Archive for Personal

California – February 20th and 21st

On the 20th we made our way from Los Angeles to Cayucos on the central coast. We stopped in Oxnard to pick up a kite and some strawberries.

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We stayed at the Seaside Motel in Cayucos, which was seriously adorable.

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All the rooms have a different decorative scheme like Rambling Rose, Tea for Two, and Fish Fantasy. There was one room left when we got there and it just happened to be exactly the one we wanted, Birdhouse Bungalow.

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There’s also the sweetest little garden in the back of the hotel with lots of beautiful plants, decorations, and places to sit and enjoy the sound of the ocean. We were out in the garden around sunset and saw several hummingbirds whizzing around, as well as some hummingbird moths. I had heard about these, but hadn’t seen one close up before. They apparently like purple, because they were feeding from purple flowers and seemed very interested in my head! There were also some monarch butterflies fluttering around.

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After settling in, we walked the few blocks down to the beach. We had some limited success with our kite, but it was fun trying and the view was nothing to complain about.

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Unfortunately we weren’t able to go out on the pier as it has been condemned due to structural issues. There’s a campaign to raise money to rebuild the pier, check it out here.

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On the 21st, we headed a little north to Cambria to visit Moonstone Beach. The beach is pretty much all rocks rather than a sand beach. Many of these are moonstone, hence the name of the beach. We spent over an hour very happily sprawled out on the beach looking for pretty rocks, until my mom realized the tide was coming in and we had to scoot around an outcropping if we didn’t want to get stranded.

moonstone beach

I was searching out small rocks to use in some teeny glass bottles I had picked up at SCRAP in San Francisco during my last trip. The rocks lose some of their luster when they dry, so I need to experiment with resin and sealers to see what gives them a nice shine. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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California – February 19th

Wednesday was a fun and crafty day! Our first stop was M&L Discount Fabrics is Anaheim. This place is huge, I think we spent over three hours there. About half of the front section of the store is devoted to quilting cottons but there is also a great selection of fleece, minky, lace, and special occasions fabrics as well as patterns, buttons, and notions. We spent most of our time on the back section of the store though.

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There is a HUGE section of flat fold fabric, most $3 per yard. Most of it is cotton but there was also a ton of t-shirt jersey, upholstery fabric, denim, and more.

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Seriously, look how tall some of these stacks are! We could barely see over them.

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It’s a bit of a pain to look through, especially when you find a fabric you like that’s waaaaay at the bottom of the pile. Our poor arms were getting really tired by the end of our visit. The price is right though, and they actually had some nicer quilting cottons and linen-look fabrics.

With sore arms, we headed over to Wildfiber in Santa Monica.

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The store is adorable and well organized and the staff was very friendly. I don’t do much as far as crochet or knitting, but my mother was very excited to see and touch all the beautiful yarns.

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There was a cute place to sit and work and lots of lovely examples of work.

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They also carry a selection of books, buttons, and knitting needles.

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Finally we headed over to Sherman Oaks to play some mini golf at Castle Park. We had so much fun we decided to make mini golf a part of every visit from now on. We played through course three, so we have to other courses to check out when we make it back.

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California – February 18th

I’m still having fun with my mom in California!

On the 18th, we headed over to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. I love visiting museums and science centers, and natural history museums are one of my most favorite. (Yes, I’m a huge nerd.)

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Being very mature adults, we spent the most time in the children’s Nature Lab downstairs.

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The front part of the Nature Lab is made up of tables, each featuring an activity or interactive feature and an illustrated nature story with specimens.

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We wrote our own nature story.

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We participated in fun activities!

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The Dino Hall was our last stop.

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dino bone

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California – February 16th and 17th

This week I’m celebrating my self employment with a long overdue visit to California to see my mom. Although the weather in North Carolina attempted to sabotage my plans with a crazy snow storm, I managed to make it!

