My Sister, My Friend

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When I think about my best friend, it’s hard to find the right words to release the feelings in my heart. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of what I want to say, and then it floats away into a mist of cloudy happiness again. Snapshots of memories, fragments of conversations, all combining to form something so deep and dear that I can’t wrap my mind around it.

My best friend happens to be my sister – my only sister – my only sibling. She’s mine and no one else’s. I like it that way.

Growing up, we were never lonely. My mom always taught us that friends would come and go, but a sister would be with you for a lifetime – so we’d better learn to get along.

If we argued, fought, or got mad at each other, we weren’t allowed to have any other friends over until we’d patched things up.

I remember spending many happy hours in the realms of imagination. We pretended we were characters from our favorite books and movies, and we made up some of our own too. But we never compartmentalized our fun – all of our characters knew each other and belonged to what we termed “the Gang.” I tell you, when the Gang got together for a pool party, it felt like there were fifty people in my bedroom, though it was only me and my sister. And when we played whiffle ball, there were two whole teams churning up dust in our backyard, but my mom only saw the two of us.

“We could be a WHOLE PARADE” – I Like You, Sandol Stoddard Warburg

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We were cowgirls together, spelunkers together, detectives together. There’s still a hole in the shared wall between our closets for the wire that connected our Morse code transmitters. If her closet door is open and the clothes are pushed aside, I can peek through from my side and see her bed.

Once we made up our own language (as if quoting our favorite movies wasn’t enough). Another time we turned my bedroom into a 1700s house by covering the Little Tikes Party Kitchen with brown paper bags and taping a paper fireplace onto a table. Plug-in candles threw us into a world of childish fantasies that occupied us for days.

The games we shared, the imaginary stories we wrote are locked in the most secret places of my heart. No one else is privy to enjoy them as we did. I guess no one else would want to – they were significant because they were ours, not because they were anything in and of themselves.

Our imaginations have grown rusty with time, and adult life keeps us busy with work and responsibilities, but we always make time for each other, even if it means combining work with play. Many of our heart-to-heart talks happen in the car on the way to dance class. She often grades papers while we watch TV. I might bounce screenplay ideas off of her on a shopping trip. And when we want some relax time, we’ll probably pop in an East Side Kids film and drink tea.

It’s glorious to know someone who thinks so much like I do and enjoys the same things – it’s as if our minds are linked on a special frequency that no one else can intercept. We speak the same code.

Like on the days we wear the same shirt without planning it (and neither of us goes back to change). Or when one of us is sad and the other says just the right thing without knowing it.

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, but when that friend is your sister, you have the best of both worlds, don’t you?

I wouldn’t want to face the world without her.

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Sometimes I think it would be nice to write something amazing about all the special memories we have, but then again, it’s nice to have secrets.

I imagine there’s a big old-fashioned trunk in my heart (because we both like old-fashioned) with our names on it. There’s a matching one in her heart. Only we can see them or open them. Sometimes we do – and take out our treasures, hold them up and exclaim, “Remember when we did that?” “We sure had fun.” Then we close the lids, but we don’t lock them, because we’re adding new treasures every moment we’re together. Everyone should have a heart-friend – God knew mine needed to be my sister.

“I like you because/ I don’t know why but/ Everything that happens/ Is nicer with you/ I can’t remember when I didn’t like you” – I Like You, Sandol Stoddard Warburg

 

Photo Credits: Abigail Beck

A Tube of Autumn Cheer

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IMG_6215There’s something about autumn that makes us want to curl up in a corner with a favorite book, a thick blanket and – a hot cup of tea. For many people tea is the comfort drink of choice, and depending on the blend, it can conjure up a host of moods and thoughts. In autumn a spicy chai or a tangy orange tisane might set the mind wandering to memories of roaring fires, rain clouds and holiday cheer. With its potential for pleasure tea makes a perfect fall or winter gift, and when packaged in an elegant glass tube with homey accents, it can delight before it’s even brewed.

