Friday, November 2, 2012

T-Shirt Monstrosities: Calavera Creation

La Calavera Catrina - This is a clay statuette representing J.G. Posada's La Catrina

Today, November 2, is All Souls Day.  A day to remember and reflect on our dearly departed.  In a former life, let's say about 11 years ago, a young, unmarried Spanish teacher took her students to Mexico.  And, as a Spanish teacher is wont to do, she bought some stuff.  Some books, some decor for the classroom.  But she fell in love with a t-shirt.  It was a really nice t-shirt, only it was too big.  A men's medium that made her look like a kid wearing a paint shirt to art class.  But... it was a really great t-shirt, so she bought it anyway.  And she's kept it.  She wears it, sometimes with a flashy belt and leggings each November 2nd, especially those November 2nds that saw her in front of a classroom full of eager-to-learn students.  It was a vehicle to teach about José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican print artist and satirist. Well.  This gem has been in the drawer for 11 years and this year, she decided to make some changes.  She decided she'd wear it more often if it fit better.  It was time for a hack job.

The interweb is, really...FILLED with ideas to repurpose, alter, upcycle your old t-shirts.  I spent some time this morning looking some ideas up and settled on one that would make my t-shirt more form-fitting.  Here's what I did:

I watched this YouTube video.  It's lengthy, but provided a good jump-off point.

Then, I put on the shirt for one last 'whole' picture (see? Too big!):
Here's J.G. Posada's El Catrín and La Catrina

Then I got to work:

I trimmed the bottom seem, cut off the sleeves just inside the seam, and squared off the neck opening.

Then, folding the shirt to enable cutting strips in just the back, I cut the back into about 1 inch strips.

Then, you stretch out each cut, effectively stretching and rolling each strip of jersey.

Then, I took the second strip, put it under the first and then over it, drop the first and use it to pick up the third row.  This 'weaves' the fabric.  I did this process three times and then clipped the bottom row, and tied off the loose strings to knot and secure the weaving. 

Using a little strip of fabric from the sleeves, I stretched and rolled that and tied it around the sleeves of the new 'tank' for some visual interest!

Voilá! Now I have a Día de los Muertos tank that I can layer up and show off my adoration of J.G. Posada more often!  I need to tweek the back neck line a bit and I did end up tying off the other shoulder as well!  Fun project!

Here are some links to Wikipedia pages if you are looking for more information on this really interesting and fun holiday as celebrated in Mexico!

A page about La Calavera Catrina:

A page about José Guadalupe Posada:

A page about Día de los Muertos:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

the COOP scoop

 Rome wasn't built in a day.  Nor was our chicken coop.'s now done! And a project like this one deserves a chapter in the family history book. Or blog. So. Here goes it!

Coop Chronicles

If you read my last entry, you know that we had some disappointed ladies in the house after our mishap with assuming the farm supply store would have chicks the day before Easter.  That darn 'assume' addage--when will I learn?

A week or so after Easter, we did indeed, bring home our first batch o' chicks!  The were fuzzy.  They peep-peeped all the way home.  I seat-belted them in (in a box, silly) in the passenger seat and turned the seat warmer on for them.  The girls and I so enjoyed their musical chorus we turned off the radio and listened to our acapella lady quartet.

Chad and I are fortunate to have backyard chicken farmers in our circle of friends, and their input in addition to a lot of reading on the internet and a few books, made us feel ready to take the plunge into egg-laying plumage. We found the book City Chicks written by Patricia Foreman to be a very good resource.  We formatted a lot of our coop/chicken run/ and brooding box design with the recommendations from this book.  We also researched our city's chicken keeping codes and applied for a license.  Here's the proof:

Here is a link to the page where you can find the permit application: 

Here's a picture of the brooding box and our day-old Aruacana/Americana Chicks.

We included a sand-box for grit and sand bathing.  A chick feeder and a rock lined water feeder.  We had a red heat lamp keeping the temperature for our fragile little ladies a toasty 95-98degrees.  We also built a training roost for them.  Here are a few pictures of the girls and our other little girls:

Zoe with Spot, Charlotte with Chickie, and Mauren with Cutie

A week later we added a couple Buff-Orpingtons to our micro flock. This is Buffy, The Buff Orpington Vampire Slayer meeting week-old Cutie.

Buffy's sidekick, Willow, stretching her lil' neck!

Two week old Americana chicks and One week old Buffs--feathering out nicely!

And while the chicks ate, drank and pooped merrily, they grew.  And grew.  And their permanent home grew as well! 

