Saturday, February 28, 2009

Making better choices

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I joined Medical Weight Loss Clinic. The program officially started on Monday, Feb 16. I've lost 10 pounds so far. I've had a few slip ups (half and half in my coffee, 1/4 piece of pita bread, some hummous, tabbouleh, all of which are no nos.) I haven't had any candy, snacks, cookies, chips or pizza. I went to the grocery store the other day and noticed all of the Easter candy was out, and I literally had to un-focus my eyes and turn off my smell to get past it. But, what a great feeling it's been to be able to do that. It's going to be hard, I'm not going to "sugar" coat it, but at least I'm doing something about it.

Some tricks I'm trying..

  • eating on smaller, prettier plates
  • drinking a lot of water before I eat
  • not skipping any meals
  • looking at the calorie information on packaging (although most of the food is fresh or frozen)
  • avoiding the snack aisle
  • visualizing...better health....better body.....better health....better body!!
  • telling myself I deserve this
  • parking further away so I have to walk
I don't mind exercising. Two years ago I was a walking fool. How I used to love to ride my bike! I rode it to work several times and that was 9 miles one way! However, I now have a bone spur behind my knee that is very painful if I walk too long. But, I've noticed, when I rest it/ice it, I can continue to walk. So, as soon as the weather breaks, I'm going to walk around the block, rest my leg, and walk again. When I lose enough weight, I'll see if the Dr. can remove the spur. Then I can ride my bike again!

I know I can do this. With the help of the clinic, the support of my friends, family and all of you who read my blog, I'll get there. Don't worry. This isn't going to shift from a creativity & clay blog to a weight loss blog, but periodically I'll let you know how it's going.

Contest...ends March 5!

Comment, Comment, Comment
..the more you do, the better chance you have of winning my little clay angel on a canvas. (Rules and picture are linked in the upper right hand corner.)

Friday, February 27, 2009


One of the things I enjoy best about keeping a blog is that I get to write. I've always been a writer at heart. When I was in grade school I would write snippets of scary stories that had no beginning and no end. When a friend of mine asked to read the complete story, I told her "that's all there is." She was so mad at me that she slugged me in the arm. "I want to know what happened," she screamed.

I wrote crazy little poems and long paragraphs. Sometimes I would just write a wonderfully descriptive sentence. I never kept the stories or the poems, at least not until I was a grown woman with a computer. Even so, a lot of my stories have been lost over the years, due to old floppy disks that can't be read anymore. I have a few files stuffed with things I've written over the past 13 years and now I'm much more careful about preserving my writings.

I've sent a few query letters out to publishers and a short story to a magazine, but I've always been politely rejected. My friend Phil and I wrote a 95 page screenplay, sent out query letters to 5 or 6 production companies and never got any kind of reply. Not tenacious enough, we gave up.

I derive a lot of pleasure by writing this blog. It has given me the opportunity to set aside some time each day (or at least every other day) to write. I set up a little writing corner in my living room with two bookcases behind me and one on the side. Pens, paper clips and post it notes are scattered on the desk. My writing reference books are close at hand. I have a drawer full of printing papers of various colors and weights. It's the perfect place to work and most of the time, when I'm at home, that's where I can be found.

There's a story that's been swirling around in my head for awhile now and I think I'm finally going to start writing it. Working on this blog has trained and conditioned me, so now I'm going to set time aside for both the blog and my story. When I go to bed, I'm going to map out the story line, which is really going to be a memoir of my life growing up in Detroit in the 60s. I just haven't figured out where I'm going to go with it. But, I'm starting it. I'll see where it takes me.


Don't forget to comment. The more comments you make (one per post starting with the post on Feb. 22) the better you chances to win are. My rules are on the upper right hand corner of the page. You can win a clay angel on a hand painted canvas. Good Luck!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My canvas & Angel

I realized that my angel canvas is 4 by 4..not 3 by 3. Sorry about that. I got an order today for two canvases with clay leaves on it, and started measuring my different canvases and realized, Oops, I made a mistake.

Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances. You can comment each time I leave a post. (United States and Canada Only)...contest ends March 5. Good Luck!

Little House in the Big Woods

When I was a child, my favorite author was Laura Ingalls Wilder. She wrote the Little House books, so when I get a chance I try to read some of the books to the kids in my program. Another activity I always work in is teaching the kids to make miniatures.

Two weeks ago I combined these two favorites into an activity that was so much fun, I thought I'd share it with you.

Several years ago, my friend, Mary Ann, found a log cabin on the side of the road. It was in perfect shape, complete with furniture. She handed it off to me and I've kept it ever since. It's about 30 inches wide, 18 inches tall and about 18 inches deep. I've used it for the last 5 years in all of my school programs. It is decorated for the seasons and it's one of the highlights of my room.

So, as I read The Little House In The Big Woods, the children and I made miniatures and turned the cabin into Laura's house. Here are some pictures and explanations of what we did.

