Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rain, Rain Go Away

It's overcast today and I'm determined not to let that dampen my spirits. I'm in the studio and the dark purple walls are more prominent today than the bright yellow. Funny how I've never noticed that before; I'm always drawn into this room by the cheery feel. So I decided to share some photos of parasols in bright, cheery colors to brighten my mood and yours.
We watched the Biography channel this morning featuring Ben & Jerry. Several years ago we drove through 13 states in 12 days, on our way to and from the British Invasion, a sports car show in Stowe, VT. And we had the chance to visit Ben & Jerry's, taking the tour of the facility, sampling their ice cream. You move from room to room, and suddenly they're bringing out cafeteria trays filled with little paper cups of ice cream. First one flavor, then another, and another. And you don't leave the room til it's all eaten. No kidding! There are more tour groups following along behind you, so there's a sense of urgency to gobble up more than one cup of a flavor so the next group can experience this little bit of heaven for themselves. Turns out Ben & Jerry don't even own it anymore. Didn't own it when we were there. Can you imagine that a conglomorate owns your name, your face, your business?
My name is getting out there more and more, in new and exciting ways, and I'm slowly adjusting to the idea of it. Hancock Fabrics bought our unfinished wooden bangle bracelets and I was asked to design a technique using a product that would be found in their stores to help promote the sale of the bangles. So I did just that last summer, wrapping them with fibers and ribbons. And we printed a full-color tri-fold brochure that's available in the stores, giving you photos and step-by-step instructions on how to make them yourself. The first time I saw the brochure with my name featured prominently on the front, I was overwhelmed. Designer: Linda Crofton. Wow. Today we got a sales flier in the paper from Hancock Fabrics and now I'm thinking I'll be forced to find a local store and pay them a visit. Just to see if the bangles are on display along with my brochures. Pinch me. I must be dreaming.
I've got 17 project sheets still to do. The bangles were decorated a year ago and it's past time for me to get the project sheets completed so that more brochures can be sent off to the printers. It's an amazing time in my life. I'm having fun, just like I've always done. I get to continue teaching, which will always be my first love. But I'm branching out into new arenas, and with every day I continue to count my blessings.
So forget the clouds that loom overhead, casting shadows on your long weekend. I've been collecting paper parasols (the tiny ones) for years, not really sure what I wanted to do with them, just knowing I adored those bright, cheerful little umbrellas. Today I've decided to pull them out of the drawers and make a centerpiece for my studio. For those of you local ladies who come to the studio each month for stamp club, you have something to look foward to in September!
But that reminded me that I have a rubber stamp of parasols. So today I'll be designing a new bangle, using a fabulous background technique, or two, or three, and stamping them with the parasols. I'm off to have a few hours of fun. Wish you were here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Eating lunch really late today and trying to type between bites...I don't recommend it. Remember a few posts back when I talked about my koosh ball? I'm still tossing it around in my car, still taking time to enjoy the simple things in life. Ahh, if only life were really that simple.
Haven't mentioned it but we've bought 2 Scottie puppies about 10 days ago, and I've really had my hands full this week. My husband's out of town so juggling two 13-week old puppies after a long hard day makes for a long hard night.
Most of you may know that we have a collection of cars. We've got two little 2-seater convertibles in the basement garage that are never driven, but it doesn't mean they aren't loved. It's sort of like those thousands of rubber stamps I own that are never inked and stamped anymore, but they're no less loved than the day they were purchased. So we named the puppies, both girls, Mercedes after one of those cars and Mini (as in the Mini Cooper S he drives daily). I pitched Lucy and Ethel but that suggestion was quickly nixed. Fine by me; they don't answer to their names anyway. And mostly I call them Peanut and Baby, which isn't helping with the name recognition I'm sure. I'll add that to my To-Do list and worry about it another day.

Speaking of To-Do lists, do you have one? Do you write down your dreams and goals? I've been told that successful people put theirs in writing and that it helps them to attain what they're after in life. I make lists...on envelopes and scraps of paper...and then I can never find them. So I'm determined to start a new journal for this express purpose. Think of all the classes I've taught over the years, creating journals and books. Surely there's one that will be perfect for this monumental task. Of course it's going to include things most people would never put on a list.

Think about costumes for the puppies; Halloween is just around the corner.

Buy a bouquet of fresh flowers; guess that means I should visit the Farmer's Market.

Unpack my suitcases from Stampaway, or at least carry them up to the studio. Of course in a couple of weeks I'll be repacking for my classes in Cleveland...

