Category Archives: crafts

Fake Braille for the Newly Blind

Braille probably takes a while to learn, and my older friend isn’t about to try. So when he asked for some CDs of cheery Broadway musicals (yep, some of us still play CDs), I glued “indicator letters” on the jewel cases so he can tell them apart, e.g., “G” for Godspell or “MF” for My Fair Lady. I can’t think of an alternate deployment of felt letters, but you might.

Two glues worked:  Mod Podge and super glue. A glue gun might have melted the felt or plastic. Three letters of readable size took up too much space. Cardboard wasn’t thick enough to read. The thicker the felt, the more readable. If the colors are ugly or your stenciling sloppy, well:  they’re blind. Don’t forget a nice cup of coffee as you craft.

Best Face Mask Sewing Info, per my Fiber Artist SIL

Information about Sewing Masks in the time of COVID-19

Travel and Make Art!

natalia-fave-artist-in-fabricMy close and insanely talented friend Natasha has two aws fiber arts classes she’s teaching in Europe this summer. Join us, won’t you? What could possibly be more fun?

Greece in July:

Switzerland in August:

Be there. Aloha.




Aunt Napper’s Easter Egg Tree

napper easter treeSome things are perfect. The old tymey songs you sang with your aunt in Bellows Falls, the laughs you had together doing so, and the Easter egg tree on her piano.

No room for improvement.

My Zolovka, the Artist

little hump backed horse











My sister-in-law, a former costume designer for film and TV, is the craziest mad genius, what with the portraits she does of people’s homes using their own memorabilia, and how her talents are put to use at the Russian school and dance recitals. All the children of the Lands should be so lucky as to have a Natalya in the wings.

See more Russian kids’ costumes here, including those made by other parents, most if not all designed by my beloved золовка. Love the Sun and Moon executed by Marina Bagrova! Don’t miss Natalya’s stunning sketches of the costumes as they appeared in her noggin, before their worldly realization, at the end of this version. Quick, before that page changes!

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges ~ Or Do We


Little Sister of the Moon courtesy of B.S.

When parents get involved in their children’s projects, a great inequity is born. I remember my friends’ middle school-aged kids’ projects for Science Fairs. They looked, by God, these trifold standup posters explaining the experiment, as if they’d been published by Random House. The other kids’ looked like, well, coloring books. Except for the ones made by their parents.

Girl Scouting was no different. In the 70s you had the laissez-faire parents like mine, God love ‘em, then you had the competitive superparents. They were troop leaders, usually, and their daughters had 200 merit badges on their sashes. My mom was a troop leader, but not the superparenting kind; more the “Look it up” kind. We had to earn our own merit badges, meaning do the work ourselves. Imagine that! We had to actually read the instructions and carry them out. If you didn’t understand something, in your Girl Scout Handbook or math book, a parent would bark, “Look it up!” without glancing up from the stovetop, martini, or newspaper. None of this coddly, “Let’s get going on it, honey … together!” None of this everything-at-your-fingertips Internet business, no sir, not for us.

GS handbookWhat if we had to walk around today with sashes pictographically representing our accomplishments? Rich concept, that. Some people would have lots and lots of badges, some would have a few, and some would turn their nose at the “charade” even if they’d accomplished much. The highly competitive would have extra-long sashes trailing behind them like a royal brides’s train, or folded over repeatedly back and forth like ribbon candy, loaded down with those little embroidered circles of merit (crafted by … the children of the fine sweat shops of Indonesia?) The rest of us could fit our sash under a slender coat.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved earning those badges and sewing them by hand (myself! With the skills acquired in Brownies!) to my sash. I feel for the poor troop leader who ordered them, probably with 27-character alphanumeric codes they had to enter on a form and mail in (CANOE999 … FIRSTAID2704 … ETIQUETTE5328 — wait, did the Boys Scouts have Etiquette??? Certainly not HOUSEKEEPING like the early Girl Scout badge).

