‘tis the season

Would you believe that it was actually warmer in Anchorage, Alaska than here in Toronto last week?! Global warming, my ass! I’m not a scientist or anything but my guess is that there’s another ice age coming, my friends, if these early abnormally cold temperatures are any indication. (Not that any of us will still be here when the world finally freezes over. God knows, probably nothing but robots will be walking around by then and I’m sure the extreme cold won’t bother them a bit, though they might be prone to rusting. 🙂

So preparing for an ice age means you need to make sure you have a nice, warm hat to wear. Therefore, my trusty crochet hook has been at it again.

I wanted to try a really nice hat pattern I spotted at http://grandysdaughter.blogspot.ca/2007/04/spirit-scully.html called the Spirit Skully. You can visit grandysdaughter to find the very easy-to-follow pattern. For a standard hat_yellow & grey skull capladies fit, I used a 6.0 mm but you might want to use a larger hook if you’re making it for a guy. I thought a colour combination of grey and yellow would look nice so I chose worsted weight yarn in dark grey for the main colour and light grey and yellow for the highlight colours. It works up in an evening and is an easy project to follow. It also looks great on!

hat_vanilla brighamAfter I finished that, a hat pattern called the Brigham One Skein Hat designed by Lisa Gentry for caron.com caught my eye. If you want to try it, you can download the pattern here: https://yarnspirations.s3.amazonaws.com/naturallycaron-files/projects/brigham/brigham.pdf

It’s more decorative than it is warm, with a delicate lacy pattern. I used a vanilla worsted weight yarn but I think it would be even prettier in a lighter acrylic. Again, it looks great on!

And finally, ‘tis the season for Christmas shopping, right? With that excruciating chore in mind, here’s a poem prompted by my Bah Humbug view of what I like to refer to as The Retail Olympics:

‘TIS THE SEASON

Round and round the parking lot,
Will I ever find a space?
The gun’s been fired and I’m off
To win the Christmas shopping race.

Electronic doors that fail to work,
I stumble headfirst into glass,
A mob of elbows jab my ribs,
As folks behind me barrel past.

I clutch my fabric shopping bag,
Protective armor at my chest,
I check my list, crushed in my fist,
I’m ready to begin my quest.

Buzzing ‘round like compost flies,
A mass of human bumper cars,
I’m banged and bumped and jostled
Till my eyes are seeing twinkle stars.

Warriors in every aisle,
Eyes flat and dull with zombie glaze,
Were I buck naked on a pogo stick,
They’d charge right past, unfazed.

I search in vain for the latest craze,
A new toy doll that burps and farts,
I spot the last one on the shelf,
And race toward it with my cart.

But another mom, more agile than I,
Shrieks, “It’s mine!” and leaps ahead,
Yanks the doll clean from my grasp,
Flees the aisle with nimble tread.

I wad my list into a ball,
And fling it down the Barbie aisle.
Blessed gift cards, here I come,
Mission over! Now, I smile.

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Thanks a lot, George Clooney, for messing up my story

I wrote a short story not long ago—I guess you could call it a tongue-in-cheek yarn that combines thoughts of “the salt & pepper fox” with “what if?”

But then Mr. Clooney totally wrecked my story by getting married this past October.

black swan reading3Even so, when I was invited to do a reading at a Music & Literary Event in Toronto on Saturday night, keeping in mind the typical length of most Hollywood marriages, I decided to go ahead and read this particular story anyway.

WARNING: If after reading this story your spouse comments later about a faraway look in your eyes that doesn’t seem to be disappearing, don’t be concerned. That’s normal.

Picking Up George Clooney

A decent looking divorcette stuck in the ‘burbs leads an insular life.

Romantic prospects are limited to those men at the supermarket who look positively predatory as they squeeze the overripe melons in the produce department.

When I was married to Richard Rolland, MD, neighbor women hungry for over-the-fence chitchat homed in on me like heat-seeking missiles as I puttered around the yard in my Bermuda shorts and polo shirts. Today those same women clamp themselves like bear traps onto the arms of their melon-squeezing husbands as they stride quickly by my house on their evening strolls. It behooves me to sit on my veranda every night after dinner, dressed in my Victoria’s Secret tee shirts with necklines that plunge deeper than the Grand Canyon. Despite the sudden frost, I remain cordial, always raising my Tom Collins in friendly response to their tight-lipped greetings.

