The Hidden Path Revealed

I intended to write a witty, whimsical post involving mysterious sea creatures and how one evening as I took a moonlit stroll along the beach, I was visited by a wise old octopus. As he levitated above the ocean shore he stretched out far-reaching tentacles. Each tentacle pointed to a different path and each path was right and looked as promising as the other. Indeed, each path is worthy of travel and exploration:

RIght View
Right Intentions
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood
Right Effort
Right Concentration
Right Mindfulness

But I’m no philosopher and so I will only leave you with these few photos of what I managed to work on this month.

octopus before
Before smoothing, baking and sanding

After:

octopus Collage

Oh, and a song too 🙂

An End to Summertime Blues

Oh NO, It’s mid September and I haven’t posted a thing! What will my beloved fans think? (note the sarcasm)

It’s been a busy month; I’ve been attending conferences, classes, meetings, hustling to build inventory for craft shows, done a couple of craft shows, now I’m planning a baby shower, preparing for out-of-town visitors not to mention I want to revamp my whole blog –  and well, I’m finding it hard to organize my thoughts long enough to write a meaningful post.

Aside from all the above mentioned activities, the biggest project by far has been getting our yard under control. We are certainly not done, but we have made huge progress in creating a nicely prepped canvas for next year. Finally, there seems to be an end to those summers spent in a bland, ugly backyard!!!

I’ve decided our next home will either be a high-rise apartment in the center of a bustling city or a small bungalow in Bali, either way – it wont have a yard. If it does have a yard, it will be fully and completely landscaped BEFORE we buy it. Of all the DIY projects we have done, the yard has felt like an impossible, never-ending task. It’s hard work and it’s expensive.

Anyway, I’d like to get this posted before September Ends so here is the run down:

slopeCollage
before and after of slope. Imagine the whole area covered in 10 times more than that last photo on the right.

I really wish I had more photos of this slope before we started – yep, believe it or not, it actually looked worse than this. It looked a little like the photo on the right, which is a corner of our backyard last year before we took care of all that ugliness. The plastic was to choke out the blackberry bushes and ivy we cut back. Let me tell you, I was sick of plastic sheeting by the time it was over with, I can’t imagine how Christo did it. Dang, I should have used pink plastic – maybe next time.

Then there was this:

Summer 2011, 7 months after moving in
Summer 2011, 7 months after moving in. We were playing around with the idea of what a retaining wall would look like here – we tested out the idea by using blocks we found which had been scattered throughout the yard.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I came home one day a few weeks ago and found my husband had rented a jack hammer. The next  photo was taken after the six truck loads of rubble had been removed AND after the several days it took for me to fully digest just how big the problem was. Now, does this look like a space to laze away those nice summer days? NOT!

patiobef
This slope in the foreground is a pain to mow, so I’d like to have steps here, but how to connect it to the wall we already started?

My husband really did a great job on getting the wall started – you can see how long it is, and it is completely level, but trying to problem solve working around this grassy slope was more than we could deal with  – I mean, the man does have a full-time job and he wanted to take advantage of SOME of the nice summer weather on his time off, so we hired someone to complete the project. And I am soooooo glad we did.

We worked with Gonzalo Zuniga, a hardscape and landscape specialist, and I will say I am very impressed with Gonzalo’s  professionalism, attention to detail and ability to actually DESIGN. In my experience with contractors, I find many of them are just willing to do what you ask regardless of whether it makes sense or not, they seem to have no opinions or ideas about making a space look pleasing AND be functional. They do what they are getting paid for and that is it, no imagination, no problem solving and no design skills, which can end up leaving one with a bad case of buyers remorse.

We had an idea how we wanted the space to look. I pulled up TONS of photos of my dream spaces, but we didn’t need anything elaborate that would over power the style of the house. We also have one of those annoying budget things. The two problems were the slope where we initially wanted a retaining wall to hold all the dirt back and the  grassy slope which was a pain to mow. We had no idea how to  incorporate the existing wall to meet the point of where that grassy slope should disappear.

