Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Making of Emmet Otter: Part II

He's finished.  :)  And just in time since Christmas with my family will be early this next week.  I go home to my parents' house Monday afternoon, and I haven't decided whether to give him to Mom and Dad when I get home that evening or wait until the official gift exchange.  I am betting they will receive Emmet early. 
I finished planning his outfit yesterday afternoon.
A quick jaunt to Goodwill led me to two hats and a tiny pair of boots.  The navy blue hat became Emmet's coat, the brown hat became his pants and boot laces, and all I ended up using of the ready-made boots was the black sole. 
The stuffed animal I was re-purposing for its fur and stuffing was trimmed into an Emmet-size body, using my drawing as a rough guide.
Next time, I will know to attach and position the arms differently so they don't just stick out at the sides.  Live and learn. 
I didn't have enough blue material to make a proper coat--or to make a coat properly, I should say--so I just sewed and hot-glued it piecemeal to Emmet's body until he was covered in a little blue coat from all sides.  The blue hat's brim ended up making the perfect collar for a coat, which tickled me. 
I worked on Emmet a couple hours this morning until his coat was done, head was attached to body, red scarf/chin-strap (formerly my gloves) was lengthened and tied in front, pants and boots were made, and Emmet's traditional "Christmas branch" was secured to his left paw.  His tiny tree/branch seemed more festive to me than the washtub I'd been planning to construct out of foil-covered-stuffing.  Emmet's rudimentary little tree stand (once a wooden clothespin) originally matched his fur, so I colored it with a brown permanent marker to make it stand out more against his paw. 
 Below is Emmet as he looked when I stopped working on him this morning. 
And below is dear Emmet this afternoon after I painted specks of white onto his eyes to help bring him to life. The glint in his eyes makes such a difference. 
For only coming up with this whole idea few days ago, I'm delighted by how he turned out. 
Like my mom, I don't really enjoy sewing, but I find myself doing quite a bit of it.  Mike rolled his eyes as I set up Emmet's photo-shoot this evening, but for someone who doesn't love! love! LOVE! sewing, I had to document the process and the final product, of course. 
I added front pockets to Emmet's coat and soles to the bottoms of his boots. 
I'd intended to make little brown work boots for him, and I tried and tried, but my attempts didn't work, and I was soon out of shoe-looking material, so instead, Emmet appears to be standing almost en pointe in shoes made out of a rather ratty old catnip mouse of Stuffed's.  Ah, well.  My parents will understand.  :)
I painted a tiny tag and sewed it to the side of Emmet's coat.
That I worked in even that small bit of red gingham will thrill my mom.  Emmet looked "real" and complete to me once the tag was attached. 
And now Emmet can be packed away in tissue paper for the trip home to his new owners.  
And even more than usual, I will be with my family in spirit during their Christmas Eve Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas-watching.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Making of Emmet Otter

Around eleven last night, I came up with the idea to make my parents a stuffed Emmet Otter for Christmas.  Watching Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is part of my family's Christmas Eve tradition and has been for decades.  After Christmas Eve dinner, my younger brother serves his homemade eggnog, and we all take eggnog and desserts into the living room and camp out on the couch, chairs, and floor--those on the floor usually wrapped in sleeping bags and piles of quilts, propped up by bed pillows borrowed from my parents' room--to watch the movie together.  I haven't shared Christmas Eve with my family since getting married, and it is one of the things I miss most.  A small stuffed Emmet as part of my parents' Christmas gifts this year, then. 
A stuffed animal that had been set aside to donate to the school has instead been--gasp--cut up for its fur.  (I had been waffling about sending it to the school anyway, and I'd found it for only a couple bucks, so I can always find another if I decide it's "library-worthy.")  I formed a rather messy-looking ball of fur, stuffing, and what seems to be my go-to combination of thread and hot glue.  I thought I had one big black button that looked nose-like in grandma's old button jar, and indeed, I did!  So Emmet had a head and nose.  I sewed the green hat out of an old green pot holder, inserting a piece of cardboard to boost its brim, and I snipped eyes and eyebrows out of the lining of my black shoulder bag.   
A holey mitten was cut up to make Emmet's hat's chin-strap.  And that is as far as I've gotten, what with the limited supplies on-hand here at eleven pm.  I'll hit the thrift shop later today in the hopes of finding an inexpensive scrap of blue that will work for his coat, and then it's on to creating his pants, shoes, and wash tub.  So far, so good.  Dear Emmet is my first handmade stuffed animal, and I'm having a sweet time crafting him. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

