The 77 day challenge – weighing in

I read an article by Melanie Stefan the other day that proposed a radical idea, to make a CV of our failures. The publication argued that making such a document would bring to light that not all paths are black and white. As she put it “ will remind you of the missing truths, some of the essential parts of what it means to be a scientist — and it might inspire a colleague to shake off a rejection and start again.” (And here substitute scientist for human being)

So I started thinking. In this world that looks at the firsts but forgets about all that follow, where success and achievement is glorified and failures are shunned, my 77 day challenge should not be spoken of. Rather I should skulk away quietly and forget it ever existed. Because if I look at my plan this way, I failed. I did not finish it. But you know what? That statement would not cover 10% of the truth! Therefore, I decided to share with you the white and orange version of the past 77 days; what I have learned and discovered. And I do this with the hope that it will inspire those of you who struggle, to continue on your own paths. Whatever that path may planStatistically I have a 62% success rate, or rather, I failed 38% of the time. I did not do any physical activity besides walking to the train station and getting to work on 29 days out of the 77. But I never gave up and I did not cheat myself with lame excuses or shading in days that didn’t really happen. I accepted an embraced my reality.

And during this time I have learned to listen to my body. To say no with my brain when my heart wants yes, yes, yeeeesssss. If I was so tired after work that I felt like a zombie I did not force myself to do the exercises. And I think that the time I gave myself to re-energize and regenerate did pay off.

I have learned to be more patient with myself. When the muscle in my leg said no thank you after 15 kilometers into our hiking trip to the Buda mountains, I took it easy and did not rush things. When I sprained my left foot while wearing my new (flat soled!) strappy sandals I almost cried with frustration. But I did as the doctor ordered and stayed put on my bum for a week.

But one of the most important things that I learned is not to loose my focus. Not to confuse my path with my destination. Because what I really wanted is to get in the habit of regular exercise. To do this for myself and for my health. What I envisioned originally as a birthday gift for myself, namely to climbing a 900 meter peak would have been a cherry (with a good dollop of chocolate syrup on top). But that is only part of the path, not my current destination. At this moment in time it is not realistic. Someday I am sure I will do it.

This year, however it is more realistic to do things on a smaller scale. We will not go on a tour of 40, rather only 20 kilometers. Something that with our current physical strength we will manage and enjoy. I do want my 40th birthday to be memorable, but not because I am stuck in the middle of the mountain unable to get down. Rather to have the energy to remember every single moment and detail. From cake to finish. And looking at things in this new orange hue I did pretty well. In fact, much better than expected.

Yeay for victory!

Board games are one of my family’s big passions. I think that is evident from the fact that I made a card game for my husband’s birthday. Whenever we can, we’ll play a bit. Sometimes we even invite friends or family over and play with them. I love that we have a variety of games: one for the days when after a long day at work we don’t really want to think too much, to the games where you do have to have a game plan at hand, to the down right cut-throat, hard core strategy games. But one thing that seems to be the same across the spectrum is the victory point marker: a bland piece of wooden cylinder. While the games may bring out the Hurrah! in you, the counter the Wughwugh, blah.
victory point markersThe other day while shopping in my local crafts store I spotted these little beauties. I swear I heard the “Take us home!” resounding. OK, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But I knew my family would love the idea and would wholeheartedly enjoy them when we play. What I like is, that there is an animal in the usual color scheme of red, blue, green, yellow and black(ish grey) as in most board games. So there is one to match your other (let’s say) wagons in the game. But even if you don’t want to play matchy-matchy it is still easy to remember that you are either the frog, the lady bug or… the bear.
victory point markervictory point markerbg with die embroideryAs I was already making a gift on the subject of board games, I decided to make these little figurines part of it. However, instead of wrapping them up, I put them in a little draw string bag I had, which I embroidered with a die.  So now the content and the bag match each-other thematically.
boardgames on shelfThe little figures now rest with the other games and game pieces on our bookshelf. They are ready to be brought out any time. And I must say besides the little spice they bring to any game, they do have an added bonus: as they stand upright they are easier to pick up and use. And no one can stack their marker on top of yours (Oh, how rude!). One thing we do have to be careful of though. In the heat of the moment it is also easier to knock them over. And that brings up the question: how well did you opponent keep track of your points until now? Hmmm…


