Friday, November 16, 2012

On With the Art

Hi all,
After another long break, I'm back with some new things to show you.  

Just to let you know why I've been quiet lately, I was having a lot of stress at my day job for several months.  It had increased recently and led to some anxiety attacks, insomnia, and a fibromyalgia flare up.  My work troubles finally culminated in being let go without warning last week. After over 3 years doing my best for my employer, it was quite a shock, though I knew I needed to move on and had just started looking for another job.  

So I've filed for unemployment benefits and started a job search, but after getting over the initial upset, I'm feeling like I've been let out of prison.  Financially it's not a good thing, but emotionally it feels heavenly.  I'm taking my dogs for walks again.  Sitting down to eat breakfast.  Catching up on some of the things I haven't had time for. Yes, please, more of this ^^.

And so, on with the Art!  I hope to have more time to develop the ideas and work on the projects that have been sitting on the back burner for so long

I finished four of the St. Nicholas candle holders I was working on in my last blog post. These two sold immediately to an old friend:

and these two are still listed in my shop, looking for a good home :)

I've started on a new idea this week.  I collected a few old wooden bowls & dishes at a thrift store recentlyAfter some TLC as needed for each, I will paint the inside surface and varnish it.  Here is my first collection, with one I've started working on: 

They can be used for interesting decor on a shelf, table, or dresser, and can be useful for holding jewelry, change, keys, or whatever.  Some might be fun to hang on a wall as art. I like finding a way to reclaim and recycle an unwanted used thing and make it pretty and new again.  They are all so different and interesting to me!

I hope to get back to writing blog posts more often again.    Best wishes to all.      

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

St. Nicholas Candlesticks

Here's what I've been working on for the last few weeks: St. Nicholas candlesticks, or candle holders perhaps is the more correct way to say it.   I used to make these some years ago, and sold some on consignment in a gift shop, as well as giving some as gifts.  I was on the fence about whether to make any for my etsy shop for awhile, because they are time intensive, but decided to go ahead and make a few.  

Here is what I start with: a commercial American Colonial style table leg that is 10 1/2 inches tall, and a pre-cut plaque, in this case a 5 inch square.  My husband helps me by drilling a hole in the end for the candle (this is not easy to do!) and one in the center of the plaque to thread the screw end of the table leg into.  I sand and seal the raw wood.

 Then I put base coats on them (here just showing a St. Nicholas candle holder that will have a green coat):

I start painting the details, shaping the features of his face and fold of the fabric with highlights and shadows to give the illusion of depth and prominence to the flat wood surface. This one has a red coat and holds a teddy bear and candy cane.  The plaque is just base coated in this photo. 

After a bunch more hours of painting, then varnishing, the I have a finished St. Nicholas.  This one is in a red coat and hat with fur edging, putting a shiny red apple in a stocking:

This is the only one I've finished so far.  I hope to have two listed in my etsy shop by next weekend, and two more by Thanksgiving.  I doubt I'll have time to do more.  I don't know if any potential buyers will find them this year, but I hope maybe next year I'll have more visibility.  I think this is a unique craft and could appeal to collectors, if they find me! 

I'd like to eventually start turning our own sticks, since that would be truly handmade and not just hand painted.  The table legs are not easy to find anymore, either.  I have a small supply from past years but it won't last forever!  First I have to see if there is a market for them before investing in a lathe, though! 

On another note, I have to apologize for going missing for three weeks!  I would like to be a regular blogger, who posts like clockwork, but okay, I'm not.  Sometimes stuff gets in the way...and sometimes I don't feel inspired to write.  I think it was a combination of both this time.  Well, it happens.  I don't think I've hit my stride yet on blogging.  Guess we'll see if and when I do!  But thanks so much for tagging along!  I feel honored that you take the time to read my post...thank you!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Two Books, and the Past

I want to write off the topic of art for this post. Literature is one of my passions; I majored in fine art and English in college.  I hoped to write novels myself, sadly not a dream I have accomplished, but I LOVE to read.  

I read two terrific novels recently, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.  I saw the movie versions prior to reading the novels, and feel they are good movies, but the books are superior, as books often are to the altered, shortened movie versions.  (I listened to them on CD while driving to work and around town for several weeks...I highly recommend the CDs for the really great voice acting in both books.)