I often consider throwing my hands up in resignation and just unloading my cozy gingerbread house with its white picket fence (won fair and square in the divorce settlement along with my rather large alimony payments—Richard’s comeuppance for choosing the Intern Whore over the Doctor’s Wife). And move to a six-hundred-square foot condo in the city, which is what divorcettes with still lustrous hair, still shapely legs, and still perky breasts are supposed to do, right?

The problem is that Karen and James were raised in this house. If I blot out past images of the Intern Whore’s Boyfriend, I’m left with the most wonderful memories of my life here with the twins from their birth up to the day they left for college. I don’t think I’m ready to say my final farewell yet.

When Maggie Albright—a checker at our town’s only grocery market who has four kids and a husband she’s been begging me to take off her hands for years now—tells me the big news, I roll my eyes.

Although we are more opposite than alike, Maggie is the only confidante I have in this one-horse town.

As she scans my items, she leans forward so that Mrs. Beaufort, who looms behind me like an oversize vampire bat in her black mohair cape and sour pucker, can’t listen in. “Guess who’s staying at the Rosewood Inn for the next couple of days while they shoot some scenes here in town for his latest movie? George Clooney! Can you imagine? A fancy pants like him sleeping at a sixty-dollar-a-night ordinary little Inn! You should go rent a room there! Imagine the possibilities if you could meet him?”

I pause bagging my items and peer at Maggie over the top of my first-ever pair of Prada sunglasses, which I refuse to remove from my face until they have paid for themselves through the envy of others. “Oh, yes, Mags! I hear my destiny calling! Should I ring up Donatella now so she can get started on my gown for next year’s red carpet?”

Maggie sniffs with a haughty lift of her chin. “Fine then. Excuse me for giving you the tip of the century.” She holds up the carton of Ben & Jerry’s that she’s just scanned. “Then again, going home with this must be so much more exciting.”

“Actually it is,” I reply, grabbing my container of Jamaican Me Crazy Sorbet from her. “I’ve been looking forward to nothing else but.”

Maggie sighs as she takes my debit card and swipes it on the register. “I wish I could say the same. There’s lots waiting at home to make me crazy but it ain’t that sweet.” She hands me my receipt. “Have an extra-huge scoop for me, ok?”

“Promise!” I chuckle over my shoulder as I exit the store.

Upon arriving home, my first mistake is to glance at the answering machine. Hitting the play button is my second mistake.

“Abby, it’s Richard. If you think for one minute that I’m paying for you and the twins to gallivant through Europe this summer, you have another think coming. My lawyer…” I hit erase before my ex’s voice can put a damper on an otherwise pleasant Monday evening.

After putting away the groceries, I set my carton of Ben & Jerry’s on the counter and dig an oversized serving spoon from the cutlery drawer. I step back, crossing my arms as I regard the frosty carton. Thanks to Maggie, thoughts of the Rosewood Inn are gnawing at my consciousness. Not because of the rumors that Mr. Big Movie Star is staying there but because (A) I am beginning to feel bored with the same old nightly view from my front porch, and (B) Of my scant warm memories of Richard, the best ones are of our date nights long ago in the Rosewood’s cozy little piano lounge, scattered with cushiony club chairs that you could sink into with the most luscious Hazelnut Chocolatini in the world.

I shove the carton into the freezer and consider calling one of my book club cohorts to drive out and join me, then reconsider. They all live in the city and it’s difficult getting anybody out to Monotony-ville on a Monday night. Besides, I’m not interested in an entire evening out, just a brief change of scenery along with a little something sweet to rinse away the bitter aftertaste of Richard’s phone call. I touch up my lip colour, slip into my new Cavalli leather jacket (thanks, Rich!), turn my answering machine off, and exit my front door, humming a Bacharach tune to get me in the mood.

***

Richard is nothing more than a fading canker sore. Aside from the ponytailed, bearded pianist who looks like a Hell’s Angel in a tux but plays like an angel from Heaven, I am all alone in the Rosewood Inn’s candlelit piano lounge. I have died and gone to the Pearly Gates. Nestled deep into a plush crimson club chair, nursing my third round of a drink that would have been forbidden in the Garden of Eden, my eyes drift closed as strains of “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” eddy around me like a soothing breeze.

