Projects · Summer Bucket List

Summer Bucket List: Make a Fire Pit

We finally got around to making a fire pit in our back yard, and I’m super proud to say that it cost us exactly $0. That’s right, we didn’t have to pay a cent to make it!IMG_20140816_145626_806Some of you who know me have probably heard me talk about the work we’ve been doing on the front of our house, specifically describing the hours I spent pulling rocks out of the side garden. While it was a huge time investment to gather so many rocks, we were able to put them to use when we made our fire pit. We were able to use some stone borders from the front garden as well. IMG_20140816_151515_972

Chad dug the pit, and we worked together to cut out roots and arrange the stone border.

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Once that was done, we added some dirt back into the pit around the sides of the border for support, and then sprayed everything down with water to help sink the border down and stabilize it.  IMG_20140816_152922_529

For the last step, we took some of the rocks I had pulled from the front garden (yes, even after this project we still have leftover rocks!) and arranged them around the fire pit as a border.

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We tried a little fire right after that, but then I had to go to work. Unfortunately we’ve had a lot of rain since then, but we’re really looking forward to having a bonfire and whipping up some delicious s’mores soon!IMG_20140816_154953_269

Have you ever been able to up-cycle something for a project in your yard?

Projects

Easy Bottle Cap Craft

Hi everyone! We’ve been saving up bottle caps for a DIY my brother and Ariel want to work on together, and having so many saved up has led me to having bottle caps on the brain! It was only a matter of time before I stumbled upon this neat little frame at the craft store and an idea came to fruition.IMG_20140720_200426_223I started my project by laying out bottle caps in my frame to make a picture that I liked. I also decided at this time that I was not going to feel guilty about stealing from the bottle cap stash that was meant for other things. After all, I did contribute to a lot of the drinking that provided the caps. (…Right?)IMG_20140720_201504_660I decided to use bottle caps from my favorite beer, Ranger IPA from New Belgium Brewing Co., to make a heart in the middle of the frame. I surrounded the heart with black caps, but still thought the heart needed a boost. It was at this point my camera crapped out on me, but I ended up lightly tracing the bottle cap-heart before removing all the bottle caps. Then I stained the wood and filled in my traced heart with red paint. Once everything was dry, I modge podged the bottle caps onto the frame. IMG_20140721_104300_269

And voila! That was it. I put an extra layer of caps on the heart to fill it in and make it stand out a bit more, and used an orange cap from a different New Belgium beer as the cap in the center. I think I might do a few things differently with future bottle cap designs, but overall, I was happy with this easy little DIY. What would you like to try making with bottle caps?

xx Caitlyn

Projects · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Summer Bucket List: Make/Decorate Pottery

I’ve been telling Chad forever now that I really want to paint some pottery at Your Plate or Mine in Muskegon,. Leave it to beer to be the answer to my plea: when we finally joined the Mug Club at Odd Side Ales in Grand Haven we got to paint our own mugs! (Yay for crossing off an item on my bucket list!)IMG_0688We arrived at Your Plate or Mine feeling a bit nervous about making our mugs, but full of inspiration. I decided to go with my favorite character in the whole world, Rilakkuma, and Chad went with the creepy Kobito Dukan (pronounced “dzoo-kahn”).IMG_0691The staff member at Your Plate or Mine was extremely helpful; she explained everything very clearly and was available the entire time we were there to answer all of our littlest questions. She even provided us with carbon paper so we could trace our designs if we wished (and as this mug would be getting a lot of use, we did wish to trace our designs–just in case!).   IMG_0692I was really impressed with Chad’s artwork, as there was a lot of shading involved. I think there are two things that are really difficult about painting ceramics: ensuring your colors are the actual colors you want (since they look totally different once fired), and getting smooth lines.IMG_0693It was super relaxing, and time just flew by. At the same time, after a particularly tricky section, you could hear both of us let out an audible sigh. Phew!  IMG_0695Above you can see my mug before firing. At first I was a bit frustrated with the difficulty of getting my lines exactly the way I wanted, but I realized that this is an art in which you have to just “give it up,” so to speak. You have to go into it knowing you’ll make mistakes, and decide you don’t care. And, when it comes down to it, it’s pretty impossible for Rilakkuma to turn out as anything except kawaii. IMG_0696I painted a little suitcase on the inside of my cup, and on the bottom I wrote out “Nomichatta!,” which means, “I accidentally drank all of it!” (Story of my life.) **Edit: Apparently I need to start studying Japanese again! It should say “Nonjyatta,” but hey, perhaps by the time I drink it all I won’t remember my mistake… 😉 IMG_0694On the bottom I wrote “Kanpai,” which means “Cheers,” though that Japanese has a translation right next to it on the cup 😉 In this picture you can also see the yellow birdy before firing. IMG_20140628_125951_907 (2)We could hardly wait to see how our cups turned out, but we had to wait a week for them to be fired. I am so in love with them! Chad’s turned out as creepy as we imagined, and I just want to squeal at the cuteness of my Rilakkuma.

