Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Two Last Projects

Sometime last fall, I was inspired to create the "BeYou-tiful" sign, above.  It's not a completely original idea, as I saw the word spelled this way and being sold as a wall plaque in a catalog, but it was all written in plain black text.  Around the same time, I saw a birthday card with the word YOU on the cover, decorated and adorned with other descriptive words as it is here.  I decided to combine the two into an inspirational message for my daughters.  I think the bathroom might be a good place to hang it, but I'll have to find a place where it will stay dry!  I originally used colored fabric markers to write the words inside the word YOU, but then went back and stitched them all by hand.  It took a little longer, but I think it was worth the trouble.  Here is a close up so you can see a little more detail:

It turns out that exploring the use of text in my art was one of my goals for 2013, so I managed to achieve that one just in time!

Continuing along those lines, I also made the wooden plaque, below.  If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that this summer, we reclaimed some wasted space in the backyard and created a lovely shade garden.  I've seen plaques like this on the web and in catalogs, but when I wanted to buy one, I couldn't find one I liked.  Since I'd been thinking about getting a wood-burning tool, I decided to pick one up and make my own garden sign.  This tool is made by Walnut Hollow and comes with many different tips for creating all kinds of burned wood art.  Of course, it takes practice, and practice takes time (which I never seem to have enough of) so I don't know if I'll ever get good at it, but at least I can do rudimentary projects like this.  I need to coat it with some kind of preservative before I place it somewhere in the new garden, probably where it can be seen from one of the seats.

As we end the old year and begin the new, it's time to think about the direction we're headed.  Among my Christmas gifts this year were some books on art journaling.  In the first one, Art Journaling for Beginners by Rachel Ramey, she defines an art journal as "a journal that incorporates both words (journaling, writing) and images."  Since that's something I've been wanting to do more of, maybe practicing in a personal journal is the way to start.  I can make all the mistakes I want, and I don't have to share it with anyone!  For the last two days, I've doodled a little in the journal in the photo, using my new Inkjoy pens.  I'm not used to having a journal with me all the time and one of my excuses for not journaling has been that it's downstairs while I'm upstairs or vice versa.  Maybe I'll have two or three of them - upstairs, downstairs, and one in the car for waiting at appointments!  Now I just have to work it into my schedule somewhere (first thing in the morning?  last thing before bed?).  After I get warmed up bit and begin making it a habit, I hope to try some of the ideas in Pam Carriker's Creating Art at the Speed of Life, the other book I got.

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thankful Thursday, Christmas Edition

This is a good time of year to stop and recognize the abundance we live with on a daily basis.  Today I am most particularly thankful for the leisure time I've been spending at home the last couple of days.  In the mad race to get everything done before the big day, it's been almost hard for me to slow down and savor quiet moments alone or with the immediate family (or the dog!).  And now that I've had some quiet and rest, I hope I can get my momentum going again when I'll need to (tomorrow!).  I'm also grateful for my husband, his job and salary which enables us to have this lifestyle, and the vacaton time he's been able to take this week.   He's been a huge help driving the girls around, shopping, wrapping, helping with cooking and clean up.  And he's always in a merry mood too!  Finally, I'm grateful for the gift of faith which is reborn at Christmas.  I pray that I'm passing it on to my children and they will find it of value throughout their lives.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Contentment

The busyness of the Christmas season is winding down.  Most of the planning, shopping, baking, decorating, and wrapping is done.  We went to an early vigil mass this evening and sang all the old familiar Christmas carols, then came home to a decadent seafood dinner with shrimp cocktail, crab legs, and lobster tails.  After dinner, we glanced outside and were surprised to see a picturesque dusting of powdery snow.  How perfect!

After I finish this post, I'll probably settle down to finish one of my all-time favorite Christmas books, How Far to Bethlehem by Nora Lofts.  I began rereading it last week, when I began to feel the stress and pressure so common at this time of year.  I was definitely in a bah-humbug mood, and not getting more than a fleeting glimpse of that Christmas cheer we all try to feel.  But this book has gotten me back on track and truly reliving the birth of Christ and the real reason for the season.