Both stories are set in the south in the early 1960's.  Both focus on the effects of the civil rights movement on a small group of people, both black and white.  And both are written in first person, which I always find compelling.  We are drawn into the minds and hearts of characters that are experiencing the frightening, exhilarating, and uncertain consequences of a nation being forced to move past it's history into the future.
Conflict, violence, and fear surround the people in the story, but these characters are strong, decent, and caring.  They are fictional faces representing the many real human beings who suffered from prejudice, racism, injustice, and powerlessness, who felt anger and fear, but held onto their integrity.   There are moments of great humor, tear-inducing heartbreak, and moments of transcendence.  I was so sorry to come to the end of both books.

The novels also led me to think about my own memories from that era.  I was a child in the 60's, living in Clearwater.  This was not the Deep South, with far more northern transplants than natives making up the growing population.  My own family moved here from Pennsylvania in the 50's. The racial lines were not as sharply drawn or deeply entrenched as in South Carolina or Mississippi, where the stories in the novels are set.

My elementary school had all white teachers and students up until I started 5th grade.  That year, I had a black teacher, Mrs. Boykin.  She was a short, stout, businesslike lady with, I soon found, a soft heart.  I don't remember ever feeling any uneasiness about her, the first black person I had ever known.  There were still no black students in the school, and only one other black teacher.

I don't really remember what her teaching style was or why I became so attached to her, but I loved her.  I once made her a little construction paper mouse, and thereafter she called me "Mousie," which I hope was the term of endearment I took it for and not a comment on my plainness!  By the end of the year I was heartbroken to leave for the summer; in fact I wrote her letters, and I asked if I could come to her house and visit her.  She agreed to it.  

It was then that something new crept in.  I don't know where it came from...was it a new consciousness of the world around me, or did someone say something to me about how different her neighborhood might be, how it might feel...wrong, somehow.  But a shift took place within me, and I became afraid to go visit my beloved teacher, and I backed out.  I probably did it awkwardly.  She probably understood why.  I carried shame about my withdrawal for many years, in fact I still do to a degree.  She is still my favorite teacher.

I visited her in her classroom over the years as I went to middle school and high school, but of course things change. The closeness was gone, but at least for me the affection remained.  I was incredibly fortunate to run into her about 10 years ago at the library where I worked.  She said she remembered me, and despite her age I recognized her immediately.  I got the chance to tell her what a great teacher she was and to thank her.  

I wish I had had more time to talk to her.  I wish I could have heard from her perspective what that time was like, the first black teacher in an all white school.  How brave she must have been, and how difficult it must have been for her at first to deal with things I can only guess at.  I only hope having at least one student who loved her unreservedly for that year made it a little easier.  

The uneasiness between the races continued through high school, as I remember it.  We were integrated but remained separate for the most part.  In the years since, I have certainly had black coworkers and fellow college students and customers, but I regret that those relationships never grew beyond that level.  

I'm sad to say I've never had a friend of another race; acquaintances, but not really friends.  I know that is my loss.  There is so much we all share as human beings, being so much more alike than different, but there is still so much we can learn from each other as we continue this journey into enlightenment.  To me, we are all One in Spirit; separation is an illusion of physical existence that has no real meaning.

These wonderful books I read have left me with relived  memories, and hope for the future still unfolding.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Basket Update

Just wanted to update my progress on my last holiday gift basket, which I have worked on a bit over the last few days.

This is the end that is closest to being done.  I added the little Christmas tree and bunnies:

I worked on the mountain end, adding trees that wrap around to the side slats:

The other slat side is waiting for some details:

So there's still plenty to do.  I probably worked about four hours on it since my last update.  

We had a bit of cooler, drier air make it this far south this week.  It felt great!  But cold fronts don't last long at this time of year, if they even make it here.  It'll stay in the upper 80's to low 90's for the next few weeks most likely.  Here I am painting winter holiday scenes when it's still subtropical summer outside!  Oh, and I wanted to share a photo of an orchid blooming in our yard.  It's pretty neglected outside, but the humid hot weather, shade, and summer rains seem to suit it.  Guess that comes of being a rainforest plant living in central Florida!  The flowers are huge and have lasted for weeks.  Bye for now!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Catching Up!