It all started with one of the first purchases Chad and I made.  We bought a house.  Then a couch.  Then an armoire.  Hey, it was 2001 and everyone had one.  Plus we had a mammoth TV set with a smallish screen, a record player, a stereo and a cd burner.  And a Play-Station.  Face it, we were kids.  What did we know?  Anyway, it worked well for us at the time.  Eventually, as technology got smaller and smaller and there wasn't time for after-bar dance parties and video games, we transitioned our entertainment armoire to be our 'craft cupboard'.  It worked well for that, too, but it dominated our smallish dining room.  So.  Chad's big idea to raise backyard chicks in addition to the indoor variety inspired my taking a second look at the armoire--and seeing a barn in it.   We determined it would work for our plans if we insulated it, ran electricity into it to provide lighting and a heat lamp, found a space for laying boxes, and roosts--and the rest is history! Here's the make-over process:

1.  We started with our Pine entertainment cupboard. 

2. Chad added insulation, and then sheathed it with plywood he rescued from a pallet in a construction dumpster (with permission) so that the chickens won't peck the insulation.

3.  Helpers helped. Kinda.

4. Chad took out the drawers, sawed the fronts off and made a false front to keep the appearance of drawers.  He cut a pop hole near the bottom right, and a ramp.  He cut a hole in the 'floor' of the top portion and built a ramp and a ladder to get the hens from the bottom to the top.  He had a piece of plexiglass cut to size and framed up a small window to give the hens natural lighting and fitted that. He also installed vents.  He added weather stripping along all the doors, and secure latches.

5.  Then Chad primed the whole structure.  Very evenly.  And then someone let me near the paint bucket.  We found 'barn red' paint at Menards.  Nice color, but this girl should NOT be permitted within 50 feet of a paint pail.  Someone may have to apply for a restraining order.  The result was very, very, VERY bad.  Good thing this is a chicken coop and chickens don't seem to mind runs in their paint jobs! Not to worry, from a distance, it looks okay.  And later, when the gobbed on paint dries appropriately enough, we can sand it down and Chad can fix my mistakes!

6.  Chad, with help from our brother-in-law Phil and his dad Mike, set in posts for fencing in the chicken run.  Chad built a gate using a 'gate kit' from Menards.  We used green rectangular garden fencing lined with traditional chicken wire to fence in the structure.  Chad dug the fencing in to prevent resident foxes and raccoons too easy of a 'dig' job to enter the run.  I added the white picket 'fencing' as whimsy.  Chad built a hinged cover over most of the run so we can lift it up to muck out the run.  He used corrugated rubber/asphalt sheet roofing to give the roof of the coop more rain protection and used the same material to make a portion of the run covered to provide protection from sun and rain.   We also put eye hooks in the underside of the garage roof to attach roping that will go through the coop to enable the hops we have growing in that location a place to climb.  We added some drift wood and an old 'garden table' to provide some places to roost in the run, as well.

7.  After mounting the coop to the garage to ensure stability in windy conditions, Chad's next challenge was fencing around the pop-hole.  He built a guillotine style door on a pulley to open/close the pop-hole door.  Addy is very intrigued by the chicks.  They are in the run keeping Chad company in this picture!

8.  Here's the view of the ramp, and pop-hole door from inside the run. 

9.  Inside of the roosting area.

10.  Ladder from lower level ramp to the roosts.

11.  The lower level pop-hole, ramp to 'upstairs' and the two laying boxes, lined with faux-grass liners.  We've also included some wooden eggs that we have been told will tell our girls where to lay and if they peck at them out of curiosity they will find it isn't tasty and potentially prevent egg-eating. 

12.  Their feathers only look ruffled.  This is their awkward teenage stage!  They like their new digs!

13. Ta-Da!  Farmer Chad and part of his brood.  He was so worried about the girls on their first night outside (5/18/2012)!  He had to usher the girls into their new home.  The next night, they
went in on their own, though! 

We're looking forward to egg hunts in our near future! Bock-buck!

And here's a little monster-themed chicken performance to round things out:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Confessions of an (im)Perfect Mom...

...The Easter 2012 Edition

You're reading my blog? Whoa. I had a story rolling around in my noggin and then some little dendrite kicked me in the frontal lobe saying, "You have a blog, dummy. Use it." Okay, dendrite, relax. You win.

Visions of Sugar Bunnies, Baby Chicks and Lamb(chops) Danced...

