Redneck Bootcamp: Time with the Basketmaker’s Wife

This post is all about me and Ben. Sorry to all Mr. Basketmaker’s fans but the redneck bootcamp also involved me, Auntie Kiki, too!! LOL.

On the first night, Ben and I stayed up until 1:00 am. I thought he would fall asleep well before then, however, since it was his vacation, I let him decide the bedtime. But I finally had to tell him that he had a long day tomorrow and 1:00 am was TIME TO GO TO BED. And he immediately obeyed.

But it was fun. Just me and him talking about all kinds of stuff. One of them was him wanting to show me his shoes that he will be wearing to school. So he snuck into the guest room quietly as not to wake up my dad who went to bed hours ago, and grabbed them. But he wanted to have different shoelaces and was wondering if they had CAMO shoelaces.

If you haven’t guessed by now, this kid is obsessed with Camouflage! Not sure exactly who he is getting it from since neither of us have camo attire and I’m pretty sure nobody in his family outside Chicago does either. So, I told him let’s go on Amazon and see. Sure enough, they had camo laces. We scrolled through the different varieties until he found the exact pattern he wanted,  I ordered them for two-day shipping and he was pumped when they arrived. But I made a deal with him that he would have to do something for me during the week to earn the money I just paid for the shoelaces. He said deal.

So what I came up with is that he needed to do some wood burning/carving designs in my walking stick. He worked on it over the next few days and I absolutely love it! A one-of-a-kind Ben Design that is priceless I told him!

Here he is practicing before he burns into my actual walking stick that I carved a year ago.



If I had to identify his top most favorite things to do, I would have to add this task of “burning wood” because he was working on this for hours, and over three days. So I would say he was pretty focused on a task he enjoyed. However, I don’t have a picture of the end result!! So I promise I will take a snap of his amazing design and post it in the future.

Another project I planned for Ben’s “redneck bootcamp” was collecting specimens for his nature cabinet. When I was visiting him, his mom and his brother last year, Ben had quite a collection of some bones, bugs, rocks and other “nature” remnants. So my sister and I went to IKEA in Chicago, as a surprise while he was at his dad’s house for the weekend, and bought him a glass tower shelf, fully enclosed, to display his collection which we dubbed “Ben’s Nature Cabinet.”

So we ventured into the woods and his task was to collect at least 5 specimens. I already posted a picture of him out in the woods. Below is a closeup of a moss specimen he really, really wanted me to photograph.


Two days after he collected everything, he was now going to preserve it. Below is him in our “project space” outside my studio cutting up some of his gatherings to put inside some mini bottles I found a few months ago at a basket convention.


These photos were taken from my phone so they are not too detailed. I was charging up the battery to our camera at the time! Guess I took too many pictures and drained it!


I like these next photos because he actually told me to stop filming in the middle of the shoot because he wanted to “stage it.” Being an old advertising art director in my prior life and halting hundreds of photoshoots myself, I pleasantly appreciated his urge to set up the shot to his preference! Guess it didn’t have the “macho-ness” to it because he added in his two knives in the forefront plus the mini tool gadget that Mr. Basketmaker gave him! You gotta love that…


We also worked on his “ghillie” suit. What is a ghillie suit? Well, something to do with hunting and being a sniper. it took about 20 minutes for him to explain what it was and I think that’s what it is! Anyways, more on that later because it was part of a “challenge” we were confronted with in the middle of “camp” from his brother and Uncle Tripp (my brother).


Another one of the tasks that I was responsible for during Mr. Basketmaker’s Redneck Bootcamp was overseeing Ben’s archery target practice. Last Christmas, all he wanted was an archery set from his mom, which he got. But living in a rural area outside of Chicago, he wasn’t able to fully practice his shooting! And we were told on several occasions that his dad’s yard was the size of our kitchen. So it was important to have him be able to play with his archery set.