I took a break from blogging for two weeks while I was finishing up some things and starting some others.  

About a month ago I wrote about sewing a ballroom dance dress for our friend Heather, who also dances with my daughter Laura's partner Dakota.  They have a competition in North Carolina in a few weeks (Laura's not competing in this one) and I needed to finish the dress.  Fortunately it fit pretty well and didn't need a lot of work to finish.  Here's a couple of photos of it fitted, embellished and hemmed.

I also finished painting another holiday/gift basket to list in my etsy shop, which I did, just yesterday...and today it was purchased by a family member!  I have a great family.  I feel very honored when anyone wants to have something I have made, and when that someone is family, it just makes it more meaningful to me. This is the one I finished, listed and sold within a couple of days!


I've also been working on my last basket of the six we made.  I thought I would show a progression of how I paint them from start to finish.  I made good progress this weekend.  Here is where it begins on the first day, with the wood already sealed:

I put base coat paint layers on it, in this case white:
Next, for this basket, I used a sponge to put layers of darker and lighter blue paint over the base coat and then a brush to start the design:

I did get more done; one side is nearly done but I didn't get the last photo before it got too dark out on the enclosed porch where I work. I'll put that in the next progress blog.  This basket is going pretty fast so far.  Plenty left to do though!

Lastly, I'm working on other ideas for things for my shop.  I think I'm in an exploration phase as I try things to see how I like making them, and how people respond to them, and if they will sell or not.  It may take a year or more to sort out what shape this venture will take.  It's fun to experiment and see what happens.  The hard part is trusting myself, and the process of trying different things and evaluating the results, to lead me to the best choices.  Being true to myself and following my heart is my intention.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Put a Bird On It, Part 2

I addressed some of the general issues generated by Alexandra Lange's article and Ellison's etsy blog post in my previous post, but I have a more personal take on them as well that I hope to delve into in this follow up post.  I hope you will bear with me!

I feel there is a reflection of this issue in my own current work, which makes me uneasy. The thing is, I'm a fine art painter....and I'm a crafter. I love to paint canvases with portraits, landscapes and other subjects with serious intent to capture likeness, attitude, mood, and good composition, using and stretching my skills and knowledge.

The Mountains Beyond, by Penny Birch-Williams

As I shared in a previous blog post, I was so moved by a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in April, viewing in person incredible works of fine art by some of the world's greatest artists.  I have been inspired by great art all my life, and without any expectation of ever reaching such heights of achievement, I have been propelled by the desire to be better than I am, to push myself to learn and grow, to be a 'real' artist.

"Mommy's Hat" a portrait of Laura, by Penny Birch-Williams

But I also love to make crafts, and to paint crafts. Some of my craft painting is also what I would call serious....but some is definitely on the cute side. I have always loved cute things. I melt for babies, kittens, and puppies, little felted creatures, anything with big eyes, anything furry, fuzzy, fluffy. I love to make cute things.  It seems to me that most holiday decorations are cute, appealing to children (or the child within us!) 

Most of the Christmas baskets I'm working on now are meant to be cute in subject, while painted with the same care and detail I would use on a canvas. 

And yes, I put a bird on it! (Actually there are birds on a couple of my baskets now.)

So what makes me uneasy is the question of whether taking my abilities, and my etsy shop, into the cute zone somehow cheapens, or reflects negatively, on my painting as a whole, and myself as an artist? Can I be both a fine art painter, and a crafter? Can serious Art, or serious Craft such as the type Lange was writing about in her article, coexist with the cute and fuzzy little-c craft, and be worthy of the same respect?


My personal uneasiness is not a particularly weighty issue for anyone besides me, of course.  I have no critics watching my career, who might have an opinion on what I do one way or another.  I will likely never know if it puts anyone off, who happens upon my etsy shop and thinks less of me for having crafts among my canvases. 

Sometime in the future I may decide to open a second etsy shop, and split off the crafts from the fine art, but the question remains.  I'm the one doing the work, no matter where it's put up for sale.  

Maybe this is more about the labels I use, and how I want to merit the label "Artist", at least in my own mind.  I hope I can make peace with myself, when I can accept that there are within me different facets of how I express art, and find equal respect for each.  