  • We made miniature food, turkey, pumpkins, bread, pies
  • I printed out miniature pictures, newspapers and the kids glued them to foam core to make books and hanging pictures
  • We made clay pots and pans
  • In the lower right hand corner there's a little mouse
  • I purchased homespun material for table cloths and curtains
  • Beds were made from craft sticks, padded with tissues and then the homespun fabric
  • On the wall are the pictures of the Ingalls family
  • One of the girls made some stuffed clay animals to place on a bed

  • On the dinner table books wait to be read (McGuffey Readers)..I own several of these (the school I went to taught us from these books). I scanned them, and reduced them.
  • There's a candle in the middle of the table
  • The turkey is ready to be served.

  • The kids sewed the curtains. I nailed a nail on each side of the window. We slipped a craft stick through the hem and hung them up.
  • There are pictures of a president and a formal woman on the wall.

  • Shot of the house
  • The steps leading up stairs are craft sticks that we cut, painted and glued
  • In the attic there is an abundance of vegetables, like carrots, pumpkins and potatoes, enough to last them the whole winter
  • In the upper right hand corner of the attic are two books, "Little House In The Big Woods" and "MuGuffey's Reader."
I think the most fulfilling part of this project was that two of the girls in my program came to me last week, each with a book they had taken out from the library. Erica had taken out "The Little Town on The Prairie" and Alyssa had taken out "The Little House In The Big Woods." It's funny because even the librarian at the school knew who I was since Erica talked so much about what we had done and was so excited to read the House books.

To learn more about Laura Ingalls Wilder follow this link...Laura.

Don't forget to comment. This post is another chance to add your name to the drawing.
(The rules are on upper right side of the blog.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fairies in a Jar class project

I've been promising my kids in my program that we would make Fairies or Trolls in a Jar for about a month. One of my girls, Erica, bugged me about it on a weekly basis, but I needed them all to bring in their own plastic jar. Naturally all 4 girls brought theirs in, but the boys didn't bring in theirs (they never do). So, I finally gathered enough jars and we made them last week.

Remember, I have 7 kids in this program (very small) and maybe one or two like art. I have three boys who would rather play sports for two hours, but that's not going to happen, not with me.
One of my girls might as well be a boy. She doesn't like "girlie" things at all. All of the kids want to do their project in 3.2 seconds, so it's a challenge every time we sit down to make something.

I have to prod them and coax them along the way. Inevitably, someone will say "this is fun".
One boy will either say, "this is the worst day ever" or "this is the best day ever", he's very opinionated.

I keep at it though. There are times when I almost cry because they are enjoying their projects so much. For instance, I played classical music while we painted. I had them close their eyes for a moment and imagine the scene that the music evoked. Most saw people dancing. Some saw castles and dragons. Others saw bright colors and swirls. They just wanted to paint and paint, even the oldest who walks around with a basketball, bugging me to "go to the gym", painted three paintings.

I never force my kids to do the projects. I give them options. For instance, I tell them "if you don't want to do the fairy jar, you can work on a puzzle." Usually, they will pick the project because they want to be in the midst of their friends. (I'm the queen, I just don't want them to know it.)

Fairy Jar

If you have children this is a fun project to do. Save plastic jars (glass if the child is older and the jar is going to be placed on a shelf).

Supplies needed..
  • glue gun and glue sticks
  • spanish moss
  • deer moss
  • a fairy, monster or troll
  • paper & crayons
  • silk flowers
  • little pebbles
  • sequins
  • beads
  • glitter
  • netting
  • tacky glue
Of course, don't let the child touch the glue gun, so this is a partnered project.

While you are gluing spanish moss to the bottom of the jar, have your child draw a scene on a piece of paper that easily slips into the back of the jar. It should be as tall as the jar also. I told my kids to draw skies, mountains, volcanoes, sunsets, whatever they wanted.

Slip the finished picture into the jar, along the back side. Glue into place with a dab of glue.

Hot glue the fairy or troll (which you've made earlier) into the center of the moss and hold in place.

Let your child drop beads, little rocks, sequins and flowers into the jar, these don't really have to be glued. Toss in a little glitter. Have your child cut out a piece of netting that is 2 or 3 times bigger than the lid. Have them use the lid as a template. Place a thin bead of glue along the top of the jar and quickly place the netting on top, centering it. Hold it down by the edges till it dries. Tie a ribbon or pipe cleaner around the top to further hold the netting into place. Your child can now use the tacky glue to place feathers, moss, and more sequins into place. Fairy in a jar!


Don't forget to leave a comment. I'm having a giveaway that ends March 5. A link to the rules is on the upper right side of my blog. Good luck and start commenting. Even if you've won before, feel free to comment again.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Long Day at School

I spent 8 hours at school today and am ready to crawl into bed. But I thought I'd make a little post, to give you a chance to make a comment. Remember from now until March 5th I'm having another giveaway.

Here are the rules and the prize!

Please leave a comment and tell your friends. Remember, Dont' be Shy!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Another Blog Giveaway

As I promised, I'm going to have another fun giveaway. This one runs till March 5.

How does it work? All you have to do is post comments on all of my entries that I run from now till March 5. You can comment to as many of my posts starting now but only one comment per post. If I do 2 or 3 posts in a day, you can comment each time. After March 5 I will tally all the comments and randomly pick a winner. So the more you comment, the better your chances.

