REAL Leatherwork

Here is a little journal cover I made today.  Inside, the edges are like vertical pockets for the journal to slip into.  I was focusing on stitching around the edges of the inside pockets and didn’t realize how dorky the outside would look, with stitching only going a few inches across.  I’ll add decorative stitching there tomorrow.


I have been shopping for handbags lately and my sister has been the recipient of most of my "I can’t find a perfect handbag" moans.
Alex and I took a leathercraft class this morning.  Well, technically, Alex took it, but I had to hang around the store for the three hours due to some legal issues (all the parents had to hang out, which made for a mighty crowded store!).  During the class, Diane called, and she asked what I was doing.  I told her Alex was taking a leathercrafting class.  She joked, "Are you going to have him make you the perfect handbag?"  While we continued to laugh about this, she suddenly yelled, "Oh, my God, you’re going to have a handbag made by child labor!"  Naturally this sent me into gales of giggles, and all the parents crowded around me gave me a very funny look…but, who cares.  I love my sister’s jokes.

Two cars!

For the first time ever in US Picks history, we have completed a car lease (that of the Expedition).  We turned it in today and are looking forward to the increased amount we will be able to put into savings each month.  Now we have the Miata and the Jeep.  Alex was sad to see the truck go, but Chris and I have been looking forward to getting rid of it.

Camping at Ocean City

We went camping this weekend at Ocean City state park (Washington).  Why this particular state park?  Because as a child we always went to Ocean City, NJ (and once or twice to OCMD).  I thought it would be fun to compare.
Well, first off let me say that "beaches" in Washington seem to be just that.  The Northwest is all about the pristine beauty of majestic nature.  It sounds great, but there’s not a lemonade stand in sight!  No Boardwalk, and so no t-shirt shops or amusement parks.  Ocean Shores (the city nearest the campground, about 2 miles up the beach) has a main street with an IGA and a number of the small typical shops you’d expect in a beach town (kite shop, toy store, swimwear store, restaurants, gas station, bank).  None of these are near the ocean!  Seriously, from the town you’d never know there was a beach anywhere near, except for the signs that say "To Beaches."

Another strange thing is the way the Pacific tides flow.  In OCNJ I never noticed the tide being further out than, oh, 200 yards?  Correct me if I’m wrong.  So, on Thursday night we walked down to the beach and saw that the tide was coming in, and we paddled around in it for a little while and then went back to the campsite with plans to return to the beach all day Friday.  We found a fallen tree on the beach to mark as our "place to come back to."  Not that we really needed it – there were only about 40 people on this 1-2 mile stretch of beach – but it was distinctive so we said we’d come back to that tree.
At 9:45 Friday morning we went back to the beach.  Got to the tree – looked towards the water – and we could not see the ocean.  The fog was so thick that we couldn’t see it.  So we parked the stuff, and Alex and I went to walk into the fog towards the water, while Chris relaxed with the gear.
Alex and I walked (increasingly astounded) probably half a mile before we even SAW the wavelets.  I felt as if we’d stepped into some kind of science fiction world, where we’d walked away from the Pacific beach and onto some strange alien world.  It’s unbelievable how far out the water goes at low tide.  Later (on the way home) we noticed this same thing:  an inlet alongside the highway that we had seen filled with water on the way into town was completely empty on the way out of town.  Of course, we were leaving town at low tide.  There was an island in the middle of this inlet, maybe half a mile out, that was land-based at low tide and an island at high tide!  I don’t understand what makes the tides so wildly different from Atlantic tides, and I am going to research it.
The third strange thing was the fog.  Friday we spent the whole day at the beach.  We kept our seats near the fallen tree, and Chris and I took turns going out towards the water to play with Alex.  When it was my turn to sit, I sat there and looked towards the ocean, and I couldn’t see them.  Simply couldn’t.  I even called Chris on his cell phone at one point to make sure they were still OK!  Chris stood in the fog and waved to me, but I couldn’t see him.  I saw ghostly shapes of people in the fog, but they weren’t Chris and Alex – and they also appeared to be floating about 20′ above the horizon.  (My horizon was artificially near, because of the fog.)  When the fog began to clear – which it started to do around 4PM – I saw that the actual horizon was much higher than I’d been thinking.

