Tag Archives: crafts

Flirting with the Dark Side, Or, My Funny Valentine

His name was Yoda, he was a Jedi… (am I the only one with the melody to “Copacabana” in my head?)

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A reminder that if you’re with someone, you should feel obligated to shower your significant other with love in the form of chocolates, roses, or jewelry. I’m not big on celebrating this holiday with Nacho Man, although I always remember this time of year fondly because Nacho Man proposed around this part of February. And in his true romantic form, he dragged me up a mountain that smelled of urine and was littered with broken glass to do it.

That’s right. I’ll pause while you wipe away your tears of envy, ladies.

Anyway, while Nacho Man and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day (that’s right honey, this is a Get Out of Jail card), I love celebrating it with my girls. The flush of color that injects itself into our dreary midwinter weather in the form of valentines, the class parties, handing out cards to friends and neighbors–I love it all.

I especially heart making homemade valentines. Bookmarks used to be my standard go-to, until Lupe begged me to come up with something else. That’s saying something, coming from a book lover like her. So the following year, we made these gnomes, which were so stinkin’ cute that they were worth the time and effort. Lupe reported that several kids still had them on their desks months after Valentine’s Day.

(Note to parents: if you want kids to not eat candy, make the packaging sweeter than the candy.)

The problem is that the following year, I felt the need to outdo myself. If you know me, this isn’t surprising but you’ll roll your eyes anyway. We were inspired by–what else?–a book: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger. It encapsulates several of Lupe’s interests: Star Wars, paper folding, and a great story.

And Star Wars. In case you missed it the first time.

There are very simple instructions for making an Origami Yoda here. More interested in folding a C-3PO or Darth Vader? You’ll find instructions for those, too. Lupe is constantly folding these: in the car, in her room, at school when she’s bored (ahem). These things would be irresistible even if they were folded out of toilet paper. For Valentine’s Day, Lupe used colored copy paper (I think cardstock might be a little too heavy) and attached Pixy Stix candy as a lightsaber.

So whatever you do this year (and if you’re like me, it’s the weekend before and you still haven’t done anything), good luck.

And may the force be with you.



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Function is from Mars, Form is from Venus

Nacho Man once told me that if he was a bachelor, all he’d need is a futon and a hot plate.

If that’s all he had, I have no doubt that he’d still be a bachelor.

But instead, he married me. And as we’ve grown up together, we’ve tried to create a cozy home together. It hasn’t been a smooth process. All I can say is that for someone who claims to only need a futon and a portable stove to get through life, he sure has a lot of opinions.

For instance, he thinks that hanging the barbed wire wreath I bought at Second Saturdayz over our entry gives our house a warm, Inquisitiony feel:

“It came from a ranch in Winthrop,” I say. “You know how much we love Winthrop.”

Nacho Man grunts as the extension ladder wobbles beneath him, and I’m glad I can’t hear anything else he might have uttered with that grunt.

Me: “Um, it’s not quite centered up there.” And then I duck and cover.

Rue has a lot of her mother’s aesthetic in her. Case in point:

Why yes, that is a plastic potato taped to the wall. Coincidentally, she did this the exact same day that I bought the barbed wire at the flea market. Uncanny, isn’t it?

This is the part where you imagine yourself standing around this piece of art at a gallery with a bunch of people in berets, wine glasses in hand, talking about the artist’s brilliant minimalist approach, art as social commentary, and otherwise trying to make up a bunch of nonsense about the deeper meaning of a potato taped to a wall.

Sometimes, it’s just a potato taped to a wall.

Lupe draws her inspiration from books:

This is how she’s passing the time until Tom Angleberger’s sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Darth Paper Strikes Back, comes out in August. This started as a way to give fun valentines to her classmates and now she can’t turn it off. I find them littered around the house, these little reminders that Yoda’s looking out for us. Her process, with lots of detailed photos, coming soon.

And as for Nacho  Man, the would-be futon-sleeping, hot plate-cooking bachelor, well, the dude just wants to save a buck:

So we recently decided that we don’t need cable television, that the time and money saved would be great for our family. The only problem is that we had this nice flat-panel television and lousy reception. Nacho Man spent some quality time at the Radio Shack, researching our options for an antenna that would pick up HD channels, and then he uttered the phrase that never fails to give me chills:

“I can make that for free.”

“Really?” I asked. I was trying to be supportive, but all I could think was that Nacho Man can hardly make the bed. And I’m the one who likes to use the power tools. And the only thing he makes me on a regular basis is angry.”Um, okay, great. Maybe that would be a fun project for you and the girls.”

