Happy Camping Everyone

I’m excited to be doing a few Holiday shows, but I’m also feeling very pressed for time. With that, I can only leave you with a photo:

caravan tin Collage

This Christmas caravan was created from an Altoids tin. The roof is made from Sculpey III  polymer clay and rests on a trailer hitch made from a clothes pin, spool and wood bead. Other embellishments include decorative paper, beads, pipe cleaner and charms salvaged from thrift store jewelry. I decided not to make my own bottle brush tree because, well, I just wasn’t feeling motivated to do so.

I’ve done a good job this year using only items I can salvage from my stash and using the paper scraps I have collected over the years. The only purchases I have made are for products I have run out of and some really beautiful, hard to find decorative paper. Mostly I’ve been working on creating my own background papers using photo editing programs.

Hey, this was supposed to be a quick photo only post. So with that, while all is quite and calm, I must get back to work. I have about 100 more of these to make.(!)

And Happy Thanksgiving :)

What Happens at the Forest’s Edge

After weeks of battling serious artist’s block, I decided it would be best to give up on forcing an idea to develop and not think about doing anything creative. At all. Ever again.

This new outlook was just a little stressful. I was thinking about an upcoming show I’d be doing and I wanted to have new merchandise on display. But I just couldn’t come up with an idea. When there was a flicker of an idea, I lacked ambition to do anything with it.

So I did what all frustrated adult children do in times of stress; I picked up my coloring book and crayons (and my Oreos) and headed to my happy place.

Ahhhhh, there’s nothing like the feel (or smell) of brand new coloring book to transport you to that feel good place of wonder and possibilities. At first it was very intimidating, I was afraid I’d turn those gorgeous, magical illustrations of enchanting forest life into something more of an environmental doomsday disaster. How can a middle-aged adult woman be afraid of a coloring book? I realized how ridiculous I was being and after a few days of admiring and caressing the pages I decided this was MY coloring book and I was going to do with it what I wanted.  I then made the mistake of Googling how others were coloring their books and quickly realized how much I suck… not just at coloring but… MY GOD…. did I actually Google and watch other people coloring?  Well, I embraced my crazy, slammed down a fistful of Oreos, opened the book, grabbed the first crayon within my reach and threw caution to the wind.

After a few days of this madness I started to feel a little happy. After a few more days I had an idea.

I began to gather my pieces.

small bits

I approached this project with the same attitude I did the coloring; I just went for it. The idea was just like the illustrations in the book; there for me to fill in and expand on, but not to be feared. It was ok to color outside the lines. And it was more than ok if things got messy. And it would even be ok if it never got finished.

getting there

I rolled paper (for the scrolls and mini books – not what you’re thinking), picked up and smashed up twigs, broke mirrors, cut up twine, went through my stash and pulled out little pieces I’ve stored away for this very day, then smeared it all with black paint. I worked away and became one with that crazy old cat woman, alone in a ramshackle cabin at the edge of that enchanted forest, collecting and hoarding all the dead and dying things it spat out. All while not having a care or concern in the world.

I created my true happy place. Which is a complete opposite of my zen garden happy place, but there is room for more than one happy place.

LAB Collage

apothecary tins

After dabbling with these pieces,  I was able to easily move on to other projects that required a little more focus and neatness.  I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the lesson is in all this. I think it’s that sometimes we just need to get over ourselves and do something completely different, no matter how silly it may seem. And sometimes we don’t have to DO anything. In doing nothing we allow new ideas to form…. you know, “listen to the universe”…

If you haven’t already caught on to this new coloring craze – I would highly recommend it. I find it to be quite relaxing and meditative. You can find these “adult” coloring books in craft stores, book stores and even in the book section of some retail grocery stores – I suggest picking up a supersize snack pack of Oreo cookies as well – to achieve the full effect of the experience.

coloring book collage

I’d love to hear how you combat and overcome your artist’s block. You can also find out more about the artist and creator of these stunning coloring books, Johanna Basford, by visiting her website johannabasford.com.