Materials:

  • 1 glass test tube with cork stopper
  • 1 scrap of decorative orange paper
  • 1 scrap of decorative brown paper
  • 1 scrap of muslin fabric
  • Orange embroidery floss
  • 2 gold brads
  • 1 medium glass bead
  • 1 small pearl bead
  • 2 gold decorative bead caps
  • 1 2-1/8 inch gold head pin (flat head). Must be long enough to wire through the two beads, the end caps and the cork stopper with about a 1/4 inch to spare
  • 3 small orange flower drop beads (the kind where the hole runs through the vertical center of the flower)
  • 1 9/16 inch gold head pin (flat head). Must be long enough to extend about a 1/4 inch from one of the flower drop beads
  • Teacup rubber stamp and black ink pad
  • Loose leaf tea (I used Organic Saigon Chai from DAVIDsTEA – it’s just right for autumn with its spicy flavors and colorful ingredients)

 

Tools:

  • Straight pin (the kind used for sewing)
  • Sewing needle
  • Round nose pliers
  • Pinking shears
  • Black felt-tip pen (I like to use Paper Mate Flair® pens)
  • Hole punching tool (1/16 inch hole size)
  • Paper trimmer
  • Scissors
  • White glue

 

Directions:

  1. Wash the glass part of the test tube thoroughly and dry it. Set aside.
  2. Using the straight pin, pierce the top center of the cork stopper so that the hole goes all the way through to the underside.
  3. Assemble the pearl bead, the glass bead and the bead caps on the 2-1/8 inch head pin in this order: pearl, bead cap, glass bead, bead cap. Then poke the head pin through the hole in the stopper until the stack of beads rests on top of the cork. There should be about 1 inch of the head pin sticking out the bottom of the stopper.IMG_6217
  4. Use the round nose pliers to bend this excess wire into a simple loop that’s flush with the cork’s surface. This will secure your beads and prevent the pin from sliding out.
  5. Add one of the flower drop beads to the 9/16 inch head pin. Form another simple loop with the pliers, but before you close it off all the way, link it to the loop under the cork.
  6. For the test tube label, rubber-stamp the image of a teacup onto your scrap of muslin (make sure to iron the fabric first!). With the pinking shears, cut out the image in a rectangle shape (leave about a 5/8 inch margin around the image).IMG_6220
  7. Using only three strands of embroidery floss, hand-sew a running stitch around the border of the fabric rectangle. Secure the thread at both ends to prevent slipping.
  8. Cut a rectangle out of the brown paper that’s about a 1/2 inch bigger on all sides than the fabric rectangle. Tear along all four edges for a distressed look (the paper should now be only slightly larger than the fabric).
  9. Align the fabric rectangle with the brown paper rectangle. Punch a hole to the left of the teacup that goes through both layers, is vertically centered and isn’t touching the stitched border. Repeat on the right side of the teacup.
  10. Insert the brads into the holes and open the closure tabs so they don’t show from under the paper.
  11. Cut a rectangle from the orange paper that’s slightly larger than the brown rectangle. Align the brown paper/fabric ensemble on top of the orange rectangle and glue them together. Your label is complete!
  12. Write the name of your chosen tea and its brewing instructions on the back of the label with the black pen.IMG_6203
  13. Cut a 12-inch length of embroidery floss (six strands). Wrap the label around the test tube and loop the floss around the two brads, leaving yourself two tails to tie a bow.IMG_6211
  14. Thread one of the remaining flower drop beads onto each tail of the floss. Knot the floss so the bead doesn’t slide off (you may need to double or triple the knot).IMG_6218
    • If your bow tails are too long, you may knot them a little higher and trim off any excess thread. But be careful – don’t trim them so short that you can’t retie the bow again!
  15. Fill the test tube with tea leaves (be sure to leave enough room for the flower drop bead to dangle above the tea) and cork it! You’re ready to give someone a taste of autumn.IMG_6230

Gung-ho Candy Corn

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Anyone who knows me could tell you that yarn crafts are not my thing. I once managed to render a square knitted dishcloth in the shape of a guitar pick, and my early crochet attempts could have held water. But for whatever reason, I decided to knit a hat this month — not with needles like my amazingly talented sister, but with my easy-schmeasy Provo Craft Knifty Knitter round loom set.

