Monday, September 29, 2014

Bag Lady

Don't you just love bedraggled plastic shopping bags caught in trees?

Or having a cart overflowing with the things - usually with one or two items per bag?

The statistics on the use of plastic shopping bags are staggering:

Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide.
That's over one million plastic bags used per minute.

According to the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World report.
Some 4 to 5 trillion plastic bags—including large trash bags, thick shopping bags,
and thin grocery bags—were produced globally in 2002.
Roughly 80 percent of those bags were used in North America and Western Europe.
Every year, Americans reportedly throw away 100 billion plastic grocery bags.

The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year...

Americans use and dispose of 100 billion plastic shopping bags each year
and at least 12 million barrels of oil are used per year in the
manufacture of those plastic grocery bags.

The Wall Street Journal

Less than 5 percent of plastic grocery bags are recycled in the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.

There is now six times more plastic debris in parts of the North Pacific Ocean
than zooplankton.

I kicked the plastic bag habit a few years ago.  I'd much rather have two or three full bags than twenty partially filled plastic ones.  Not sure why clerks think the dang things can only hold two items, but seems to be a universal packing strategy.

It takes a while to get used to a change in habits, but before long using your own bags just becomes part of shopping.   I keep several bags in the car and a few by the kitchen door and rarely get caught without a shopping bag.  

I think it helps to have nice bags that you like to use.  You know, the whole "add a little beauty wherever you can" approach.   Here are some of my favorites:

My Trader Joe's collection.

Honestly, I've had the purple bag for at least thirty years.  It can from the now-defunct Bumble Bee company that used to do home parties. We've used it as a beach bag,and to haul stuff for college moves as well as a grocery bag.   Love the colors of the Hannaford one.

This one's a thrift store find.  A woman stopped me in Trader Joe's to tell me that a friend had brought a bag like this home from Ireland.   So my bag has some world travel creed.

OK, I've been known to splurge on a bag that calls my name.  Postage stapes, cancellations - of course I had to have this one.  Check out the double handles - one set for shoulder-carrying, the other for hands only.

Plus there is a sweet little inside pocket.

Luckily there are lots of low-cost options for bags ; most grocery stores carry them and sometimes you can snag one with panache at a thrift store.  

See, being a Bag Lady can be a good thing. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Give Me Coffee and No One Gets Hurt

OK, I know there are real problems in this world.  Serious problems - wars, disease, poverty and such.    But when you're a coffee addict and your supply is compromised, this presents a serious, all-consuming local problem.  I wasn't really out of coffee, just out of my fancy-schmancy Nespresso coffee.

This is our marvelous coffee maker,  a gift from Texas Daughter.   Our morning coffee took a serious step up!   

And some of the espresso pods:

All was well for a bit over a year, then Mr. Nespresso started acting out.,  deciding that about two tablespoons of water per cup was enough.   I tried unsuccessfully to  reset it  on my own,  so I called Nespresso Customer Service.

Wow, do these people  take customer service seriously.  First the rep walked me through several attempts to reset my machine.  When that didn't work, she arranged to have me send my machine in for service - extending the warranty that had run out a few days earlier so there was no cost for repairs.

Get this - she even asked if I wanted them to send out a loaner machine  (no charge) while mine was being repaired!  A loaner ?  Free?  And free shipping back when I got my own one back?   Really, this  was too much!

A few days after our call I received a box with a pre-paid postage label and packed up my BFF and sent it off.   Five days later I got my machine back, cured of its timing problem.   

Now this is what I've been missing:

This is straight espresso, no milk, just a thick layer of crema on top of dark espresso goodness.

But there's more - there is a magic milk frother!   

Add milk, push the button, and a few seconds later the frother is full of thick foamed milk.

Now I have my coffee that's as beautiful as it is delicious.

And best of all, sometimes The Captain brings a cup of this goodness to me in bed!

Delicious coffee, thick frothed milk and phenomenal customer service - what more could you ask for?   Well, how about George Clooney?

Disclaimer:  Unlike Mr. Clooney, I am not a paid spokesperson for Nespresso.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

DIY Fall Raffia Wreath

Disclaimer:  I am NOT ready for fall.   I am NOT ready to say goodbye to summer.   Clearly I am bucking the trend to jump ahead on the changing the seasons thing as this is what I saw last week at Michael's:

Christmas decorations?   In September?  I think not.

But with Pinterest on all-fall, all the time and the weather turning noticeably more like fall and less like summer, it may be time to start fall decorating.

I saw this  raffia wreath all over Pinterest and loved it - no orange, no leaves, no pumpkins, just a riot of ecru raffia- perfect.   And easy.


