Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween at Fursdon House

Happy Halloween Everyone!
Isabel is growing up so fast.  Not so long ago, she wanted to be a princess, and a pretty witch.
  But this year, she wanted to be a pirate!

 She's been planning this outfit for months!

 I think it turned out really well!
  She decorated this pumpkin last night.
  I especially like heart shaped tail!! 

Santos Lucia all dressed up and ready for Trick-or-Treating!  I made this Halloween hat for her last year, and I've also made her a crown.  But I'm thinking she probably needs a Christmas Chapeau!!  What do you think?  Hmmmmmm........sounds like yet another project coming on!!
Hope everyone has a Halloween full of Spooky Fun!!!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pretty Pennants!!

I made these pennants a couple of years ago, put them away, then forgot all about them!  Sometimes I wonder about me!!

Well....I found them the other day, tweaked them a little - and decided they're far too pretty to be tucked away, so I hung them on my studio table.

If I was smart, I'd make these part of my blog banner!  But I'd have to take better photos first! I detect a new project on the horizon?  Groan! Not another one!!!

I have to admit, these were so much fun to make!  I just kept pulling stuff from "hither and yon", including some waste cardstock for the base.  Then I stitched  pretty cardstock on top, then started gluing and sewing!  Following are some close-ups of the individual pennants.

Now how did Isabel get into this blog post?
 I have to brag on her though.  She's in the middle of chopping walnuts for the banana bread she made all by herself!!  Growing up so fast!!!  BTW - the banana bread was AWESOME!!

Creating a Unique Scrapbook of Our Trip to Rome

Hi Everyone!

I wanted to show you how I created a really unique scrapbook for all the photos we took in Rome.  I don't know what it is, but I can't ever seem to just accept things as they are (such as using an ordinary scrapbook) without adding my own twist to it. And this project was no exception!  Besides, this allowed me to use up some items I already had, so it was also economic and eco friendly!  At least that sounds good, doesn't it? 

First I wanted to show you what I already had on hand.  It was two of these large retail furniture books (shown below) which my mother-in-law Valerie gave to me from her shop.  She told me she just knew I'd "make something spectacular out of them". And I think I did!  Thanks Valerie!!