Comments can be a quick Hello, a long message, a question, a suggestion, a critique, or whatever suits your mood. (just keep it clean).

What will the winner receive?

This little painted canvas with a clay angel on it. This is one of my little creations I made today.
It's 3 by 3 and very lightweight. It would look cute in a child's room, office, hallway or bedroom.

This retails for $12 to $15 (still trying to figure out what I'm going to charge for these).

If you win, it's yours for free.

As before, United states and Canadian residents only.

Have fun!!!

To Write A Blog

I have tried for the last two days to write part two of my craft show planning. I have a nice draft saved, but not until I have pictures of a set up that I am proud of will I be able to post that article.

I have such good intentions about my blog and spend a lot of time thinking of posts I'd like to share with you, but sometimes I'm just not "feeling it". When I drive, when I'm at school, when I'm working, I'm trying to find something interesting or inspiring that can be translated into a post. I've started to carry my camera around more often so that if something creative or wonderful comes along, I can take a picture of it.

So, give me a few more weeks to work on my display ideas. I may just do some vignettes of set ups and then when I do my first spring show I can take an actual picture of the complete set up.

What's new?

Today I painted several small canvases and one larger one. I just put in a background, and now I'm off to make some clay to glue onto the canvases. Check back, because I'm going to give away one of the canvases. Which one? I don't know yet, but I'll be making that announcement later.

It's going to be a busy day for me because I have about 8 cake toppers lined up to complete. Most of them are fun, so I'm going to play some background music and "Clay-away"!

Here's a little girl I made, similar to the girl with the book. As you can see, I like to use pink and green. It's my favorite color combination. (It's going to be the color theme of my display also.)

In my graphic design class, we have to make a CD, Tee shirt, and bus banner for our favorite band. I went with The Cure, although I love all kinds of bands and music, I like the fact that Robert Smith sometimes has his nieces and nephews doodle art work for him and he will use it on his website (maybe his CDs?).

Here's my CD cover so far.

As you can see, there are two versions. My boyfriend didn't think it looked like Robert Smith, so I may redo it. This is not the final design, but it's an idea.

I'm off to start my cake toppers and embellishments. I have a busy day planned but will be back later to announce my next giveaway. (I hope last month's winner all got their gifts.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Craft Show Planning

After contemplating it for a few days, I've decided that I will try to get into a few of the best craft shows that Michigan has to offer this year.

A few posts ago, I agonized over what it was I wanted to do this year: Trade Shows or Craft Shows.

In my heart, I know that I'm just not ambitious enough at this time in my life to do a trade show. I did two in my lifetime, one in 1992 and one in 2000. One was a success, the other a horrible disappointment. Both took a lot of my energy, time and money. So, I think I'll stick with craft shows. Plus, I have to leave my schedule open enough so that I can attend to my studies.

So, for the past few days I've been gathering up lists of craft shows that I'm interested in attending. I thought I would share with you some ideas on how to find great shows in your area without paying for the information. Some of you probably already do this, but for anyone who is thinking about doing shows, this information might come in handy.

The first think I did was do a search on "Top Craft Shows In Michigan". There were several sites that had information, but the one I like is a site that sells a book with all the information in it. I've purchased that book in the past, but after spending $20 every year for three or four years, I noticed that the information was pretty much the same. It's been years since I purchased this guide, but on the website it lists all the craft shows and the dates. That is the only information he gives, there is no contact information. This book can be a valuable tool to a novice and I would recommend it your first time out, but afterward, you may want to use some of my ideas to find good shows. Michigan Craft Shows Book.

I looked at the list on the website, recognized several good shows and did an individual search on each one. Almost every single show had a web page with the pertinent information. They all have their applications on-line in a PDF format, so I printed them out and am ready to fill them out.

At some of these sites they list the crafters who are in the shows and have links to their sites.. I went to a few of the links and checked out their schedule from this year (or last year if it hadn't been updated). I could tell, by the type of crafts they did and the type of shows they get into, whether or not the show has any potential.

For instance, Art in the Park, in Plymouth is probably the second best Art show in Michigan (Ann Arbor being the first). I looked at some of the artists on their site, found their homepages and looked at their schedules. I picked up a lot of leads this way. I know that if these crafters/artists were doing certain shows, they had to be quality exhibitions.

I don't think crafters mind if I use their schedule to find good shows. At a show I did in November, the woman next to me, who does 42 shows a year, actually gave me her schedule, crossed out the bad venues and highlighted the best.

I promised myself that I would stay away from little craft shows that allowed manufactured buy and sell (that's when the vendor orders something from a wholesale company and sells it as their own). I'll stay away from a show whose promoter doesn't do much advertising. Sometimes those shows can be really successful for some crafters, but I don't do well there. I also need to go to areas where this horrible recession hasn't hurt the area too much.

Now all I need to do is prepare some great prints to send with my applications. I'm going to purchase some photograph paper for my printer, take superb photos and start writing checks.

Next post, planning the display.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Brainstorming Creative Ideas

The last few times I've been to my daughter's house, I've noticed she was knitting. This was pretty exciting to me because as creative and interested in arts and crafts as I am, none of my kids ever had much interest in it.

