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Monday, June 30, 2014

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

I've been re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things for the authors' book club I belong to. The book was my choice. It's almost guaranteed to spark a lively debate for many reasons. I find myself intrigued by the way that Alma, the main character, can find beauty and wonder in the world around her.

It is, I think, a talent well-worth having. To see past the broken, the ugly, and the dirty, and to find pockets of wonder. Perhaps it's a form of gratitude. Instead of taking the world for granted, it's an opportunity to appreciate the moment.

I try to do this in my books, leaving a trail of literary bread crumbs for the reader to follow. It's my way of sharing what has given me joy.  Because owning a Great Dane is out of the question for me at this juncture, I gave one to Kiki Lowenstein. Because I love turning trash into treasure, I assigned that job to Cara Mia Delgatto. Because I like to look like a lady (even if I don't behave like one!), I told Clancy that she has to be a Jackie Kennedy clone. The list goes on and on.

This morning, I was thinking about my favorite things, things that have or should become part of my books. What would you add to the list?

* blue patterned china
* sunrises
* miniatures
* ferns
* my Paris coffee mug
* my color printer
* my notebook computer
* our blue bedspreads
* Jax, my puppy
* Jax's toy, Foxie
* Hibiscus
* the beach
* thunderstorms
* a good book
* peanut butter
* fresh cherries
* the walk to my mailbox
* tissue paper
* greeting cards
* my comfy pajamas
* lavender the fragrance
* sandalwood

Okay, it's not all inclusive, but I think I'll stop and work on Kicked to the Curb, a book I love writing, but one that's been through TONS of rewriting!

Tell me about your favorite things!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to Make a Miniature Rustic Bench

My sister has this wonderful rustic chair outside her house. It was made with twigs (okay...BIG twigs), and I love it. Right now, rustic/twig furniture is all the small rage. This pattern will work for a real miniature setting (1:12 scale) or for a fairy garden.

This was also inspired by the wonderful tutorial by Lesley Shepherd. I urge you to check it out before you start this project.


Bendable twigs (I got mine from an Australian pine tree) in a variety of sizes (six, eight, and ten inches?)
Twigs of all sizes
Pine needles, dried (ditto that Australian pine) (or craft grasses or floral wire)
Cardstock (old cereal boxes are great)
Clothespins or clips
Wood glue or Elmers glue
Tacky glue (quick drying)
Waxed paper
Black marker (a Sharpie)
Craft knife
Glass jar (2" across the lid. I used a 3 oz. jar of capers. Probably a glass Coke bottle would work, too.)
A pot to boil water in (I keep an old pot for crafting. Don't use it to eat out of later!)
Balsa wood, cut to 3" by 1 1/2" by 3/8" (This will be the seat of your bench)
Floral wires (Three or four. The plain uncolored type is best.T
Brown and black paint or markers
Hedge clippers or sturdy scissors


1. Choose four small twigs to be legs for your bench. These should be roughly the same size. Set these aside. Tip: If they aren't the same length, use the hedge clippers or scissors on them. You can also sand them down to the right length. Mine are about 1 3/4" long.

2. Bend your longer twigs so that one end touches the left and one touches the right of your piece of balsa wood. The twigs should NOT break but it might not want to bend to this shape easily. That's okay. We're going to help it along.

3. "Drill' holes on the left and right to hold the ends of the twig. I used the tip of my X-acto knife and turn it around and around to "drill" the holes.

2. Fill your pot with water and start it boiling. Take it off the stove and put your twigs in the water. After about a five minute soak, use your tongs to retrieve them. Bend them around the jar. Clip the two ends of each twig together with clothespins and let them sit for an hour or so.

3. Use your piece of balsa as a pattern and trace it onto the cereal box. Cut out the rectangle. Draw an X in the middle of the rectangle, to delineate four triangles. Number the triangles 1, 2, 3, and 4. Cut them out. Using the balsa as a pattern, mark the holes with your Sharpie. Punch out holes in the cardstock to match where you have the holes in the balsa.

Learn From My Mistake or LFMM (because I make a lot of mistakes!): You'll notice that I marked the triangles on the plain, unprinted side of the cereal box--and then I covered those markings with pine needles. DUH! Mark the printed side of the box, not the plain side. (In other words, do the opposite of what I'm showing you above.) You'll use the plain, brown, unprinted side to glue your pine needles on!)

LFMM Draw an arrow showing you which way to point your pine needles. They should all point in, towards the center of your seat. This arrow will go on the plain side of the box, as I've shown you below. If you don't do this, you can get confused. Your pattern won't come out right.

4. Using the wood glue, start gluing pine needles onto the triangles. Keep the needles straight and next to each other as you go. They will hang over the edge of your pattern. No biggie!