Our first day was spent on the high seas! Okay, just off the port of Los Angeles. We had great time on a whale watching tour, where we actually got to see some whales. Well, parts of whales. (They are underwater after all.) We did see a tail, a flipper, and some backs. It was all too quick to snag some decent photos, but it was amazing to see.

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I did get a picture of these cuties hanging out on a buoy. They were supremely unconcerned with our boat.

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Monday was a lot of walking! We started out at The Last Bookstore, which is huge and amazing. The bottom floor is all new books and some movies and music. The building was originally built in 1914 as the headquarters of the Crocker Citizens National Bank. The inside still retains a lot of the original details. Coupled with the cozy chairs and natural light from the high windows, it makes a lovely place to curl up and read.

The second story features a gallery and studio space for local artists.

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Most of the upstairs is taken over by a literal labyrinth of bookshelves stocked with used books for a dollar a piece. Bookcases from every design aesthetic stick out at off angles from each other, stacked haphazardly with odd books. If you’re lucky, the section may be labeled with a sticky note, but mostly you just have to start looking through books to figure out what’s there. It was pretty amazing.

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Going through the tunnel of books, you’ll find more carefully curated used book section. Mysteries and crime books are kept in the old bank vault, obviously.

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After browsing through the books, we headed a couple blocks down to the bead and fabric districts. Our first stop was The Bead Factory. It was huge and amazing and slightly overwhelming. Row after row of bead strands, floor to ceiling. Packages of studs, charms, findings, rhinestones, you name it. Their items are wholesale, so the prices are incredibly reasonable.

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I was obsessing over these strands of agate just a little, they were so gorgeous!

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We checked out several other bead stores in the area and then wandered over to the textile district a block up to peruse.

After nearly shopping until we dropped, we headed a few miles over to Echo Park to check out Sunday’s Best Thrift Apparel. The shop is teensy, but well curated and items are very reasonably priced. The main section is a regular thrift store and there’s a smaller room offering vintage pieces. I was happy to walk out with two cute dresses for $9. We also headed over to Out of the Closet Thrift Store. Proceeds go towards providing free HIV testing, HIV and AIDS medication, and patient advocacy programs.

We headed over to Sage Vegan Bistro and ate way too much before heading back to the hotel for the night.

Why Donner Disappoints Me

Sometimes it’s hard for me to get in the Christmas spirit. I know why; a big, fat part of my Christmas preparation had to be left behind when I moved in 2007. I miss you every year, Christmas Tree Lane.
If you’re not lucky enough to have grown up in a town with a ridiculously huge and kind of famous Christmas display, I pity you. Get in the car and drive there right now. Go marvel at the 140 houses and 300 trees in the nearly two mile stretch. Listen to the carols playing from car windows and tree-mounted speakers. I dare you not to get in the holiday spirit.
Christmas Tree Lane had kind of a depressing start. In 1920, a tree was decorated in honor of a child who had died. Each year, more and more houses joined in. Since then it has only gone dark twice, in 1941 due to wartime restrictions and in 1973 due to the energy crisis. Now around 10,000 people visit every year.
I think my earliest memory of Christmas Tree Lane was caroling with my Girl Scout Troop. We would all bundle up and stand in a makeshift covered bandstand to belt out what I’m sure were terribly off-keep Christmas carols. It was fun though, and we got candy canes and hot cocoa. Candy canes and cocoa is really all the motivation you need at age 8.
As a teenager, nearly every year we’d all bundle up and make the 4 mile loop up on side and back down the other. There’s a shopping center across the street from the end of Christmas Tree Lane, which gives you a nice opportunity to get a rest and warm up in a coffee shop before heading back. If you’re able to walk, I’d definitely recommend it over driving. A lot of the displays are right on the side of the street offer many opportunities to take stupid pictures of you and your friends.There’s also a really ridiculous amount of traffic, and sitting in it is not conducive to holiday good cheer. There are two walk only nights and it’s just lovely walking down the street under the lights strung from tree to tree.
The only disappointment is Donner.