My oldest son did take art lessons when he was 10 or 11, and he was good, but by the time he was in his mid teens, he put down his art supplies and hasn't touched them since.

My daughter, Amber, is laid off from work for the next two weeks so I stopped by today to see her and her two daughters. An idea has been formulating in my brain for her for awhile now, but anytime I mention it to her, she doesn't seem too interested. I've been trying to influence her to step out of her comfort zone and take a class or learn a new hobby especially since she has been laid off periodically in the last three months. She and her husband both work at the same company so that makes me even more concerned about the future.

Today I asked her how the knitting was coming along and she showed me another scarf she was making. She just gave one away to a friend who was admiring it, so that had to be good for Amber's self confidence. When I asked her what else she could knit, as winter will soon be ending, she replied that she didn't really know what else to make. She said she needed to learn some new stitches.

I told Amber that I was willing to help her get started with her own little business on Etsy if she were interested, but her response wasn't very enthusiastic. "What would I sell?" she asked.

We discussed some of the things she liked to do and I offered some suggestions. I reminded her that several years ago she helped me personalize a variety of items for children. I had purchased a lot of sippy cups, baby bottles, containers, boxes, etc. I also purchased permanent paint markers and the two of us personalized the items with names, flowers, smiley faces and hearts. I suggested that maybe she could start a little business on Etsy personalizing things.
She didn't quite jump on that idea, so we went back to the knitting.

Amber felt that she needed more lessons and ideas before she could begin. I thought that was a great start and that we needed to find out what things could be knitted that she could sell all year long and especially in the summer. I went on line and found some head bands and sarongs.

It took a little prodding to get her to glance at the computer screen, but when she saw the sarong, she loved it.

Then I remembered that I had a nice knitted purse at home, so I searched knitted purses. I found so many cute purses that I got excited as Amber. We started brainstorming immediately. I found a video tutorial that taught several stitches and she pulled out her knitting needle and yarn and tried out a lesson.

At one point in the mounting excitement, my granddaughter Madeline, went into her room, and, after a few moments, came out with a little scalloped heart she had cut out and colored blue. "Maybe we can sell this, " she said, hope written all over her 6 year old face. Even she was caught up in all the brainstorming.

We checked out information about knitting classes in the area and I asked Amber if she knew anyone who knitted. One of her best friend's mother was a avid knitter. "Maybe she can give you lessons." I said, and offered to pay for one lesson for her.

My granddaughters modeled two scarfs and we took pictures. After Amber thinks of a clever name, I will make a banner for her Etsy shop and show her how to promote it.

I think Amber needed a little push to start her off. She seemed excited and wanted to go shopping for yarn. I believe that once she starts on this little adventure, she will do great.

Sometimes we all need a little push, a little inspiration. I can't give Amber the drive she will need to become successful, but I can offer her some of the knowledge and experience I've gathered over the years. I have an abundance of ideas and brainstorming with her today was a great way for me to recharge and find some inspiration for myself.

If you are ever stuck for an idea, call up a friend. With a good search engine, a pad of paper and maybe even a six year old, you'll be surprised at the ideas you will find.

Monday, February 16, 2009

This and that

I have little bits of information that I'd like to pass along.

First of all, polymer clay is on sale again at Michaels. It's 99 cents for sculpey three. The sale ends on Saturday. I bought some the other day and it was so fresh, I couldn't wait to get home and start working with it.

Secondly, I'd like to share some interesting sites with you.

Mark Kistler's Online Art Lessons is a wonderful website. Mark is an animator and he has online classes. However, you do have to pay ($59.00 for two years), but he does have a lot of free lessons. I spent 10 minutes on his site and wanted to join! (However, I did restrain myself.)
If you have a child who is interested in cartoon or 3 D drawing, check it out.

Another nice site I found is called Drawn! It's all about illustration, cartooning and inspiration! Also has a lot of links to other great sites.

One of my favorite sites that inspires me is Holli Conger, A girl who creates. I've been following her for two years now, and sad to say for myself, she is doing everything that I wished I could have done. She is a designer working with typography, polymer clay, computer generated graphics and colored pencil. She is so driven! This year she is going to Surtex. Surtex is where artists go to show their work to be licensed. It is very expensive, approximately $4000 to do the show and this does not include travel and lodging. I used to dream about going there, but I just can't afford it, at least not now. (not to mention the fact that I'm not very money driven, I guess if I was, maybe I could save up for Surtex and go!) If you want to be inspired, visit Holli Conger's site.

Finally, here is one of my favorite "free fonts" websites. It's called DaFont and it has every kind of font you can imagine. It's easy to navigate around the site and easy to download the fonts. There may be some fonts that you have to pay for, but I've never experienced that.


I've been making a lot of gingerbread babies lately.

They seem to sell well on ebay.Here are a few I made yesterday.

I have several of these reproduction tins and I love the way the gingers look on them.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

I have some old Valentine's cards that I bought from someone on Ebay a few years ago, so I scanned them and wanted to give them away as free graphics. But first I wanted to check the copyright. These are all from 1936. This makes them 73 years old. I guess they have to be 75 years old to be in the public domain.