IMG_20140628_130017_676IMG_20140628_130134_746Chad’s (left) says “Nonde,” the command for “Drink.”

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IMG_20140628_130413_421Yay for fun mugs! We spent a few hours on them, and I had so much fun that I went back with my mom yesterday to paint some more. We spent over five hours working on our creations, and I am going CRAZY wanting to see how they look once they’re fired!!

IMG_20140628_201021_048In the meantime, I’ve got this precious mug to drink delicious beer in! 🙂

Have a good day darlings!
xx

Projects

Fun with Lyddy: Flower Footprint Craft

I saw a super cute flower craft on pinterest the other day that I decided I absolutely had to make with my niece (who I’m sure you remember from a recent post as the most adorable little girl on the planet). I grabbed some finger paint and some construction paper, and we set to work. The first step was to make little flowers with the balls of her feet and her toes. I used my fingers to apply paint to her feet (which of course led to her sweet laugh), and then–at Lydia’s request–we pressed her feet down to make a blue, red, blue pattern.IMG_0707After that, we rinsed her feet off in the tub, and I asked her to use the green to draw half-circles under each “flower.” She did as instructed, filled in the half-circles with more paint, and then added stems and leaves. IMG_0710Next I had her write her name on a little flower pot that I cut out. (You could always add an extra step for fine motor skill practice and have the child cut out the pot if you wanted instead.) I also asked her to write her name on the pot. When I did similar crafts with my preschool kids in the past, I would often have them trace their names, but I thought it would be really cute to preserve the way Lydia writes her name independently for this craft. IMG_0711Once Lydia added her name, she was excited to finger paint freely on the flower pot.IMG_0712She finished decorating the flower pot, so we washed her hands and waited for the paint to dry a bit so we could glue it onto the bottom of her flower stems. IMG_0744 IMG_0745Didn’t it turn out cute?

xx

Bookspiration · Projects

Bookspiration: Owl Postcards

“For to witness majesty, to find yourself literally touched by it, isn’t that what we’ve all been waiting for?”

-David Sedaris

After reading Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, I decided to make postcards with owls on them. I made four postcards in total, trying to keep them simple with easy watercolor owls saying the above quote.

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Click to view larger image

I tried my best not to worry too much about detail, and after free-handing the calligraphy, I also quickly free-handed the cute little owls.

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It’s a little bit hard to see the light green-colored wings in the picture, but I liked the way it turned out. I’m thinking I might send the postcards to people via postcrossing. I accidentally changed the quote slightly in the postcard featured above, but I still thought the art was nice. Sedaris writes the phrase I quoted when talking about coming across something beautiful and unexpected in nature, and making a private connection with nature in that moment.

Have you experienced any moments of majesty lately?

xx

Bookspiration · Projects

Bookspiration: The Song of Hiawatha

Several years ago I received the book The Song of Hiawatha as a Christmas gift, and though I had read bits and pieces of the epic poem , a few weeks ago I finally got the chance to read the entire thing. It was difficult for me to decide what to make after finishing the book, but after much deliberation, I decided to put some of the text from The Song of Hiawatha over a picture from a recent walk at one of my favorite places in Michigan, Rosy Mound.

First, I chose my picture:

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Then, I spent what felt like three years trying to put text over it the way I wanted. I still didn’t quite achieve the look I was looking to create, but I decided the text was going to have to be good enough.

Live Together

It says:

“All your strength is in your union,

All your danger is in discord;

Therefore be at peace henceforward,

And as brothers live together.”

I printed an enlarged copy of the image at Walmart for about $6, and then modge podged it to an art board purchased for around $5 before a 40% off coupon at one of my local craft stores. Below you can sort of see how it turned out, though the lighting isn’t the best:

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I am not necessarily in love with how the project turned out, but I do love where the photo was taken, and I really like the passage from The Song of Hiawatha. I often think about the power of human connection when I go on walks through nature, and about how to I can be kinder and more loving to others. A message about unity totally seems fitting for a picture taken at Rosy Mound.

