Monthly Archives: March 2014

No Peeping !

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ImageAnother Washington Post Peeps Diorama contest deadline has passed and yet again there is no entry from the Crafty Lawyer.  The contest, which challenges Post readers to build a shadowbox scene with marshmallow Peeps, is a sure sign of spring in D.C. Hundreds of people submit pictures of their Peeps pursuits–corny, clever, and sometimes downright cool. Points are awarded for creativity, artistic merit, and punnery.  Yes, the more your Peeps story represents a play on words (like Rest In Peeps: Farewell to the Twinkie or   NightPeeps ) the higher you rate in the eyes of the judges.  Every year I think to myself that this will be the year I do my own Peeps magic.  It’s not the pun or the play on words that stops me in my tracks (we had a great idea this year but I must keep it secret in case we try again next year).  No, I have found that what really separates the women from the chicks, so to speak, is the ability to dress a Peep.  Alas, crafting with Peeps is HARD.

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In case you are intrigued, I want to share a few things I learned this year about working with Peeps.  I offer these in the spirit of encouraging you to consider making your own Peeps scenario, whether for the contest or just for your dinner table.

1.  Start early. Because Peeps are now sold all year long, you can find peeps in many colors and shapes throughout the year.  If you think you want to try the Peeps challenge, pick up some Peeps at Halloween, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day.  Having a variety of colors and shapes gives you more possibilities for making Peeps figurines but it also lets you make other parts of your display out of marshmallows as well.   For instance, at Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot in the District they have a year round display of pink Peeps clustered on branches to look like cherry blossoms.Image

2.   Peeps are deceptively hard to work with.  The little chicks, in particular, don’t particularly take to being dressed up.  They have no waist, you see, so trying to put a fairy tutu on them is, well, awkward.  Sometimes people make it easy on themselves and just cut the heads off and stick them on other figurines, but adapting to the shape of the Peep is part of the challenge.   We found that the rabbits are slightly easier to use as stand-ins for people, but if you want arms, you will have to add them separately.

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3.   Stale peeps are a good thing.   Turns out that the less sticky the peep, the easier it is to cut it up and manipulate it.  In fact, you can actually do some pretty good sculpting once the super sticky parts have been beaten into submission.   After much pummeling, we turned the bottom of a chick into some fairy wings.

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4.  There will be carnage.  We went through a number of peeps to produce just three figurines–and several ended up looking more like something from a horror show than a delightful diorama.  Be strong.

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5. Schedule plenty of time.  After hours and days of work we still had only three figures and no background.  We gave up–what can I say?

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6. When you give up, decorate with Peeps.  I recently made a birthday cake for crafty friend Jennifer with cream cheese frosting.  It was pretty but didn’t scream spring like I had hoped.  Adding a few bright colored peeps to the top changed the look completely.

peepscake

7.  Don’t eat the peeps–unless they are dipped in chocolate.  My favorite way to use Peeps is to see them coated in beautiful milk chocolate from my favorite D.C. candy store, Kron Chocolatier.  The best thing about this crafty use of Peeps–someone else did the dirty work!!

chocolatebunny

 

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Pi Day (revisited) Search and Find

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Pi Day (revisited) Search and Find

Well I got so excited about Pi Day after blogging about it on March 14 that we ended up with quite a Pi Day celebration.  I decided to push the limits of Pi related foods, so here’s a picture of our meal–how many Pi references can you find?

PI Day Search and Find--I admit that some of these foods stretch the limits and the imagination on the concept of PI

PI Day Search and Find–I admit that some of these foods stretch the limits and the imagination on the concept of PI

Did you find  seven?    From the left PIneapple Salsa, PIneapple, UnsPIced Cider, Salmon (ie PIsces), sPInach, Oatmeal Pi(e), PInot Noir.    Not pictured, Rebecca’s Star PI(es)–she filled the bottoms of star shaped foil cup with pie crust, cinnamon, sugar, and butter–and then put vanilla yogurt on top.

