Thursday, October 29, 2009

Exquisite Glass Flowers

I realize that I have been remiss in stories about our trip to Boston. However, today I will begin to make amends. One of our first field trips in Boston was to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. A couple of it's gems include a wonderful room of minerals from around the world and some impressive fossils. But it was the room of glass flowers that absolutely stole my heart.

The exhibit of glass flowers was the brainchild of Dr George Lincoln Goodale of Harvard in the late 1800s. He had seen the glass models of invertebrates such as jellyfish made by Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolf Blaska, from Dresden, Germany. It took Dr. Goodale some effort to convince the father and son team to create exact replicas of flowers and their parts that would be able to accurately teach students and be used by researchers. However, he finally succeeded and the room of glass flowers is the result.
Yes, that's me and the girls--can't pass up a good opportunity to excite curiousity! Thankfully they never seem to get annoyed with me about that. They really seem to have a general thirst for knowledge.

I know these pictures really don't show it, but the detail and exquisiteness of these flowers was astounding--simply amazing. Apparently, creating these flowers for Harvard became the Blaschkas' life work. Everything about the flowers is perfect! Color. Texture. Sheen. They are simple remarkable. No paint or other coatings, there are completely glass. And the Blaschka's also made glass models of aspects of the flowers as if they were magnified.
I know, I'm raspsodizing. But, I found them just stunninging amazing. Case upon case upon case of glass stems, flowers, pistals, pollen, ovaries, roots, etc. in excrutiating detail. I just couldn't imagine the talent and effort it required to complete this amazing feat. Each one was a work of art.

I have two more posts that I'd like to share with you about places we visited in Boston and then I'll get back to my bear-making life.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Lovely Giveaway from Ginger

Ginger at Bearbits is simply amazing! She's celebrating 25 years of creating, in my opinion, fabulous bears and she's having yet another giveaway! Look at this cute little bundle of fluff, Noelle Kringle.If you click on Noelle Kringle's photo it will take you straight to Bearbits where you can enter the drawing to have a chance to win her.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Houseboat Adventures

We all agreed that it was quite an experience living on a houseboat for almost a week. But I must admit, I'm not sure what my verdict is. It was definitely a treat--no doubt about that. We didn't have to eat out for every meal, could lounge around in our jammies for breakfast or any time we wanted, and there was always a place to chill out. It was also very convenient and quiet for being so close to everything in Boston.
We had a little bit of a kitchen and could cook just about anything we wanted as long as it could be made on a cooktop or in a microwave--no oven. There was a comfy couch that could pull out into a bed, a comfy chair with ottoman, and a fairly large flat screen TV (including cable and a DVD player)--you can kind of see it on the left of the picture below although it blends in with the hanging privacy curtain for persons who might sleep on the sofabed.
Matt's and my bedroom was in the back and the girls enjoyed sleeping on two twin beds in the loft. They brought up extra blankets and purposely made it into a kind of nest. They really enjoyed their nest--drawing, reading, doing origami, and watching TV on their bellies. But I'm not sure they had such fun cleaning it up at the end of our stay!

There were wonderful walks around the marina since most of the part of Charlestown that we were in had been part of an old Navy yard. So many beautiful old buildings and factories had been converted into chic condos and apartments. I must admit to not being much of a city person any more, but I could definitely see the advantages of those unique dwellings. There were so many lovely walkways, small parks, and places to sit by the water. It was quite nice being so nearly in the center of things and yet feeling so quietly sectioned off and surrounded by the water.

I do so love being by any body of water--it refreshes my spirit. So I certainly got my fill of refreshment. But would I want to do it again? I'm just not sure. I'm very glad we stayed on a houseboat this time. However, we all are still having episodes of feeling a bit wobbly and wondering when the next wave might come so that we can adjust our balance. Maybe if the houseboat was on a calmer inland lake? It was great learning so much about tides and we certainly didn't need any amusement rides because we had frequent excitement by just staying in the boat all day. One definitely didn't want to be standing when the tides rolled in or out!

