Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!

What a busy time of year this has been! Shopping and wrapping and delivering gifts. We had to drive 2 cars on Christmas Day to transport all the presents and the puppies. It would help if we were clever people and stopped buying all these tiny cars, but at this stage of our lives, we realize it's never gonna happen. As a matter of fact we've been looking at BMW Z4's to replace my car, but in these economic times we're holding off.

Do you have big plans for tonight? We rang in the Milennium at Disney in Orlando, and let me tell you, those people really know how to celebrate! This year we're staying home, preparing for our trip to CA mid-January.

I still have our party hats, horns, and noisemakers they gave us that year. Perhaps I'll pull those out tonight to put us in a festive mood. Personally I'll skip the champagne and indulge in a Fuzzy Navel.

Have you taken down your holiday decorations yet? The artificial tree from the new front porch is now boxed up and sitting in the garage. The wreaths are off the door and all the windows, but still piled on the porch planter. Baby steps. The first floor mantle is still divine, as is the tree up on the second long as you don't look too closely. I do love a Frasier Fir but after a month the needles start dropping at an alarming rate.

There are gifts still in their gift boxes and bags scattered throughout the house. Peep in the front door and you'll see a few in front of the fireplace. Peep in the front guestroom window and you'll see gift bags, wrapping paper, ribbon, and yes, a few gifts to each other that never got wrapped or put under the tree. The family room upstairs has the gifts we gave one another, right where we left them Christmas night. Don't misunderstand; I'm sure I'll love my MP4 Media player and my digital photo frame...just as soon as we figure out how they work. And since I'm a bit preoccupied with class submissions right now, they can stay put a while longer.

I'd love to say all my Stampaway submissions were shipped, but the truth of the matter is that none of my samples are completed. Can you guess what I'll be doing tomorrow? I've got my fingers crossed that I can squeeze everything into a 3 lb UPS Red package on Friday for delivery on Monday, the drop-dead final day to get them in Connie's hot little hands. And don't even get me started on all my bangle, bead & pendant projects for CHA! Baby steps I tell you.

I'm wishing each and every one of you the happiest of New Years. Good things are coming our way!! And my number one resolution for the new year is to post on my blog more often. Resolution #2 is to stop procrastinating so I can complete my projects in a more timely manner. #3 is to get all the junk out of the studio. It's so chaotic in there I can't possibly be creative. Hence the class samples still in the works.

Be Happy. Stay well. Never miss an opportunity to laugh or create art. Never.
Now where's my hat and party horn? Aren't the puppies just gonna love it tonight?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tea Parties

The other day I talked about collections and didn't even mention my elephant and monkey collections. But we'll save that for another day (or when you visit my home and notice them all). My best friend used to collect teapots. I brought her one back from England on my first trip over, and I even gave her one from my mother's collection. They sit atop her kitchen cabinets and make quite the display. When was the last time you really looked at a teapot? They're truly lovely, aren't they?Growing up my mother never had tea sets or dolls and to this day she collects both. Trying to recapture those moments missed in childhood. There are dolls everywhere in her house, including 2 HUGE glass-fronted cabinets. And she's also got one filled with miniature tea sets, with a few real cups & saucers nestled among all those teensy sets. Children love to come to my mother's house until they realize these aren't toys. I've got 2 cups and saucers given to me by my mother, passed down from my father's mother. They're from 2 sets of china, not a matching set, but just the loveliest little things ever. Not sure how Mom wound up with them, but she wanted me to have them. They're so delicate, so unlike my mother or myself. We're loud and rowdy gals, not the sort to sip tea.
But my mother throws the best tea parties for children you've ever witnessed. Everytime my son and his new wife vist, bringing her little girls (ages 3 & 4), my mother pulls out a tea set. She used to do the same thing with my son when he was little. Of course she poured him Pepsi, which he loved, instead of tea, but hey, a party is a party!
Thanksgiving night she put the girls at a table for two, which is actually an antique booth from an old drugstore where food was once served. Their teapot contained her homemade lemonade, which they wouldn't drink at dinner but loved in those miniature cups. Go figure. And their snacks were Cheetos and pecans. Again, not what you'd imagine at your tea party I'd bet.
Last Sunday when we visited their home for lunch the girls ran to greet my mother, all smiles and squeals, and the first words out of their mouths were "you throw the best tea parties". And they're right. She does.

A couple of years ago I visited a friend's home for a stamp club meeting and she had this fabulous, huge floral arrangement sitting on the kitchen counter where I sat as she served me a cup of coffee in what I think was a china cup and saucer . I told her afterward I'd felt like a Princess, sipping my coffee next to that bouquet. At home I rarely have fresh flowers and my coffee is sipped from a Starbucks stainless steel travel mug that keeps my coffee hot for 3 hours. China cups and saucers are not a part of my everyday life.
I thought about asking my Mom to give me a tea set for Christmas so I could entertain those little girls when they visit my house, but I decided I can't compete with her. She's the tea party Queen and shall remain so forever. I can actually remember when she'd fix tea parties for my sister and myself as children, and she'd always join us, sipping from those tiny cups. Moms are something special, aren't they?

