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This is a reminder that on September 28, Mary Helen McNally-Leonard sent you an invitation to become part of their professional network at LinkedIn.

Accept Mary Helen McNally-Leonard’s Invitation
On September 28, Mary Helen McNally-Leonard wrote:

> To: Post MaryHelenOrama []
> From: Mary Helen McNally-Leonard [maryhelenorama@gmail.com]
> Subject: Invitation to connect on LinkedIn

> Post,
>
> I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
>
> – Mary Helen

You are receiving Reminder emails for pending invitations. Unsubscribe.
© 2011 LinkedIn Corporation. 2029 Stierlin Ct, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA.

LinkedIn

This is a reminder that on September 28, Mary Helen McNally-Leonard sent you an invitation to become part of their professional network at LinkedIn.

Accept Mary Helen McNally-Leonard’s Invitation
On September 28, Mary Helen McNally-Leonard wrote:

> To: Post MaryHelenOrama []
> From: Mary Helen McNally-Leonard [maryhelenorama@gmail.com]
> Subject: Invitation to connect on LinkedIn

> Post,
>
> I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
>
> – Mary Helen

You are receiving Reminder emails for pending invitations. Unsubscribe.
© 2011 LinkedIn Corporation. 2029 Stierlin Ct, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA.

Books and Materials

These pretty little handmade notebooks are made with collage paper, newsprint, embroidery floss, and greeting cards.  You can use blank greeting cards or used cards to make your notebook covers, giving you a great way to re-use your latest pile of birthday or holiday greetings.

First, take your greeting card and your collage paper and plot out how you’d like to arrange the paper.  Try to cover every bit of the card.  If you’re using a used greeting card as your base, make sure that the paper you are using to cover the card is thick enough to hide any pictures or text.  They will look fugly when they show through.

Scheming the Fold

Next, use your favorite paper glue to cover every bit of the card with your collage paper.  I use a glue stick, since I find school glue or mod podge gets my paper too wet (then it warps!).

Glue Time

Carefully trim the cover after it has dried to make sure all of your edges are even.

Snip Snip Snip

Measure your card, then cut 15 – 20 rectangles of blank newsprint in a slighty smaller size than your card.  I would suggest going at least 1/2 inch smaller on all sides.  You can cut these by hand, but if you have a real paper cutter, it will make your pages come out much more evenly.  As you can probably tell, mine were hand cut.

Fold your pages in half and place them inside your cover.

Using your favorite punching tool, poke holes through the center fold of your pages and cover simultaneously.  I’m crazy, so I use a dremel with a drill bit.  I’ve seen folks use awls, heavy duty paper punches, and a huge variety of other things to poke these holes.  Just choose your favorite and go for it.  Just make sure your holes are all lined up nicely, or stitching it will be a huge pain, maybe even impossible.

Holy Moly

Now take some string and thread it onto a nice big sewing needle.  A tapestry needle would be ideal.  I used embroidery floss to bind my notebooks, but you can use any kind of sturdy thread or string.  Some good ideas would be twine, hemp, or very strong yarn.

Stitch through the holes in the book in one direction, like so:

Stitch Stitch Stitch

Then, turn around and stitch in the other direction.  While you are going this direction, slip your needle through the next stitch over every chance you get, this will make each stitch more even and secure.  See what I mean?

A Close Look at the Stitching

Tie a knot when you get back to the beginning.

Tying the Knot

Fold the notebook back down.  It won’t want to stay closed very much, so you should press it under something really heavy for a few hours, or maybe even overnight.

All finished!

During a move a couple of years back I found myself packing up hundreds and hundreds of CD cases.  The numbers were staggering, but their sheer volume, once in front of my face, was hard to handle.  After I’d filled a box (or three) I started to doubt the sanity of packing and moving the insane collection into my new home.  So, I decided to toss the cases.  One by one, I packed my discs into humongous CD binders.  In no time I had condensed the size of my music collection by 3/4.   Though I was relieved to see my burden shrunk, I felt a pang of sadness at letting go of the cases for all of my favorite albums.  How many countless hours had I spent pouring over each and every one of those liner notes?  I knew and loved each one.  How could I just chuck them into the garbage bin?  Being crafty, my mind fashioned a strange compromise.  I pulled the liner notes from the CD cases and stashed them away in a plastic bag in anticipation for the day that I figured out how to make something creative with them.

