Make It a Bat Cycle

Remember how I told you there was a part 2 to the birthday gift from Monday?, and also how I procrastinated on it even more than the bubbles?

See, his big gift this year was his first ever bicycle. But that is a thing that is most definitely going to outlast his Batman phase and most likely be handed down to his brother. So he got a bike with flames on it but, through a series of random circumstances saw a picture of it and said he would rather have a Batman bike. Ding ding, birthday gift idea!

I had intended to measure the seat of his new bike (which he didn’t know he was getting yet) and all of that the day before his party so I could make a seat cover to give him the next day, but I never got around to it between laundry and lunchtime for baby brother. Luckily, I was set to stay with brother as he napped the next morning and everyone did things to get ready for the party. After everyone left I snuck in to where the bike was hidden, grabbed quick measurements and settled in at the dining room table to cut and sew a seat cover out of felt.

I had made the decal the night before, since that didn’t have to be any particular size. Then I cut out the four pieces of the seat, stitched the decal to the top, and backstitched them all together with embroidery thread to make the seams as secure as possible when hand sewing. I added a pullstring at the bottom so the cover just slips on the seat and is then secured with the string. Baby brother helped out by taking an insanely long nap and waking up just in time for us to walk down to the party and get cake.

It was a hit. He apparently wanted it put on his bike immediately and was incredibly excited about it. Mom was thrilled that he had his own logo on the bubble bottles. (And, let’s face it, at this age handmade gifts are more for mom than for child.) All around a successful birthday gift set.

How badly do you procrastinate on making things for others? Or am I the only one? Are you one of those super organized people who thinks months ahead about gifts and keeps them in a closet until the gift-giving occasion arrives?

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere

Well, only a little bit while I was filling the bottles, and when testing out the solution.

What do you do when a kid is really deep into a phase of character obsession? You give in and make everything about his birthday presents reflect that, or course. Well, you do if you are me and generally terrible at coming up with gift ideas.

Confession: I like to make a good chunk of the gifts I give just because I walk into a store to buy something for a person and can spend hours wandering in circles without coming up with anything. At least with making something I can tailor something generic into something I think they will enjoy.

So, what do you give a four-year-old who has a ton of toys and yet mostly just plays with whatever his baby brother is interested in because that’s how four-year-olds are? Bubbles. Also, because that is how I like to keep him occupied outside while said baby brother naps in the mornings.

I made a home-made bubble solution using 1 part baby wash (so it won’t sting so much if bubbles get blown into baby brother’s eyes, ahem), 1 part light corn syrup (so the bubbles are more elastic), and 2 parts water. I also made them slightly more special than store-bought bubbles by creating four smaller bottles of scented bubbles. I added a teaspoon of extract to each of the 3 oz containers to make chocolate, peanut butter, orange, and vanilla bubbles. Then I poured the rest of the bubble solution into the corn syrup and baby wash bottles with the labels removed and set about making my own labels for each bottle.

I created a Batman-esque symbol using his name and then labeled the bubbles with their ingredients, just because that is always a good thing to put on a label. I love Photoshop and Illustrator. Just saying. Anyway, I printed them on clear labels (and forgot how horribly the ink smudges on those labels so my mother and I had to layer packing tape over the top before we stuck them to the bottles) cut them out and stuck them on.

Did I mention I did all of this the day before his birthday party? Yeah, I’m really bad at waiting until the last minute on things like that.

But not as bad as the other part of his gift. Which I will tell you about on Wednesday since I started out writing this as all one post and it got very long and very wordy very quickly. But don’t worry, that one has a story that is just as entertaining as this was, or perhaps even more so.

Do you have a go-to gift idea? What do you get for small children when their birthdays/other gift-giving holidays come around?

Send It Off

I haven’t posted a project that didn’t involve yarn recently, and I want to correct that injustice. Because I do occasionally do something other than sit around an knit. Occasionally. Although I do have a giant string of projects waiting in my Ravelry queue.