Creating a Watermark with PicMonkey

I was certain I knew nothing new under the sun when It came to computers. Usually by the time I’ve figured out a basic skill, it’s old news and there are better and faster ways of doing the same skill. So, imagine my surprise when people approach me with computer related questions. Specifically, how I make and apply watermarks to my photos.

A watermark is the subtle little image, typically the artist or company name or logo, found on a photo.  I’m always asked how I add my personalized mark to my photos, so I thought I’d write a post about it. Personally, I feel a little silly writing this post.There are a million articles available on-line addressing this very issue. All of them much better than this post will be, but, since I’ve been asked, how can I deny requests to share my limited knowledge? If I’ve left something out or you know of a better way to do this, please feel free to share your tips.  I apologize in advance for my lack of tech vocabulary, I’ve attempted to use correct nomenclature when known and I did try my best to avoid words like “doo hicky”and “thingy”, even where, in some cases, those might be more accurate than the words I ended up using.

Before we get started:

1- This is a PicMonkey editing tool. PicMonkey is a free and easy to use photo editing program. You can subscribe to PicMonkey and pay for more upgrades but everything in this post can be done using what is available for free.

2- There are limits to what PicMonkey can do. For one, you can’t “save” unfinished work for later. Once you save your creation or any part of it to your computer, that’s it, done deal. The best you can do is not log out of PicMonkey at all until you have completed your project. I’ve worked on a project for several days at a time by not logging out of PicMonkey – not ideal, but hey, with everything else PicMonkey offers, I can overlook this small inconvenience.

3- I do all my photo editing with PicMonkey. It may be possible to use your overlay created in PicMonkey in other photo editing programs, but I’m not sure how. I know it doesn’t work with iPhoto. I was able to use the cut and past options in preview to add a created overlay to a photo, so perhaps there is the ability to use the overlay in other photo editing programs, I’ve just never tried it.

3 – If you’re interested, you can read my PicMonkey review to find out why it’s my top choice for simple, fast and inexpensive photo editing. No, I don’t get paid to write this stuff.

With all that out of the way, we can now get started.

How to Create a Watermark in PicMonkey 

Create the Transparent Background

The first step is to create a blank transparent background on which to place your watermark. Making the background transparent allows for a subtle image on your photo; one that won’t look like a label has been pasted on your photo.

1 – Go to PicMonkey and choose “collage”.

step 1

2 – You will be prompted to choose photos for your collage from your computer – just click on any photo. You’ll then see the blank collage page with three cells and  a thumbnail of your photo to the left. Delete the photo by clicking on the small “x” located in the right upper corner of your thumbnail. You don’t need it.

step2and 3

3 – Delete all the cells of the collage by clicking on the small x’s that appear in the upper right hand corner of each cell. You’ll be left with one big square.

step 4

4- Go to the back ground option; click on the palette icon at the left then check the box for “transparent background”.

step 5 and 6


When you make the background transparent you’ll have a big transparent square. This is the canvas you will open in edit to create your watermark.

Tada – the first part is done; creating the blank canvas.

Create The Watermark via “Edit”

1 – After you click “edit” your blank canvas will open and you’ll see this checkerboard canvas:checkered background

Now you’re ready to design your watermark. Play around with fonts and other existing overlays and backgrounds until you get the look you want.

For this post I’m going to keep it simple. In my opinion, a watermark should be simple, typically just your name, or the name or logo of your business.

2– Add text by clicking on the “Tt” icon. You’ll see a nice collection of text styles to choose from. Click on “Add Text” and a text box will appear on your checkerboard. My inspiration today comes from watching my cat, who is watching the birds. Well, plotting their deaths more like it. Anyway, choose a font style and enter your text.

texts and overlays

I thought I’d spruce it up a bit by applying an overlay from the PicMonkey stock. You can find an array of overlays in the overlay menu which is located via the butterfly icon.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 9.24.49 AM 3– When you are happy with your creation, crop it tightly.

You can find the cropping tool in the “basic edits” menu.


