Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cookie Chaos (Who am I kidding, my life is always like this)

There's something that happens during cookie season, if you're a scout leader, a cookie coordinator for your troop, and even sometimes if you are a cookie mom with inventory on hand. You go a little crazy. And I don't mean the cookie sales crazy that you see as an innocent bystander. I mean the internal "I'm trying to keep it together while constantly tallying and subtracting and balancing bank deposits and inventory and cookie supply and demand information in my head." I've already gotten there, on day two of cookie sales, when usually I don't get there until a couple of weeks in. I am disturbed. My brain won't shut off. The house has long ago fallen apart, and I just need to clear my head.

Blogging, is the way to clear your head. I don't get to do it much anymore, but this morning, on Sunday, I decided I would just sit down and dump my brain, pour my heart out, and feel much lighter.

I realized that I needed my laptop, which was in the van, in the locked-up-like-a-fortress garage, and that I wasn't dressed. I tried to get dressed, which became a huge chore. My jeans are all dirty. Like so dirty I won't tell you how many times I have worn my favorite one pair of jeans without washing them. Nope. Won't say. Can't tell. So I gathered all the jeans up to wash a load, at which time I realized I needed to throw in the new boy scout uniform pants of M's. I use the term "new" lightly. I am trying to be money conscious (always) and so instead of dumping the ridiculously outrageous $24 on a pair of blue pants, I found a pair on ebay for $10. M doesn't like jeans and has been begging me to buy him uniform pants because they are more like khakis and less rigid. Sometimes jeans make him freak out with the rubbing on the skin and the rawness on the waist. So I found the $10 pair on ebay. Then they arrived. Then I saw that the seller did not disclose the poorly hemmed bottoms, and the fact that they were 4" shorter than any average. They were also really washworn and not nearly as new blue as the photo showed. I spent the morning watching M in the tub while I used the seam ripper to tear out the hems and then discovered that even if they are now long enough, they have been worn and faded enough to have two very white-ish horizontal lines across the legs where the hems were folded. Ugh. In the process of getting these pants ready for the wash I thought I would open A's new swimsuits. I never buy Justice clothes. They are too much for me and I usually have a great friend (two actually) who sell used Justice clothes at a price I can handle, and then I don't have to shop. But I saw an advertisement for a cute swimsuit that's right up A's alley, and I thought, I will get that as her "good swimsuit" for this spring. So I ended up ordering two suits and a rashguard that matches both. She has a used Justice suit that was a size 12 and it surprisingly fit her perfectly. It's the only justice suit she has, she normally wears a 6/7 in suits and I thought we might finally get into an 8 this summer. She's slim. But since the Justice suit I have is a 12, of course I ordered all size 12's from Jutice. They swam on her. We were both so sad. I wanted to return them and exchange then for an 8, but of course they are "online only items" and the return form is just a return form, not an exchange form. And I call Justice and they "don't process returns" but would be happy to make my life a living hell by placing a whole new order where, you know, I pay them again with my unlimited funds and then later on (you know like two months from now when they get through their "processing time" i can have my original money back. Good times. I may lost it just a bit and tell the woman on the phone that if she can't process a return I don't want their junk and I will just send it back. Yeah. This is because I am supposed to be blogging by now but I haven't even gotten dressed.

I package up the RETURN and take the load of jeans and boy scout pants down to wash. At which time I am interrupted by kids who want to talk about Spirit Week. Which starts tomorrow. Because on Friday when I picked them up from school, M gets into the van and says "I can't wait to see all the costumes you are going to sew this weekend for us" and I think he is confused because HALLOWEEN IS NINE MONTHS AWAY and I swear I thought I got a year before I have to do that again. Then a paper is thrust at me with excitement and I see that on top of the TWO cookie booths we are running this weekend, the birthday party, and the Girl Scout meeting to prepare for World Thinking Day, we now have Super Hero Day, Disney Day, Mismatch and Crazy Hair Day, School Spirit Day, and Blast to the past day. I digress. (That's the moral of the story, you see.)

So the kids get told that their mother is offering no assistance for Spirit Week. It's every big kid for themselves. Their outfits have to be decided and laid out the night before. Mom isn't sewing, buying, or crafting ANYTHING (hear me, ANY. THING.) for Spirit Week. That's not very nice of me, is it. Not very spirited. But I grew up when Spirit Week was in high school and the participants were self sufficient enough to figure it out with minimal help from parents. I want my kids to start this self-sufficiency early, like they are starting Spirit Week early. I explain to them that they can create their own super hero! Won't it be fun! and M starts literally crying, and telling me that his teacher told him he has to be a boughten super hero and that it has to be a real one not a made up one (which I absolutely know isn't true, but he takes things very literally and is always concerned that he will be in trouble) and so eventually the tears get calmed and today we are tearing the house apart (more) to find costume pieces. We have one spiderman glove and one spidey suit. The mask is missing but I declare that *not my problem* because It's not my job to keep track of masks and the only real reason there is one glove and a suit is because of my attempts to organize and keep things in labeled bins (which means those two important pieces were in the costume tote where they were supposed to be.)
A Plays along beautifully and creates her own superhero, Called "Anime" pronounced AnnaMae.... who is a Japanese Anime Artist who can draw things and snap her fingers so that those things come to life. She finds an Indian/beaded/silkish gown from the Goodwill Halloween Costume buying spree, puts her hair in pigtails and sticks pencils in them, and takes paper and colored pencils in hand. I'm so proud of her own creativity and my lack of involvement that I go right down and put on a t-shirt and my clean pair of unflattering black fleece pants, my sweater slippers, and slip outside to the Fort-Knox Garage to get my laptop from the van. In my haste to finally get home last night, and out of my clothes and into my bed, I didn't pull the van up far enough in the garage so the back hatch is too close to the door so I can't open it to get the laptop out of the back, but eventually I get the laptop into the house and onto the sticky and overcrowded dining room table.

I open it, I log on to blogger, and I am READY! M comes out and says "are you hungry mom? I will make you some cereal" (So sweet is he. Always my helper. He loves me, this I know.) I tell him, "sure buddy, I would love some rice chex!" and I thank him and sit down. And he says "Hey mom, we are out of milk." So I have him just make his own cereal and I will run up to Caseys in a few minutes and get more milk. (you know, I was JUST out in the van. Seriously. JUST.)