Thankfully, our trusty landscape specialist, Gonzolo, worked out a solution for us. Now, I’ll admit, the result  looks pretty grand for our simple backyard, but it was the best solution for what we had in mind and I absolutely love it.  I can’t wait for everything to grow in and soften the space up. You can bet I already have a to-do list going to finish this space off  next year.

Here’s a few shots of the work Gonzolo did:

You can see the back corner where those blackberry bushes from the first set of photos were last summer.
slope view of patio
view of the patio from what was once a huge overgrown mess of ugliness.
We still have work to do on the back wall. FIRST, removing the concrete pieces my husband thought would be good to use as filler.... REALLY???? But still a big improvement.
We still have work to do on the back wall. FIRST, removing the concrete pieces my husband thought would be good to use as filler…. REALLY???? But still a big improvement.

It’s nice to have the patio complete just in time for the rainy fall season 🙂 And it is even nicer to finally have this posted before September gets away from me completely! On second thought, It’s nicer to have the landscaping done (well, started anyway…)

Now I’m off to prepare for a weekend retreat. I can’t wait. It will be a good time spent focusing on my business and art. Because I am so over yard work for a while.

Cheers for now.

What have you been up to this summer?

Hoo’s That Peeking at Me?

This little table called out to me the other day as I wondered around a garage sale. I thought I could add it to my collection of “ugly furniture to makeover someday”. Yes, it has seen better days, and I’m positive it smelled better in its youth as well. It also needed a few repairs. Nothing a little wood glue and filler wouldn’t take care of.  If you are curious about the style, I believe it is an Art Deco waterfall end table. “Waterfall” refers to the rounded edges.

waterfall table before

I took it home, added it to my collection and waited for it to speak to me. One day as I was rummaging through the pile, I heard a little voice whisper “Blue. Robins egg blue. Please?”

I was bitten by the painted furniture bug years ago, but this is the first time in a while I’ve had access to so much unwanted furniture at such great prices. (Summers around here mean LOTS of garage and estate sales.)  It’s also the first time I’ve had space to both store and work on my finds. Needless to say, I’ve accumulated a nice little collection. The problem is, waiting for each piece to speak to me.

Sometimes, you might find trying to communicate with a piece of furniture is a little trying to communicate with a moody teenager. Typically I hear only muffled whispers. Yet, patience does pay off…

I began the prep work; sanding, cleaning, sanding, priming, sanding – yes there is quite a bit of sanding involved in painting furniture. After the first coat of paint was applied, I was at a stand still. There had to be a way to dress it up a bit without adding too much detail. Seemed as though my little table went mute on me.

After a few days of silence, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I went on a hunt for a knob. I wasn’t sure whether to go with something dainty and feminine, whimsical or simple. I settled on a simple whimsical owl.

I wasn’t entirely pleased with my decision, but when I revealed the knob to the table, its excitement was hard to contain. As was mine.

The knob became the inspiration for the surprise inside as well as the little touch on the back. Finally, I had completed one project on my to-do list!

table Collage

I just love having a little surprise inside a cabinet or drawer, so I thought the owl could offer a nice ‘how do ya do’ to anyone who might decide to give this table a new home.

I hope I can get at least two other small projects completed this month. I’m hearing mumbles coming from the garage, so I may be back real soon…

Cheers! Hope you are enjoying the rest of your summer.

A Bunch of Stuff and a New Tin…


What can I say? I’m completely uncreative when it comes to writing titles.

I should be posting about the Craft Fair I did earlier in the month.  Truth is, it was a little uneventful. And I mean that in the most positive way.

