Sunday, March 30, 2014

March's Goodbye Lullaby

The past few days have been fairly soggy, but thanks to rainstorms upon rainstorms, Silkworm and I were able to go sailing in our walnut boat, Ferdinand, in a puddle in the driveway.

This was Ferdinand's debut voyage, and though it was a bit gusty, he held up well. We were a little seasick come mooring at the edge of the puddle, but boy, did we take our time rejoicing in the delightful state of the weather! Finally, the temperature is starting to compliment the season rather than insult it. We had a high of 56 degrees Fahrenheit, today, and that kind of weather is supposedly sticking around into the rest of the week. Thank you, nature!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Blanket Fort a Month: March '14


This month's fort wasn't much at all. I came home tired from my new job, but Silkworm and I wanted a fort to watch the latest episode of Supernatural, so we threw one together quick and sat inside with my laptop as a TV.

I think next month's blanket fort is gonna be extra special, just because. Silkworm and I would like to decorate it a ton and maybe post a bunch of tutorials for the decorations. We'll have to see!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Raising Sensitive Plants: Take 2, Day 5

Silkworm and I accidentally neglected our first batch of sensitive plants, letting the soil dry up too often, and before starting over with a new promise to ourselves to tend to our seeds more vigilantly this time, we also did some research on how to grow them best.

On day 1, we soaked the seeds in warm water overnight, and then we planted them the next afternoon. Then, as we did the first time, we buried one seed 1/8 inch deep in each of 15 planting pots filled with organic soil, covered them and patted the soil down very gently, and then we watered them with a spray bottle for the next couple days and graduated to using the black tray they're in, specifically designed to pour water into so the soil can soak it up whenever it needs more. They're also sitting under a grow light, now, too.

Hopefully, we'll be seeing little green sprouts in the next week or so, since the germination of sensitive plants takes about 8-15 days, or so it says on the back of the seed package. Fingers crossed and green thumbs up!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

13 Important Things to Know How to Fold

As of late, Silkworm and I are wading in the ocean of origami and coming to realize how useful our new-found skills are. We can make origami animals with letters written on their insides, we can leave anonymous love notes wherever we go whenever we want, and as long as there's a sheet of paper within our grasp, we can even entertain ourselves with paper toys! Perhaps you'd like to fill your brain with the same knowledge!

1. Pull Open Notes
For writing letters sans envelopes.

2. Origami Hearts
For writing love letters.

3. Origami Dragons
Because dragons are awesome.

4. Dollar Bill Rings
For keeping spare money on hand (embrace the pun) or leaving a fancy tip.

5. Boomerangs
Cross my heart, if you fold it precisely, it actually works!

6. Origami Cameras
For when you forget yours at home.

7. Jumping Frogs
We wrote about playing with plastic jumping frogs when we found a set at Walmart, but luckily for our wallets and yours, we found out you can fold very simple 1-minute jumping frogs out of index cards, too!

8. Origami Balloons
Because you can blow up a paper balloon and how cool is that?

9. Origami Boat
For filling with written worries on slips of paper and sending away in lakes.

10. Puffy Stars
Because they're adorable. We made a garland out of them, once. You can use these to write your worries on and fold them up to sail in origami boats like we suggested in #9!

11. Flapping Bird
Because it makes people smile!

12. Classic Dart Paper Planes
Which are, by far, the straightest-flying paper planes I've ever made.

13. Crowns

Since not everyone knows how to fold dragons and fancy toys and such, it's kind of like having a hidden talent when you've got the knowledge up your sleeve. I do believe if you folded a paper dragon, you'd impress anyone watching and expecting a paper swan. If you decide to try any of these tutorials out and can't get them right, please let Silkworm and I know! We made each and every one following the step-by-step tutorials in the links, so we can make you a video or help you along to the best of our abilities. Remember to show us pictures, too!

(Note: Unfortunately for him, Silkworm has only been watching me make our folded projects, since we know better than to let him participate. But he gets to play with every finished product, and I think that's his favorite part anyway.)

