Friday, January 23, 2015

Postal Art by Shiela

My friend, Shiela (yes, that's how her mom spelled it), is my inspiration.   She's been making beautiful art for a long time and encouraged me to give it a try.   She can do it all - paint, draw and make perfectly executed cards and scrapbook layouts.

Here we are a few years ago after a seriously messy art project on her lawn. Miraculously, I didn't get any paint on that white shirt!

She is also the queen of mail art, so it's always a treat to get packages from her,   This is her signature postage method:

She has a notebook full of stamps of all denominations and a postal scale so she can calculate the amount due. (She doesn't always use a flat rate box!).    Once she knows how much the package will cost to mail, she starts selecting and pasting on stamps.  She calculates  so accurately that her post office staff hardly ever checks her math .   Because she has a small fortune invested in postage stamps, she rarely uses the same stamp more than once on a package.  

I love the mix of stamps - the artsy ones  next to Calvin and Hobbes, the  Hawaiian  shirt next to the fancy wedding cake.   And instead of competing, all those bright colors somehow work.   I think the only part that Shiela plans is that she always makes an L -shaped layout, because that allows room for all the stamps and still enough for the address.

I think it's a hoot that the Post Office has to put the bar code sticker on, even though there is no postage due - notice the price on the bar-code: $0.00.  I also love that my post office staff is very careful not to cover up any of my mail art with that silly sticker - like the one above put carefully over to the left and not covering the stamps.

Like any art supply hoarder, I think all this postal goodness is too good to throw away!   I've been  carefully cutting out the  lay-outs in one piece to use in my projects, like in this this DIY  travel mug that  I got it in the sale bin at Starbucks.

I glued on the stamp assemblage to some background paper and  added a few stamped images to make this happy mug.  Word of advice about these mugs - pretty sure the seal isn't waterproof, so I brushed some rubber cement on the inside of the inside, top and bottom, before screwing it on to make a better seal.  Just to be on the safe side, I don't let the cup soak in any water - just a quick swish to clean it and done.

I used the stamp arrangement above in this calendar page as an homage to Shiela's talent.  She is way more adventurous with color than I am, and this page celebrates not only her prowess at calculating postage, but her love of color and pattern.

I wanted the stamps to be center stage here, so I kept it simple.  I used an order form from an old fiber arts catalog I snagged at an estate sale as a background to keep the mail theme going and then added some mailing directions  stamps.  (If I use these on actual packages, I always add "please" so the postal workers don't think I'm being too darn bossy).    I glued a piece of under paper - scrap paper with leftover brayer paint  -  to a chipboard butterfly.   There is a butterfly postage stamp to the right' otherwise no real connection to postage, but I love the colors and the blank space needed something.  I needed one more stamp to fill out the top right, so added one from an old envelope.   Plus I love the circle stamp and cancellation marks.

Love, love all these postage stamps.  Next time I go to DC, I am spending more time at the Postal Museum - pretty sure I'll have to go there alone.  DC son and The Captain were not all that enthusiastic when I dragged them in - go figure!

Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 Calendars - Only One Month Late

I've been making calendars for family and friends for several years.  For some odd reason, January comes as a complete surprise and finds me in a state of panic about the calendars.  A normal person would plan ahead, and maybe even do something crazy like make pages throughout the year to avoid the last minute frenzy.   What fun would that be?  So much better to be down to the wire, hoping for twelve brilliant ideas, perfectly executed.  What could go wrong?

It's pitiful to admit this, but for the past couple of years I've had the calendars start with February, rather than do what everyone else does and start the year in January.   Sneaky, huh ?   This gives me another month to get my act together .  To be fair, I do end the calendar with January, so everyone gets a twelve month calendar, but a bit off.   Honestly, it would be so much easier if Christmas didn't come in December.  Maybe I could get the calendars done on time if it weren't for the Christmas frenzy in November and December,  just when  I should be doing calendar pages.

I have a  New Year's Resolutions that doesn't rise to the level of "Please let me be perfect this year", but that will mean I may not need to put on an addition to the house .   I'm going to attempt to only shop my stash - no new supplies unless I've run out of something or need something for a specific project.   No hoarding stuff , no buying stuff because I saw something new that everyone else thinks is the best thing ever.    I do know that this means I'll most likely only be buying ink, ink pads and adhesives.  Pretty sure I won't run out of much else.  (Fortunately I have an artistic granddaughter who loves new art supplies, so it's not like I won't be buying some fun stuff).

So the calendar pages had to be made with stuff I have .  In addition to having too much stuff, I also have this notion that I need to "save" things for some future, yet undetermined, perfect project.  No more - now if it works in a current project, it gets used in a current project .  

