Friday, December 30, 2011

getting fresh

1. Rubber stamp practice - Simple leaf in Olive Green, 2. spring green yarn, 3. freshly picked, 4. vintage buttons

One last hurrah and then onto the new.

I hope you have a nice New Year's. I will be at home with my family. Doing seemingly boring things by the World's standards.

I've never been one to make a big hoopla over New Years.  After Christmas I just seem to move onto the new, always eager for a fresh start.

See you in 2012. I like that number, by the way. It has good feng shui. As if I know about such things.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

the thing about owls...

Have you noticed the owl craze? Is that a stupid question?

I like owls. Not in the way most people like them. Not cutesy owls. Not cartoon owls on onsies.

But I do like owls and I'll tell you why.

First, when I was a kid, there was a owl that lived in the rafters of an old barn where I used to play with my sisters.  I think of that owl as the Cheshire cat of my childhood.

Second, owls are one of the very few bird species where the female is bigger, more colorful and more aggressive than the males.  I say damn strait to that.

Third, owls are the animals most associated with wisdom. In fact, a group of owls is called a parliament, study or wisdom. (I make it a point to learn what groups of animals are called. Not sure why. I just feel a need to know. Don't laugh. I might win Jeopardy some day.)

My personal theory on this is their silent nature.  People tend to think you are smart until you open your mouth and start talking.

I want to work on listening more and talking less. I want to be wiser in this coming year. I want to spend more time listening to that little voice deep inside that tells me what is right and what is wrong.  I want to sit still and observe instead of directing all the time.

I bought this piece of art from my friend Matt and hung it on my wall to remind me of these things that are my heart's desire.

I also like foxes.

But I'll tell you about that another day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

unfiltered love

It's not snowy here. On the contrary, it's rather warm and sunny.

It's not quiet here in our home. No, no. The children are playing loudly with their new favorite things.

It's not orderly or tidy or even neat here where we live.  There are too many blankets milling about the living room.  Too many plates of treats cluttering up the kitchen counters. The floor is peppered with small settlements.  The fort stands next to the book cases with Frankie's new cowboy hat dangling off the top.  It has been stocked with blankets and books. Ameilie's new miniature castle and "little people" are set up in front of the fire place.  A labyrinth of wooden train track snakes around the couch and laps out onto the kitchen floor.

It's not a picture perfect Christmas here at homestead Meeker. On the contrary. It's messy and loud and full of raw, unfiltered love.

“You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back.” - William D. Tammeus

Friday, December 23, 2011

the eve eve

Hello Christmas Eve Eve. 

I'm a big fan of the Eve Eve.  Christmas Eve has its designated activities and so does the Eve Eve.

Eve Eve is the last preparation day.  If there are any last minute gifts to be bought or cookies to be made, this is the day.  It's a get things done day.  It's a business day for the business of making merry.

My business today is to boss the Sugar Daddy around.  He must go to See's Candy.  He must bring in all the Amazon boxes from the garage and debox everything so I can start the wrapping procedures. He must taste the gingerbread to make sure it is soft and delectable.  He must bath the hound dog and make sure all the good movies are in the que.

It's the one day of the year that I am allowed to be bossy.  Because, you know, I'm the Christmas foreman.  And the Sugar Daddy respects that title.

He helped me finished up my last handmade gift for the children.  It's a reading fort. Or eating fort. Or possibly a sleeping fort. It's really just a simple fort. Because forts are cool.

Sugar Daddy did the wooden frame construction. I handled the design and duck cloth sewing.

It was an inexpensive project. I got the idea here. I bought the duck cloth from an Army Navy surplus store and got it duper cheap.

I think the rug rats will enjoy it.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve.  I hope you have a productive day. Have some caffeine. Crank the music. Get er done.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

with love, from czech republic

Children have been hard to come by in my family.  I personally went through twelve years of infertility before my children were all here.

My younger sister only has one child. She had to try for a while before she was able to get pregnant. Charley is five and they have been hoping for some time for another baby.

My older sister, Heidi is fertile. But she was born with a weak heart.  After her second baby she went into heart failure and had to have artifical valves put in. When she found out she was pregnant with her third baby, the doctors reccommended she abort the pregnancy. She would not survive. But this is not something she could do. It is not how we were raised. It is not how we think in our family.

Heidi survived her pregnancy, (barely) and so did her baby.  We gave praise to God and sighed with relief.  

Heidi wanted lots of babies. She is a big family sort of gal. She likes a full house.  She was heart broken that she would only have three.

