Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!: A Look Back on October

In the early days of the month, we had plenty of beautiful weather for trips to the playground. 
I even got to teach the girls the not-so-finer points of soccer.
We didn't do nearly as much Halloween crafting as I had intended, but a "fan favorite" was making spiders from paper plates. I took charge of cutting and folding the legs, but the girls did the coloring and added the googly eyes.
The girls played with them for days!
We also enjoyed a birthday party with one of Katy's preschool friends:
The weather changed late in the month, and we made our first fire of the season.  The house smelled like fireplace smoke for a week, but the coziness of that afternoon was well worth it.
More gorgeous weather brought a trip to Kelly Drive to watch the geese in the Schuykill River.
Katy's new autumn game is building a "nest" from twigs and leaves, and then sitting on it while pretending to be a bird.  It's been "bird day" for a few weeks now!
And how's this for the face of a child who just got her flu shot:
The girls took their shots like champs, and rallied to play with the stickers and other treats they got from the pediatrician's office.

That same day (this past Saturday) we were completely surprised with our first snowfall of the season.
Where we live, it is noteworthy to have snow at Thanksgiving, so for it to arrive before Halloween is downright crazy!
There wasn't a ton of snow, though...just enough for the girls to scrape it off the patio table to make "snow birds" with their Daddy!

And for this month's grand finale:  Halloween!  I've never been a big fan of this particular holiday, but for some reason I have been very gung-ho about making sure my girls have a great time each year. 
They asked to be kitty cats, which couldn't have been easier!  They were SO excited to get their whiskers, and to see them in the mirror for the first time.

They had to bundle up a little more than I had hoped, but, really, what's cuter than two little kitty cats in sweaters!  My older daughter had the bright idea that they should carry around balls of yarn as part of their costumes. 
I hope you all enjoyed a creative October and a safe Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Return to Art Journaling

After faithful art journaling from February through August, I set the practice aside for the past couple of months to pursue some other projects.

Winning a custom journal from Natalie Malik, housed in a Gift from the Sea book cover has brought me back!
As I was sifting through my files of papers, photos, and ephemera, I found a couple of images of the book's author, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, to include at the front of my new art journal. How fortuitous!

I followed Caatje's strategy for completing art journal spreads: I prepared my backgrounds, added my collage elements, then finished with my journal writing.
If you didn't catch her comprehensive art journaling tutorial, be sure to visit her blog posts. (The link above directs you to the third and final installment, so you can work your way backward!)
On this page, I discovered a very pretty effect of my own:  Try using gel medium to glue a decorative napkin over the top of a page of text, and enjoy the beautiful result! 
I am having the most fun adding doodled details around the borders of my pages and pictures.  As everyone knows when they start to doodle, you can find inspiration where you least expect it.  The little loopy doodle above can be seen on the bandana worn by Izzy on "Jake and the Neverland Pirates," a cartoon my girls sometimes watch on the Disney Channel!
Some more favorite things, aside from the doodles:  simple watercolor paint backgrounds, letter stamps, white gel pen over colored marker, paper tape borders, and elements that lift to reveal additional layers to the journal spread.
I feel like I finally have internalized some practices that I have read over and over again in art journaling books and on blogs, but have never really done in my own journals.

Practice #1:  Use paper actually intended for wet media.  Natty included nice thick mixed-media paper in my journal, and it is clearly superior to working on the drawing paper I usually get by with.
Practice #2:  Paint lots of backgrounds at once so you can work on several pages in the journal at one time.  You have the benefit of cleaning up fewer paint messes and wasting less paint, too.

Practice #3 (directly related to #2):  Use your embossing tool to dry your pages!  Why did it take me so long to finally do this?  No more waiting overnight for a single spread to dry; I can crank out as many as I want at one time without any worries!
Practice #4:  Use paper tape as borders.  I've been reading about washi tape for months now, and finally indulged in many (many, many) rolls of paper tape (the stuff of another blog post).  It is such a simple and striking border for journal pages.
Practice #5:  Work in a book with fewer pages.  For me, working in this Gift from the Sea book feels like a project with a foreseeable end, rather than a day-after-day-after-day journal that I am more likely to abandon.  For me and my psyche, the fewer number of pages keeps me motivated.
It feels great to be back into an art journal again, playing around with art supplies, actually using the fabulous goodies I have been receiving in art swaps lately, and keeping a record of what has been going on in my head and in my life lately.