"Anime" comes out in full costume, and suddenly wearing the pink pair of glasses that she *lost at school* two months ago, that I cleaned her locker and her desk and crawled under part of the dirty bleachers in the gym and looked in the smelly lost and found box and begged the office to look out for and posted on the school facebook page. They are ON HER FACE as if they never left, and she is a nonchalant about it as though I didn't just go on a month-long rampage looking for them. I just look at her incredulously and say "where did you get those glasses" and she responds with "I don't know, I just found them somewhere." Yeah.

All of this, and I haven't written a word. Then E tears himself away from Planes Fire and Rescue long enough to have an argument with me about why he wants to watch more music videos on You Tube, and then to ask for a snack (he hasn't had breakfast, we don't have milk) and he announces that he will eat pretzels for breakfast and I say "fine. Eat whatever. I don't care." and start to write.

THIS, Is why I never get to write. This is my life.

I love my life, I truly do. I am surrounded with people who love me, even if they also sometimes drive me entirely insane. We are healthy. We have a warm place to sleep, even if it's a disaster.

The laptop is surrounded by dirty dishes, the paint for the Little Free Library I haven't gotten to paint yet, the Mod Podge and supplies leftover from the Pinewood Derby car two or three weeks ago, Three opened cereal containers getting stale, a role of paper towels, an IH tractor, an open container of pretzels with a missing lid, a letter that my recent PAP came back clear, The offending list of Spirit Week activities on yellow paper, A hanger, and a bowl of slowly rotting blood oranges that my kids HAD to have and then REFUSED to eat. I look on the floor and I see a page of Christmas Stickers, a piece of aluminum foil, a non-winning scratch lotto ticket, a ring from a milk jug, a foil peeled back top from a to go butter container, a sprig of grape stems with no grapes attached, and a green top from a squeeze applesauce container, one child slipper, and a ziploc bag of markers.... all within two feet of my person. Where do I start? Who can I hire? How would I pay them?

Maybe I just need to eat some Girl Scout Cookies?

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Girl Scout Camp - From the Inside Looking Out

This is an expanded version of a Blog Post I recently wrote for Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois regarding my experiences at their STEW Overnight Leader Training event at Camp Dean in Big Rock. I hope you enjoy the unedited and original version. I enjoyed writing it so much that it ended up being three pages long 😬So I decided to post the full version on my own blog.

-MJ



Camp Dean- STEW- From the Inside Looking Out

In 2016, My sister and I took my three kids to attend the Arbor Day Tree Planting event at Camp McCormick. I am a leader and girl scout mom from Girl Scouts of Central Illinois (GSCI), the council just south of GSNI. At the Arbor Day event, we were approached by smiling leaders who told us all about the Annual STEW Leader Training event at Camp Dean. The leaders were excited and enthusiastic. They had a neat display and handed me a great flier and a registration paper. I explained that I wasn’t from the GSNI Council, thinking that this event surely wouldn’t be available to me, and instead I was met with even MORE excitement, and a very inclusive invitation to come across council lines, AND BRING MY FRIENDS! I left Camp McCormick that day with a glowing, warm, happy feeling. I am sure many of you can relate to that, and understand “This is what it means to be a Girl Scout.”

I am a mom to three kids, then aged 8, 6, and 3. One Time in the last Ten years, had my husband and I been able to leave our kids for more than one night. I had never gone anywhere by myself since having kids… and I needed this. Desperately. I needed to go to Girl Scout Camp. My grandma’s saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way” motivated me, and I was going to find a way. I wouldn’t know anyone at the event. Not one person. But I had met those leaders at Camp McCormick who were all so excited to meet me, and I am not a shy person. I am a Girl Scout Leader, and in fact, a lifelong girl scout and a former leader’s daughter. This event was for me.

I made extensive plans to have someone else pick up my preschooler and my older kids from school. I coordinated who would watch them each day of the weekend. I put STEW on my calendar, ordered my STEW Tshirt, and chose my top class choices for the STEW Event. I chose Night Games, Girl emPOWERment, Look Ma No Pans!, Nature at Play, and Traditional Girl Scout Ceremonies. And I waited for September.
Camp Dean

I had never been to Camp Dean. Camp is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from my home. I set out on Friday (by myself! A Free Mom!) When I arrived at Camp I was so excited, I loaded my wagon and headed to Dean Lodge. There were no assigned sleeping arrangements, so I could choose if I preferred a cabin or a tent, and because I love to tent camp, I went for a tent. I found an open tent with only one bunk taken… and claimed a bunk
Friday Night at STEW. Crafts, Gorp Bar, New Friends, Night Games Class

Back at Dean Lodge, everyone was abuzz with laughter, chatting, and two of my favorite things, CRAFTS and GORP! There was a make your own GORP bar! I spent the evening chatting with ladies and making crafts, excited to find some crafts that I had seen on Pinterest but hadn’t had a chance to test out yet. I met a leader and class facilitator who owned a TOTE of glue guns, and I knew I was in the right place. I also met my tent buddy, who was also a leader and class facilitator. The first night I discovered leaders that enjoyed similar books and TV shows as I do. It was above all of my expectations already. I attended a Night Games class that taught us all about Games to play in the dark with our girls, from the famous Snipe Hunt, to more educational games like Night Eyes. There is nothing as refreshing as sleeping under the stars, and although it was cool at night in the fall, we had beautiful weather and I scooted my cot to the edge of the tent so I could stick my head out the front and look up at the sky. This was a peace and quiet, a back to nature, and a time with other strong women that I really needed as a busy mom and volunteer.
"Look Ma, No Pans!" and lunch with GSNI CEO Fiona Cummings
My Saturday STEW classes were amazing. I was getting to know people; leaders were excited to see someone from another council, to bounce ideas off each other, to make new friends. I was pleased to find my tent mate teaching my cooking class at lunch. I’ve done a LOT of campfire cooking, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was still so much I could learn, and that I wouldn’t feel like I was doing  the same things over again. We worked as a team, making meals in the unit house kitchen and cooking them over charcoal and wood. We made Chicken Quesadillas, Cucumbers and Garlic Hummus in Pitas, Tabouli, Refried Beans with Polenta, Chocolate Cake cooked in an orange rind, and banana boats. The food was amazing. I learned new skills and tips, for example… did you know you can buy premixed liquid cake batter in a zipper bag? Great for camp, just unzip and pour! And nonstick aluminum foil, where have you been all my life?