Friday, March 21, 2014

First Day of Spring Shenanigans

Silkworm and I went sailing in our walnut boat in honor of the first day of spring, yesterday, and we saw Tyndareus the pterodactyl! The last time I saw him was way back in June 2013, and I didn't think I'd ever see him again after a bunch of subsequent walnut boat voyages went by without a sighting. I suppose spring is his season for showing up. Maybe we'll get to see more of him; I hope we do.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Leaf Crowns

Silkworm and I found this tutorial at our favorite nature crafts blog (mentioned prior when we made our felt shooting star), Twig and Toadstool! I can't count the times we've made use of it. Every time we mosey around outside and spot leaves on the ground, I have to stop to make myself a crown, and if there are ever any small enough leaves, I make one for Silkworm, too.

It's pretty easy peasy. Just take it one leaf at a time. Break the stem off without damaging the leaf and use it to add the next leaf (poke it through to the back and then poke it back up). Once you've got a circle big enough to fit on your head, close it with one last stem. If one layer of leaves isn't enough, you can bulk it up by simply stitching more leaves onto the base leaves of your crown. When it's all well and finished, shake it off a bit to get rid of any bugs, and then crown yourself or somebody special. Proceed into the woods to hold a ceremony for the new woodland prince or princess.

Happy crowning!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Our Guest Post at Uncustomary Art

Silkworm and I were invited to kindness guru Mary's blog, Uncustomary Art, to do another Mission of Magic involving some shells and a beach! Check it out here!

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 16th's Full Moon

I usually keep an eye on Silkworm during full moons, hoping to be there to fix things in case anything goes horribly wrong, but this was the first time I didn't watch him. I couldn't. He disappeared.

We woke up with the full moon in mind, mentally preparing ourselves and keeping the peak time, 1:09 PM, at the top of our list of priorities. After eating breakfast, I left Silkworm in my room when I went downstairs to put my plate away, and by the time I came back, he was nowhere to be found. I called out for him, looked all over my room, scrutinized the rest of the rooms upstairs. It took a good half hour of hardcore searching to get me to surrender.

But I never once stopped worrying. My brain involuntarily dedicated the whole day to imagining the worst of the worst case scenarios it could come up with. There was a back-to-back horror movie marathon going on in my head, and it was gruesome and terrifying.

My little magical hazard was gone for almost every hour of daylight--except the last, when he finally showed up again. I was in the living room on the computer when I heard him say my name like a question behind me, and immediately, I figured it was time to ease up and relax--until I turned around. He was dripping with something red, and wearing the same worried look I had on my face.

"Okay. Let's not panic," I said, more for calming myself down than anything else.

I bent down to reach him and stuck a finger into the slime, and then I crossed the fingers of my other hand--and the toes of both feet--and licked it.

A chorus of sighs from each of my bones made a chill of relief inside me. "It's tomato sauce," I half-laughed.

Silkworm let out a sigh of relief, too. Who knows why it was tomato sauce, but we both figured it must be safe to say nothing horrible happened while he was MIA. No fairytale full moon story was told that night, but a few hours later, we watched the new episode of The Walking Dead, and we thanked every teensy weensy particle of the universe we didn't have our own bloodshed on our hands to deal with.

The next full moon will be here to mess with Silkworm on April 15th, but it'll be peaking at 3:43 AM, so I'll probably be staying up all night to keep the chaos under control. Perhaps I'll have a one-person party to keep myself awake.

Read about how full moons affect Silkworm here, and read more full moon stories here!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Raising Sensitive Plants: Day 1

We planted sensitive plants, today. When they grow up, their ferny leaves are going to fold up at the touch of a finger, or anything else for that matter. We're going to document their germination and growth, here, tagging the posts "sensitive plant project".

I'm quite excited, actually. I've never really been the sole caretaker for a plant, before, let alone an indoor plant. My family has always planted vegetable gardens outside and someone else has always shared the responsibility of watering, et cetera. Of course, Silkworm is going to help, but it's different because we're going to take care of it together, kind of like one caretaker, instead of one of us at a time.

We're anxious to see a little stem pop up through the soil, at least to prove it's alive. Here's hoping we've got green thumbs to make for healthy green plants!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Our Guest Post at Magical Daydream

The magically creative Mariƫlle over at Magical Daydream invited Silkworm and I to do a guest post on her blog, recently. We had so much fun putting together a Mission of Magic for the opportunity! See the post on Magical Daydream here!