And off they went.

Forty-five minutes later, the contraption you see here was sitting above our television.

Homer Simpson and MacGyver had a love child, and our television had a crystal-clear picture.

This shoebox-duct tape-clothes hanger-diorama-looking wonder has too many benefits to list. For one thing, it was free. No sense spending five bucks on a sleek antenna when you live in a household with barbed wire and potatoes attached to the walls. It’s versatile. With a simple rotation, we can pick up signals in Seattle or Tacoma. How do you like that? And I think it goes without saying that it makes an awesome theft-deterrent device. And finally, if we find a rodent in the house, we can also use this to trap it.

I can’t speak to the (insert throat-clearing sound here) technology behind the device, so I’m going to turn things over to Nacho Man:

This was a fun project and one I highly recommend you undertake with a willing child, no matter how much your wife objects. Start by watching this video for inspiration.  Lupe and I didn’t have all the parts outlined in the video so we improvised.  Lupe worked on the cardboard, foil, shoebox, and glue while I concentrated on cables. We didn’t have a terminal block but I dug up an old Balun I had previously bought at Radio Shack. One end plugs into the coax cable but what to do about the other end?

I found the solution in our kitchen junk drawer: metal binder clips. Perfect for this MacGyver. I clipped them to the two ‘U’ ends of the Balun, making sure there was metal on metal contact.  Then, I cut an old metal coat hanger to make a left and right antenna.

Tape everything up.  Lupe and I used duct tape to secure the cables to the shoebox and we powered up the TV.  We got a decent picture for about 25 channels.  I still had half a coat hanger wire so we looped it into the openings of each binder clip.  We ran the antenna scan on the TV again and picked up an additional 5 channels.  Our TV will display a signal when the signal strength is over 45%.  Most channels are in the 80-90% range.

We can pick up better signals for certain channels depending on which direction the shoebox antenna is pointed.  You can use this website to figure out where to point your antenna for the best signals.


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Crafting ‘Til We Drop

There’s been lots more crafting than cooking in our house this past week. Glorious, messy, time-consuming, experimental crafting that’s left me too drained to blog. But oh, what fun.

If you haven’t read Inkblots by Margaret Peot, you’re missing a fascinating look at the history of inkblots and an opportunity to get creative.

Lupe gives it a try. This first one didn’t turn out quite as she planned…

Here’s attempt #2. What do you see?

We had hot (okay, so I’m the kind of wimp who thinks that 80 degrees is sweltering) and sunny weather, which meant it was time to break out the solar print kit Grandma Sandy gave us a year ago. Yes, there really have been so few sunny days between then and now that we have yet to use all the paper.

Rue made the happy face on the far right out of bits of clematis leaves. And Lupe, my crazy-cat-lady-in-training, made a feline-inspired print out of a hydrangea leaf, ferns, and bits of twig.

Soy paints stenciled onto burlap to DIY my own version of burlap-covered glasses I spied that were going for nine bucks a pop at a fancy store in town.

And finally, I’ve been working on a little something for a special girl’s upcoming birthday. Lily, if your parents are reading this, they’re going to get a preview of your birthday gift. It’s inspired by the greatest thing I’ve learned from children ages 1-5:  Y’all love felt pieces.

So now, you’ve got a set of your own!

It comes with soft felted squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, and half circles packed into a chic little carrying case for the girl on the go. Everything is sized so that two rectangles are the same size as the square and two half circles match the size of a full circle. Think of the math! Think of the discoveries! Think of the design possibilities!

I know. Pretty amazing, right? At least I hope you think so because…

Sorry, no gift receipt.

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A Bouquet That Will Never Wilt: Twisted Wire with Buttons and Beads

One of the best things about going to parties is getting to know people. And one of the best things about getting to know people is learning cool things from them. That’s what happened when Rue and I went to a tea party at the home of a good friend. She had invited another friend who brought a beautiful, homemade hostess gift made out of heavy gauge wire and buttons. I feel like I practically interrogated the woman to learn what to do, and now the girls and I are completely obsessed with this craft.

Here’s what you need:

1. some 20-gauge wire–we bought ours at a craft store

2. an assortment of buttons and beads

3. sharp scissors

4. pliers

5. power drill (optional)

And here’s what you do:

1. Cut a length of wire, taking into consideration that you’ll be bending it in half, then twisting it.

2. Place a button or bead at the point where the wire bends. Like all the stains on our craft table? So much for washable markers.