Here are some other pictures I took on the lovely spring day last week: IMG_0583

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Hope you got to enjoy some beautiful weather like we had in Michigan over the weekend 🙂

xx

Projects

Making a Wreath with my Lovely Niece!

It feels like ages ago that I made my pretty fall wreath project, and with the nice spring weather I thought it might be fun to make another wreath, this time with the help of my 4 year old niece, Lydia. I chose bright pink, purple, white and orange flowers, as well as pink ribbon to wrap around the wreath. Lydia’s favorite color is purple, so I was sure to get plenty of purple-colored flowers!

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First, Lydia helped me by cutting strips of ribbon to hot glue onto the wreath form.

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Then, she helped by pulling all of the flowers and leaves off of the stems, placing them in separate piles. I cut off the extra bits of stem while she was working on pulling.

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“This is going to be so pretty!”

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Next, I asked Lydia which flower we should use, and where we should put it. I put some hot glue down, and she placed the flowers. I had her push gently so she wouldn’t burn herself, and then secured them more as necessary. For the leaves, I had her hand me the leaves and point to where I should put them because they were thinner than the petals (once again, I didn’t want her to burn her little fingers!).

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She was super excited when we finished!

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A pretty girl, and a pretty spring wreath!

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We practiced hanging the wreath around Grandma’s house, but Lydia insisted, “It’s going to look even better in my room though, right.” I answered, “I’m sure it will!” Even little girls can help make big girl projects 🙂

Bookspiration · Projects

Bookspiration: The Coffee Belt

O Coffee! Thou dost dispel all care, thou are the object of desire to the scholar. This is the beverage of the friends of God.”

In Praise of Coffee,” Arabic Poem (1511)

After practicing my calligraphy like a crazy person, I decided to test my new skills for a map I had planned to make while reading Uncommon Grounds. I was really happy with how my coffee belt map turned out, and doing the watercolor and calligraphy have helped me remember what flavor profiles the different regions of coffee are known for: Latin America for notes of cocoa, soft spice and nuts, Africa for floral, fruity and berry notes, and Asia for earthy, herbal notes. I also enjoyed making the little coffee cherry diagram, as it put an image to the descriptions I’ve read about coffee cherries. I was thinking that if I can figure out how, I’d like to submit my map to the really fun website They Draw and Travel.

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Please click on the image to see a larger version!

Now that I’ve written a bit about the Coffee Belt, where most of the world’s coffee is grown, here are twelve of my favorite facts gleaned from Uncommon Grounds:

1. “By 1700, there were more than two thousand London coffee houses, occupying more premises and paying more rent than any other trade. They came to be known as penny universities, because for that  price one could purchase a cup of coffee and sit for hours listening to extraordinary conversations…” (12). “‘The best stories [are told] over coffee,’ wrote a wise commentator in 1902, ‘as the aroma of the coffee opens the portals of [the] soul, and the story, long hidden, is winged for posterity'” (425).

2. “Wherever [coffee] has been introduced it has spelled revolution. It has been the world’s most radical drink in that its function has always been to make people think. And when the people began to think, they became dangerous to tyrants” (17).

3. “The caffeine content of coffee probably evolved as a natural pesticide to discourage predators” (43). “Although some bugs and fungi adapt to any chemical, it is quite likely that plants contain caffeine because it affects the nervous system of would-be consumers, discouraging them from eating it. Of course, that is precisely the attraction for the human animal” (412).

4. During the civil war, soldiers “preferred to carry whole beans and grind them as needed. Each company cook carried a portable grinder. A few Sharps carbines were designed to hold a coffee mill in the buttstock of the gun, so the soldier could always carry his grinder with him” (49). “Real coffee was so scarce in the war-torn south that it cost $5 a pound in Richmond, Virginia, while one Atlanta jeweler set coffee beans in breast pins in lieu of diamonds” (40.)

5. “In eighteenth-century Sweden twin brothers were sentenced to death for murder. King Gustav III commuted it to life sentences in order to study the then-controversial effects of tea and coffee, One brother drank large daily doses of tea, the other, coffee. The tea drinker died first, at eighty-three” (105).

6. A German housewife, Melitta Bentz, created the once-through drip method with a filter in 1908 (117).

7. During WWI, “Brazil also went to war with Germany, but only after the United States promised to purchase a million pounds of coffee for its expeditionary forces” (145).

8. During the prohibition, many coffee men were excited and hopeful for more coffee consumption:

“When there’s such a drink as this,

Liquor never need we miss.

All its virtues we repeat:

‘Coffee! Coffee! That’s the treat!'” (156).