Ain't it grand when something that is good for you is something that you love and enjoy, too?!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good Things Come in Small Packages

It is definitely lots of fun to find a big box delivered to my doorstep, or a bulging envelope of swap materials.  But sometimes a little envelope of goodness is all it takes to brighten my afternoon.
I have recently received three little envelopes of artfulness that I want to share with you.  They each come from amazingly generous "bloggy friends" who have contributed to my enthusiasm for online fellowship and community.

April Cole is so generous about sharing her techniques and her fun art experiments, and her sense of play is contagious as she shares information about all the swaps she participates in.  She recently had a giveaway on her blog, and decided to send something fun to everyone who entered.  I received this bewitching ATC:
Karenann has played a large role in getting me hooked on altered Rolodex cards, and not only has she generously shared examples of her work on her blog, but she has also helped me along with all sorts of tips and ideas she has collected on her own artistic journey.  In a recent letter to me, she included this fun corrugated cardboard tag, inspired by April's work:
Finally, Seth Apter is a well-known presence in the world of creativity and mixed-media art.  He, too, has a generous spirit that pulls in artists around the web with collaborations, blogging tips, and interviews with artists who share their favorite techniques and tools with the rest of us!
He has these petite and very well-made handstitched journals for sale in his Etsy shop.

Many thanks to my bloggy friends for continuing to make my trips to the mailbox a pleasure!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happiness Project Update: How Am I Doing?

Note: You can find all earlier Happiness Project posts by clicking on "Happiness Project" in the list of labels in the left margin of this blog!
For the past month, I have been working on detoxifying my life by incorporating more exercise, drinking more water, and replacing toxic personal care products with safer, organic brands.

My greatest personal triumph has been making my way through the Couch to 5K running program; I am currently in week 5.  Each Monday and Friday, after dropping the girls off at their morning preschool programs, I head to the track and do the next assigned workout.  Either in the evening on Wednesdays, or on one of the weekend days, I fit in the third required workout.  So far, so good, on keeping the commitment.

It's all I can do to resist the urge to work on a craft project or take time for my art journaling, and head to the track instead!

The very first day, I had to alternate running for 60 seconds, then walking for 90 seconds, over a 20 minute period of time.  It took at least 40 minutes for my bright red face to return to its normal color! 

By the end of that first week, I was questioning whether I would be able to extend my jogging time, as required by the program's schedule.  So far, I have stuck with it, and at this point I am alternating 5 minutes of jogging with 3 minutes of walking.

The next workouts require a fast jump to 8 minutes, and then to 20 minutes.  I have decided to slow things down, and take a full week of workouts to make each of these time-increases.  I am trying to strengthen my legs and my cardio-vascular system, not kill myself!

I have made some interesting observations and learned some lessons over the past few weeks.  First, please do not wear heavy perfume when you go to walk around the local track; it makes those of us struggling to breathe evenly through a tough jog want to hurl! 

Likewise, please don't stand next to the track smoking a cigarette; it kind of defeats my healthy-lifestyle goals to breathe in your second-hand smoke. 

And, while I'm being a little crabby here, please don't walk three abreast, meandering around the track to share your gossip and memories of the good ol' days, forcing me to get around you by dodging bushes, benches, and American flag memorials as I must run off the track to do it.

I get myself through the jogging portions by writing blog posts in my head, planning displays for my upcoming craft show, and observing the other people sharing the track with me.  I've seen plenty of folks listening to iPods or talking on the phone, but I was particularly intrigued by the man, about my age, walking around the track while flipping through papers on a clipboard; now that's some strange multi-tasking!

As expected, incorporating all of this exercise into my life has made it super-easy to increase my water intake.  I easily fill my 24-ounce water bottle three times throughout the day, and usually have some additional water besides.  I've noticed that getting thirsty makes me a little irritable.  Not that I needed a new source of irritability, but at least it's as easy to remedy as drinking some water!

