Nov 24, 2013

52 Weeks of Felting - Week 47

I don't know about this one, guys.  I attempted to felt a horse for the first time.  I'm not entirely happy with it.  I think he looks a bit like a donkey....yes?  Well anyway, you should get excited about me felting horses, because once I get it right, you know what comes next?  Unicorns!!


Nov 22, 2013

Volkswagen Bus Update

Back in June, we bought a VW bus.   We knew it needed some work, and I thought I'd update you guys on the progress we've made so far.  Actually, it feels like the opposite of progress, because the thing has been gutted and stripped down.  It gets worse before it gets better, right?

Check out what we found under the luggage rack!

Poor race car driver...

Brandon has removed all the seats, floor, wall vinyl, headliner and heating ducts.  He pulled the windows and seals out, too.  When we first got the bus, it only had one headlight, so we did replace the missing and existing headlight with a brand new set.

We've purchased some interior cabinets from a couple in Colorado who just happened to be passing through our neck of the woods and saw our "wanted" Craigslist ad. 

We've been finding lots of cheap shortcuts made by previous owners.  Brandon's been working really hard to remove the tar paper that coated the floor and walls of the bus.  This tar paper, which was intended by the previous owner to waterproof the van, is meant for outdoor use only--not where people might be sleeping or spending any amount of time, because it releases harmful gasses.  Yikes!

Now Brandon's working on getting the body prepped for paint and then a new paint job! We are still tossing around some color ideas.  What color would you paint the bus?

Nov 19, 2013

Fur, Feathers & Scales - Screech Owl

I've got another installment of my Fur, Feathers & Scales series for you today.  So far, we've met a hedgehog, a chinchilla, a desert tortoise, a bearded dragon, a guinea pig, a tarantula, a quaker parrot, a skink, a dove, and a couple of rats. Today, I'd like to introduce you to Occhio the Eastern Screech Owl!

Screech owls are found in eastern North America in many different kinds of habitats.  They are very small, standing at 6-7 inches tall.  Their feathers can be one of two different colors, gray like Occhio here, or reddish-brown.

They are predators and catch their food with their feet and talons.  Owls have zygodactyl feet, meaning their toes form the shape of an X, with two in front and two in back.  This is unlike many other birds that have three toes in front and one in back.  Their legs and feet are covered in fine feathers.

Owls have excellent eyesight and hearing.  Because they are nocturnal, owls have huge eyes that enable them to see in the dark. Actually, their eyes are so big  that there's not enough room for muscles to allow eye movement, so their eyes are fixed--they can't move their eyes around.  So, to compensate, they are able to turn their heads 270 degrees (about a 3/4 rotation.)  So cool!

Owls also have really cool ears--they're lopsided!  One ear is higher than the other, which allows the owl to easily pinpoint the location of the sound that it's hearing.  And those tufts on top of this owls head--those are not his ears.  His ears are located not too far from his eyes under all those feathers.

Screech owls get their names from the noise that they make.  Their screech is very eerie. They also have a high-pitched trill that, to me, sounds very much like a Halloween ghost noise.

Occhio (which means "eye" in Italian), is about three years old and is such a fun bird to work with at the zoo.  He definitely steals the show!

Nov 17, 2013

52 Weeks of Felting - Week 46

This week's project was an accident.  I was attempting to make one of my toads, but I made a really big one. One that was just big enough to make into a pin cushion. At least he's cute!

You can see more pictures here!

Nov 13, 2013

A Glimpse into my Zoo Job

You might already know that I work at a zoo for my day job.  I'm an educator, so I take animals schools to teach kids all about  the animals and their habitats and everything in between.  When schools take field trips to the zoo, I sometimes present educational programs at our amphitheater for the kids while they're visiting. Last week, I taught a program on endangered animals.  The kids got to see a chinchilla, a desert tortoise, and a peregrine falcon.  Here are a few shots from that presentation. 

Chinchillas really are very soft.  I mean, just check out this girl's face! She was amazed!

We try to use at least one touchable animal in our presentations.  We also use animal artifacts (what we call biofacts) like feathers, fur, bones, etc to enhance and compliment our topics.