It is the Christmas story, retold from the points of view of many of the people involved, beginning with Mary and including Joseph, Elizabeth, Melchior, Gaspar, Balthazar, the innkeeper and his wife, Herod, and a shepherd.  Each character is portrayed in such a realistic way that it's easy to grasp the true human difficulties and challenges they faced.  Joseph finds his faith tested again and again, as he realizes that God is giving him spiritual guidance, but it is up to him to take action and follow that guidance.  The story of Balthazar, who is portrayed here as a runaway slave, is particularly moving, as is the story of a shepherd, Josodad, who is struggling to get over the death of his own son on a cross and is about to commit suicide, when he sees the angels singing of God's glory, and his son among them.  The book was published in 1965 but has been recently reprinted.  I have always wondered if anyone else has ever read this book and found it as moving as I have.  I was pleased to see many people felt the same way about it, according to the reviews on  

I am looking forward to my long winter's nap (after I stuff the stockings) and a sleepy, quiet, happy Christmas day tomorrow.  Hope yours is happy too!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Quickie Cards

Last week I needed a few more Christmas cards, so I whipped these up from some fabric, paper and ribbon scraps I had in my stash.  Every year I have so much fun doing Christmas crafts that I plan to continue making things into January to save for next year.  But then Christmas comes and goes, and January arrives, and it's out with the old, in with the new, and I never get around to it.  Maybe this year...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

...well, you know how the song goes!  We got a nice blanket of snow this week, so it's looking like Christmas outside, and we finally got to some of the decorating indoors too.  We put up the tree, and, for the first time, we put up this miniature Christmas village.  I inherited all these lovely houses and accessories from my parents.  It came complete with the snowy blanket, houses, lights, mirrored ice skating pond, and little figurines, so it was fun and easy to put together.  Here are a few close-ups:

The "downtown" area, with some stores, a central park, and gazebo...

...the skating pond with a bridge,

...and beyond the bridge, some victorian homes near the church on the hill.

Here is another shot of some of the stores and the gazebo.  I actually remember buying several of the buildings (the toy store & other shops here as well as some of the victorian homes) unpainted at a local craft store and painting them myself a long time ago, I think before I was married.  They don't look too shabby, even next to the store-bought models.

Hope it's looking like Christmas by you too!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Craft Sale Pix

I finally made it down to the Putnam Arts Council holiday craft sale this afternoon to see all the beautiful artsy gifts available this year.  There's always a great assortment and this year is no different - as you can see above, handmade wire jewelry, hand thrown ceramics, even handmade journal books this year!  Notice at the top the basket with the antler handle.

There were some beautiful art cloth pillows and some wooden signs with cute quips and quotes like "Simplify" and "To thine own self be true."

 My bracelets were along this wall with some ceramic bowls, dog biscuit ornaments, and blown glass baubles.

Here is a closer shot of the display.  Look - two of the eight bracelets sold!  Maybe I'll bring over a couple more, and a few more necklaces and earrings too!

 Here are a few more shots of some of the beautiful gifts for sale - if you're local, check it out Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 pm!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Sale

I'm happy to announce that some of my charm bracelets will be included at the Putnam Arts Council's annual holiday craft sale!  If you're local, stop by to see all the beautiful gifts and support local artists!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mindful on Monday

Last week I brought eight mixed-media charm bracelets over to the Putnam Arts Council for their annual holiday sale.  I'm thrilled that I'm able to participate, and hoping many of them sell.  The bracelets I brought over had various themes, including Christmas, winter, and what I call my "Bohemian Blue," one of my favorites (see them all by clicking here).  I pretty much sent over my entire inventory (I do have a few still at home) but it's in the back of my mind that they'll call me in a couple of weeks asking if I have anything else (wishful thinking, I know, but I want to be prepared!).  So I've been back in my craft space again, trying to knock out some additional bracelets of various themes, and hence the mess pictured above!  I also have a sewing project not quite completed, and some presents that need to be wrapped and shipped, so I feel a bit like one of Santa's elves at this time of year:  busy, busy, busy!