The calendars are out to the printers and I don't want to take away all the surprise, but here is one of my favorite pages:

The image was from an advertisement for a magazine.  I love the man's expression as he watches the woman laughing.   I've been using some artist papers from some of the Somerset magazines as backgrounds. There's nothing more intimidating than a blank  piece of white paper, so the ready made background makes a good place to start.    I swiped some gesso over this one to tone down the color a bit.   Seems like most of the artist papers are too bright or busy for my taste, but a bit of gesso works magic.     Then I added  a wide piece of ribbon and a narrower piece of vintage linen tape.    A big Seven Gypsy's tag and a tea tag pick up the red and green in the wide ribbon.   I've started edging pieces with some color to frame the piece - this one with a red Gelato crayon.

Now, if I had any sense, I'd be starting on next year's calendars.   

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Must-Read Blog and More on Kindness

My last post was about my New Year's resolution to be a yea-sayer and kinder .  Today I want to sort out some thoughts about just how this kindness and yea-saying works.

I recently found an amazing blog, Have Some Decorum.   This blurb from the blog sums up her situation:

Who am I? I am a lot of things. The only one that I want to be defined by is that of a mother. Anything past that is just fluff. I used to be a lot of things too. I used to be an interior designer. I used to have an antique store in Santa Barbara. I used to live in New York. I used to work at the fabulous chic Assouline Publishing in New York but I got fired because I wasn’t very friendly. I used to work at 1stdibs in New York. It was my favorite job that I've ever had but I only had it for two weeks because I got sick.

I used to be a perfectly healthy functioning woman with not a care in the world. Then, life changed. I don’t like to just throw it out there that I have ALS, a terminal disease. ALS does not define me but it has changed the way I look at things. Nothing and everything matters to me now. I know what is important and I know what is not important. My daughter, my husband, my friends, my cat and my dog matter.

Me keeping my sanity through all of this matters and in doing so I like to do this blog. I don’t have anything to prove, I don’t have anyone to impress and I have nothing to lose. Therefore this blog focuses on everything that I like… Art, architecture, culture, fashion, flowers, food, Paris, travel, interior design, houses, gardens, faith etc. Just for the fun of it I like to focus on everything that I don’t like as well. I feel like I can be totally honest with my opinions because I have no agenda. I imagine readers will appreciate that. So, I invite you to come along on this little journey with me. It will be fun. 

Do not expect this blog to be sad, or self-pitying, or an "I found religion and am at peace" read, even though she is now totally paralyzed and needing 24/7 care.   No siree; this is a whack 'em up side the head , crack me up laughing kind of blog.  No matter the subject, she beats it into submission in the funniest way imaginable.  

So on to the kindness thing.   Some anonymous person left a comment on another blog, attacking Have Some Decorum's lifestyle, need for help with medical expenses, and even gift purchases.   Clearly this isn't on the kindness side of the ledger.   I do wonder about people who feel free to spew judgement and unpleasantness without being big enough to sign their name to their garbage.  And why some people feel that the internet gives them license to dump their toxic stuff with impunity.

Have Some Decorum responded in a let-it-rip, no holds barred spectacular post titled "Dear Fat  Fuck".  (If you are easily offended, this may not be the blog for you - or maybe it is exactly the blog you need to read). Head for the bunkers, Ms FF, you are being put in your place in spectacular style.  It's a point-by-point take down of major proportions.  

Then I remembered my plan to be kinder and wondered for a fleeting moment if HSD overdid it.   Should she have just ignored Ms FF?  (As I've told my kids over and over, being the better person is not immediately satisfying.)  But I wonder if some behavior is so egregious, so offensive, so out of the circle of normal behavior that nothing short of a serious smack-down is in order?  

This is one of  the gray areas that makes being an adult so complicated.   Nothing is ever just black or white, and hardly any line in the sand (excluding those involving a behavior that carries a felony label) is really uncrossable.    Of course we want to be kinder, gentler, but some times nothing short of pitching a major nuttie will do justice to the offense.    

I figure if  we (and really I mean ME) can manage to be kind in all of the daily interactions  with those we love and those we don't, then if some major dip-do messes with us, we just might be justified in letting the dragon roar.  

I'll be back with some art work soon; all of this complicated self-improvement talk is exhausting!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

"Be a Yea- Sayer" - My New Year's Resolution

We're surrounded by good intentions - people deciding that  this is the year they will get fit,  lose weight,  read every issue of The New Yorker,  volunteer , buy only organic food,  dress nicely, take yoga lessons, be the clone of Martha Stewart, and generally  be far better than most of us can pull off  - at least not on a daily basis.

Which then makes us think about last year's resolutions and how we fared.    This has been my global resolution for several years:

Not bad, but leaves lots of wiggle room.  In my previous life I worked in health care process improvement.   While every facility wants to  set lofty improvement goals, starting with small steps is the best way to get there.  We can easily get overwhelmed by those big, fat goals - how on earth are we going to get there from here?  So we broke the goal down into "actionable items" and asked, "OK, so you want to eliminate all medication errors.  Great - what can you do by Tuesday to get you started?".