When I started thinking about the card game for my husband’s birthday, I knew I’d wanted to make a special box for it. For one, because both of us love beautiful boxes (something in our gene pools) but most importantly because we display our board games in our living room. And if it is displayed, I want it to look good among our other games. So with that in mind I started thinking and decided to decoupage a box in the theme of the game itself, Zdeněk Miler‘s Krtek, The Little Mole.

cardgame boxI tried decoupage earlier and I really liked it. I loved the idea of decorating a box, a shape with paper cut-outs. Making it unique. One thing I did not like about it though is the endless process of gluing, letting it dry, then varnishing and letting it dry, then reapplying the varnish… you get the gist. Added layers meant more time, more hassle and more sticky fingers. Until now! I discovered a hybrid, glue and varnish all in one. As you are gluing on the cut-out you just stroke an additional layer over it as varnish. Voila! One drying session and you are done. Genius!cardgame boxcardgame boxBoth the paper mache box with its magnetic closure and the little mole posters (from which I did the cut-outs) were from my local crafts store. I also decided to spice up the box with a play on images that you’d usually find on real board game boxes. Like the age warning or the Spiel des Jahres award sticker, which instead of the proper Kritikerpreis (critic’s award) features Krtekpreis, or The Little Mole’s Prize. The hilarity this caused was heard well beyond our walls.

cardgame boxSo here is the finished card game. Playing and reference cards, rules, a couple of mole hills and some clothespins that act as prizes in the The Little Mole’s Trousers – Treasure Seeker Card Game. (Phew, that was a mouthful!)boardgames on shelfWhen I gave the game to my husband he thought it is something I bought in a shop. Only slowly did it sink in that I made it for him. Since then we have played it many times. I can happily report that he loves it! We love discovering the mechanics and coming up with  strategies to outsmart the other. Sometimes we succeed, other times it becomes a lessons learned. But what I love about him is how he tries to help me rethink, rewrite the rules. Or is he trying to help himself? Whichever way it is, I foresee us playing with it more and more frequently. And if I may add, the game looks mighty fine among our other games on our bookshelf.

The game is on

My husband’s favorite gifts are those I make for him. From picture-books of our vacations to paintings of harbors we could (should) one day visit, these are the things that really move him. So for his birthday this year I had the same vision: to make something really special for him.

One of our favorite pastimes together – besides watching the good ol’ Sunday football match -, is playing board games. We love so many, from the easy family ones to complex strategy games. But all of these have one thing in common: they have a board to play on (hence the name), and will usually take at least 1 – 1,5 hours to play. Hence this pastime is a weekend pastime only. So I thought I’d make something that will expand our options, a card game. One that could be played in less time, and thus more often.

Well, easier said than done. I think I spent the last three months thinking about options, ideas. I thought I had something I liked one day, which I threw out as worthless the next. There were lots of instances of doubt, very a few moments of clarity. At the end I decided to take the concept of a card game we played a lot as kids and spice it up with something extra. The game I used as inspiration was Hearts. And the spice, the cartoon we loved, Zdeněk Miler‘s Krtek, the little mole.

In the cartoon the little mole had four main pals: the hedgehog, the frog, the rabbit and the mouse. Since I was to create a stack of cards in four suits, I thought it would be perfect to use them. I found a picture that I liked with the five friends and used the image of these to create the playing cards. playing cardTo make sure they were not see-through (and there was not going to be any cheating) I glued the pieces of paper onto a light blue cardboard. Then I cut them to size. All 60 of them. One by one. Even though I used a brush to apply the glue, by the time I was finished my fingers were covered in one sticky goo. Thank goodness for water soluble formulas!playing card protectorI decided that I’d use a protective sleeve for these cards. I knew that as we played with it it was going to show signs of wear pretty quickly. I mean, the materials I ended up using would not be too durable on the long run. The only issue I had was that as I cut the cards with scissors (and not in the best light conditions, might I add), they were not exactly even. So once I was putting on the sleeves, I had to cut the odd one millimiter off here, the 1,5 millimeter off there.playing card stackBut in the end it was worth it! The cards are pretty nice. I feel the sleeves will protect them from anything… OK, no drinking and playing, please! But putting the joke aside. The cards are easily shuffled, and they have the sort of slip that you are used to when playing with cards that have a plastic coating. They are not even and perfectly square, but that is what adds that second layer of spice to the game. playing card stackCreating the cards themselves was the biggest effort in the creation of this card game. There were so many of them, sometimes I felt they were multiplying themselves as I was gluing them together. But the end result is everything I imagined it to be: functional, playful, and that vintage feel that reminds us of our childhood. So what does the entire game look like? Well, I decided to leave you with a bit of anticipation. As if it were your birthday… So come back and see its box and all of its accessories in Friday’s post. See you then!



