Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Proclamation

I hereby declare that all weekends shall be three days long and that they all shall contain at least one 24-hour period known as a "snow day".

Sometimes the Universe does you a favour and grants you a wish.  I kinda knew that I needed a day off, but I didn't quite feel justified in taking one.  Mercifully, Fate stepped in an dumped 18" of snow on us on Thursday night/Friday morning.  Now, we're used to that kind of snow and we've had a really skimpy winter, so I was quite happy to see it.  Thing is, that's a lot of stuff to clean off the roads and we only have so many plows.  Hence, everything grinds to a halt while we wait for the snow trucks to clean things up (and for the wind to die down, 'cause 90 km/h is pretty brutal, wind-wise).  I only found out about the impending storm on Thursday afternoon, so I didn't really have the chance to put together a whole bunch of work to bring home.  I left my computer there and took off to my yoga class.

When I got home from yoga, buoyed by my new-found knowledge of the upcoming snow day, I learned that I had been given ANOTHER gift.  My husband, who has now been promoted to the position of Captain on the HMS Awesome, did all the chores when he got home on Thursday, knowing that I was tired and needed a break.  SQUEEEEE!  I don't think I realized just how tired I was until I contemplated my empty weekend and the first thought that came to mind was: sleeeeeeeeeeeep.

So, I totally blitzed on all the stuff I wanted to do.  I still did laundry, made soap, did some cooking, tidying up, sewing, etc.  But I also knit myself a new neckwarmer and watched the rest of the 30 Rock episodes I hadn't seen on the Season 2 DVD.  I rented a movie (Surrogates, which was so-so) and took some photos.  I wrote lots (too many, probably) e-mails and worked on a new project into the wee hours of the night (more to come on that, later). 

Here it all is in photos:

Friday morning (when I went to bed on Thursday, there was no snow, only grass)

My new cowl (and no, I'm not wearing a hijab in this photo - it's just my hoodie).  You might recognize that yarn...

Making carrot parsnip soup on Friday (look at the size of that sucker!)
Soaking navy beans for a crock pot feast...yum.

Putting the finishing touches on the soup and enjoying some orange juice (feeling a little ahem-y in the throat...).  Those pickles and green onions are slated for a P-Dub potato salad.

Making boiled potatoes for the potato salad and mashed potatoes for a shepherd's pie.  

Wanna know a secret?  The secret to perfect mashed potatoes (no, I wasn't going to say cream cheese, although that is really good) is to sprinkle garlic salt and onion powder in the water when you put it on to boil.  It looks scummy and gross (see above), but it tastes divine.  Just drain the water as usual, when they're done.  They'll have absorbed all the goodness and won't need any seasoning when you mash them with butter and milk.

When we first moved here, I was appalled to find out that some people actually eat mashed potatoes without putting any butter or milk in them (imagine: just take a masher and smash your potatoes into mush and eat that).  GUH-ROSS.  That's what people around here refer to as "mashed potatoes".  They call the butter-and-milk variety "whipped potatoes".  Now, answer me this:  why, in this day and age, would someone skimp out on a pat of butter and 1/4 cup of milk when they're already going to the trouble of mashing their potatoes???  The mashing is the most energy-intensive part, not the pouring of milk!!  And you can't convince me that it's a money issue, when every house in these parts seems to have 5 of those satellite TV receiver-thingies hanging off the side of it.  And a new ATV in the driveway.  Not to mention the pick-up trucks (let's not go there, ok?).

Just a gratuitous shot of my kitchen, 'cause the sun was actually shining for a change and I knew I would want photographic proof of its existence in a week, or so.
The view out our front door on Saturday evening.
Sunrise, this morning.
Gratuitous snow-laden tree photo (this is for you, Arizona...just in case you've got a case of the "I'm so sick of this sunny, warm season we call winter"'re welcome)
Speaking of Arizona, I'd just like you all to know that, according to Google Analytics, Michigan has taken the lead in the "atmymothersknee"-lympics.  You Michigonians (Michigians? Michiginians? Michigites?) have nothing better to do in the winter than blog all day either, do you?  Welcome to the club.