That's how I've been thinking about this New Year Resolution thing.   Realistically, I'm not going to turn into a combination of Mother Theresa,  Tina Fey, and Helen Mirren overnight.    So while my lofty goal is to be a better version of me, how the heck do I get there?   By thinking about what small part I can do now- or at least by Tuesday.

Then this Nietzsche quote showed up in my Facebook Brain Pickings feed:

"... I want more and more to perceive the necessary character in things as beautiful- thus I shall be one of those who beautify things....I do not want to wage war with ugly.  I do not want to accuse.  I do not even want to accuse the accusers.  Looking aside.  Let that be my sole negation.  And all in all, to sum it up; I wish to be at any time hereafter, only a yea-sayer".

If I were Nietzsche, that exactly how I would have phrased my resolution. While my end-game is to be a better person, maybe my  Tuesday goal could be to be kinder to everyone around me, and frankly, to myself.  I was talking to DC son over the holidays and said that I felt bad about something I hadn't done, and he (wise beyond his years), said, "Mom, you feel  bad about too many things".    So I'm including myself in the people I want to treat with kindness.  Funny thing about kindness; it's easy to be kind to people we like and who treat us well.  The others?  Not so much.  So really the goal is global kindness, not just to people who agree with me and are nice to me.   

Think the key to this is in the quote - if we look to see the beauty in others, we can more easily respond with positive vibes of our own.     The quote on one of this year's calendar pages sums it up - we see what we're looking for.

So, 2015, bring it on.   I'm working on being kind, so be kind with me, too.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

DIY Lotion Bars

These little lotion bars were my last DIY Christmas project for this year.   There are recipes for lotion bars all over Pinterest, but I used the one found here  at Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity and recommended by my friend, Jeanne.   I also copied her idea to use the candy molds - I'm not proud.

Here is the basic recipe:
One part beeswax ( available online at Amazon  as well as at Michaels and Joanne's.  
One part almond oil ( I had some left over from another project)
One part coconut oil ( some I bought to get on the coconut oil  bandwagon and never did)

Now if you read the comments on Frugal by Choice, there was some confusion about what "one part" means.  So while I'm sure you all know,  it just means equal parts of the three ingredients.   That said, I did not do any real measuring ; I eyeballed the amount of melted beeswax and estimated how much it was in cups and then used that amount for each of the other ingredients.   The piece of beeswax I hacked off melted to about 1/3 of a cup, so I ended up with approximately one cup of the melted wax and oil mixture ,  enough to fill about 15 of the candy molds.  Pretty sure a little more or less of any ingredient isn't going to matter much.

First, you melt the beeswax,   You could do this in a double boiler ( which you then would have to save for future wax projects or spend hours getting all the wax out - too much work!).   I had a small crock pot Ive used to melt wax for encaustic projects, and it worked perfectly for melting beeswax.  Melt the beeswax, then add the almond oil and coconut oil and heat until the mixture is clear.

This is where you could add fragrance - a few drops of your favorite essential oil.   I thought it best to stick to scent-less for gifting since since  fragrance  is tricky ; one woman's "love it" is another's "stinky, stinky".  No added scent also means  no worries about the lotion bar chasing with your favorite perfume.

I used these small cookie molds from Joanne's because they fit the metal tins I bought and after all, I was copying Jeanne.    You could use small silicone muffin pans, or larger cookie molds, or soap molds, or as one creative person did,  fill empty deodorant containers.  This seems like a great idea - not much in the gift-giving presentation, but it makes an easy applicator, especially for kiddos.

Here are the molds, filled with the hot wax/oil mixture. 

And here they are after just 15 minutes of hanging out on the counter.  Beautiful, off-white goodness.

So far, so good.   Then I tried to pop the bars out - D.I.A.S.T.E.R.   One or two come out fine, and then not so much - the bars stuck, leaving behind half of the design stuck in the mold.   I was so frazzled I shoved them in the fridge and chose not to think about them for a few days.   Then I looked online to find the recommendation to put them in the freezer for 30 minutes or so before trying to unmold.    DUH!   But it turns out mine had cooled enough during their banishment to the fridge and they popped right out of the molds.  YIPPEE SKIPPEE.

I ordered the tins from Amazon - they are a bit big for the bars, but close enough.   I like that you can see the design though the lid.   Some people pack them in muffin papers, then wrap with plastic wrap tied with a ribbon for gifting.   

So to use these bars, hold the bar in your hands to warm it a bit , then rub the bar on your hands, arms, legs - you know how to do this.    These are great moisturizing bars with no ingredients you can't pronounce, spell or find.   