In my role as Mama Monster I see all levels of greasy, grime and goo. But one has no idea of how much of that you blindly live with until you are about to host your first family holiday event. And that just kind of happened. We decided we were taking our zoo of a family to the next level by introducing baby chicks to our current brood. We've been hatching plans for a while. We checked out a lot of books. We bought some books. We took notes. We built a coop and a chicken run in production. And we have a baby chick brooding box in post-production. With chicks bouncing around, we thought it best to celebrate Easter in Duluth this year. We've long been transplants in the most beautiful city in our state. (Oh yeah. I said it. I mean it, too!) That means as calendar pages turn, holidays see us packing our bags and making the rounds. Not content with this idea, the Piersons decided to come to us! What a treat! Grandma and Grandpa, Auntie Suz, Uncle Phil and Baby Jack are some of our little monsters' most favoritist people on the planet. I cannot fault them for this assessment. They are pretty grand.

Now, at 35 years of age, I finally know the second looks a hostess gives the baseboards, cupboard fronts, fridge shelves, finger smudges(nose smudges, licking marks? Ew.) on every window (every single one!), grimy door jams, ceiling fan blades, that gross spot behind the base of the toilet...need I go on? There was more. So, spring cleaning was a little more in earnest this year. Cool air returns were thoroughly dusted, not that my in-laws would likely notice. And living in a house with three kids and a shedding dog meant two steps forward, eight back. Seriously. But. As it always does, it worked out just fine. Chad and I meal planned. We hoped to find some yummy lamb for Easter dinner but settled on prime rib. It was prime indeed! We spent fun hours together--crafting, cooking, working on the chicken coop, dyeing eggs, swimming in the hotel pool, eating, more swimming and more eating.

And I'd like to touch on some of the wins and fails of my holiday weekend.

Wins Column:

**Mauren and Zoe spent a night of slumber partying with Grandma and Grandpa at the hotel. They did this Saturday night and the Easter Bunny even knew they were there and hid some eggs in the hotel room for them! And it was brilliant to have them arrive home to scurry around finding their Easter Baskets and eggs.

**Zoe would spend every waking minute 'making crafts' if I let her. We wouldn't have room to live with all of her creations if I do, so I limit it to once or twice or thrice per day. But she spent an hour or longer working on an Easter tree with Grandma Reenie that became our centerpiece. It was lovely.

**I changed multiple infant boy diapers without getting peed on. Success. And snuggles with a beautiful, smiling, cooing, thumb-twiddling baby boy? Priceless.

**Chad was chef extraordinaire serving up a fish fry with 'caught the previous day crappies' courtesy of Grandpa Mike, Brined turkey breast smoked on the Weber (Yum. My fave!), Pasta Carbonara with pancetta from Northern Waters Smokhaus (Unreal. Really.), and a smoked Prime Rib Roast for Easter. Mary's little lamb was unharmed (this year) for our Easter meal. With most meals Chad served up some of his favorite beers, some of which were his own. Give a geeky boy a chemistry project that involves finding specific gravity, high temperatures and the end result is beer? Chad loves his new hobby!

**Auntie Suzy helped the Easter bunny out with some tips that some big girls needed ballet slippers in their Easter baskets. Legwarmers, too. The ballerinas have been very busy ever since.

**Charlotte is speaking in near full sentences. She is working on pronouns and mixes her prepositions, but she is getting it. Some of her fave sentences this weekend included:
--I hold her? I hold Baby Yak. (J sounds are awfully difficult and in her defence, she is around a large number of girls in her daily life.)
--Mama? More candy? Please? More beans? Jelly beans? Please? Me eating? (These requests were made with signs for 'more', 'please' and 'eat' just to make sure we understood. Valiant effort was made. Some caving resulted. Her six teeth, well-brushed.)

**Grandpa Mike didn't know what to do with a day of the girls crafting while Chad had to work. I guess hot glue guns don't appeal to him, much. He took his dog for a walk. After he drove to Two Harbors and checked out the fishing in the McQuade Harbor, walked the lake, and saw the first 'Saltie' of the year closing in on our fair port city. And he brought back smoked fish from Lou's. A win! All around!

**Phil and Suzy are parents now. Good ones. A little tired, but glamourously tired all the same. And being new parents hasn't put a dent in their awesome Aunt/Uncle personas. Each of the girls loved every moment, every snuggle. Having our siblings love our kids so powerfully? It's fundamentally ________ (<--- I just don't have the right adjective to put there, but my feelings are powerful on the subject!).

