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.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

DIY Sharpie Mugs **Update 12.5.14 **

We've been doing a Christmas project after Thanksgiving for the past few years.  This year we decided to try these Sharpie mugs that are all over Pinterest.

I picked up some mugs on sale at Crate and Barrel:

Essentially what we'll be doing is decorate the mugs with dots of oil-based Sharpie markers around stickers.   There are all sorts of horror stories on Pinterest about the marker just washing off.  Turns out you need to use OIL-BASED Sharpie paint markers only.  Regular Sharpie markers are not water-safe.

Then I raided my stash of alphabet stickers.  Most of the mugs we saw were made using only one letter  as an initial .  Since we are over-achievers, we decided to go full on with a word or phrase.  Plus this way we can use these as gifts for anyone.  Of course if you know who you are gifting these to, personalized mugs are wonderful.

We had the best luck with foam stickers.   There was some bleeding under the sticker with the very thin ones.  Be careful about using flocked stickers - some of the flocking stuck to the adhesive and was very hard to remove.  (We know this, of course, because we did it!).

Pretty easy technique - stick on the letter/letters you want to use, making sure the letter is securely stuck to the mug.   Then shake up you paint pen and make a few test dots of scrap paper until you get the hang of how the paint flows.   The gold and silver paint seems thinner than the other colors.

Now just start making dots around your sticker.   Make the dots close together close to the sticker, then start to spread them out a bit as you move outward.

Feel free to do whatever moves you in the dots department - pretty sure you can't go to far wrong !  We made dots on the handle on some.

Mix it up and use more than one color, like the brew mug.

Remove the stickers and see how it looks.  With all that dot-dotting, some dots go astray or leak under the sticker.  We used a small artist paint brush  dipped in nail polish remover to erase the errant dots and remove any residual adhesive front the stickers.

There is a difference of opinion about whether the mugs need to be heat cured to ensure that the dots are permanent.   So we opted for the overly cautious approach:  Double bake them.  Put the mugs on a baking tray and into a cold oven.  Heat the oven and mugs to 450 degrees for 30 mins.  Cool and repeat.  Just to be even more cautious, we added this advice:

Here's the mug-decorating crew at work.  Aren't they very focused!

Boston Daughter, Austin Daughter and moi doing the dots.

These easy-peasy mugs make great gifts, assuming we can bear to part with them.

**Update**   Breaking news:  Texas Daughter (inadvertently) put one of her mugs in the dishwasher and the dots stayed dotty!  No washing off, no color fading, so guess the double-bake  did its job.  Yippee!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Artsy Grands

One of the unadvertised benefits of having grandkids is that you get to do art projects together.  Siobhan is very artistic and loves getting into a project - the more glitter, glue, paint and equipment, the better.      Another benefit ?  Sanctioned art purchases -  I get to indulge my weakness for buying  art supplies and share them.   Her mom also keeps her art boxes well stocked so Siobhan plenty has of stuff to work with.

Here she is making a paper bag book.  This was her first embossing adventure - pretty excited to use the heat gun and see the magic of embossing.  A new convert is born.

Now some of her artwork:

Notecards made at school and printed into cards.

Choreographing the growth of plants, using ballet positions

A tote bag she painted with a doily stencil

And a melted crayon self-portrait

But wait, the little guy is also getting in on the action.   

William with good use of color and motion.

And sporting an artiste's 'stash.

Painting au naturel and en plein air with mom.  She keeps him well-supplied with paint and paper for his masterpieces.

 I framed one of his canvases.

These masterpieces will make great book backgrounds.

Total body smock as painting is messy business.

"Look, Mom!  We're making owls!"

Art play with grands is the best art play of all.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rigger's Bag Transformation

I've been thinking about a bag for toting art supplies and started reading about people buying this  canvas rigger's bag from Harbor Freight .  The price is certainly right - with a promo code it cost less than $10.00, including shipping !   It's a great bag with lots of pockets and storage space, but it is  boring.  Also thought it could get grungy looking  quickly since I'm not the neatest person on the block.

I started  by ripping out seams to enlarge some of the side pockets.     Then I dyed the bag a dark sage green.   Still pretty boring.   I added some stenciling ,  using some little tester tub of white house paint.   A few white dots with Ranger Enamel Accents - no more boring!

The motivation for finishing this bag?  I'm taking a Joanne Sharpe lettering class tomorrow !  One of the supplies needed is a composition book.   I found this Decompostion Book at Crate and Barrel

and painted the teacups with Inktense  and Farber Castell  watercolor pencils and a tiny bit of water for blending - so fun!

I feel like a kid on the first day of school with my new bag and a  brand-new book.  Also have a bit of first-day jitters - hope I'm not the only kid in the class who can't write!


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