After finishing up my soap-making this afternoon, the pooches and I went for a ski (ok, I skied and they...did what they do, which is to say they went nuts)

Phew, it was a wonderful, sunny, restful, sunny, productive, sunny, stress-free weekend.  I can't wait for the next one.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just some randomness

  1. Some very good knitting advice from a friend to knit with
  2. Some fabulous craft room/studio ideas.  You should also check out Martha's
  3. And this is just sweet and makes me feel fuzzy inside.
I'll be back shortly (I hope) with a meaningful post, but I just didn't want to forget about this stuff.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A little of this, a little of that

I had a very productive weekend, but for some reason, I have nothing to show for it.  I:

  • re-hemmed my pinstriped wool pants, which had shrunken in the wash (and THAT is why I always leave a generous hem allowance at the legs)
  • did some tidying up
  • did some cooking (potato leek soup - yum)
  • went out for brunch with some friends
  • finished my red mittens
  • helped my mom learn how to use SketchUp, remotely over the internet
  • looked after a friend's dog
  • bought a new interior design book and the latest Dwell mag
  • went grocery shopping (Hey, do you guys have "Bulk Barn" in the States?)
  • observed guiltily as my husband did all the dishes, laundry, and dusting (but not guiltily enough to actually pitch in...I've got a conscience, but I'm not stupid)
  • helped my husband vacuum (am I the only one who second-guesses the spelling of that word every time?)
  • cleaned the bathroom (yuck...I deserve a medal)
I intended to finish up my trouser tutorial, but I just had too many other little things to clear off my plate.  So, it'll be another week at least.  In the meantime, here are the aforementioned mittens and some pics from a walk we took this afternoon (after that ridiculously good brunch).  It was bloody windy (read: freez-z-z-z-z-z-zing c-c-c-c-cooooold), but the sky was really interesting and I couldn't pass up the chance.

And yes, I was wearing the mittens while taking the photos.  I may have been in "the hind end of nowhere", but I still had to look good, no?

I just *had* to make the tips pointy - I'm not sure why, it just had to be done.  I've been asked to put together a how-to for a standard pair of mittens, so I've added it to my list (see the sidebar).   I have to make a pair for Hubbie (my dog ate the last ones....oops), so I'll use that as an opportunity to document my process.

Have a great week!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

You ready? You sure?

I was sitting here tonight, pondering my to-do list of projects that need finishing (my husband is *this* close to quarantining me in my craft room until I cross some stuff off my list and I can't really blame him - I'm almost at that point, myself) and I decided that I needed to do some more doodling, instead.  Sssssssshhhh, he doesn't need to know!

Now, if you promise not to rat me out, I will show you how to make a simple little watercolour sketch.  And yes, I AM going to keep spelling it "watercolour", even if Blogger doesn't like it.  I'm Canadian and I don't compromise on spelling.  Everyone ok with that?  Good.

You will need:
  • Some small sheets of watercolour paper (I buy watercolour postcards, as they are already prepped and ready to go)
  • A set of watercolour pencils (or watercolour paints, but if you're just starting out, pencils are much easier)
  • A regular pencil - HB is fine
  • A white eraser
  • A watercolour paintbrush
  • A small jar or glass (with some water in it)
  • A pencil sharpener
  • A computer and a digital camera

Step 1:  Decide what you want to sketch.  Taking a photograph of your subject is a nice way to play around with balance, emphasis, composition, etc.  I took about 20 photos of this little grouping before I was happy with the way they relate to each other.  It's a little pinkish - I'm going to whiten this up in my sketch.

Don't be afraid to sit there for a while, rearranging and switching objects out until you're satisfied with it.  But don't over-think your subject matter - everyday objects are quite beautiful (ever taken a real good look at a spoon?).  Just pick something and go with it.  You'll probably end up surprising yourself.  Alternatively, if you do not have a camera, just find a cool photo online and use it as your template.

If I was a purist (which I am not, when it comes to art), I would insist that you sit there and sketch something out, freehand.  I learned to draw this way - by observing people/objects in front of me and transferring what I see onto the paper.  But, that's a whole other ball of wax and this isn't a drawing lesson.  Learning to draw is a very long process and you could even say that you can never perfect it - it's a life-long pursuit.  If you truly want to learn to paint, you must learn to draw.  This is non-negotiable.  And you would be better served by taking a class with a real-live teacher than following along with me online (not that I'm NOT real and live, but I can't really give you feedback from all the way over here).

Having said that, for the purpose of this little demo, we are going to cheat.  Yes, that's right.  I'm going to let you CHEAT.