I'm a firm believer that laughter will get you through anything, and love will take you every step of the way with a smile on your face. And if you can find a few minutes, or hours, or days to play with inks and paints and create a little art, all the better.

Count your blessings. Sing, or at least hum. Paint your toenails red. Squeeze a puppy. Life is good.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Inspiration & Friendship

MaryJo McGraw has been my mentor for so many years and I'm sure I've never thanked her properly for all her guidance, advice, inspiration, and of course her talent and friendship. She told me this year would be her last Stampaway but now she's decided to come back next year and I couldn't be more pleased. If you've never had the chance to meet her or take a class, mark your calendar now for a visit to Cincinnati next August!
Over the years I always tell my students that if they aren't taking advantage of exhanging information with the people around them in classes they're missing a HUGE opportunity. Lori (seated on the left here in the black top) received one of my masterpieces years ago in an internet swap and I can't begin to tell you the fun we've had via email as well as our annual "vacation" together at Stampaway. She emailed when she got that first swap asking what the technique was, and wondering if I'd be willing to tell her how to duplicate it. I sent her step-by-step pieces of art plus extras so she could try it herself. She took it to her local store where they begged her to teach a class on it, and she was simply over the moon. We've been friends for such a long time now and have shared some fabulous art & ideas with one another. If you've visited my studio I don't have to tell you how many of her pieces are on display there.
Seated next to Lori on the left are Gail and Sharon, two local gals I met at a NC convention several years ago. They're not only friends and members of my stamp club, but they're always willing to be my guinea pigs. Across from Sharon is her friend, and now mine, Lynda. She's joined our stamp club, plays guinea pig whenever I need her, and even works on my website. (yes, I know; it needs updating big time!)
And sitting beside me on the right is Cecile, a friend I met at Stampaway. She's been in my classes there since the very first year and comes back every year for more. Her art and talent are simply amazing.
Next time you take a class at a store or convention, give your business card or contact information to the ladies sitting nearby. Strike up a conversation and see where it leads.
Plant a few flowers and watch your garden grow.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Playing Catch Up: STARS

Once again I'm eating lunch and trying to update my blog. My stamp club, STARS, met last week at the home of Laurie, a founding member who was gracious enough to open her doors when my front walk became a gigantic hole. (It's now filled with decomposed granite that was dumped yesterday; they brought more than 2ce what we needed, so before you see the filled hole, you see this huge pile sitting on my very expensive sod!)
Michele, Sharon, and Joyce brought their finished techniques and I've included just a few photos. Michele & Sharon both put their techniques in the provided tin, which is exactly what I used for the Stampaway class. I tried to take a few close up shots of certain techniques because as I've said everytime I've taught this class over the last 5 years, the backgrounds don't really look like much until you stamp an image using black ink. And boy, aren't they something!
All the club members were impressed with the accordian pages that dropped out, and loved the fact that there were finished works of art on both sides on the pages. Don't you just love this?
The photo above shows one of my newest, and now favorite techniques. And Joyce forgive me, but this has to be said. At the end of the guinea pig class she tossed her pieces into my trash, thinking they weren't so special. But once she saw the transformation take place when stamped, she dug them back out, used my stamps, and loved the end result.
I'm so fortunate to know all these gals, but more importantly to have them sign up to be my guinea pigs. Whatever would I do without them?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Night Preview Party at Stampaway 2008

That's water I'm drinking by the way. Meet Don, owner of Rubber Stamp Tapestry along with his wife Susan. Don won the contest for best pajamas. Was there any question?
Judi of JudiKins was simply precious with her hair up in curlers, and those pink socks really finished off the look.
Greg of Marco's Paper is always a good sport, and this year was no exception. If I had to wear that face cream at night I'd learn to live with wrinkles.