Pull the corners in until you have it cropped tight. Now you are ready to save. Cropping it tight like this gives you more control over how big or small you can make your overlay – at least that has been my observation.

4– Now for the most important part – when you are happy with your overlay SAVE IT! Preferably in a place you can find it on your computer. I am so surprised at how many people I’ve talked to who go through all the above steps every time they want to watermark their photos. WHAT????? You should only have to do all the above steps ONCE to create a watermark which you’ll always have access to.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 9.25.35 AM


Give it a name.  I edit a lot of photos and I have two watermarks I use consistently. To find them easily I have added the letters “A”or “aa” in front of their titles so they are always the first photos to appear in the drop down list from my computer.

PicMonkey will prompt you to save your masterpiece to your computer, then your computer will likely ask you where. I always save my most used items or current projects to my desktop so I’m sure to find them.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 9.25.49 AM

Again, SAVE. Should I repeat that? And don’t just save it, save it where you will find it easily. Just a suggestion.

So now you have your nifty cool watermark.  But you might be wondering, “How do I put this thing on a photo?” We will do that in the following steps.

Placing Your Watermark on  a Photo

1– Tomorrow, when you want to upload all your fabulous feline fashion finds, or your dinner, to your website you’ll now be able to put your personal stamp on those photos by first opening the photo in PicMonkey “edit”.

Go to PicMonkey and click on “edit”.

1edit photo

Your computer menu will appear. Find the photo you want to edit. Not the overlay – just the photo of your Mac and Cheese… or your Devon Rex… or whatever photo you are planning to add the overlay to. desktop menu

As stated before, I usually put all photos I am planning to edit on my desk top, as well as the items I work with the most, such as my watermarks.  Above you can see the two watermarks labeled with “A” and “aa” so they are the first to appear in my list of choices. This makes it easy to just grab and drop them. Here though, I have the photos I am working with for this post appear first, but you get the point.

Choose the photo you are going to edit.

I chose this one—

profile skull

Do all your editing; cropping, exposure… whatever…then go to the butterfly icon which, if you remember, is the “overlays” menu.

adding overlay

At the very top you will see “Your Own”  – click that and find your amazing overlay that you SAVED. Click on it, click on “open” (located at the bottom of the screen) and it will automatically be dropped onto your photo which should already be opened in PicMonkey.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 9.28.41 AM

Move it around, resize it by pulling or pushing at those little circle thingy’s in the corners. (I had to throw one “thingy” in there).  I like to fade it out a bit to make it subtle. You can fade it  by using the slider on the overlay tools menu, the one that says “fade” . You can also change the color of the overlay which comes in handy if the original color blends in too much with the color of your photo.  Once you have it where you want it, save your watermarked photo.

That’s it. So, this was really two posts in one. The first being how to create the overlay and SAVE IT and the second being how to apply your SAVED watermark to photos.

A watermark is a good way to build your identity or simply add your signature to the photos you share online. Now, go enjoy making your mark all over the virtual universe!

For a great source of tips, tricks and tutorials I’d suggest you swing on over and subscribe to the  PicMonkey blog – you’re sure to go ape over it.

I Have Ways to Make You Talk

You never know what twists and turns might happen in the studio.

What started out as two separate pieces, each destined for starring roles in their own story, turned into something completely different.

First, there was a bird, which I stumbled upon (literally, I tripped right over him) in a thrift store and paid too much for, probably because the thrift store was an antique store – and you know how the word antique increases the price of an object by about 200%. This bird is definitely not an antique. But I couldn’t resist, he was taking to me, chattering away about all the grand dreams he had. Until I got him home, then not a peep. For months.

One day, I decided to make him talk, so I painted him, hoping to coax some ideas from him. I would’ve been happy with anything he had to say. I was just tired of him sitting there, mocking me, blank eyed and mute.

The Empire, start

And he stayed in this whitewashed comatose state for many more months.

I decided I would tackle another project until that damn bird decided to start talking again.