I'm on the lookout now for a Christmas tea set for my mother. No doubt when we use it we'll be playing Dominoes and sipping Mt Dew and Pepsi, but we'll have a tea party this Christmas for sure. Here's hoping you have a special moment with your own mother this year, or that you'll start a new tradition with a daughter-in-law or granddaughter, or maybe just your best friend.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Theme is Snowmen

Don't you just love the smiling faces of snowmen? The tree is decorated and yes, the theme is snowmen. There are lots of balls on the tree, and lots of them have snowmen painted on them. There are also lots of ornaments that look like ice cube snowmen, with little orange noses made of the same acrylic, though they look like glass. Funny thing...when I found these ice cube ornaments on sale I bought a couple of dozen, but I never stopped to consider that they don't really show up well on a tree since they're CLEAR.
I've got quite the collection now. Some purchased by me, but mostly by my mother. Here's a tip for you: don't ever let your mother find out you're collecting something. In another lifetime I collected pigs, and trust me when I say this, everyone gave me pigs. You can still find a few here and there but all those pig ornaments didn't make the cut this year. On the other hand my step-daughter gave me a fat pig wearing a green Santa hat and riding a candy cane that's DIVINE as well as huge, and it's sitting here on a table in the studio smiling at me as I smile at it. He stays out til New Years, no matter what.
But I when we bought this house 6 years ago and hosted our first Holiday Open House, my mother made lots of candy and other sugary goodies. I pulled out my tiny collection of snowman platters and plates and she was excited beyond words. Didn't know I collected snowmen, and may I say, it was a cat I didn't intend to let out of the bag.

And of course you know "the rest of the story" as Paul Harvey would say...she's continued to add to my collection for 6 years now. I've got ornaments, platters, a full set of dishes complete with cups, saucers, the whole shebang! I've got pillows and dish towels and spoon rests and pot holders. And I've got enough ceramic snowmen to fill every shelf and level surface of my house. Oh, and stocking holder snowmen too! Now she didn't buy all of these; other people have also contributed to my sickness...I mean collection. And I do love them, but seriously, we've all got to know when to say when!
But let's not forget the good news of the day: The tree is decorated! And I remembered to add water! We're all happy tonight.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Holiday Preparation Continues

Did you craft with your grandmother when you were a child? My father's mother never learned to drive, so for a time she lived with us before moving next door, and then into a house of her own with her brother, a retired minister, who could act as her chauffeur. She wasn't as crafty as my mother, or at least not in my presence, but she did love to make Christmas tree ornaments. I found this tree topper photo on the BH&G website and loved it, mostly because it reminded me of Mommie, as we called her. One year she used white styrofoam balls, sequins, beads, and straight pins to decorate ornaments that were simply magnificent. I don't have the patience for tackling such a project, but this tree topper sure looks like a possibility to me.
All you need is a styrofoam ball and some bamboo skewers or wooden picks. I've seen pick-up sticks at the Dollar Tree and I'm betting those would work. Or maybe I'll go smaller and use toothpicks. We'll see. Dip the wooden picks into white glue and sink them into the ball. When you're satisfied with the overall shape, spray paint first in the color of your choice, then spray on adhesive and sprinkle with glitter. Make sure to use one bamboo skewer so that you have a way to wire it to the top of the tree. You know we can do this!
Now this topper has a lot of appeal because I just love that explosion of color. Quick and easy, once you gather all your ribbons. Back in her crafting days my mother would take us to the flea market where an older gentleman drove an old station wagon (and I swear it was older than me) and parked it right in his "booth" space. Inside that station wagon he had a zillion rolls of ribbon. You could see them piled to the roof in the back. I'm telling you there was barely room for him to squeeze behind the wheel and drive it to and fro. My mother would dive into that car as though there were cash money to be found. Me, I was mortified to be seen with her, cowering as far away as possible, while she spent a couple of hours digging for treasure. She shouldn't have been so generous with me considering my attitude back then, but when I began to craft she gave me dozens of rolls of that very ribbon. Now I look at this photo and wonder aloud if I can't find some of the widest, brightest rolls and create this very same look on my own tree.

I've brought the bottom branches trimmed from the base of my tree into the house and they've made it as far as the coffee table. Every year I decorate my downstairs mantle with this greenery, adding my artificial berries and holiday ornaments. Today my monkeys and mantle clock are still in place, but tonight the magic will happen.