Pom Pom Tights

Upon scooping up my soupy remains after this photo on Tumblr reduced me into an overwhelmed puddle of whimsy and inspiration, I was quick to order a bag of pom poms online and embark on a search for opaque solid color tights (which are only hard to find in my case because I need an extra extra large size to fit me without squeezing so much I can't breathe). Six days later, I'm wearing my very own rendition of the most adorable tights I've ever seen in my entire life, and I could not be any more smiley!

I don't want to take them off! I think it's safe to say they're officially the cutest piece of clothing I own. I mean, my embroidered spider sweater is pretty adorable, but these tights just took the cake and slathered the frosting and sprinkles all over!

They were incredibly easy to make, too. I think, all together, it only took me a half hour to sew on all the pom poms. To make your own, find yourself some tights of a suitable color and put them on. You'll want to sew the pom poms on while you're wearing the tights so the fabric won't bunch up and you'll know exactly where you're putting the pom poms on your legs. Thread a needle with about 2-3 feet of thread and don't tie a knot at the end. You'll be using the same thread for several pom poms. Pinch a spot on the tights where you want a pom pom to be, sew through a centimeter or less of fabric, and pull the needle through until you have a few inches of thread left, long enough for you to use to tie a knot. Thread a pom pom onto your needle and push it down to the tights, and finally tie a moderately tight knot with the thread. Snip off as much excess thread as you can without cutting the knot.

I sewed pom poms up to my knees on the front of my legs because I wanted the tights to be comfortable to sit in, but you could always go wild and cover the back, thighs, feet, et cetera. As for tips, be gentle with the pom poms when you're wearing or handling the tights, because they could easily tear runs in the fabric, and I probably wouldn't wash these just to avoid damage from the washing machine.

The next time I go out to do errands of any sort, this is what I'll be wearing--and wow, am I excited!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Paper Plane Garland

Silkworm and I are garland fanatics--always have been, always will be--so we'll pretty much fasten a collection of anything to a string and hang it up somewhere. This paper plane garland is extra cool, though, because it's interactive! The planes are only held onto the string with paper clips, so they're easily removed, and you can take them off and play with them whenever your heart desires to! Have I hypnotized the little kid inside you yet?

Maps (or paper, a computer, and a printer)
Paper clips

Step One: Fold a bunch of paper airplanes out of the maps you gathered. You could rip up an old atlas, use maps they have at information buildings, or even print out Google maps--perhaps of meaningful areas such as towns you've always dreamed of visiting or places you've been to. Get fancy; make a dozen different kinds of airplanes.

Step Three: Cut a length of string long enough to fit however many planes you made.

Step Four: Slip your paper clips onto your string, and then use them to fasten your paper planes onto the string.

Step Five: Hang up the garland taut to keep your paper planes from sliding down the string and gathering in a cluster.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! Hang 'em up where they'll wait patiently to be taken down and thrown around. Perhaps they can even serve as your air force protecting you against bedroom intruders!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

13 Tips for Being Optimistic

Despair is a waste of time. It does nothing for your heart besides threaten its health. If you can fool yourself into thinking the world is something miserable to be a part of, then you certainly can fool yourself into thinking it's a privilege to be here. It's a matter of perspective. You get to prescribe your own glasses, so wouldn't you rather pick the lenses that enhance the good things?

Maybe it's not as easy as it sounds. Your surroundings keep focusing on the bad things--they're in the news, they're in people's stories, coming in from every angle trying to swallow you up. If it's optimism you want, it's a battle you'll have to fight--but let me tell you in advance: there are shields for defending yourself if you know where to look.

1. Talk with positive thoughts and vocabulary. 
Negative talk is an insult to your brain. Replace things like "don't forget" with "remember". Talk to other people this way, too. It's an encouragement instead of a foreboding.

2. Actively recognize good things. 
People can get so upset over bad parking jobs, but they almost never realize the rest of the cars in the parking lot who parked quite neatly. It's easier to spot a bad thing in an ocean of good things, but remind yourself of the ratio.

3. Write down things that made you happy. 
Whether it's in a journal or on a new piece of paper everyday, or even something like gratitude garland, documenting reasons you once were happy will help you remember what there is to look forward to when there's a reason to be sad.