Step 2:  Take your photograph and pull it up on the screen of your computer, like so:

Step 3:  Place a sheet of watercolour paper up against the screen (you can very gently place a piece of scotch tape up there to hold it in place)

(if you turn the light off, you'll see the image through the paper)

(like so)

Step 4:  Trace the image onto the paper, using the HB pencil (VERY GENTLY).  The idea is to use a pencil that is dark enough to not require you to press down hard on it.  You just want to *kiss* the paper (so sharpen that pencil!).  Be careful not to press on your screen!

Details are not important, here.  You just want the general outline of the shapes and background.  You'll also want to give yourself a guideline for any shadows.

Step 5:  Pull out your watercolour pencils and make sure they are sharpened.  I found this nifty little wooden box at the art supply store and I just use an eyeliner pencil sharpener, because it fits nicely in there (plus, it traps the shavings, so I don't have to worry about the mess).  Your paintbrush can also be modified (the wooden end hacked of, for example) so that it fits, as well.  Voilà - a travel painting set for your next field trip/vacation!

Step 6:  This is the important part.  Start by taking a really really really good look at your image.  This is the biggest mistake beginners make - they think that drawing is about the hands, but it's not.  It's about the EYES.  When I draw (and I do - a LOT), I don't really look at the paper - I look at my subject matter and make my pencil "follow" the image I'm seeing.  For every second you spend looking down at your paper, you should spend 10 looking at your image.  Now, I know we just traced our image, thereby making my point moot, but the same observation is required for painting.

Here's what I mean:

Take note of the shapes of the shadows/light patches.  Look at one spool at a time and get a feel for it before you commit anything to paper.  Here's a little trick of the trade: there is very rarely pure white and pure black in an image.  Shadows are made up of a variety of shades and white never happens - the surrounding colours influence how you see it.  You should always try to leave your black and white paints in the box and if you do use them, only do so at the very end to add a bit of contrast.

Step 7:  Start to colour in your sketch, using very very very light strokes.  Watercolour is all about restraint and subtlety.  You are going to have to layer a lot of colour in order to get the right shades.  Start with one spool (I started with the light green) and do the lightest colours first (the stripe of very light green/almost white down the middle of the lt. green spool).  You'll go back over it later, if it isn't dark enough.

You'll notice that I have two piles of pencils.  The ones on the right are the colours I've used in my image and the ones on the left are the ones I've ignored.  This is pretty important.  You don't want to get confused, halfway through. 

Work each spool slowly, going back and forth between similarly-coloured ones to blend your colours together (so they "match").  You'll see what I mean in a second.

The red, the dark orange, and the light orange are worked at the same time, here.  The reason for that is that I'm using the same 5 crayons for all of them (poppy red, crimson, yellow, bright orange, ochre).  I'm doing that so that they relate to each other and don't clash.  I'll do the same with the greens and blues.

I've decided that I'm going to try to get the lights/shadows on the dark green spool right, but that I'm not going to drive myself crazy with them (if you were looking for some instruction from a perfectionist, you've come to the wrong place).

Step 8:  Don't forget to shade in the background and pencil in the shadows.  Notice that there's no black, even at the "horizon" line, where the table meets the wall.  It's more of a brown colour, so that's the pencil you should use.  Just go softly - you can't add white to lighten it up later. 

Step 9:  Now that the all the colours have been drawn in, it's time to add a little bit more contrast, using brown, navy blue and just a *touch* of black.  Just a smidge, just an iota, just a "soupçon" of black.  Use them to darken up the shaded areas: 

Step 10:  Break out the paintbrush and water (and check it out - my spools are hangin' out over there, on the left).

Step 11:  Load up the brush with water and start wetting the background, making sure you don't touch the spools, for now.  I didn't put any colour down on the table surface (I wanted to leave it white), so I didn't add any water to it.  My spool tips are also going to remain untouched.

I also did the darkest shadows right away.  However you decide to sequence your painting, you should follow 2 rules: 

  1. Start with the dark colours.  You can use the dark water to help shade some of the lighter colours, if they don't seem right.
  2. Give yourself some time to let things dry a bit before you move the adjacent area.  You don't want to just douse this with water - it'll get muddy and gross pretty fast.  Use baby steps.

(a close up of step 11)

Step 12:  Move on to new areas, rinsing off your brush, as you go.  You don't want to change your water during any of this process.  The tinted water will help to blend your colours together so they relate to each other nicely.

Step 13:  Keep going, slowly but surely.


Ok, so I'm just about done, but I've noticed that the yellow spool has lost a bit of "definition" - it's just looking muddy and indistinct. 