If you should be in the neighborhood and drive by my house you'll see my newest addition...a 3' tall wooden snowman standing on the porch in front of that artifical tree. His hat is made to hold greenery, and so far it has some of those tree branches only, but it's excited to know there are going to be additions tonight. We've got some of the most fabulous bushes in our side yard that are almost yellow yearround and I plan to give them the slightest trim tonight for the sake of my snowman's hat. Then I'll give another trim to my Nandina bushes around the back patio and add a few sprigs of berries for accent. The holiday spirit may just have arrived.
One final note of interest. My tree isn't decorated and I didn't watch even a minute of Boston Legal. Instead we pulled out all the strings of lights and got those onto the tree. My husband thinks you have to stretch out each string, then plug them in and make sure they work. And then he drags up that great big ladder, thinking he'd start at the top and work his way down. Have mercy. So I sent him to work on a much-needed new window lock in the studio as I began at the bottom and worked my way up with the lights. The tree is about 8' tall and it's standing on top of a very low table, so I couldn't possibly reach the top. His only job was to get the last third of the tree finished and I've gotta say, it's less than attractive. I'll be forced to climb that ladder (did I mention my fear of heights?) and tweak those last 3 strings, and then tonight we'll start with the ornaments.
Wish me luck. We didn't even climb the stairs last night.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'm Alive, I'm Well, and I'm Worthless

At the beginning of last week we bought a tree. It waited patiently on the front porch with the artificial tree for 2 days before we trimmed the bottom and got it into the stand with water. Two days later it made it into the house. After hours rearranging the livingroom to accomodate it, we carried it upstairs. Then we rearranged the family room furniture a zillion times before proclaiming that we were done for this year. It's not where we want it; nor is the furniture, but at some point you have to know when to say when. There it sat for another 48 hours waiting for a refill of water. That poor tree has been waiting patiently for lights and ornaments...and it's still waiting.
My wreaths are still in the attic cubby, not on my windows and carriage lights. My mailbox remains unadorned, as does my foyer, both mantles, ... you get the idea.
I did buy 2 boxes of cards. So far I've mailed only 2 cards. I've done more shopping, and tomorrow night I'll be out with my son doing more. No rest for the weary.
We went to my son's house yesterday for lunch. My mother and step-father also joined us and she did most of the cooking. You know how good mothers are...not moms like me I'm afraid. I'll gladly buy you a meal anywhere but you'll be hard pressed to get me in the kitchen to prepare one. Especially this time of year! After lunch, my daughter-in-law drove us girls up to her salon and fixed our hair. I have a totally new look and once it grows out a bit more, it'll look even more fabulous. Mother even had her brows waxed, which is an idea I've never entertained for myself. My blonde & white eyebrows don't show anymore than my blonde & white eyelashes.
Speaking of which, my eye surgery is 30 days from today. Have mercy. I'm wearing my bifocals full time now and HATING it!!! All for the greater good...that's what I keep telling myself. So if you see me in the next month and my makeup is no less than scandalous, be a dear and blend it for me. Take a tissue and wipe off the excess blush. Ignore the fact that I'm not wearing mascara because I can't see to put it on. Or, heaven forbid, if I've attempted to apply some and it's all over my eyelids, take mercy on me and help me tidy up. Vanity will win in the end and in Christmas photos I'll have this far-away, dazed look because I fully intend to take them off when I see anyone pointing a camera in my direction. I'll tell you now that I'm so blind I can't see my own reflection in the mirror unless my nose is 3" away or closer, hence that dazed look I'm warning you about now. I'm charming. I'm witty. I'm personable. But trust me, I'm blind beyond all definition of the word.

We loaded up the puppies in the Mini Cooper and drove to Florida the week before Thanksgiving. Today I remembered that I'd used my cell phone to take a couple of photos of the puppies being walked in Savannah. So here they are, loving every minute of their time out of the crate and out of the car.

If there are typos in this little blurb, forgive me. I said I'm wearing bifocals, not tri-focals. Translation: I can see miles down the road, and I can see my hand in front of my face. But the computer screen might as well be in the refrigerator with the door closed and the light off.
I've made a to-do list for tonight that includes dragging all the Christmas finery out of the cubby and with any luck sprinkling some it throughout the house and onto the tree. But keep in mind tonight is the very last episode of Boston Legal ever. And it's on from 9-11, so you know I can't be expected to let the DVR record it without actually watching it. Priorities people!
As I said up above, I'm alive and I'm well, but clearly I'm also worthless today.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Happy B-Day to the Men in My Life!

Today we're celebrating not one, but two son and my husband. What are the chances of that?
When I met my husband 11 years ago it was the day after Thanksgiving and his birthday was just days away. When I discovered it fell on the same day as my son's, it was quite a surprise.

It's hard to imagine that I have a grown son. I can remember the night he was born as if it were yesterday. It was my mother-in-law's birthday (what a coincidence!) and we'd invited her over for dinner. My husband was a policeman, working the 11pm to 7am shift, so he was dozing in the chair while I began to tidy up the kitchen. I'd been having pains all day but didn't realize it was the beginnings of labor. So when my mother-in-law saw me come check his watch more than once the gig was up! She made us say goodnight and rush her home because she wanted that baby born on her birthday.
And sure enough, at 10:36pm, he arrived, within an hour of our arrival at the hospital. The nurses were terrified that he'd get here before my doctor but we all made it.
It's fun to think back on all the cakes and all the parties. Birthdays are wonderful, aren't they?
I'm sending out big wishes to both my guys, with many more celebrations to come.

A Little of This...