So they decided to start hosting exchange students.  To date, they have hosted four students. They have enjoyed every one. But there is one kid in particular that they all fell in love with and adopted as their own.

Ondra Troup was a boy from the Czech Republic.  He became a part of my sister's family. She went into mourning when he left to go home.

Ondra's real mother is a phyician with an amazing talent for decorating gingerbread. She sends my sister a collection of cookies every year. I've drooled over these cookies every time they arrive and finally I just flat out asked for my own.  I offered to pay. She wouldn't hear of it.

This is what arrived in the mail.

I am humbled that a woman I don't even know would be willing to spend so much time to do this for me.  I can't even imagine how long it takes her.  

The Bird and I had so much fun unwrapping each cookie.  They were like tiny little gifts.  I need to figure out how to display them.  We can't eat them. We just can't.

Drahý příteli,
Děkujeme vám za kindess. Cookies jsou nádherné. Moje sestra má to štěstí mít takové krásné kamarády jako vy. Doufám, že máte velmi hezké Vánoce a Šťastný Nový Rok!

Hodně lásky,

April Meeker

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


My children are a rowdy bunch these past few days.  Christmas is in their blood, coursing through their veins. Christmas, and lots of sugar.

My "Peace on Earth" mantle decor has done little to nothing by way of curbing the bickering.   

The babies, better known as The Disaster Duo, have been in true form.  It's a wonder the house is still standing.  I'm considering calling up the Navy and offering their services. I have this idea that it would be a great way to train a Navy Seal how to be vigilant. An afternoon with my two darlings should do the trick.

The Boy seems to have suffered some sort of hearing loss. He has been talking so loud I can hardly carry on a conversation with him.  And he bounces when you talk to him. Bounces.

It's all very tiring.

Yesterday I screamed, "Can I just get a moments peace?!"  

Which was instantly embarrassing once it flew out of my mouth because I felt like my mother, incarnate, standing there in my apron with a wooden spoon, saying such things!

But I guess what I'm learning is that having peace, and having peaceful are two different things.

My home was peaceful prior to the arrival of my children. And clean. I want everyone to know that at one point I had a clean home.  But now, now that my children are all here, I have peace. 

When I watch my children enjoy the Christmas season, as noisy and hectic as it is, I have peace.  

Peace. What a gift. 

Most likely, I don't know you. My friends and family seldom read my blog. But I do appreciate the people who come here and read my drivel.  You make me feel normal. And human. You are supportive of all my crazy ideas and ventures.  I really do think about you, and the lives you might lead, and the things you might dream about and hope for.

I hope you have peace in your heart this year.  And if you do not, I hope that you will hang on. Just hang on.  It will find you.  

Peace comes and goes. I don't knows what lies ahead for me. But this is life.

Belle vita.

Monday, December 19, 2011


I can't be sure what is real and what my mind has filled in.

I know for sure on that on that December day it was snowing. And I know that when I arrived home from school with a cold nose and fingers, my mother was baking gingerbread men. And she was listening to Christmas music.

I remember paper snowflakes in the windows and a fire in our stove. I remember my mother in wool clogs and an apron. I remember mugs of hot chocolate. But these are things that I'm not sure about. They are fuzzy and I wonder if I've grown so fond of this memory, that my mind has embellished it.  Frosted it with Christmas cheer, if you will.

I do not remember a single thing about Christmas day that year.  I couldn't name one gift or event.  I don't know exactly how old I was or if I still believed.

And it's a relief to me.

Because it means that life is celebrated in small snippets of time. Moments where all is right with the world slip through our hands too quickly, but we are gifted the memory.

As a mother, I have learned that is it folly to place all hopes of happiness into grand celebrations. Expectation has a way of masking what is most important. The road to happily ever after is paved with small, seemingly inconsequential memories. Moments of time. A hug. A laugh. A bike ride.

A mother baking gingerbread.

My goal is to live a life ripe with everyday celebrations. And to record them for my children so that they can choose which ones are most precious. Which ones they will embellish in their minds.

Friday, December 16, 2011

merry mermaid

If you are like me, you have a ton of fabric scraps saved up for some rainy day project. Probably way more scraps than you will ever really get around to using.

But I really love some of the smaller pieces of fabric I have. Some were pretty expensive so I only bought a fat quarter to begin with.

I made this little mermaid doll for Birdie for Christmas using up some of my favorite scraps.  She only took me about a couple hours to sew together and she didn't cost me a cent.

