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.