It measures about 12" x 12", and it was about 1 1/2" thick.  In addition to a book of any size you prefer to use (I'm thinking of old text books from thrift shops), you'll need the following supplies:
- Mod Podge (AKA:  white goo)
- Sand paper, fine grit
- Small paint brush (a disposable 1" brush is what I use; they're cheap ($1 at Home Depot) and I usually get several painting sessions out of them before throwing them away)
-  Wax paper
-  Double-sided sticky tape (or other sticky medium of your choice)
-  Paper towels
-  Craft knife
-  Small self-healing mat
-  Scrapbook paper of your choice (I used a pattern called "Old World", which I thought was particularly appropriate!)
- Decorative paper (I used tissue paper, only because I already had this beautiful tissue paper on hand and I was determined to see if I could get it to work.  But when I make another one, I'll probably use wrapping paper because it's MUCH easier to work with.)
- Scissors
- Patience!! (This was the only thing I ran short of! I already had everything else!!)
1.  Using your craft knife, with the self-healing mat underneath to keep you from cutting too many pages, go through your entire book and slice away pages.  You want to cut as close to the binding as you can get, until you get an equal amount of pages removed to balance out the book.  This sounds weird even to me, but what you're actually doing is removing enough papers evenly throughout the book to make room for scrapbook papers. Depending on how many pages you want left to scrapbook on will determine how many pages to remove.  For my book, I removed about 4-5 pages, left 2 in, removed another 4-5 pages, left 2 in, and so on until I got through the whole book.  Don't worry if the book looks a bit skimpy after all the cutting.  Remember, scrapbook paper is usually thicker and it will also have photos and memorabilia attached, so you want to make sure you have plenty of room for everything.
Hint: You can always cut fewer pages out at this point, then if you find you need more room later on, cut out more pages.
2.  Next, measure the size of one of the pages left inside the book.  Then cut out scrapbook papers in these same dimensions.
3.  Using double-sided tape (or any sticky medium of your choice), adhere the scrapbook papers onto the front and back pages of all the remaining pages in the book.  Make sure your corners are adhered well together, as they will take the most abuse while you're looking at the scrapbook in its finished state.  As for me, I get a little tape happy, so I taped all my pages together around the three outside edges.  Now you can see how fast your book is beginning to fill up!
4.  With your sand-paper, lightly sand the front and back covers of the book.  This will help your decorative paper adhere better.  Wipe away all grit and dust with a damp cloth.
5.  Insert wax paper sheets underneath the covers of the book to protect the inside pages. 
6.  Start with the back cover of the book first. This gives you a little "OJT" before you go to the front and most important part of the  scrapbook.  Measure the size of the cover, minus the binding.  Now add 1/4 of an inch on the top, bottom and outside edge measurements.
7.  Using these dimensions, cut out decorative paper in the same size.
8.  With your paint brush, liberally coat the cover of the book with Mod Podge.  It doesn't matter if you get some goo on the binding. This will be covered up later.  This is what mine looked like:
9.  Carefully place the cut decorative paper, centered, on top of the wet cover.  Working from the middle of the book to the outside edges, smooth out the paper and remove any air bubbles or creases.  You should have 1/4 inch of extra paper on the top, bottom and outside edges.  Fold this extra paper over the edges and glue or tape to the inside of the cover.
10.  With wax paper in place to protect your inside pages, liberally coat the top of the decorative paper with Mod Podge, then allow this to dry at least 24 hours (this is where the patience comes in).  This is what mine looked like using tissue paper:
This is the front cover.  As you can see, I also cut out the word "ROMA" (how the Italians refer to Rome) in contrasting paper, then added it to the top of the cover.  I have to admit though - I was a little apprehensive at this point because it wasn't looking all that grand!!  I also made the mistake of doing my front cover first (DUH!), so I had no "OJT".  But I decided to just forge ahead and see what turned out.  BTW - doesn't this tissue paper look awesome?  Very "Romanesque" I thought!
This is the back cover, with one layer of tissue paper that's been Mod Podged one time.
11.  After the cover is completely dry (but not before 24 hours), once again liberally coat the top of the decorative paper with Mod Podge.  And, once again, allow this to dry at least 24 hours. More patience required! Aaarrrrgggghhhh!!!!
12.  Repeat this entire process for the front cover of the book.  And even more patience is required! It could be worse though....because I was using thin tissue paper, I had to use two layers, Mod Podged one at a time, so the design would be sharp enough.  The fun part was getting the two papers to line up so the picture would be clear!  Okay, so I'm nuts!! What else is new?
13.  When the front and back covers are completely dry, measure the binding of the book, adding one or two inches. This allows the paper that goes on the binding to overlap the paper on the front and back covers of the book by one half to one inch on either side (whichever you prefer).  You can use the same paper as you used for the front and back covers, or you can use contrasting paper.  Since I was using thin tissue paper, I just let my front and back covers overlap, which worked out fine for this particular design.
14.  With your paint brush, liberally coat the outside of the binding with Mod Podge.  Now place the  paper, centered, on top of the Mod Podged binding and smooth the paper out like you did before.
15.  Let this dry at least 24 hours.  Then.......yes, you guessed it......repeat the process once more.
Once everything is completely dry, you can now add photos and memorabilia to your inside pages! 
Following are some of the completed pages, to give you an idea of the types of paper I used, the way I laid out photos and memorabilia, etc.
This inside cover included a watercolor I did of a small koi pond, located at the back of our hotel.  I had grand intentions of doing several watercolors, but this is the only one that actually made it out of my head and onto paper!  I also like rough looking edges, so I rubbed them with distress ink.
I LOVE these scrapbook papers! I've used them on several projects.
I don't think I've showed these coins anywhere else, so I wanted to make sure I included them in this posting.  They're replicas of coins that were used in Rome's heyday!
Amazing ceilings inside the Vatican!