I feel rather than hear the presence of a body settling into the club chair beside mine. My eyes remain closed. I am away on vacation in my own little paradise with no desire to make small talk with any natives.

“Great song,” a male voice states. I ignore him, raising my martini glass to my lips for another sip of euphoria. Do closed eyes mean nothing to anyone these days?

He persists. “My associates were told that the only wild and crazy place in this town is a country and western bar called Mo’s Saloon, so that’s where they’ve all headed. Me, I prefer a nice quiet place like this with music to sip a fine scotch by.”

Quiet being the key word here,” I retort, expelling an irritated sigh as I open my eyes and turn my head to glare at him.

Though half my blood is Irish, I’ve never been blessed with the luck of them. My life is really not that bad but the bottom line just never seems to go my way. Here’s an example: In college just before graduation, juggling exams while embroiled in a windstorm of wedding plans, it suddenly became clear to my high-school sweetheart—the one true love of my life—that he was gay. I was driving his car at the moment that he chose to blurt this revelation to me (he had actually been giving me driving lessons) and I was so stunned by the news, I had no memory of removing my hands from the steering wheel and turning to face him in open-mouthed shock.

The next thing I knew, he was encased in a full-body cast in the intensive care unit (the tree had hit his side of the car) and I was in a hospital ward bed with my left leg in traction. Then, wouldn’t you know it? My “good luck” at work again; that’s where I met Richard, who, thanks to my salary as an admin assistant to the atrociously rich, atrociously horny CEO of a Fortune 500 company, coasted through med school and surgical residency only to, in turn, ditch me after two babies and twenty years of marriage for a twenty-six year old bottle-blonde floozy in scrubs.

My twins—the two bright lights in my life—were born at a roadside recess for buses in the backseat of an old 1974 Toyota Corolla because of the good doctor’s insistence on finishing up a paper he’d been writing before taking me to the hospital. I will never forget how he quipped, “Not to worry! We have plenty of time to get there,” while I clawed deep gouges in our dining room table. I could go on but why bother? I’ll just jump ahead and begin with the fact that: here I am again, Lady Luck, alone in a bar on a Friday evening, acting like an obnoxious bitch with none other than George Clooney.

His expression is one of chagrin but I also catch a glimmer of amusement dancing in those dreamy dark eyes.

I stare at him, lost for words. They say that when you die your life flashes before you. In this case, after being incredibly snippy to an über celebrity—especially one who is often your co-star in dreams so sordid, they can never be described aloud to anyone—a similar flashback occurs except it plays out in emotions instead of images. I am surprised, mortified, annoyed, embarrassed, impressed, annoyed that I’m impressed, and every other emotion in between.

I suppose he can’t help but feel sorry for me, gentleman that he is. He sets his empty glass on the small round table in front of our chairs and leans forward. “May I get you a fresh drink?”

Gathering my wits, I suddenly transform my posture into one of indifference. “Sure. Why not. A scotch and soda would be nice. Please and thank you.”

I watch his back as he walks off to the bar, and think to myself, “Are you trying to catch flies?” in an effort to keep my mouth from dropping open and locking permanently into that position.

His hair is more salt than pepper in the dim light of the lounge and he’s taller in the flesh than he seems in photographs. He’s wearing an ordinary, pale blue button-down shirt under a black sports jacket, and looks like a regular guy. Except that he’s only a hundred thousand million trillion times more gorgeous. So many times I’ve paged through the various tabloids, examining shots of him with women draped around his shoulders like starving Boa constrictors. All of them young and beautiful, much like the Intern Whore. I decide I want to hate George Clooney on sight.

My palms are sweating and I rub them dry over my new low rider jeans that make my ass look fabulous, if I do say so myself. The dialogue that surges through my head makes me want to scream: just shut up, already! “…Thank God I wore makeup! Just look at me, getting liquored up with GC! But I was so rude to him! I should probably apologize. Hey, why the hell should I? Who does he think he is? Just look at him. We all know he’s a player. He’s probably dropping date rape drugs in my drink right now! Don’t be ridiculous! He can have any woman he wants. Why would he want to incapacitate and rape me? Then again…He should be so lucky! He…”

“Your scotch and soda.” I jump slightly as I notice the glass held out in front of me.