Step 14:  Take your dark brown pencil and rub the tip onto the wet paintbrush bristles.  This will give you just a bit of colour on your brush, which you can dab onto the area you want to shade.  Do this with kid gloves - you can overdo it.  Go slowly and let your stuff dry between coats.

I liked the effect, so I did it with the rest of the spools, using the brown and navy blue pencils.  Layers of dabs, adding water as I needed it.  Then, I did it with the black - very carefully, so as not to destroy the balance and make it dominate.  While I was doing that, and my brush was black, I added a bit of water to it and shaded in the areas on the spool tips that are in shadow.


Step 15:  Step back and admire your handiwork.  You've just painted a watercolour. 

Did you have fun?  Your next step is to do it all freehand, without a photograph to guide you (and no cheating!).  Go on, you can do it!

I love sarcasm (and no, that wasn't sarcasm)

I discovered this blog a few weeks ago and she just absolutely cracks me up.  She's doing something very nice for the disaster relief efforts in Haiti.  Check it out here.

Here's her collection of sarcastic haikus.  Now, pardon me as I go split a gut laughing and purchase myself a couple of mugs.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Oh my!

Look at THIS new blog I just found out about!

Oh dear.  I'm in trouble, now.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Please don't leave me, I promise I'll change...

I realize that I've been really bad about posting, this week.  I just have been completely exhausted and haven't had much time to myself (not in a horrible way, if that makes any sense...I'm just busy, but happily so).  It's actually turned into an amazingly productive week and I've managed to accomplish a lot of things and that's really helped to clear my mind and get me on the right track for future work.  But, as a result, I'm pooped.

That means that even if I was able to post, I have absolutely nothing of interest to say, just zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.......

I promise that this weekend, I will take the time to sit down and finish more of my many (many many) works-in-progress so that I can back to blogging properly. 

It's not personal, so don't go away, k?!?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

These things park themselves in my head and won't leave

Something came up in a conversation this week about work and workload.  It got me thinking about my post-college experiences and how much difficulty my peeps (work colleagues, college buddies, husband, etc) and I have had in the modern professional world.  I thought of posting something to that end up on this here blog, and hemmed and hawed about it all week.  This isn't really THAT kind of blog, but I have a sneaking suspicion that more than a few of you readers work in creative fields and I'm banking on the fact that you could probably benefit from hearing what I've got to relate.  Plus, I just read this and decided that if this topic kept coming up, it was for a reason.

So, here goes:

I am an Interior Designer (no, not a decorator...but that's a conversation for another day).  I studied for 3 very intense years in a full-time program, doing as many as 40 hours of homework, on top of  30 hours of class/studio time per week.  I have friends who, at the time,  were attending law school and others in medical school.  My workload was about as big as both of those programs combined.  I'm not saying I'm smarter or better or more "tough" - I'm just saying it was intense.  I'm saying that I understand what it is to skimp on everything in order to get the work done.  What it is to feel that nothing is as important as that next project and that if it isn't perfect, the world will come to an end.  Consistently "forgetting" to eat and getting 4 hours of sleep per night, month after month.  Getting simultaneous ovarian cysts and UTI's and refusing to see the doctor because I would lose points on my work if I missed class.  This was no night course.  The only people I know who sacrifice more of themselves to get higher education are architects.  I worked with an architectural intern who hadn't had time to watch a movie in the entire 6 years she was at school!  I'm not talking about taking the time to go to the cinema; I'm talking about renting a movie from the corner store and watching it at home, in your pj's.  She couldn't do that, because she slept at school.  I know another architect who risked her life walking home during a hurricane, because she'd been too busy to read a newspaper, listen to the radio, watch the news, or even call her family and didn't know that there was a severe storm watch on.  She'd been at school for days and didn't know what was going on until she left the building and tree limbs were being tossed around like toothpicks.

My point is this: we all did it.  It was crazy, but when you feel "called" to a certain profession, you do what you think you have to in order to make it happen.  And, if you want some honesty, this is a crazy profession and there is so much competition that you really need to be prepared to do what is necessary to get the job done.  Sometimes that means working obscene hours and skipping several meals in a row.  But (and this is a big BUT), it will kill you if you are not careful.  I'm not exaggerating.  (There are rumours out there that I have a tendency to take creative license, when it comes to story-telling... to that, I say NEVER!).  Seriously, folks.  I know way too many people in this business who've died young.  Heart failure, stroke, suicide... you abuse your body/mind long enough, it will give out.  You are the only one who will give a damn about your health, so take care of it.  Your employers have all been in the same situation as you and many of them believe the insane hours, physical neglect, and mental/emotional strain are perfectly normal (FYI: THEY ARE WRONG).  You may be told to suck it up or better yet, your job may be threatened if you speak up.  Most of us start our careers in this business pretty young and it's pretty specialized - you can do many things with an arts degree, but tell me this: what do you do when you've spent $100,000 on an architectural degree and one year into your internship, you realize that you can't keep doing this to yourself (especially not for $30,000/year)?  They know they have power over you.  They know they can scare you.  They'll use that until you no longer remember what it was like to have good health, a social life, or even a decent night's sleep.  Many of THEM don't have any of those things, so why should you? 