The Empire, project beginning

This would be easy, I had a few ideas of what to do with this piece. Some kind of diorama for sure. I began collecting and forming parts to create an underwater scene but ended up going down another path chasing butterflies through a secret garden. ACkkkkk. This clock was not the right shape for that. But the butterflies carried me back to another time; the days when primordial sludge oozed over the earths surface and that one tiny little single-celled organism supposedly brought forth all the diverse, amazing and complex life we see on our planet today. I would create a time line of life on earth.

Then something happened and I lost interest in the idea.  To the unfinished project pile went the clock along with that mute, mocking bird.

When I hit an artistic block, I start reorganizing my work space. This could be to make room for the flow of creative energy or just simply a diversion tactic, I’m not entirely sure. As it happened on this particular day, in a moment of reorganization when I haphazardly placed the bird atop the clock, a new idea sprang forth.

First, a bit of surgery would be required. bird project I needed to repair the gaping hole in my not so feathered friend’s chest. Dry wall compound worked well for this. And while the opening in his chest was too large, the opening in the clock was too small, so that needed to be fixed as well.

After a few minor alterations…

The Empire

I wanted to include a globe in this piece and I was glad to find a papier-mache egg in my stash. I was not so glad though, when I made a few mistakes in painting it and had to find a way to wash the paint off the papier mache. You know what happens to paper when it gets overly wet… as I tried to gently erase my mistakes the paper began to disintegrate. But I was pretty happy to find a black smooth surface underneath.  I free hand cut a tiny map of the world – my deepest apologies for those island countries that may have been relocated or completely omitted – I think Italy is missing its boot heel. But, it doesn’t matter it is the end of the world after all.

The egg sits atop a rumbling wave of black sludge; a polymer clay tsunami.

It was important that the egg rotate, notice it is not on its axis, I struggled with tilting or keeping straight. I thought an earth in complete turmoil would most likely be off its axis, so this works, which was nice because the egg already had centered holes in it.

egg Collage

To make the earth rotate, I used a battery operated clock mechanism. This presented two problems; one, the mechanism sat too low and two, the battery would have to be changed which meant the egg would have to be removable. A small wooden spool made a good support and added the right height for the mechanism. I drilled a small hole in the clock bottom to place a peg which the spool would fit onto (2), giving the egg a little support and also allowing for the unit to be removed so the battery could be replaced (3).

That is about it for this month. I suppose I could go on and on about all the symbology of this piece here, but I think it speaks on its own. Or maybe not. But I do think maybe that bird learned a valuable lesson.


Altoids Tin Pop-UP

For some strange reason I had a strong need to create a chrysalis from polymer clay. I had no idea why or what I would do with it once I made it.

polymer clay chrysalis

How could I tell its story?
Cacoon tin collageI thought it would be fun, and maybe challenging, to create a pop-up.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I just love the way the butterfly unfolds when the tin is opened. Actually, the first photo is the second chrysalis I made, because I like this one so much I decided to make another one and thought I would give you a peek at how they look l before I paint them.

I also became so inspired by the pop-up concept I thought I would attempt it with something other than butterflies.


Again, polymer clay was used to make the eggs, which are then hand painted. The nest was made from wire. For both tins I used Steampunk Botanica scrapbook paper by DCWV. The lovely little sparrows were taken from the Graphics Fairy, an amazing resource of vintage images available to all crafters and artists for use in their projects. Thank You Graphics Fairy!

Well, it has been a rather productive week so far – wait, it is only Wednesday, I actually started these projects a couple of weeks ago, but I was able to get them finished up yesterday – just in time for a show I will be doing this weekend too. :)

Well, cheers to you all – have a fantastic day.

And Now for Something Completely Different

I am definitely not a foodie and if you know me personally, you might be surprised to find me writing a post about food.  On any given day I would rather scrub every floor in my house with a toothbrush than think about the answer to that dreaded question “What’s for dinner?”

I haven’t always been like this. There was a time when I’d put more effort into meal planning and prepping. Having small children who demand to be fed forces you to prepare decent and nutritious meals at least once a day. But over the last several years, my aversion to cooking has reached an all time high, if it gets much worse, I think we’ll be left to forage for crumbs in the sofa cushions soon.