Even so, I took advantage of the milder weather yestereday and hung the pine garland and lights around our door and down the wrought iron railing.  I was glad to have that much accomplished, and felt pretty chilled afterwards (even though temps were in the 40s rather than the 20s)...

,,, so I rewarded myself and warmed up by finishing off the last piece of cheesecake left over from Thanksgiving!

I used my mother-in-law's "killer cheesecake" recipe, which was scrumptious - creamy and rich!  The springform pan I have is 13", so it takes a lot of cream cheese to fill, and this recipe didn't let me down (it calls for 16 oz of sour cream and a cup of heavy cream as well - no wonder she calls it "killer"!).

So on this "cyber Monday," I'm mindful once again of balance - keeping busy but not overdoing it, enjoying guilty pleasures after some outdoor activity, taking things one day at a time and trying to stay in the moment...

What are you mindful of today?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Thursday!

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you are all spending the day with family and loved ones, indulging in turkey with all the trimmings.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, most especially because all Americans celebrate it together, and because it is so important to stop and appreciate our many blessings (not to mention all the great food, especially the pies!).

Today I'm feeling grateful for the basics, things like plentiful food in the fridge, a warm, comfortable home, and good health for myself and my family.  My husband is also at the top of the list again, as well as his job, which enables us to live the life we do.  

I hope you are healthy, loved, and blessed too!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Look-ee what I made!

A couple of years ago, my DH asked me to look around for a piece of jewelry he could wear with the symbol of St. Joseph, which looks like this:

I went to several local silver jewelry shops, searched online, and even contacted some silver jewelers on Etsy, but was unable to find anything remotely similar, or someone who'd be willing to custom make one for me at a price that wasn't outrageous.  

When I decided to test out my silver art clay kit, I thought I might attempt to make one myself.  After watching the video, I realized this was probably a challenging first project, but decided to go ahead and give it a shot anyway.  And look how it turned out!

I'm quite pleased with the results!  The clay is easy to use, but it dries out very quickly, especially this time of year when the humidity in the house is low.  I managed to make it in stages, first the background shield shape, then the carpenter's square, then the lilies, and just moistened the clay to get the pieces to stick, like you would with pottery clay.  The flowers were the most challenging, and came out a little rougher than I would've liked.  I smoothed them as best I could with the files that were in the kit, and I have to say, it's not perfect, but it's not half bad!   Using the butane torch was actually pretty easy as well - I followed the directions and it all worked!  When the substrate burns off, it leaves a piece that's 99.9% pure silver - pretty nice for a kit that only cost about $100.  And I only used about half the clay.  I think I may try to make a silicone mold of this so if I ever want to make another one, it will be just a matter of pressing the clay into the mold.  I may also antique this piece with liver of sulpher so it looks a little more aged.  I think it will make a nice Christmas gift for him, no?  What will I make next, something for myself or for the girls?  Hmmm...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thankful Thursday

On this very chilly Thursday morning, I find myself being thankful for the little things...

Toasty flannel sheets in warm autumn colors,

... the sun sparkling off the lake...

...a day off from work, with no appointments scheduled (not one!).  I have five whole hours alone in the house to do whatever I choose (and it won't be cooking, cleaning, or grocery shopping!).

I made myself a nice hot breakfast and now I'm going to head down to my creative space to while away the time.  Since my last post, I've found enough inspiration to create these little gift tags/ornaments, like the ones in the Quilting Arts Gifts challenge (see this post for more info).  They're quick and fun!  I get to play with a lot of stuff in my stash and they do double duty as a gift tag and a tree ornament.

As soon as I finish this post, I plan on getting to one of my goals for the year which was to try out my silver art clay kit, which was my big Christmas gift last year!  Yesterday I finally picked up the butane you need to fire the torch, I watched the included DVD last night, and now I'm ready to go! 
What are you feeling thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Slumpity Slump

It's been over a week since my last blog post, but I can't say it's because I've been excessively busy.  I'm not sure what's going on - I guess I'm in a bit of a slump, missing the warm weather and the garden, and giving in to the need to be lazy.  Maybe I'm just feeling my age (say it isn't so!) or I'm frozen like a deer in headlights with the approaching holidays speeding towards me.  Whatever it is, I'm hoping it will soon pass and I'll be back to my creative, energetic self.