3. Clamp the wire beneath the button with your fingers or pliers, and twist the two strands of wire together.

4. Set another bead or button.

5. Clamp and twist.

6. And repeat and repeat until you’re almost at the end of the wire. You’ll soon have something that looks like this (different than the one in the previous photo):

Uh-oh. Better finish up. Zigity’s putting his foot down. It’s time for a meal. He eats more frequently than an infant.

7. Wrap up the loose ends of the wire. You can use your hands. Or you can tap the power grid:

Clamp the pliers beneath your last button or bead. Put the ends of the wire into a power drill–no bits–and tighten. Then, power it up.

You might bend or tape the very ends if your little ones will be holding these.

I thought the gal who made these for the party said there’s a way to use the power drill to do all of the twisting, but I couldn’t figure it out. So I used my man-hands. And that’s totally doable. The girls were able to twist the wire with their hands as well.

So what are these good for? They make a beautiful arrangement in a vase. Loop a super-long one around a glass jar and make a pencil holder, as we did for Lupe.

They make a pretty embellishment on a gift.

Or keep it simple. Rue prefers to unleash their magic–they make fabulous wands. And swords.

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Live Action Angry Birds: Or, How You, Too, Can be Parents of the Year

I recently stumbled upon the Gnome Catapult at Kleas, and I knew we had to do it. It was a craft. A slightly destructive craft. A competitive craft. I had a hard time sleeping that night. The excitement was almost unbearable.

And then, an idea came to me in the wee hours of the morning. An idea that I couldn’t ignore.

Although not much tops the idea of flinging gnomes into the air, what if we created our own version of Angry Birds?

It didn’t take too much effort to get everyone on board.

With the clock ticking on my Jo-Ann coupons, we ran down to the craft store and bought a small bag of large wooden beads that are flat on one end.

That’s all we needed. With the help of some Sharpie pens, googly eyes, bits of yarn, feathers snipped from Rue’s boas, and a hot glue gun…

Angry Cat keeps popping up.

We had us some pretty fancy (and fierce) Angry Birds.

From left to right: Rue’s, Nacho Man’s, Lupe’s, and mine

Then, we needed an almost impermeable structure and some rude pigs. We used our beloved Citiblocs. We only had one pig, so we supplemented with a dinosaur, zebra, rhino, cat, tiger, and lion. And we actually had boulders. It’s like it was meant to be.

Next up: launch. We opted for a catapult, as Nacho Man seemed to have a problem with using a sling shot to propel a wooden ball across the room.

As the youngest, Rue went first. She calmly set up her bird, then bid it adieu.

And took out half the structure! But look, there in the lower right, the pig is laughing at us.

I have to admit that none of us matched Rue’s success. We tried, and tried, and tried, and took a snack break, and tried some more, but the pig eluded us.

Nacho Man really went all out with his bird. It’s even got a “bird nest” of feathers, which got a little thinner with each launch, as soft pink tufts floated gently to the ground. That blurry figure in the foreground of the photo is the pig, taunting Nacho Man’s bird.

In the end, it was Rue who managed to take out the remnants of the structure and the pig. Didn’t surprise any of us in the least.

Of course, we weren’t the first to come up with the idea of taking Angry Birds out of the screen. We’re never the first to think of anything. Still, I love our little birds. If you’d like to see some other craftiness, a quick Google search revealed these gems:

Make and Takes

Craft: Transforming Traditional Crafts

Crafts by Amanda

Dollar Store Crafts

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Teacher Appreciation Week

May 2-6 is Teacher Appreciation Week, and May 3rd is National Teacher Day, and I’m feeling the need to do something for my daughter’s amazing teachers. There’s nothing quite like public school teachers. They are not only teachers, but advocates, coaches, cheerleaders, listeners, and about a million other things that I’m probably forgetting and that they aren’t compensated for.

So if anyone out there has a great suggestion for letting our teachers know how much we appreciate all their hard work, please post a reply!

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I’m Micheline, a part-time librarian and full-time wife. I’m also the Pho Girl. I’m married to the Nacho Man. We live in the suburbs outside Seattle, Washington with our two beautiful daughters and two entertaining cats. I love great books, am a little obsessed with home projects, and have recently taken up running. And we like food. Lots of it. Between Nacho’s Man’s Hispanic and Polish heritage, my Vietnamese and Wisconsin farm girl background, our daughter’s gluten-free diet, and the bounty of amazing food we can get in the Pacific Northwest, we eat well. Our family is a living, breathing example of fusion cuisine.

We aren’t fancy, but we do believe that it’s possible to live richly yet simply. I’ll share stories, recipes, crafts, and activities that hopefully illustrate that point. I’ll also unabashedly promote some of my favorite books! Thanks for stopping by.

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