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Category Archives: crafty

personalized napkin rings

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Pia’s cousins came over this weekend to spend the night and their mom had requested that we do a craft. She is attempting to use cloth napkins more often at home, but she wanted to avoid having to wash them after every meal, since napkins don’t get that dirty after one meal (especially in a house with older kids). So she wanted a system that would allow each kid to keep their own napkin from meal to meal. We came up with personalized napkin rings, which my nephew, John, took a step further and said they should be personalized with their Thai initials.  First the kids strung beads and shells of their choosing onto wire. Then we busted out the button maker, made flat-back buttons with their initials, and taped them to the beaded rings. I’m not sure how well they’ll hold up over time, but if they break we can come up with a new napkin ring design. And the fun will begin anew.


happy: watercolor pencils

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I woke up with a cold and spent most of the day moping on the couch (and reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, which I find fascinating). After my blissful Saturday I felt quite blue that Sunday wasn’t destined for the same level of happy. But then Pia, sensing I needed cheering up, asked me if I wanted to draw. And drawing with Pia is, hands down, my absolute favorite thing to do. We brought out the watercolor pencils (a most delightful medium) and set out to anthropomorphize our cats, Haile and Darwin. Drawing our 24-pound cat in a ski sweater is now my surefire ticket to a jolly mood.

happy: coffee filter snowball

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Days like this are too few and far between. Pia woke up happy and agreeable and we spent the morning bouncing between projects, games and silliness. Usually there are two to three meltdowns before noon. Today, zero. Happy. After lunch she was seized by the idea that she wanted to learn how to skateboard (inside, of course) and now she is making a kite. I think she is ready for spring.

We made the snowball (above) by attaching coffee filters to a styrofoam ball with t-pins. There were many squeals of delight as we were making it. Most of them were mine. I love projects like this that are super cool and super easy. I want to make a dozen more.

drink, wrap in yarn, display, recycle

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I saw the idea of wrapping bottles in yarn on pinterest and was intrigued enough to try it. So, one evening during sewing club I busted out the elmers, scrap yarn and clean beer bottles. It was very fun to do and I was all excited about the finished project until I noticed the raised eyebrows of the other stitchers that evening. Maybe the idea wasn’t as cool as I had thought. This happens quite a bit as the creative side of my brain doesn’t have much of a filter.  Nonetheless I gave them to my mother-in-law this weekend as a birthday present, saying that she could enjoy them for a while and then recycle them when she was tired of them. I think. Meribeth, can I get a ruling on this? Surely glass bottles can still be recycled even if they’ve been wrapped in yarn, no? The yarn would burn off in the melting process just as paper labels would, I presume. But now I’m concerned that I just made a recyclable item non-recyclable. Please advise.

a painting for my niece, only one year late

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FInishing projects that have been languishing for months (ok, ok, a year) feels very satisfying. Case in point, this painting I started in November of 2010 and finally got around to finishing the night before Christmas Eve, 2011. A complicated painting? Not at all. A project that warranted taking 13 months? Not in the least. Perhaps I need to devote the month of January to finishing all my unfinished projects. Before starting any new ones. Ah, therein lies the rub.

on the norwegian heritage note

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In my krumkake post I mentioned my half-Norwegian blood. My dad’s dad came over from Norway when he was a boy. My dad’s mom’s parents came over when they were young. So I do know that I am solidly Norwegian on that side. On my mom’s side is a collection of German and Bohemian genes. Bohemia, mind you, NOT Czechoslovakia. This is what we were told over and over when we were kids. Which was confusing as kids because Bohemia isn’t a country. So we would ask where it was and then were told it was in Czechoslovakia. At which point we would say, “so, we’re Czech?” and then the whole thing would begin anew with the Bohemian thing. As a result, I think it was easier to latch onto the Norwegian heritage thing. It was more concrete. There was the lutefisk. And the fjords. And Johann Olav Koss.

Anyway, for Christmas this year Jim and I made a board game for my parents called “Off to Norway” and the premise was that the entire Gundersen family (all 25 of us) had become bored with the U.S.A. and decided to move back to the old country. In the game, teams compete to be the first team to get all the Gundersens back to Vardo, Norway (where my Grandpa was born). To do this they have to answer questions, draw pictures, and have a bit of good luck. Not just any questions, of course, but questions from the vault of Gundersen Fact or Fiction questions (a search of our blog archives has alerted me to the fact that I have never written about GForF… must remedy this situation). And not just any pictures, but pictionary terms that have a slight Gundersen twist to them, like “Mosby” (our family cat that had a bit of a litter box problem) and “Winnebago” (our first motor home) and “Parkcrest” (the pool we went to as kids). I had the most fun coming up with the ‘luck of the draw” cards where I wrote funny things about how each of the Gundersens would handle a trans-atlantic move. For example:

  • Jim decides this move is the perfect time to attempt a north pole conquest. He straps a kayak to his backpack, dons his wooden cross country skis and tells the family he’ll meet them in Vardo. 4 days later the family has to rescue him as global warming has made the passage impossible. Go back 3 spaces.
  • Grandma, faced with the wide Atlantic Ocean, stands firm in her refusal to travel by plane or ship. The family must build a bridge for the motor home. Miss two turns for this construction.
  • Van decides to organize a “soldier boy” flashmob in the airport. It is a huge hit, but takes up some time. Miss a turn.
  • George (the youngest of three boys) finally stands up to Henry (his older brother who is a bit rough) and wallops him. Go ahead 2 spaces for the underdog.
Of course these are only really funny if you are a Gundersen, but you get the idea. Surely there are quirks about every member of any family that make everyone else laugh. Anyway, I spent many a night before Christmas laughing out loud while writing these down. If the players of the game get even an eighth of the amusement that I had making it then it will all be worth it. Actually, even if the game never gets played it will be worth it because it totally cracked me up. And gift-giving is all about the giver, we’ve established that before, no?
Jim designed the game board and we glued it down to an old “Go to the Head of the Class” game board. I love that I can tell Jim any random idea I have in my head and ask him to design it on the computer and he will say ‘ok’. And do it with a smile. And it ends up looking cool.

Now I need to go brush up on my Bohemian history. I will start by reading  Neighborhood by Norbert Blei. While eating kolache.

Off the needles, on the tree

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I finished the doll blanket for my niece a full 90 minutes before she arrived on Christmas morning – plenty of time to spare.

The boys also did a little crafting for Christmas gifts this year.  They helped make a few (20?) ornaments, but I couldn’t post pictures until they’d been handed out.  Tea’s were hand-prints-turned-snowmen and Pea’s were thumbprints-turned-reindeer.  The boys managed to not get craft paint anywhere but on their ornaments – a true Christmas miracle.  We also made a clothespin tree forest that I somehow neglected to photograph.  Tea has been asking if it’s too late to make gingerbread houses, so we may try to construct one sometime during the week he’s home on break, but I suspect he’s mainly interested in eating the candy decorations.  Maybe I’ll save myself the effort and just buy him a bag of gumdrops?  We’ll see…