When I get like this, I'm not drawn to TV or other electronic entertainment - I read.  And just like an alcoholic cannot stop until he's drunk, I can't stop until the book is finished or I can't keep my eyes open - whichever comes first!  During the months of August, September, and October, I read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (there are 7 books so far, the first of which is being made into a series on Starz which will air this winter!  The 8th book comes out next March).  When I finished those, I picked up a few odds & ends, including Dan Brown's latest, Inferno, which takes place in Florence.  It's another fast-paced scavenger-hunt type of book, with the main character, Robert Langdon, going from one famous locale to another.   Reliving our visit to Florence made the book that much more enjoyable for me, as I was familiar with many of the places he goes for clues.  We even have a photo of Dante's death mask, which contains one of the big clues in the book.  Of course, I finished that very quickly and now I'm waiting for Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, which was recommended to me by several people.

I do sometimes manage to get down to my studio and putter around, but I'm hesitant to dive into anything big just yet, although I've collected materials for some projects and they are just waiting for me...  I did manage to make myself a cute new pair of earrings yesterday, which didn't take long, but maybe will be the inspiration I need to get moving of some larger projects.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mindful Monday

Mondays always seem to come crashing in a bit too soon, don't they?  Even with an extra hour yesterday, my head is full of busy things today.  Some of them are immediate (like I pulled something out of whack on Saturday and need to make another PT appointment) but others can be kept on the back burner (like going through catalogs for Christmas gift ideas).  Over the weekend, I cut the last few flowers left on the deck from the summer and made the cheerful arrangement above to remind myself not to be too busy or preoccupied to enjoy today!

What are you feeling mindful of today?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thankful Thursday, Halloween Edition

To me, the scariest thing about Halloween is that the very next day, the frantic Holiday Season begins!  I thought the rule used to be to wait until after Thanksgiving, but I've already seen Christmas decorations, candy, and gifts in all the stores, so now is a good time to slow down and savor our blessings.

Today, I'm feeling especially thankful for heat and electricity, as we spent the last two Halloweens without power, following that freak snowstorm in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy last year.   I'm also grateful that no one I knew personally was injured or suffered substantial losses, as did many people in the tristate area.  We were also fortunate to have good friends, neighbors, and relatives who gave us a warm meal, hot shower, or place to bunk overnight.  It made all the difference!  And despite the fact that I'm currently feeling like our entire home needs a huge cosmetic overhaul, I'm still grateful that we have a warm, comfortable, safe place to live in a beautiful setting.  It's easy to forget that we're more fortunate than most.  On this All Hallow's Eve, I'm also grateful for the close relatives who have passed on before me, most especially, godparents and grandparents.   Finally, I'm thankful for my daughters, who manage somehow to keep me young and give me gray hair at the same time, who make me smile, laugh, and sometimes cry, as we journey together through their adolescence.  It's a bit like a roller coaster these days, but certainly is never dull!

What are you feeling thankful for this Halloween?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Frightfully Fun!

Yesterday we celebrated Halloween in style with a howlingly fun teen bash.  We spent most of the day hanging webs, lights, and assorted spookiness all around the garage and downstairs family room.  When the guests arrived after dark, they were greeted by my oldest daughter dressed as a skeleton, with her face painted as above.  She led them past the webbed railing and a large spider decorating the garage door.

From there, guests walked down this dark hallway we created by moving and covering our storage shelving and lit by black lights, which made the words above glow eerily.

The creepiest thing about it was the dark, as well as the sound effects provided by Martha Stewart's Spooky Sounds for Halloween CD.  There were small flashlights and little battery powered candle flames here and there, just enough to light up ghostly scenes like the one below.

