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ABC Quiet Book – Page by Page

In my previous post, I told you the whole sordid story about how my Quiet Book came to be.  I showed each page spread there, but didn’t go into detail about the individual pages.  So here is the page-by-page breakdown, with a description of activities for the kiddos on each page, my favorite pages, and the places where my vision didn’t quite come together on the page (to put it nicely). Luckily felt is very forgiving.

I hope people get ideas from this, or at least pick up some tips about what worked well for me and what not to do.  Again, some of my pages were adapted from the blogosphere.  Most are from the book 26 Lively Letters.  A few others are from the A-B-C 1-2-3 Craft Book.  Both are older books that you might be able to find used as they are likely out of print.

A is for Airplane — the propeller on the plane flips around.20130118_153137

B is for Banana — the banana is attached with velcro and can be peeled and replaced.20130118_154115

C is for Clock — the hands spin around. (such a classic page for Quiet Books, but I did get the idea for the mouse from another blogger, whose page I can no longer find now).  I was proud of how this turned out, even with the unique colors.  I also learned how to do some rudimentary embroidery on this page too.  That was another benefit of the Quiet Book, the chance to learn some new crafting skills. 20130118_153453

D is for Dog — the collar can be snapped on and off. It’s a real dog collar.  I bought an inexpensive one and just cut it to the size I needed and sewed it onto the page. 20130118_153537

E is for Earth — The Earth is a four piece puzzle that you can assemble with velcro. This is one of my unique page ideas. I used free clip art for the Earth shape, which like most of the pictures I made, I traced onto regular printer paper, pinned it to felt, and then cut it out.  I must have been quite tired when planning this page, because I made the water green and the continents blue.  Go figure.  I should have put a red star to identify the state we live in — maybe will add that later. Please note: the puzzle is not assembled correctly in this photo. 20130118_15413120130118_154148

F is for Flowers — the flower petals button on and off and can be stored in the flower pot.  This type of buttoning practice is apparently good for developing fine motor skills and practical life skills too. 20130118_15434120130118_154436

G is for Game — you can play an adapted version of tic tac toe with the yellow circles and orange squares. The game pieces attach with velcro. 20130118_154944

H is for Hair — you can style the little girl’s hair, which is made of yarn. I wish I had added a little felt basket or something to hold barrettes and hair clips for this page.  This was actually one of the first pages I made. I still have about 48 leftover googly eyes.  I see how you quickly develop craft clutter.  Gotta find something to make with those remaining eyes. 20130118_155037I is for Igloo and Inuit — You have to rebuild the igloo by attaching the felt brick pieces to the background via velcro. I found inspiration for this page along with other amazing pages here, but decided to include an Inuit in the doorway (not an Eskimo, folks, though apparently there is still some debate about the appropriate name). I’ve noticed how many stories about Africa feature animals as main characters and act like the people there are invisible. I didn’t want to do the same thing here, so I added a person instead of a penguin.  I’m so proud of that shearling coat, I can’t even tell you.  Also, the original page was in a different language — Polish, I think — so I had to figure out how to do it on my own.  My backup option was Ice Cream with different colored cones if the Igloo didn’t work out. 20130118_15540220130118_155434J is for Jack in the Box — you can button the string to close the box. This one is straight out of 26 Lively Letters. I was worried the clown would come out looking too creepy, but he’s actually okay.  Like on a 5 on the creepy scale of 1-10.  I don’t have a big fear of clowns, but did grow up during the Poltergeist movie era, and the whole connection of creepy = clown stayed with me a little. 20130118_15550720130118_155515K is for Kite — the kids can learn to tie a knot with the tails of the string. This one is also straight out of 26 Lively Letters. 20130118_155703L is for Laces — another classic quiet book page here. You can lace the shoe up and tie the laces. I know this one is a stretch to be used for L instead of S, but I wanted to keep S for shapes.  I learned how to insert eyelets with this page. 20130118_155903M is for “Me” in the Mirror — the hands can be moved to reveal the mirror, sort of like a game of peekaboo. Combined with solitaire.  A little strange, but it still works, I think. 20130121_22515020130127_163554