I'm storing the extras in the fridge just to be sure they stay firm.   I do have one from Jeanne in my purse and it's fine - no melting, but we do live in the frozen Northeast.  I'd guess the bars might go all melty in a hot car, but what doesn't?

The solid bars are  convenient to use,  full of serious moisturizing power and  easy- peasy to make.   All that and pretty, too - what's not to like?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Family Matters

It's no secret  that I struggle with kids living far away.   It's one of the things about getting older that the memo didn't cover : how to gracefully deal with the reality of grown kids having lives of their own and often having those lives in different time zones.   By gracefully,   I mean at least not sounding like the mother on the phone with Duane (Garrison Keiller) on A Prairie Home Companion:

 "And just because I'm the woman who spent 22 hours in agony giving you life doesn't mean I expect to go on playing a part in your life, Duane. No, no, no, no, no. I stepped aside a long time ago. I don't want to be like some of those mothers. Suffocating. That's what they are. Suffocating. Calling every day, pestering, pleading for attention... "

No, I don't want to be the sarcastic, guilt-trip  laying mother!  The kids are all happy adults with busy, productive lives of their own who call me and come home when they can, and I know how lucky I am.  

{Map from World Market }

This map  shows the current state of affairs, with kids spread out all over the dang country.  (Notice the not-too-subtle message that the arrows all lead home to moi).

As a measure of personal growth,  I am learning to be grateful for the times we get to spend together and  to focus on what we have, not what we're missing.  We are  learning how to make this long-distance family thing work.   We all text, call,  FaceTime, and use Facebook and Instagram.  I do not know how people managed before these wonders of the electronic age.  Imagine back in the day, waiting for weeks or months for a letter filled with old news and no pictures! Plus we are all racking up the frequent flier miles.   While flying has none of the glamor of its early days, it's  a quick way to get from here to there.    We far-flung families have lots in our favor as we try to stay connected.  

We're lucky that our kids and their partners make the effort to include us in their lives.  Another benefit?  We have expanded our family to include our kids'  in-laws  ( and they include us) , bound by the love  adoration (!) of our children and grand kids.   We've spent weekends , dinners and birthday parties together as one big family.   This is a perk definitely not mentioned in the memo!  

Which brings this discussion to the holidays and sharing.  We could  lament the changes that happen when kids grow up and  want to start new family traditions of their own and with their partner's families .  OR we could be grateful that everyone makes an effort to stay connected .  I'm going with the grateful part.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Few Quick Tags

No, not like this one.  One year I made all the Tim Holtz 12 Tags of Christmas- the kind with 47 steps, 102 art supplies (at least 75% of those things you don't have).  And that would cause fatal harm to anyone who threw the tag away on Wrapping Paper Mountain.  I never actually put any of them on a package to avoid the fatal-harm part.

I just finished a pile of very quick tags, the kind that are made to go on gifts and (gasp), even be tossed without sending me into mourning.  

I cut out the card stock tags with a Sizzix die  - it has three different size tags.  Then some simple stamping, white pen highlights, Stickles stars,  butcher twine ties and done!

I love these Tim Holtz stamps and the look of white pen highlights .  My go-to white pen is a Sakura Gel pen because the ink flows easily and is very opaque.

I love this Iced Pine Distress Ink .  It's a soft dark sage, less bold than Pine or many other greens.  

These were inspired by some I saw on Diana Trout's blog.  How could I resist Washi tape trees?  She has a very detailed tutorial, but basically you lay strips of Washi on a piece of paper (I used printer paper) and then cut out tree shapes and glue them onto the tags.  The paper backing holds the strips together  and stabilizes the tape, so don't remove it before gluing.

Keep the strips of tape very close together (or slightly overlapping) so none of the background paper peeks through.

Diana recommends cutting a template and tracing around it to get the tree shapes, so that's what I did.  Honestly,  I'd eliminate that step and just free - hand cut the triangles if I make these again.  We're not going for geometric perfection here!  ( And yes, the Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt mac and cheese is  yummy, but really, the reduced quilt is all about portion-control - they aren't fooling me).

I used tags I had in my stash; some had been dragged through extra ink from other projects, but most were just plain.

Each tree got a little trunk and some pen doodling to give them something to stand on .  Some got Stickles and some stamped stars.

Now I guess if you could also cut out varying widths of Washi tape and stick the tape directly on the tag, making a tree shape and  forgoing the laying down of the strips and cutting out the tree shapes.   That seems like way too much precise cutting for me. Or, I've seen some trees on Pinterest made with torn strips of tape.  But you do know what Washi means?  It's Japanese for "doesn't stick".   Just kidding!!  But really, since Washi is designed to be reposition-able,  I  wouldn't count on tiny little strips staying put.  Better go with Diana's method.

Quick, easy, no new supplies, Washi tape AND no one needs to die?  Perfect.


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