However, according to Wikipedia with the exception of maps, music, and movies, the vast majority of works published in the United States before 1964 were never renewed for a second copyright term.

I don't know how true this
is and I tried to find more out
about these cards,
so I did a little research.

A woman named Esther Allen Howland, received a Valentine Card in 1847. She was so fascinated by it that she started to reproduce them herself. She ordered special papers and lace and soon found herself getting more orders than she could handle. (I only wish).

She then got some friends to help her and soon she was in business, eventually grossin
g $100,000 yearly. (Those Victorians loved their pretty, lacy papers and cards. They collected them and kept them in scrapbooks) Free Graphics

She retired in 1881 and sold her business to George Whitney.
His business became the biggest manufacturer
of Valentine cards. The business closed in 1942.

Doing searches on the internet, I found that ebay
is loaded with the Whitney valentines. There are traveling
valentine card shows that feature these cards.

Still, I could not find out if there was a
copyright on these from 1936.
I decided to show them anyway. I guess it's not different than showing the image on ebay for an auction.

Some of these are addressed to Viola and a few are addressed
to Lucille. This cards were only exchanged with girls, no boys signed any of these.

Enjoy looking at these Valentines and enjoy your Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Following your dreams

If any of you, who for a second, wished he/she could get a degree, but you don't have the time, or the money or the self confidence, you need to reconsider.

Since I was in my late 20s I yearned to go to school and get a degree in Art or Literature. I had gone to community college for a year and a half. I took secretarial classes and hated every moment of it. One day, at my wit's end, I trashed all my books in the garbage and went home crying. I didn't want to be a secretary! I wanted to be an artist.

In 1974, if a person said they wanted to be an artist, they were laughed at. Seriously. I never got one bit of support from anyone anywhere. "You can't make a living being an artist." That's all I ever heard. Unfortunately I listened and I believed. No one ever mentioned to me that money isn't everything. No one told me to follow my dream. I heard about how talented I was, but I guess people meant that in a "she is so talented, but she needs to learn shorthand"kind of a way.

When I was around 30, I went on a retreat and stayed in a dorm at Western University. It was just a weekend retreat, full of spiritual renewal and friendship, but something happened to me there that never left me. It was late in the evening, my room mate and I were talking about our dreams and aspirations, and we both confessed that we wished we would have gone to college.

Maybe it was the atmosphere of the dorms, where we imagined life as a college student. We glanced out the window down into the large square below, where we pictured students hustling to their next class or studying under an autumn covered tree. Even though the student square was dark and empty, I saw myself there, discussing Dickens or Bronte, drinking coffee or sketching.

In reality, I was a 30 year old wife and mother. My husband and three kids were back in Garden City waiting for me to come home and be mom again. Our family lived paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes I managed to take a community education art class or writing class. It filled the void. But, there was never a thought of going to college. I felt I had missed that bus.
My goal then became to try to influence my children to go to college when their time came. My oldest son went for awhile, but lost interest. My two youngest just never had any interest, and that's fine, since it's not for everyone.

But it was for me. I never stopped thinking about it. I knew I would never live in a dorm or go to football games, but I still wanted a degree. It just never was that important in the grand scheme of things, though. That is until my husband left me.

At the age of 39, I was faced with divorce and instant poverty. Something that can be pretty devastating to anyone, but there was a silver lining around it. I could get grants and go to school. So, I went back to my community college and found out that there were about 25 credits waiting for me that I could still use. Soon I had 30, then 40, then 50. I changed my mind a few times and accumulated 79 credits. By then, I knew I wanted to skip the associate degree and go right on to a Bachelors Degree. I discussed this idea for a year, debating on the affordability of it, and trying to figure out where to go. I sure didn't want to go to a big college.

The ball really started to roll in August of 2007. My friend asked me to go to Oakland University with her because she wanted to get into their Master's Degree Program. I went along for the ride since it was about an hour away. I waited outside of the adviser's office where my friend was applying for admission.

Twenty minutes later she walked out, a big smile on her face. "I'm in!" she said. She was so happy and excitedly talked about her plans all the way home. Although I heard most of what she was saying, I was having an internal conversation of my own. If she can do it, so can I.
This 25 year old friend already had her Bachelor's Degree and Teacher's certificate. I heard myself say over and over, "what the hell are you waiting for??"

That night I applied for a student loan. I chose Madonna University since it was closer to my home and it's a small private college. 76 of my credits from Schoolcraft college were transferred to Madonna. I now have 98 credits with 7 more on the way.

Going to school was probably the greatest gift I could have ever given myself. I'm 53 years old now and I have such a wonderful sense of purpose and happiness now. I have other dreams and aspirations. They might have to wait till my education is complete. But, because of that education, I may be able to obtain those dreams one day; a trip to England and a house with a library. They are next on my list.

If there is something that you've always dreamed of doing, whether it's getting a degree, climbing a mountain, or learning how to sing, do it. Don't let other things get in the way. Find a way! Don't listen to negative people (which is hard, since they are everywhere). Set little goals that will lead to your big goal. Replace "I Wish" with "I am". If this 53 year old, disorganized, scatter brained, Attention Deficit, anxiety ridden woman can do it, so can you!