If you would like to make your own little mermaid, here is what you will need:

Scraps of fabric in three different patterns
Enough felt for the head and arms with a different color for the hair
Embroidery floss for the eyes and for the hair
Polyester filling
Beads for necklace if you want one
Two pom poms if you want them
Sewing machine

I gave a couple options to the hair because Birdie's best friend Emerson has an afro and her mother might make her one too. Don't be afraid to alter the pattern to match the little girl you are sewing it for.

And again, don't use cheap felt! It will make a big difference. If you can't find good felt, use cotton.

Happy sewing!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Frankie's blocks

I wanted to make something for Frankie. Something extra special. Something he could take with him for his own children to play with in years to come.

And the boy likes blocks.

I ordered unfinished wooden blocks and went to work.

I nearly died when I ran across the vintage alphabet graphics. They are so sweet. You can find the original source for the graphic on the Rook no. 17 Blog.

There are even a few animals in there that I have never heard of before.  Ibis? Who knew?

I painted the blocks first then distressed the edges. I used gel medium to adhere the graphics to the blocks.  Modge Podge would work as well as gel medium.  Then I gave them a coat of clear gloss.

The blocks are available here.  I have made the graphics available here. They fit on 2 inch blocks.

I made twenty blocks. It took three alphabets.  The whole project cost under $25. If you can cut your own blocks you could do it for a fraction of that price.

Here's to cheap- handmade- and classic toys!

Monday, December 12, 2011

hello doll

Do you remember the little people? I am so sad that Fischer Price changed the look of the little people.  My sister and I spent hours, hours, playing with our little people. We had the house and the camper. The camper had a canoe on top that was a coveted item.

The newer little people are much fancier. They have arms.

But I've never really liked fancy toys.  I'm much more interested in sturdy.  And imagination inspiring.

I wanted Amelie to have some little people. But I didn't want to pay for vintage ones. So I decided to make my own. Handmade is always better anyway!

This project cost me about five dollars.  You can buy the wooden dolls here on Etsy or there are also a lot of other sources online.  They aren't hard to paint. I just used the acrylic paint  I had in my studio. You can be as fancy or simple as you like.  I gave them a clear gloss coat to set the paint.

I hope she loves them like I loved my little people.  I plan to keep adding to her collection. Maybe throw a few boys in there. 

If you paint your own little people, let me know! I'd love to see them.

Friday, December 09, 2011

little cher ami

Have you heard of Cher Ami?

Cher Ami (French for "Dear Friend") was a solider in World War 1.  He became one of the most celebrated heros of the war.

In 1918, shortly before the holidays, he saved the lives of 200 fellow soliders.  He was blinded in one eye, lost a leg and was shot in the breast.  But he didn't give up until his mission was complete.

Cher Ami was a courier pigeon.  He delivered the message that saved 200 trapped soliders proving that a simple little note can mean the world to someone.

I made three little Cher Ami ornaments for my tree this year. One for each of my kids.

Here's how I made them:

Supplies needed:

polymer clay
clay tools (small ball head pointer and shape cutters)
basic jewelry tool set (clippers, needle nose, round nose)
X-acto knife

All these supplies are available at your local craft store.

Start by forming your clay into a basic bird shape. Select the other colors you would like to use to decorate with. You really don't need to be fancy. You could leave the bird as just a basic shape. If you are working with children let them decorate their own way.

I used a tear shaped cutter to make the wings. If you don't have cutters just shape your own. 

Once you have your bird looking the way you like, get your wire and use your jewelry tools to make these shapes.  I wrapped the wire around a pen to form the "feet".  The other little piece will be the hanger.  It needs to have a crook at the end because clay does not adhere to metal.

Using the X-acto knife, cut a slit into the bottom of your bird. Push your feet into the slot you made and then squish the clay back together around the wire.  Work your hook down into the top of your bird making the smallest hole possible.

Polymer clay is baked in the oven 30 minutes for each 1/4 inch of clay. I baked mine for an hour.

Then I wrote my little Christmas love notes to my babies, rolled them up and put them in the birds feet. I tied some twine on the top.

I think this will become a tradition in our family. Each year I will write my Christmas wish for each child.  

What ornaments are you making this year? I want to see!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

jingle balm- DIY

Here's a fun little idea for handmade gifts for friends. I originally thought this idea would be great for my friend's daughter to make. Kate is eleven and perfectly capable of doing the entire project by herself.  

But then I had so much fun making it myself, I thought if I had co-workers, I'd make these for them. I'm going to give them to girl friends as a party favor at a Christmas brunch.