I wish I enjoyed cooking, but I just don’t. I can’t even fake it. I envy friends who not only serve up delightful meals, but find great joy and excitement in doing so. Dishes so inspiring and delicious! The look on my husbands face as he bites into a flavorful morsel… I see him glance at me from across the table, he sheepishly says “Wow, that’s good.” I know he wants to spare me any embarrassment, but I feel ashamed. To hide my guilt, I usually turn the dinner party conversation to the tragic, sometimes funny, stories of my kitchen fiascos. I leave the party vowing to never again serve a haphazardly thrown together last-minute meal. He deserves better.

But my enthusiasm and aspirations quickly diminish as my friend goes on to tell me how easy the dish was to prepare…”OH, it’s so easy! You just sauté some garlic, set that aside, chop up some lemon grass, set that aside, then you…” I don’t remember exactly, after the third step I sort of lost interest. I not only lose interest… I want to run away kicking and screaming, “NO YOU CAN’T MAKE ME DO THIS!!!” I mean really? More than 3 steps??? The only thing that should come after “you just” is “add water”. So, there goes my best intentions for preparing anything close to fabulous meals. What is wrong with me?

Dinner time frustration finally came to an all time high a few weeks ago as I hunted around for something to boil and serve when my husband suggested we try having meals delivered.  OH JOY! REALLY??? I was so excited, I had thought of the idea myself, almost nightly, but it just seemed a little ….extravagant? Lazy? I immediately tossed the can opener aside and headed to the computer. If I hurried, perhaps I could get a meal delivered TONIGHT? No such luck… but I did a little research on meal delivery services, if you can call reading one review research, and since we knew people who used and were happy with Blue Apron, we decided to go with that.

Sadly, we’d have to wait a week for the service to start. What were we supposed to do until then? Starve?

Finally, after a week of anticipation the day finally arrived. There wasn’t a more glorious sight than seeing that little box waiting for me as I pulled up in the driveway.

I opened the box.  DSC_0712 3

I have to admit, I was more excited about the actual box than its contents. The thought of having at least three meals right there in front of me, along with instruction cards, was reassuring. Even if I was a slightly doubtful this was three whole meals for two adult people. But hey, what do I know? The folks at Blue Apron are the professionals.

I tried to be positive. It was a Wednesday, a busy day for me, so I started cooking at about 6pm. It was also a very hot day, too hot to cook. The heat always zaps my appetite and I would have been happy to have eaten a few crackers and some cheese for dinner, but I couldn’t bag out on the first day. Where was my gratitude? My sense of adventure? I tried to convince myself this would be fun. Having all the ingredients right there along with the recipes would reduce some of the guess-work and make this more enjoyable. More joy, less stress. I might even learn something about spices and seasonings.

Day 1-Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwiches
I decided to go for what looked the easiest. I’d like to say it was good, I’m sure it was delicious, but the hot weather and my less than upbeat mood made it hard to enjoy the meal. Plus, I am not a big meat-eater, and I found the meal too heavy for such a hot day. I should have opted for the seared salmon.

I considered day one to be only somewhat successful. I managed to get a meal on the table. I can’t say I felt very enthusiastic about it.

DSC_0713 2

Day 2 – Curry Spiced Chicken Thighs
 I managed to suffer through it and made a really tasty meal that could have fed a mouse.

Day 3 – Seared Salmon
Well, by now, I was just a little over all the chopping of onions, zesting of lemons and  peeling of garlic… but I could do this, even though it was still too hot to cook and I got a late start on the meal again. 

Day two and day three were about as successful as day one. I still lacked enthusiasm. I managed to fumble through the first week of meals and tried not to complain too much.