Anyway, back in May (I should really catch up on these things already) I had a few occasions that required cards. And most times I like to make cards, unless I find a really funny one at Target. First was a friend’s birthday:

I started with my watercolor cards I bought to make Christmas cards last year and created the purple to pink wash. Then I drew the decorations with markers. I also glued rhinestones on at the last minute, but I didn’t take a picture of it after that (of course). Gold rhinestone in the centers of the flowers, if you are curious.

Then, there was Mother’s day. One grandmother got a lovely plant and the other got a card with a picture of a plant, a week late. Yeah, I’m on top of these holidays this year.

Again, I took my watercolor card and started with washes of color. Over several days, letting the cards dry in between coats, of course, I made a layer of yellow, then slowly added light, transparent washes of the orange and purple to get the desired sunset. Then I took my trusty India ink on a dry brush and created the palm trees with just a few, sweeping brush strokes.

On the inside of this one I used lettering stamps to write “Happy Mother’s Day!” in rainbow colors. Then I signed it and sent it out. Again, a week late. In my defense…well, there really is no excuse except I guess I was just a little busy with a billion different projects getting ready to go on my trip to France. Even though those things were a month apart. Yeah.

I cannot recommend these watercolor cards highly enough if you like to make cards of any kind. They have other versions for different media as well, but I find watercolors to be the best way to make these cards.

My question to you today is: What do you do about greeting cards? Do you make them, buy them, or send e-cards? Do you go for funny or more sappy poignant cards?

A Vacation on Vacation

(This was originally two separate pictures, but apparently Google+ now has a features that automatically takes two photos which obviously overlap or go next to each other and create a panorama view. It is awesome.)

After our week in Paris, we moved down south to the region called the Dordogne. The town was named Montignac. It’s a small town, although much more upscale than most of the small towns here in America. It is also the location of Lascaux, the oldest found cave paintings in the world.

We took a tour through Lascaux II, a reproduction of the original cave which is now closed to all people. Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures inside the cave, but it was impressive to learn how the prehistoric people used scaffolding and oil lamps to paint on the top parts of the cave walls.

Another place we visited but I didn’t take pictures of was this prehistoric cave that had been inhabited well into the 14th or later centuries. It started as a cave that was steadily built around to create a fortress. They also built up about five stories, working with the natural cave behind to create rooms. Being an ancient fortress, there were also some pretty disturbing parts, dungeons and torture devices and such, but the way they built the fortress and how they lived in it was interesting to learn.

The second week was much more relaxing and vacation-like. Less running around trying to “see everything.” After the over-full week in Paris, we all needed it.

This whole trip was my first time out of the country. Did I mention I speak zero French beyond “merci,” “bonjour,” and “au revior.” Which makes me wonder: Have you ever been out of your home country? Did you speak the language, or were you as lost as I felt trying to navigate transactions without speaking? Where is your favorite place you’ve ever been?

Paris in Pictures

(A bit of background for those who don’t know, I recently went along with the people I babysit for during the week to France for two weeks to help watch the kids. These are the promised pictures from the first week of that trip.)

I know I promised these pictures on Friday, but I was folding mountains of clothes and packing and shopping and then got caught in a cooking frenzy. Saturday I was out and about, and Sunday I did even more cooking. So, here are the promised picture of my trip, a weekend late.

Mind you, this won’t be all of the pictures. The full 110 are posted in this album on my G+ page. Most of them are captioned, but there are a few I know are of landmarks, but I haven’t figured out what landmarks just yet.

Let’s start with the one thing I most wanted to see, which we also happened to see on our first day – Notre Dame:

After spending at least a few semesters studying it in pictures, I couldn’t be in France without seeing it in person. It was seriously impressive, and hopefully my pictures do it slightly better justice than the tiny pictures in my textbooks.

I also loved being able to walk down the river. There are so many interesting boats parked along the bank and floating down it at all times.

Because the Seine river runs directly through the center of Paris , there are plenty of bridges to take you from one bank to the other and provide great views at the same time.