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I Put a Bird On It, Part 1

I read a thought-provoking blog post on etsy recently that kind of hit home for me.  It was by Chappell Ellison, titled Is Cuteness Bad for Craft? on 8/21/12.  Click here if you would like to read her post. 

She was commenting on an article in the New Yorker by Alexandra Lange on 8/1/12, Don't Put a Bird On It: Saving "Craft" from CutenessYou can read her article here. 

Lange's article was commenting on the TLC show Craft Wars.  She states that "What "craft" mostly means on Craft Wars is the act of making things cuter," as contrasted with her "old-school definition of craft: make it yourself, buy better quality items, think about each purchase, keep it for a long time." 
Mid Century Modern Eames Inspired Coffee Table
Mid Century Modern Eames Inspired Coffee Table, $349.00
As I understand it, she believes the show's wasteful use of the materials used, rushed construction, and the focus on decorating rather than usefulness and sturdiness, cheapens the idea of craft.  She says, "Making things cute is not a business.  It's not even a part-time job.  Instead, it's a hobby."  According to Ellison's etsy blog post, Lange's article received many angry comments from crafters calling her a snob.

There are currently 290 comments on Ellison's post from etsy sellers-artists-makers, and most of them saying that cuteness does not have to prevent craft from having value and meaning. With Michaels as sponsor of the show, it can't be too surprising that the competition is set up as little more than decorate-the-box-best.  The contestants are shortchanged in that they get little opportunity to show what they are really capable of.  The show does little to show crafting in a way that enhances its image or proves its value, in my opinion.

However, Lange is incorrect: many people do make a full-time or part-time living from "making things cute".  Etsy is full of sellers doing just that.  Does that mean those felted creatures, polymer clay mice, cupcake keychains, knitted frog baby hats have no value?  to those that enjoy them, wear them, use them, and buy them, clearly they do have value.  To those that make them, with care and pride in their work, they have value. 

3-6 Month, Frog Hat, Baby Hat, Crochet Baby Hat, Photo Prop
3-6 Month Frog Hat,, $14

Even her use of the word "hobby" as a negative description is an unnecessary put-down for millions of people who devote countless hours developing skills and producing lovely things in their off-work hours.  Not all of us are blessed with the choice to devote ourselves to an art, craft, or other loved and enjoyable activity as a career.  There need not be derision from critics regarding the quality of hobby pursuits, sight unseen, no less.

Kawaii Cupcake Charm Keychain, Strawberry :)
Kawaii Cupcake Charm Keychain,, $4

I do agree with this point in Lange's article:  there is a current movement toward returning to the Arts and Crafts era attitude regarding material goods, for good quality, durable, useful, beautifully made items.  Possibly this is a backlash against years of factory-made, endlessly duplicated items, cheaply made and often needing replaced, found in every mega-mart and dollar store.  There is, to me--and I believe for a growing number of people--an inherent soullessness to such things.

Little White Mouse with Cake Ornament Sculpture Cake Topper
Little White Mouse with Cake,, $24.49

Individual people hand make nearly everything you could need or want, such as clothing, toys, notebooks, cards, aprons, quilts, pillows, hats, jewelry, chocolates, pet beds, treats, furniture, shampoo, and on and on.  They can be found at art shows, craft fairs, consignment shops, websites, and online venues such as etsy.  Nearly anything can be made with skill and expertise, using quality, durable materials, and often with unique design and personal expression.

Hand Knit Hat Womens Hat - Pixie Hat, Gnome Hat, Elf Hat, Olive Green - READY TO SHIP - Fall Fashion Autumn Fashion
Hand Knit Hat Womens Pixie Hat,, $50

Slutty Brownies -  Cookie Oreo Chocolate Fudge Brownie Bars
Slutty Brownies- Cookie Oreo Chocolate Fudge Brownie Bars,, $16

Luscious Plum Soap - notes of plum, orchid, jasmine, musk, and vanilla
Luscious Plum Soap,, $5.75

As consumers we often buy the cheap mass-produced things because we don't have the money today for products that will last for years to come.  Many of us are cash-strapped, but more people are starting to think critically about how they spend their limited dollars, seeking out what appeals to them as well as what will last. Some are even considering such things as the sustainability of materials used, and supporting local small businesses and individual artisans.  With growing consciousness, we are finding new ways to express concern for our shared world in our personal lives.