My thanks to Lynda for taking the photos while in the midst of her allergic reaction. She was covered in hives and by this time her hands were so red and swollen she'd taken off her rings.
Stampaway is the only convention I've ever attended where you're not only entertained by the costumes, but you're also fed like royalty. This year they had the carving station (the turkey was divine!), hot chicken strips fried to perfection, my annual favorite, the potato bar which included all the toppings of your dreams (I stuck to the shredded cheddar cheese), the fruit & cheese table, and of course the desserts. Connie, once again you've really outdone yourself.
Since I taught 2 classes back-to-back on Friday there was no time to eat, so this little feast was exactly what I needed. The fact that I got to sit with Lynda, Tammy, and Gary Burlin was a real treat. And Tammy introduced me to Gaye Medbury, who'd been asking for an introduction. Nice meeting another instructor.
My first stop of the night was the Artful Illusions booth, and of course I had to go back on Saturday for a few more goodies. Don't know how I missed the Eclectic Marketplace last year, but I made up for it this year, coming home with fabulous vintage photographs. I'll be sure to post those for your viewing pleasure over the weekend, assuming I can figure out the new scanner.
Invoke Arts was all abuzz again this year. It was lovely to see Kate & Bob again, but I sure missed Matt. And this was the first time in year's that I didn't demo for them all day on Saturday, so my regrets to everyone who came by looking for me. A girl needs a day off once in a while!!
Thanks again to all my friends, both old and new, who continue to make this convention so rewarding for me. I had more fun than anyone, even without my voice, so thanks for the memories. Photos of the classes will be posted this weekend, so please check back.

When it rains, it pours!

Okay, this isn't really my front yard, but I wanted you to get a feel for what I'm about to tell you.
While I was in Cincinnati last week teaching at Stampaway, my husband decided to dig up my sidewalk, remove my front step, and redesign a new brick walkway with borders along either side of the drive. He worked 3 long days last week and I returned home on Sunday to find a hole 6'x6'x3' where my front walk used to be. No way to get to the front porch at all, though the UPS man managed to toss a box up on the porch from the middle of the yard on Tuesday. Don't ask me...
Today a crew arrived and dug for 8 hours, giving me a hole that measures 9'x9'x5'. And you guessed it...the bottom just fell out of the sky, accompanied by thunder and lightning, chasing away the workers. Poor Clayton tried to put the wheelbarrow in the hole to catch the rain, except that there's a hole in the bottom of the wheelbarrow. Not that it could've possibly caught enough to make a difference anyway.
So all that toil and trouble today has come to a stop. They say they'll be back tomorrow, but you can't install the new french drains and walkway if the ground is wet.
Oh woe is me. Do you think this project might be finished in time for the trick-or-treaters?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Often Wrong, But Seldom Unsure

I'm determined to have a rubber stamp made that says "often wrong, but seldom unsure" because that's me through and through. My doctor is sure my allergies can be tamed with the help of another round of stronger antibiotics, and I'm equally sure I'd be building up a resistance to yet another that I might need one of these days for something else. So I've been hesitant to have it filled and here I sit, eating lunch, and wondering what I really sounded like 8 months ago when I had my own voice. I can tell you that I've sounded like a totally different person for the last seven, and I'm beyond ready to be my old self again.
My trip to Cincinnati for Stampaway was another fun-filled adventure. I had several episodes that required my inhaler, went through lots of mentholated cough drops, and can't imagine how I'd ever have gotten any sleep without that prescription cough syrup.
The fact that we were up most nights past 2am laughing (with me coughing) certainly didn't help. But when you see friends only once a year, you learn to roll with the punches. I did lots of rolling let me tell you.
Now this is no reflection on the convention itself, which was great, or on my three classes (two of which were sold out weeks before they were held), which were FABULOUS!, but my favorite part of the entire 5 day trip was our ladies lunch out on Saturday. Could I have stayed longer at the convention center shopping and visiting? Most certainly! But that 4 hour lunch sitting on the patio under umbrellas at The Grand Finale was exactly what I needed. Lori, Michelle, Ann and I told stories, compared notes, and mostly laughed away the hours. No kidding, the dinner crowd had already filled the front room when we left at dinnertime. Where did the time go?
And another eye-opener for me: On Friday nights it's our tradition to spend the late night/early morning hours in Michelle's suite, doing our show & tell of what we bought at the preview party. As Michelle pulled out her altered book purchased at Artful Illusions with the number 3 on the cover, I pulled out the identical book with the number 4! When she pulled out metal tags she'd purchased at the Eclectic Marketplace with the number 3, I pulled out my tags with the number 4. Who knew? We'd all bought lots of similar and identical items and as the evening wore on, notes were made, creating our shopping list for Saturday. Michelle loved the stamps I'd gotten at Invoke Arts and had to go get them for herself the next day. Lori loved the goodies we'd found like vintage photos, game boards, and ephemera and had missed that booth completely so of course she had to go find them.
Regrets? Sure, I have a few. Lynda had an allergic reaction to her antibiotics and spent Saturday morning at an Urgent Care, then slept the rest of the day and night away so Friday night was her only chance to shop. I wish she'd been well enough to enjoy her first Stampaway completely. Lori and I managed to eat at Panera (love that strawberry poppyseed salad), at CiCi's Pizza, at Chick-fil-A, and at Cracker Barrell, but we never made it to our favorite...Penn Station for a sub and cup of fries. We could've had lunch there after shopping at Stamp Your Art Out Sunday morning but we used restraint and went right to the airport. I couldn't find Connie to say goodbye. Only saw Karen a few minutes other than when she helped me during my techniques class. You know there are just too many to name, but if I didn't see you, or we had less time than normal, know it was because I was under the weather and just not up to my usual social calendar of events.
I did take lots of photos but I haven't figured out how to get them out of the camera yet and onto my computer. Postings will be forthcoming so check back!
And if Stampaway hasn't been on your calendar in the past, make sure you add it to your 2009 calendar!!