There are a couple bridges with an interesting tradition. Couples and families write their names on locks, lock them to the bridge, and throw the key into the water to symbolize love lasting forever.

Another thing you must see in Paris? The Louvre, of course, and it is massive.

Especially the famous glass pyramids and fountains in the center.

From the Louvre, you can walk straight into the Tuileries Gardens. There are fountains, flowers, trees, and a view directly down the center of the Obelisk and Arc du Triomphe.

But traveling with kids meant we spent most of our time here:

That’s right, there is a park full of trampolines in the middle of the gardens. Pretty awesome idea, really.

Another great park in Paris is the Luxembourg Gardens. I think it was actually larger than the Tuileries. It has a large reflecting pool and statue near the side entrance.

The Pompidou Center was a must-visit. The outside is covered with color-coded pipes…

while the inside is a modern art museum. All the exhibits I saw were cool, but I think this one was most impressive. When you see it in person, it doesn’t look like much. Just a net with some reflectors. But when you take a picture, it lights up in your camera display.

At the top of the Pompidou Center, you can look out and see all of Paris. That’s where I took possibly my best picture of the Eiffel Tower.

We went to it, but you can’t exactly take a great picture of a giant structure standing at the foot of it.

The baby and I took a walk to the Place du Vosges one day after a particularly long nap (his, not mine). It has some wonderful fountains.

Another day we went with the older kids and their dads on a boat ride down the Seine. on the way we saw the Memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation, a memorial to those who helped the Jewish people escape France in Word War II.

It was really eye opening to see all the names of people who were willing to risk their lives to help their neighbors and friends, and sometimes even strangers.

That pretty much sums up my first week in France. To keep this post from being too incredibly long, I’ll post about the second week on Wednesday. It will be less pictures, but still as interesting.

XOXO

(I am still working on labeling my France pictures, so they should be ready by Friday. There are a lot and I have to look up what some of the specific places were.)

I love gloves. It is a serious obsession, almost rivaling my CD collection, but not quite. Gloves are my favorite “On-The-Go” project because I am not really into sock knitting (yet).

I had gotten this (apparently discontinued) yarn one day when I browsing the aisles at Michaels. It’s a super-soft acrylic and bamboo blend that I am sad doesn’t exist anymore. But, I was able to turn it into these gloves from 101 Designer One Skein Wonders.

This is the Hearts-and-Kisses-With-Love Hand Warmers pattern by Nancy Bowron. I love the XOX chain on the top:

But I really love the “hidden” heart on the palm:

It just gives the gloves a little something extra.

A Jeweled Set

(I had hoped to have my pictures edited and uploaded by now, but that seems to be taking a bit longer than I thought. So here’s more crafts and hopefully I will have the pictures up on Wednesday. Friday at the latest.)

I have a friend who happens to love anything purple. I also tend to always have at least one project on the needles at all times. And I try to have that project with me wherever I go. So my friend who loves purple saw me constantly knitting away and requested a hat.

I had a pattern saved in my Ravelry queue from the giant hat project of last year that I knew would be perfect for this project: The Monarch Lyon Hat by Veronica O’Neil. I had a ton of this Caron Wintuk in Evening Jewels Ombre that I knew would be perfect.

Once I made the hat (and still had a ton of this yarn left over), my mom reminded me that my friend also really loves leg warmers. I had just gotten a book with a pattern for a pair of really cute leg warmers, so I decided to try out that pattern as well.

They make a really great set, eh?

I wanted them to be a surprise, so I set them on her doorstep one day after church. I wanted to be sure she knew what they were, so I made little labels for them with washing instructions and everything. Including a brand new logo:

Carrying on with my recent stamp carving obsession, I made myself a stamp. I had been trying to com up with something to make another stamp for, and this time I got a softer material, more like the rubber stamps you buy in the store, or the rubber on the bottom of a pair of sneakers. Much easier to cut into.