N is for Numbers — each flap lifts to reveal the corresponding number underneath.20130121_22521320130121_22523320130127_163653

O is for Open, Octopus, and Owl — you can open the “window” or the “door” to reveal the animal underneath.20130121_22532820130127_163755P is for Purse — you can snap the purse open and actually store things in there too.  I put some old credit cards and store discount cards for the girls to play with.  This page is also popular with them.20130121_22541720130121_225447Q is for Quilt — the little girl can be tucked into bed under her patchwork quilt.  Yes, the scandalous little girl sleeps in her birthday suit. This was one of my last pages, and I didn’t have the wherewithall to sew on another layer of felt to get her some pajamas!20130127_16393520130121_225647R is for Rainbow — the smaller felt pieces snap onto the corresponding colors on the rainbow. (I was disappointed with this page — I couldn’t get the sew on snaps to be snug enough. And I also couldn’t sew tightly around the snaps, so the whole page is a bit wobbly.  Likely not strong enough to hold up to a toddler’s determination.  I encourage Mamacita to just point to the colors now to stave off the inevitable downfall of this page. 20130121_225758

S is for Shapes — Shape matching; another classic page.20130127_16424420130127_164203

T is for Tree — You can snap the apples on and off the tree.  This could be a cool counting game too.  The apples can be stored in the yellow basket.  One apple has already disappeared. 20130127_164210

U is for Umbrella — the narrower internal page can be flipped to show an open or closed umbrella that corresponds to the weather. I love this page.  It’s pretty much straight out of A-B-C 1-2-3 Craft Book. 20130127_16434320130127_164351V is for Vegetable Garden — you can harvest the carrots, radishes, and onions from the garden. But you can’t lose or hide your veggies, because I cleverly attached them with a ribbon.  This is one of my favorite pages too. 20130127_16445320130127_164507W is for Weaving — the strips of felt can be woven together in a pattern. I love this page, and as I mentioned, this is one that really engages Snaggle, who is currently 6 years old.  The only thing I wish I had done differently is kept the felt strips in a single layer.  I doubled them up thinking it would be better to have them be stronger and thicker, but it ended up being a little too thick to weave properly once you get to the final strips. 20130127_16464720130127_164615

X is for Xylophone — the parts of the xylophone need to be arranged from smallest to largest.  They attach with velcro. 20130127_164739

Y is for Yoyo — the yoyo is supposed to be able to be pulled up and down, but it already broke!  The bottom part of the string came off. This was another imperfect and problematic page.  I’ve been meaning to try to reassemble. 20130127_164828

Z is for Zebra (and Zipper) — the little red tent thingamajig can be unzipped to reveal the zebra looking thingamajig underneath. This was my first time sewing a zipper.  I was really nervous about it.  Now I feel motivated to tackle it in a real, practical project, like a tote bag. 20130127_16485520130127_164912

The final thing to discuss is the binding method.  I followed the instructions in 26 Lively Letters, which involves stitching pages back to back — she instructs you which pages to create side by side so that when you sew the pages together at the end, they end up in alphabetical order.  But the book ended up being as thick as a phone book though.  I put a denim cover on it, and then had to stitch the pages and the cover together down the center of the book.  This was a challenge!  After some crooked stitches, broken needles, and muttered curse words on my part, I finally got it together.  I also sewed on a handle and straps to close the book with velcro.  It all looks really janky, or wonky as I’ve seen crafters call it.  (unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I don’t have pictures of the cover).  But it hasn’t fallen apart yet so I’m rolling with it for now.

Since I’ve finished, I’ve seen people do the three hole method so that the page can fit in a three-ring binder.  That seems like a really good idea.

Well, if anyone has any questions about the Quiet Book, please let me know.  I’ll see if I can help. Thanks for listening!