Tonight while the laundry is going and the dishwasher is running, I plan to be soaking in my garden tub, reading my new book, and resting my voice. Rubber duckies here I come!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Life in the Fast Lane

Do you ever feel like your life is a roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns, with squeals of laughter and shortness of breath? If so, then you know how I feel every day. I've got a sign that reads "I live the way I with lots of mistakes", and that could've been written just for me.
It seems like I've been somewhere every month this year, so no sooner than I return home, it's time to pack and fly out again. I worked til the wee hours for days on end preparing for CHA, and came home thinking I'd have 2 weeks to prepare for Stampaway. Instead I've had this allergy attack and sinus infection that's knocked me out of commission, so now I'm back up and running, racing against the clock. My roller coaster has me spinning and twisting, laughing and gasping, but enjoying every single minute of the ride.
This weekend amidst the inking & stamping, packing & sorting, I took a little time for myself. Friday night is always date night and we went to the movies to see Wall-E. That's right, two middle-aged people joined the families and laughed our way through a truly delightful two hours. I loved the movie and identified with Wall-E and his collection of beloved possessions.
I have lots of treasures, including 3 Koosh balls sitting on a shelf in my studio. But today I'm pulling 2 off the shelf so I can actually play with them. One is going in the car to toss from hand to hand while I'm stuck in traffic or in my many slow moving drive-thru lanes. And the other is going in my carry-on bag to help pass those long waits in airport terminals. Just think how envious everyone will be of my entertaining little toy!
For years I collected music boxes and then gave away all but 2 tiny ones that I bought on my first trip to England 25 years ago. All the mechanics are housed inside tiny little matchboxes except the crank handle. So I'm pulling those out of the drawer and placing one on the nightstand in the front guestroom and the other in my purse. When I just need to take a few minutes and catch my breath, I'll crank away, playing London Bridge is Falling Down as fast or as slow as I please, to ground me and remind me that I'm still a kid who's easily entertained by the simple things in life.
On Saturday night after watching a late movie on TV we went out onto the second floor deck of our house and spent some time on the glider, just enjoying the coolness of the night. (Does 2am on Sunday morning still count as Saturday night if you haven't gone to bed?) Duffy, our little Scottie, sat between us, and it's one of those moments I'd love to put in a time capsule. His tumors are back, just as the vets predicted. They promised us 2-3 months after his chemo in early June and it looks like August is going to be a heartbreaking month for us.

I hope you'll think about the things in life that you treasure and take the time to enjoy them. Watch the neighborhood kids laughing and playing; pull out the good china & use it for a week or two; sit outside late at night and listen to the frogs while gazing at the stars; try to remember your first bike with training wheels and how exhilirating it was to feel like you could conquer the world. And picture me, playing with my music box, my Koosh ball, and my little dog.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Allergies One; Linda Zero

After all that late night fun in Chicago, I caught a bug of some sort on the flight home. Just some tiny little something that triggered my allergies and sent me into a full blown sinus infection. I've been home sick, taking antibiotics, croaking like a frog, wondering if I'll ever get my voice back, coughing and sneezing and sleeping 17 hours a day. Thank goodness for that divine California King with the pillow-top mattress!!

I did find time to squeeze in a guinea pig class day, testing my Stampaway classes on the local ladies. And ladies, I do apologize for my appearance and symptoms of this allergy mayhem. But I think it's safe to say we had a good deal of fun. I'm posting photos from the Specimen Box Grungeboard Collages. Hope you enjoy them!