANY non-human leading males (Woody, Lightening McQueen, Robin Hood, Winnie the Pooh, Simba, Mickey Mouse) and there are TWO (2...DOS!!) non-human females, a cute, cuddly, dainty, lovely puppy dog and friggin Tinker Bell.  Something is amiss here.

These pie charts show the male/female split in 20 year segments.  Note: the last chart shows the last 12 years; there are more films in the last 10 years than the previous 20, and more films in the last 10 years than the first 40.

Here are some other pie charts that break down these groups further:
Princesses: Mulan, Tiana, Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Pocahontas, Rapunzel, Ana ("Frozen"), Ariel, Aurora, Merida. I did not include Jasmine because she is not a lead character.  Non-human: Lady and Tinker Bell. Human Non-Princess: Lilo ("Lilo and Stitch"), Penny ("The Rescuers"), and Alice ("Alice in Wonderland").

Again, I'm sure there are a plethora of conclusions that one could draw from these statistics, and, again, my methods could be flawed, so be gentle in your criticism.  What do you think of these stats?  Would you like to see more non-human lead females?  (I sure do.)  Do you think they care about this stuff over at Disney Studios and elsewhere?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sinister Apothecary Secrets Book

Aaaah Pinterest...thanks for spewing this little gem my way.

This wonderful post came across my Pinterest feed and I had to try it for myself.  It was repinned by about 10 of my friends, so I figured that there are likely folks out there interested in the end result of this project.

CRAFTERS BEWARE: This project took a LONG TIME with a lot of ATTENTION TO DETAIL.  It took much longer than I ever would have thought, but was also super fun.  Like, start heating the glue gun when the kiddo goes to bed and BAM, 6 hours have gone by, fun.

I didn't do a great job of documenting the process, but I'll try to explain how it all went down.  First, here's the end result:

I basically followed the instructions in this post by Seeing Things That Aren't Really There, but made some of my own adjustments, additions, etc along the way.  I started with the generic blank paper mache book found at Michael's.

While at the thrift store, I spotted this ripped, tacky little box and immediately knew I could use it to great affect on this project. 
I proceeded to dismantle it and cut out the designs I wanted with a utility knife.

The material is thick paper board, so it was pretty tedious cutting it out with the utility knife.  Make sure you have a new sharp razor in your knife. I used fine grain sandpaper to smooth the edges and shape the corners.

I'm sure a lot of you reading this will relate, but I have been known to hoard nonsense junk because "I might be able to use it someday".  I have a bag of really junky beads someone gave me (or I saved from the dumpster, can't remember which) that yielded some fantastic finds for this project.  VINDICATION!

Next step, layout embellishments (cut out cardboard, beads, string, or whatever you want to use) on the paper mache book, and start gluing them down with a hot glue gun.

The sun/moon/stars beads came from a really junky plastic necklace.  This was one of those moments when trash transformed into treasure before my eyes.  I was giddy! All of this stuff is hot glued on.

The bright orange, tiny plastic skeleton came from the aforementioned bag-o-junk.  It was a lone earring.  I cut it to bits and glued it down.  Brilliant.

Next: Modge Podge, tissue paper, paint brush.

Start smearing that Modge Podge and, using your finger, press the tissue paper into every crack and crevice of the book.  I was most nervous about this step, because I'd never done this, but it was pretty easy and had a great affect.  The tissue paper obscures some details, but you can also keep a lot of fine detail too.  It unifies all of the pieces and makes the finished product look much more authentic and old.  I used one layer, instead of the two suggested because A) I was being impatient and B) I didn't want to obscure any more detail.
The whole book covered in yellow tissue paper.
I let it dry overnight so the Modge Podge/tissue paper could get good and hard.  Then I painted the whole thing with gesso.

I then painted the outside of the book with acrylic paint.  I mixed brown and black to get a nice dark leather color, and coated that sucker.  2 coats.  I probably should have done 3, even 4, because at the very end, when I attempted to sand some edges to give it an older look, I sanded right through to the white gesso without much effort.  No bueno.  So I touched up the white bits.

Here's where my weak documenting will start to annoy you.  Next, I made some faux pages.  I measured and cut out some cardboard from a cereal box, painted a layer of very light brown, then let it dry for a few minutes so it was tacky.  Then I painted over it with very light yellow.  I didn't mix the paint (yellow and white) very well, because the streaking effect when laid on top of the light brown looked awesome.  I let that dry just until it was tacky, then ran the blade of my utility knife through the soft paint to make hundreds of fine little lines.  I was totally experimenting here, and was very pleased with the result.

 Make 3 "page" panels and glue them in place with hot glue.  Notice in the above picture, I painted the end of the "page" panel brown to look like the rest of the book.  The corners didn't come together all that great, but I'll live with it.

 I got these tiny corked vials at Michaels.  I Modge Podged the labels that I got from the bottom of the original post (here again).  Then filled them with spices from my cupboard.  No one will ever suspect.

I measured the inside of the book, and cut out a practice board from a cereal box.  I laid the vials out on the practice board and measured where I wanted them to go.  Then I used the practice board and measurements to cut out the thick paper board from the thrift store box.  Also, I painted the entire inside of the book and all the boards that go inside of it brown like the outside of the book.

 I cut grooves in the board and notches in the boards that are sitting upright, so they fit together, and hot glued them.
 Then I made little boards that are the exact size of each compartment on the larger board.  I glued some felt on them.  I had this piece of ostrich leather lying around and cut it into small strips.  The ostrich leather was ideal because it wasn't very thick, and the brads that I used were quite small.  I used my dremel to drill holes through the board where I wanted the brads to go and pinned everything down good and tight.

 I added an element to my book that is not in the original post.  I thought, "If I were a wicked apothecary who sells poison to scoundrels, I would need many secret places to hide the unseemly evidence of my misdeeds."  So, a secret compartment in my secret poison book seemed like just the ticket.
I found some pictures online that I liked, printed them, and "aged" them using this tutorial.  I've never dyed paper with tea, but it worked great and I will definitely do it again.  A side note: the picture is of the son-in-law of Queen Victoria, who married her youngest daughter Princess Beatrice.  He reportedly died of malaria in 1898 somewhere in Africa on duty for the British armed forces.  So what's his picture doing hidden in this box full of poison?  Malaria, huh?

 The fake bottom, panels with vials on them, and vials neatly in their spots.  Ready for business.

I forgot to mention the pendent on the front.  It was in the jewelry section at the craft store, has a lovely little octopus on it, and opens like a locket.  I haven't yet, but I will draw something creepy and put it in the locket. Also on my list of potential front cover decor--a skeleton key bracket, other little lockets and pendants, whatever floats your boat, really.

 The back, with that tiny Vitruvian man.
This is the beginning of an apothecary collection that I will display each October until I die.  I'm pretty ridiculously picky about what Halloween decor I like, and this fits the bill.  Thanks for reading!