But Not Forgotten

After a final-for-now four more bags of possessions were picked up here by the Vietnam Veterans of America yesterday, I am quite close to being able to say that I am following artist William Morris's advice to "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."  (Morris's own home was described as "the beautifullest place on earth," so apparently, he knew of what he spoke.)  I say "quite close" because Mike's things are Mike's things and aren't my job to make decisions about, but my own are sorted and seriously whittled-down.  I see that I wrote about this same topic--and quoted Morris then too--about two years ago.  Letting go, over and over again and in ways big and small and literal and figurative, seems so much a theme in my life.  Possession-wise, at least, it has become almost effortless.  This Old English Sheepdog print, actually the front of an old t-shirt I'd framed, had been with me for years but no longer felt "me," so off it went as part of the donation pick-up yesterday.  And oh!  That kind of moving-on feels good.  

Friday, December 5, 2014


The lights have been rather haphazardly tossed onto the boughs, and I haven't summoned the energy to unpack the ornaments yet, but after declaring it a change of season here this afternoon, this is the start. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving." ~ W.T. Purkiser

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  I head off to work soon, so my own Thanksgiving dinner will be tomorrow evening.  Love and blessings--and a rich and deep awareness of your blessings--to you all, and prayers for all who are struggling with the loss of loved ones.  Dear Mr. M, one of my favorite elementary school teachers, recently and quite unexpectedly died, and his life and what I admired about it and hope to emulate of it have been very much on my mind and in my heart the past couple weeks.  His kindness and enthusiasm for life are the first things that come to mind when I think of him, and he and all the other good-hearted Mr. M-sort of souls who have come into my life over the years are always chief among my blessings.  Love and thanks to all of you. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On the Fridge

My almost-eight-year-old niece is going through a butterfly-drawing phase.  Before butterflies, it was cats--each one neatly labeled "HELLO KITTY."
And before the cats were the adorable bats with their crazed pin-prick eyes. 
Insects and mammals all share the same smile in Alyssa's world, and her drawings of them never fail to make me laugh.  The butterfly drawing now on the fridge is sweet, and the one she presented to my St. Louis Cardinals-fan younger brother the last time I was home is also a keeper.  "I love you!  To:  Uncle Brian, Love:  Alyssa," it reads.  And directly underneath the heart-shaped butterfly and pleasant greeting, in our pistol of a niece's careful printing:  "P.S.  The Cardinals stink."  Ha!   