More photos of my camera shy granddaughter!

This life-sized marble status of horses pulling a chariot was FABULOUS!!

 Postcards from the Keats-Shelley House Memorial. I taped them down individually, on their left side, in graduating positions, so they open up like a booklet.

I have many GREAT postcards, and I especially like these over sized ones!

At the top left, you can see rose petals I saved from the bouquet my sweet husband gave me upon our arrival at the airport!  He also had two bouquets, of paler pink roses, for Laura and Isabel.  Now is that sweet or not!?!

This is a little notebook I carried everywhere with me, to jot down information as we went on various tours and sites.  Laura said I looked like "a nerdy tourist", walking around and taking notes. But by doing it this way, I was able to remember a lot more than I otherwise would have. The old memory isn't as good as it used to be!
The inside back cover.  I loved this photo I took of a marble statue of a man holding a tablet in his arms.  He seemed so earnest about what he was pointing to, so I gave him the map of the city to talk about.  I found the little golden glass pebble (at the top right) at the train station that ran beside the Colosseum.  So it HAD to come along and get into this scrapbook. 
Well, that's it.  I have to admit that now I've gone through all these instructions, I realize I went to an awful lot of trouble, when a simple purchased scrapbook would have worked just fine.  HOWEVER, that being said, I'm extremely pleased with the outcome and I know my scrapbook is truly one of a kind.  So when all is said and done, I've decided it was well worth the time I invested in it.
Hmmmm.......maybe I should put this last paragraph up at the top of the post, to warn people ahead of time?  Ha Ha  Too late now!!
CIAO!!  Jan

Thursday, October 17, 2013


We're nearing the end of our trip, but I saved what I consider to be the best for last!

 The Arch of Constantine was built to celebrate the victory of Emperor Constantine over his rival, Maxentius,in the year 312.  Again I say - let me look this good even at my puny age!!

 There is a legend that before the battle, a cross appeared to Constantine and the voice of God told him, "With this sign you will win."  So Constantine had all the shields and beams of his army decorated with crosses.  He then attacked Maxentius, and won.

 So....why aren't there any crosses on the arch itself?  Well.....I hate to burst anyone's bubble, because it did sound fabulous when I first heard it, but the legend was started much later, when Rome became a Christian city.

 So....what is Emperor Constantine best known for?  He legalized Christianity in 313, and from that time on, the persecutions of Christians stopped. 
 Most people think Constantine was a Christian when he passed this law.  He wasn't though; he didn't become a Christian until later.  But he believed that everyone had a right to practice their own religion, including Christianity, and that's why he legalized it! 

And now............(drum roll please)

T H E     C O L O S S E U M

First, let me start by saying that nothing, and I mean N.O.T.H.I.N.G, will prepare you for your first sight of the Colosseum.  I've read about it for a great part of my life and I knew it was big.  Okay fine, huge then.    But it's grandeur, even in its condition now, is enough to literally boggle the mind!!

We arrived at the sight by underground train, so our first glimpse was as we were coming up to street level.  My first thought was, "What's that shadow?"  Because the sun was high and hot when we got on the train.  

And there it was......At first, I literally could not see either end of it, nor could I see the top of it.  It was just this giant, MEGA-HUGE monument and it literally stopped me dead in my tracks.  I only wish I could convey to you just how amazing it is, but my poor camera (and its operator) simply don't stand a chance!

When it was first built, it stood at the very edge of the city. Now it is literally surrounded by Rome.

Standing at the base and looking straight up, you can get a small idea of the size of it and its grand proportions.

Some reports I read said it took only 8 years to build, and others said it took 10 years.  Regardless, it was an amazing feat to accomplish!!  As a matter of fact, in my school days, the Colosseum was considered one of the 7 wonders of the world!   