An unexpected part of our lunch, and it turns out of STEW in general, was being joined by GSNI CEO Fiona Cummings. I’ve spent my whole life in scouting and I had never met a Girl Scout CEO. Fiona wasn’t just there. She didn’t just “drop by” camp. She was WITH us. She was camping with us, cooking with us, listening to us, and really sharing the experience with us. Fiona came to my lunch class and I was honored to talk with her, laugh and have fun. She is so approachable and fun, and truly listened to what leaders need and want.
Nature Abounds at Camp Dean

While at Camp Dean, I noticed a lot of fun things that I had never seen at the two Girl Scout camps I had been to in my lifetime. Gaga Ball. Large outdoor musical instruments made from PVC and Wood. The Mud Hole. Fiona explained to me that it was important to encourage leaders to bring their girls camping, and that GSNI could help leaders by providing activities that the girls can do that don’t require lots of planning and packing by leaders. We talked about just “being” at camp, and about how nice it was that leaders didn’t have to worry about planning and orchestrating an activity for every moment they are at camp. This really struck a chord with me, and gave me a new confidence to take my own girls to camp at the council level. Fiona also gave me a GSNI Big Book that day. I was pleased to spend time with her and to see her throughout the rest of my stay at Camp Dean.
Amazing Food, Beautiful Scenery, and Finally Understanding a Compass
STEW taught me how to use a Compass (first time in 30+ years that anyone had tried to teach me how to use one!) and we did a neat activity that we could do with our girls, placing a starting flag in the ground at our feet, following directions on a pre-printed card with our compass, and placing flags at various stopping points, that formed a shape of a heart or a square if we had followed directions correctly. The Traditional Ceremonies class was so helpful. I hadn’t received any leader training about planning ceremonies. The only thing I was drawing on were my memories of ceremonies from when I was a child (that was too long ago) and internet resources. I learned that there are red sashes and white gloves for flag ceremonies! I left with a new confidence for teaching ceremonies to my own troop, and ideas as to the resources that my own council might have, which I was previously unaware of. The Girl emPOWERment class was one of the hardest. It really dug deep at the self esteem issues that plaque our girls and women. I experienced and participated in an affirmation bath, which is one of the hardest things I have ever, ever done. There were a lot of tears flowing that day, but I left renewed. I’ve since taught my own troop Flag Ceremonies and Etiquette, Bridging Ceremonies, and also taken them overnight to a council camp.

Other leaders were taking classes in Crate Stacking, Creating PVC Camp Kitchens, Car Camping, Letterboxing, Knitting, Archery, Boating, Pie Iron Cooking, Vegan Cooking, and the highly coveted Dutch Oven Cooking (which I was told was taught by the queen of Dutch Ovens) There were even women learning to sew and quilt in the lodge, they made amazing fall leaf quilted wall hangings. Geocaching, Digital Photography, Camp Songs, Team Building Games. There was quite literally something for everyone, even an experienced scout or leader. STEW gave me new skills and, more importantly, renewed my confidence to teach these skills to my own girls.

Saturday Night Murder Mystery Theater and Ice Cream Bar

Saturday night was my very favorite at Camp. The STEW Team brought in a Murder Mystery Theater. I had not been that excited in a long time. It’s one of those things I have always wanted to try, and the consensus among other leaders was the same. Dean Lodge was a place of excitement and mystery. The Mystery Shop’s production of Chained Melody was a highlight of STEW. It was fun. It was challenging. It was TEAMWORK. We were divided into large teams that filled Camp Dean Lodge. I am proud to say that my team (with Chatter, Barb, Kendra, and Christa) Solved the Mystery Theater. Out of all those teams, our team WON! And that night I made even more new friends. Friends who I stay in touch with today and hope to see at STEW this fall. In Fact this year at STEW, I will be TEACHING a class on Girl Scout SWAPS. I hope to meet you there!

Another thing I can’t say enough about…. The food at Camp Dean. There was an ice cream bar, a Taco Nacho Bar, Fresh Baked scones and fresh fruit for breakfast (yogurt and berries and granola!) Everything was delicious. (Kudos to Julie Schmale!)

Sunday’s Date Was September 11th. We started the day by cleaning up our campsites and helping close down the buildings around camp. I learned how to clean composting latrines! We were able to choose teams that we wanted to join as part of the National Day of Service. My group went with Camp Dean Ranger Guy to clean out a storage shed on the camp premises. We organized lifejackets, bunk mattresses, cooking utensils, and many other camp items in the large storage shed to make room for a truck that needed to be parked inside for the coming winter. We got rid of things that were no longer needed and swept the concrete floor. Then we helped Ranger Guy to setup the PA System for the upcoming Scouts Own Flag Ceremony and skit, where we honored those who fell on 9-11. It was another emotional time at camp.
Cleaning the Shed During National Day of Service at Camp Dean's STEW Leader Training Camporee 2016

As a leader and a girl scout mom, I often watch camp through the eyes of my 9 year old daughter. When I pick her up from camp, it seems like she has grown inches each year, and she has stories to tell for hours. I like to pick her up all by myself, without her siblings present, so that we can have a few hours after camp to just chat about all the excitement that happened. Until Camp Dean, I hadn’t truly been an overnight camper at Girl Scout Camp since 1983. When picking my daughter up from summer camp, we get to talk about the fun times at camp, and sometimes the hard times at camp. Maybe disappointment from an activity they were going to do but didn’t happen (weather or heat perhaps.) or maybe an interaction with a new friend that didn’t go as well as we hoped. Maybe there was a bee sting, or a fall, or bug spray in the eyes. The way you felt when you were really scared to get into that canoe but you found out that you LOVE canoeing! Or that time your whole unit got caught in the rain and had to run back to the unit house and sit on the floor soaking wet to have hot dogs for supper when you knew all the girls closer to the Lodge were having something better.
Girl Scout Camp... Then and Now...