I know that sounds a little strange, let me explain. As you go down Christmas Tree lane, you’ll see the eight tiny reindeer and Rudolph in order. (On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and so on.) So why is Donner annoying? Because he’s only been “Donner” for a short time. Before that it was “Donder”, and for years. I’m not talking a couple of years either, I mean at least a decade. It was always the highlight of the walk when we found Donder, the unfortunate reindeer who couldn’t spell his own name. I’ll never forget, Donder.

Now enjoy these videos of the overachiever house at the end that makes everyone else have a complex.

October Make Out – Night of the Crafting Dead

October’s Make Out with Crown Town Handmade is the one I look forward to all year. Although a free craft taught by a local crafter every month is always fun, can you think of a better way to spend a Thursday evening then getting made up to look like the walking dead?

If it’s not obvious from some of my projects, I love me some zombies. The shuffling and dead eyed Romero kind, the shrieking and flailing 28 Days Later kind, the wormy and meat-obsessed Slither ones, the vacant and gruesome Walking Dead sort, the exploding and gnawing House of the Dead ones. I love them all. Of course I leap at the chance to join their disgusting ranks for an evening.

We used the cheap make-up palettes you can find at the drug store. You’ll also need sponges or brushes for applying, baby powder and a large brush to set everything once you’re done, and a mirror or friend to help you apply.
You want to start out by applying a thin layer of white of gray to your face and neck. Don’t glob it on; you want to look like you’re bloodless, not a clown. (Unless you’re going to zombie clown, and then more power to you.) If the make up is a little thick, you can soften it up a bit with some baby oil. Also, don’t be afraid to use your fingers. You want to dab rather than swipe and don’t forget your lips. Pay particular attention to areas that would be naturally highlighted; like your brow bone, the top of your nose, and tops of your cheeks. This will make these area stand out so you look more gaunt and gruesome once the “shadows” are applied. If you’re not sure where to apply, shine a lamp in your face from above and see what spots are illuminated and which are in shadow.
Use a black or purple to make dark shadows around and under your eyes, in the hollows of your cheeks, and to accentuate any wrinkles. Anything girls generally want to hide, you want to color black. You’ll probably need to make some stupid faces for this, it helps to show off various wrinkles. Suck in your cheeks, smile, scrunch up your eyes or forehead, stretch out your neck.
Once you have the base on, you can add bruises and marks. Use a pale blue eyeliner pencil to make winding veins. Make bruises with a mixture of purples, greens, yellows, and reds. Think about the colors in your own skin and what it looks like when you get a real bruise.
If you want a really fun and gross zombie, grab some liquid latex and congealed blood from the Halloween store or costume shop. (Obviously do not use liquid latex if you’re allergic to latex.) Wipe the make up away where you want to apply the latex and spread a thin layer on. Wait for it to dry and then gently rub or pull at it to make it look like scraped or decaying skin. Add some red and purple and fake blood to make it look like bruised and bloody skin.
If you’re allergic to costume make up or just want to look like a zombie that is more successful at catching unsuspecting victims, try making some edible fake blood. Not only is it safe to put in your mouth, it tastes a little like black forest cake. Much better than eating regular blood. Be aware that this stains like crazy and gets sticky, so wear clothes you don’t care about ruining.
To make it, mix one packet of raspberry jell-o with half of the water called for. Mix in a container of the cheapest maple syrup you can find, like the $1 one. Mix in a few spoonfuls of cocoa powder, the kind used for baking not making cocoa. Once you like the color, mix in enough cornstarch to get a consistency you like. Once you’re finished, get a mouthful of it and let it dribble down your face. (Think how your mouth is numb after the dentist.) Spit out any extra. You’ll probably want to do this outside, which has the added bonus of making it look like there was a horrible, bloody murder.
Happy Halloween everyone. Comment below and let me see your costumes!

Thank you to the wonderful Plaza Muse for letting us use their space!