There seems to be this unspoken understanding that it is ok to lie to college students about what they can expect, in terms of workload and salary.  Of how they can expect to be treated by employers and colleagues.  Of what is considered a reasonable request, coming from an employer.  This is probably the biggest failure in our post-secondary education system.  The professional world is unbelievably full of abusive, obsessive, narcissistic and otherwise-messed-up people.  And, as the term "narcissistic" might lead you to believe, many of them don't give a crap about you.  Those guys (that's the gender-less "guys", by the way) only care about their egos and MONEY.  Take a good look at your boss.  Does he/she have a family, a social life, interests outside of work, good health?  No?  Then you have a pretty good idea of what their priorities are, don't you?

Now, for the important part:  if you find yourself in a situation where you feel belittled, abused, threatened, bullied, or even just under-appreciated and grossly under-paid, LEAVE. 
This is a serious problem that is not being addressed by our society.  We all know that beating your spouse is wrong, but for some reason, no-one talks about what we should do when our boss won't let us go home (after an 18-hour day, for example) or take a proper lunch break.  Or calls us a retard.  Or calls us on our time off to yell at us for making a mistake.  Or sends us (alone) to meetings where it's understood that we'll be blamed for thousands of dollars of budget overrun and delays, without any advice on how we should handle it.

Your boss should have time for you.  Your boss should care how you're feeling.  Your boss should take care of your needs and help you to develop your skills.  Help you grow and discover which direction you'd like to take your career.  That type of boss exists, people.  And I know, because I have one, now.  I recently developed a repetitive-stress injury in my right hand, from drafting on the computer (pretty horrifying prospect, when that's what you do all day long or if you like knitting in your spare time).  He didn't even give one thought to what he was going to do with me if I stopped being able to produce work.  He was concerned for me and whether or not I was in pain.  I'm trying some more ergonomic tools and he's agreed to purchase whatever I need.  He hasn't once mentioned that I should hurry up and figure out how to get back up to my previous speed.  Now THAT'S how a boss is supposed to act.  Because, you know what?  It makes me WANT to produce good work for him, and lots of it.  I feel supported and appreciated.  I feel like a person.

Everyone has a right to feel like that.  If you're going through some of this crap, I hope you're reading this and that you believe me when I say that you that it isn't "quitting" or "giving up" when you stand up for yourself and refuse to take the abuse.  Get out.  Taking that temporary job nannying your neighbour's kid or slinging cappuccinos at Starbucks could literally be a lifesaver.  Think it over and get your head on straight before you decide on your next move.

Ok, I'm done.  I'm sorry for hijacking the blog.  I promise I'll be back very soon with some lighter stuff.  And I promise that I won't routinely be lecturing on the current state of our society.  I just kept getting signs from the Universe that this had to be said and I figured I'd give in to it before I got hit over the head with it (literally).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

You might have thought that I didn't notice that request for a watercolour tutorial, but I did. 

Interesting.  I didn't think anyone would really pay any attention to those squiggles.  But, I can and definitely will oblige.  When I can manage to get some good light.  That one has to be photographed in daylight!

Stay tuned!

Highway Hypnosis

You know when you find yourself putting the key in the lock of your front door and you suddenly realize that you have absolutely no recollection of how you got home?

What's the knitting version of that?  'Cause, I SWEAR, I was only taking the yarn out for a little test spin.  Like a swatch, maybe?  Or maybe just the beginnings of a cuff...