Of course, I wasn't very mindful of when the photos where actually being taken, so we ended up with silly shots like this one.  (I was talking about how desert tortoises dig long tunnels.)

Duey the desert tortoise was a big hit!

Ha! Here's another silly photo.  I think at this point, I was talking about how the pesticide DDT affected facons' eggshells--it made them so thin that the falcon's couldn't sit on their eggs without breaking them.  This is apparently the face I make when explaining this point. :)

Cloud Dancer the Peregrine Falcon

All the animals that I work with are smaller like these guys.  Some have been rehabilitated, and some have been abandoned.  Some have even had previous lives as pets, but their owners were not able to care for them properly for one reason or another.  I can assure you that they ARE well cared for at the zoo. 

I consider myself a very lucky girl to have this job. Even if I get pooped on from time to time.

Nov 11, 2013

Fall Garden

We've dedicated much of our lawn space to landscaping and gardening, especially in our front yard where we get the most amount of sunlight.  Pretty soon, I don't even think we'll have much grass left to mow.  This is definitely not the norm here.  None of our neighbors have mini hoop houses, tomato plants and patches of kale growing in their front yards.  But we don't care. 

We've had a few frosty mornings, but next week we'll have our first hard freeze.  It won't stop us from growing more food, though.  In our garden right now, we still have lots of kale (which is delicious after a frosty morning!), turnips, beets, swiss chard, thyme, sage,  arugula and cabbage. We even have some flowers still blooming.

Do you garden? Do you grow food year-round?

Nov 10, 2013

Playtime with the Pups

We've been fortunate enough to have some beautiful weather these past couple weeks.  Our backyard is blanketed in yellow leaves, so of course, we had to go play in them.  Our dogs even seem to enjoy trotting through the leaves, so I grabbed the camera, and we had some fun.

This is Elphie.  She loves her frisbee.

And this is Luna.  She loves her oversized tennis ball.

I just love their floppy ears.

Both dogs were shelter dogs.  Elphie was four months old when we adopted her.  She's totally my husband's dog.  When we adopted Luna, she was about one and a half years old.  She was all skin and bones.  She's crazy.  But we love her anyway. I can't imagine my life without them.

Nov 8, 2013

52 Weeks of Felting - Week 45

I can't believe I've done 45 posts and new projects like this! This week I'm adding to the mini felt painting of flowers collection:

Have a great weekend!

Nov 5, 2013

Front Door Face Lift

I've really been wanting to paint my front door.  The inside of my house is full of bright colors, but the outside is just a light blueish gray with white brick and trim.  We have lots of landscaping and flowers, but it needed some more color.  So I bought some purple paint! 

The before shot leaves a lot to be desired for a front door.  Pfff. White. Who needs that? Not me, I say.

I gathered some painting supplies: roller, small brush, paint tray, sandpaper, towels.  I gave the door a quick rub down with the sand paper and then made sure it was squeaky clean.  The worst part about painting anything is taping.  I hate taping.  But I did it anyway, like a good little painter.

 This is what one coat looks like.  Terrifying, right?

Two coats on the door looks a touch better, but not much.

Woohoo! Three coats! It finally looks good! 
(Like my doormat?  You can make your own with my DIY found here.  I did give it a little bit of a touch up this weekend.  The coir material was finally starting to wear out. You know, because we step on it and stuff.)

Here's the before and after shot together.  LOVE!

Is your front door a crazy color too?

Nov 4, 2013

Weekend Craft Show Recap and Some Thoughts on Craft Show Etiquette

I attended my first holiday show last Saturday: a small show at a local high school. It's my third year. This particular show was actually the first one I had ever done back in 2011. I was a bit disappointed in the turnout, but I still had good sales, which all occurred by noon--weird. Three years ago, almost all the vendor spots were full at this particular venue. This year it seemed as though only half of the available vendor spaces were taken. Yikes. I think maybe some more promotion might be in order for next year.

So, I'm going on my third year of shows, and I have some thoughts to share, especially as the busy holiday craft show season begins.  I wish all craft show shoppers and vendors practiced a general set of etiquette guidelines like these....