LFMM (Remember that acronym! I'll use it a lot!) Don't spread the glue all over the triangle. Instead, make a stripe of glue about a quarter of an inch wide. Work one stripe at a time. This will give you more control.

LFMM Cut the pine needles into shorter pieces, about two inches long. They naturally have a curve. By cutting them, you don't have to deal with the curve.

LFMM To corral these little suckers, and to get them to line up neatly, use the tip of your X-acto knife or a plastic credit card.

5. Wrap the triangles in a piece of waxed paper. make a sandwich of them. Put something flat on them to help them dry properly. Alternatively, you could use two pieces of heavy plastic (like from a take out container) and pinch it together with clothes pins to help the triangles to dry flat. You might also want to add a little more glue to the top of the triangles. But not too much or the glue will show a lot.

6. Neatly trim the excess pine needles. Use your scissors.

7. If the bent wood is dry enough, you can unclip it. (You'll be amazed at the wonderful bend you'll get!) Size one piece to be the primary bent back for your bench. Test it and put it in the holes. Trim it with the hedge clippers or scissors if necessary. Insert into the holes, add glue, and use a bit of masking tape to hold them in place until they dry.

8. Using paint or markers, color your floral wire brown-black. Let it dry.

9. Reassemble the four triangles that make up the seat for your bench. (You're going to be so happy about those numbers on the back. They'll really help!) Adjust holes for the bent twig back of the bench. If you are happy with how it looks, glue the triangles onto the bench seat, the balsa wood. Trim around the seat with longer pieces of pine needles. See the photo below? I used a bit of masking tape to keep the longer pine needles down as they dried on the trim.

LFMM Lesley Shepherd used longer "pine needles" (she bought craft grasses) and first set down an X in the middle of her seat. Then she added the triangles. This made the whole thing look more finished.

10. Add another bent twig back. This one will be larger than the first. Glue the ends of it next to the ends of the first bent twig back.

LFMM You might want to make a tiny notch in the bench seat for the new twig back. It'll help keep the twig stable.

11. Wrap wire between the two bent twig backs.

12. Add spindles made of more twigs to the back.

13. At this point, you're basically done. You can add "arms" by trimming another bent twig and gluing to to one of the backs and to the seat. You can also add spindles between the legs, wrapping them with wire, if so desired.

Don't forget to admire your work. What a clever, clever crafter you are!

If you have any questions, just put them in the comments section below or email me at

Sunday, June 15, 2014

How to Make Your New Dad Love You

A special Father's Day post by Jax, the Havanese puppy.

Being adorable is hard work. Time for a nap!
Even if that male human wasn't entirely sold on getting a new dog--and a puppy at that--you can change his mind. Here's how:

1. When you first meet, leap into your new human Dad's arms and lick his face. Over and over.
2. Nibble on his ears while you wiggle with joy.
3. When you are in the car on that long ride home, refuse to sit on your new Mama's lap. Crawl into Daddy's lap instead.
4. Then fall asleep.
5. Wag your tail and look at Dad with adoring eyes when he speaks.
6. Go potty whenever he takes you outside.
7. Snuggle up to him at every opportunity.
8. When Mama puts you on the floor to play, run and find Daddy.

It's just that simple! In no time at all, you'll own his heart.

Okay, any tips from you for making your human parents crazy-in-love with you?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Miniature Basket Tutorial

This is a fun project that keeps another bit of plastic out of the landfill. Here are two finished versions of this project.


Empty and clean plastic coffee creamer container
Quilling strip (or strip of paper cut 3/8 inch wide)
Duct tape (optional)
Masking tape (cut into half inch pieces)
Punch (optional)
Paper to match or contrast with your quilling strip
Beads (optional)


1. Cut the rim off the creamer container.

2. Carefully cut the container into spokes. (Tip: Follow the indentations.) (Note: You could use a permanent marker and color the base of your basket--the creamer container--at this point.)

3. Tape down the quilling strip.

4. Begin to weave it over and under. (Tip: If you have an even number of spokes, skip two at the start of each round. That gives you a nice alternating woven pattern.)

5. Use bits of masking tape to hold down each new quilling strip row. Otherwise the qulling strip will side up, up and away!

6. When you are as high as you want to go, tape down the end of the quilling strip.
7. Stick a piece of duct tape to a cutting mat or a glass surface. Cut it into a thinner strip. (Tip: Use a craft knife and a cork-backed ruler for this.)

8. Peel off the duct tape and wrap it around your basket. Alternatively, glue a quilling strip around the top of the  basket.