Next blog post:  I Put a Bird On It, Part 2...why this hit home for me      

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Warning for Pet Owning Crafters

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the death of our cat Jack.  It's always sad, even heartbreaking, to lose a beloved pet.  Those of us who share our lives with pets know how much a part of us our furry friends become over years of living together.  But there is a reason I am blogging about Jack's death beyond the normal feelings of loss.  

I'm sharing this with you because Jack died due to my carelessness and as a result of my crafting.

He was a character, mischievious and charming, with long silky fur and golden eyes, and a meow like a squeak toy.  Only 6 years old, he was a rescue kitten we had adopted at the Humane Society when they were trying to make room for pets coming in from areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.  He won our hearts in a matter of days. There was just something about him that made him truly special.  He was especially bonded to my daughter and their love was very deep.

One year ago I was making dresses for my daughter to wear for a ballroom dance competition.  I often spent weekends and evenings working on dresses over the last five years.  Jack liked to watch me and often got in my way, sitting on the material as I cut out the pieces and so on. It could be aggravating, but I loved his company too.

He liked to bite at the thread on my sewing machine. I knew this, and had a habit of removing the thread from the machine and putting it away when I finished for the day, or covering the machine with a towel.  But on this night I walked away from it, intending to return in a few moments, without covering it.  Jack had been watching and playing with everything I was working with.  I left the room, got distracted, and when I returned Jack was on the floor, gagging, pawing at his mouth, with thread winding from the machine across the floor, into his mouth.  Cats can't spit things out.  They just keep swallowing and swallowing.

I held him and pulled on the thread, hoping he hadn't ingested much yet.  The thread caught on a back tooth and broke.  He calmed down, but coughed, and kept coughing.  He wouldn't eat.  When I attempted to look in his mouth to see if I could find the thread, he panicked and freaked out, leaving me with several deep scratches on my chest and hands.  He had never done that before. It was late at night by then.  I hoped it would pass through his system.  

The next morning he was still coughing, still not eating.  I took him to a veterinarian specializing in cats, whom I had just recently starting taking my elderly cat, Misty, to see. After watching him and x-rays that day, she did surgery the following morning to remove the thread.  He had eaten about a yard of it.  

I took him home the next day and spent the day trying to get him to eat and drink.  He moved around a little, but looked very uncomfortable.  I found he was bleeding and called the vet, who seemed overwhelmed and uncertain.  That night I took him to an emergency vet multi-speciality office.  

They sedated and stabilized him overnight, but testing revealed infection setting in.  What happens is that thread acts like a thin razor as it gets pulled tight by contractions of the intestines, making tiny cuts in the soft tissue, and from there bacteria escapes and causes serious infection.  We were told Jack would need more surgery to find and repair the cuts, a transfusion, flushing out of his abdominal cavity, possibly lengthy hospitalization.  And even then, his odds of survival were 50/50.  If he did live, he could be sickly for the rest of his life. And it would cost upwards of 5000 dollars.  We had already charged $3000 for his care over the last four days that we could not afford.  

To say this was staggering is a vast understatement. I was desperate with grief and guilt, desperate to save him.  My family gathered, and after heart wrenching discussion, we knew we could not put him through more suffering, and we could not financially cripple our family any further.  We all took turns holding him and trying to say goodbye.  It was one of the hardest things we have experienced.  We still miss him very much.  I still struggle to forgive myself for having failed him so completely, and caused my daughter, and all of us, such an unnecessary and traumatic loss. 

All I can do, to somehow create some redeeming element to what happened, is to tell the story with the hope that other families, other artists, others who sew and craft, will better understand the dangers of such things to our pets, and will take the steps necessary to protect them.  Pets don't know what can happen to them, only we do.  I was told by the vets that many dogs and cats suffer the same fate as Jack did, due to thread, Easter grass, string, fishing line, yarn, and other similar materials.  

