Monday, December 31, 2007

Was that 2007?

Wow—that went by fast. I'll have to remember that they have a tendency to do that.

I hope your 2007 brought lots of happiness.
Cheers to the new year ahead!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Further up the alley

We've had lots of celebrations and parties around here lately. Our eldest just turned 9 in between Christmas and New Years. We had a bowling party to celebrate which of course required a bowling cake. Here's my answer to that. The pin was cut from a sheet cake and the ball was baked in a bowl. I used tea lights (each equals 3 years!) for the candles/finger holes. I swirled pink, purple and white icing for the ball because what 9 year old bowls with the boring black one? I used Airhead candies—cut in half lengthwise—to make the stripes on the bowling pin.

My girl is growing up about as fast as that ball is speeding down the lane. Each year brings more independence and a little more distance from me. Sometimes I want to stop it and other times I want to rush it along.

Regardless I realize that the moving ball is out of my hands. At least for now, my job as a parent is to cover the gutters when I can and help her hit as many pins as possible. All too soon she'll be on her own.

Happy 9th birthday Cara.
I wish you many, many
happy ones to come.
Love, Mom

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Cut for Christmas

This has been on my almost 9-year-old's mind for a long time. She's had friends that have done it and has talked about wanting to do it too. Lately Cara's long, long, years-to-grow hair had been drawing lots of compliments which was making that final decision harder for her.

I made it clear to Cara that it would be her call when we went in for a Christmas "trim" yesterday afternoon. I could tell Cara was deep in thought on the drive to the hair salon, however the minute we entered her mind was made up. She decided she was ready to donate her hair to another child.

With a quick snip, Cara was holding years in her hand. She knew it was worth it. After all It's just long hair to her, but the world to a child suffering from hair loss. Her hair measured just over 10 inches which is the minimum required by Locks of Love.

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. They meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses LOL provides helps to restore self-esteem and confidence to children, enabling them to face the world and their peers.

We mailed the hair off today. I'm proud of Cara for the special gift she has given this Christmas. A gift that really matters. No fancy paper or ribbon needed.

Locks of Love donor information can be found by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Canvas Door Hangers

This is one of the gift projects I've taken on this Christmas. Now that I've cut back on the cookie/ candy craziness I'm finding myself with all kinds of extra free time ; ). I like these little guys hanging on door knobs, but they could also be hung on a wall or cabinet knob.

To start, I purchased primed 4" x 4" canvases with a 1-3/8" depth.

For the peace hanger, I stretched fabric over the canvas. I attached the fabric to the back of the canvas with a staple gun. I then sealed the fabric with a satin gel medium. After the canvas was dry, I painted over the fabric with a white metallic acrylic paint. Before the paint had time to dry, I used a wet paper towel to remove areas where I wanted the fabric to show through. Next, I used scrap booking letter stickers to spell peace. I applied a second layer of satin gel medium. After that was dry, I went back in and painted on top of the letters adding details here and there. Finally, I coated the entire canvas with a sealer.

After the sealer was dry, I cut a 40 inch length of ribbon. The ribbon should have a width between 1" and 1-1/2". I adhered the ribbon to all sides of the canvas with hot glue except for the top. Then I tied a bow at the top. (Don't be confused. The picture above shows a variation using the same fabric background. Here I traced a letter and painted in the monogram. I added a slightly different border with the turquoise paint that I have a fondness for lately.)

To the right is a simple monogram door hanger with a plain=no fabric background. After painting the background, I traced my letter on the canvas and then filled in with black acrylic paint. I also painted the sides of the canvas black before I attached the ribbon.

Now I think I need to go bake some cookies. I'm having withdrawal.

Monday, December 17, 2007


This past Friday was the opening of the art show themed "RED" at Redtree gallery. I'm showing four pieces along with works from 22 other local artists. The show runs until January 5th. I've been on this experimental kick and spinning like I'm the big wheel on that game show. I'm not sure where (or when) I'll finally land and concentrate some serious energy. So for now, you never know what you're going to see here.

Above, as well as in the first painting way above, I've incorporated a base of papers, fabrics and old sheet music. I enjoyed visiting a different era while painting these gals.

My St. Nick orange is in the show along with "Green Apple on Red Cloth". Both of these are painted on red fabric that was first sealed with gel medium (which by the way makes them on "red cloth" in a 2-D and 3-D sense if you think about it.)

On a side note, I am ready to throw my camera in the Ohio river. I need to go now and compose a letter to Santa. Surely Santa will understand my frustration and get an elf to build a better one for me. I've been nice this year...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

All Dressed Up

What goes on during her nap.