Nifty Thrifty: Thriftenstein

So, I’m a girl of simple tastes. A bit of a bargain hunter perhaps. If there’s one thing I love more than thrift stores, it’s thrift CRAFT stores. Craft supplies are awesome, but insanely cheap craft supplies make me have a small fits of glee. Not to mention that, like regular thrift stores, thrift craft stores are full of the hilarious mistakes of taste from years past. Naturually I was downright giddy when I got to visit not one, but two, thrift craft stores on a recent trip to California to visit my mom.
The Legacy Thrift & Gift Shop
781 Gravenstein Ave
Sebastopol, CA 95472
My mom and I paid a visit to The Legacy on my previous visit and we couldn’t wait to get back again. We actually had excellent timing; we ended up going to day before they briefly closed for a remodel. The store is now three doors down at 789 Gravenstein Ave while the original space is being completely remodeled. The original shop was well organized and the staff is very helpful and friendly; I’m sure the new space is no different
Besides the great prices, you can feel doubly good about shopping there as proceeds benefit the Sebastapol Area Senior Center, which provides activities and classes for adults and seniors.

Fabric is sold by the pound, trims by the yard, and other materials are prices as marked. They have a large selection of supplies including sewing notions, books, cross-stitch and embroidery, yarns, appliques, and more. They also offer some ready made consignment items.
Our second stop was new to us, but had been around in one place or another since 1976.
801 Toland Street
San Francisco, CA 94124

SCRAP was started as a way to get donated craft and art supplies to underfunded schools as well as artists and parents. SCRAP now diverts up to 200 tons (that’s TONS) of materials that would otherwise be sent to landfills. They also offer field trips, classes, volunteer opportunities, or simply just a place to find amazing and weird cheap stuff.
 

SCRAP is really dedicated to creative resuse, which means you’ll find more than just your average art supplies. Not that the selection of art and craft supplies is anything to sneeze at. SCRAP offers fabric, paper goods, buttons, paints, trims, brushes, wood pieces, metal, and glass to name a few. The fun is in the entirely random and wonderful things hiding in there. The picture above is a detail of a huge drum on these. I have no idea what they are; I bought 20. There was a huge bin of teeny glass bottles; another of what looked like promo buttons. There was a rack of books and magazines, which housed a collection of sci-fi novels from the 70’s. (I so would have bought them all if I hadn’t been flying back.) My mom and I spent probably 45 minutes going through tubs of buttons.
Also, there is some rad signage.
Does anyone else visit any similiar places?

Nifty Thrifty – Creature from the Year Thrift-Thousand

This week’s Nifty Thrifty is a little about the view on the way to the thrift store rather than the thrift store itself.
If I can manage to sneak out of work a little early on Fridays, I take a little stroll to the bus stop and head to the thrift store. I work in a fairly industrialized area, but it still makes for a really nice walk after sitting in an office all day. It was so nice this past Friday that I decided to take a few photos on the way.
There are two wooden posts on either side of driveway on the way. One is just a normal, weathered wooden post. The other one is this:

Post Guy looks a little quizzical. Perhaps he’s curious about why has such a severe flat top.

Once I get to the bus stop, there are several trees to wait under.

The bus stop takes me to the light rail station and then to the thrift store. The stations were I live are each decorated in a different theme. The two I see on the way to the thrift store are not two of my favorites, but I do like one thing. The elevator at one is decorated with a mosaic of reflectors. I love the idea of using not artistic things to make art and the reflectors catch the light really nicely.

There are also several ginkgo trees on the walk between the light rail station and the thrift store.  Ginkgo leaves are one of my favorite shades of green and the yellow they turn in autumn is just as pretty. They also satisfy my nerdiness because they’re really interesting trees. NERD ALERT! The ginkgo is classified in it’s own taxonomic classification and is basically a living fossil as it is closely related to species from 200 million years ago. It’s thought that wild growing ginkgo trees died out and the tree was saved and continued only by human cultivation. It’s nice when humans save something instead of killing it. Also, the Chinese name basically means “tree with the leaves like a duck foot”. How awesome is that?