Straw wreath form .  I used the 12 inch size.  Be sure to leave the plastic on, since that's what holds the wreath together!

Bag of raffia from Michael's.  This bag was just enough for my wreath.   I added a little dark raffia I had in my stash for a bit of color.

Floral pins - or you could use u-pins.

This is a wing-it project - no measuring, no precise anything.   Grab several strands of raffia  and loop together , sort of like making a bow.   I made my loops about 7 inches long - I didn't measure as I was doing it, but just eyeballed it.    Don't worry about straggling pieces, short pieces in the grab- it'll all work out.  The raffia strands are roughly 2 1/2 feet long and I usually used 5-7 strands, depending on how wide they were.  Again, I didn't count each grab - just eyeball it so each section will be roughly the same size.

Now slightly twist the loop in the middle and pin to the wreath with one of the floral pins.   You will be alternating the direction of each raffia loop.  Start with the first one horizontal on the wreath.

Make another loop, this time pinning that one close to the first and vertically.   (Sorry for the bad lighting!)

Keep adding loops in alternate directions until the wreath is full.   

And it will be very full!   Now the fun part - pull, twist and play with the raffia until it looks right and there aren't any gaps showing.  I cut some of the loops open and left others as is.

I added a twisted wire loop for hanging .  You could use a burlap ribbon , but I didn't want to crush down any of the exuberance!

I love my wreath.  It says fall, but in a cheery, subtle, "let's not go crazy just yet" way.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Another Canvas : An Homage to Good Men

Here's to Good Men.
May we know them
May we be them.
May we raise them.
{paraphrasing "Here's to Good Women"]

Another canvas for another son's birthday.  This is one of DC son's favorite family pictures - his Papa and his favorite uncle.   

I used some Core'dinations paper that I sanded to highlight the clocks and scuffed up the edges.  I used the same train station schedule as this canvas.  The bits and pieces have special meaning;  Uncle Pete loved woodwork, hence the ruler and  Papa's barn was a favorite place for exploring.

These are real gas ration tickets from another family member.    Normally I'd use copies, but DC son is a history buff, so he gets the originals.  

A scrap of map is an old-time a geo tag and  a nod to DC son's love of maps.

I used a 7 Gypsies piece as a mat for the photo.  The stars are stamped with Christine Adolf's Shore Trim  stamp - one of my favorite go-to stamps for all kinds of projects.

These canvases are the first I've made using my pictures .  I like how family pictures makes the artwork so personal.   DC son gave me the best review on this canvas - "It made me happy".   And that makes me happy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DIY Mercury Glass Lamp

Another Pinterest-inspired project.  Have you seen all those DIY mercury glass posts?  I've had this on my to-do list for ages and finally got around to it.   Like many DIY projects, this isn't quite as simple as some posts would indicate, or maybe I'm not as clever as some posters - always a possibility.  You are painting on the INSIDE of the lamp - a bit of a challenge all by itself.

I started with this thrifted lamp:

I like the crackly look and figured it would help hide any serious goofs - always a plus.  Word of warning:  always make sure your thrifted lamp actually works before doing anything else.  Guess how I learned that?  You could, of course, just buy a new lamp guaranteed to work.

First step is to get the base and top out of the way.  I wanted to actually remove the whole shebang, but couldn't get the top off, so I loosened everything (there is a nut on the bottom that holds the lamp together) and covered the cord with tape .  This is a messy job, and I tried to keep as much paint off the cord as I could.

This is the magic paint - Krylon Looking Glass spray paint.  I couldn't find it locally so ordered it from Amazon.   This paint is very thin - watery actually and nothing at all like regular spray paint.   The directions say to shake for 2 minutes before painting and after each spray.    You'll also need a spray bottle with half water, half white vinegar. (I only had white wine vinegar which added a certain je ne said quoi!).  You don't need much - like a 1/4 cup total.

Have everything ready as once you start you'll want to move pretty quickly.   The technique :
     Lightly spray the INSIDE of your lamp with the water/vinegar .  The water/vinegar mixture acts as a resist so you don't want to cover the entire surface - spritz here and there.
    Immediately spray with the Looking Glass paint.
    Here's where it gets tricky - some areas may have no paint, some too much.  So you just need to work it - dab off with a damp paper towel where you have too much.  Re- spritz with water and repaint where you need more coverage.   (Wear gloves - all that spritzing and dabbing is pretty messy).
   Set your lamp on end to dry and so any excess paint drips out.  Bear in mind which end will be up when the lamp is finished so you don't end up with dried drips rising from the base, unless that's what  you're going for.
I did about 4-5 spritz/spray/ dab cycles.   Remember that the look is old, irregular, splotchy - and that's what you'll get.  Some areas of my lamp look very much like a mirror, some have more dribbles and splotches.  I tried to dab away any big, runny drips. And remember the wise words of Ms Austin:

When the lamp was dry, I spray painted the base and top, carefully covering the glass.   I used Rustoleum Hammered Bronze spray paint which has a combination of glossy and matte paint that gives the hammered look.