Two for One Meal

Peace folks,

I was talking to my mom a few weeks ago, and she was about to make a chicken pot pie, the ultimate comfort food.  That sounded like a great idea, plus K and I have been trying to come up with some “go to” recipes so that each week when we start menu planning, we don’t have to start from scratch and can get our grocery list done more quickly.  Ideally these recipes will be tasty, healthy, quick/easy, not too expensive, and increasingly, vegetarian. I thought a chicken pot pie would be a perfect addition to the arsenal — well, it fits four out of the five criteria anyway.  So I decided to make some for Sunday dinner.  I used the Pillsbury recipe and chicken thighs.  I boiled the chicken thighs, let them cool, and then Snaggle and I pulled the meat off.

Half of a chicken pot pie.

I forgot to take a picture of the pie when it first came out of the oven,but it was gorgeous, let me tell you.  A ready-made crust can work miracles.  I did remember to snap a pic when it was half eaten, before we stored it for leftovers. Because it fits the season, I used the fabric from Snaggle’s Halloween costume as the background.

And as a bonus, there was some cooked chicken left over, and I had the inkling to make curried chicken salad.  I’ve made this before, but hadn’t done it in a while.  I mixed in some mayo, garam masala, curry powder, raisins, apples, celery, walnuts and salt and pepper in with the leftover chicken.  I just guestimated everything.

Curried chicken salad.

The celery and walnuts add a crunch to balance out the texture of the chicken, and the raisins and apples add a nice sweetness to balance out the curry and garam masala.  I put it in a wrap and had it for lunch on Monday and Tuesday.  Yum.

You gotta start somewhere….

Peace, y’all.

For my second post, I thought I would share the evolution of CrunchySoul, those seeds and passions that made me want to start this blog.  Where my first post gives an overview of the blog, this one explains some of the reasons behind the blog’s focus areas.

Crafting
There are so many reasons I’m drawn to crafting.  Through crafting, you can make something that didn’t exist before — a skein of yarn into a scarf, a flat piece of fabric into a tote bag.

This is a tote bag I made for my stepdaughter's fifth birthday.

This is a tote bag I made for my stepdaughter's fifth birthday.

You can also take something unused and unwanted and rework it into something beautiful and useful.  I find something powerful in that creativity and transformation. I am also fascinated by how things are made and just love learning new things all the time.  And frankly, I like taking a stand against the throwaway culture we seem so accustomed to. I relish slowing things down, taking the time to create handmade (and often imperfect) gifts that have character and show thoughtfulness.

A blanket I made for my friend and coworker.

An alphabet blanket I crocheted for my friend and coworker.

Unfortunately, I have a looong list of things I want to make, for myself and others, and the fact that I don’t get to them adds stress, which is really counter-productive to the type of mindfulness and serenity that I’m aiming for!  But we’re all works in progress, right? All in good time is what I like to tell myself.  I mostly crochet, quilt, and sew crafty items, but I have so much more that I want to try out like knitting, sewing clothes and home decor, woodworking and upholstery.

Green Living

If you knew me, you might be surprised that I have a blog related to “green” issues.  I’m not a vegan, not a card-carrying member of the Sierra club, don’t ride my bike to work….not yet anyway.  But without being able to identify the actual beginning point, over time, seeds of concern about the earth have gotten into me. I’m almost hesitant to call it being “green” (which might explain why I have put “green” in quotes twice already! Make that three times. Just imagine air quotes every time I write it) because it sounds so trendy and trite. I mean, corporations are claiming it these days, and once corporations start using a term repeatedly to boast their products, you can best bet they’ve squeezed out anything genuine from the term.

Anyhoo, one thing I’d like to explore is how to get through all the trendy surface green stuff and get to the deeper questions about living meaningfully and purposefully, in tune with Mother Earth.  How do we live compassionately, with reverence for the earth and for the future generations that will inherit this world from us?  It’s one thing to carry a nifty reusable grocery bag (which I do….most of the time), but is that enough?  What, exactly, is enough?  How does one stainless steel water bottle measure up against the serious issues of power and exploitation, environmental racism, corporate raiding of indigenous resources?  Are they connected?  Should they be?