Next thing you know, I'm slippin' the key into the lock.  Oops.  Hope I didn't run any stop signs on the way there....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Just in case you were wondering

Ok, while I ponder the pants tutorial and also wait for good lighting for my knitting flashcards, I thought I would teach you how to:


Yeah, I know.  You're a city person and you don't have a woodstove.  Or a fireplace.  You have no need for lighting a good fire.  Well, to that I say: yes, you do.  You just don't know it yet.  Someday, you'll be vacationing somewhere and the power will go out.  There will be a fireplace and you will be sitting there, shivering in your pathetic dress socks (we'll talk about knitting wool socks in another installment), wondering how in dog's name you are going to get the darn thing lit.  And no, you can not use BBQ lighter fluid.  Don't even think about it.

I have a foolproof method that has never failed me, not even once (this is where the Universe steps in and proves me wrong, you just watch).  I am the FIRE-MASTER around these parts!

So, this is it:

  • Paper.  Newsprint, preferably.  Glossy-ish flyers will work in a pinch, but they smoke and smell and don't burn evenly.  
  • A big bundle of twigs.  The more twigs, the better the chances of this sucker catching.  Twigs are the secret.  Get a whole bunch in different sizes.
  • Some smallish-sized pieces of DRY wood.
  • Some biggish pieces of whatever wood you can get your hands on.  Dead tree limbs are great when you're in the wild and you've got nothing to chop a tree down with.  This is Canada; there's a lot of wild, out there.

1.  Crumple up a bunch of paper.  If you have a lot, use a lot.  If you don't, be frugal.  You might need more a little later.  Either way, crumple it into tight little balls.  They'll sproing open a bit, that's ok.

2.  Place the paper in a nice little pile in the stove/fireplace/pit/whatever.  Compress it with your hands so it stays more or less in place.

 3.  Take your bundle of twigs and sort them.  You can use bark and leaves, too (though they both produce lots of smoke, so beware).  Ignore that log back there - he was just drying out.

4.  Ok, this picture ain't so good, but you want to form a teepee around your pile of paper, using first the eensy weensy twigs, then placing the slightly bigger ones on, then the slightly even BIGGER ones on, and so on, until all your twigs are sitting there, waiting to see some action.  Take your time with this - you don't want to make a mess.  It's important that the whole thing doesn't just cave in when you light the paper.

5.  Then (no, I don't have a photo of this next step, 'cause I was DOING it, duh, and it takes your undivided attention), you want to carefully light a match (or use a butane lighter) and carefully light the paper on fire.  It really helps to use long matches, but if you only have the small, paper kind, light a small twig on fire, or a tightly twisted piece of paper, and slide it into the "heart" of your pile.  Even if it only catches in one spot, that's ok.

6.  Wood stove instruction:  before you close the door, make sure the draft is WIDE open (you can't really see mine - it's a small lever under that little ledge there).  If you don't, and the door is closed, there won't be enough oxygen to feed the fire.

7.  The more twigs you have placed in your teepee, the better the pile will catch.  If it seems to be burning itself out too quickly, simply add a few more small twigs, and work your way up to the bigger ones, slowly.  The idea here, is PATIENCE, my pet.  A fire needs to "grow", not be shocked into existence. 

8.  Start to pull out your smaller pieces of wood.  These can include some chopped pieces, but larger branches (you see that sweet little birch one, in there?) are great for this, especially if they have some loose bark on them.  Once you get roaring, you can start gently placing them on your teepee.   Don't squish the teepee!  Just add your wood to it, layering the new pieces on  as the others get consumed.

 Yeah, I know my door is still open - the glass in it is so dirty, I couldn't get a good shot of the fire through it.  You would want to shut the door, so as not to get hurt/burn the house down.

9.  Now that you've got some substantial pieces on there, let it be for a bit.  You want the fire to get good and hot before you start heaping on full-fledged logs.  If you do it too soon, you will choke the fire.  It needs to have room to breathe.  Leave the draft all the way open for a bit (my husband's mistake, every time) and if you have pieces of wood that are a bit humid, place them closer to the fire (be careful they don't catch, from a spark!) to dry out a bit before you add them on. 

10.  Once the fire is really going and the pieces in there have turned bright orange/red, you can start adding the bigger pieces and starting edging your draft closed.  You have to babysit it for a little while until it gains momentum.  After a while, it gets going so well that you'd have to douse it with a sink-full of water to put it out.  If you need this sucker for the heat (not just looks), you want a fire that won't die on you, the minute you turn your back.  That said, if you're working a camp fire, don't turn your back on it.  If you know what's good for you.

So, that's it!  Now you're a Boy Scout.  Next lesson:  How to skin a squirrel.  Ha!  Just kidding.  You hope.

This message was brought to you by DW's uncles, who taught her this trick when she was 11.