Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Into the Sunset.

I've decided to end this blog. At least for now. I feel like my work here is done -- my creativity for this blog has ebbed, and I have other stuff going on that needs my attention instead. Mercy is learning to walk, Dano is learning to read... some days I don't even manage to read all my email, much less think about writing something.

I've had fun writing this blog, and I'm going to leave it up for any stray visitors to find. Who knows, I may resurrect it someday. I've made some friends here, and I plan to continue following them.

I'm not closing my Etsy store, at least not right now. But as far as this blog goes, it's time for me to walk out the door, mount up, and ride off into the sunset. Adios!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Two More Books: Another Comparison

I'm at it again, comparing two very dissimilar books that I read almost right after each other. This time, it's Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin. This time, the two books begin with a similar situation: a young girl from a large family being sent to live with her wealthier relations. I know this was a pretty common occurrence once upon a time -- one of Jane Austen's own brothers was adopted by relatives. So it's not as if Wiggin borrowed a literary device from Austen. But I did read these two books nearly back-to-back, and the similarity struck me.

The title character of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is an irrepressible, joy-filled girl. She's basically the prototype for L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables and the other spunky heroines who followed. She goes to live with two maiden aunts and grows up under their care into a spirited young woman. She makes friends with almost everyone, softens an aunt's hard heart, and generally brings sunshine into every life she touches. It's a sweet story.

The protagonist of Mansfield Park, Fanny Price, is the opposite. She's shy. Retiring. Passive. She hides her feelings, suppresses her desires, and is so delicate of feeling, she can't even bring herself to explain to her uncle precisely why she has rejected a marriage proposal. I'm afraid that, accustomed as I am to spunky heroines, I wanted more than once to reach through the pages, give Fanny a good shaking, and tell her to be a more active participant in her own life for once! This is also a sweet story, but definitely not my favorite Austen.

The last chapter of Mansfield Park feels rushed, as if Austen either was sick of the characters and wanted to be finished with the book, or else was under a deadline and spent too much time describing dinner parties and evening strolls earlier to wrap things up properly. In writer's parlance, the last chapter is almost entirely 'telling' the story, not 'showing' it to the readers.

So. Two books, published nearly a century apart. Similar, yet different. Would I recommend them both? Yes. Did I like them both? Let's just say I liked Sunnybrook Farm well enough to keep my copy, but I'm donating Mansfield Park to the library.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Easy-Peasey Glue Batik

A month or so ago, I read a post on That Artist Woman's blog about doing batik with kids. I'd actually never heard of batik before, but it looked fun. Instead of using hot wax to create designs like classic batik, That Artist Woman used Elmer's Washable School Glue Gel. I thought maybe I'd try it sometime. Well, Danol spilled orange juice all over a plain white shirt one morning last week, and it didn't all come out in the wash, so I thought, why not try that batik thing with it?

So, armed with blue glue gel, watered-down acrylic paint, Dano's shirt, a body suit for Mercy, and one of my hubby's old undershirts for me, I embarked upon my batik experience. That Artist Woman said it would take 12 hours for the designs I drew with the glue to dry, so I did that Thursday night. I did a train for Dano, autumn leaves for Mercy, and for my shirt I wrote "Make a joyful noise unto the LORD" (Psalm 98:4) and surrounded it with music notes and symbols.

I learned a few things. If you do big, filled-in shapes with the glue, like the smokestack on the train or the bottoms of the music notes, they'll take longer than 12 hours to dry. And if you try to do a lot of little lines together, they'll probably all run together. If you're doing shirts like this, definitely put waxed paper between the front and back of your shirt or your design with go all the way through and your shirt will glue itself to itself. Which didn't happen to me, but with as much as they stuck to the waxed paper, I know it would.

But eventually, the glue was dry, so on Friday afternoon, we took our shirts out to the balcony and painted them. I'd mixed up acrylic paint with water in squeezey bottles, which made painting the shirts really easy, especially for Dano. I learned some things here too. Putting down plastic garbage bags under what you're painting is good (I did, and got very little paint on the balcony). Also, prewashing your garments if they're new is good. I didn't prewash Mercy's body suit, it was brand-new, and the paint did NOT want to soak into it. With Dano's and my shirts, the paint soaked in where we squirted it. But I had to rub and pat it into Mercy's body suit, and it didn't soak in as well or dye it as brightly.

I also learned that little boys who are not yet 3 years old can be awesome at this! Dano's shirt turned out the best of all, I think. He was super-careful and thoughtful about where to put each squirt of color. He would put one color over another, which made his shirt look beautiful and artistic, while my shirt looks blobby and blotchy because I was trying not to let them bleed together very much.

I think this would make a really cool craft project for Vacation Bible School, a summer camp -- anything where you can take multiple days to make it. Because after the paint dries, you have to soak the shirts to get the glue out, then let them dry again. So it's at least a two-day project, maybe three. Read That Artist Woman's post here for all the details on how to do this.

I've washed our shirts in the washer, and they've retained their colors quite nicely, so I'd say this craft project was a rousing success!