Artists are special people. I consider myself a collector (perhaps hoarder) who eventually finds uses for all my purchases. I'll find a close-out on inventory where there are only 5 or 6 left of something really clever, and I'll tell myself it would make a great, intimate class in the studio.
Which is why my 500 sq ft studio is running over with riches. I've got 2 cubbies in the family room behind the built-in bookcases that are chock full of (let's call them) supplies. And I've got a closet with built-in shelves down on the first floor in guest room #2 that's also overflowing with even more priceless samplings. And let's don't even talk about the cases of wooden cigar boxes that are in the basement storage room!
You get the idea. I'm living in the world of "too much of a good thing is no longer good". And so as I'm doing my annual purge, deciding what has to go, I've come upon a great idea for a few people out there. I'm putting together kits, boxes, and bags of treasures that need new homes.
I once found about 6 photo storage boxes with a hinged, snap lid that are meant to be decorated with inks, paints, stamps, or even collaged with papers. The fold-over lid has a frame mounted for slipping in a photo. My original idea was a small class for a select few, but I've never found the time for it, so now they must go.
I had the same idea when I came across these really large ornaments that are flat, scored white chipboard screaming for Luminaire paints and rubber stamps, or paper collage elements & 3D embellishments before being folded to form the pyramids that will not only house small gifts, but also make fabulous gifts themselves once completed.
And then there are the little boxes with tabbed cards inside, perfect for holding recipe cards or a catalog of cards sent to friends & family.
Remember when Tim Holtz introduced his Junk Bags with zippered compartments for holding scrabble tiles, metal alphabet letters, jewelry findings, beads, and other trinkets? How much fun would it be to hold a small class limited to the number of bags left, filling them with ephemera? Each lucky participant receives their very own bag of goodies and then we begin decorating a canvas or a journal or assemblage project using those bits and more.
I'd love to do these classes, sharing ideas for the creation of these little wonders, but I'm thinking perhaps I should just sell them, letting someone else give them a good home. My studio is filled right now with boxes and bags of these items and more. If you're interested in a class like this, or interested in some of these treasures, send me an email. Meanwhile I'll keep digging to see what else I've hidden from myself. I'm telling you, it really is like Christmas at my house.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

23 Days and Counting

Thanksgiving is a time of counting our blessings. Then December rolls in with a countdown of a different sort. 23 Days. I can say it out loud without panic in my voice. I've begun my shopping. I've begun my decorating. (There's a new snowman sitting on the front porch)
Of course I haven't bought my tree. And I haven't unpacked the holiday decorations from the attic. We've begun to rearrange the living room downstairs as well as the family room upstairs, both in anticipation of a tree. Not sure where it will go, or if we'll have 2 this year. One real, one artificial. The latter is assembled & sitting in my foyer. We considered putting it out on the front porch which is large enough to protect it from the weather, but the tree's far too large for that if we expect anyone to see the wreath on the door, or actually enter the door.

You know how getting something unexpected throughout the year makes you feel like it's Christmas? I love that feeling when we start pulling out our holiday stash. The cubby is probably 6' wide, 12' deep, and 4' tall, crammed from floor to ceiling and wall to wall with box after box of wreaths, ornaments, decorations, door mats, a huge sleigh and more. Each year we add to our collection so when we start opening boxes we've forgotten all the fabulous goodies that were tucked away the year before.
It may surprise people to know that I don't make my holiday cards. Never have, never will. I'm not a card-making person at heart though I will make sets of cards to give as gifts, complete with their own little portfolio holder. These are well received, particularly when they include birthday, get-well, thank you, and blank cards. Tucking in a book of stamps is a nice touch of course.
I'm planning just such an endeavor this year and I'm including the neighborhood kids. I'll assemble the portfolios that need only their artwork for the front cover, fold the cardstock for the actual cards, and then let the little ones decorate small works of art to adorn each card. It's a day of play for me and them, and it gives the parents a chance to shop or rest or vacuum while I'm entertaining the tots. Maybe you could do the same this year in your studio, store, or kitchen. Make sure you have a camera nearby to capture those hands covered in ink and paint and glue, and of course the smiles.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thankful on Thursday

I'm thankful today for several things, like the fact that I'm off on a little vacation jaunt to a warmer climate for a few days. I'm not packed. Big surprise there. And that's more of a challenge than you know. Looks like we're driving the Mini Cooper. Lots of fun for sure, but awfully small when you've got to fit 2 puppies and there's only room for one big crate. Then you've got to make room for a suitcase, so instead of laying out the clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc and selecting the suitcase to hold it all, you select the suitcase that will fit with the crate and then pack only what you can squeeze into it. Did I mention I love a challenge?
And if that's not enough, I'm reading another fabulous library book. And Clayton's reading the latest Dick Francis novel I bought ( in hardback of course as soon as it hit the stands), so that means 2 big, thick books. Plus I've got oodles of magazines and soft cover craft books that have arrived recently and haven't even been opened. Guess those won't make the cut.
It goes without saying that I've got to take my traveling art journal supplies which consist of watercolor pencils and a water reservoir brush, scissors & a glue stick, a black ink pad and just a few rubber stamps, my journal, and my supplies for my Thanksgiving cards.
My plan to make art last night never blossomed. Instead I had a lovely visit with each of my guests. When they left I finished the laundry and went to bed.

I don't have a technique to share today but I do have a tip. If you want to make a really simple card you'll need to get a dictionary and turn to the page with the words thank, thankful, thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Day, and thank you.