My third resolution had to do with finding safer and healthier alternatives to some of the products I use.  I am only at the beginning stages of this process.  I made a list of all the personal care items I use--soaps and lotions, dental care, hair, makeup, that sort of thing.  Then I found a website called where I could find a rating for most of the products I use. 

The site alerts me to ingredients in the products that put me at a greater risk for cancers or various forms of body toxicity.  I discovered for example, that my Skintimate Shave Gel was like slathering cancer on my legs, and my Colgate toothpaste scored a 0 on a 12-point rating scale!  I focused on the items that scored the lowest and seemed to pose the greatest health risk. 

So far, I am trying new brands of shave gel, shampoo, facial scrub, conditioner, body lotion, and toothpaste.  I don't like the organic shampoo and conditioner I am trying, so there will be some additional investigation there, and I need to look into new hair spray, powder, eyeliner, and blush. 

Once I started looking into the ingredients that are put into some of these personal care products, I was so amazed by what is allowed in our country!  Being aware of this issue, I am seeing more and more articles in the mainstream press (even seeing an article in Elle magazine while getting my hair cut) alerting people to be more conscious of what they are unwittingly putting into their bodies.

I've decided to extend this set of resolutions for one more month, since I have a long way to go to finish the Couch to 5K program, and I still have many products to consider and possibly replace, including laundry and dish detergent.  I am doing this Happiness Project to incorporate some important changes in my life, so it's not something I feel any need to rush.

Thank you for sharing this Happiness Project journey with me!

Friday, October 21, 2011

More from Studio 791!

I recently unveiled my new business, Studio 791, and my plans to participate in my first-ever craft show, the Mom-Hosted Holiday Bazaar.  I also shared some of the products I will have on sale.

I thought I would share some additional items, focusing on paper goods, especially gift tags and notebooks.
There is a definite Christmas focus to a lot of the gift tags, which makes sense for a November sale.

I had lots of fun playing around with postage stamps for many of the tag sets.
The tags below are fun; I had stickers that say "naughty" and "nice," so you can turn the two-sided tags in either direction, as appropriate:
The tags with the stickers would have been super-quick to make if I didn't have to cut out all of those circles!  They make bright and cheerful tags for Christmas gifts.
And then I discovered that once I started making gift tag sets, I just couldn't stop!
Perhaps you recognize the journal tickets I mentioned purchasing at the Invoke Arts booth at a recent stamp show in York:
And I recently ordered TONS of paper tape from 7Gypsies, including this beautiful set with Christmas colors/designs:
A few of my tag sets don't have anything to do with the holidays:
I think if I didn't "call time" on myself, I would just make gift tag sets ad infinitum!

In the spirit of tags, I created Gratitude Tag Books using autumnal decorative papers. 
It would make a great tradition for each member of the family to record on a tag something he or she is especially thankful for that year.  The tag book could come out each year, so that everyone can recall the blessings of the past, and reflect on the blessings of the current year.

You have already seen my journal cards; they'll be at the sale, too!
I also took the idea of embellishing clothespins with paper tape, and made sets to sell, along with a 3-1/2 foot length of hemp twine.  Now everyone can build their own inspiration board like the one above my work table!
I also embellished jumbo clothespins (6 inches tall) with paper tape to make fun desk accessories that can hold photographs, postcards, or mail.
I'll be using some I made for myself to hold price signs at the sale.

I used some more of my postage stamp stash to decorate some two-window picture frames:
While I am hoping to get a binding machine soon to create my own books and journals, for now I am having fun embellishing existing notebooks to make them a little more fun to carry around:
These are little 3x5 pocket notebooks, above.
These are a bit larger, and I added some interest inside with additional French text pages and paper tape on the dividers:
This post doesn't include any of the cards I created--some for Thanksgiving, some be-ribboned cards with vintage papers and images for any occasion, some nursery rhyme illustrations with machine stitching.

Now I just need to get some business cards created, some price signs made, and a display strategy worked out!

I am feeling so enthusiastic about this first craft show; no matter how it turns out, I'm more certain than ever that it won't be my last!