If this does happen to your pet, please rush it to a veterinary practice that does emergency care, one that can do endoscopy if at all possible.  Only immediate care can remove the thread before it enters the intestines and thereby prevent the internal cutting and infection.  It's costly, but far less than major surgery.  If I had acted immediately, the outcome could have been very different.  I made poor choices that only made a bad situation into a deadly one.  I wish I had done so many things differently.

I wish you and your furbabies long happy lives together.  Please take care of them.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Half-Empty Nest and Storm

It's been a wacky week and isn't looking too good for the week ahead!  I didn't have time to paint, or to write a blog post.  We were threatened by Isaac the tropical storm/hurricane for several days.  It finally moved further west, so we didn't see much more than rain squalls and gusty winds, fortunately.   As a precaution school was cancelled in the Tampa Bay area, and other events such as the RNC going on in Tampa were delayed a bit.  Sure sorry to see the hurricane bearing down on New Orleans and that coastline tonight...and hoping it will not be anything near the disaster that Katrina was for the people there.

This turned out to be the weekend my daughter and her boyfriend moved out of our house and into an apartment near USF.  It's been in the planning stages for several months but suddenly came together last week when they found the right place.  I shopped a lot last week to help them get some of what they need for their household.  Sunday was the big day; we were in a caravan of four cars on the way to north Tampa by 9:30 am.  Then a tire on the trailer, full of furniture and towed by a friend, began to disintegrate on the interstate near downtown Tampa, necessitating a quick exit and waiting for a new tire delivery.  Luckily it only delayed us an hour.  Wish I had a camera with me!

It's a nice little apartment and we hope they will be very happy there.  It does feel kind of sad to have one of my two kids moved away from our home, making her own home.  It's not too far away and she'll be back frequently, which will help.  

It will take awhile to get used to not having her here every day, and I know I'll miss her.  But I also know we will adjust in time.  Kids grow up and become independent, and we have to let go and trust that they will be okay.  We've been lucky to have our kids with us for so long, but we don't want to hold them back from their lives.  Our son likely won't be leaving anytime soon, so we aren't yet empty-nesters.  One step at a chick at a time. 

Part of me is ready to focus on some of my own goals and needs after years of parenting being the priority in my life...but oh how I miss those years of snuggly babies, busy kids having fun, homeschooling adventures, etc.  It flies by all too quickly.  I'm so glad I got to spend so much time with them as they grew up, and they were so much fun (and still are!)  And they are such intelligent, talented, honorable, and kind young adults.  Can you tell how proud I am to be their mom?

Being a mom was my dream, even more than being an artist.  I am so lucky, because that dream came true for me, and was everything and more than I hoped for.  Recognizing this gives me hope for the dream of someday being a full time working artist too...why not? since dreams can come true!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Some Thoughts on Weddings

I've been thinking about weddings today.  No one I know is getting married, but weddings are very big business these days.  

There are multiple shows on tv about weddings. I like to watch "Say Yes to the Dress" on TLC, mostly because I love to see the dress styles, but also to watch the brides and their families interact.  Maybe it's dress envy because I never tried on dresses when I was preparing to get married in 1987.  Our budget was small and my mom was a wonderful seamstress, so it was natural for her to make my dress for me.  After she finished it, I sewed the little bit of expensive lace I could afford onto it, and pearl beading as well. I still think it's lovely, but quite out of style, of course!
Penny and Craig, 10/17/1987
I think the extravagant designer dresses on "Say Yes to the Dress" are fantastic, though the prices are mind-boggling.  Another show I watch sometimes is "My Fair Wedding," where wedding planner David Tutera produces an over-the-top theme wedding just weeks before the wedding date.  Each event is orchestrated and blinged out to the max. It's kind of unbelievable how much work can go into one wedding.

At one time I thought about having an etsy shop for weddings.  There are many such shops, related to every aspect of wedding preparations imaginable.  As an amateur ballroom dance dress maker I was drawn to the idea of making the beaded, rhinestoned sashes many brides wear currently.  I still think it would be fun, but I've got my hands full with painting!  I think the sash below is beautiful and no doubt is quite a lot of work to create.