Crafts by little hands.

Family heirlooms.

Ahhh...the memories.

Remembering the reason.

Less than one inch of clearance equals perfection.

My white vs. their colored lights compromise.

A dressed up tree is magical.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ohio Buckeyes

I keep telling myself I'm going to simplify things this Christmas season. That means no making 10 varieties of candy and 6 varieties of cookies among many other silly, silly things that I fell compelled to do despite how very busy I am. Luckily, buckeyes made the cut. How could I not make a batch representing our dear state of Ohio? In case you're interested, the name "Buckeye" presumably comes from local usage in the early days of settlement of Ohio. An early botanist found the tree on the banks of the Ohio River, and added "Ohio" to the common name in order to distinguish from the related Yellow Buckeye. In 1953 the Ohio legislature named Aesculus glabra, the Ohio Buckeye, as Ohio's official tree. I've been in a trivia mood this week so bear with me.

These are so simple to make. I'm including the recipe I use below.

Milk Chocolate for dipping (I use Merkens chocolate wafers--melted in the microwave)
Peanut butter filling:
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups confectioner's sugar

Combine peanut butter filling ingredients. Roll filling into balls. Insert a toothpick in each and freeze for 30 minutes. Dip 2/3 of each ball into melted milk chocolate and place on parchment to set. When chocolate is dry remove toothpick and use fingertip to remove toothpick mark.
And here's a toast to the reject buckeyes. I'd be in big trouble if I didn't have a few of these for my anxious audience members. The rest of the buckeyes have to quickly packaged and stashed or they would never see the light of Christmas day.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

St. Nick Day

I thought I'd paint an orange in honor of St. Nick Day. That is after I did a little research. With all the questions I'm getting these days from my kiddos I realized that I needed to brush up on my St. Nick knowledge. So here's a little background on that lovable guy--where the true story of Santa Claus begins. (The following is from the St. Nicholas Center.)

Nicholas was born during the third century in the village of Patara. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. Some of the popular symbols of Christmas started here:

Christmas stockings by the fireplace. And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there, goes the oft repeated Christmas rhyme. In the story of Nicholas rescuing the poor maidens from being sold into slavery, the gold dowry money, tossed in through the window, is said to have landed in stockings left to dry before the fire.

Orange or tangerine in the toe of filled Christmas stockings. The gold Nicholas threw to provide the dowry money is often shown as gold balls. These are symbolized by oranges or even apples. So the orange in the toe of the stocking is a reminder of Nicholas' gift.

Candy Canes. These are really candy croziers (bishops staffs), one of St. Nicholas' symbols. All bishops carry staffs, hooked at the top like a shepherd's crook, showing they are the shepherds who care for, or tend, their people.

Gift-giving in secret, during the night. Stockings are filled while children are sleeping. Nicholas did his gift giving secretly, under cover of darkness. He didn't want to be seen and recognized as he wanted those he helped to give thanks to God.

Seasonal concern for the needy.

St. Nicholas gave gifts to those in greatest need—the young and the most vulnerable. Christmas gifts and baskets given to those in need, along with other seasonal contributions to charity, reflect St. Nicholas' unselfish concern for others. He never wanted or expected anything in return.

The challenge in my house is to work on keeping the focus on the true meaning of Christmas, so especially today, St. Nick's our man. For anyone with kids in need of a Christmas commercialism break, here's a link to some cute St. Nick activities.
Happy December 6th!

Friday, November 30, 2007

discovering paint

She caught me. I had planned on my little person napping for another hour. I had all of my paints out in plain view as I attempted to finish up a painting. I heard her feet coming. There was no time to hide the evidence. "Hi Mommy! Can I paint too?"

I have a confession. Somehow I've managed to let my youngest get to the age of two and a half without painting. That's not to say she hasn't used the water color disc paint, but I've avoided the gloppy, smooshy, messy, real paint up until yesterday. I decided it was about time I threw caution to the wind, outfitted her in a paint smock and let her go at it. Nora was beside herself with excitement. I dug out our big bottles of kid paint only to discover that every color except for the purple had dried up. I'm blushing. However, Nora didn't care a bit that her palette was limited. If purple was what we had, purple was fine with her. As she dipped her brush into the soft, slimy paint I could see her inner light glow brighter. At first she painted very slow and cautious. Then she couldn't get enough. She painted bolder and faster. She needed more paint and paper. Her confidence was growing as she discovered the satisfaction of brush strokes. She didn't stop until she had created a masterpiece for her siblings and Mommy and Daddy too. Never mind that the paint smock was hardly keeping the paint off her clothes, hands and face. There was paint on the table, her chair and even the floor. Breathe. It's washable paint. Painting is essential. Who am I to deny her?