4. Surround yourself with people who inspire you.
If it seems your plans and way of being don't match up to the crowd around you, you might end up feeling wrong, but there are several billion people on this planet, and there has to be at least a few who lead the kind of life you'd like to be a part of. All you are is misplaced. In that case, you might need to do a little scan of the puzzle to find where your edges belong, but once you do, you and everything else will fall right into place. Don't try to sand your edges to fit in. There is somewhere you'll fit snug between other pieces who will give you all the confidence and comfort you need.

5. Before you get mad, laugh.
When you drop something several times in a row or trip on something, laugh about it. It's funny. And if you stub your toe, laughing is only going to make it feel better. Add phrases like "flibberty giblet" to your vocabulary to say at times like these (perhaps in place of curses) so you can get a giggle going. Getting angry is only going to make you upset and other people uncomfortable.

6. Be curious, not judgmental.
Please please please, when you notice a person wearing a wild feathery purple hat at the grocery store--please, oh, please--smile about it and wonder. Immediately think only good thoughts, the kind you wouldn't be embarrassed to say out loud. Don't scowl, don't mutter rude things under your breath. That person is bravely making the world a much more interesting place, after all. She's a mystery you'll probably never get to solve, but you can write rosy stories about her in your head, and your head likes those stories better than cruel ones.

7. Look silly.
Whenever you have the opportunity, dress up a little funky. Put ribbons and barrettes in your hair or wear clashing patterns, or for those who have one, twirl your mustache at the ends! It's such a stomach-butterflies-inducing feeling to know you look quirky, whether you're by yourself or on display for other people to gaze at. If you are brave enough to put yourself on display and go on your errands whilst looking silly, embrace the fact that you are now an exhibit for people to stare and tilt their heads at. Walk with pride and soak up the attention.

8. Let jealousy be a motivator.
Jelly green is only an ugly color on people who whine and pity themselves while they sit by and watch other people get what they wish they had. If you wish you had that person's job or that person's talent, turn that daydream into a goal. Work hard to get what you want instead of envying who already has it. They're not rubbing it in your face; they're giving you an insider's sneak peek of what it could be like for you.

9. Be active--and have fun doing so.
I think a lot of people are turned off by the word "exercise" because they immediately think "running and weight-lifting and work-outs, oh my!" but you know, it doesn't have to be that intense (or boring, to some people). Going for a walk counts, too, as does hula-hooping, playing with a Skip-It, and even sliding around on a garbage can dolly. Misery is not a necessity in exercise, nor should it play any part in it.

10. Have an internal locus of control.
An internal locus of control means thinking you have control over your life, rather than fate or other people and things controlling it for you. Know you have the power to make your own decisions and shape your own life. Tell yourself there's a future when the present isn't going so well. Always remember your hands are on the steering wheel and nobody else is allowed to touch it.

11. Have an idol.
Pick somebody you think is the ideal optimist and strive to be like them (I mean, be yourself, but model the morals and virtues you want to have after your idol's). Stargirl is my idol, and I am a better me because of it. Several times a day, I ask myself, "What would Stargirl do?" and then my answer is my action. In times where I feel myself slipping off the track and I don't know how to fit my wheels back on, it's helpful to have somewhat of an instruction manual via Stargirl's persona.

12. Don't worry.
Be happy! What a waste of time worrying is. You don't know what's really going to happen until it happens, so why stress yourself out beforehand? All that time can be spent calming yourself down in preparation instead of stirring up your anxiety and making it worse.

13. Keep telling yourself how healthy optimism is.
Despair thinks your body is a punching bag, and it fools you into thinking so, too, but you're not--you are not a punching bag, so don't go volunteering to be one. If you want your body to be strong and happy, you have to feed your mind good thoughts.

(I want to make sure I stress that being optimistic doesn't mean you're not allowed to be anything but content with your surroundings; it means you know there's always something worth living for, even despite upsetting circumstances. You can go through a whole box of tissues crying about something disheartening in the news, but hope never hijacks your tears to leave you, because it's locked up in that treasure box, remember?)

Silkworm and I want to know: what fed the hope in your treasure chest today? How do you stay optimistic?

