Refreshing the Fairy Garden

Almost a year ago, Melody created a fairy garden. It was modest, small by some standards, but it thrived under our gardenia bush and we picked up a few more bits and pieces over time. Due to some work we had done in our yard, we have had to relocate the fairy garden. Don’t worry, the gardenia is still beautiful! :-) We collected all the accessories, stones, and little items we had made, and set to work on a new and improved fairy garden.

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Melody chose the placement near a rosebush

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Here she is laying down a pebble path from the house to the garden gates

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The fairy’s house, mailbox, and the path from the gate, plus a little visitor

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A bird’s eye view of the house and path, plus the little garden where the fairies are having a picnic!

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A close view of the house and the pebble path, plus a fairy resting in the shade of the bush

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Here is the “mama” fairy, sitting on a bench Melody and I made from clay and beads

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A top view showing the entry to the garden, the small stones leading to the garden gate, and the fairy resting on the bench

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The proud girl with her garden of fairies and pretty things!

We reused the sides of the old planter box we started with last year. The bottom of it rotted out completely, and so the sides, which were painted to say “fairy garden” were still of use to us. One is in the rosebush and the other is along side the brick border, on the other side of the garden. It will be clear to all fairies who fly by that this is the place for them!

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iScrapbook Templates

Some of the fun stuff I do in all my spare time results in pictures. Haha, of course it does! I use iScrapbook to make beautiful photo books these days. I used to scrapbook with Creative Memories, back when it was all analog, cutting pieces of paper and sticking it to the page. There was something special about putting in all that time and creative energy to produce a beautiful keepsake of memories and times gone by. I still cherish all those albums I made, plus several my sister made for me. Yes, it is easy to make a quick memory book in iPhoto or on Shutterfly, but I was missing the creative aspect of designing pages. I never got the hang of Photoshop Elements for making scrapbooks, and then my husband found iScrapbook. It integrates seamlessly with iPhoto, plus I can use pretty much any clip art of graphics I choose to buy or find free on the web, in addition to beautiful kits sold at their website. I have really been enjoying my digiscrapping and am able to keep up with the photos much better than I did in the past! In fact, with photo sharing (since my whole family is on Macs of some type or another) I have access to family photos almost immediately, no waiting for a CD or prints.

All that being said, there are a few things I learned back in those simpler scrapbook days that have never left me. One consultant taught us how to make quilt blocks from the various papers. I used them for my cover pages or just inside the books. Today, I still love using quilt patterns in my photo books. Although iScrapbook has smart templates that make it easy to just start making pages, after using them for several years – and them not putting out any new ones in several years – I started creating my own smart templates. A smart template features placeholders for papers, photos and elements, resulting in a quick page that looks like you spent hours on it. I started out making really basic ones, 6 portrait photos; 9 square photos, things like that. But the quilts…they kept popping up in my mind.

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Once I got the hang of making templates, I really got into it! Not only did I learn to make the quilt pages back in the day, but also to use shapes to create other images.

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Then, I went back to some more standard types of pages, just with a new thought process. How can I make pages that aren’t boring?

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I especially love using some of the panorama iPhone images in my books. They are really wonderful because they show the whole environment.

The iScrapbook shapes and presets are limited at best. I can’t create some of the really new looks, simply because they haven’t gotten there yet. Hopefully the developer will continue to enhance and build this product, and possibly even add some new templates for those of us who use it a lot! I hope you might have found some inspiration from these templates. I was going online and looking at templates to get some of my ideas and I’m happy to share these with you.

Growing Up OC: Atlantis Play Center

I haven’t run a Growing Up OC article in quite a while, but have had some brewing in the back of my mind. Today my daughter’s summer day camp went to Atlantis Play Center, and since that was one of the places I loved as a kid, I was delighted to discover it is still around.

As a kid in the 70s, Atlantis Play Center seemed like a magical wonderland. It’s most memorable feature for me was the dragon slide. How could you not love that thing? It seemed like it went on for miles and miles, through bushes and under trees.

Danny the Dragon

Danny the Dragon

As I remember it, there were shrubs all along the sides of the slide and the “big kids” would run through and behind the bushes from the bottom back to the top. There were little “trails” from where the gardeners walked, raked and cleaned the falling leaves, and these always made me want to sneak around in the bushes. We would play games of hide and seek, or just hide and surprise our friends. When I was younger, I envied the big kids who would go play on those trails. When I became a big kid – maybe a whole year later? – I was so excited to do exactly that.