I could see this being of societal benefit in modern tymes. Like last spring when the months-old layer of snow melted and there was dog do all over town. It was a minefield out there. Maybe if there had been merit badges involved, people would have been more diligent about poopingscooping (gotta be a great German word for that). This got me — and the crazed nutters I call friends — thinking of incentive-based or generally perverse applications of such badges.

Proposed Merit Badges for Adults in Modern Tymes:

Recycling. Putting The Seat Down. Turning In Lost Objects. Moderation in Facebook Posting. Echolocation. Hoarding. Closet Organizing. Image Consulting. Photo Bombing. Comparative Shopping. Lawn Care. Adult Hygiene. Cell Phone Videography. Social Climbing. Commuting. Unfriending. Rabble Rousing. Lamprophony (look it up). Little Sister of the Moon (Stevie Nicks-esque Wicca skills).  Little Brother Annoying. Patent Leather Appreciation. Cyber Stalking. Fast Texting. 50 Shading. Hermitude. Internet Bullying. Cellphone Minute Conservation. Hair Extension Weaving. Sleepover Safety. Bad Boy Dating. Texting Shorthand (u 2 want 1). Throning.

GS SashA friend asks, “What about a merit badge called Olive Loaf for those of us in the “sandwich” stage, caring for both children and aging parents?” Another writes: “OMG.  I’m going to get a good picture of my sash. I GLUED the SEWING badge on the sash. I think I fibbed to ACHIEVE this number of badges … all glued on for speedy sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT and ACHIEVEMENT.

Others suggested: “How about the Aria Stark badge for when you kill an adversary?” Or “The Donald Trump badge for the girl who sells the most cookies?  The theme would be twisted of course to emphasize greed rather than ‘do-gooding’ for a cause.  The recipient would be all about the prize she wins.”

Feel free to create your own. Achieve! Good day.

Google Autofill of the Month:

When WHY DOES YOUR BLADDER is entered, Google autofills with:


have  to be full for a sonogram



ann.aikens.7 on Facebook. Twitter handle: @uvgvt.

And Let’s Not Forget the Amateur Craftspersons

flugencrafter…whose work brings untold joy to All, including this piece lovingly crafted by an amateur New Hampshire Flügenkrafter in good standing.

What, pray tell, is flügen? Go here.

Learn it. Love it. Live it.

God Love the Gentle Craftspersons

Cut Out CopyCrafting deep into the night, with needle nose and epoxy and colored threads…all so we can give someone a nice gift. I sleep easy at night picturing them at work, like the Brownies that hekeyslped the cobbler.

Cut Out Copy I happened upon at a festival. Along with magical collage art, she makes wicked cool jewelry like rings from antique typewriter keys. Dear to a writer’s heart!  Also, pendants in bottle caps: sooper aws. Barbee’s got a great vibe and that’s where I want my $ going; it’s flügen.

Then you’ve got April’s Maple. April, in the Northeast Kingdom, is also the bomb. The Maple bomb. Look at these little crunchins Maple Crunchinsyou can put on your cereal or whatever. I spoon them directly into my mouth. Wash ’em down with maple cotton candy.

The 3 Sisters made my favorite necklace of all time forever. Nakid pendantThey don’t make these any more (Cut Out Copy makes similar) but they do retro license plate and hotel key art.

Santa Lucia by N AikensThe last but not least, a beloved friend, stitches a  portrait of your home out of materials you supply. Brilliant!

Keep awn craftin’, crafters. As the drummer mouths during the 60s flashback in This Is Spinal Tap, “We. Love. You.”

The Stone Man Cometh

bahr 1…and goeth…and leaveth behind a thing of beauty.

Greg Bahr — native Vermonter, neighbor, artistic madman behind Bahr’s Stoneworks — has a far-out genius for putting rocks together. Here’s a recent wall of his in downtown Bethel, incorporating old bottles and bones he found on-site. “Are the bones human?” everyone asks. “I’m not sure,” says Greg.