Best Seller - LAURA - Bridal Crystal Rhinestone And Pearls Sash, Rhinestone Bridal Belt, Wedding Beaded Sash, Rhinestone Wedding Belts
Wedding Beaded Sash by, $175

Today I happened onto "Bridezillas" for the first time and ended up watching for several hours, fascinated in the same way most of us can't help gawking at a car wreck.  You have to wonder if the brides who agree to do the show actually realize how bad they look as they indulge in incredibly immature, selfish, and narcissistic behaviors, as the commentator makes snarky remarks throughout.  But shows like that are often set up to create drama and conflict, so you can't tell what's real and what isn't. I kind of wonder what is going on in our culture, that many people have become so determined to create a spectacle where they are the Star on Their Big Day. 

There is a sort of counterculture to this type of wedding extravaganza, however.  Some couples are choosing to create weddings that reflect their convictions on green living, for instance by choosing a vintage dress such as the one below.  Others are having entirely homemade weddings, small celebrations outdoors, and other very personal, private, low-key events.  These weddings appeal most to me, probably because they are similar to my own wedding.  (I made our church decorations and our wedding cake too!)  I think it's great that there are so many choices and everyone can have the wedding that fits them and their budget the best.

Wedding Dress 1950s
                 1950's Vintage Wedding Dress by             

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back to School Nostalgia

I don't know about you, but this time of year makes me nostalgic about those last summer days leading up to starting school again.  I loved summers, but I also loved school.  As one of those geeky, earnest kids, I felt such excitement about the new school year and everything I would learn.  And I loved the fresh new notebooks, paper, pencils, lunchbox, thermos, shoes, and clothes my mom bought for me.  Not as good as Christmas or birthdays, but close!  Even in college I loved getting my books and supplies ready each year.
Back to School Bus Door Hanger
Back to School Door Hangar from

I was able to relive that feeling when my own kids were young and we participated in that late summer ritual of shopping for all the stuff on their school lists.  Way more than I ever needed for school, but all useful and necessary.  Even after we began homeschooling we still went out to shop for supplies at the back-to-school sales.  Now they are in college and don't need my help to shop, plus, it's all about laptops now, not paper and pencils!  (I so wish I had had a laptop for all the notes I took in my college classes!)

Old Industrial School Globe -photography print
Old Industrial School Globe photography print from
I was shopping at Target last week and picked up some spiral notebooks, Sharpies, and index cards.  Some supplies are still useful around the house.  I felt some sadness and yearning for days gone past, seeing the moms and kids there filling their shopping carts with all the great stuff that they will lug into classrooms next week.

Art of the Teacher - 8x8" - Teacher Gift
8x8 print from

We can't go back, of course.  Just treasure the memories and look to the future.  I still love to learn, still get excited about new books and programs and classes. I still love the fresh-start feeling I get at New Year's, and at Back-to-School time.

Front Page Featured-Teacher's Pet 4 Book Collection Multi Color Pottery Barn Style Home Decor
Four book collection home decor from
I don't have any school items in my etsy shop, so I've shared a few from other etsy shops for fun.  Enjoy your last days of summer!

Oh Happy Day Blue Engraved Pencil 6 pack - Great wedding favors and gifts
Oh Happy Day blue engraved pencil 6 pack from

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Making Progress

So happy to have made some good progress in my work on the holiday baskets.  The fall themed one that I call "Pumpkin Patch" is done, and I'm about to list it in my etsy shop.  I did add a fox to one side, and a bird to the other, since my last post showing it.

 I've also almost finished a Christmas-Winter themed one this weekend, except for a few more details on the sides and interior, and varnishing it. I'm calling it "Snow Birds."

It's been fun watching the Olympics the last couple of weeks.  Amazing how human beings can push themselves to extremes to achieve a goal, isn't it?  And how some people's bodies are capable of incredible strength, flexibility, grace, precise movement, endurance, beauty, speed...though not all at the same time, generally!  (Although I personally think dancers combine them pretty well!)  

I was touched and inspired by many of the athlete's stories; were you too?  Gabby Douglas' amazing gymnastic ability, the South African man with prosthetic legs running in track events, the young Saudi woman competing in judo, the first woman of her nation in the Olympics.  Hard to believe that there are still places in this world where women are so controlled and virtually imprisoned in their homes, prohibited even from exercising.  I heard that she may face a lifetime of being shunned and criticized in her own country.  I wish her well and hope that her world will change for the better...and make progress toward freedom for her and the women of her nation and religion.