Now, I have to set the record straight that Eric and I both know NOTHING about archery! But my mom (Ben’s Grammy) bought and shipped to us the exact “junior” archery set that he has at home to our house weeks in advance. That way, we were able to get familiar with what is involved with archery! I am in no way an expert. And I probably would be rated below a “beginner”! LOL! But I practiced beforehand and when he was here, I did my best. But as you can see in the photo below, it appears that he had fantastic form!


After a while of shooting in the hot sun (at the end of the week, we were in the middle of a heat-weave, our first since being in Tennessee), he was actually improving! So I definitely could see his confidence lifting. That’s all I could ask for! But when he asked me why his dad had such a small yard, I told him I couldn’t answer that except maybe he doesn’t like to mow grass.

Our next Aunt-and-Nephew project was working on a puzzle. Not an ordinary puzzle, but a Duck Dynasty puzzle. One of his favorite shows is Duck Dynasty so before he arrived we ordered a puzzle from Amazon. And being recently obsessed with puzzles myself (ever since Eric’s mom came to visit) I was looking forward to this one.

However, it was a hard puzzle! Don’t let the 500 pieces fool you! I’m used to doing no less than 1,000 pieces and never following a picture of any sort. But this one was hard… all those beards!! LOL. We definitely were referring back to the picture on the box to figure out where some of the pieces went.

Below is where we left it before he had to fly back home. This is definitely a hard puzzle! If you are into puzzle challenges and like Duck Dynasty, then I recommend this one.


But we still had our fun doing it! Ben was in charge of doing his favorite character, Uncle Si. And after he got his eyes done, he decided to “ham it up” for some good laughs from me. Which he got in plenty.


So I think that’s it for our projects. May be one or two more, like the visual night-time light show we filmed which I will post later, but I really did take too many photos! Too many to go through!!

But I will leave tonight’s post off with one of my most precious photos of Ben. A few days ago I told him I needed to get some work done so I went in bed while Eric unwinded in front of the TV in the other room. Ben said he didn’t want to go to bed yet so he came in to hang out with me. But my moment of “Awe, he wants to spend some time with his Aunt at the foot of my bed” was quickly dashed when after 60 seconds he was nonchalantly slithering his way over to be closer to Jackson. He ended up climbing into the dog’s bed, claiming that his bed was way more comfortable!

It was really hard for me to wake him up and tell him to go in the guest room! But I needed to. Didn’t want it getting back to anyone that I made my nephew sleep in our dog’s bed!! That would not be good! LOL.



Ben Asks Five Questions Friday

Ben: How long can a Galapagos tortoise live?
Eric: I will say 150 years.
Ben: Uhm, I kinda forgot what the answer is. We studied them but I forgot the exact number. But I know it’s longer than a regular turtle and a plain tortoise.

Ben: What is the name of the basket I made?
Eric: You made a Quiver Basket.
Ben: Auntie Kiki, is that right? Because I forgot the name. But I’m thinking he’s probably right.

Ben: True or False: are there any baskets made from machine?
Eric: (laughing) You quoted me exactly! I already asked you that question a few days ago!

Ben: How many spokes in a wagon wheel?
Eric: Isn’t it 8?
No. It’s either five or ten.
Eric: Well, that was a good question because I don’t think I ever wondered how many spokes were in a wagon wheel.
(side note: In the middle of asking Eric the next question, we hear my Dad talking into his phone “How many spokes does a wagon wheel have?” And we all looked up at him as he repeated it again and more loudly, “How – many – spokes – does – a – wagon – wheel – have?!”. We all broke out into laughter. Then we heard my Dad say “I have to log on to this website to get the answer? Stupid Siri.”)
(editor’s note: I believe Eric is correct! At least, according to Bing, and if Ben is talking about an old-time wagon wheel.)