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Fudge and Frogs

The sore throat I dodged a few weeks ago has returned, so the Thanksgiving mail I'd hoped to send out this week remains a stack of blank cards and unaddressed envelopes while I laze about trying to nurse myself back to better health.  We'll see how tomorrow looks.  Tonight I'm remembering this package of maple-walnut fudge I mailed to Aunt Laurie a few Thanksgivings ago.  (I think this was the recipe I used.  The fudge was quite rich, but good.)   My sweet aunt is not really a frog-collector, or to be more accurate, she is not really a frog-collector of her own volition.  As a kid, I told my mom that since her older sister's favorite color was green, we should start her a collection of something that color, and frogs were what I came up with--!?--so for about thirty years now, long-suffering Aunt Laurie has received frog-themed nonsense from me.    In 2011, I taped this Kermit inside the turquoise pencil case I filled with the fudge, and one Thanksgiving, a magazine clipping of a photo of Kermit-as-a-Macy's-Parade-Float adorned her card's envelope.  Fudge-making likely won't be happening here this week, but I hope to mail out a Thanksgiving sticker-ed card or two--and at least one bit of mail with some smiling green silliness for my dear aunt.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I didn't understand when I was a kid that Dad called his grandfather Nonno because it is the Italian word for that family member.  I thought he was saying "No-No," and I just assumed his grandfather had earned that nickname by always telling his grandchildren "No" to this and "No" to that.  It is so funny how children come up with their own explanations for things.  Dad remembers his dear Nonno as a quiet man who loved his family, his garden, his grape arbors, his walks in the woods, his honey bees, and all the animals on his and my great-grandmother's small property.  They had goats, cows, horses, rabbits, ducks, and I don't remember what-else.  I remember Great-Grandma, I remember the house and yard and apple tree and back porch and part of the barn, and I still vaguely remember the rabbits--I have a vague memory of being held up by someone so I could reach into their wired hutch--but Dad's Nonno died three years before I was born. 

Nonno had been an Italian Prisoner of War during WWI, and I never think of him without remembering family lore that this man who had loved to hunt from the time he was a child could never touch a gun again after his time in the army.  His wartime experiences left him both hard-of-hearing and gun-shy.  He was shaken by loud noises in general as a result of his service, which makes the few photos I have of him--Nonno and Great-Grandma outside their barn with one of their horses, Nonno and Great-Grandma sitting together in the kitchen, Nonno with the rest of the family at Christmas dinner, Nonno and Dad together outside--all the more poignant to me.  There is some satisfaction in seeing that although most of this man's life was not what anyone would consider easy, he enjoyed years of needed peace and of good company--company who would speak as loudly as necessary, in English and Italian--and simple meals and vegetable gardens and playful goats and grandchildren.  Veterans Day is an American holiday, and Nonno was an Italian service member, but I think of him on this day every year, and his story, with its silences both inflicted and restorative, reminds me of the sacrifices made by so many.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Autumn Awe

After going out for breakfast-for-him/lunch-for-me and a movie this afternoon, Mike and I walked home on a hilly cobblestone road that I would reside on in a heartbeat if I could afford it.  Author Willa Cather lived in a home on this hill in her pre-O Pioneers! years while she was teaching at local schools.  It is heavenly, especially in the fall.  The leaves' colors are so vibrant this year, they almost don't seem real.  I annoyed Mike by stopping to take picture after picture, settling myself onto the grass or pavement for some shots with my shoulder bag beside me.  Someday when I'm 100, I'll be glad I got these shots, I say.  :)  I could have taken a million more pictures and still barely have captured today's walk, though.  This was one of the most beautiful afternoons I've ever seen, and the leaves were pink! scarlet! gold! green! violet! rust! orange! peach! amazing!  It is all truly a wonder--And that this happens every year! And is free!  Bliss.  
All that beauty on just one little road!    And before arriving back at the apartment, we passed a church's local pumpkin sale.  The display is so striking every year, and I hadn't expected it to be set-up still, but there it was, a sweet end to a sweet afternoon.
As an aside:  Marie, Monique, and my other artistic readers, you may be amused to learn how much the pumpkin picture above amuses me--because one of my small goals for this fall was to draw better pumpkins, and this picture captures exactly what it was I'd been missing/somehow not really seeing before:  The top of a pumpkin isn't really the stem; some pumpkin appears above/behind the stem too.  :)  I doodle on the pages of my journal, and my pumpkin doodles finally improved a couple weeks ago when I figured that out. It is the little things, indeed.  :)
Ahhh, Winter!  Take your time coming this year, please!  I know each season has its charms and beauties, but I just don't want this fall to end.  This year, especially, the colors are a balm for the soul.