Finally, at they end, they were treated to a small scare by my ever energetic, hardworking, imaginative and cooperative husband Mark as he peered out of a coffin wearing his corpse mask and costume!  I don't think he scared too many of the kids (as some of them ran up to him right after, gave him a hug and shouted "Mr. Green!"(not exactly the effect we were going for!) but it all set the mood for a great time.

From there, the kids went into the hallway, which was decorated with webs and spiders.  We replaced the ceiling light with a blue bulb which made it look really eerie.  From there, they passed through the orange and black curtain into the party room.

We covered the central i-beam with more webs (I bought 10 packages just to be sure we'd have enough!) and purple twinkle lights.

The food table was set as you see below.  I pretty much covered everything in my studio area with large black plastic tablecloths from the dollar store, and then used more webs and cheesecloth to cover them.  I made a spooky tree with some branches, from which I hung little paper bats.  The girls drew scary ghost faces on some white helium balloons, so they were floating around the table.  The recycled plastic gallon milk jugs had battery powered candles in them as well, making for a nice display in the dark.

 Thank goodness we were able to borrow so many of the decorations and supplies from friends, neighbors, and my friendly neighborhood library (where I got the CD and a few scary movies).  Today we're already starting to take everything down... although I think I'll leave some of it up through Halloween on Thursday....

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Need a little gratitute adjustment?  I know I do!  Today I'm thankful for:
  1. The change of seasons:  It's revitalizing to see familiar scenery in a new way, almost like taking a vacation.  Around here, it's a beautiful time of year, even if it means winter is coming.
  2. Family time:  The last two weekends we've managed to squeeze in apple picking at a local orchard, a visit to Bear Mountain's Oktoberfest with my brother and his girls, and now we're planning a teen Halloween party.  Fun! 
  3. Modern technology:  Everything from washing machines and dishwashers to laptops and cell phones - they sure make life easier!
  4. Modern health improvements:  Last week I dodged a cold with the help of "cold remedy" tablets from CVS, and my back is feeling almost normal, thanks to modern PT.
  5. Cassie: I think it was Nora Ephron who said "When your children are teenagers, it's important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you."  Funny but true!
What's on your gratitude list today?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Catching Up

I've been away a few weeks, primarily because my laptop needed more memory and an updated operating system, so I was unable to download any new photos.  Now that I've got that all straightened out, I can catch you up on the final four round robin charm bracelets.  These were delayed too, as I was supposed to receive the crystal one, below, in August, but only got it in early October.  At one point, I had all four bracelets to work on at once, so I'm catching up in more ways than one!
On this "crystal bliss" bracelet, I added the little silver snowflake with the crystal dangles in the lower right.

Below is another steampunk themed bracelet.  I added two charms on the bottom, on either side of the gold gears.  One is a wire-wrapped green glass bead in a copper frame with a chain tassle, the other is the gear with the three beaded dangles.  I like the green and copper combo in this bracelet and used that as my inspiration.

The theme for this one was "Grandma's button box."  I added the floral button on the lower left with the lace since I didn't have any truly vintage buttons.

And finally, I added the heart-shaped lavender sachet to this amethyst and silver bracelet (near the clasp in the upper right).  This bracelet will be going to a grandmother who plans to give it to her daughter, who has a little girl who was born last February.  She will eventually inherit this special birthstone bracelet.  Isn't it lovely?

That marks the end of my participation in the round robin bracelet swap!  All year, I really looked forward to seeing a new themed bracelet every month and taking my time coming up with a charm that would compliment the ones already added.  I'm very glad I participated and I know I'll miss the gentle nudge the project gave me to do something creative, albeit small, at least once a month.  And I'm really looking forward to receiving my own bracelet back in early December!

Monday, September 30, 2013

What's New Monday

Ta-dah!  This is the latest bracelet I crafted using all the leaf charms I received in the "Falling Leaves" swap through my ArtCharms group.  I happened to have an extra length of copper chain with little leaves all over it, as well as a leaf toggle clasp, so it came together quickly.  The variety of colors and materials made it a real joy to put together.  I'm sure I'll enjoy wearing it too!  Happy Monday, everyone!  What's new with you?