Everything went smoothly from set up to tear down. Aside from our group of 10, we had a lot of help from a few husbands which made set up all the easier. A few ladies in our group are veterans at this craft fair business, so they walked  us rookies through it. We also had a great project manager who  wrote up a plan of action for each of us, so we all knew what our roles were from the get go.  I was a little nervous about the whole thing because well, you know how it can be to work with a group of highly creative women, each with fabulous ideas —- things can get a little tense. As a newbie to the group, this was a chance for me to get to know everyone on a more personal level. What a fantastic group of talented, intelligent, fun and funny women! We laughed, We cried! It was great. My personal sales were better than I expected and the overall experience was a positive one. I did learn I wouldn’t do that particular venue again, but I would do another event  in a minute with this group. And I am. Next moth. But that is another post…..

WHEW – now that was a wordy paragraph.

I’ve been a little lazy since the fair and took some time to focus on non creative tasks. My brain needed a rest. But I’m ready to get back to work! I’ve been asked to create a couple of custom tins which I am really excited about.

My first job was to design a business card holder for a friend.  She had mentioned she liked mine and asked if I would make her one. I was happy to do it, but she didn’t give me much of a hint about what style she wanted. When I asked her, she said “Oh anything.” Perhaps she was only being nice, but she’s gonna get one now, like it or not.  After cyber stalking her for a couple of days, poking around Facebook and her Etsy Store, My Jealous Heart, I didn’t come up with much, so I just went way out on a limb and did my own thing.

The Reveal

buscardback
Back of Altered Altoids Tin;

I’ve been a little obsessed with old school American tattoos lately. Not getting one, but the images and how I’ve been seeing them used on everything from pot holders to diaper bags.  As I kicked around a few ideas in my head about this card holder, I thought, why not design one in the spirit of an old school tattoo?

I had so much fun with this because I had no idea how I would do it, so there was a lot of experimental play happening. I wanted a banner, I knew that, but it had to be durable and it had to have the name of my friends shop on it, which meant I’d have to custom make one.

I remembered a package of Polyshrink I had purchased about 20 years ago; I had used a corner of only one sheet to make a charm once and never used it again. I retrieved it from my stash and began experimenting. Mostly I was concerned the banner would not shrink down to the desired size.  My lettering skills are terrible, so I had to use stamps and stamp each letter on the Polyshrink (before baking). I was worried the lettering would be too small once the banner shrunk, but it turned out pretty good.

banner bef
hand colored and hand stamped Polyshrink, before baking.
banner aft
After baking at 300° for about 9 minutes.

Stays On ink pads were perfect for stamping the letters and I used Sharpies to color and add detail to the design – all before baking.

I needed something to hold the banner up. I drew a swallow, traced two of them onto the Polyshrink with carbon paper, colored the swallows with a Sharpie, cut them out,  PUNCHED THE HOLES (don’t forget to do that step) and baked it. The little birds took only about 3 minutes to shrink down to size.

bef aft bird
The original sketch and the little baked bird 🙂

Above you can see the original size of the sketch for the bird.  I had forgotten how fun this was!!

I wont get into details about the trials and errors, it really wasn’t too bad, the main thing is to have patience and know, the bigger the piece, the longer it may take to shrink and it will go through some startling stages as it shrinks. Eventually it will flatten out and look normal. There are a lot of instructions online, which are far better than I can offer.

The paper used in this project is all hand painted then details were added with art pens and acrylic paint, as with the heart. I also added acrylic rhinestones to give a little bling bling. I was tempted to use glitter, but thought the rhinestones were enough. (I’m trying to wean myself off glitter – ohhh the pain of glitter withdrawals….)

Here is the shot of the front along with a few detail shots:

jealous heart collage

I

Well, that’s it for this week. I must get back to my room redo’s, landscaping, painting and panicking (more on that in a future post) and I still have two other tins to get to, plus a few more for the fair – SOOOOoooooo I’m outta here for now.

Hope you have a fab week,

Cheers!

buscard2

Another Altoids Tin

I was on an altered Altoids tin kick for a while,  but somehow I got a little side tracked with other projects (not necessarily a bad thing) and I haven’t completed one since I did the first one back in September. The other day I decided to finish this tin I started a few weeks ago:

altoid with lotus

Details on how to make your own can be found by clicking here.