The final weirdness was the wind.  This beach (and, as I recall, Cannon Beach and Seaside in Oregon) are terrifically windy!  These beaches are great for flying kites, but way uncomfortable for sitting around enjoying the weather, and uncomfortable for swimming.  The water was cold, and the wind blew steadily and coldly from the ocean towards the campground all day long.  After about half an hour the drone of the whistling wind became overpowering and annoying.  Nobody swam; Alex waded a bit.
On the whole the camping part of the trip was fine, except our tent was on a slight slope.  We had a rather typical (i.e., not gourmet) dinner at one of the restaurants on the main drag, and Chinese food last night – both were OK quality but nothing up to the standards of Coho or Jade Dragon.  Alex got to make his first s’mores and we had a fire in the fire pit at our campsite.  Bugs were kept at a minimum with bug spray; sunburn kept to a minimum with suncream.  

I only caused one camping faux pas.  When you click the car remote to open the Jeep, the headlights go on.  I tried to avoid this late at night by unlocking the car with the key.  Sounds reasonable, right?  No.  Even though I used the car key, when I opened the door, the car alarm went off.  And of course it was too dark to see the buttons on the remote, so I just started madly pressing buttons until it went off.  That was about the only real problem we had.

Now we’re making lists for the UK trip…

A Different Dragon

Hi everyone!  In addition to planning for our camping trip, going on playdates, and keeping the house together, I have finally found a little time to embark on a new project that has been intriguing me for a few months.  Windstone Editions makes lovely dragon sculptures (though some of their other things, like the griffin and the winged wolf, seem a bit out of proportion or something, just not quite right).  The regular price for these painted dragons is not-so-affordable, and besides, who would buy a prepainted one when they could paint one themselves?  Certainly not me.  So, I ordered the Paint-Your-Own "Young Dragon" a few weeks ago and finally got around to painting it this week.
I did a little bit each day so I wouldn’t be tempted to be too hasty and heavy-handed.  Windstone recommends airbrushing, but other than the base coat I didn’t see the need for that (and, I might add, I am not that skilled with the airbrush!).  I started on day 1 with a spray-painted base coat of black acrylic.  Oh – let me apologize for not having any in-progress pictures.  Forgot all about it.
Day 2 I brushed on a coat of Daniel Smith acrylic in the color "Lapis Duochrome."  This is a color that looks turquoise in some lights and light blue-purple in other lights.  Very nice!  Using a fairly dry brush I was able to do the larger scales with this paint and still leave the black undercoat showing through between the scales for depth.  This is the part you see which looks like a very pale shiny turquoise (along the sides of the torso, for example).
Day 3 I did the inside of the wings and some other accent areas with Golden’s wonderful "Iridescent Stainless Steel" acrylic.  This is just such a cool paint.  I wanted to use Micaceous Iron Oxide, but it was coarser and would have added a texture I didn’t want.  So, the wings (underside), hips and knees are done with this.  In general these are areas of very small scales, so I wanted the look of chain mail.  Don’t know why; can’t see why a dragon would need chain mail, but what the heck.
Day 4 I painted random scales here and there, and the horns, and the ribs on the wings, and the claws, with a copper paint that I’d gotten for my steampunk projects.  I can’t remember the brand name of this stuff but it’s from Michael’s and it’s just a little 2-oz jar.  I also painted a row of scales on the upper legs with this color.  I have gold too, but thought the copper would look good with the turquoise patina effect of the other colors.
Day 5 he was still looking pretty bare because so much of the black was still showing.  I tried covering up the black with Smith’s Phthalo Blue (green shade), but it was still too dark and you could only see the new color in direct sunlight.
Day 6 I covered those Phthalo Blue sections with one of my favorite acrylics, Jacquard Lumiere in Halo Blue Gold.  I ordinarily use this for fabric work, but it worked fine on the dragon.  These are the parts you see that look greener.
Day 7:  I took it into the sunlight and checked for areas that needed touchup, and touched them up.
Day 8 (today):  Clear-coated with a spray acrylic; glued in the eyes and the forehead jewel.  He has green eyes and a blue zircon (December birthstone) jewel.
I really like him!  His name is Detro and he sits on my charging station so I can look at him all the time.  I might do another one in a different pose & color combo sometime.