Wool soaker (cloth diaper cover) I sewed from a wool sweater.

Upcycling: Here's a wool soaker (cloth diaper cover) I sewed for Mamacita. It's made from an old sweater using Katrina's Sew Quick Soaker Pattern.

The pessimist in me wonders if my single well-meaning actions can’t fix these larger issues then why should I bother?  But the optimist hopes that my solo efforts might just be one drop in a larger wave of change.  Maybe, just maybe, with my small gestures I’ll motivate myself to be even more active in the larger environmental movement — sort of like a muscle that gains strength over time, or a snowball that keeps building momentum downhill.  We shall see.

I guess I’m hoping for the latter, that baby steps will matter. I envision CrunchySoul.com as a place to explore all these questions and ultimately to become more confident, more thoughtful, more knowledgeable, more empowered, more outspoken, and more conscientious about the environment.  I think this is especially important for black people who are frequently affected by environmental and closely related economic issues but are underrepresented in the “Green” movement.  Well, you have to start with small steps and big dreams.  I just hope to never get shrill or judgmental about environmentalism.  That’s not what I’m about.  I just want to learn and document and share what I learn.

Interior design and landscaping

You ever watch Househunters on HGTV?  You ever see those people who look at a house and say, “It’s okay but we would really need to redo the whole kitchen and all the bathrooms before we could move in.” Then, one month later the show visits them and they’ve moved in, painted, renovated, had new furniture delivered and hung custom artwork?  Well, that is most certainly not me or Big G.  We were just psyched to move in. Then we started a ritual of daydreaming and planning what we could do with the house.  Then we never executed the plans.  We’d toss around new ideas — we still do, but not much changes.

And here we are almost four years into our house.  Meanwhile, the walls remain stark, the clutter is growing exponentially, patches of dirt are multiplying in the yard.  The previous owner’s fruit-motif curtains and generic blinds still cover the windows, weeds are sprouting up between the landscaping rocks, tree limbs hang ominously over the house.

Here are those infamous inherited fruit curtains.

I could blame it on lack of money, lack of time, lack of energy, lack of skill — to some extent these are all true.  But honestly, at heart, I think my true problem is fear — of messing up, of having to start over, of not being able to execute the vision in my head.  This fear keeps me frozen, and I need to break out of this rut.  I’m hoping to look deep within to find a little creativity, a an adventurous spirit, some determination, ingenuity and focus to get some things done around here.  Perhaps I’m crazy to blog about it, but then again the level of accountability might be just what I need to move from a dreamer to a doer and to make this home  feel like mine.

Gardening

I have a burgeoning interest in gardening, and a fundamental belief that those slow-food, local harvest, sustainable gardening folks are on to something quite lovely.  It just makes sense to me.  I would love to join this movement, to know the joy and toil that goes into producing food for my family, to teach my kids to appreciate where their food comes from, to know with certainty that no pesticides or GMOs are going into my body. Assuming I ever overcome the landscaping hurdle, the next step is definitely a garden in our little plot of (patchy) earth.

So, as you can see, I have high hopes for CrunchySoul.com.  Some of these focus areas overlap, and I will also expect to blog about my random interests every once in a while.  I expect it to be a wild — or at least compelling– ride and I hope you’ll join me.

Hello world!

Hello everyone!  Welcome to the launch of CrunchySoul.com.  This is a blog that explores my fascination with handmade and homemade things, including crafting, sewing, cooking, repurposing, upcycling, gardening and whatever else I get a mind to try.  I’m a newbie at a lot of this — no expert by any means.  So I plan to share what I learn, mistakes and all.  I hope you come along for the ride as I attempt to live more simply, sustainably, and purposefully. 

It is my hope that readers of my blog will come away inspiration to tackle their own projects (because, trust me, if I can do it, you probably can too!), learn a new skill, or get an idea to use a product in an innovative way.  And sometimes I hope to just make you think about something you hadn’t considered or maybe just smile.