My favorite thing, though, was our little impromptu place cards listing 3.14 things we liked about each other

Easy to make.  Everyone should have a set of rubber stamp letters and number for impromptu signs.  I just happened to have some place cards but you could fold over any paper or cardstock to make your own placecards.  Besides, the real sentiment is inside

Easy to make. Everyone should have a set of rubber stamp letters and number for impromptu signs. I just happened to have some place cards but you could fold over any paper or cardstock to make your own placecards. Besides, the real sentiment is inside

On to next year–super PI day: 3.14.15

Honey 3.14159, You Are Driving Me Crazy

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Honey 3.14159, You Are Driving Me Crazy

March is a great month for playdates.  Not the kind you schedule between children, but the play on words that comes from March calendar dates.   For instance, what’s the only day of the year that is a command?  March Fourth!  And even more popular, March 14 or 3.14—is Pi Day.   Math and engineering people, like my Crafty Friend Greg, celebrate Pi day in style (and Greg has been agitating for a blog post in its honor).  My friend Leah is have a Pi Day Shabbat—chicken pot pie, fruit pie, and if her son is lucky, pecan pie.

What are we doing in the Craftylawyer household?   Well, pie is generally my husband’s territory.  He makes a fabulous flaky crust from the Cook’s Illustrated Baking book and religiously follows its recommendations for cherry and apple pie.  In fact, pie for us represents a seasonal celebration.  We pick the cherries for summertime pies

Michael's famous lattice top cherry pie--he's a very good husband!

Michael’s famous lattice top cherry pie–he’s a very good husband!

and head to the Vintage Virginia Apple Festival in

November for the best apples in the world—including the Albermarle Pippin, Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple.

 A box of Albermarle Pippins.

A box of Albermarle Pippins.

The end result of those apples--but you must use three kinds of apples for superb apple pie, so this has more than pippins in it

The end result of those apples–but you must use three kinds of apples for superb apple pie, so this has more than pippins in it

Mike’s pretty busy today,  so I think it will fall to Rebecca and me to improvise.  I’m inclined towards a pizza pie—although Crafty Family prefers delivery to homemade in that regard.   The King Arthur Flour Company blog has a cute idea for little pie in a jar which might finally get me to use those number cookie cutters that have been sitting on our shelf for years.  I’m not feeling particularly ambitious today, so the thought of rolling out dough isn’t high on my to-do list.   But if we take the making of pie off the table, then there are plenty of crafty inspirations for memorializing pi itself.  In fact, I’ve made a treasury of clever pi themed handmade gifts available  over on the Etsy website, like this beautiful stamped necklace from SpiffingJewelry.

I might give in, though, and make my grandmother’s oatmeal pie recipe.  I often call it a poor-man’s pecan pie because it has the ooey gooey layer topped by a crunchy combination of oatmeal and coconut—kind of a macaroon layer but kind of nutty, too.   It’s good, especially cold for breakfast the next day, and brings back fond memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas with my huge family.    Here’s the recipe

Susie Virginia’s Oatmeal Pie

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix together

  • 3 eggs, well-beaten
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. quick oats
  • 2/3 c. coconut
  • 2 T butter (do not melt it)
  • 1 t vanilla

Place mixture in unbaked pie crust (hopefully made by your husband, but if not you are on your own) and bake at least 30 minutes. {Generally, I find that it takes longer}.  Top of pie should yield to a bit of pressure but feel firm

So, happy 3.14.14 and may the pi be with you!

Real Snowmen Don’t Melt

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Real Snowmen Don’t Melt

Another snow day in Washington, D.C. and it really is perfect weather for building a snowman but I think I will stick with this little fellow, a jolly plastic  snowbaby who is always perky and never, ever melts.

retro snowbaby

retro snowbaby

Snowmen are another one of my collecting passions, borne out of the fact that I am part of an interfaith marriage.  Christian and Jew–or as my daughter used to say, “You are Christmas, we are Jewish.”  Each interfaith couple has their own way of managing the holidays, but for us, it came down to 8 nights of Hannukah, lots of winter decorations featuring snowmen, no tree, and a quiet Christmas day.  My husband usually cooks his Jewish vision of Christmas dinner–very Dickensian.  If we are in Kansas City with my family we have a much simpler Christmas with ham and velveeta macaroni and cheese, a family favorite called Italian spaghetti (which I can assure you is not Italian at all and is more like a gooey mix between spaghetti and meatballs and macaroni and cheese), lots and lots of dessert and even more presents (10 kids, 17 grandkids–do the math where presents are concerned).  We rarely have a White Christmas in D.C., but indoors there are plenty of snowmen to keep us in the holiday spirit.

I’ve actually packed all the snowmen away for the season, except for the outdoor fellows, who keep being called for duty by our unpredictable weather.

As with any collection, you have to be wary of picking up any old snowman.  I like handcrafted fellows and  frosted glass or plastic characters.

a couple of the frosty snowmen in my collection.

a couple of the frosty snowmen in my collection.