-Say hello and introduce yourself to your booth neighbors. You may not like their crafts, and you may even be competing directly with them, but you'll be in their company all day (or for multiple days), and you may need each other's help at some point. (Think bathroom break, breaking bigger bills, borrowing set-up supplies like tape and scissors, emergency display rescue...)

-Be mindful of your space. Booth space is a precious commodity. Please be considerate about your allotted space and don't let your display creep into others' spaces. That is definitely an awkward conversation that can be avoided. However, if you do have to address this issue, being nice (even cheerful) goes an incredibly long way.

-Be friendly. Greet your customers! Ask them how they're doing. Be genuine and smile. Please smile. Also, small talk can be a powerful selling tool.

-Teach them!  Don't assume that they know all about your craft or what everything is at your booth.  Offer them little tidbits of information. This will take practice.  After a show or two, you'll get the hang of the most frequently asked questions from your customers.  (For example, a lot of people assume that my pieces are knitted then felted or are boiled wool pieces. I say politely, "Actually, these are made with needle felting.  Have you heard of that before?"  Usually, that leads into a short explanation or demonstration of what needle felting is.) If they're interested, they'll stay and browse and even ask more questions.  If they're not, they'll move on. No big deal. 

-Keep your space tidy.  Shoppers don't want to see your all your boxes or trash bags.  They just don't.

-Please don't start tearing down your booth before the actual end of the show.  This really bothers me. I'm definitely there to sell my handcrafted goods and share about my craft, and I'm going to do so for as long as possible. When vendors start to pack up before the advertised closing time, shoppers start to feel pressured to leave.  None of us want that!

-Leave your space the way you found it.  Out of respect to the folks who put on your show and to the venue hosting it, don't leave behind any remnants of your set-up, and be sure to clean up any trash.


-Please don't haggle or expressly state that you feel items are overpriced. I can guarantee you that any handmade artist has spent a lot of time and thought trying to come up with the right prices for their work.  There's probably been some trial and error involved, too. This work might even be an artist's only source of income. Not only do we need to cover supplies, but we deserve to get paid for our time and labor.  Our time is just as valuable as yours, so please be respectful.

-Please ask permission to take photos. It's just rude not to.

-Please keep an eye on the children with you.  Most of my stuff is very kid friendly and durable.  But that doesn't mean it's okay for your child to put one of my owls in her mouth. Yuck.

-If you have questions, or even a custom request, please, PLEASE ask! Most vendors are more than happy to accommodate your requests!

-If using cash, try to pay with smaller bills (twenties, tens, fives, ones). If at all possible, please don't try to buy something at 8:30 a.m. with a large bill, unless, of course, you'll be spending most of that bill.  Most vendors would find breaking a larger bill early in the day difficult to do.

What are you thoughts about these guidelines? As a shopper or vendor (or both), do you agree with these? Do you have anything to add?

I love craft shows--as a vendor and a shopper.  I love knowing that when I make a purchase, I'm (hopefully) supporting that artist enough to allow them to keep creating. As a vendor, I love connecting one-on-one with customers. I love chatting with them about their own crafting endeavors and about what they plan on doing with my products (i.e. adding to their collection of pigs, hanging birds from a wreath, etc.). So this holiday season, hit up a local craft fair or two--and have FUN!

Nov 3, 2013

Fur, Feathers & Scales - Tarantula

(This is a re-post.  I'm experimenting and trying to rid my blog of some crazy spam traffic.)

Hi folks! I've got a not-so-cuddly friend to share with you today. This is Charlie, the Curly Hair Tarantula!!

Okay, first off, if you're still reading this, good for you! Spiders are actually really cool, and I promise they're not out to get you. They serve the very important role of eating insects in our world--though some of them are big enough to eat mice and birds!

This particular species of tarantula comes from Central America and lives in humid, forested areas. They have slightly curly hairs covering their body.

Typically, tarantulas don't catch their prey in a web like other spiders. But they do still produce silk and line their burrows with it. They'll use the silk like a trip wire to alert them when prey(or danger) approaches. If they're hungry, they ambush their prey.

They have pretty large fangs, and a small amount of venom. But Charlie is very docile and easy to handle. She's a very cool animal!