If you'll click on the photo above it will enlarge to full screen and you'll see those very words. I made 4 copies of the section of my dictionary that featured those words, did a cut & paste with 4 to a sheet and made my photocopies. Now it's a matter of trimming them down to size, adding a bit of color, a little clip art, and layering them onto colored cardstock. Then I'll mount that onto a postcard cut from white cardstock, address them, add my note to the back, and send them on their way.
If you don't want to make photocopies, simply type up the definition of any of these words and print them out to use on your cards. And if you don't want to mail them, but would rather use them as placecards on your table next week, that will also work. Print out the definitions, stamp or write boldly the person's name on each one, and sit them at each place setting. Why not take it one step further by giving everyone a pen? They can write what they're thankful for on the back of their placecard and you can save them for your journal.

I'm now on my third book by Lee Smith, and I'm so thankful to have discovered her at this point in my life. Weeks ago at the local library I found these printed sheets of suggested reading put together by staff members. Ms. Smith was on the list and so my journey began. Book #1, Fair and Tender Ladies, was written as letters authored by a young girl who ages throughout the book. I was so impressed that I bought a copy for my mother as a gift. The second book, The Last Girls, was even better and again told the stories of women through flashbacks to their college days. I laughed out loud often while reading that one and loved it so much I bought a copy for my best friend. I hope she's enjoying it as much as I did. And now this book, told as letters written in a young girl's diary, promises to be just as wonderful. So I owe a debt of gratitude to the staff of my library for steering me down this path of sheer joy.
In between these books I've read several mysteries, a saga spanning three generations of two families, and of all things, a Western. Two great joys of my life are reading and creating art and I look forward to many years of both to come.

One last suggestion would be to create a centerpiece for your table made only from things you gather in your yard. Magnolia leaves, clippings from an evergreen or two, and stems loaded with berries from your Nandinas or Holly bushes, mixed with a few colorful leaves are all you need. Don't take all the berries; the birds will need them later in the year.

With luck I'll post during my trip, maybe including a photo of that fully packed car! Stay safe, stay well, and always stay thankful.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thinking Out Loud

This morning I walked the puppies while it was still early and there was ice on everything. Standing around while they frolicked I heard what sounded like water running. But it was the sound of leaves falling through the trees, frozen, so that they made a loud noise as they fell. And watching them swirling on their way down to the ground was just the most mesmerizing sight. Isn't it funny how we take things for granted? Like those vibrant colors we see only once a year and the sounds around us?

Yesterday's snack was Jello and today I've had a cold, crisp apple that was just the perfect treat. Did I wish I had some caramel for dipping? Yes. That would've been nice. I've been hesitant to buy apples lately because the prices have risen so much and I finally decided they were never coming down, and clearly weren't going to be on sale, so I bit the bullet and paid too much. Probably made it all the sweeter.
Last night as the washer was making crashing, banging, horrible noises from the laundry room the phone was ringing. My ring, only answered by me. So as I'm trying to rearrange blankets and towels in the washer I'm hollering to my husband who'd loaded the washer to please answer my phone. It was my friend Barb calling from KY and as I'm rambling aloud about my laundry dilemma she asked if I knew who I was speaking to with a laugh in her voice. I didn't, but it didn't change the fact that I was happy to tell her about what I was doing when she called.
Three hours later I came back downstairs, still on the phone. I'd gone upstairs thinking I might accomplish something in the studio, but instead I enjoyed my phone call. I admit I did fast forward through 2 nights of Dancing With the Stars. Couldn't glean much except that cute little Julianne Hough and her partner Cody were sent packing last night. I'm sure there were things I could've been doing with that time, but instead I plopped right down in the family room, put my feet up (I was wearing some of my piggy socks) and enjoyed my conversation.
I'm not saying I'm old, but I can remember as a child we had a wall phone in the kitchen with a rotary dial and a very short cord. That was the only phone til my teenage years when I got one in my room up on the second floor. Back then if you got a call, my Mother (or someone) would lay the phone down on a stool and call your name. Now this was back in the day of the "party line", which now seems like such an unusual name for it. Sometimes you'd hear a click in the middle of your conversation, meaning a neighbor wanted to use the phone. Or sometimes I'd pick up the phone to dial and hear Mrs. Pilkington around the corner from our house, already in the middle of a conversation.