You have to promise that when you make one of these I’ll be one of the first to see!

Well, happy creating…

Altoids Tin Birthday Card

I recently chatted with a friend I haven’t talked to in several years. We used to scrapbook together, in fact I introduced her to that whole scene. While she’s still an active scrapbooker, I have since focused my interests elsewhere (though rather sporadically).  I told her I  miss scrapbooking but haven’t been very motivated to drag out all the old supplies and face those dusty, partially completed scrapbooks I enthusiastically started oh-so long ago.

My friend suggested I make her a birthday card. That might get me motivated; rekindle my interest in an old favorite hobby. I immediately thought that would be a good idea ( I sometimes work best with dead lines) and I remembered the growing stash of Altoids tins I’ve been saving. I’ve always wanted to make a little scrapbook or card or book of some sort out of an Altoids tin.

Before starting on the tin, I wanted to research what glues would work best and check for any tips that might be helpful so of course I Googled “Altoids tin crafts”.

I was led to this helpful tutorial by Kristin Batsel (aka rackycoo)) at crafters.org.  I also decided to follow the link to Kristin’s blog, Junk & Stuff, was I ever WOWED. You should check it out. She doesn’t just create fantastic altered Altoids tins, she is also an award-winning crafter (a true artist) and her blog is full of crafty inspiration.

Anyway, I’m not great at step by step written instructions, but here is the general idea ; (for more in-depth instruction go to Kristin’s tutorial at crafters.org.)

First, I drilled small holes where I wanted to add a handle. In the second photo below you can see two small holes just above the dots I made to mark my spot (the first time).

I cut the required shape (I prefer scissors over the exacto knife) then measured and cut the small strips needed for the edges (I used a paper-cutter to ensure absolutely straight lines)

After cutting the card stock, to touch up the edges and camouflage the white edge I used the edge of a felt tip craft marker with a coordinating color from the design.

I glued every thing in place using tacky glue.  In the above photo it’s glopped on, but I spread it out evenly over the surface of the tin. After the paper was applied, I added the beaded wire handle (pierced it through the paper that covered my pre drilled holes).

I used felt to line the inside edge of the tin, I thought this would work better to cover the wire than card stock.

And viol´a: Finished.

The next step is really up to you. You could simply line the inside with paper or fabric and be done with it. Since this was a very special card for an old friend on a landmark birthday, I decided to go all out and have some fun. I stuck to basic old-fashioned scrap-book skills.

For the inside I cut two strips of 12 x 12 card stock the width of the tin, then folded accordion style to ensure the folded strip would fit neatly inside. I had to glue two strips together at their end segments because it needed it to be extra long for what I had in mind. But you could keep it short or opt not to do it at all.

I embellished each segment and on the end segment (the first one you see when you open the tin I ran a bit of ribbon through an eyelet so the “card” could be easily pulled open.

In order for the folded card stock to fit, I had to trim the corners.

I used a corner rounder on bottom edge of the last segment, but folded the inside segments together and nipped off the corners, you can see the effect above. This helps everything fit neatly into the tin when it is all folded up.

That’s really about it, here is a small peek inside:

This project was so much fun and I now have a TON of ideas for more. Unfortunately, I have saved only a few tins and I can’t get everyone to eat them fast enough –  So, if you happen to have any great dish ideas that call for mass quantities of Altoids in the recipe – send them my way!

As a side note: After I completed this project I came across a post from Pillows A- la-Mode in my reader list and found this great idea for tins. It’s just so cute, I had to share…

What are some of your ideas for Altoids tins? Show me your creation, I’d love to see it!

GreytHounds

We adopted two “retired” greyhounds a few weeks ago. So far it has been a fairly smooth transition from a home without dogs to a home with two big dogs. But I’m sure the cat has a different opinion on how smooth that transition has actually been.