“Thank you.” I make a show of swirling the liquid in my glass, one eye on him, the other on alert for any foreign objects floating around.

He settles back into the chair beside me and holds out his hand. “I’m George, by the way.”

I place my hand firmly in the grip of his large one, then pull away from him as if I’ve touched a leper. “Oh for Heaven’s sake. I know who you are. A shaman from the depths of the Brazilian rainforest would know who you are.” I snuggle back down into my chair and take a good, healthy gulp of my scotch. “And don’t for one minute think I’m some groupie who flings herself at any movie star who rides into town. As a matter of fact, I don’t care if you’re the Sultan of Brunei—if you’re a male, then you’re at the top of my shit list.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Sorry to have offended you. I am a male, but I’m just being sociable. Not trying to get into your pants or anything like that.” He takes a pull from his glass and grins. “By the way, I’ve met the Sultan. He’s a pig. You’d hate him.”

I am thankful that the lounge is dim because my face is on fire and, I’m pretty sure, the color of a really ripe tomato. I deflate into my chair, hold out my hand, and we shake again. “I’m Abby. A bitter divorcee. And I’m truly sorry to have taken your head off like that.”

George leans back and stretches out his legs. “Ah, another member of the been-there-never-gonna-do-that-again-in-this-lifetime club. I completely understand. Though you probably already know that about me.”

I laugh. “Touché, George.” Honest to God, he’s so smooth. “That’s one thing we most definitely have in common. I don’t believe I’ll ever get married again.”

He and I fall into a comfortable exchange. I begin to relax. He prompts me to tell him about the divorce and it feels really good to unleash the load. The big old movie star begins to dissolve faster than an effervescent tablet dropped in water. By the time I’ve drained three more glasses, he’s a dear old friend.

“Has anyone ever told you that you look like Michelle Pfeiffer?” We’re each nursing our fourth scotch and soda and although I’m not yet completely blotto, I am feeling rather merry. Laughter bubbles from my throat as I lean forward, touching my forehead to his.

“As a matter of fact, yes they have. But you’re still not getting into my pants, George Clooney.”

By two-thirty in the morning, closing time, our foreheads are still touching and so are our lips. And our tongues. And our hands. George is as great a kisser as you would imagine. The question of whether or not he’ll be able to get me up to his room is no longer in dispute. It’s a done deal.

***

Gradually, I become aware of warm sunlight bathing my eyelids like liquid fire. While logic tells me that I’m on solid land, my innards have sailed out to sea, tossing and churning in the boiling waves. I know I need to open my eyes, but I’m afraid that I’ll throw up if I move an eyelash. I haven’t felt this bad since college.

Through the fog, bits of an incredible dream I was having of myself with George Clooney drift into my consciousness. Such a lovely dream. So realistic. I roll onto my other side and my hand brushes against paper. I raise an eyelid and focus somewhat on a large post-it note that’s stuck to the top of the pillow beside me. Wait a minute. That’s not my pillow. And these aren’t my sheets. Where the hell am I? With a sickly groan, I pull myself up on an elbow and raise the note up to my eyes.

Abby,
You are a goddess! Please have dinner with me tonight. Can I pick you up at your house at eight? My cell number is below if you need to call, though I turn it off whenever I’m on set. See you tonight?

George

The note flutters from my hand to the floor like an autumn leaf.

That’s when all the memories come flooding back.
And they are good.

They are very, very good.

Voila! From diamonds to star

My crochet hook has prodded me into working on yet another Christmas project, all in the spirit of adding more festive touches around my home.

cushion_christmas star2After seeing a picture of a pretty quilt pattern fashioned from diamond shapes, I wanted to try to create a similar design using crocheted diamonds in place of fabric.

I also wanted to work on a project that would come together a lot faster than a quilt or afghan (go figure—Christmas will soon be here yesterday) so I decided that a cushion would be a manageable way of puzzling around with diamond shapes.

I discovered that this project is easy enough for beginners, so do go ahead and give it a try!