Going after a dream and achieving it is the most empowering and satisfying thing you'll ever feel.

Once again, here's one of my favorite quotes...
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
Henry David Thoreau
Now go out there and follow your Dream!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My day job

I don't often talk about my real job. I work as a site director in a before and after school enrichment program. Some people call it latch key. I don't. I like to put the emphasis on ENRICHMENT because the children under my care are being enriched in my program.

I only work about 14 hours a week and I only have 7 kids in my program. This could be the cushion job of the century if I wanted it to be, as I never have any boss breathing down my neck, but I don't take advantage of it, and I make my program interesting, educational and fun.

But there are some days when I don't even know why I try and lately, it seems like that thought has been going around in my head a lot.

So, as I vent, I'd like any of you who are reading this and who use a child care provider to take notes.

In my small group of 7 children, I have comforted them, made them laugh, dealt with seizures, fixed boo boos, stopped bloody noses, calmed down hysterical behavior, reinforced good behavior, taught them manners, and listened to their problems. In the last 5 years, I've protected a child from a crazed father, steered children to the toilet before they got sick, rocked them when they have had fevers, sung to them when they were afraid, hugged them when they missed their moms, treated them with candy and prizes just "because" and entertained them when they seemed bored.

The point of this post is that I am more than a baby sitter and yet, I feel so used some days, I don't know if it is even worth it to try to enrich them. I should just throw some crayons on the table and say, "color till your parents get here".

But instead, I have great lessons planned for them daily. This is what we did today.
  • Read first chapter of "Little House in the Big Woods"
  • Taught them how to sew and we made little curtains and pillows for a little log house that we are decorating, just like "Little House in the Big Woods"
  • Taught them about the pioneers, their struggles and daily life activities.
  • Made a volcano out of salt, flour and water. We are going to erupt it on Friday.
  • Made polymer clay book markers for their teachers.
  • Played a game where they tried to find a candy necklace.
  • Free Time where they played house and a marble game.
  • I also let one little girl be my personal assistant complete with her own clipboard.
This was not a special day. This is an average day in my program. The program lasts three hours and in that time they do homework and eat a snack.

The problem that just gets to me is that the parents just don't care what is going on in my program. I have two parents that take the time to look around the room and take notice. They appreciate me and for that I'm thankful. But the rest just don't care.

They fly into the room, yapping on their cell phones. They hurry their child out, barely taking the time to let their child gather their things. I write a monthly newsletter and I can tell only two parents read it because if I ask for a cereal box or a shoe box, the same two parents follow through.

One mom is 4 weeks behind in her tuition, yet, she has beautifully done fake nails, nice hair, (today a brand new purse), she drives a decent car and her kid wears nice clothes. Her cousin usually picks up her child. Her son was in my program for two weeks before she even came in. When she did, I asked her, "How does your son like the program?" Her reply was, "I never even asked him."

OMG, her son had been with me for two weeks and she hadn't even asked him. Amazing.

Today a parent argued with me about her tuition. She wasn't happy with one of our policies. The policy is in her contract that she signed, and I assured her I couldn't do anything about it, as I'm just a simple site director. She stared at me with a stern look on her face and I wondered if she thought I would back down and change corporate policy. I finally just started talking to another parent and the mom left. It rattles me to see how quickly a parent can turn on me when it comes to tuition. It happens all of the time. I sometimes just have to pass them off to my boss. She takes care of it and I'm careful to watch my back in the parking lot.

There are also times when someone comes in to pick up a child and I have to ask to see their ID because they've never been in my site before. Maybe it's a grandpa or an Aunt. Women seem to understand this concept and will gladly go and get their ID. But, I've had fathers and step dads argue with me, embarrass me and intimidate me over the simple act of showing me their ID.
One of my bosses had a great idea. She told a parent who fussed over showing their Id that she would need a letter stating the parent didn't care who came to get their child and that their child could leave with anyone. That changed that parent's mind. Our mission is to protect the kids in our care. I don't get a power surge from asking to see ID.

I know that all jobs have negative aspects to them. I accept this and will continue to do a good job because I want to and it would be boring for me to have a dull program. I know there are a lot of bad child care providers out there, but I'm not one of them.

So, if you do have a good child care provider, let them know it. Take the time to look at the program, glance at the newsletter, admire a picture or a craft. Don't throw you child's work in the garbage can in the hallway. I personally don't care what you do with the artwork we just did, but your child is devastated. Take it home, hang it on the fridge for a day or two and let it work its way to the garbage can.

When you come into a program to pick up your child after a long day, great them with a hug and a smile. Turn the dang cell phone off unless you are a Dr. or there's an emergency. Your child misses you and wants to talk to you, share their experiences with you and hear about your day. Don't yell at them if they are cleaning up their games or dolls. They are being responsible by doing so. You are being irresponsible by having such poor time management skills that you only have 5 minutes to get to your yoga class.

When it comes to paying your tuition, pay it. You pay the rest of your bills, right. Pay your tuition.

Child care provider are a really big influence on children's lives whether their parents want to accept it or not. (Do you know how many times a day I'm called Mom?)