9. Decorate your basket with punched shapes and beads.

Ta-dah! Aren't you smart? (I know YOU are!)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Kiki Lowenstein and the Penny Pincher: Part 2

By Joanna Campbell Slan 

Editor’s Note: In Part 1, Kiki Lowenstein, owner of Time in a Bottle, has been teaching a two-session class called “The Double-Dip.” This week, her customers will be bringing one of their favorite dessert recipes, a photo of the dessert, and the recipe to use in an 8- by 8-inch cookbook album. There's a bit of friction in the group because Iona Lippman and Lisa Ferguson both claim to make an outstanding red velvet cake. Furthermore, two of Kiki's customers have also challenged her come up with inexpensive scrapbook embellishments. Can Kiki keep everybody happy? 

(You can read Part 1 at   Or you can read it by scrolling down to one of my earlier posts at )

"How's Baby Ty doing?" asked my friend Clancy, as she handed me the supplies for the second of our Double-Dip Classes.
"Fat and sassy," I said. My job was to put the pieces in a plastic baggy and slap on our new store label. I was particularly proud of the image—a glass jar filled with watches and the words "Time in a Bottle"—because I'd created the logo myself. Since the watches were every color in the rainbow, the logo went with everything! That was important because we had customers who loved bright colors, those who favored pastels, and some who liked neutrals.
Yes, every guest who walked through our doors was unique in every way, except for one: They all loved saving memories. It was our job to help them do just that.
"And his older siblings?" Clancy raised an eyebrow.
She was asking about my 13-year-old daughter Anya and her brother, 5-year-old Erik.
"They're adjusting. The other night when Ty was crying, Erik suggested we send him back to the hospital to get fixed. Anya had her grandmother take her to a drugstore where she bought a pair of silicone earplugs. I think it was more for effect than to really block out the noise."
"She's a smart kid," said Clancy, as she cast an eye at our big black clock. "T-minus ten minutes and counting."
As usual, Clancy was dressed as if she stepped out of a Talbot's catalog. Tonight she was wearing a pink knit top and gray pants. I'd given just birth last month and was still wearing maternity clothes. Tyler was a healthy and happy boy, so I tried not to let my squishy shape bother me. I also ignored the frequent splotches of baby spit-up that appeared on my shoulders.
"I think the women will like the layout I created for the dessert page in their cookbook albums," I said, "but the second portion of the evening is bound to be more challenging."
Iona and Avery Ailes had complained about the high cost of scrapbook layouts. They had dared me to come up with thrifty ways to create and embellish their pages. I'd been working feverishly all week to do just that.
I crossed my fingers that the two women would like what I'd done. Just then, the door minder rang. In walked Iona, dragging her Cropper Hopper behind her.
"Showtime," said Clancy.

< > < > < >

One session down and one to go. I had managed to keep Iona and Lisa from duking it out over the Red Velvet Cake. Iona's cake really was better. The hints of cinnamon and vanilla were scrumptious. She glowed with pride as we devoured our slices. Lisa said very little as she went to work diligently on her cookbook page. Maybe her feelings were hurt.
Time to move on.
"One of the quickest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money on any scrapbook layout is to make your own embellishments. I'm going to share a few new ideas for raw materials around your house that you can turn into embellishments. Are you ready?"
The women nodded at me with their pens poised to take notes.
"Hang tags from purchases—these I cover with paper or paint with acrylics before adding stickers or stamping on them. Labels from cans—these can be scanned or used as is. Greeting cards—I carefully cut around the images. Sometimes I use Diamond Glaze and a little glitter to spice them up. Old children's books—the images in these are adorable. Use 'as is' or add Diamond Glaze. Pages from old books—either use these as background paper or cut them into the shapes. They also make great flowers! Fabric—glue it or sew it directly to your paper. Scan or photocopy a design you like. Bottle caps—use them flat side down or flat side up. Either way you can add letter stickers. I've also colored them and used them in a row as a border of dots. Styrofoam trays—wash them, dry them, cut them into shapes, and paint them with acrylics. Gift wrap—can be used as background paper or you can select a special image and cut it out. Packaging—I reused the package of the perfume I got for Christmas. I flattened it and cut it into circles for embellishments."
At that point I paused. "Any questions?"
"And if we don't have access to a copier or a computer," asked Avery. "Then what do we do?"
"Use the tape transfer method. Rub packing tape over the image. Soak the image in warm water. Peel away the paper. Ta-da!"
But my excitement proved short-lived because Iona shrieked, "Who took my Red Velvet Cake recipe? It's missing!"

Editor’s note: Stay tuned for Part 3!

Editor's note:To read Part 1,  scroll down to earlier posts, or go to

Joanna Campbell Slan is the author of the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, featuring a scrapbooking mom. To see a list of all of Joanna’s books, go to To enjoy another free Kiki short story, send an email to