Friday, January 31, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Johnny

Almost a year ago, we adopted two orphan sheep. We kept them in a pen in the garage under a heat lamp, where they were bottle fed, held and coddled. We named them Johnny and Violet. Although we're omnivores, there was no question that these two animals would remain pets.
 Bringing them home.
The pen in the garage.
Feeding time.

As they grew, they were moved into a larger outdoor pen, where they got to know the horses, chickens and pigs with whom they'd be sharing a field.

We began taking them with us on walks, and they were as companionable as any dog. (One of my sons is allergic to dogs, so we sometimes improvise.)

They grew and thrived up in the field. And though they didn't need us to look after them anymore, they ran to us when we came to see them, and enjoyed a hearty scratch behind the ears.

Two days ago, I got a call from Kitty that Johnny had died in the night. The cause of his death is a complete mystery to us, but we all shared the grief of his passing. My boys responded with various degrees of sadness-ranging from silence to an outpouring of tears. They all keep asking "Why?" One sagely remarked, "Well. That's just life." 
Violet (above) seems very bereft, and though she still has the company of the other animals in the field, she'll likely be put in with some other sheep with the hope that she can adapt to their company. Sheep are not solitary animals. The lambing season begins again in a month or two, and the kids are already asking if we can get new babies, even though they know there is no replacing the one we lost.

The boys also wanted to know what will become of Johnny, and I explained about his body returning to the earth, possibly helping a tree to grow somewhere that will provide shade for another sheep in the future. I don't know if this was the right thing to say, and they have their own theories about these things. But I think they're right about one thing, whatever does happen, that's just life. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter Wallpaper from Kiran Ravilious

Here is a picture of my downstairs bathroom, or loo, depending on where you're reading this. I know its not very nice to look at, but it's sort of a metaphor for what January is feeling like for me right about now. Stripped down, bare, cold and needing some color.

I'm not usually one for wallpaper. It's too much of a commitment, and I'm too afraid of getting it wrong. Luckily, I recently happened upon the beautiful textile designs of Kiran Ravilious. She's a local(ish) artist, based in Leicester, where she prints fabrics and wallpaper by hand from her own linocut designs. Hooray for supporting local and handmade artisans, plus, Kiran's aesthetic is right up my alley. 
This blue and green trumpet leaf design is what's going in the bathroom once it arrives. Each roll is printed to order, so I have to look at that horrible bathroom for a few weeks longer, but I think it'll be worth the wait. Here are a few more of her prints that I love:
These black nettles are so bold, but I loved the green and blue leaves the best.
I also considered this Pastle Rowan print, but it was a little too softly, softly. 
Kiran also prints on lampshades...
...and cushions. 
And I LOVE this tulip print, shown here on a notebook. I would've gotten this for the wallpaper if it had been on offer. 

Kiran also blogs here, and I just started following her beautiful Pinterest boards, which are here. I'll post another image of that bathroom once the paper is up. I bet you won't recognize it!

All images courtesy of and copyrighted to Kiran Ravilious.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Project Roundup: Crafting with Duct Tape

Recently, I took Jake and Charlie on a trip back to America to visit family. While we were packing, Jake decided to put some of his pocket money into a seldom used wallet to bring along. Charlie wanted one too, immediately prompting the phrase so often heard around here: "No problem, we can make you one!"

I have long been aware that duct tape crafting is a huge thing, though we'd never really gotten around to trying it ourselves. Online instructions abound, but I followed the steps for the wallet above using my beloved Martha Stewart Crafts for Kids book.
We only had the standard silver duct tape lying around to make Charlie's wallet, but while in America I stopped by a Staples and bought up their stock of cool patterned tape-its cheaper there than in England. Jake immediately ran home and covered his backpack with camo tape. I'll have to take a picture of it when he gets home from school.

Since then, I've gone online and looked around for more duct tape crafting instructions. So many of them seem geared towards girls, but the following projects all appeal to us (and to girls, too, I hope!) We'll be trying some of these out in the coming weeks and posting results to my Facebook page (also called Crafting a Beautiful Life), so check back for those and do share your own, too.
These amazing tape over cardboard sleds come from Artzycreations. Wish I'd known about them before our trip to America where that recent polar vortex gave the boys a rare chance to go sledding.

I recently posted about the virtues of crafting with cardboard, and these simple but very beautiful cardboard houses from Pink Sugarland are right up our alley.

Another craft I wished I'd thought about before our trip was this very portable game of checkers, instructions for which came from the Parents website.

This is another upcycled cardboard craft (it also utilizes plastic jugs for the handles on the back) that would get a lot of mileage in my house. It's intended as a Viking history project, and comes from a cool and crafty mom at Deceptively Educational.

And lastly, a quick and easy project with an endless possibility for customization are these arm and wrist bands from Sarah at Frugal Fun For Boys.

Have any other amazing duct tape projects you want to share? Leave a link to yours in the comments section below. Happy crafting.