Luckily for my parents, I am intelligent, have good grammar, don't talk in slang, am not on a power trip and genuinely love their children. I treat my parents with respect and want them to do the same in return. I'm taking care of their children, not their pets. If it weren't for the parents out there who do care and for the children whom I care for, I would have quit this job along time ago.

On a creative note,,here's a topper I made for a customer. Kind of cute!

Trade Shows Versus Craft Shows

Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about whether or not I should do a trade show or sign up for craft shows.

I really drive myself crazy with this.

I was going to make a list of pros and cons of doing a trade show and the same for doing craft shows, but I thought it would be better to blog about it, and maybe get some feedback.

Trade Show

Here is a site that lists all of the trade shows that I would be interested in.

This site does not even list all of the available shows out there, but it's a start for me.


  • Serious buyers come to these shows to buy inventory for their shops.
  • Minimum orders are $75 to $100 per customer.
  • One good show can give me business for the rest of the year.
  • I would be networking with other business owners and artists.
  • I would be surrounded by the latest in gift shopping trends.
  • I can introduce my product to 1000s of buyers in only a few days.
  • My product looks so much better in person so it's sure to draw attention.
  • Cash and carry show can generate a lot of money!
  • I can take orders for my product and give my customers a time line to expect it.

  • Doing a trade show is expensive.
  • I would have to find someone to help me and possibly rely on their vehicle or rent a car.
  • It's risky in these economic times (but so is everything I guess).
  • I could be next to someone who has an even better product and display (meaning I might be ignored).
  • If it is a successful show, I might get over my head in orders causing customers to be angry with me if their orders are late.
  • Most business want 30 day net, which is costly to a home based business.
  • The trade show days are long and I might not be able to stand all day with my knee.
  • I have to be outgoing and personable, which I am, but I get kind of loopy after talking all day long. It's hard to stay fresh when you are busy talking up your product for 8 or 10 hours.
  • Displays need to be professional looking and attractive ($$$$$).
Unforeseen circumstances can make or break a trade show. There are usually no refunds!

Now, here are the pros and cons of doing Craft Shows.

  • Usually the shows are within an hour away.
  • They are set up and taken down in one day.
  • They are fun.
  • Customers are loyal and return to buy a new item or just to chat.
  • Craft shows are fairly inexpensive (however signing up for several can be more costly than doing a trade show).
  • I receive cash in hand, no waiting for payments.
  • I can network with other crafters.
  • I live in Michigan and we are getting hit HARD with layoffs, so money is tight.
  • Craft shows have been down the last few years.
  • The more successful shows are outside and I'm not going back to those days when I traveled all over the state with my van and my tent. There is nothing more frightening than seeing a storm approach, hanging on to your tent in a wind storm, or sweating to death in 98 degree heat.
  • Some shows are just awful. They haven't advertised and there are no customers.
  • Sometimes people can be rude or ignorant, and there are times when I just don't want to hear another comment on how expensive my things are (NOT) or how they can make it at home. (go home then)..
So, as you can see I have a lot of thinking to do. Craft show applications are starting to roll in and trade shows are starting to fill.

Another choice I have is to continually build up my etsy store, my website and ebay. It takes a little work to network and market online, but I guess it's not as much work as driving to Pennsylvania to do a show. Plus, I do enjoy working from home and it doesn't cost much. (I also enjoy my lazy summers relaxing on the beach, working in the yard and taking mini vacations around Michigan.)

Just that thought alone moves me in the direction of continuing the online approach.

I love the idea of blogging about this because it makes it more concrete for me now. It's given me a chance to write it all down, share it and ponder about my choices. I started this post off by saying "I drive myself crazy", but now I feel a little more calm about it. Funny how a few little lists can help!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Getting Serious

One of my resolutions this year (and all previous years) was to get into better shape. It's part of the reinventing that I'm trying.

My goal was to do chair exercises since my knee keeps me from doing much walking and NO bike riding. Well, as good as my intentions were, I have not committed myself to bettering my health. Weeks go by, the scale stays the same, or fluctuates a few pounds one way or the other. I told myself I would join Weight Watchers or go back to tops, but here it is Feb.10 and I haven't done much.

That is until today. Today I made a huge commitment and joined Medical Weight Loss Clinic.

I didn't do it because I think they have the magic that I need. I know that there is no pill that will motivate me or melt away the pounds. I think it's because I took a good look at myself and knew that unless I did something drastic, another year would come and go and I would still be the same weight. Each year brings me closer to worsening health and possibly a shorter stay here on earth. Last year at this time I didn't need blood pressure medication. Now I do. Two years ago I could walk up 140 steps 10 times and feel great! Now a flight of stairs winds me so badly I can't talk. I'm not a diabetic yet, but that looms around the corner.

So I went to Medical Weight Loss. I listened to their scripted sales pitch and I signed on the dotted line. I signed up for 9 months of weight loss and if I do well, I'll sign up again for another 9 months. I need the accountability that I will get, knowing that the scale is waiting for me. I need the support that they say they offer. I need the motivation I'll get from looking at the before and after pictures that grace the hallways. I'll gladly be their poster child in 9 months if I'm successful. I see myself doing that.