During construction

During construction

Here’s a great image of the dragon slide during construction of the park 51 years ago. That’s right, Atlantis Play Center is 51 years old! All I knew was that it seemed like we drove forever to get there (we didn’t) and that the park was gigantic (it wasn’t). However, it is no slouch in the space department, being placed on 4 acres in central Garden Grove, CA. We often went with the neighbor’s, Leslie & Karen, Robbie & Timmy, other kids I can’t remember. I do recall we once had a picnic next to the Viking Ship.

Land, ho!

Land, ho!

In this image, you can see in the background right the bushes that used to cover the dragon slide. This is the Atlantis of my childhood memory. These days, there are splash pads available for fun and play. The entrance fee is only $2 per person with kids under 2 free. I’m sure for kids today, as for kids of days gone by, it still inspires the imagination and generates hours of fun!

See the City of Garden Grove for more details on Atlantis Play Center, including directions & FAQs.

As a funny side note, when I was in high school I played basketball and our team played in a scrimmage up at Bolsa Grande High School, which is right across the street from Atlantis Play Center. I ended up catching a ride from this one girl who I idolized. She had a junker old car, and as we made the left turn from the school onto Westminster Blvd, she accidentally drove on top of the narrow center divider – driver’s side wheels on one side of it, passenger side wheels on the other! We laughed so hard we cried! After that, she talked to me at school and made me feel like she “saw” me, even though I was pretty much a basketball dork, lol. I’ll never forget that aspect of growing up OC either…great memories of fun times with old friends.

A day for the girls

We took a trip up the road to visit the Huntington Library and Gardens. It was a lovely day, not cool, not too warm. The sun came out and there were plenty of photo opportunities. Melody indulged us again. Since she has been basically paparazzi’d since birth, she is used to us setting up pictures and taking numerous shots. :-) If you are looking for something to do with the kids or just to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, check the Huntington. It is gorgeous and economical.

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Construction project

It has been many years since I made a gingerbread house from scratch. I have a vague memory of doing this as a kid, and in between I did one from a kit that had pre made house pieces and awful tasting royal icing. I had a whim this week that it might be fun to make a gingerbread house with Melody, so here we go!

Ready, set, bake!

Ready, set, bake!

I downloaded some instructions from King Arthur Flour (click the link, it is packed with info!). The gingerbread recipe was easy to follow, if a bit bland. I had hoped for a more gingery gingerbread. Next time I’ll stick with my mother’s or grandmother’s recipe. The first batch was so dry I had to add a bit of milk just to get the final dry clumps to bind with the rest of the dough. The second batch was insanely sticky.  Go figure, I used the exact measurements and measuring cups for each recipe.  ???  I chilled it for an hour, then with my sister’s words of wisdom ringing in my head, I floured the heck out of my work surface, plopped down some dough, floured it again, and then floured it some more for good measure! The dough when chilled was stretchy and rubbery. I had a hard time rolling it thin enough, but did have enough left over to make some trees, elves and a Santa Claus cut out.

The King Arthur template

The King Arthur template

The Pixie House template from Gingerbread by Design

The Pixie House template from Gingerbread by Design

Instead of square windows on Melody’s house, we used a small heart cookie cutter. Awww, it was pretty cute. :-) We allowed the gingerbread pieces to cool quite a long time before assembly. In the meantime I made royal icing. The key to good royal icing is beating it a long time, not quite to merengue state, but close. You want it thick so it doesn’t drip right off or run. I used a plastic zipper type bag in a gallon size as my pastry bag, and snipped off one corner. It worked great! The freezer weight bags are quite durable.

Don't you use canned goods to make your gingerbread houses?

Don’t you use canned goods to make your gingerbread houses?

More canned goods

More canned goods

I piped a bead on the bottom edge of the wall and stood it up, then did the same with the next wall, all the way through four walls. How did I get them to stay up you ask? Well I used cans to prop them up heh. Even though the royal icing was nice and thick, gravity is stronger haha. We left these to set overnight, then put on the roof pieces in the morning. Here we ran into trouble. On the Pixie House, one front wall was actually curved, and one roof piece was too short. Not sure how that happened since I used the same pattern piece to cut them both.  I also have not figured out how to make the gingerbread bake flat. Ours was ripply and lumpy. Hrmm. we used the can technique to set the roof pieces and watched some TV for an hour.