Maybe my thoughts can be summed up by my eldest daughter's comment when asked if she would want to stay on a houseboat, "I don't know... (pause) It was fun!" Perhaps I will better know my own mind when my "sea legs" go away.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Am I Lucky or What?!

We got our mail which had been held while we were on vacation and, guess what, I received one of the best packages I've ever had in my life. As the brown paper wrapping was carefully cut away, and the beaufiful photo file box was gingerly pryed open, there before me stood a wonderfully wrapped little bundle and a box of lovely chocolates. It felt like Christmas!

It was Peabody, my little Sweet Pea, by Tammy of Beckoning Bears! Tammy made Peabody especially for me at a reduced price in exchange for Lily (you can see her on the sidebar). He's a cuddly 8-inch bundle of cuteness created from the most lusciously soft recycled mink. I couldn't be happier with him! Tammy is an amazing and wonderful artist!

As you can see, Matt took some pictures right away so that I could show you how adorable he is. How lucky am I?!!! I get to enjoy the sweetest of sweet bears in Peabody and my little Lily got adopted by a most wonderful mom!

I think I'll float around on my little "happy cloud" for a while longer--everything just feels so good and right with the world for the moment--no need to hurry back to reality yet.


Christmas Blog Parties

We're home from our houseboat vacation in Boston, however I do wish our house would stop rocking so. We all still seem to have our "sea legs" even though we're on dry land now--oh, it's raining, so I suppose it's not techically very "dry" land, but you know what I mean.

Anyways, I have pictures to share and stories to tell but they will have to wait for one more day. Today, I want to tell you about two Christmas blog parties that I am excited to be participating in. I know Christmas seems quite a ways off, but it always seems to get here much sooner that we think. So, I figure that it's not too early to start planning and preparing now because the parties will be here before we know it.

First off, on December 5th Bearbits is hosting a "Christmas Tea for All the Toys."
And then on December 12th Yesterday's Glitter is hosting "A H'artfelt Christmas Blog Party."
For those of you who may be new to the idea of a "blog party," let me explain. Each blog participating in the party will write and/or include photos about the theme of the party. The host then has links to all the blogs participating, so that you can visit each one. The parties are really quite fun because you "meet" all sorts of different bloggers and the creativity exhibited is astounding. Well, I'm not getting your hopes up for astounding creativity from me, but the wheels in my little brain are already churning.
For tomorrow, plan on seeing some houseboat pictures!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rocking in Boston

Yes, I'm rocking in Boston with some homeschool friends from Oregon. Actually, we're all rocking AND rolling in Boston! We're staying on two houseboats and I think I'm finally getting my "sea-legs." My poor mohair still sits packed in my sewing bag and little Annie-Mae the Featherweight has been relegated to a closet. But I think I'm FINALLY adjusting to the waves--or I'm just getting smart enough to consistently take some anti-nausea medication!

Growing up far from the coasts, I never knew much about tides. In fact, if we weren't staying on a houseboat in a harbor of Boston, I think I'd still be completely naive about tides. But now we are becoming "tide neophytes"--we know a little bit more, but we still have much to learn. The other day we sat huddled around the computer learning about tides and how they differ around the world. I didn't realize that some areas get one high and one low tide each day and other areas get two of each. For better or worse, we're in the two-of-each-a-day category here in Boston which means extra rocking and rolling all day long. We can tell when it's getting close to changes in the tide or when it has recently peaked or fallen because the constant gentle waves become visibly larger and the houseboat bounces around quite a bit.

Well, my internet connection isn't the most reliable here, so I think I'll sign off for now. However, when we get home I'll have stories and pictures to share. And if I'm lucky today I might even get a few snips into some mohair.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Leaving for Boston Tomorrow

Well, I really should be packing, but, in my opinion, I finished packing the most important things yesterday. My sewing bag is stuffed with two lovely pieces of scrumptious mohair all ready to be cut out for 2 "biggish" bears (16 and 18 inches), teeny-tiny pieces of ultrasuede for a mini-bear, needles, scissors, thread, a hardback copy of "Jane Eyre," and other sewing odds and ends. "Annie Mae," my trusty little Singer Featherweight, already stands by the door in her traveling case. So what else does one need for a 6-day trip to Boston?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm Hearing Bear Voices--Again!