I’ll admit I am not really much of a dog person. I had a dog when I was a kid  I considered my very best friend, but other than that I’ve never felt a strong urge to join the “my dogs are my kids” crowd. I mean, I’ve always liked dogs- but other people’s dogs, and even then only other people’s well behaved dogs. However, when I would think about having a dog I would always think of having a greyhound – OR a big beautiful Harlequin Great Dane – but greyhounds have always pulled at my heart.

I’m sure my fondness of greyhounds stems from my early childhood memories. My father raised greyhounds for racing. Now this is not something I am proudly announcing, not at all. From an early age I was well aware of the purpose and fate of these creatures and I think that is why I’ve always had a fondness for them and  knew someday I would have a greyhound of my very own to love and care for. Throughout the years I have done a lot of research on this breed. I wanted to be sure about what I might possibly be getting myself into. I did’t want to try to simply fulfill a childhood whim of saving every poor pooch from a harsh fate only to discover they were unruly, aggressive, untrainable thugs who might try to kill me in my sleep. In my research I discovered the typical greyhound is a pretty faithful, loving, intelligent and gentle beast. Best of all they have even been described by some as very “cat – like” dogs. Ha, well I am very much a cat person, and I was relieved they weren’t known as being the high strung, ill tempered, difficult animals I had always been led to believe they were.

So, here I sit at my computer while Yuma and Twix lay curled up like little kittens on the sofa. I love these dogs. I find myself touched by their sweet dispositions, gentleness and their attitude of appreciation (that must be the dog part, definitely not the cat part). When I think about what they came from just a short time ago, I am not only deeply touched by their greytful personalities, I am also totally amazed at their intelligence and resilience.

( I must interject here that I am in no way trying to imply all greyhounds are treated poorly or inhumanely, I am well aware there are ethical and kind trainers out there; my observations are based solely on my early childhood memories – and THAT was a long time ago 🙂 )

I don’t believe there are many dogs from any breed with the ability to adapt so well. These dogs basically spend their formative “years” in kennels. Sure they have human interaction and interaction with other dogs as well, but they certainly do not have “homes” or “families”. They aren’t conditioned, trained or in any other way accustomed to living their lives as a family pet with rules and expectations put on them as to  how to properly behave in a home environment. Many of these dogs live in kennel environments for several years before settling into retirement as someones companion.

We all know what can happen to a dog who is poorly socialized as a puppy or is not given the proper training. If a puppy is “rescued” early enough some of its bad habits can be reversed and it can grow into a perfectly well adjusted family pet for the most part. But I wonder how well they would adapt if they weren’t family socialized for years.

OK, OK, this is not a “my dog is better than your dog” post, I am just so very impressed and touched by how these dogs learn so fast and adapt so well. I will admit, both of our dogs had great foster homes where they were taught the basic house rules and I haven’t really tried to teach either of them new “tricks”, but considering Twix – our two year old female – is fresh off the tracks and is experiencing new sensations and temptations everyday, yet is easily guided into doing the right thing – well that is just downright impressive!

I am convinced their ability to adapt so well comes from their deep appreciation and gratitude. Perhaps the memory of their austere puppyhood forever lingers in their minds which makes them so much more greytful for a quite, soft place to rest their weary bodies. They are truly thankful for a chance to play a short game of ball or take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood only to be relinquished to a warm home with soft carpeting under their feet and a nice comfy sofa to stretch out on.  Hmmmmm, am I anthropomorphising a bit too much here? Possibly, but it would be nice if the damn cat could show a little appreciation!

Hello!

Well, here I am living in the beautiful state of Washington. We moved here about 4 months ago from Singapore. I am very excited about getting my blog/website up and running, but I am not what you would call technically savvy so this is just a test launch for now. Ok – so I am going to press the publish button. Hope I am not sorely disappointed when I check out my public view :). Here goes…

Not too bad! But now that I am on a roll here it is time to take the dogs for the walk they have been waiting so patiently for all morning. I will be back shortly.

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