Friday, March 23, 2012

The Story of Spring

This Story of Spring begins last year when a family of chickadees made a nest in an old decorative birdhouse I just happened to hang on an empty plant hanger.  I though it looked cute and forgot all about it.  Well, the little chickadee family made themselves right at home. It was fun to watch them come and go as they built the nest and brought food home to the nestlings.

I happened to be home the day they decided to fly the coop.
It was an amazing process that I witnessed in complete wonder.

These guys are hungry and getting a little vocal....

I had to take these pictures through the glass, so they are a little foggy,
 but I think it kind of adds to the mystique...
Some close ups....


Three.... with Mom or Dad.
Notice the babies have bright yellow beaks...

I could see that the little guy below was getting kind of curious...
  He reminded me of a story told by my friend, Joan, a preschool teacher, 
about a little girl in her class who was asked to do something in front of the group.  
The little girl hesitated, squeezed her eyes closed, drew a deep breath 
and said " I need to find my brave..."
She mustered up her courage and did her little thing 
and her teacher was moved beyond words.
I think this little bird is maybe trying to find his brave, too.
Watch what happens!

One leg out.  A little awkward, perhaps....

Maybe I need to start over and try something else...

OK, now I'm really gonna do this!

Here goes!

One wing out...

And now the other one!  Whoopie!

I was so excited to see him come out and fly away 
that I didn't get a picture of that, but trust me, he did!  

And now, look who's next!

The Eternal Story of Spring....
A wonder to behold.

PS. They're back again this year!  Stay tuned....

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lucky Irish

St. Patrick's Day is almost upon us and I thought you might enjoy a little field trip... 
Years ago when the offspring were wee, Mr. Grand and I packed them up 
and whisked them over to the "homeland" for a Grand Tour.

Ireland was as lush and verdant as we had imagined and the people were friendly and warm. 
 The weather was fairly typical for August - cloudy and cool, but it never did rain on us. 
 We visited some Irish friends we had made years ago and we explored for days.  

One of our favorite stops was Blarney Castle.

This is the view from the top of Blarney Castle,
 built in 1446 on the site of several even earlier medieval structures:

We kissed the Blarney Stone but the magical gift of blarney has eluded us...  
As you can see, it did take some courage...

You had to lay down and lean over backwards 
and stretch your head even farther back 
to kiss the bottom of the stone.
The green grass you see in the opening above is about 100 feet down
and there was no safety net... 

After that thrilling feat, we practically skipped away to our next destination

We hiked up green hills that were soggy even at the top
and it was often windy...

Very, very windy!

Southern Ireland reminded me of Hawaii -without the volcanoes, but just as lush.
These two had fun exploring the rain forest.
Irish Gothic, maybe?

There were scenic overlooks around every turn...

 Connemara was dramatic and bucolic and enchanting...

The smell of burning peat was often present 
and sort of pleasant...

Fishing villages and water everywhere...

The Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula 
are famous for the cliffs and rocks and pounding surf...

The Transatlantic cable was laid here
in County Kerry at Telegraph Field in 1857, 
creating the first permanent communications link between Europe and America.
Just think of the advances in communication since then...

There were colors and flowers galore.

There were Cottages...

  and Castles...

And Cliffs...

The Irish eyes were certainly smiling!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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Monday, March 12, 2012

*Grand* Decoupage iPod Case- Made from an Altoids Tin

Here's a little Decoupage tutorial using Mod Podge and flowered paper napkins
 to turn an Altoids tin into a hard case for your iPod Nano or Mini.  

I have kept my iPod in an Altoids tin for years.
 It's not pretty but it works-
 it holds my ear buds and it stays safe in the chaos at the bottom of my purse.
I have thought many times about how I could make it nicer.  
(Or at least look different so I knew which one had Altoids in it and which one had the iPod!)

I started with a clean, empty Altoids tin, 
but there are many other brands and sizes that could be used,
and they could hold lots of other little things...

I decide to spray paint it and then decoupage it
 using some flowers cut out from paper napkins.

I had some green spray paint tucked away in the crafty cabinet.

And some Mod Podge... 
I happen to like the glossy finish, but a matte finish is available, too.

 And then I dug some pretty flowered napkins out of the crafty cabinet.
I had been saving these for the perfect "someday" project.  
This was it.  
Time to sacrifice a few of my treasured napkins for this project.

It only took one of the napkins because the front and back and insides were also printed.

So I have one pink flower and one orange flower 
from the same napkin to use on the top and the bottom of the Altoids tin.

I spray painted the tin green, trying hard to do a very light coat, 
something I have never really been successful at.  
Fortunately for this project, the surface does not have to be perfect 
because the decoupage texture hides a lot of things...

I let it dry and I opened and closed it a few times while it hardened 
so the hinges didn't get painted in place.

Some tins like this one have an embossed label and pattern on the top 
and I didn't want that to show through the flowers, 
so I glued a few layers of plain white tissue torn from the same napkin 
over the Altoids letters to smooth them out, sort of like spackling them.
You can skip this step if the lid of your tin is smooth.

I let this dry while I cut out the flowers,
 leaving a tiny border around the edges.  
I love doing this part...  it's kinda mindless.
This really does not have to be too neat, as the tissue frays slightly 
when you paint the Mod Podge on and the edges soften.

I repeated this step with the orange flower.  

Most paper napkins are three ply, 
and so you need to remove two of the plies to use only the top, printed layer.  

One layer fell right off when I cut the flower out and the second layer was easy to peel off, too.

Now the two flowers are ready to decoupage onto the tin.  
The fun part!

I painted a thin layer of Mod Podge on the tin right over the white layers I had put on 
and then laid a flower over the top.  
I applied more Mod Podge to the entire flower, 
working from the center to the edges 
and trying to make my brush strokes go in the direction of the flower petals. 
I let the flower petals overhang the edges.

I let this dry til I could handle it- that took just a few minutes.
Then I applied the second flower to the bottom of the tin.

I let the first coat dry 
and then I added several more layers of Mod Podge to the outside of the tin, 
allowing time to dry between coats.
 This will help protect the case 
from all of the sharp, dangerous objects at the bottom of my purse...

I love how these turned out! 
I made two different ones - one with an embossed lid 
and one with a smooth lid so you can see the difference.

It cost me nothing since I had all of the supplies on hand.  
I feel so virtuous.   
I think I'll go shopping now.

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