Okay, I think it is very possible that I have lost my mind. I just wanted to warn you. This post is coming from someone who very well may have been sane once long ago, but her current state of sanity is now dubious indeed. Rather, MY current state of sanity is dubious. I suppose it is not a good sign when one starts talking about oneself in the third person. Oh, there I go again! Okay, I must just confess and then perhaps I will no longer feel the need to look at accessories that could compliment a straight-jacket. Gold chain? Silver earrings? Perhaps a leather pouch filled with garlic to ward off the vampires would be a better choice--or does that ward off werewolves?

Oh, well. Here we go. Remember that last bear I made? Lainie-that's right. Well, I still don't have official pictures of her (perhaps we'll get to them tonight). But, anyways, I thought Lainie was a she, but she isn't a she, she's a he. She's, rather, he's Alfie. Yep. That's what he told me. Yep, I'm hearing little teddy bear voices--that's where the straight-jacket may need to come in. But perhaps even crazier, was that I didn't LISTEN to him when he told me his name. After all that I went through with Buster, you'd think that I would finally know that I MUST listen to the bear. I heard Alfie tell me his name and I promptly ignored him. What kind of person must I be!

So what provoked me to ignore the small voice of the bear? Another small voice--from my youngest daughter. Poor little Alfie had already told me his name, but when my daughter looked at him and pronounced that he most definitely looked like a she, I was a goner. I was in the middle of coloring him, so I added pink to make him look more feminine. Around his eyes. Some on his paws. Hmmm. Better add some more. Not quite. How about a little blush colored pencil to accent his fur? Still not doing it for me. But I named him Lainie (Gosh, it took forever to find a girl's name for him) and my youngest daughter and I went to buy him a pretty ruffled sweater. I must say it fits him quite well and he looks quite "she-like" in it. However, still not quite there. What was my first clue? Matt bursting out laughing when he saw poor Alfie in a girly little sweater.

The whole family kept referring to him as "he" and I had to keep reminding them that he was a "she." The final straw was when said youngest daughter said, "He, I mean she...." That was it. I couldn't take it any longer--even she thought that the bear was a "he." I promptly apologized to poor little Alfie and announced to the family what his true name was. I think they were a little surprised by the promptness of me picking a name for him after all the suffering we went through trying to find him a girl's name. But like I said, he told me--he actually whispered his name to me--when I was still creating him.

I've gotta learn to listen to those little bear voices. But I must admit, I'm stacking the deck with the next bear I make. It is a Christmas present for the above-mentioned youngest daughter who really wants a little "she-bear." Nope, I'm not gonna play fair this time! Her bear will be made from a long, ultra-dense, wavy, cream-colored mohair with sparse, rose-colored mohair for the paws, and pink perle cotton for the nose and mouth. Not fair? I know. But this time, don't you think that it just HAS to be a girl!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Needle Felting and Noses

I just couldn't wait to show you Lainie--a lovely 16 inch bear I made using a golden shade of kid mohair. These aren't the best photos--it's wet and cloudy here. But they give you an idea of what little Lainie looks like. I'll post her "formal" pictures later.

I'm so pleased with her! I've been reading so many past and current posts on Teddy Talk about embroidering noses. It's amazing how many techniques are used--pins, markers, paper templates, felt templates, tape, etc. I became quite overwhelmed and basically just decided to toss everything to the wind and embroidered her nose freehand like Paula Carter of All Bear. I figured I had nothing to lose because I could always take it out and redo it. I've been wanting to try this new shape that has little indents for nostrils and I just couldn't quite figure out how I wanted to try to draw it on the bear. But I was very surprised that it was rather easy just to "listen to the bear" and embroider without any aids. I'm sure her nose is not perfect, but I am still quite pleased with the result (especially now that it is waxed).