Finished it off with a burlap shade:

Another "I finally made something I pinned" project !

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Style or Stuck?

I've been lurking on The Documented Life Project and amazed at the artwork I'm seeing.   Lots of bright, bold colors, doodling, white-pen work and busy, busy pages.  I like it, but I can not do it; it just doesn't work for me.  I had a couple of frustrating days in my studio this week, trying to create something whimsical, colorful, outside my comfort zone and it was so freakin' stressful.  My vision was stylized flowers on a paint-splattered background.  What I got was something that looked like mutant jellyfish surrounded by a haze of dots.

This got me thinking about personal style.  I follow several mixed media artists and can usually tell whose work I'm looking at because of their personal style.  I also see that some of them can keep their work fresh, even though their style is immediately recognizable.    

I've wondered if maybe I was just being lazy and not challenging myself to try new things, like lots of color , bold markings and busy layouts.   I think I've decided that the artists who keep their work fresh yet have an easily identified personal style do it by using new techniques, subjects and formats are the ones I like best.  I'm good with  finding and creating a personal art style while appreciating different ones.  Sort of like finding a personal fashion style.  I'll never be wearing big, bold prints or harem pants - not going to happen.

So, back to my studio for some recovery therapy, doing what I like best - understated color, simpler designs, and  some vintage vibe.  And guess what ?  No stress, just playing and having fun!

I made the backgrounds for these tags by spritzing water on left-over Distress inks on my craft sheet and then dragging the tags through the puddled ink.  Since Distress Inks react with water,  a spritz of water on the colored tags gives a nice splattered effect

I stamped some with gray dye ink and like the muted look.  Sometimes the bold black seems too much for a soft background color.  Added a few bits of stuff - washi tape,  rub-ons and fibers dragged through the same ink and done!

This odd-man out tag is at the edge of my color happy- place !

Think I'm getting comfortable with appreciating others' style without needing to go there myself.  I could be a bit more adventurous with color, but probably will never feel comfortable with lots of bright  colored doodled designs outlined in bold black or white.  On the other hand, if I ever need to make mutant jellies, I now know how !

Friday, August 1, 2014

Quick Notebook Upgrade

And that means I need lots of notebooks for all those lists.  I found these notebooks at Michael's - 3 for $2.00.  Who could pass up this deal - not moi!  The books are just the right size ( 5.5 x 4 inches)  to slip into a pocket or purse for those grocery store or Tarjay lists.  Of course these books are OK just as they are, but I thought I could make them even better.  See that stash of washi tape in the back?  I know it is a ridiculous amount of tape; probably I shouldn't tell you that I just had to buy three more rolls today.

I decided to tape the edge of each page to add some color and interest.   This was an easy project - -no measuring, no color plan, just tear, stick and clip.

Here's how I did it - tear off a strip slightly longer than the page.  Stick it down along the edge, leaving enough to fold over and stick down to the back of the page.   I have some pretty narrow tape (3/8 inch) and found that this technique works best with tape at least 1/2 inch wide.  The narrower tape is harder to position so you have bough left to fold over - not impossible, but not the easiest.   Tear, stick, fold over and repeat until you've taped every page.   

Here is my book with all the pages taped.  Now about those tape tails.  Since the cover and pages of these books have rounded corners, I decided to round each page edge.   I cut the tails even with the top and bottom of each page and then used a corner punch to round the edge.

Here are some of the pages with the edges taped and corners rounded.

This is what the book looks like with all its pretty taped pages.

Now about those covers.  

I love these Dina Wakley Squiggly Bird stamps!  So cheery, so happy, so fun.   I used a piece of artist paper from an old Somerset Studio magazine for a background.  I stamped the birdie on light blue paper and added a script stamp, cut it out and glued it to the background.  The sentiment came from a magazine.

This little card fell out of a used book and he was too cute to throw away.   I rubbed on some Distress Ink and added some bling.

The sentiment came with the scribbly bird stamps.  I used a piece of scrap paper with paint and inks leftover from other projects and doodled around the edges.

This is a perfect TV-watching project- quick and easy and no gluing.   Happy list-making!


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