Time after time, we have discussed how even things that didn’t seem to go “just right” at camp, become memories, and sometimes very funny ones. Sometimes we meet a new friend because of circumstances that we didn’t see coming. Sometimes we get over our fears or realize new strengths that we didn’t know we had. There might be tears at camp, and much joy. Camp can be an emotional place, and each time I feel that we come back changed. Maybe we ARE a little taller and maybe our smile IS a bit broader. Camp Dean and STEW gave me that feeling from the inside-out, for the first time since 1983. I wasn’t just seeing it though my daughter’s eyes. I was remembering my own camp experiences, looking back at my camp memories, and adding to them. Even the hard memories from 1983- when Brownies couldn’t go down the Camp Mudslide, there was pepper in my scrambled eggs, I went “In” the “Out” Door in the Food Hall, and there was a snake under my cot that required the Ranger’s attention.

MJ
GSCI Troop Leader
GSCI Service Unit Event Registrar
Lifelong Girl Scout and Leader’s Daughter

Footnote:  My family was very happy to see me when I got home from camp. My kids had lots of questions about what I did, who I met, and where I slept. I was as excited as my 9 year old daughter gets after camp, and I told them all about it. I also ripped off my bandana (Camp Hair, Don’t Care) and begged to take a very long, very hot shower. I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of my children not only survived, but my husband really stepped up his game and his confidence with the kids over that weekend. Ever since spending a weekend away, his ability to do things for the kids magically increased. While I was away, he took them to Walmart, out to breakfast, and many other fun things were done. I was pleased. The big kids each owned their own Pokemon shirt when I returned. They were very pleased. The smallest one was wearing his big brother’s clothes…. But they were all happy, healthy, and excited to see mom. I think the weekend alone with daddy was good for everyone (Daddy too!) and I know the weekend at Camp was amazing for me. I can’t wait for 2017’s STEW Event. Hope local leaders will consider joining us!

 **I can't determine the exact year I attended Girl Scout Camp at Camp Tapawingo as a Brownie. I believe I was 5 or 6, and It may have been 1984 or 1985. I was just guessing dates.

Friday, January 02, 2015

HOW TO make Steampunk/Mad Scientist Style Goggles for Your American Girl Doll

ALL TEXT AND IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHTED. DO NOT USE WITHOUT PERMISSION.
This goes for everything on this blog.

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a steampunk expert. I don't do cosplay, and if I did It would be Scottish Highlanders and Outlander Inspired. But I AM a crafter and a seamstress with about 20 years under my belt, and some serious Halloween Costumes Created. I DO have kids, and we have to dress up like all KINDS of things, including Native Americans, Pirates, Cartoon Characters, Superheroes, and the sort. We love to learn about other time periods, and we love Science Fiction, Renaissance Fairs, etc. As a family of 5, we have experience in Role Playing and dabble in all kinds of crazy things. I know that there is a certain level of - well, let's call it like it is- *snobbery* (hee hee, I don't mince words) when it comes to steampunk, and that there are so many different definitions of what steampunk IS and what steampunk is NOT and for the most part I am going to go with the mentality that science fiction is FICTION and therefore it can be whatever YOU want it to be. Lots of steampunk peeps say goggles are so typical/mainstream and not truly steampunk, yet they are one of the most recognized items in steampunk outfits. My purpose behind the goggles is their USE while working in the "lab" or  mixing potions.

Prefacing by saying that I am a big big Outlander Fan, and the 18th century healers, apothecaries, doctors, and yes, even "witches" (Because that is what people often thought of them in those times) are fascinating to me. The ability to treat and heal someone medicinally/herbally is always fascinating to me and ties in with the natural/green lifestyle that I often strive for in our family. Essential Oils, Herbs, and the general understanding that Germs aren't all bad. The point is, that before modern medicine there were so many superstitions and in fact so much knowledge that sometimes you have to wonder where we came by it. Native American Influence? Chinese Medicine? Or could it have also bee *Time travelers* like Claire. Being a Sassenach, I am especially interested in the natural healing and the use of herbs and naturally occurring substances to cure what ails ya. My daughter loves Science and Animals, and has a science lab building in her Doll House School, including things like test tubes, beakers, microscope, safety goggles, geodes and rock collection, hermit crabs, and whatever else she and I can dream up to add on a daily basis. We belong to the very active and VERY amazing American Girl Facebook Group "My Dolls House" - In Which everyone shares openly and enthusiastically, with ideas, tutorials, pricing help, etc. There is NO Buy/Sell/Trade on the page which keeps things friendly and encourages people to share their talents instead of creating to sell.

I personally don't have TIME to create to sell. I squeeze in time to create for ourselves and that is a big enough challenge in itself. This post is created PURPOSELY with the idea of sharing and encouraging YOU to create these goggles for yourself. I don't claim to be an expert.... but this isn't a $25 ebook on Etsy that tells you how to create goggles. It's a free tutorial designed to give you confidence to do this yourself. This isn't a $50 pair of goggles BEAUTIFULLY made on Etsy for you to purchase and receive in your mailbox, it's a encouragement for you to save money and make as many pair as your heart desires. This isn't an invitation to take these ideas and start making your own next big buck selling goggles, but I can't stop you and I put this out there knowing that you may have a conscience that agrees that sharing things and ideas is the way to go. Karma baby.

Now, back to Sassenach. I want to create an area in our dollhouse, not a ROOM, but a secret cupboard, maybe in the school science lab, that is mysterious. A dark cabinet full of secrets and knowledge, that maybe only the interested and patient students know or care about. A place where we learn by sharing, and where you find potions that border on Harry Potter Magic, and balance with herbal remedies and maybe even experimental science projects. Think of it as a Box of Knowledge. So I have been gathering apothecary labels, glass bottles, and will be working on samples and filling jars and distressing the hutch and working on that in the near future. And I don't DARE be mixing up unknown substances without a magical and fantastik pair of protective eyewear. Hence the start of the Goggles.

Yes, get to the POINT. Here there are, the finished product:

Now Ideally I would already have the 18th century outfit sewn to go with these and the images would be taken with my Nikon DSLR so that you would all Ohhhh and Ahhhhh over this reveal.... but I have three kids- 7, 5, and 2... and just getting clean underwear is a challenge.... let along making steampunk goggles in 1:3 scale. So use your imagination, and.....enjoy these iphone snapshots of a doll in a 21st century cowgirl outfit modeling her new steampunk mad scientist goggles....



What say you? Cool? Yes. Now, I have three objectives in this post:
1. Supply List (give you ideas, don't have to follow it exactly. Make these YOUR OWN)
2. COST (I will do some totally awesome math that will leave you reeling. Haha.)
3. Directions.