My daughter likes the tiny ones–when she was younger, she would build elaborate scenes in the front window, mixing snow people with other tiny creatures.  I think she’s lost interest in that, but a few snowmen worked their way into her room this year (and I think may still be there for all I know).

One of the best things about snowmen, however, is that you can pretty much make them out of anything–even when there is no snow.   POM bottles are a great shape for making snowmen, as are little Dannon Drinkable Yogurt bottles.  Socks, bowling pins, scrap wood, beads–I’ve seen snowmen made out of all of those.  A good shape is essential for a snowman, but I think it is really all in the smile–the quirkier the better.  My family once had a snowman competition, building creations from whatever we could find in my mom’s craft drawer–snowmen from bottles, cups, and old cloth napkins all emerged and all bore trademark quirky smiles made from sequins, buttons, and beads.

Getting back to the outdoors, however, I’m pretty proud of my retro snowpeople–found at a garage sale and purchased with the promise that I would use them happily and lovingly–or no sale!.  They have certainly had their share of snowflakes to preside over this year–and I hope for many years to come!

Mr. Frosty snowman

Mr. Frosty snowman

the perils of snowmen made from the real deal--they melt!

the perils of snowmen made from the real deal–they melt!

Where Oh Where is My Patent Leather Purse?

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Where Oh Where is My Patent Leather Purse?

As a little girl I packed my treasures in various boxes and bags.  Around kindergarten, the object of my affection was a shiny black patent leather (well, probably plastic) purse.  Inside it I kept one or two mini red pencils from TIME, bazooka joe comics, a princess phone key chain  and a fake garnet ring.  I’m sure it had other treasures, too, but I remember those in particular.  And somewhere along the way, I lost that purse.  Despite much desperate seeking on my part, it never reappeared and over time I stopped grieving for my lost things.

But not really.  For some reason, that particular collection of items was special to me, and I’m not really sure why.  I think that it must have represented some sense of my unique 6 year old self such that all these years later I can still recall the texture and feel of those objects.

I’ve noticed there is a great deal of interest in meaningful, with a capital “M,” objects these days.  You can check out the Smithsonian’s list of 101 Objects that made America   for a truly historical look at meaningful objects.  For a more intimate look, The Washington Post has a great series, MINE , chronicling people’s one special object that defines them in some way.  (My own contribution would have to be the anvil my dad made, which I wrote about last month).  The relatively new site Zady, a purveyor of fine, handmade items, takes such pride in the idea of distinguishing stuff from meaningful objects that they have started an Instagram campaign to chronicle people’s thoughts.   And in a twist on all of that, I ran across a story about a performance artist who gathered thousands of  items in a Meta-Monumental Garage Sale, letting people select and take home an object to uncover their own sense of “art.”   Sorry I missed that event, as it lifted the notion of “one man’s trash, another man’s treasure” to an actual art form.

IMG_3278Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that I love tiny little objects that are meaningful only because they were once so common.  In particular, I am fascinated by Cracker Jack toys from the first half of the 20th century.  Many of these charms were made from an early plastic called celluloid and they have a depth of color and precision that puts modern toys to shame.  The earliest charms were often made of metal, tin, or glass–and some of them are incredibly lovely.  Stuffed away in drawers, pinned to moldering felt hats, or lovingly placed on a charm bracelet, these tiny toys were a treasure far beyond the price of a Cracker Jack box.   I use them to make jewelry because they add an unusual element to my work, especially for mixed media projects, but I also just love looking at them. Here are some of my favorites:

lost in time--tin cracker jack watches

lost in time–tin cracker jack watches

Six year old me would have loved these items, too, just because they were so, well, cute.

Celluloid charms, some retaining their bright colors

Celluloid charms, some retaining their bright colors

 

Someone's treasured charm bracelet, found on ebay long ago

Someone’s treasured charm bracelet, found on ebay long ago

 

little orphan annie

little orphan annie

But grown-up me cherishes them because they  have retained their charm, despite the many years that have passed.  In fact, I think it is the notion of time  bound up in these objects that makes them so fascinating.  I may not own big pieces of the past, but these tiny little objects of desire (and collectors will pay a lot for some of the truly rare ones) that once belonged to someone else,  are now mine to cherish, preserve, and

gorgeous tin toys--small tops and planes.  not sure if they were in cracker jack boxes but still amazing treasures

gorgeous tin toys–small tops and planes. not sure if they were in cracker jack boxes but still amazing treasures

perhaps, pass on.