There were SO MANY wins this weekend. Do I need to twist the dagger in my heart as to the fails? Well. Sure. Fails at the time are heartbreaking. When I next read this, they will likely make me laugh (some already do!)

Fails Column:

**After washing all the windows on Thursday morning, I take another look at the windows upstairs Thursday afternoon. They are streaky. They are covered in finger prints. Mauren and Zoe say, "Mom, we thought we'd get the windows extra clean so we used a washcloth and the foaming bathroom soap and cleaned them all again for you." I have to appreciate the gesture, right?

**After months of planning, building, buying stuff, finding out when chicks start being available at the farm supply store in Cloquet, reading, watching YouTube videos on chick care with the girls, one would ALMOST think that Chad and I would have been smart enough to pre-order baby chicks to be ready the Saturday before Easter. Almost. I did think of it. Five miles north of Cloquet. After all ten of us were loaded up in two vehicles to make the grand purchase of our lil' baby chicks. The ladies. We entered the farm room, saw all the galvanized steel troughs, see the warming lights beckoning us with their rosy glow. Oh no. No peeping. Worse. No chicks. Crying ensues. Orders are made. Fingers are crossed there will be more ladies in the house on Thursday. EPIC, STUPID, IRRESPONSIBLE, REVOLTING, IDIOTIC FAAAAIIILLLL! AAaaCCkk!

**Not a true fail, but a funny one. On Friday, the girls and I went swimming at the hotel with Grandma Reenie. Washing the pool residue from their little bodies in the hotel room afterwards, a large tub with a view of the television equipped with something magical called Nickolodean, Mauren tells me, "This kind of tv with commercials?" Yeah?, I respond. "I like these commercials. They give me ideas for things to want." Advertisers out there? She is on to you...but, I guess what you do? It works! Fur Reals. No. Really. She wants something called a FurrReal. A bunny that hops around.

**Last night as we were getting ready for bed, Zoe reveals the underbelly side of a slumber party with Grandma and Grandpa. Sorry elders, this is an outing. It is noisy...Grandma snores a little, but Grandpa SNORES SO LOUDLY!!!

**It wasn't all moonbeams and lullabies for the Grandparents either, this slumber party thing. Turns out, Zoe is an octopus. Grandma saw them both sitting bolt upright at one point in the night. The girls? No recollection of such event.

**That very night, Charlotte woke up with a night terror. Screaming in her high-pitched angry voice, "No! Zoe, NOOOOOO!" She got over it, though.

**Charlotte, at a loss as to where her sisters may be on Easter morning, requested Ra-Ra Noodle Soup (Ra Ra noodle poop, as she calls it) for breakfast. Ramen for breakfast? Well. Auntie Bek may approve. And. It's a holiday. Okay.

**And the last FAIL of the weekend? Didn't happen on the weekend. It happened today. I went in to the YMCA to burn some of the very, very numerous Easter calories I ingested over the weekend. I dropped off the girls in the Kids Club (that part is a win!), worked out, felt good, reveled in the endless supply of hot water shower afterwards and picked up the girls. Mauren and Zoe were bursting with angst. Indignation. Scorn. Disbelief. Anger. Injustice. Words spilled from their mouths before crossing the gated threshold between the 'kids' area and the 'parents' area. A boy told them that the Easter Bunny wasn't real. That the magical bunny who loves them and brings them candy and Zhu Zhu pets, kites, bubbles and ballet slippers is 'make believe'. Eyes are teary. Kids Club attendants quickly butt in and say, "That boy was lying. He was being mean. And it isn't true. And we talked to him." And I said, not everyone believes the same things. We get to choose what we believe in. Who we believe in. And I believe in you. And you know what? Boys who don't believe in the Easter Bunny? Well. The Easter Bunny has no time for kids like that. Those kids don't get a visit from the Easter Bunny. Isn't that sad? Isn't that terrible? They agreed. And listed the things they believe in. You know. Fairies. Mermaids. Santa. The Easter Bunny. Not aliens. They're extinct, mom.

And that's it. It, you say? This is a dissertation. A thome. But, at the end of things? The wins, the losses? It's a wash. Just the way I like. It's okay to win some. And lose some.

The Easter Tree Zoe, Maurnie & Grandma made with paper flowers and sticks!

A close-up of the spiral flowers.

We're brooding. Becuase our brooding box is empty. Hopefully not for long!

The boys, working on drilling holes for fence posts for the chicken run.


Grandparents and Grandkids!