[Ed. note: Who knows, maybe a barfight behind the Pink Pony one night in the 70s…yes, I’m dating myself…no one remembers the Pony.]bahr 3 bahr 2 bahr site bahr sign

Fill Your Bag

funnyhalloweencostumesongoogleimagesFall reminds us that life’s short and getting shorter. Maybe that’s why we all get in drag in October and stuff ourselves silly in November and pile gifts on one another in December. We’re not stupid. We know how to have fun.

The garden is put to bed. The state park is closed. The sun sets earlier and earlier. Time for reading and crafts and deep thots. Like: what to wear on Halloween? I love when kids roll old-school and you can tell what they are (astronaut, umpire, cowgirl) without having to know a (modern) cartoon or kiddie movie, and I dig adult attire that mystifies the young people (Ben Hur, say, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame…cue the Million Dollar Movie theme…on WOR-9!,) plus dual costumes you can’t buy in a store (Napoleon and Josephine; John Snow and Ygritte – “Archery Kit Not Included”; more).

Some columnists didn’t get their September column in on time and important events went uncovered. Like the New World Festival (magnifique!), the Tunbridge World’s Fair (kudos, 4-H’ers, Ambassadors, and handicapped transpo!), and a spectacular foliage season. Hopefully Dear Reader was too busy having fun to notice this humble column’s absence; New Englanders read weekly papers with listings of aws local goings-on and load their calendars accordingly. As a friend’s sage older brother commented recently on life, “It’s all experiences and relationships.” His point being, I imagine, that resumes and possessions don’t matter so much. Unless it’s a big old Heath Bar sliding into my orange plastic jack-o’-lantern. That matters. Treat, please!

One treaty experiential idea a brilliant friend had: get together with other people that like to sing for a singing weekend. If you’re like us, you’ll talk and hoot more than you sing, but you’ll have the time of your life. I offered a name for ours: Croonfest. Because of our age, a soprano quickly countered with Cronefest. An alto suggested, in an unrelated conversation, a new reality show: Keeping Up With The Kevorkians. Which is what many wish the Kardashians would do. Anyway, your weekend will go like that, with some actual singing thrown in. I highly recommend.

Is the planet in utter turmoil? Pretty much. Are we on rubbery ground economically? Maybe. But when I had connections to the “monument” industry, I’d planned to buy my tombstone, inscribed in advance except for the final date.  It was to say, perhaps with an etching of a beacon, “I remain hopeful.”  Not only because that rich irony would give the occasional visitor (and naughty graveyard shennaniganer on All Saints’ Eve) a snicker, but because I do in fact remain hopeful. You know how, even if stuck in nasty traffic, when you think of someone you love, like a pet or child or your aunts, your whole chest cavity feels good, and then you smile and your face feels good? Humans have this universal response ‘round the globe. That’s something. And so I remain hopeful.

A friend who is Dialed In to otherworldly sources had this to say: we on earth are being summoned now to let go of the past and do things a new way, with joy. That means, to me, not doing things (experiences and relationships) you don’t want to do that make you feel mostly crappy, whether for dollars or out of some sense of obligation. Actions initiated with unpleasant thoughts behind them never turn out right; the energetic impetus is all wrong. Yuh-oh, am I waxing cosmic on Dear Reader?! Well. If not on the Eve of All Saints, with its possibly pagan progenitor, the Feast of the Lemures, when then?

pirate-to-goDust off your figurative orange plastic jack-o’-lantern, polish your conceptual horn of plenty, and fill ‘em up, with the best “treats” – experiences and relationships. Is effort involved? Nice work if you can get it, I say. Don’t waste a minute on any that bring you misery, like the awful Mary Jane candies one neighbor routinely forced on us in the 60s. Throw those ones out, man. Keep the good ones. Re-gift the good ones. Good cross-dressing, and good day.

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