I used the stash as a sort of paper buffet for some time.  I used the pictures and text inside the liner notes to make buttons, magnets, and collages, but it wasn’t until much later that I came up with the greatest use for my old CD books ever, the Album Bouquet!  One day I got my hands on a flower shaped paper punch, some beads, and a spool of floral wire and it all came together.  Here’s what I made:

RadioHead: Kid A

The Misfits: Static Age

PJ Harvey: Is This Desire?

Here’s how you make them.

You’ll need:

  • CD Liner Notes
  • A Flower Shaped Paper Punch
  • A Mini Hole Punch (1/8 inch)
  • Floral Wire
  • Medium Sized Seed Beads
  • Double Sided Tape
  • Floral Tape

Directions:

  • Start by carefully removing the cover of the album and setting it aside.  This will be used as the vase, or wrapper for your bouquet.
  • Cut the remainder of the liner into strips that are just a little wider than your flower shaped punch.
  • Punch as many flowers as you can from the liner, then put them together into pairs of two.
  • Now punch two tiny holes into the middle of each pair of  flowers using your 1/8 inch hole punch.
  • Cut several 5 inch lengths of floral wire.
  • Line up a pair of flowers so that the holes in the middle align, then carefully thread a piece of wire through one of the holes.
  • Slip a bead onto the wire, then thread about 1 inch of the wire through the other hole in the flower so that the two ends of the wire are underneath the flower.  Carefully twist the two ends together.
  • Repeat the last two steps until you have tons of flowers.
  • Arrange the flowers into a pretty bunch, then secure the stems together using floral tape.
  • Roll the album cover into a cone and secure it from the inside with a piece of double sided tape.  Curl the edges on the outside cover down a little to make it extra pretty.
  • Place your bouquet of flowers into the wrapper and present it to your favorite music lover.

If you are wondering what to do with the empty jewel cases themselves, you will be happy to learn that they can be recycled.  However, your local recycling center is unlikely to take them, as they are made of a material that is notoriously difficult to recycle.  But fear not, the internet has come to the rescue.  Visit GreenDisk.com to learn how you can have your cases ethically disposed of.   Or, if you are feeling crafty,  check out the Top 14 Ways to Reuse Unwanted Jewel Cases.  Yet another option is to call up your local used CD store to see if they’d like to take your cases.  Second hand music stores are often in need of extra jewel cases, so your local shop may be happy to take them off your hands.

You may remember a post several months ago which explained how you can create paper versions of your friends to take out on the town with you when you can’t all be together in real life.  My sisters and I began making flat friends the last time that we got 3 out of 4 of us together for a big fun time.  We really were sad that Caity, our youngest sister, couldn’t be there to share in our good times.  We McNally girls are big on making lemonade out of lemons if you know what I mean, so we created “Flat Caitlin” from paper and popsicle sticks, and took her with us throughout the day (and night’s) shenanigans.

My sister, Heather, just moved to Austin, Texas.  I helped her move, so I’m here for a few more days.  Sarah, another sister, is arriving tonight,  just in time to grab dinner and hit a Camera Obscura concert.  Fun times are definitely going to be had, but how can our joviality be complete when we are missing one sister?  That’s right.  It’s Flat Friend time.

We decided to go with a new photo this time. Mix things up, you know? Keep it fresh.

Caity's High School Graduation

Unfortunately, this photo mostly just shows her head, and we really need a good portion of body in order to get the Flat Friend just right.  Plus, we need somewhere to stick the popsicle stick.  Not a problem though, with the wonders of Photo Shop, we can easily create the facade of a torso.  Just a few clicks of the mouse, and VIOLA!

Ready to become a Flat Friend!

Isn’t digital imagery amazing? Now to print her out, attach her to a stick, and hit the town!  Yippee Kai Yay, Texas!