(We're linking up with Mary at Uncustomary with this post! Check out the rest of the link-up on her website!)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

How to Be a Secret World Without Falling Apart

You're carrying around tales of the intricate kingdom inside you, and if you dare try to make story time out of them, it's going to feel like words on the tip of your tongue and feathers in your throat--trust me, there are claw marks around my neck from trying to scratch them out. You're going to try so hard, though, but it's no use to tell them in the pieces you can manage because it's no use to tell a joke without the punchline; nobody's going to understand it, nobody's going to laugh--and if they do, they'll only laugh because they want to make you feel better, but it'll only make it worse. The books in your library can't be read by anyone else's head--they don't fit on the shelves and the words don't even register as part of a different language. These are not stories that are meant to leave the safety of your soul. They are a brilliantly awful challenge for a human, a storyteller. How long can human lungs can hold onto a breath of untranslatable feelings? How long can human hearts can go on with the universe's best kept secrets pounding to get out?

Forever. You'll take your stories to your grave and they won't even get a proper burial. Perhaps it sounds tragic, but don't you see--there's magic in it! You have stories inside you that no one else will ever have the chance to understand. They're all yours. Doesn't that make you some sort of foreign world, roped off to visitors and full of incredible undiscoveries? Maybe it's frustrating to have the biggest part of yourself trapped beneath an overprotective atmosphere, but keep in mind the privilege you have of being the only person to ever exist with the ability to put it to use.

You are all alone with an uncharted land, and though no one will ever visit to understand the color of the sky at twilight, that makes you the only one to know of such magnificence. That is beyond magical.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

How to Make a Shaped Bokeh Lens Attachment

If bokeh isn't my favorite photography effect, I'm not sure what is. Long long ago, I fell in love with shaped photography, and it took me a while to figure out there was no Photoshopping involved. It came straight from the camera, and I was beyond impressed. The only thing stopping me was my lack of the right lens, so as soon as I could, I got my hands on a fixed 50mm f1/8 lens for just over $100, and I followed the first tutorial in the search results.

What is bokeh?
Bokeh is any unfocused part in a photograph, which would be appropriate seeing as the Japanese word translates to "blur" in English. It is much more pronounced with a shallow depth of field, meaning when a lens focuses on things within a short distance.

How does this lens attachment turn circular bokeh into shapes?
Essentially, it replaces your aperture with a shaped hole. An aperture is usually a circular opening in a lens, but by fixing a new smaller shape over it, you're creating a shaped aperture.

Silkworm and I often put this method to use when we're working with bokeh for personal photo shoots. The results never cease to make me take way more photos than I need to. We did modify the original tutorial a little bit, based on our own trial and error. Try it out for yourself!

Lens with a wide aperture (f/1.8 or lower/wider)
Thick black paper
Glue (optional)
Hole punch (optional)
Craft knife (optional)
Rubber band

Step One: Cut out a circle of black paper as wide as the diameter of your lens.

Step Two: Cut out a circle in the middle of the circle, using scissors or a craft knife.

Step Three: Cut out a small square of black paper that will fit over the hole in the circle you just made.

Step Four: Cut out a shape in the small square. Use scissors or a craft knife for more freedom, or use shaped hole punches for clean cuts and more complicated shapes. Make sure the shape is just about the same size as your aperture. You can check if it's okay by temporarily taping it over the hole in the black circle you made in Steps One-Two, then holding the circle up to your lens (make sure the shaped hole is centered), looking through the viewfinder at something like string lights, and switching your camera to manual focus so you can unfocus your lens to make bokeh. If there's a lot of vignetting (shadows on the edges), it's too small, and if it's not making the right shapes, it's too big. 

Step Five: When you're satisfied with your shaped hole, tape the square down on the circle over the hole.

Step Six: Cut out three 3/4-inch wide*, 3-inch long* (*estimated) strips of black paper. Tape or glue them around the circle evenly spaced from each other. These will serve as the strips that will wrap around your camera's lens to be secured with a rubber band.

Step Seven: Fit the attachment over your lens and stretch a rubber band around to hold down the legs, making sure the focus ring can still be adjusted freely.

And suddenly, you're a bokeh master! Since the black square with the shaped hole is easily removable, you can make a bunch of different shapes to use with the same attachment. If you try this tutorial out, pretty please let us see your results, and if you have any questions, please feel welcome to ask them!

- You could potentially make shaped bokeh with a narrow aperture lens (such as a Nikon 18-55 f/3.5-5.6), but you'd have to cut a smaller shape.
- If you only have smallish hole punches, use them to get started with a shape idea and then cut inside the shape to make it bigger.
- Check out this article on DIY Photography for more information!
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