Supplies needed:

Natural lip balm base
Flavouring (optional)
Glass container to melt base in
Tins or tubes
Colorant (optional)

There are plenty of recipes online for homemade lip balm. Its a fairly easy recipe. You will just need to find a few special ingredients.

But to make it even easier, you can buy premade lip balm base and add your own flavor and color.  Once your supplies arrive, it's just a matter of melting the balm base in the microwave and then adding flavor and color.  You can mix flavors to make gourmet balms. The sky is the limit. I ordered creme de menthe flavor because I thought that would be Christmasy.

Plastic lip balm tubes are super cheap. I opted for tins because I think they are cute.  Each tin was .50 but if you are making a lot of lip balm, you could buy them bulk and get them for much less.

I didn't spend a lot of time creating a great lable for the tins because I knew I wanted to put them in little felt pockets. But if you have some graphic design skills, you could make some really great lables. I printed my labels on water proof paper so they don't wear off as fast.

I told Birdie to pucker up to model our lip balm. This is what I got...

 Once you are balmed, it's time to find some miseltoe. You are ready to kiss someone.  Unless you are a little brother.

Merry balm making!

Monday, December 05, 2011

picture perfect

Annnnnd Christmas is underway.

I took attempted to take the family photo for the cards this weekend. Tell me. What is it about photo taking that makes children turn into raucous fiends?  My children behave better when getting their inoculations. No kidding.

So of about 30 pictures that I fired off in rapid succession before the whole crew mutinied on me, I got one. One messily photo. And the Bird isn't even looking at the camera. She's taunting her brother.  And Frankie looks all disproportionate and weird with a pumpkin coming out of his neck and fruit snacks in his hand.  And the Boy, well... just look.

But I was over perfect a loooong time ago. And just like last year, I'm sending out this photo in hopes that people will see us for who we really are and love us anyway.

Friday, December 02, 2011

peace on earth

The children that live with me seem to like to fight. A lot.

The babies are the main culprits.  There is screaming and hitting and pulling hair and yes, unfortunately, even biting.  The problem seems to be that they are both of the age where they believe they own the world and everything in it. And nobody is allowed to touch or look at anything they own. Or look directly at them while they are carrying one of their possessions.

It's really quite exhausting.

Now the boy, he's a teaser. A heckler. An instigator.  He knows allll the right buttons to push when it comes to the babies.

Like I said before, there's a lot of screaming.

So out of pure desperation, I have declared this Christmas to be the year of "Peace on Earth". (Read Peace in the Meeker House.) I'm also for world peace and all, but it's baby steps people. Baby steps.

So far it's not working.

They have fought over ornaments. They have fought over who gets to open the advent calendar.  They fought over Christmas music lyrics. They even fought over the baby Jesus in our navitity. Baby Jesus!


Here's the DIY details on the mantle:

The trees are just foam cones covered with felt. I don't use cheap felt. Ever. It's just not worth it. Find good felt if you can!

I used a Sizzix machine to cut the circles of felt for the garland. I ran them through my sewing machine to join them together.

The peace dove felt cut outs and jingle bell wreaths are from Target $1 Spot. I made bows out of felt to top the wreaths.

The letters are from Paper Source. They are paper mache that I painted silver and then used pattern craft paper to embellish.

The wreath is made from two pool noodles. I used one noodle to create a circle. I duck taped the ends together. Then I used the other noodle to make the inside lines of the peace sign.  Again I used duck tape to secure the pieces to the outside circle.

I spray painted the noodle peace sign silver.

From Target $1 Spot, I bought tubes of small plastic Christmas bulbs.  My wreath took about 450 bulbs. I cut the top hanger part off the bulbs and hot glued them to the noodle wreath. I wasn't able to get all my bulbs in silver so I had to then spray paint all the bulbs silver. I highly recommend Valspar paint. It covers really well with very little paint. I glittered some of the bulbs for dimension.

I cut up a strand of tinsel and filled in the small gaps between the bulbs.

The end result is one super sparkly peace wreath.

The mercury glass pieces are all part of my collection. I found the vintage strands of beads on Ebay. I got the blue trees at Home Goods this year. I was so excited to find them.

So there you have it.

Even if it does nothing for the children, it inspires me to try to be the peace maker instead of screaming at them for screaming at each other.


Okay! The winner of the Mindy Gledhill "Winter Moon" album is Katie Johnson who told me about the She and Him Album, that my husband also recommended, that I love love love.

Katie send me your address!