First, supplies: This is what I PURCHASED, minus my fabric/leather. I didn't use everything pictured, and I didn't use everything in each package either. This is where the cost breakdown is going to be especially especially important.

Let it be known that I shop on sale. and I use coupons. And I bought these things at Hobby Lobby and at JoAnn Fabrics, using both sale prices and coupons. I will get to that.

The idea on this was to SAVE Money over buying the really cool goggle someone else makes on Etsy for $50 a pop. For a doll. Yes. Because I don't intend on making money on these, I am trying to just keep my costs low and perhaps make more than one pair.

Tim Holtz is amazing. Steampunk cheating? Probably most definitely. But since I don't have time or desire to drag three kids thru the metal salvage or the dumpster, and I don't have an acetylene torch in my nightstand drawer, I settled for cardboard, a hot glue gun and Tim Holtz. I know the Steampunk "rules" say metal over plastic and screws over glue. I did all metal, there is NO plastic on these.... BUT I used a hot glue gun with great success. And I am not ashamed. And have I mentioned that the last time I went to the metal salvage place, I was there 10 minutes WITH three kids and a minivan- and the owner guy already told me that he doesn't wear any underwear.... so, yeah. Glue Gun it is.

So let's get started.

Cardboard. I've seen it mentioned to use toilet paper tubes. I started with that idea, but the cardboard is not only very lightweight, it's also got the potential to become "unraveled" like a pop open biscuit can. And that's exactly what the first piece did, so I discarded that idea. I actually used the cardboard backing from the curtain grommets in the above picture. it's about using what you have :)

I used my brain and cut out a shape that I could roll into an eye cup. This took a bit of time, a bit of experimenting. Yes, I could scan, upload, and show you a beautiful template that you could print out, but remember, depending on what doll you make these for, what size monocle or lens you use, mine might not be right for you. AND remember, there's these pesky kids. So maybe someday. For now, use your skillz. And if you don't have enough skillz to make this cardboard shape, then god help you with the rest of this tutorial.

Yes, that's my leg. And yes I often craft in my nightgown. Verra Professional. But hey, this is a FREE Tutorial. So, the idea is, that the pattern looks like the BOTTOM piece, lying flat. And you ROLL it up (which is why the top one is curved and looks funny in the pic) so that it's the diameter of the lens. This makes an eye cap that provides protection to the entire eye socket. The skinny ends overlap at the bridge of the nose. The "bump" that is pointing down in the photo is the eye cap that goes along the temple, where the straps connect. Think swim goggles, or welding goggles.

Okay. So- Cut three. Yes I know you have TWO eyes, but trust me here. Cut three from cardboard.


Roll up the cardboard into circles, with the skinny ends overlapping until you reach the desired diameter. Secure with Hot glue (my personal choice) or whatever you prefer. I like instant gratification, strings of hot glue all over myself and my house, and burnt fingers. If that isn't your preference, adjust accordingly.

Use the LENS or the Monocle (I used Tim Holtz' Monocles) to determine the size of the circle. Remember, you want the circle the same size as the FRAME (not larger than the frame, you don't want the frame of the lens to fit INSIDE the circle tube, you want it to fit on TOP of the Circle so you can attach it with glue.)

Rudimentary? Yes. Remember, she isn't going to be MIXING toxic chemicals, she is a doll!

Next we create a bridge. like the bridge of glasses. Cut a strip maybe 2-3 inches long and narrow like under 1/2", Then cut that strip in half. Lay the strips ON TOP OF EACH OTHER and secure with a dab of glue only in the center. Fold each end so that it looks like this:


The center with the double thickness is the bridge. The folded up ends will be glued to the cardboard eye cups to keep them together. We will get to that. Set the bridge aside.

Time to have fun. Be creative. I used lightweight leather that is probably synthetic because I couldn't find anything I liked at JoAnn's unless it was flannel backed and Hobby Lobby had leather packs but I didn't like the color. This was red tag remnant and had the look of worn leather like an old aviator jacket. It was perfect. And it was cheap. Seriously, you need like three inches of this fabric, but I bought a half yard because it was cheap and because it seemed impossible to find what I wanted. I am sure that I will need this for a waist cincher/corset or some future piece of steampunkery.

Take your THIRD cardboard pattern piece (see why I said three) and lay it on the leather. It is my personal experience that you should cut the CURVED side of the pattern wider than the pattern. This is because you will need to fold the excess fabric/leather inside the eye cups and glue it inside so you don't see the cardboard edges, and to make a more uniform surface to adhere the monocles/lenses. You can also take an inch or so off the end of your skinny ends of your leather because you don't need more than a 1/2" of overlap on the skinny edges when you glue them. No need for excess bulk.

So cut one piece of leather using your pattern as a "sort-of" guide. Try it out wrapped on your eyecup. Glue the leather onto OUTSIDE of the cardboard eyecup, covering the cardboard completely, and then tacking down the overlapped skinny ends.

When you have the Both eyecups covered like this:

You can add glue around the rims of the FRONT of the glasses/eyecups (which will be the flat side not the curved side) and fold over the extra leather like this:


Sorry that one is out of focus. Better ones will come. Once both eyecups are completely covered, attach the bridge with glue to the exact center of the eyecup, which will be the opposite side of the DEEPEST point of the eyecup. Then attach the bridge to the other eyecup the same way, and voila... glasses/goggles are taking shape!
You can see where I goofed a bit on the left side and the leather wasn't "excess" enough to wrap over the edge of the cardboard. Oops. But the second eyecup I did a better job on. It isn't perfection, but that all gets covered up. NOW if you are bugged by seeing the cardboard inside, now would be a good time to cover the insides with leather too, or paint them brown, or whatever. I didn't care about perfection, just want them to work nicely and they look good as is.

Next you are going to cut a long strip of leather about as wide as the bridge. Long enough to wrap around the bridge two to three times. Start it with a dab of glue, wrap wrap wrap, and stick the end down with a dot of glue. Test it before you glue to make sure it's long enough and also to make sure you have your end seam in the "back."


