Saturday, July 3, 2010


What a wonderful feeling to cross something off the list of "UFOs" (unfinished objects of the crafty variety)! Many years ago, I started working on a cushion top -- a Kaffe Fassett needlepoint cushion with a fat, happy Buddha on it. I bought some gorgeous shot dupioni silk to make the back of it, and decided I wanted to hand embroider the backing with some of the same little Chinese cloud designs that pepper the background of the needlepoint front. I could never seem to get up the guts to dive into the embroidery, perhaps because the silk was just too pretty...or perhaps because I had never really attempted embroidery to any serious degree. Well, I finally decided to take the plunge, and here are the results:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


My sister-in-law won Viewer's Choice for "Arlo Gets Lost"!!!! So our little contingent came away with 4 of the 7 possible awards in the Adult Category. I'm quite proud of us. : ) I've started thinking about what I'm going to do for next year...and I think I have some potentially fun ideas!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dragons, and Gardens and Pandas, Oh My!

Every year our county library hosts an "Edible Books" contest in which participants choose a book from the library's collection and, using all edible materials, concoct some representation of the chosen work. My husband and I decided, completely on a whim and pretty much at the last minute, to enter the contest. We chose the book "Dragonsong" by Anne McCaffrey, and decided to sculpt a dragon. I didn't remember to start photographing quite early enough in the process, but you will see some of our steps below.
We started with a base of Rice Krispie treats, and covered it with a skin of marshmallow fondant. We sculpted big plates for its back, tiny teeth for its terrifying mouth, and big wings (using pretzel sticks and spaghetti noodles for supports). If you look at the dragon's face in profile, it kind of looks like the alien from "Aliens"'s that creepy little under-bite... Anyway, here's the dragon from (near) start to finish.

First, our dragon with skin, but only one foot, no teeth and no wings!

Now here it is with the first coat of food coloring paint, part of a wing, awesome pointy teeth and a creepy snake tongue! I think my husband did a beautiful job on making the eyes -- the eyelids looked fantastic!

A top view with wings completed. We got it to this point at about 2 am, so we packed it in for the night and decided to put the finishing touches on when we got up in the morning.

And here is the dragon queen the next morning after we finished up all the painting. I may be biased, but I think she's awfully pretty!

And now for the next part of the story...

The Barry family had a grand total of four entries in the contest. My mother-in-law, my two sisters-in-law, and my husband and I all submitted "cakes".

My mother-in-law made a fantastic cake based on a book called "Square Foot Gardening". I think she deserved a lot of credit for taking a pretty basic non-fiction book and turning it into a beautiful piece of edible art! The judges thought so, too, as they awarded her the "Most Creative" prize.

My one sister-in-law did a really cute cake based on the book "Arlo Gets Lost." I love the raindrops, and the peppercorns for the armadillo's back!
My other sister-in-law did a spectacular rendition of the book "The Water Hole." Her critters were fantastic -- rhinos, a panda, insects, a catfish, turtles...all crowded around a melted blue raspberry Jolly Rancher pond! The judges awarded her second place in the Adult category!

And finally, here is ours. It looked pretty fantastic...and the judges seemed to agree. We got "Judges' Choice" for the competition! Now we just have to wait and see who gets "Viewers' Choice." Results are announced on Sunday, so we'll keep you posted!

OK, that's it for now. There will be more soon. I need to post some pictures of creepy critters we've had around our house lately, and of the pillow I've been working on recently. But right now I need to go to sleep. I am getting too old for sculpting at 2 am!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I've created a monster

Grad school is a wonderful experience, but one that can make your brain spasm if you don't step back from it on a regular basis and engage in some activity that does not involve mental acrobatics and reading exhaustive and intensive journal articles about very specific topics that would render much of the population comatose. So, shortly after I began my PhD experience, I decided to put down the journals on occasion and pick up some knitting needles instead. My mom had taught me how to knit when I was younger, but unlike many crafts I have attempted, I never seemed to be able to quite get the hang of it. With help from a little pamphlet called "You can knit!" that I picked up at a local WalMart, I reminded myself of all those techniques that Mom had taught me years ago, and it all just clicked.