I was less excited about our second delivery. I was thrilled to see the box there waiting for me, but I was also filled with just a little dread about what I’d find inside. Oh Well…

Day 4 – pan Seared Cod with Basmati Rice
This day seriously made me rethink the idea of ordering food I have to cook. It was stressful. I was trying to juggle getting the basmati rice cooked, but not overcooked while I chopped veggies, deseeded lemons and sautéed snow peas to a nice bright green.The heat only added to my stress level – that and trying to include a 16 month old in on the cooking session, I forgot 16 months is still just a little young to actually be considered helpful, especially at chopping vegetables. How in the world did I ever manage as a mother? Really – I used to cook, clean take care of kids – – and did it all quite well. Where is that woman?

Day 5 didn’t happen. It looked complicated. And it was too hot to cook.

And the rest of the days are somewhat of a blur.

I have to say, after 3 weeks, it was time to cut the Blue Apron strings.

Over all lessons and Critique

Here is a sampling of the meals we had delivered over the course of the month….ALL very tasty. I have no complaints about the quality or flavor of the food.

blue apron

At first glance it appears the meals can be prepared in just six steps, which is really four too many.  However, I quickly found each set of steps involved two or more steps. This is where I learned my very first lesson: recipes are deceiving. Aside from that little fact, I also learned a few other things:

2- Follow the recipe and don’t alter it in any way – like omitting key ingredients that seem insignificant. I always figured if a recipe calls for a minuscule amount of something, how important can it be? Maybe pretty important.

3- Ghee isn’t just a uniform you wear in Karate class. That would be a gi.

4- There is a difference between a shallot and a green onion. Not only that, some people think the difference is so wide, an average onion should never be used as a substitute for a shallot. Whatever… (should I refer back to lesson 2?)

5- Sorrel is not just the color of a horse.

6- We may be extreme over eaters – I am always blown away (and a little disgusted) by the portion sizes I see served in restaurants. I find it easy to share a meal with a friend or two. But the meals from Blue Apron had me questioning my eating habits and ideas about portion size. Perhaps one cup of barley and two asparagus spears IS a full meal.

7- Lemon zest is a staple ingredient for just about any recipe, though only a small amount is used, don’t omit it.

Overall, we were satisfied with the quality of the food and variety of the menu. My main complaint, other than having to cook every meal, would be that the portion sizes were very small.  I think for a single person who enjoys cooking, but has little time to plan and shop, this is a very good service at an affordable price.

About the price:  I’m certain the meals would have cost more had I gone out and bought all the ingredients. True, some of those ingredients wouldn’t be purchased every week and would just be added to my spice cabinet, which currently consist of cinnamon, Old Bay and cream of tartar. The cinnamon and cream of tartar were purchased for a craft project (go figure). But the meats and vegetables alone may have added up to more than $60.00 a week, especially if I had purchased enough to make a filling meal for each of us. However, when feeding more than two people, the price of the service goes up and I am not sure this would be a cost-effective way to feed a family, or anyone with a hearty appetite. Not recommended for lumberjacks.

So there you have it, my adventure into the world of the culinary arts.  It lasted about all of a month. I’ve come to accept the fact that I do not enjoy cooking and never will. I remind myself  my husband didn’t marry me for my cooking skills – he could have taken the high road after the first meal I made him (steak and kidney pie) – don’t ask… basically he grew up in Scotland and always went on about missing steak and kidney pie, so I surprised him with my home-made version. Yep- he should have known right then and there.

And now, I am off to hunt for tonight’s meal – unfortunately, the dog may have beaten me to the sofa.

She’s a Catch…


Happy Friday!

Originally posted on Twisted Elliot:

I posted recently about the kokeshi dolls I have been making. The ideas keep coming. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with ideas. To the point where you really get nothing accomplished. It’s important to do one thing at a time. Get organized, make a list and get to work. Yes, it is important to make lists and check them twice. If I didn’t I’d never get anything done.

I wish I could take my own advice. As I type this I realize I have a few commitments coming up and I need to get on the ball with these dolls and the tins. As well as the blogging and photographing and other things I am forgetting.  I am feeling just a little overwhelmed because the ideas and orders keep coming in. This is a good thing right?

I thought I would share the latest creation here with you, I…

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