Phone calls didn't last three hours back then. You'd get tired of sitting on the stool, or Mother would decide if you had so much free time on your hands she could find you a chore. Or more often than not your friend invited you to her house down the street and 12 seconds after the call began you were out the door.
When I got my phone upstairs my Mother bought a gossip bench to sit it on. Ever seen one of those? There was a cushion to sit on but they were incredibly uncomfortable. So I got a long cord that allowed me to take the phone off the gossip bench and drag it over to the sofa (yes I had one of those in my room) or onto the bed. And a bad habit took hold.
When I get calls now I usually wander into the bedroom and stretch out, figuring I may as well be comfortable, because my calls always take a long time. The good news is we have 7 cordless phones scattered throughout the 3 floors of our house so I can walk and talk at the same time. No more being tied to a stool in the kitchen. Sheesh, we've surely got the good life now.
Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. A time to truly give thanks. Why not decorate a few blank cards with some of your artwork and write your friends and relatives, telling them exactly how thankful you are to have them in your life? I've got a couple of girls coming over tonight who missed stamp club last week, and I think while they're playing I'll create a few little works of art. Then I'll attach them to cards and while I'm enjoying a few days in FL I'll write out my thank you notes. (Note to self: decorate some envelopes and find addresses before closing the suitcase!)
Be inspired today to enjoy the little things in life. And give thanks for all the wonders around you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

37 Days!!!

Here I sat, minding my own business, enjoying a bowl of sugar free Cherry Jello, when I take a peek at a blog. And there it is, in bright flashing color, "37 Days Until Christmas". Have mercy. I very nearly strangled on my jello.
How is it possible? I'm not ready. I can't be ready. It just can't be done. But the holidays are coming whether I'm ready or not, so I may as well take a deep breath and believe it.
My inbox has been filled for the last week with emails from all the magazines, giving me ideas for Thanksgiving table settings, quick decorating ideas, recipes even I can follow. And yet I still didn't see it coming til that "37 Days" post. And you know I'm blonde, so I'm not at all embarrassed to tell you, I flipped the pages of my calendar and counted them off for myself. Well, I probably should be blushing to admit it, but I'm simply astonished. Picture me with my mouth wide open, eyes huge, suddenly mortified to think that I'm leaving on Friday morning for a trip to FL when I should be worrying about decorations and shopping and addressing cards and so much more! I may just have a headache, and I know it's not a sugar rush from that jello because it had no sugar.

This photo came today in an email, giving me ideas for quick and easy gifts. All I have to do is buy some clever jars, like apothocary jars with tight fitting lids. I can sprinkle in some beads or marbles or aquarium glass in the bottom, drop in a paper white bulb, seal the lid, add a ribbon, and voila! I've got a gift. The recipient simply adds water. Goodness, can it really be that easy?
We're discussing our holiday open house and whether we'll host one this year. (Keep in mind we had sheetrock repairs made throughout both the first and second floor over the weekend and now every single room has to be touched up with paint. Do we have the paint you ask? Nope.) The open house is looking doubtful. But aren't these little tin buckets just precious as party favors?

In my foyer we have the most unique, fabulous little chest that looks like a half-circle. The back is flat but the front is rounded, with 15 little pie-shaped drawers. The sight of this little chest with some of the drawers open, dangling ornaments and decorations just screamed at me to copy.

And how fabulous is this? A little greenery, a few bows, some tiny wrapped packages. I'm simply swooning over the simplicity of it all and wondering if I might have time to adapt just a few of these ideas in the next 37 days. Actually I've got to deduct a few for my upcoming trip, and then I'll need a few to rest. Oh, and a day at Mom's for turkey and the trimmings, and then a day to rest up from that.
Tick Tock. Yes, that's me you hear screaming...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What Makes You Happy?

Not everyone is happy on this day after the elections. But what does it take you make you happy, or to at least make you smile? Would a bouquet of flowers bring a little sunshine your way?
How about memories of playing with tinker toys as a child? I still remember my son playing with his just as I'd done with mine. We still have his toys like the Light Bright, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, etc, so his childhood is never far away in my mind.

Last week we had to bring our potted plants in for the winter. We'd spent the better part of an afternoon last year sifting through broken crockery my step-daughter had given us, and what fun we had decorating a really big terra cotta pot. Sitting in my kitchen now I love it, though my husband says he likes it better on the deck. Maybe I'll move it up to the studio to cheer me, but I'm also thinking about all those boxes and containers still filled with crockery that needs a new home. Maybe it's time to decorate more pots and a mirror.

I've still got my tiny paper parasol centerpiece displayed in the studio, though there's so much eye candy in the room that I doubt anyone else has even noticed it. But I see it everytime I'm in the room and it still makes me happy.

I've always loved little white houses with picket fences. But have you ever seen a sweeter fence than this? Sometimes it's the little things that can bring us joy.

Now that the temperatures have begun to cool, I've had 2 cups of hot chocolate. The first was on my flight home from Cleveland. The Southwest flight attendant asked if I wanted a beverage, and on a whim I asked if he had hot cocoa. Sure enough he did and I've gotta tell you, it was nothing short of divine. When I gave back my cup along with my compliments he simply beamed, saying he'd made it with his own two hands and several passengers around me gave him a cheer along with me.

It's time to shop for pansies, one of my favorite flowers, to fill my window boxes, and this year I'm adding a flowering cabbage in each one. Is there a chance they'll get too big? You'd better believe it. Is that going to stop me? Not on your life.

Last week I had an unexpected trip to the dentist. We'd bought a pound of salt water taffy at the state fair which is one of those annual treats at best. But since we'd skip the fair last year it had been a really long time since I'd had any. Wouldn't you just know it would pull out the only crown in my mouth? So there I sat last Tuesday, waiting for my dentist to work his magic and put it back in my mouth while I watched lots of little birds enjoying one of two birdfeeders he has positioned right outside the examination room window. Kudos to you and/or your staff Dr. S for thinking of it!!! It wasn't anything fancy like the ones shown in this photo, but it attracted the birds who put on quite a show for me and took my mind off my worries for a few minutes.