I’d picked up a free pattern at Jo-Ann Fabric, and then I waited for coupons to buy the yarn. Nothing says my favorite colors like a candy corn hat, and it looked so simple I figured even I could pull it off.

Simple, however, doesn’t mean Abigail-proof. In my typical gung-ho fashion I managed to go about 14 rows on the wrong size loom because I didn’t trust the pattern’s directions (they were apparently more trustworthy than I thought). After starting over, I tweaked the instructions to add a hatband and miscalculated the new number of rows I needed. Taking out stitches isn’t so bad, but trying to re-hook 40-plus loops back onto a loom without letting the stitches slip is tedious.

Preliminary turbulence behind me, I finished the hat without incident. When the weather cools down, I look forward to wearing it as a tribute to my corny sense of humor and as a reminder that directions are there for a reason.

Photos courtesy of my sister

Dancing With Degas

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My last post put me on a Edgar Degas kick and reminded me of a jewelry project I made back in March for the “Springtime in Paris” contest hosted by Michaels craft store.

springtime_in_paris_collageMy project was inspired by Degas’ ballerinas: black ribbon chokers, colorful flowers in their hair and on their tutus. His palette is so vibrant, and I took the liberty of using my own favorite color (orange) as the primary theme.

I didn’t win the contest (the winners are quite something, though — check them out here), but I sure had fun making and designing my entry. The contest motivated me to set the creative fires burning, and it gave me a practical reason to do it (always important, I say).

Here are a few of Degas’ dancers that got my muse going.

“The Star (Dancer on Stage)”

“The Ballet Class”

See more at: http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/honey-theyre-playing-our-painting/#sthash.3COlDbtP.dpuf

“Dancer Taking a Bow (The Prima Ballerina)”

Paris has never been my dream vacation spot — I have a feeling the reality is a far cry from the Hollywood-ized, romanticized motif I see in craft stores and home decor. But if someone legit ever gave me a plane ticket and said, “You’re going to Paris,” I’m sure it would set my little heart dancing. I wouldn’t turn it down — I want to go to the Louvre.

To set foot in the heart of idyllic romanticism
To experience the reality for myself,
not through the rosy glass of imagination, but through
my own senses
— the beautiful, the common, the real.
To stand before representatives of the greatest
artwork of the ages,
with air alone
between me and them.

See the colors – the colors! – and hear the strange, fluid voices
rolling into my ears.
I open my wide mouth to
drink it all in.
Whet the wanderlust and call me away
To La Ville Lumiere,
Ah, Paris!
A star of history’s play,
What riches lie in your coffers?
Let me spy on your stores
Feel your pulse
Taste your air.

 

DIY: Friendship Charm Necklaces

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 With the recent release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (and my anticipation leading up to it), I’ve been inspired to create pieces of jewelry that in some way reflect characters from the movies. For this project, I went with my sister’s and my favorite characters, Fili and Kili. Since the dwarf brothers demonstrate such strong familial love, it seemed appropriate to celebrate the special bond between me and my sister with Fili- and Kili-themed friendship necklaces.

Of course the design can be tailored to fit any theme that you and your friend share in common. Get creative! I’d love to hear what you all come up with.

Materials:

Tools:

  • Wood toothpick
  • Round nose pliers
  • Chain nose pliers
  • Side cutter pliers
  • X-ACTO® knife and cutting mat
  • Computer and printer (if you don’t want to cut up a book)

Step 1 — Choose what text you want to showcase in the bubble charms (I just went to Google Books, took screenshots of some Hobbit pages, and printed them out).

Step 2 — Adhere a bubble cap to the selected text. Press it firmly and rub gently to eliminate air pockets.

Step 3 — Using the X-ACTO® knife and cutting mat, slice around the edge of the bubble cap to free it from the remaining text.

Step 4 — Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the other three bubble caps.

Step 5 — With the toothpick, rub a tiny amount of rubber cement onto the back of each bubble cap. Glue the caps to the front and back of the square metal charms.

The following directions are for the Fili necklace, since that’s the one I made first.