Ready to owl things up

These last few weeks I felt like I was a spy living a double (nay, triple or quadruple) life. For my birthday projects to remain a secret I had to conspire with some members of my family but leave out others. I had to swear some to secrecy, but had to deny the moon and the stars to others. When many members of my family regularly read this blog, visit my Instagram or Facebook account I had to juggle where I would post or share what content. Keeping things straight in my head seemed a chore. And when the good ol’ “you better not look at the blog for the next week” threat I knew just would not work, I had to take a break. owl keyholder finishingBut  a break from the blog only. Because our home resembled a proper war zone many days. Either working in our bedroom on the bed or in my favorite reading corner, I was covered in pieces of thread, stuffing material, beads or simply glue. Of course, when it came to my husband’s gift (more on that in Tuesday’s post) I had to resort to more covert actions, because he could not know A THING!owl keyholderThe thing is, the planning and the tight schedule made the process stressful. And sometimes scary. I was convinced at times that I would not finish. But the good part is when you are actually holding the little piece of felt in your hand and rhythmically sewing, embroidering. But one thing I learned not to stress about is change. For I know I will always change things up.

Instead of a thread, I opted to have a more sturdy leather strip to hold the key-ring. Instead of the blue ombre hearts, a combination of reds and blue. In place of the brown wings, dark hunter green ones. But I so love this constant test to my creativity and my senses.owl keyholderAnd here it is! The lovely owl key holder. The strip of leather at the top is just long enough to let the key-ring peek out at (let’s put it this way) the belly of the owl. So there is plenty of room to maneuver the keys. Then, as you pull the strip of leather at the head, the keys are slowly hidden inside the body. This way, when you put it in your bag the keys are going to remain hidden and your bag (and your searching fingers) protected. And thus they will remain even when they are hung on the hook in the hall. Nothing but the vision of a lovely owl to the passerby.

I love the outcome of the key holder. I think the owl is adorable and quite functional! I thought the use of leather would just add durability to the piece, but actually it has become a good choice for the slip it has with the lining. There is no tugging or rubbing of materials, rather a fluid motion. A choice that was meant to be. And I am convinced that it will be a perfect little companion to my mom. Cannot wait to see her face when she opens her present on Sunday!

Keys to hold

My Mama loves owls. And when I mean she loves them, she LOVES them. It has started well before the general owl craze that has engulfed the fashion industry (or is this over already?) and I foresee it continuing for her forever. I made her an owl door stop once for Christmas which she refuses to use as per its original purpose. It is an ornament of my parents’ home. Full stop! So when she asked me if I could perhaps (imagine big puppy eyes here) make her a key holder, because her current one is about to fall apart, I envisioned nothing but owls. owl keyholder sketch Her old key holder has had a zipper which conveniently hid all her keys. I really like this idea of hidden keys, because the teeth cannot have a go at your pockets, the lining of your handbag. I looked around for some ideas and saw one that I fell in love with. It essentially resembles a bell in its purest of forms. And as the basic form is going to be simple, almost puritan, I can then go wild with the design.

owl keyholderThis is the idea that stuck with me at the end. A lovely little heart shaped breast that will adorn the owl. I thought about it and decided not to embroider it, rather stack three hearts on top of each-other in different sizes and hues of the same color. I even found buttons that I think will work quite well as eyes for the hooter.

owl keyholder gifAnd then came the time for cutting. I realized I wasn’t quite happy with the blues I chose for the breast originally. I don’t know what it was exactly that changed in 15 minutes, but by the time I had the scissors in my hand I preferred the reds. And by the way it goes much better with the  polka dot fabric I chose for lining. I ended up also abandoning the idea of buttons for eyes and simply decided to use little circles of felt as pupils. (Did you know you can use a hole puncher on felt too? I mean WOW!)

So this is the final design I will stick with and will be working on over the weekend. And at break neck speed I might add, because I do not have much time. Her birthday is in a few days and I’d like to have it all ready. I’d really like to see the design become reality and see if it indeed will be as practical as I imagine it to be.