If you like to give gifts to the neighbors during the holidays, why not include some sidewalk chalk for the kids. Ask them to create something in your driveway or new brick walkway, or just let them put a hop-scotch grid in front of your house. Then grab a rock and join them for a bit of fun. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

When we go visit my mother I'm always drawn to her porch swing mounted under the carport out back. When we'd visit her mother's house as children we loved her swing too. We've had a free-standing swing for two with an awning for the last 10 years but recently took it down as it was truly showing its age. The closest thing I have now is a glider that we got from my in-laws last year when they had to move into an assisted living facility. It's not the same as a swing, yet sitting on the deck in that glider always brings a smile to my face.

Lots of craft shows are coming to our area in the next few weeks, trying to entice us to spend a bit on gifts for friends, relatives, and neighbors. Everytime I see a booth where they've taken old china cups & saucers, mounting them on spindles to create simple little bird feeders, I'm tempted to buy one for my flower beds. Do they go with the design of my house? Not in the least, and that's probably why I've resisted. But I'm thinking about all that crockery in the basement, both broken and still intact, and wondering if I can't make a bird feeder of my own.
Today I think we should all concentrate on our happiness, whether it's mailing a card with a handwritten note to a friend, planting a few pansies, digging through broken china, or reading a good book. Watch the first few minutes of The Bonnie Hunt Show; that's always good for a few laughs in my house. Ride by the local elementary school or childcare facility and watch the kids run around on the playground. Sip a cup of coffee or cocoa and admire the leaves in their autumnal splendor, or better yet, go out and rake them into a pile and then jump right in the middle of them! Pull out some inks & paints, rubber stamps & embellishments and make something joyful to keep for yourself or to give as a gift.
Whatever makes you happy should be your motivation today. I'm sipping my coffee and dreaming of hot chocolate, planning a trip to Home Depot for pansies and flowering cabbages. Look for me there, smiling.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I found this photo on flickr and couldn't resist posting it. Now how cute is that?
I'm worried, as I do every year, that we don't have enough candy. We do of course, but what if I were to run out? So I'm forced to go buy another bag today, hopefully Smarties, since they're my favorites. Once all the Butterfingers and 3 Muskateers are gone, I'll start with the Smarties. That way I'm guaranteed to have candy leftover that I actually like.
We never did carve a pumpkin this year, but I've got my electric pumpkin on legs that looks like a spider on the porch along a few other decorations. Our skeleton normally hangs on a spring from the gutter so that it dangles, bobs & weaves in the wind. Right now it's hanging from the porch light right in the middle where everyone's gonna hit it, so that will be remedied shortly.
Yesterday a tiny neighbor asked if I'd be giving away toys again this year along with the candy. Of course I said; are you coming over? Big grins, and oh yes followed in a high squeaky voice. Some of you know that I buy a kid's meal for lunch and save the toys all year long for Halloween. I pull out the big wicker trunk and let them rummage through, choosing their own treat. But this year I've had few lunches out and the toy chest is frightfully shallow. I hate the thought of disappointing my little ghouls and goblins. Last year I had a tiny tot arrive really early with Dad who said "my wife and daughter say you have toys and that you were to be our first stop". Very funny. So if you're eating lunch out for the next 12 months, consider a kid's meal and start saving your stash.
Mini Cooper and Mercedes, our new Scottie puppies, were spayed this morning. The vet called moments ago to say they're in recovery, side by side, so they'll awaken to see one another. Now how sweet is that? I must say, they're not Duffy, and we suspected as much. But I highly recommend buying 2 puppies instead of one. They entertain one another all day and all night and it's like watching kittens to see those little nuts together. Mercedes takes after me and would rather sleep than breathe. At any hour of the day or night you can put her on the couch and within seconds she literally collapses onto her side to snooze. Mini prefers never to sleep, always sitting up, or climbing over her sister, or biting her sister, or whatever is required to make her play. The vet is worried that they'll only want to sleep tonight and the doorbell might be bothersome, so maybe I'll send them to the second floor family room with dad since you can't hear the bell up there.
Which reminds me. When we bought our house 6 years ago the second floor was completely unfinished. Within 6 months it was complete but we never thought about the doorbell. And here we are, 6 years later, and I continue to forget. Need to put that on the honey-do list.
November is blogging month and I've been challenged to post every single day. I'm wondering if I'm up to the challenge, but thinking I might give it a try. It may be ramblings and photos rather than crafting, but we'll see. I've already got a few ideas and can't wait for tomorrow.
I'm glad the weather's mild so my little trick-or-treaters will be out and about. Gotta get the camera ready because I tell you, some of them are just too precious. Did I mention this is my absolute FAVORITE holiday of the year? Love, love, love it. Gotta look for another bag of candy corn today. The 2 bags I bought went pretty fast and the 2 I got for my birthday went even faster.
Tomorrow is a big day with places to go and people to see. One of my candidates is in town and I've got my tickets and can't wait to stand in line for a few hours. But first there's a baby I've got to go see. It's the first of the month which means new magazines on the shelves so a trip to the bookstores is on my to-do list as well.
And may I just say, if you love a good read, I can't say enough incredible things about The Last Girls by Lee Smith. I thought her book Fair and Tender Ladies was as good as it gets, but the second one was even better. Now I can't wait to get back to the library and check out another...and another...and another.
Better start my to-do list now. Come back tomorrow, won't you?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Technique Thursday: Paper Beads