Here’s what I used:
Acrylic yarn—one ball each of dark green, cranberry, and cream, and a 5.5 mm hook. I used Lion Brand/Vanna’s Choice yarn, since I loved the rich colour of the Cranberry #180. Since it’s a small project, I had lots of yarn left over from each ball.

Once I’d organized my supplies, I curled up in a comfy chair and used the pattern below to make a bunch of diamonds.

diamond(Abbreviations: ch=chain; sc=single crochet;
hdc=half double crochet; dc=double crochet; tr-treble crochet.)

Ch 4 and slip stitch to into the first chain to close it into a ring.

Round 1: Ch 1; *(1 sc, 1 hdc, 1 dc, 1 tr—ch 3—1 tr, 1 dc, 1 hdc) all into ring. Repeat from * one more time. Slip stitch into the first sc to close.

Round 2: Ch 5; 1 dc in the first sc (or the same space you’re beginning from); *1 dc in each of the next 3 sts; (3 dc—ch 4—3 dc) in the ch-3 space; 1 dc in each of the next 3 sts**; (1 dc—ch 2—1 dc) in the next sc; repeat from * to **; join to the 3rd ch of beginning ch-5.

Round 3: Ch 3; (1 dc—ch 3—1 dc) in the ch-2 space; 1 dc in each of next 2 dc’s; ch 1; skip the next dc; 1 dc in each of next 3 dc’s; ch 1; skip the next dc; (3 dc—ch 5—3 dc) in the ch-4 space; ch 1; skip the next dc, 1 dc in each of next 3 dc’s; ch 1; skip the next dc**; dc in the next 2 dc’s; repeat from * to **; dc in the last dc; join to top of ch-3. Fasten off and weave in end.

Crochet five diamonds in each colour. Then, starting with your cranberry diamonds, use your yarn needle to sew them together exactly as they appear in the photos, using a simple whip-stitch. Once the cranberry diamonds are stitched together, sew the cream to the cranberry, then the green to the cream. When you’ve finished, you’ll have a beautiful circle of diamonds. (cushion_christmas star1If you’re really ambitious, you could carry on from here to create an incredible-looking afghan but you’d need to gather up a whole lot more balls of yarn for such a project.)

For the back of the cushion, I just used the dark green yarn to crochet a plain circle approximately the same size as the front piece, then whip-stitched it to the green diamonds (it all seemed to fit well cushion_christmas star3enough even though I was working a circular piece against the diamond points). Leave enough of an opening to stuff it with fiberfill (or you can use a cushion round; I was too lazy to go out shopping for one). Then continue to stitch closed the open space. As a finishing touch, I sewed a tiny gold bell in the middle and pulled the thread through to the back so it would make an indent.

So there you go. I call it my Christmas star cushion.

It’s short story time!

If you’ve been up to your eyeballs in Christmas decorations recently, this very short story may inspire you to look at things just a little bit differently!

All Dressed Up

Immobile, I stand watch over my surroundings.

My eyes never close. My stance never changes. I am always aware.

I cannot speak yet I can hear and see. I cannot touch yet I can feel.

I yearn to scream, to reach out, to make myself heard. Impossible, since I will never be free of the binds that confine me to this fate.

How I long to feel the sensation of touch; to trail a fingertip along the surface of one of the petals of the poinsettia plant beside me. So delicate in appearance yet such strength and vitality in its growth. I have memorized the intricate web of veins etched into each leaf and petal; the blend of jade, lime and crimson stippled with shadows and light.

I sense the powerful resonance of your music as it seeps its way into my being. It makes me want to move, to sway, to leap with every vibration.

I smell the enticing aromas of your kitchen as they drift and curl around me in torturous wisps of temptation. I watch you partake; my hunger is also my anguish.

So weary am I of observing, of desiring. How I long to live as you do, to experience all that I watch you take for granted.

Yet remain here I will, for as long as you will have me; standing still and silent until you grow tired of me.

Can you see the tears in my eyes? Of course not. For I cannot cry.

I am nothing but a Christmas ornament—an elegant glass figurine that decorates your mantle.

As you pause to study me, to admire my flawless beauty, I invite you to look a little closer.

Try to see the invisible tears of one who lives dormant and lonely.