Step 6 — Trim the flat heads off a head pin with the side cutter pliers. Bend one end of the wire into a loop with the round nose pliers, leaving it partially open.

– The reason I didn’t use pre-looped head pins was because I wanted to control how large I made my loops.

– If you’ve never made a loop like this before, Blue Moon Beads offers a simple illustrated tutorial here.

Step 7 — Insert the looped end of the head pin into the square metal charm’s connecting ring. Close the wire loop the rest of the way.

Step 8 — Add beads to the head pin in this order: round spacer bead, spacer flower, amber glass bead, spacer flower, round spacer bead.

Step 9 — Bend the remaining wire into a loop like the other end. Trim excess wire.

Step 10 — Repeat steps 6-9 for the key charm. The bead sequence in step 8 will be a little different: spacer flower, wood bead, spacer flower.

Step 11 — Connect the bubble charm, the key charm, and the locket to the chain necklace with jump rings. Done!

Step 12 — Now you’re ready to repeat steps 6-11 for the Kili necklace. In step 8 substitute the blue glass bead for the amber one, and in step 10 use the decorative cylinder spacer instead of the wood bead.

– *Tip: I stacked the two leftover round silver spacer beads inside my decorative cylinder spacer to keep it from sliding around on the wire.

Thanksgiving 2014

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Eighty degrees and golden rays of sunshine. I keep thinking, pretty soon the weather will cool down and the holidays will be upon us — then I realize that I live in Southern California and the holiday season is almost halfway gone.  Another year has zipped by, and Thanksgiving will be officially over by the time I get this published.

The day started off well: no electronic beeping at 5:30 in the morning, no shuffling out to the kitchen with puffy eyes to turn on the electric kettle, no need to be anywhere at any particular time. I was going to get my eight hours without unnatural interruption, and 7:45 a.m. found me refreshed and ready to eat breakfast with my mom and sister, Katherine. We chatted over slices of Corner Bakery’s Cinnamon Creme Cake, enjoying the easy pace of the holiday.

As the rest of the house began to stir, we started to prepare for the day’s feast ….

Plenty going on in the kitchen all day — most of which I avoided (unless I was peering through the viewfinder of my camera). Let’s just say that my decorating skills are stronger than my cooking skills (or cooking ambition as the case may be), and I spent most of my time in the dining room setting the table.

Katherine cooking up a storm of potatoes, savory and sweet.

Deciding how to present the napkins is my favorite part of table arranging. Do I want them folded into little elf boots? Rolled inside a stem glass? This year I chose a simple flatware wrap garnished with homey red raffia, artificial leaves, and felt owl clips.

The final product (simple but fun):

 In between cooking and decorating, there’s always time for tea …

 … and goofing off with my big sis

 Living proof that being tied to someone’s apron strings doesn’t work out too well.

 Sister love.

 And the pies are done (check out that braided crust by Katherine)! Now, where’s the whipped cream?

 Our two friends, Sara and Amy, joined us for Thanksgiving and shared their superb family recipe for crescent rolls with us.

 As Sara said, only in California do you set dough outside to rise (it was warmer than in the house).

 Ninety-six of those puppies, and they probably won’t last the weekend.

 The crescent roll masters.

 Katherine tried a new seasoning on our carrots.

And here they are.

 

And finally, the main attraction!

 

Well, as I finish writing this, it’s certainly not Thanksgiving anymore (it’s almost 2:00 a.m. Friday morning). But giving thanks doesn’t end at midnight — it’s  something Christ calls us to practice every day, in every moment: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV) and “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20, ESV). Whether in trying times or happy times, let us come before the Lord with grateful hearts, knowing that in His Son, Jesus, He has given us everything we need.

DIY Chandelier

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Baby food jars gone shabby chic. I’ve been wanting to make glass votive holders for a long time, and the chandelier idea just sprang up on me.

Softly frayed pastel fabrics and white tulle add a feminine flare.

Jewelry wire, the kind that comes pre-wound for bracelets, holds its shape even under pressure.

A touch of elegance.

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Battery-operated votive candles eliminate fire risk, but if you must have traditional wax candles, substitute the suspending ribbons for wire or another flame-resistant material.