We decided that we would ask Santa for new bottles of (washable) paint this Christmas and composed a letter right away, before I could wimp out.
Dear Santa,
I would very much appreciate if you could bring me some
bottles of washable paint this Christmas. I would like:
1) Blue
2) Red
3) Yellow
4) Green
5) Orange
6) Hot Pink
I already have plenty of purple. Thanks Santa.

p.s. Mommy would like a bottle of extra patience too.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Napkin Rings

With the holidays approaching, I'm sure you have some fancy holiday dinners coming up or maybe you need to whip up a quick hostess gift? I made my star-shaped napkin rings on the HGTV show "That's Clever" a while back. I've included directions here, but you can go to HGTV's site for step-by-step directions with pictures of me making for the camera. By the way, my fingernails don't always look that good! I believe those pictures mark the last time I had a professional manicure...over a year ago. I think I'm in need of a holiday spa day.

star-shaped cookie cutter or star stencil
scrap pine wood - pieces need to be at least 4" x 4" in size and 3/4" thick
gloss gold spray paint
scroll saw
1-1/8" circle drill bit
spray adhesive
mineral spirits
150-grit sandpaper
craft gemstones
glue gun and hot glue sticks

1. Create a star pattern by tracing a star cookie cutter or stencil on paper.
2. Photocopy the pattern or make as many napkin holder patterns as needed.
3. Roughly cut out the patterns with scissors.
4. Adhere the paper patterns to scrap pieces of pine wood using spray adhesive.
5. Wearing eye protection, use a scroll saw to cut out the star shapes.
6. Use a 1-1/8 inch circle drill bit to cut a circle in the center of each star.
7. Remove the paper from the wood star shapes.
8. Sand the edges with 150-grit sandpaper.
9. Remove any traces of spray adhesive and wood shavings by cleaning each piece with mineral spirits.
10. Spray the front, back and edges of the wood stars with metallic gold gloss spray paint. Let dry.
11. Arrange craft gemstones in a pattern on a work surface.
12. Adhere the gems to the side edges of the gold star napkin rings with a hot glue gun. Let dry.

You can make these in any shape that will allow for a 1-1/8 inch circle in the center. To the right is a flower shape with flower beads adhered to the edge.

Below is an idea for gift packaging. I bundled a set of four napkin rings with tulle and tied with a ribbon. Ready for a deserving hostess.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Paying It Forward

A few months ago, I came across the blog of Shannon and Adrienne of the Urban Quilt Company in Toronto, Canada. Shannon and Adrienne are the artists behind the quilt "Toro, Toro" from Red Bull's Art of Can Chicago exhibition. They had posted a "Pay It Forward" (PIF) challenge on their blog. Shannon and Adrienne offered to send a handmade gift to the first three replies who also agreed to offer a blog PIF challenge. I replied. I loved the idea and it actually provided me with incentive to start blogging. A few weeks ago they sent a package in the mail containing an original Urban Quilt Company Qoffee Cuff. A Qoffee Cuff (pictured above) is a reusable, environmentally friendly warmer for take out coffee, tea or any hot beverage. Pretty clever and stylish I'd say. Qoffee Cuffs can be found on the Urban Quilt Company website and would make a great holiday gift paired up with a gift certificate from a favorite coffee shop. Shannon from UQ certainly did not ask for any promo, but in the spirit of paying It forward I could hardly resist. Thanks Shannon!

Tis the season for giving and this idea is really what the holidays are all about. I'm ready to Pay It Forward with three handcrafted gifts of my own to send to the first three comments here or e-mails to I'd ask that you agree to either post your own PIF on your blog--if you have one--or agree to do something for or give something to three unsuspecting people. Paying it forward is even nicer than paying back. Cheers!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Counting circles

We spent Thanksgiving visiting family in Pennsylvania.The day after Thanksgiving we went out for our tree. Our tradition is not exact. In the past several years, we've either cut trees at different tree farms or in more hectic years purchased precut trees at the kid's school. Regardless of where the tree comes from, acquiring it is a family deal. This year has got to be my favorite tree acquisition. My Dad planted several trees many years ago on his property with the intent that one day they would be Christmas trees. We were able to bring a nine foot tall evergreen from Pennsylvania to Ohio this weekend. It's special to have a tree this year that shares my roots (pardon the tree pun).