Next I poked holes in the sides of the eyecups to attach the Tim Holtz buckles, which just go on with prong fasteners that are included. I would use a craft awl but mine was missing (because I have to hide it from kids and don't know where I put it last) and therefore I used a seam ripper, which was far from ideal and a real PITA, but it worked eventually. Attach the buckles to the sides...
Next I put cool little Tim Holtz Fasteners on the top outer side of the eyecups. I used these for pure funky look AND as a dual purpose, to attach the lens monocles to the glasses, or so it appears.
Placement of the cool jump ring fasteners on the upper outsides of the eye cups. Once again puncturing with my seam ripper. I miss my awl. 

In this photo you can see the fasteners. 
 Next I glued the monocles to the front of the eyecups, lining up the monocle "loop" with the fastener on top. I first attempted to use super glue, thinking it a more permanent and quicker method of gluing. After getting fingerprints aand glue haze on on one monocle and having it fall off multiple times, I decided I was wrong and went back to my trusty hot glue. I also didn't like the way the super glue soaked into the leather giving it a "wet" appearance. The monocles come with a loop that is built in to the outer metal frame, and there is a jump ring attached thru that loop. I personally chose to remove the jump loop thru each monocle because I liked that look more and thought it looked more authentic. Do what you will. I attached the monocle to the loop on the fastener with the super cool Tim Holtz Safety Pins. PERFECTION!

You can see lots of detail in this photo above. Tim Holtz's Safety Pins attaching the Monocle to the fastener's jump ring. The fasteners are attached with the same brads with folding prongs as the buckles, like the ones down the center of some two pocket, three hole punched folders.

Let's talk about the leather strap itself.... It was a double wrap leather bracelet blank that I found on sale in the jewelry section of Joann's. I could have used my own leather, but I loved that this had it's own fastening system. You see, I wanted the buckles on the side (which ARE Fully functional) To LOOK Functional, but I didn't want to mess with buckling each time. SO. I took the leather bracelet, and cut it in half down the center. Then I cut the end (where I had cut it in half) to look like a pointed belt, and used my seam ripper (GOSH where IS MY AWL!!!???) to make a hole for the buckle prong to go thru. I did this on both sides so the buckles are fully functional but they can stay exactly where they are, because the bracelet had this cool adjustable fastener...

which adds extra steampunk character AND is super super easy to add and remove the goggles from the doll's head with just a pop. SUPER awesome. It's by Darice, called a Brown Leather Bracelet, #1999-3628 24" long- from the Darice Jewelry Designer Line.


 I am sorry that I didn't take pics of that strap process, but you will either figure it out, or do an alternative... like elastic or your own leather strap. Or you could actually USE the side buckles.

You can also purchase these hitch fasteners from Tim Holtz that allow you to make your own closure like this one that this bracelet came with... I bought some but didn't need them for this particular pair.
 So now all that's left is making these goggles YOURS! I glued these cool brass jewelry pieces onto the top, they looked a little "wise owl" -ish to me. They are made by "Vintaj" which has natural brass jewelry pieces. Found at Hobby Lobby. Sooo cool because you can buy patina kits by Vintaj and make cool effects.

I also hot glued "Tim Holtz Idea-ology Mini Gears" onto the front of the lenses.
And took a strand of chain link jewelry - "Dual Circles Metal Chain in Antique Brass" By Advantus Corp (JoAnn Fabric Jewelry Section) #SUL50018. This is a 24" strand and I used about 1/4 of that and attached it around the jump ring/safety pin and around the head strap in order to create a dangling chain. 



For a super cool final project. Maybe someday I will paint the insides of the eyecups brown... but for now I am cool with the results.

Now. PRICING. I will only list the ones that I actually USED for the goggles.

Tim Holtz-
  • Wire Pins - 18 pins for $4.99 at Hobby Lobby (regular price) sale for $$3.49 (30% off sale)
  • Buckles- 6 buckles for 5.99 at Hobby Lobby (regular price) sale for $4.19 (30% off sale)
  • Mini Gears- 12 assorted for $4.99 *full price* at Joann- sale for 40% off $2.99
  • Monocles-3 for $7.99 *full price* at Joann - sale 40% off $4.79
  • Fasteners- 9 for $3.99 at Hobby Lobby (regular price) sale 30% off at $2.79
Metal Chain- 24" for at Joann ($5.99 *full price*) SALE for $2.99
Leather Bracelet- Joann $4.99 *full price*
Vintaj Brass Jewelry Pieces- $3.99 Hobby Lobby *full price*
Brown Distressed Leather Fabric- Red Tag Price $9.99  yard, sale price $5/yard. Half Yard 2.50

That's about $40 in supplies. BUT I did not use all or even a small portion of each package. 

2/18 pins for a cost of  $0.39
2/6 buckles for a cost of $2.00
4/12 mini gears for a cost of $1.00
3 monocles (one oops!) for a cost of $4.79
2/9 Fasteners for a cost of $0.62
1/4 metal chain length for a cost of $0.75
Leather Bracelet cost $4.99
Vintaj Pieces $3.99
Leather Fabric - mere inches for a cost of less than $0.20


For a cost of $18.79 less the $5 off coupon I used at Joann=

 $13.79 total materials cost for ONE pair of goggles.

So any way you look at it, it was worth my time to make them myself, versus spending $50 a pair on etsy. However, I am SURE theirs are probably better quality than mine? No cardboard? real leather? sewn leather? no glue? All screws? I am unsure. But I know mine will do the trick and I could essentially make more goggles with the supplies I have. Enjoy!












Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Homemade Science Beakers - American Girl Science/School

Science Beakers from Hairspray/Pump Bottle Caps- labeled with ultra fine sharpie marker.

Another cool idea from http://www.beds-n-blankies.com/madsciencedetails.htm Whose science ideas BLOW MY MIND and I will continue to implement and share :)

American Girl Homemade Hermit Crabs - for your pet shop, school, bedroom

Hermit Crabs in the Classroom.

Yesterday my Daughter said "You know mom, what would really be cool, would be a tank of Hermit Crabs in our classroom" (we have them at home and have for a few years.)

For those of you who aren't familiar, we are American Girl Doll crazy here. We have a big AG Dollhouse and lots of DIY and other furniture and accessories.

Her request was not unusual, but was something that I hadn't thought of, or seen on the many boards I am a part of (since then I have searched and seen a couple of ideas that are similar with crabs that have googley eyes on their shells and pipe cleaners for legs.)



Of course my mind pondered a bit. This morning I was thinking "I should google for some miniature hermit crab figurines" and then suddenly, it HIT me. I don't have to SEE the hermit crabs in the shells, because we almost NEVER see ours. They are ALWAYS buried.