Finally, we went to town decorating. I got a little crazy buying candy for this escapade because I didn’t know exactly what we would want. I like to have lots of choices! We had Twizzlers, M-n-M’s, Skittles, gum drops, Dots, peppermints, bell shaped chocolates, candy canes in two sizes, plus stick pretzels and mini Oreos. Oops! But, it paid off and we have really colorful houses!

One last note about the templates. The chimney on the King Arthur house left something to be desired. But the chimney for the Pixie House was very nice and sits very sturdily on top of the house. A combination of the two house templates might work if you have the right roof pitch for the “good” chimney to work.

Hey! I forgot to cut out the front door opening!

Hey! I forgot to cut out the front door opening!

Mini Oreo shingles

Mini Oreo shingles

Gingerbread house love

Gingerbread house love

Someone got bored lol

Someone got bored lol

I lost Melody at this point. She wanted to get it done and go play. She was a trooper though and spent a good 3 1/2 hours doing this! She came back at the end to sprinkle the coconut for the snow. She was also high as a kite from eating plenty of the candy. :-)

Front

I remembered my own door

Why yes, that is Life cereal for shingles

Why yes, that is Life cereal for shingles

12 rows of it with 9 pieces per row...

12 rows of it with 9 pieces per row…per side

Don't forget the back!

Don’t forget the back!

This was a really fun activity but I think in the future I will only make one house. I’m glad we both had a house to decorate because we had very different ideas of what should be included and of course different levels of talent. But if we do this next year, Melody will decorate the house and we will enjoy it however she decides to do it!

Yum!

Yum!

Making an easy blanket for your pet

Even your smallest members of the house need a lovey, right? I have been making these blankets for my cats and dogs for many years. My mother made them for the family dog when I was growing up. They can be placed around the house where your pet likes to sleep, they protect your light colored carpets and linens from dark colored hair deposits and pet “gunk”, and can make it so your pet can sleep on the bed without being right up in your face.

Browser likes to hang out on the stairs

Browser likes to hang out on the stairs

To make your pet a warm bed that is also machine washable, you will need:

1 yard of cotton flannel or regular cotton

1 package of Warm & Natural batting, 34×45″ size (or any low loft batting, I just like the weight of this type)

Cozy to be

Cozy to be

Step One

Lay out the fabric to make sure the edges are even and straight. Trim where necessary.

Trim edges

Trim edges

Step Two

Lay the batting on your table, then lay the fabric on top. Match the edge of the batting to the folded edge of your flannel. The flannel is going to be your guide for cutting. Cut out the batting.

Cut batting to the edge of the fabric

Cut batting to the edge of the fabric

Step Three

You should now have one yard of flannel folded inside out and then layered on top of the batting. Keeping everything configured exactly like that, stitch around the open edges, leaving yourself a 6″ opening where you will turn the fabric. Backstitch to anchor your stitching.

Before turning, trim any edges.

Cut out extra bulk before turning

Cut out extra bulk before turning

Step Four

Turn your project by reaching in through the hole and grasping the other end. Pull everything through the hole. Once it’s right side out, reach back in and pop out the corners. Next, turn in the raw edges at the opening, pin closed, then stitch.

Pin and stitch

Pin and stitch

You can either just stitch it straight down the side, or you can stitch all the way around the entire project to make a more finished look. I stitch this about 1/8″ from the edge. Finally, stitch a straight line from edge to edge in the center of the blanket. This will keep the batting from drifting around and getting lumpy in the washer or when Fido digs around in his bed for the perfect spot to settle. If you are feeling really motivated you can stitch an X from corner to corner or other designs. I find that I am not precise enough to do this and I always wind up taking a tuck in the fabric, and that makes a pucker, and that bugs me. :-)

Step Five

Present to Fluffy and collect the furry gratitude you are owed for your efforts. Start to finish this project should take about 15 minutes.

Heavy sigh....

Heavy sigh….

If your pet is bigger than medium size, you can make a similar blanket using 1 yard of flannel backed with 1 yard of cotton or flannel cut into a square, and the batting sandwiched in the middle. Follow the same steps, just stitching around four sides instead of three. I suppose you could also make a kid blanket this way too.  :-)