Let's face it, when you've been playing with paper and stamps for 28 years, you're bound to see things come and go. Paper beads are a perfect example. I've been making these for years out of paper, fabric, tyvek, and even branched out to pasta for a class in my studio 5 years ago that I called Bodacious Beads. Oh the fun we had! It was one of the largest studio classes I'd taught at the time and there was fun and chaos and creativity and laughter for hours on end as the ladies scurried around from one station to the next.
Now they're making a comeback in magazines and even in books. If you've reached that age where a pair of reading glasses is hanging around your neck, why not wrap some of your handmade beads on the lanyard and dress it up a bit?
Today I'm sharing just the basics with you, but you'll find oodles of possibilities once you get started.

If you've been trying your hand at my background assignment, surely you've had a large piece of scrap paper on your work surface. The above photo shows a couple of the pieces I had from 2 different work tables. First look at the bottom piece that has lots of white still visible. Now look at the top sheet. It began much the same so I simply used my stylus tool tips and sponges already inked to fill in as much of the white as possible. Then I took one of stamps made with Penscore, inked it with Wild Plum and overstamped, giving it even more personality.

Can you see the difference in the two backgrounds? I even used a foam stamp of a swirl and some green ink to add a bit more pizazz. Once these are cut, it's the overall look you're going to see, no matter what the original looked like, so keep all those scraps! Here I'm cutting 2 strips that measure 3/4" x 3". These rectangles will create tube beads, meaning their diameter will be the same from end to end. Yours came be any size you like; it isn't necessary that they match mine. I used a heavyweight white paper, almost cardstock weight for my tabletop, but beads can even be made out of phone book pages. It's the final sealant that determines the sturdiness of your bead.

This photo shows 3 triangles I cut from the same scraps. Now I'm taking these hurriedly with my cell phone, so pay less attention to my lack of focus and more to the overall appearance of the paper itself. The triangle on the left really showcases the Penscore stamped image over the mottled background colors. But the triangle on the right just happened to be a section that had lots of color from all my play on backgrounds.

Above you'll see I'm rolling one of the rectangles onto a bamboo skewer. You don't need any glue as you begin your bead. Instead concentrate on keeping the paper tight as you roll.

Now I'm applying my adhesive (Weldbond dries clear in case any squishes out at the edges and holds beautifully). I only need the glue for the last inch of the paper strip to guarantee that it holds tight.

And here's the finished tube bead. When I started my paper, I chose the end with the pattern I liked least, knowing that only a fraction of the strip will show when it's done, and I wanted the prettiest end to be showcased. I'm using a bamboo skewer because it was handy but also because I like the size opening it creates for me. Now I'll be able to thread these beads onto ribbon or fibers or cording. You can also wrap your beads around the handle of a paintbrush, around a toothpick, or even a chopstick if you need a larger center. The larger the center hole, the longer your strip should be.

Remember the 3 triangles? These barrel beads are from those 3 pieces. They're called barrel beads because they're fatter in the center. Begin wrapping your triangle with the widest end first. The narrow tip of the paper will be the final overlap, creating the thick center and the more narrow edges.

Here's the skewer with the tube beads on either end and the barrel beads in the center. You'll always see more of your pattern on a tube bead, but barrel beads give you more variety on your color palette.

At this stage you'll want to seal your beads. For this you can use almost anything. Diamond Glaze, Crystal Lacquer, Glossy Accents, Matte Accents, Mod Podge, even clear nail polish will work. Just brush it on all the way around. I let the ends of my skewer rest on the edges of a bowl, while the beads are suspended in the center in case any sealant drips.
If you want the ends of your beads to appear more finished you have 2 options. First, ink the edges of your strips and triangles before you wrap them around the skewer. You can even use a Krylon leafing pen in gold or silver for a more defined edge. That's a great look, particularly on the barrel beads. If you've failed to do it before wrapping, simply press the ends of your beads onto your ink pad, or sponge on a bit of ink or paint after they're wrapped but before they're sealed.
Want a little more bling? Add metallic threads. Try embossing powder in a holographic finish and a clear embossing ink that still lets the original colors & patterns shine through when heated. Run a line of Stickles or glitter glue around the bead. Wrap them with wire and string on a few seed beads for accents.
Fabric beads are made the very same way. Create some backgrounds on a scrap piece of muslin just as you would on paper. Then cut, roll, decorate and seal.
Make yourself a necklace. Dangle matching beads from a book or card you've made with the original background papers. Dangle some from a bookmark made with your papers.
Go on...go make a bead...or 2...or 10. Be a kid again and play for the sheer joy of it!