The Colosseum was used for gladiator fights, the hunting of wild animals, and .........was sometimes flooded by underground pipes in order to reenact sea battles!!  Remember - there was no television, no sports events, no public entertainment to speak of back then.
Construction began by Emperor Vespasian, to offer "panem et circenses" (free bread and games) to the citizens of Rome. This photo is what you see upon entering the base of the building.

The gladiator fights continued until the year 405, and hunting until the 6th century.  During the Middle Ages, the stone was removed and used to build churches and palaces.

300 tons of iron was used for clamping the stone to the Colosseum.  When the iron was removed, it created all the holes you see in the outside walls. The large part of the building on the right is actually an inside wall; the part on the left of the photo is what's left of the outside wall. Initially, this outside wall went around the entire circumference of the building.
 Stunning, isn't it?  There is a photograph in one of the books I bought, dated1865, that shows this entire lower level completely covered in silt from the flooding Tiber river.  In the photo, it actually looks like a dirt floor and none of this lower level was visible.  Excavation began at the end of the 20th century.
The area to the left, where the people are standing, shows the excavation of the lower level.  It was in the lower level that slaves were kept, gladiators trained, and animals were caged.

Close-up of previous photo

This gives you a good idea how wide it is;
 we walked all the way around it. 

A good view of the underground area.  When this was excavated, trap doors and elevators were discovered and it was this area that was actually flooded for mock sea battles!!

There is a legend that as long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand.  If the Colosseum falls, then Rome will fall.

These structures reminded me of some gladiator helmets we saw.

The Colosseum could house up to 70,000 people at one time. 

Today, it is visited by three million people each year!

This reminded me of thatched roofs, but its volcanic rock.

In 1744, Pope Benedict XIV consecrated the structure in memory of the Christians who were supposedly martyred in the arena.  However, later research "suggests" that they weren't.  Regardless, it allowed the Colosseum to be preserved.

This is the only marble left at the site, on these few steps.  However, in its prime, it was covered in marble! 

Armed combat went on at the Colosseum for about 500 years.  Criminals, slaves and gladiators fought each other, or wild animals, often to the death.

The spectators literally exercised the power of life and death over defeated combatants by waving handkerchiefs to show mercy, or showing a down-turned thumb, which meant death.

Even so, survivors' throats were often cut anyway, and the dead were poked with red-hot irons to make sure they were dead!

The Colosseum gets its name from the Colossus of Nero, which was a huge bronze statue of Nero, located nearby (now gone).

Seating was divided into four levels, and although entry was free, the areas for seating were regulated and strictly enforced by a special "official" who was employed to make sure people kept in their assigned areas.

As big as all this seems, it's literally only half of what is left of the original structure!!

At the opening of the Colosseum, there was a celebration that included the slaughter of 5,000 animals.  This was followed by 100 continuous days of games!

Gladitorial contests first took place in the 4th century. They started as a means to prepare soldiers for battle, to raise morale, and to harden them to the sight of death.

However, we all know that, in time, the games became nothing more than sport.

 The first and lowest level of seating was for the emperor and his imperial court, and high ranking officials.

The second level of seating was for Rome's aristocratic families.

The third level of seating was for the lower classes, and women were sent up to the very top.

Fire was a frequent hazard down through the years because of all the wood that was used - for planking of the arena floor, in the scenery built for special games and events, and platforms that were used in the upper areas.

The worst fire was in 217 AD.  Damage was so extensive that the building was closed for 5 years, and it took another 22 years to complete the repairs!

The Archeological Service of Rome still works to preserve and restore the monument and hopefully recover additional information about its history.  Unfortunately, when the first excavations of the underground level took place, a lot of information was destroyed.

Construction of the building allowed crowds to enter and leave quickly.  And our modern day stadiums are designed after the shape of the Colosseum!

A good view of the various levels of seating.

A beautiful view of the Colosseum as you approach from the Roman Forum. 

One last view from the Forum.

Other than the scrapbook I made, which I'll post about later, this concludes our trip to Rome.  Hope you enjoyed it!