As I wrote last time, I've also been wanting to make needle felted eyelids. And I think they turned out quite well also! I believe one eyelid droops a bit more than the other, but I've decided it just adds to her personality!


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Felting Adventures

I've been playing around lately with new stuff. I've really wanted to learn how to needle felt eyelids on my bears, but I had never needle felted anything. Sooooo ... I bought a kit by Marie Spaulding for a "Beary Best Friend." I can highly recomment the kit, by the way. I'm pretty pleased how little Thimble turned out. He's happily made himself at home on the hutch in our kitchen and sometimes he likes to watch me type on the computer (especially when it's about him!).

I feel fairly comfortable needle felting now (or maybe I just was feeling adventurous), so I needle felted eyelids on my newest bear this morning. After all the shaping and coloring, they came out quite nice if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, you have no picture to judge my assessment. But you will only have to wait a day or two until he has his body attached and he's fluffed up with stuffing. Not TOO much longer.


Monday, October 5, 2009

The Funny Thing about Bears

Remember that new design I was working on? Remember how I "knew" this was going to be my bear? It was also going to be a "she" bear. Well, I have learned my lesson. One must never have preconceived notions when making a bear. Instead, I have learned that, at least for me, I must listen to the bear and do what it asks. So, how did I learn this sage lesson? From Buster.
Each day while I worked on Buster I smiled to myself because I was going to get my own teddy bear. A real-life teddy bear just for me! I can't remember ever having a teddy bear besides a stiff and badly stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh I got from Disney Land as a kid. He sat permanently upright and you could feel the wires that held him in his stiff position--it felt like the poor thing had swallowed a coat hanger.

Well, at the beginning of Buster's creation, I was over-the-moon excited--except I thought of the bear more as a Babette than a Buster. But as each day passed I got an edgy little feeling that would gnaw at me. I'just passed it off to being tired.

Then early last week my neighbor called and, boy, did that edgy little feeling let itself be known! Carmencita has been in the hospital for what seems to be a couple of months--I've honestly lost track of when she first went in. She had spoken many months ago about someday buying one of my bears, but we hadn't talked about it again...until last week. We had our normal chit chat, but then it became obvious that she had a purpose for this particular call. She wanted a bear. She wanted a big, fat, cuddly bear with any special extras I could add. It was settled that I would bring the bear I was working on when it was done (Buster) and some different mohairs for her to feel and choose from.

Then, I thought, I was back to everyday business. And the edginess increased and increased. I swear if Buster could have battered me over the head with a pillow, he would have. I was being so thick. It wasn't until Saturday when I finally was able to put the pieces all together. Firstly, Buster was plainly a boy bear no matter how much I wanted him to be a girl bear. Secondly, he was not my bear. He was Carmencita's bear.

Buster was exactly what she wanted. He was the fattest and most cuddly bear I had ever made. He was well weighted and everything about him made him a tactile delight. This is important because Carmencita is blind. The alpaca fur was luscious and I had done a lot of trimming on Buster's face and paws which made their texture a joy to feel. His nose was waxed to a smooth sheen and all of his curves were continuous and smooth. He was perfect for her.

Yesterday morning we visited Carmencita in the hospital and presented her with her bear. She was simply thrilled. Her face lit up with pure joy as she ran her hand over him and she would exclaim every time she discovered something new about him. She even called in the evening to tell me more about how much joy Buster had brought her.

Buster is Carmencita's bear. I think he probably was all along. I just was being too stubborn to listen to him. So, I have learned my lesson.

I made a new pattern today which I have started to work on. This bear is going to be made from a gloriously silky kid mohair in a lovely golden shade. I am sorely tempted to say it will be a girl and that it will be mine, but I will be patient. The bear will tell me all of this in its own good time.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Yesterday's Glitter Blog Give Away

Kelly at "Yesterday's Glitter" has outdone herself again! Check out her cute little Cubcake that she is giving away--so sweet!