 

 

 

One of my poems was published

014sept_poem in Good Times_Page_1About a year ago, I sent off a poem I’d written to Good Times Magazine, a Canadian magazine for 55+ (quite a good magazine, actually, with lots of interesting articles) that has a poetry section open to submissions. I never did receive a response, so I promptly forgot all about it.

Fortunately, a friend of my sister-in-law’s was reading the magazines’s September issue and noticed my poem published in there! Thankfully, she told my sister-in-law who then told me, otherwise I never would have known, since I’d missed that issue. (Which would have been a shame, for it’s always a big deal to a writer when a piece has been published.)

I’m not sure what the lesson is here. Perhaps it’s that once you’ve submitted a piece of writing for publication, you should take care to read every single consecutive issue of the magazine just in case they happen to feature you without any notice?

Oh well. It was still nice to see myself in print, since I very rarely make the effort to submit any of my stuff.

That’s my poem to the right, on the magazine page. Since it’s a small photo, I’ve reprinted it again below for you to read. It’s a poem that’s close to my heart—about childhood and best friends and candy. 🙂014sept_poem in Good Times_Page_2

The Corner Store

Thinking back about my best friend,
Sue, who lived next door,
I recall the times we treasured most,
Our journeys to the corner store.

First we’d do a hasty search
Through both our kitchens’ trash,
For empty soda bottles,
The next best thing to cash!

Beneath the bluest summer sky,
Along the dusty, country road,
We’d skip and chat and sing and laugh,
Cradling our precious load.

Looming like a sweet mirage,
The corner store would catch our sight,
Thoughts of what we’d find inside,
Made us run with all our might.

The clatter of penny loafers
Upon creaky steps in need of stain,
The tinkling of a screen-door bell,
Announcing we were back again

Although his name escapes me now,
I can see the bloke who ran the shop,
His smile, as wide as licorice string,
Aglow above the counter top.

As we surrendered all our bottles,
He’d scratch his chin in calculation,
And silently, we’d watch him
In breath-held anticipation.

Three quarters, two dimes and a nickel
Were enough to stoke our glee.
In those days that meant plenty
Of treats for Sue and me!

In a flurry, we made our selections
From a maze of candy jars:
Jellies, gumballs, fat wax lips,
Chocolate coins, licorice cigars.

Chirping thanks through caramel chunks,
Clutching plump brown paper sacks,
Out the door and down the steps,
Knowing that we’d soon be back.

~

 

It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like…

I went for a walk in my neighborhood on November 2nd and was surprised to see several homes with Christmas trees twinkling in their front windows already. And why not? With the weather we’ve been having in Ontario this year, it sure feels like Christmas is around the corner!

xsnowflakes copy

I’m not usually feeling the Christmas spirit until right up to the bitter end, but this year I’ve softened a little. Already, I’ve crocheted a bunch of snowflakes (the patterns are so pretty, I’ve wanted to try making some for a while now) in sparkly white yarn and gold yarn. The idea of what to do with them is still brewing in my mind, so stay tuned.

A few weeks ago I saw a pattern at 1dogwoof for cute gnomes made with crochet and wine corks. I decided to use the pattern to make some Christmas gnomes/elves to decorate my fireplace mantel. If you’d like to see the pattern, you can find it here at her lovely site: http://www.1dogwoof.com/2013/12/crochet-gnome-cork-peg-doll-ornament.html

As usual, I always start a pattern with good intentions but end up deviating from it and doing my own thing. I chose burgundy and green worsted weight yarn and for one elf, I chose gold yarn.

My Christmas elves are chubbier and they turned out larger, so the wine corks were too small. The first one I made fell over without the anchor of the wine cork, so my friend Susan, who was over that evening for a stitch-a-thon with me in my craft room, suggested that I stuff the body with an empty pill bottle. Wouldn’t you know it—I just happened to have one in my trash bin so I dug it out and it worked perfectly.

I stuffed the heads with fiberfill and the hats were stiff enough to stand up on their own. I sewed a little bell to the tip of each hat and trimmed them with a row of single crochet in fuzzy white yarn. Then I cut small scarves from white felt, sewed them on and embellished them by gluing tiny red and green seed beads at the neck in a pattern that looks like holly and berries. For the eyes, I just made French knots with black floss. And I used some blusher on a q-tip to give them rosy cheeks.

