Thursday, November 29, 2007

Check out my sidebar doll - she's redecorated for the holidays. She looks just like me, doncha think? The only unrealistic part is, look, she's already got her packages wrapped and under the tree. Now, THAT'S not believable!

I meant to tell you the Search for the Perfect Wrapping Paper story a few days ago but I've been busy shopping (for, among other things, duh, WRAPPING PAPER) and other seasonal activities (like talking on the phone and doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen and making soup) and then there was a series of bouts of whatever you call a headache/back ache/stomach ache combo. And of course there was that two hours watching White Christmas and addressing holiday cards and the half hour of watching the new holiday special, Shrek the Halls. (I SO want to make a toilet seat wreath for my front door! I won't. But I want to.) Anyway, so I haven't felt much like being on the computer.

One of the things I did was sort out the bags of gifts that have been piling up in the corner of the studio over the last few months. This isn't an official from-the-list pile, although there's a few list items already purchased. Mostly it's a pile of things I've stumbled across and thought "Oh, she'd love this" or "I HAVE to get one of those for him!" The real listmaking and gift collecting begins when I sort out this hodge podge and find out what I've already bought and what's missing and for who. I really really really don't want to repeat the holiday faux pas of a couple years ago where I somehow managed not to buy a single personal gift for my son Joe. Even though I overcompensated for it heavily the next year, he still won't let me forget that I forgot him and I'm betting he never will.

This year I decided the most important thing to do was to sort out the gifts that require mailing and tackle the whole buying/making, wrapping, and off-go-the-post-office process. It's a real priority for me this year as I put it off last year and ended up NEVER SENDING ANYTHING to my siblings or parents. Our family has a tradition of late gift sending, so I didn't worry about it. But time kept sliding forward and except for my mom's last year's birthday (Oct. 31) and Christmas gifts, which I finally mailed to her just a couple of months ago, now that the holidays are again upon us, I think we can safely say I've long since passed the fashionably late argument and have arrived solidly in the I TOTALLY FORGOT stage.

I wanted to wrap the few things I already had sorted into the "to mail" category, so I dug my wrapping paper box out of the holiday boxes and was beyond thrilled to discover it contained three small scraps of paper that each barely made it around a cardboard tube. YAH! A few years ago I'd bought a bunch of those huge 6,000 square feet rolls of wrapping paper and I've been using the same pattern for what seems like an eternity. I was sooooo ready to be done with it. This meant I could go buy NEW wrapping paper!

Last year my friend Jaye blogged about the very environmentally friendly idea to make and use fabric gift bags in lieu of paper. I was intrigued but at first I resisted the idea - I argued that I LIKED to use wrapping paper. You can read Jaye's original post and her response to my arguments here.

What Jaye didn't know when she was wrangling with my arguments was that, halfway through the last year's wrapping season, I came to the realization that I really only liked wrapping the first dozen gifts or so. With such a large family and my habit of getting people multiple small gifts instead of one large gift, the first dozen gifts is just a small dent in the mountain of packages I wrap each December.

I'd also argued that I would get tired of using the same gift bags year after year. Of course the reality was I wasn't using different wrapping paper year after year. I've been wrapping gifts in the same patterns for decades. Or at least it seems that way. But I also had been using a dozen sturdy decorative boxes for about as long, before they finally started falling apart and ended up as kindling a couple of years ago. I missed those boxes. People had enjoyed checking out all the old "To:/From:" stickers on the bottom, discovering which family members had been given that particular box in years past, remembering which boxes they'd received, which boxes they liked best. It also occurred to me that our family has a stash of about a dozen paper gift bags in assortd sizes that we have used and reused for every birthday, anniversary and graduation for the last half dozen years.

Clearly my arguments against the idea of using fabric gift bags were starting to crumble. And when I consider the rather large unused stash of holiday fabric hidden away in a box in the studio closet, the idea becomes more and more appealing. Jaye even sent me a gift bag she'd made so I could have an example to use as a template. I decided gift bag making was probably in my future.

HOWEVER, I'm at that point in the holiday season where I've had to start dropping projects from my fantasy schedule and making gift bags became one of the first to go. I don't have the time and I really wanted to use wrapping paper again this year in order to play with the box of vintage holiday ribbons my mother sent me this summer. (I just realized I could have used ribbons with gift bags as well but, hey, next year I'll have to experiment with that, assuming I manage to make gift bags by next December.)

I knew exactly what kind of wrapping paper I wanted to buy. I had this "LOOK" in my head. Some solid colors, small innocuous pattern so I could show off my ribbons against it and/or something botanical in deep, rich colors and/or something lacey and old fashioned and shabby chic. Excitedly, off I went to bring home something new and wonderful.