9. “In Europe, economizing on coffee wasn’t so much a matter of choice as necessity. As late as 1947 coffee had been to scarce that it was used instead of money on the European black market” (245).

10. Howard Schultz of Starbucks hired Dawn Pinaud in the 1980’s and, with her staff, they created their own lingo. “…[Service] people weren’t soda jerks or flunkies. They were baristas, spotlighted as though on stage. A drink wasn’t small, medium or large. It was short, tall, or grande. A double espresso with a splash of milk was christened a doppio macchiato. ‘It’s amazing to me that these terms have become part of the language,’ Pinaud says. ‘A few of us sat in a conference room and just made them up’ (369).

11. Caffeinism is recognized as an ailment for those who consume excessive quantities of the drug, and caffeine intoxication is described similarly to a panic attack. “The only difference,” writes author Mark Pendergrast,” is that someone must have recently drunk coffee, tea, or soft drinks, which appears to have a circular diagnostic logic. At various times while writing this book, I have exhibited five of these symptoms, including restlessness, excitement, insomnia, periods of inexhaustibility, and particularly, rambling flow of thought. I drink only one or two daily cups of coffee, in the morning” (414).

12. “Inviting a woman for coffee in Finland is a sure sign of romantic interest. Finnish personal ads seeking a ‘day-coffee companion’ are understood to be ads for casual sex. In nearby Norway, distances used to be measured by ‘coffee boils’–the number of times someone had to stop to prepare coffee along the way” (420).

I hope you enjoyed these segments I learned about from Uncommon Grounds as much as I did. When was the last time you had an engaging conversation over coffee? Would you be satisfied with coffee if you lived during the prohibition? How many ‘coffee boils’ would it take for you to get to where I’m from: Michigan? 🙂

xx

Learning · Projects

Calligraphy and Surprising Snails

Well, it’s been a rough week around here, but things are getting better day by day. I’ll spare you the details about that, and instead give you some fun details–about snails!

My most recent whimseybox kit was a calligraphy how-to, and I spent hours working on my stroke. When it came to my final project, I didn’t care for the suggested phrases (one of which was “Ain’t nobody got time for that”). I decided to use part of a Langston Hughes poem instead, and then I added a pretty watercolor snail in the corner.

IMG_0546I hung up my new artwork in place of the Easter Egg I had made before 🙂

Here’s the full poem:

Little Snail

                                               Langston Hughes

Little snail,

                Dreaming as you go.

            Weather and rose

         Is all you know.

             Weather and rose

     Is all you see,

Drinking

        The dewdrop’s

Mystery.

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Isn’t that a lovely poem? It reminded me of the name of my blog, for one! 😉 Here are some other cool snail-related things:

1. There is a type of snail in Japan that can survive being eaten by birds!

2. Click here to look at some neat snail pictures on National Geographic’s website.

3. Watch the link below to see an odd “Green Porno” that explains the interesting mating habits of snails (if you dare!)

Well, that’s all for now! See you soon with some coffee-related fun 🙂
xx

Learning · Projects · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Wine & Canvas

Lately, a couple of my friends have been talking a lot about Wine and Canvas, a one night class in which everyone learns to paint something fun while enjoying a yummy drink. You just go to the website, choose your location preference, and then choose a day that has a painting you like and register. (You also pay $35.00, but the canvas and paints are provided.) I really wanted to give it a try, and so I was was super excited I was able to rope my sister into doing a class with me last night!

paintingWe chose to do a painting with sunflowers. Above you can see us getting started on our paintings. I love sunflowers–mostly because they remind me of my mom, but also because they are so pretty and represent summer, my favorite season!

20140423-180409.jpgThough we moved at a super fast pace, the class took a lot longer than we anticipated–a little over 3 hours! We were really surprised at how quickly we moved from step to step, wishing we had more time to work on details, but not wanting to fall behind. Simultaneous with our feelings of being a bit rushed were feelings of being super tired–especially by the time we finished the flowers and were painting our backgrounds. Alcohol + concentrating on painting = drowsy ladies!

20140423-180418.jpgDespite it all, I had a lot of fun. The best part was hanging out with my sister, but I am also happy to have a painting that’s not all that bad for a memory. (Of course, I see a dozen things I would’ve tried to touch up had I had the time, but I still liked the way mine turned out for the most part.)

painting 2Here’s a picture taken by the women who put on the event showing some of the ladies who took part in the class. We are hiding in the very back row on the left!

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy painting with acrylics was, and would like to try more in the future. Do you like using acrylics? Have you ever taken a Wine and Canvas class, or would you?