I had a gold, Christmas-themed tea light candle holder among my Christmas decorations, so I dug it out and my four elves fit perfectly into each tea light groove.

xchristmas gnomes

My elves are displayed on my fireplace mantel but they would also look adorable as part of a Christmas dinner table centerpiece.

Try making one. It’s a great beginner project—easy and quick to make.

What to do with all those seashells you’ve collected?

Last February while we were vacationing in beautiful Naples, Florida, I spent a great deal of time combing the beach for seashells. Like I needed any more! I have a storage drawer in my craft room that’s bursting at the seams with hundreds of shells gathered during every beach trip we’ve ever taken (along with vials of beach sand from each place).

I’m afraid that collecting shells is a raging addiction. Every time I stroll a tropical beach, I am mesmerized by these beautiful mini sculptures scattered in the sand for as far as the eye can see. To me they are perfect little pieces of art, crafted by the sea and offered up from her depths to be admired and enjoyed. I absolutely cannot pass by without scooping them up.

So—what to do with all of these pretty shells once I’ve arrived back home and sorted them into yet another storage drawer in my ready-to-explode craft closet?

shells in vase4 shells in vase1

In the beginning, the simplest solution was to fill large glass vases and place them around the house on coffee tables, countertops, on my desk, even in the powder room. A great decision because each time I pass by them, I’m transported back to places where the sand is creamy, the water is turquoise, and the skies are filled with warm sunshine; my shells are pure joy in a glance.

shells in vase3 shells in vase2

Of course it wasn’t long before I ran out of places to display shell-filled vases. So once again—what to do with my ever-growing collection?

I decided to use the natural shapes of the shells that I’d collected during my first year in Naples to create a King Neptune-type design that I called The Old Man of The Sea.

shells_man of the sea2

To begin, I pencil-sketched a rough outline on plain white canvas, brushed some skin-tone watercolor paint into the face area, then laid out the different shapes where I thought they would fit most naturally. Next I glue-gunned each shell into place (burning the hell out of my fingers in the process!). I also spread glue on any bare canvas around the shells making up his beard and sprinkled the area with beach sand, which helped fill in and add a bit of sparkle to his beard.

After leaving it to set overnight, I glued the finished canvas onto the glass of a plain white picture frame. I found that setting it on top of the glass instead of enclosing it under the glass gave the whole piece added dimension, and I also liked how the strip of glass framed the canvas.

shells_man of the sea1

I ended up giving the finished piece to our friends who own the vacation house where we stay in Naples. It’s the perfect home for The Old Man of The Sea; after all, it’s where he came from.

The following year I used more shells to create another design: Mermaid of The Sea. Again, I started with a plain white canvas but this time, I painted the canvas with blue and green watercolour, then sprinkled salt over the wet paint to create an underwater effect. Next, I did a rough sketch of the mermaid’s position, then spray-glued the bottom third of the canvas and sprinkled beach sand over it and around the sketched mermaid’s tail to create a realistic sea floor.

shells_mermaid shells

Then I painted the mermaid’s face and arms and glue-gunned the shells I’d chosen into a pattern that formed her body/tail. I also made a little coral reesf in the right and left corners, incorporating a few fish-shaped buttons. To the right of the mermaid, I used tiny glass beads to create a transparent sea creature—I can’t tell you what type of fish it is…let’s just say it’s another one of those undersea mysteries!

shells_mermaid transparent fishshells_mermaid coral

A piece of coral I had was shaped a bit like a fish, so I placed it in the top left corner, glued on some shell fins and a glass bead eye, and you’ll notice that there are a couple of button fish swimming behind it.

shells_fish coral

Last but not least, I used gold yarn to make her hair. The flower adorning her hair is another tiny piece of coral.

shells_mermaid hair

I have yet to frame this piece, which I think would look nice in a little girl’s room. I may use the same type of frame I used for The Old Man of The Sea. It’s just one more thing I have to get around to doing.

We plan to visit Naples again in 2015. I’ve already asked my husband to duct-tape me to my lounge chair if I attempt to do any beachcombing. I suppose I should just call a spade a spade and start cleaning out a new spot in my cupboard now.

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