Update: Here are some photos of the fun we had with Flat Caitlin in Austin

The Four McNally Ladies in the Bluebonnets

Flat Caitlin Enjoying the Sunset Over Lake Travis

Aside from wallowing in my own postponed Winter blues, I have been spending the last few weeks getting accustomed to my new surroundings here at Casa de Leonard.  The Leonards were more than generous with their space, giving Scott and I not only our own bedroom, but an entire room to use as my office/workshop, and space to practice and record music in the basement.  We’ve both been blessed with a set of in-laws that are incredibly helpful and supportive, and for that I think we both are thankful.  So, after a month in sunny Florida, we arrived in Connecticut during the heart of snow-season.  Cold, dark, wet, nasty snow-season.  Yuck.

On the bright side, this should be our very last Winter (at least for a while) if everything goes to plan over the next year.  In Autumn 2010 we are planning to pull up our anchor once again and hightail it to Austin, Texas.   During our trip to China we were able to sit back and take a nice long look at our lives, a luxury one rarely gets to enjoy.  While we were looking we realized a few things:

  1. We hate Winter.  Every year during the dark cold months, Bobleo and I become fatter and more depressed. We’re done with Winter.
  2. One way or another, Bobleo is determined to make music a bigger part of his life.  So, he started practicing like a maniac, and is currently taking private lessons to take his playing to the next level.  By the time we hit Austin, a major musical hub, Bobleo hopes to be in the best musical shape of his life.
  3. We can’t afford to live in Fairfield County.  Or at least we can’t afford to live here well, or live here well while saving toward our future, or save toward our future without working 2 or more jobs each.  Another thing we realized is that we’ve missed each other, and we’re tired of working 2 or more jobs each.  We’re taking weekends off from now on.
  4. Although Connecticut is filled with friends, family, and personal history, we crave adventure.  Sometimes you can’t see what you’ve been missing until you step outside your life.  When we did, we found out just how happy getting lost, frustrated, and confused can make us.  Sometimes I count the number of exits off of 84 from here to Maine that I have been down.  As the number gets higher and higher, I feel more and more like a goldfish in a bowl.
  5. You can always go back home.  No matter how far you are, your family is your family and your friends are still your friends.  Sure, we’ll miss the people we love, but a handful of miles won’t keep us apart forever.

So, that’s why we are moving to Austin.  We’re just not done shaking our lives up yet.  Plus, Austin is full of everything that we like: music, food, movies, art, and crazy people.  Our choice became doubly lucky when we found out that two of my sisters are planning to head down there too!!  So, we won’t be entirely alone after all.

In addition to making big plans, we’ve been making music, Bobleo and I.  After years of pleading, he finally gave in and sat down to write some songs together.  They are not too shabby either, if I may say so.  The first that we wrote involved several beers, lots of yelling, and intermittent mediation by Bobleo’s father.  But after many hours of head butting, we came up with something pretty good.  The second song, (and a half – we have one that’s nearly done) went much more smoothly.  No yelling or name calling at all.  I figure it’s just another of a million things that we need to learn how to do together, so like fighting or running a household of chores, we’re getting better at it.  At this rate, we may even get an EP recorded without spilling blood.  We also learned a few covers, including: Train Song by Vashti Bunyan, Bad Things by Jace Everett, and Back to Black by Amy Winehouse.  We need to streamline our covers a little and add some more stuff that focuses us a little more, but we’re getting there.  We’re going for an alt. country kind of thing, but right now I think we’re still a little dis-jointed.

Tool of the Trade

On Sunday night we played our very first open mic together.  It was incredibly exciting.  I’m such a dork, but it really thrilled me.  I could hardly wait until we went out again last night.  To Bobleo this is cake, old hat, easy peasy, but for me it’s a leg shaking, nail biting, butterfly gutted lightning-fest.  I think we did OK.  If you’re around on a Sunday or Tuesday night anytime soon your welcome to come on down and see the side-show.  Widow Browns in Danbury on Sundays, starting after 9:30, and O’Connors in Brookfield on Tuesdays at the same time.  We’ll be doing each one religiously to get some practice under our belts as we try and complete an EP’s worth of recorded originals.  I’ll keep you updated on the status of our little project.

