Monday, February 16, 2015

The Winter of My Discontent

{ image from Garden Rant blog}

There are some words I do not want to hear again - snowmageddon, blizzard, ice jams, gale, ice rake, and hurricane force gusty winds.    You may have heard that the Northeastern seacoast has been hammered with record-breaking snowfall.   What you may not have heard is that the natives are going N.U.T.S.  Or at least, this native is .  I am not a fan of a normal winter and  this craziness is off the charts.    The snow on our front yard is at least 4 feet deep, with drifts  over 6 feet.   I am beginning to understand why pioneers went bat-shit crazy during the winter.

The beginning of this mess - snowstorm Juno that deposited about 3 feet of snow.   No coffee on the deck for some time.  Although even I have to admit the deck table looks like a cake stand, topped by a fluffy white cake.    And I hate it.  

The same deck this week - table no longer visible.  Using Vivian Swift's champagne-o-meter method of measuring snow, you can begin to appreciate just how much of the *&**&% white stuff we have.

Our summer lobster roll spot is buried.

Icicles are the latest in outdoor home decoration.  And I am obsessed with them - Googling why they form and driving around to do icicle-spotting.  

The downside to all that ice and snowy roofs ?   One of our sky lights is leaking!  It could always be worse, of course - at least our roof hasn't caved in like some have.

Like most of our neighbors, we have an access tunnel into the house.  

Our driveway is about 2/3 of its usual width and we're now using the top as snow storage.

Next project is digging out the mailbox.  Thought The Captain's Valentine's Day gift got lost, but we found it once we were finally able to open the mailbox!

View from the front door - "view" being the gigantic snow pile.

Ditto the back deck.

And the front door.    

I'm trying to convince myself that this won't last forever, hence this planner page, although I do feel like the line from one of the Dr. Seuss books,  "I said those words; I said them, but I lied them."

There is a bright spot- we leave for Montana later this week, where there is no snow and the temps have reached 50 degrees.  How crazy is that?    And in March, a getaway to New Orleans, assuming we can get out of the driveway.      

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Paris Trip Book - Finally

I can't believe our Paris trip was five years ago.   Or that making a book of that trip would take five years!     In going though my stash of journals and notebooks, I came across a notebook with pages, tags and embellishments that would work with my Paris pictures.

I needed more pages , so I raided my stash and found paper and stamps that worked with the pages in the notebook.  I already had a candelabra  and a harlequin stamp,  lots of vintage- looking and French-inspired papers.

My goal was to get this book put together with stuff I already have - no new supplies.   I've been following a group on Facebook called Shop Your Stash - it's all about using all the stuff we have instead of buying more.   Lots of FB groups are full of enablers - always enticing us that we need, NEED every new supply out there.   I don't need more stuff - I hardly have room for what I have.  It was fun to challenge myself to do this project with what I have.  In fact, it's a bit frightening that I can put together a book - covers, pages, embellishments just by rummaging around in my own "shop"!

I actually started this book while we were in Paris, so I have some small pages from that book, too.  I toyed with the idea of re-writing the journalling on to bigger pages, but left that crazy idea behind.  This is the first book I've made with different sized pages and I love the mixed-up look of it.   I had this flour de lis paper and stamp and repeated it throughout the book .   Talented Boston Daughter made the card announcing my birthday gift - tickets to Paris!

Another look at all those mis-matched pages.    It goes without saying that I'm not a scrap-booker.  While I love the perfectly planned and coordinated pages I've seen others do, it's just not my style.

The notebook pages also included several tags.   I attached this one with some washi tape so it can be flipped to read both sides.

I added some scrapbook paper to the edges of some of the small pages to avoid having to punch holes through the journalling I did in Paris.  Again, I repeated pieces of the same paper throughout the book to tie it all together.

I glued the envelope that came with the kit to the inside of the back cover to hold extra photos.

I used the covers from an old book to make covers for the new one..   First I cut the pages out , making a cut along the spine and then cut the covers off the spine.

Then drilled holes for the rings.    Turns out the covers were too thick to actually set the grommets, so I banged the little points flat and glued the grommets (front and back) to finish off the drill holes.  Thanks to DC son for the new craft knife- much nicer than my old cheap-o one and to Boston Daughter for some of the French-inspired ephemera.

   Next up,  Scotland!

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?


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