The rings inside the tree are so intriguing. I'm not sure how accurate the tree year per tree ring is, but regardless those rings reveal an interesting message. Each year of our lives is a circle full of experiences built on the past year and so forth that forms who we are today. More rings makes for older, hopefully wiser and definitely more interesting.

My eight year old daughter counts the rings in an attempt to learn more about the seasons this tree has seen. We're thrilled that it will be celebrating this Christmas at home with us. Enjoy your circles.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm Thankful For... many things! With Thanksgiving only two days away I had the idea to make checklist coloring sheet place mats for my inspiring kids. It includes the big things like family and God and the little things too like "my cozy blankie." Maybe while dinner is cooking and they're coloring and checking away it will spark some conversation or at least make them think more about that huge question..."What are you thankful for?"

I'm including it here all big and printable as my Thanksgiving day gift to you. Click on the image and save to your desktop and print from there. Encourage the older kids to make checklists of their own. Then everybody will be ready at dinner time with their cheat sheets when family members start asking that inevitable question. Have fun and have a very happy Thanksgiving if I don't make it back here before then!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gallery Stroll

Bring your coffee. We're going to Redtree gallery. I posted a short post a week or so ago mentioning that I had some pieces "out there" which means out of my house and off of my studio table.

It's nice to see my pieces in a new space especially a space as charming as this one. I have had art in galleries and storefronts in the past, but went on a several year hiatus of sorts. I'm still deciding on ways to "package" my art. For now, I'm happy that pieces of me are hanging around.

The pieces to right are two of my Soul Folks. The top is titled "Inner Child". This Soul Folk's message is, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." -Pablo Picasso. The piece below it is titled "Artist at Heart". His message is, "He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands, his head and his heart is an artist." -St. Francis of Assisi.

The art hanging over those cute, cute purses (the more I stare at them the more I want) is titled "The Wedding Cup." I incorporated a photo of my great grandparents on their wedding day along with a favorite quote by Ogden Nash. "To keep your marriage brimming, with love from the wedding cup, whenever you're wrong, admit it, whenever you're right, shut up." Funny and true and so, so, SO hard for me to do especially the "shutting up" part.

I talked about the 50s housewife "Enough About Me" a few posts ago. The piece below it is titled "Mixing It Up". That's me in the 1970s. I had a great time incorporating some of my mom's recipes as a layer and attaching an old estate sale spoon to the side. The thing about these collage pieces is that they are layer upon layer so they can best be appreciated in person. You can't see those details here.

Are you ready for a coffee refill? Today, I'm working on material for another show along with finishing up some design work and throwing in a few loads of laundry. My day is most productive when I "mix it up".
Happy Monday. It's a short week with that thanksgiving feast to look forward too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Little Press

So a little press never hurts right? I've been talking and talking about this chicken. His little ears must be ringing. I appreciate the talented writers who called to chat. Here are some links if you still haven't heard enough:

The Cincinnati Enquirer's art note can be read by clicking on the above photo. (11-15-07)

Cincinnati Magazine online posted a Q & A on their website. (11-13-07)

The Downtowner honored the chicken. (11-8-07)

The Daily Press which was my home town (of 18 years) newspaper ran an article. (11-12-07)

My apologies if you're here in January (or even next week) and these links expire. Hopefully, I'll have new things to chat about by then.

Monday, November 12, 2007

AOC Opening Night

I'm not sure I can accurately describe this night. To have your work in a show of this caliber is an amazing feeling. The opportunity to see all of the work in this unique atmosphere created especially to showcase each piece to it's fullest was also a pleasure I can't quite describe. The Internet doesn't do it justice. It's impossible to conceptualize the scale or the intricate labor and care that went into the making of so many of these eye-catching pieces. Each work truly had a soul that you could feel when you stood in it's presence. Art of Can is undeniably promotional, but having a show where everyone is working from the same recycled medium highlights the artist's personality and creativity. There were so many pieces that I admired I can't possibly include them all, but here's a few...
Congrats to T.J. Ishikawa for "Vitalized Dragon". T. J. won first place and a trip for 2 to Switzerland. Well-deserved!

"Attack of the Killer Tomato" by John Hergert

"Dive for Red Bull...(It Gives You Fins)" by Asta Razma

3rd place winner "A Casual Toss" by Kathryn Beale

"Toro, Toro!" by Shannon Aguila/Adrienne Gallagher

"Miracle Grow" by Andy Tran
And by the way, I've started saving cans for next year. : )