Nifty Thrifty: Attack of the Thrift People

I’ve gushed about thrifted textiles before and how wonderful they are if you sew as a source of plentiful and super cheap fabric. Where else can you get five or six yards of lovely fabric for just a few dollars? Thrifted sheets are especially radical if you like full skirts, which I do, because they’re large enough that you don’t have to do a lot of annoying piecing. Added bonus: they’re already hemmed, which means less hemming for you. This is awesome beause hemming sucks. Case in point:
I made this full wrap skirt with contrasting tie waist in about an hour. Don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t pay off to be cheap and lazy.
Do you want to make your own? You’ll need:
A sheet
Coordinating cotton (about 3/8 of a yard for 45″ wide fabric)
Matching thread
Optional: Tape measure
If you have a wrap skirt you like already, you can just use that as a pattern. If not,  all you need to make your own pattern is a tape measure and a little math. (Just a little, I promise.) A wrap skirt is basically just a modified circle skirt, so you only need two measurements: around your waist where you want the skirt to sit and the length you want the skirt. Multiply your waist measurement by 1.5 to accomodate the overlap, because  flashing people on windy days is bad. You’ll then half that measurement since your fabric will be folded in half.
For example, if you have a 32″ waist:
 32 x 1.5 = 48
48 / 2 = 24
So if you have a 32 inch waist, the top curve of your pattern should be at least 24″ long. The shape we’re working with is a fourth of a circle, so multiply this measurement by 4 to get the entire circumfrence of the circle.
24 x 4 = 96
Divide this number by 6.28 to find the radius of your cirlce. (You can also use this handy calculator.) Since you have a good amount of overlap, you can round the measurement to the nearest whole number to make measuring easier. We’ll  call this final measurement “W“.
96 / 6.28 = about 15″
Determine the length you want the skirt and add 1″ for your hem. We’ll call this measurement “L“.
Now we’re done with math! Fold your sheet in half long ways, so the top and the bottom meet. Your measurements are going to be made from the top corner of the folded edge (see the red circle in the diagram below). From this corner, measure out “W” and then “L” along both sides. Also measure “W” and “L” from this corner along several points in the middle part of the fabric, and connect to draw the top and bottom of the skirt. Pin and cut through both layers of fabric.


You’ll also need to two 5″ wide strips of coordinating 45″ cotton fabric. The easiest way to do this is to just snip into the selvage (the woven edge on the fabric) and then tear along the length of the fabric. Then measure down 5″, make another snip, and tear. Less time cutting and you get nice, straight pieces. Sew the pieces together along one short edge, so you have a piece measuring about 90″ x 5″. (The strip needs to be long enough to wrap around your waist twice and tie. If two pieces isn’t long enough, just attach an additional strip.)
Line up the center of your waistband and the center of the skirt with good sides facing. Pin and sew the waistband to the top edge of the skirt. (The straight sides should already have the sheet’s exisisting hem, so no need to bother hemming them.) The waistband will be longer than the top of the skirt; this extra fabric will become the ties.
Iron the waistband flat, pressing the seam allowance to the waistband side.
Fold the waistband in half good sides together. Sew along the open edges with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Stop at the edge of the skirt.
I chose to make the ends of my ties into a point, but you can do whatever shape you like. Just be sure to cut away any excess fabric.
Turn right side out and press. You should have a raw, unstictched edge where the waistband is attached to the skirt along only one side. Press this edge under 1/2″. Fold the edge over with the wrong sides of the waistband facing. Line the folded edge up with your waistband seam. Pin in place and topstitch close to edge.
Now just press and stitch a double 1/2″ hem along the bottom and you’re done!
If there are any questions, I’m happy to help. I’d also to love to see any skirts that are made using this tutorial. If you’d like to share a picture of your skirt you can link in the comments below or email me at kittyzilla@handmadestuffs.com.

Nifty Thrifty: Creature from the Thrift Dimension

I have a Nifty Thrifty post with a tutorial (oh so snazzy) planned for this weekend. In the meantime, have this mug. When you think of beautiful rainbows, don’t you think of … Detroit?