And finally, my crafty attention has been to creating this adorable little baby quilt for my favorite CB.  She is so very preggers, and will be delivering an amazing bundle of joy (or as I call her, CB Jr.) sometime next month! My friends, CB and Brian are going to be the funnest, cutest, most lovable parents ever, I just know it, and I can’t wait to meet tiny CB.  Anyway, the QUILT.

CB Jr.'s Baby Quilt

The Quilt was made with a Hello Betty Charm Pack by Moda, and backed with a Pink Plume Fleur de Lis print by Tula, both of which I purchased from Quilt Sandwich on Etsy.  The pre-cut squares made the patchwork a total breeze.  I don’t know if my cheating heart will ever go back to cutting quilt squares by hand.  This was too devilishly easy for me not to repeat.  I hand quilted the blanket with pink embroidery floss, and sewed a pink fuzzy bias tape on as a lining with the same floss.  The binding took FOREVER, but the perfection was well worth the extra time.  This was definitely my best quilt to date.  It had no puckering, no funky diagonal lines, no mis-sized squares or random holes.  All in all, I think it was pretty well made, especially for me.  I hope baby CB will enjoy it.

I’ve also been cooking my head off, but unfortunately I have not been good about blogging my meals since we came back to CT.  I have to find a way to take good photos in the Leonard’s kitchen, which also means stopping to plate before throwing the meal on the table, which also means not shoveling the meal into my face as soon as possible.  I so lack self discipline.  Here’s a peak at what eventually became sausage and pepper calzones earlier this week.

Chicken Sausage and Roasted Peppers Tossed With Fresh Basil

I’m having serious photography frustrations, as you may be able to surmise from the photos in this post.  The walls in my office are sky blue, which makes (I’ll give you one guess, no wait. I won’t) BLUE!!  It also has the best light in the house – which continues to tempt me into taking pictures in here, despite the blue-ness.  But then, I wind up with an irreversible blue tinge to EVERYTHING I photograph.  Must stop.  Must relocate.  What’s the definition of insanity again? Oh yes, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Right. On that note, I’ll leave you all panting and heaving for the next installment of MaryHelenOrama. G’day mate.

These sweet treats are made with regular, household cotton balls, simple craft supplies, and just a dash of imagination.  Kids will love piecing together these adorable play foods.  For this project you’ll need: large cotton balls, school glue, brown and black construction paper, small pom poms, small candy cups, and markers.

Cotton Cookies, Ice Cream Cone, and Cupcakes

To make creme filled cookies, start by cutting some shapes out of construction paper.  Cut two 3 to 4 inch circles out of brown paper, then two more out of black paper.   With a brown marker, draw chocolate chips onto the brown circles.  Using a white marker or a white crayon decorate the black circles to resemble a chocolate cookie.  Take two cotton balls and gently pull them in every direction.  Try not to pull them completely apart.  Instead, try to just stretch each cotton ball into a wide, flat circle.  On the wrong side of each paper cookie, spread school glue evenly.  Sandwich the cotton ball circles in between two paper cookies and gently press them together.

Next, try making some cotton ball cupcakes.  Start with a candy cup, or small cupcake wrapper.  Coat the inside of the cup with school glue, then drop a cotton ball inside.  To make your cupcakes look more realistic, try shaping them into a ball first.  Top each cupcake with a small pom pom and a drop of glue.

Another faux food you can create using cotton balls is ice cream!  Begin by cutting a 4 inch square from construction paper.  Carefully trim one half of the square into a round edge.  Using a brown marker, draw criss-crossing diagonal lines across the paper to make the paper resemble a waffle cone.  Now roll the square into a cone shape and secure it with glue.  Next, grab a cotton ball and carefully pull the cotton up from its middle.  Twist the cotton gently to give it a swirled look.  This step may take a little practice.  Once your ice cream is ready, use glue to secure your ice cream inside the cone.

Make sure you allow your cotton ball crafts to dry completely before playing with them.