One thing that I really like about the Internet:  there’s so much info about artsy-craftsy stuff.  Not just general info, but actual tutorials, and the great majority of those I’ve seen are really good.  If you want to learn cake decorating, origami, tinwork, glass blowing, knitting, woodwork, bookbinding, model building–it’s all out there.  Enough to get you started and feeling confident, at least.

When I was a kid, my grandfather gave me a book from his boyhood.  I don’t remember the exact title off the top of my head–The Boy’s Every-Day Companion, or something like that.  It was a very thick book for a boy with practically no attention span (I’m referring to myself, not my grandfather), but I don’t even know how many hours–days, no doubt–I spent reading it, scheming, and daydreaming.  I wanted to make an ice boat, a cornstalk violin, a snow fort, a club house, an aquarium, a puppet theater, a razor-tailed kite.  Some of those projects are impossible in El Paso, but the book made me feel like I could do them all, and should.

Being a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout reinforced my appreciation for making stuff, and it didn’t hurt that my mother and sisters were active in the Girl Scouts.  What summers I didn’t spend at Girl Scout camp, I spent at the YMCA, where I learned leatherworking and archery (both of which I still I enjoy).

My family made regular trips across the border to Ciudad Juárez, home of the ProNAF–sort of a federally subsidized arts community and retail area.  I got to watch the craftsmen do their thing:  stonecutting and carving, casting, woodcarving, leatherworking (I still love that smell), sculpting and welding, and–my favorite, of course–glassblowing.

We also went to church with a family that was so artsy that they even had their own studio.  They’d let me hang around and watch them do stained glass.  Sometimes I’d even get to help them silk-screen the church programs.

I guess it’s no surprise that my favorite TV show was Zoom! 

The real kicker was when my parents bought a multi-volume set of arts and crafts books called The Family Creative Workshop.  How to build a pinhole camera, do hardanger embroidery, theatrical makeup, period costumes, Soap Box Derby-style racers, your own soap, hibachi cookery, calligraphy and illumination, firing and glazing ceramics, glassblowing (whoopee!), and an awful lot more.  Needless to say, I spent hours–days–poring over the projects, scheming and dreaming.  Some of them came to fruition, but a lot of them didn’t.  Not many fourteen-year-old boys have the funds to start up a glassblowing or ceramics facility.

To this day, though, I can’t look at a spent corn dog stick without thinking “Hm–few more of those and I could make a birdhouse.”

Then came college and working for a living, and–I’m sorry to say–I kind of forgot about all that stuff.  It didn’t seem as important.

Much more recently, around the time my daughter was born, the Iggulden brothers wrote The Dangerous Book for Boys, kind of a 21st century version of the book my grandfather had given me.  It was a big hit and immediately followed by countless knock-offs, like The Daring Book for Girls, or something like that.

As soon as I heard about it, I went to and pre-ordered a copy of The Dangerous Book for Boys, along with a reprint of The Boy’s Every-Day Companion, The Book of Secrets, and a lively volume called Backyard Ballistics–how to build potato cannons and other things that go “Boom!”

I tried to find The Family Creative Workshop series at a price that I could afford, but no dice.

The books that I did get, I look forward to giving to my daughter (not to mention making a few things go “Boom!” with her).  I hope to pass along my enthusiasm for this kind of stuff.  Maybe she’ll be better about actually making it happen instead of just scheming and dreaming, which is mostly what I did.

So, yeah.  I am trying to relive a better version of my childhood through my daughter, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  When the time comes, I’d like for her to pass the same appreciation onto her kids, rather than the joys of sitting in the dark, eating Cheet-Os, and playing Nintendo.  I’m hoping that if I at least take her camping and fishing often enough, it’ll temper her interest in Cheet-Os and Nintendo.  I know, the pressure to do what your friends are doing is immense, but all I can do is try.