So I rushed into my daughter's room and said "I HAVE AN IDEA!" and she looked at me like I had lost my mind. I said "get the suitcase of seashells!

So we picked out some tiny shells that would be to scale for the AG Dolls. We painted two of them and left one plain. We took a cheap glass bowl (actually a tealight holder) that I had bought at Michaels or Joann's a while back- with intention of doing a fish tank- and added aquarium rocks. We added a flat black stone like the one in our crabby tank at home, and a sprig of fake greens and a driftwood looking stick piece. We added the painted shells and the plain shell and put it in the school room. She was SOOOO excited! I love that she could see the process through with me from Idea to fruition. So much FUN!

If you decide to make a Hermit Crab tank for your dolls, share your pics with us! I'd also like to invite you doll addicts to join the MUCH fun "My Dolls House" group on Facebook, where we toss around ideas for crafts and other things for 18" dolls. You have to request to join and wait to be approved by the admin team, but it's WELL Worth your time!



Friday, February 14, 2014

Ardyn's Unikitty Lego Valentine Box

Tonight I finished Ardyn's Unikitty Valentine Box. It is completely made of cardboard and scrapbook paper. The lego "circle" under the horn is the top (lid and a bit below that) of a baby food "puffs" snack container. The 3-D tail is constructed completely of scrapbook paper. The Valentines go in a slot cut into the back of the head and the head is attached to the body with two brads. 

Most of the assembly is hot glue... My husband cut the arch in the bottom
"Body" box and used clear packing tape to put cardboard under the arch. 

I used scrapbook adhesive in the tail construction because it was a fairly intricate process and hot glue wasn't practical as it was too hot and I would have gotten burnt for sure! 

Hope this inspires someone! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Marek's Batman Lego Valentine Box

I'm not actually sure if Marek needs a valentine box.... But his is a lego maniac, and he loves Batman and Batman Legos. The new Lego Movie was like a family "dream come true" and we can't very well make big sister a Unikitty valentine box (pics to come) and have Marek sitting here without one. 

It truly didn't take long. It's all cardboard boxes I had in the "trash"- the feet are a cheezit box and the legs are a metal "locker" box cut in half to make two shorter legs. Te body is constructed of two altered 20 packs of coke - one might work but our school collects coke rewards so I had to cut out those first :) 

The head is poster board (I had a scrap of black stashed from a snowman project we made for my daughter's class Christmas Party) and the details I used yellow card stock. I just used a ruler and drew the utility belt and cut it out, and the logo I printed on card stock. The cape is a piece of actual fabric that was leftover from the lining of a Dracula vest I made Marek for Halloween. 

His arms are two toilet paper tubes and a plastic "puffs" container (baby food/snack) that I cut into a circle with an old serrated knife and then cut in half so that I had two hands. The arms are attached with brads (office supply) and the rest is together with hot glue. I assembled the body and left the head and arms off. Spray painted the arms and body black (rustoleum worked better. The krylon didn't want to stick to the cardboard and bubbled a bit)

Then I attached the arms, head, cape, and utility belt/logo. 

The "hole" is through the top of his head/helmet... It's completely open and the goodies go down thru the shoulders and into the main chest/stomach area. 

The head is attached with clear packing tape on the inside so I can easily remove it if I need to extract some big loot :)

Hope you are inspired. I just want to hug him he is so awesome! My son
can't wait to "play" with him. Lol

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Command hooks vs bathroom suction cups

Have you heard all of the commercials saying that Command Hooks are now made for the bathroom and they hold BETTER than suction cups in the shower? Yeah. Let's just say this house has one hell of a panel of product testers... There are SIX command hooks with outdoor adhesive on this submarine....

Aaand go!

Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Pierce your American Girl Doll's Ears and Put Feathers in her Hair :)

Well, I said I was going to bed an hour ago. I worked on some things for a client and I avoided folding diapers or watching the movie I said I was going to watch. I got involved in some graphic design and then next thing I know three hours have passed since I put the kids to bed. *sigh*

A has been out of socks for the past three days and she wore M's Socks but now he is out of socks too and so I should have washed socks. It might be easier to go buy new socks. Although A can wear sandals and M doesn't have school tomorrow so he can wear sandals or crocs too. Maybe I can just wash them tomorrow (or buy more tomorow.)

The dog is in here trolling around for crumbs and children's stuffed animals for which he can sink his teeth into and call his own.

My major accomplishment of the day was piercing the ears on A's doll. A couple of years ago I got her an Our Generation doll from Target, Sydney, to which she lovingly refers as "the one with the crappy hair." Sydney was my attempt at NOT purchasing an American Girl doll, but she in fact DOES have crappy hair and she is NOT a great substitute. But she is a good friend for the new American Girl doll who has lovely hair and nice joints and no awkward longer left leg. Of course when we got ourselves to the AG Doll store for A's birthday (if you're on facebook with me you know that she requested a trip to the store and forfeited her birthday party and all other gifts from us to pay for it) we had her doll Lila's ears pierced. We were all excited and of course all that happened was the girl taking the doll behind a white painted wall and punching holes in her ears and handing her back $14 later with a card of new earrings. A was sad because she wanted to see it happen, and comfort the doll, and help. Well, that isn't part of the plan. I wanted to make that dream come true for her for FREE so I decided to let her watch me pound a metal yarn needle thru the side of Sydney's head with a rusty hammer. It was magnificent. And it was free.

Initially I had intended on using my Awl, but since my sewing table is a freakish disaster and I can only reach it if I edge around an empty Cubical Organizer, step OVER ten thousand old crinkly coloring book pages, and climb OVER the train table tipped sideways... I didn't do much digging around beyond the 20 minutes I spent not finding it. I did find the sharp end of the seam ripper to get the holes started and then used a sharp but LARGE eyed needle (just like the plastic yarn needles but metal) and a regular sized hammer... to drive the needle into the side of the doll's head. I had to drive it in all the way to the eye of the needle and had to rest the doll's head on the coffee table so it would quit bouncing while I was hammering. One of the doll's eyes was twitching in a scary posessed way as I did this but A mostly ignored me while she played the batman lego video game with M. True Story. So much for creating a perfect piercing experience. But in the end she was thrilled and the AG doll earrings fit perfectly in Sydney's Ears and since the $14 bought me four pair of studs with three different dangling attachments, we have earrings for everyone! Who's next?