My ventures into knitting also revived my love of crochet, a needlecraft that I did manage to master (or at least engage in with some success) at a young age. A little over a year ago, I found a wonderful crocheted blanket pattern on the Lion Brand Yarn website -- pretty multicolored squares, with flower-like centers, and just enough laciness to be pretty without being too "girly." I bought myself giant piles of yarn and started crocheting...though it had been a little while since I had crocheted, so my squares turned out a little smaller than I intended (read: tension over the possibility of forgetting how to crochet = tighter yarn tension)! Still, the squares were lovely, the colors were delicious, and I was in heaven having something to occupy my mind apart from stone tools and statistics.

My sister-in-law saw the blanket, and being a fan of yummy multicolored crafty items herself, "oohed" and "aahed" over it. So, I put my blanket aside for the time being and decided to make one for her for Christmas. I returned to my own blanket after a little hiatus, and have finally finished it! It is so pretty, and so cozy....and I don't even care that the squares aren't all the same size (thanks to my decreased tension -- both emotional and yarn-based -- over the course of the blanket-making enterprise). It is my blanket -- I made it, I finished it, my fingers got all callousy in the process! In short, it is the product of a labor of love, and I do love it!

My husband also loves it. He likes to be cozy, and does venture to stick his toes under the edge while we're sitting on the couch together. I did, however, tell him that he was not allowed to commandeer the blanket for himself. This frustrated him greatly, which is why one morning we woke up and he said to me "I want you to teach me how to crochet." This is what I love about this man: he is willing to try anything. So, we had a crochet lesson, and being such a crafty, artistic, and clever person, he picked it up in a flash. He is now making his own blanket, and has begun to accumulate crochet tools of his very own! He seems to be thoroughly enjoying the hobby, already planning his next project, so I decided to help outfit his crochet kit for Valentine's Day. Below are some pics of the fancy-schmancy little case I made him! I reverse-engineered it from a similar project by goodkarma on Etsy ( -- many thanks for the inspiration!). It fits nicely into his bag that he takes with him to work, and he seems to like it, which makes me happy. (I think I need a point turner...)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Knitting Needle Roll

My first sewing project on the new machine was a success! A couple of wobbly corners, and I accidentally put the ribbon on with the matte side facing out, but all-in-all, not too shabby for the inaugural project!

I was going to go with a nice, subdued fabric -- some kind of muted, graphic floral print, I suppose. Then, I saw this....
...and thought "Subdued? Who needs subdued?!" (The fabric -- Los Novios -- came from Joann's.) Many thanks to Lupinbunny for the excellent needle roll tutorial (!

Oh, the weather outside is frightful!

Well, this old dog has decided to attempt a new trick for the New Year: I have created a blog! (Gasp!) I am hoping it will serve as a nice, easy way to keep the folks back home up-to-date on life down here in the South.

So, what's happening today, I hear you ask? It is a COLD Saturday in Tennessee. We haven't been above freezing in nearly a week, and are set to break a record for the longest number of consecutive days below freezing since the 1940s. It's certainly not a patch on the weather I'm used to from the Great White North, but it's a nice little taste of home, at least! Our very steep driveway is impassable at the moment, so I have been stuck at the top of the hill for two days now. I have to admit, it's kind of exciting -- I don't mind being "snow bound"! My poor husband keeps having to hike to the bottom of the driveway to get to work, and this morning he had to pry his car out of the ice! I just hope it clears up before I have to head back to school next week. If I can't get my car out, it'll be a loooong hike to campus!

I have had a productive couple of days while stuck at home. Yesterday, I spent most of the day working on my dissertation. (Fortunately, I brought home some boxes of artifacts to analyze, so I can get some work done while I wait for the thaw!) Then I spent the evening working on the blanket I'm crocheting, and cutting the fabric for my knitting needle roll project. Today, I begin sewing! I will wrest myself away from crafty projects for a little while today to "do science," as my advisor always says! I've got a cup of coffee in hand, "Lord of the Rings" in the DVD player, and lots of wood for a fire, so I think I'm set.

OK, that's it for the first post, I guess. Once I make some headway on the needle case, I'll post some pics -- for now, low-tech text will suffice!