Even though this blog is about art, clay and creativity, I'm going to keep you posted on my journey. I believe that if I can lose enough weight, it will re-ignite the fire I used to have glowing inside of me. It will give me greater self confidence which will open many doors for me. Doors that I'm afraid to knock on. It's hard to sell my self and my craft/art when I feel inferior, ugly, and dumpy. I envision a slimmer me, dressed in nice clothes, wearing stylish shoes, sporting a new hair cut selling myself and my product at trade shows, craft shows and gift shops.

There are a lot of cute skirts and dresses waiting at the back of my closet and I can't wait to start wearing them again. My eyes are on the prize; good health, longer life and some of that sassy spirit I used to have. Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Day of Art

Along with making some clay toppers today, I had a creative episode all afternoon. I recently purchased 64 canvases from Dick Blick and have been anxious to start painting.

Here are a few things I finished today. They are simple and fun, something for a child's room, bathroom, or studio.

I also joined a very inspirational group on flickr called The Altered Art Appreciation Society.

Check it out if you like Artists Trading Cards, Altered art, collage, shrines, etc.

Here are some things I did today.

This little angel is inside a shadow box that can be opened..(above picture)..I really enjoyed making this. I got the box at the dollar store.

This is a paper mache book. When you open it, there is an angel inside.

Here is a little painting I did. I think it's 3" by 3". It's a cute, happy picture.

This heart picture is 3 by 5. I love hearts, and the colors pink and green. ( I bet you guessed that already!)

Here's one final picture. It's the beginning of a collage. So far, I've applied paint, tissue and paper. Don't know where it's going yet. But the process is fun.

Spent the day creating art and listening to The Cure, Tears for Fears, The Smiths, and other 80's bands. Now I'm off to meet my boyfriend for dinner at a Sushi Restaurant (I'll be ordering Chicken!) It's been a perfect day!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fairy Doors

A few years ago, I read an article about people making little fairy houses in the woods, and leaving them for others to enjoy.

I loved this idea because ever since I was a child, I loved making things in miniature and in nature. For instance, I would make the Flintstones house and all it's furniture using play dough.

When my dad cut down our cherry tree in the front yard, he showed my sister and I how to build little houses with the twigs. I don't think my sister was that interested, but I spent days making little villages with the twigs, little stones and tiny flowers.

Once, while camping with my family and friends, I introduced my children and their friends to the wonderful world of miniatures. I chose a cool, shaded area with sandy soil and moss, and we made several little houses. The houses had pebbled walkways, split rail fences and moss covered roofs. When we weren't down at the beach, we were adding final touches to the creations.

A few years ago, I was picnicking with some friends and saw a tree with a knot right at the base. I thought to myself, "that looks like a doorway leading into the tree". So, I decided to make a little pathway lined with pebbles and flowers, bushes made from moss and a little wooden fence. It all led towards the tree with the knot. I made a little sign that said, " a little fairy lives here, please don't disturb." I propped it near the front of the little fairy yard and we went home.

A few months later we returned, and just as I thought, there was no sign of the fairy "house"..It would have been too wonderful if everyone would have left it alone. I think that if I ever make another one, it will be in a more remote place, like the woods up in Wilderness State Park.

Why all of this talk about fairy houses? Well, I've been making fairy doors, which seems like the natural progression of my love of little things and nature. These doors can be placed at the bottom of a tree in a garden. They spark the imagination of young and old. It's only February, but I can't wait to set up a little fairy land in my garden. I did not originate this idea, just adding my own creative touch to it.

It's never too early to start thinking about spring!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


One of my classes that I'm taking this semester is Lithography, a method for printing using a plate or stone with a completely smooth surface.

Today I went to the printing lab and worked on my etching. It's quite a process and I was pretty tired when I was finished. The above photo is the image that I drew on the stone, using a black lithography crayon. I was going for a 1900's McGuffey's Reader image.

After the image is drawn onto the stone, it has to be etched into the stone.

After the image was drawn, I rubbed rosin and then talc on the stone. Then I brushed on nitric acid diluted in gum Arabic. The purpose is to make the image grease-receptive and make
the stone water-receptive. The image is then buffed with cheesecloth

Lithotine, ( turpentine) is then applied to the stone to "wash out" the drawing, leaving a ghost of the image in the stone that the ink will adhere to.

Finally, the stone is ready to be inked. It is dampened with a wet sponge, the stone is rolled with ink, which sticks to the oil-based ghost image and is repelled by the water around the image. A sheet of paper is laid on the stone and then its run through the press under pressure.

My stone is ready to be run through the press.

This is the studio at Madonna

Here is the press I used.

In the above photo, I've started to lay out some of my supplies. My notebook has pages and pages of information.

After starting out on newsprint, I then printed out 8 fairly nice prints on nicer art paper.

I'm happy with the results and must clean the stone. It's a three step process of grinding with carborundum grit, two times with 100, two times with 180 and finally twice with 220. I used another stone to grind against my stone.

The image is starting to fade.

Fading still.

The image gets smaller as I grind away at the stone. In the end, there is no image left and the process is complete.

Here's a link to the Tamarind Institute where you can find out more about lithography.

Tamarind Institute

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