Ben: Did getting demolished by me in last night’s “Chopped Cooking Challenge” aggravate you?
Eric: All I have to say to that is that the competition was rigged and that the judge was biased.
My Dad: “Hey, don’t accuse me of being biased. Did his presentation look better than yours or not? Be honest! You have to be honest.
Eric:  Yes, I guess it did. But not by much.
My Dad:
Not by much? All you did was slice up the Spam and put some coconut on it! It still looked like a slab of Spam! Ben’s ingredients were all mixed together so you no longer could tell it was Spam.
Eric:  Well, it looked like a pile of mush to me!

Editor’s Note: Yes, we had a “chopped challenge” last night between Ben and Mr. Basketmaker. Ben had an advantage in that he got to choose the ingredients but Eric wouldn’t know what they were until the challenge started. He chose the following ingredients: Coconut, Mushrooms, White Sticky Rice and Spam. Why Spam? He said he heard of it on TV and knows Eric never tried it before. I tried to tell Ben that he never tried it before either but he didn’t seem to understand that part! LOL.

So which dish do you think was Mr. Basketmaker’s and which was Ben’s? (I’ll post answer later…)


Mr. Basketmaker’s Redneck Bootcamp: Quiver Basket

Okay, for all you basket fans out there, today’s post will be all about baskets. Well, at least all the images.

The first day of the quiver basket involved Eric giving Ben instruction on how to sand materials that will eventually be used for any basket.


A little side story about the above image. When we heard that Ben wanted to find some camo clothes when he came down here, Eric went online and bought his only piece of “camo” attire he now currently owns — this Patriots hat (his favorite football team) on camo fabric. I think it’s sweet that he also wanted to “embrace the camo!”


So after his brief lesson, Ben donned a dust mask and began processing his own materials for a one-of-a-kind Eric Taylor quiver basket! Of course, he had to be head-to-toe in camo gear to be in the workshop! I should add that the reason why Eric created the quiver basket was because all Ben wanted for Christmas was a bow and arrow set from his Mom, which he got. But where can he practice target shooting in Chicago??? So on the top of the priority list when he came to visit us was to work on his archery skills.


Mr. Basketmaker definitely employed “redneck ingenuity” by using a PVC pipe as the mold for this quiver basket. I don’t think it went unnoticed by Ben because several times he said the phrase “it’s redneck ingenuity!”



I love how focused he is on this basket. And Eric said he was a very good weaver for a complete beginner! Do I see an aspiring basketmaker???

It took three days to complete this basket. Well, not a full three days. Ben had lots of other projects going on in between.

For the day when he completed his basket, I took all his camo clothes and quickly shoved them in the washing machine. They were nasty, especially since the night before he went up to his neck in the frog pond, wearing these same clothes!

So, he had to put on his “normal” clothes and walked up to me and said “Auntie Kiki, I’m working in the shop today and I need to have something with camo on it. Can I wear the new vest you bought me?” Now, how could I say “no”.


So here he is in his hunting vest (I should add that he has never hunted before! But when we were in the store yesterday, he asked if I could get his for him.) Maybe all this camo is doing something good because I have never seen him so focused!


And there’s his pal Jackson, hanging out in the workshop as usual, right at Ben’s feet.

Eric got a kick out of the fact that he would much rather watch this “free-at-the-curb” tv all day in the workshop than the nice flat HD tv we have in the house! But I think it had more to do with hanging out with Mr. Basketmaker in his workshop.

And this next photo has to be one of my favorites…


Why? Well aside from how well he seems to be getting a hang of this weaving-thing, I noticed that on the wall behind him, he hung up his leather hat that he bought specially for his trip down here. I absolutely love that he was “hanging his hat” in Mr. Basketmaker’s workshop.


There getting close to being done!


Really really close! But before completely finishing it, Ben wanted to get his camo shirt and pants out of the dryer so he could put them on before Eric strapped on the quiver basket.


And finally done! I love how he has his arrow in hand and petting the dog! And what a gorgeous Quiver Basket!!!

So I hope all the basketry fans enjoyed this post today. There may be some typos and sentences that don’t make sense… but it’s well after midnight and I’m exhausted!! I’m finding hard to keep my eyes open! LOL!