After this fantastic alteration of Sydney Lee, I decided that it was time to also put feathers in her hair like A has. Since her hair was crappy anyway, what could it hurt? I cut some pink (light and hot pink) feathers from an ugly kechain charm bundle that I had gotten on clearance for 10 cents at Walmart like 4 years ago. I just knew I would tear it up for something. I took the tiny feathers and used stainless steel crimp beads for jewelry making and my trusty Bead Retreat Crimping Pliers, and put beads and Three Feathers in Sydney Lee's crappy hair. A is pretty convinced I am the coolest mom on the planet, and I am not so sure she is mistaken :)

The dog is currently licking the high chair clean, which is a BONUS for me... one more thing off my list to do.

Well, I need to catch some sleep because someone has to buy socks tomorrow and someone has to wake three kids up at 6:30am. Have a great night mommies and don't forget you can totally pierce your own American Girl Doll's Ears. Or you can bring her to me. I'm confident in my piercing skills.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Marek- kidspeak

Marek's wisdom of the day...
"Mommy, do mummies stink when you unwrap them?"

"Did it rain or is that Mountain Dew on your van?"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Custom lid idea for hermit crab enclosure

We have been having a lot of fun with hermit crabs over here. We have three in a 10 gallon aquarium tank. Of course it's just an old tank with a hood that we've had laying around for years, and I had planned on getting a mesh lid for it someday. When we first got the hermit crabs I saw a mesh lid that I really liked the local pet store. It was a bit pricey and I didn't have that amount of funds available when our initial hermit crab endeavor began. I think it was somewhere between 15 and $19. That wasn't entirely bad but it was more important that they had sponges for water and salt and food.

What I really liked about it was the hinged trapdoor in the top Which allowed you to reach in and change and add food or water etc. At a trip to Petsmart I saw one for a lower price that had just the standard mesh lid. I passed on purchasing it twice thinking that I really wanted that trapdoor... But the more I thought about it the more I realized that whenever doing something with the hermit crabs I really required a little bit more space than just a small trapdoor in order to reach inside and get what I needed. There was also no real risk of the crabs escaping when I was trying to work with them so I decided that the expense of the trap door really wasn't worth it. I went ahead and purchased the mesh lid at Petsmart and all the way home was thinking about how exactly I was going to wrap the saran wrap along with the new lid. 

You see, anyone who is familiar with hermit crabs knows that retaining humidity is important for a correct habitat. Most books recommended that you add saran wrap to part of the top of the enclosure in order to retain moisture and get the proper humidity level in the tank. With experimentation I could tell that my humidity level (based on the gauge) would go way down if I removed the saran wrap but if I continued covering 1/2 to 3/4 of the tank with saran it would stay at the proper humidity level. 

This morning I decided to get the new lid on the tank and work on my saran wrap. I went ahead and cleaned most of the tank and for the first time I used all-natural hermit clean spray.  It is an odor removal, cleaner and deodorizer and it smells like Lime. I really liked it! I used extra hot water and the spray to clean everything that I could remove easily. 

I removed the large sand beach area of substrate and replaced it with coconut coir Substrate because one of the newer crabs was looking like he was beginning to molt (At least that is what the Petsmart employee said but to me he looks just like the other two!) 

After adding a new crab yesterday, the crabs were incredibly active last night and in fact several times I heard noises from the kids room and went to check on them only to discover the crabs having a heyday in their tank. If you have crabs you know that they're nocturnal and they generally sleep during the day and play at night. Even so, I was not finding them to be incredibly active at night time...  With the exception of the occasional and very rare *clunk* of a shell on the side of the glass tank. 

I had previously acquired a coconut fiber  climbing wall that was designed to encourage the crabs to climb and give them a place to play.  I had not installed it because I didn't want to give them a reason to climb without a lid but now that I had a lid I was very excited to put it in the tank... And also have a another item that would help retain humidity With a tank spritzing.


I actually got the idea to make the plastic on the lid be more permanent and less messy. I used a piece of thick plastic that you can purchase at Joanne fabrics in the home decor Fabric area. I always have this on hand because it comes in very handy for projects with sewing.  

Ever since I've  had children I have purchased this in a very long tablecloth length section and kept it on our dining room table on top of all my cloth tablecloths. This makes for easy wiping after meals with small kids and allows them to do any project like Play-doh or painting or plaster crafts without worrying about destroying a tablecloth. It has been an absolute lifesaver and our table is never without it. Once the kids have basically destroyed the length of plastic, I will remove it From the table and cut the good sections apart to use as crafts. I keep sections of plastic underneath the fish tank, and kept the plastic on hand to use during our homebirth If necessary. I have used squares of it too sew into Ispy bags. It's just plain convenient and if you use a 40 to 50% off coupon you can get it for a discount that makes it very inexpensive. Generally a tablecloth plastic will last us about a year although in this case I've had this one on the table for nearly 2 years because I keep forgetting to pick up another one... It's not particularly immaculate anymore but it still serves it's purpose. Since I don't have the leaf in the table right now I had some overhanging about the width of a fish tank lid so I went ahead and chopped it off with the scissors knowing I'm getting a new one soon anyway. :) If I can remember! So anyway I trimmed the plastic down so that it would fit inside the under side of the mesh aquarium lid. I made it the same depth as the lid but about three quarters of the width... Because air needs to circulate to prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, and disease in their tank. I lay the plastic on the underside of the mesh lid so that you couldn't see the edges from the top and then I poked small holes in the plastic to correspond with the vent holes in the mesh of the lid.  Then I used very tiny zip ties that I had on hand to attach the plastic to the mesh in the four corners of the plastic. I trimmed off the excess edges of the attached zip ties and put the lid on the tank. Voila! Instant replacement for the saran wrap - that can stay on the tank constantly and wipes clean. You can see through it, it retains humidity, and it removes along withthe lid   to make it easier for the kids and myself to access the crabs to take care of them.

If I need to I can easily cut the zip ties and replace it with a fresh piece of plastic in the future. Black zip ties would probably provide a more seamless look but let's be honest I had clear ties on hand and it's an aquarium tank so it's not that big of an issue aesthetically :)

I hope that someone out there on the web sees this and uses my idea to create a mesh hermit crab enclosure lid for themselves!


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