I'd forgotten about the fact that I live in a small town with limited shopping opportunities. I had about a half dozen potential shops - Walmart, Walgreens, a couple of supermarkets, and a couple of discount stores. NONE of them had anything remotely botanical or lacy or chic. Pout.

What they had was lots of paper displaying Disney princesses, Shrek, Spiderman, Dora, and Barbie. There were the to-be-expected Santas, snowmen, and trees. Last but not least, there was a lot of 50's style retro prints which I actually liked. Cute. It's just, retro wasn't what I had in mind.

Walmart had the most wrapping paper but they really didn't have a larger selection, they just had 2,000 rolls of each style. And because folks who work at minimum wage jobs sometimes don't have a huge supply of enthusiasm for their jobs, the display boxes were jammed in so that all of one pattern was twenty rows back, all of another pattern was midway to the front, and all the front row was another. In an effort to find choices I ended up pulling boxes off the shelves, knocking piles this way and that in true Jerry Lewis slapstick style. I was so frustrated and angry at having to wrestle those heavy display boxes just to get past the pawns of Disney paper I didn't even feel guity at the mess I left behind. The same sort of display problems existed at the drug store and I gave up rearranging their aisles after noticing they wanted me to pay twice as much for the same amount of wrapping paper. Safeway, which I had noticed had some nice paper just a few days earlier, was completely out of stock.

I finally gave up my dream of finding the perfect wrapping paper patterns and settled for some more predictable but nice rolls I found at Walgreens. Though even there, the task was challenging. Someone had the brilliant idea that they should stock their wrapping paper on the TOP shelf, barely in reach for someone like me who just barely stretches beyond five feet. They made up for it though by having a sale - $2.99 for one roll, get a second roll for a penny. I bought six rolls. (and no, not 6,000 square feet each)

The cashier rang up my purchases and then apologized that they weren't coming up for the sale price. We looked at the sale flyer together, trying to figure out the problem. The manager came over and he said the sale had been last week. At this point I just wanted to buy some paper and go home. I asked what the cost of the paper was so I could decided whether I wanted to buy one or two or maybe three rolls and leave the rest behind, depending on the cost.

The cashier said "$4.26"

"Per roll!" That seemed awfully expensive to me.

"No" she said, "that's your total."

"My total? You mean the cost of all six rolls is $4.26!?"

"All six rolls plus tax, yes."

The manager just shrugged and said "If that's what it came up at, then I guess that's your total."

I wrote my check out quickly, before they could figure out that couldn't possibly be correct.

The next day I found a few a few more rolls at the local grocery outlet. Now I've got enough to wrap all my gifts and of course the kids will all arrive with bags full of unwrapped gifts, asking "Where's the wrapping paper!? Don't look! Coming through!" and hurry off to a back room to use my paper to wrap their presents. But hopefully I won't have any, or at least not much left, when the year is over.

This morning my daughter-in-law, who knew about my paper search, called. "Have you been to Target!? They've got wrapping paper just exactly like you're looking for at Target!"

In the excitement of discovery, she'd forgotten a key fact - the closest Target to my home is a hundred miles away. I responded sarcastically "Oh yes, I was there just this morning."

She laughed at me!

"Bitch." And of course I mean that in only the most loving of ways.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sorry I've been missing for most of a week. William was off school, hubby was off work, son Sam came home for a holiday visit, so I took Thanksgiving week off to spend some quality time with my family and kitchen.

Everyone is back at work or school now though, and I'm gearing up for more cleaning, a bit of gift making, another round of decorating, and other winter holiday activities. Since whatever I manage to make in the studio between now and the end of the year will have to be kept a surprise, I'll have to settle for sharing other crafty or creative activities with you.

Like this shop window hubby and I saw on a walk-off-some-of-the-turkey stroll uptown. It's an antiques and collectible shop I like to visit. I'd just been past the shop earlier in that week and hadn't seen anything holiday-ish but on this day the window display was filled with trees, each of them decorated with old or retro ornaments.

I wish I could have shown you a wide view of the window, it was lovely, but there was too much reflection. I didn't intend it but I kinda like how this photo came out with my shadow and the street and mountains caught in the glass. I think I still captured what I was aiming at - the paper cut out angel. I thought those would be fun to make.

When I went on my big shopping spree last week, I went to Macy's to visit their Holiday Tree Department. It's a tradition for me. I rarely shop at Macy's. Okay, I never shop at Macy's. But I do love how they do up all those trees and I try to go at least once each holiday season and buy an ornament or two. This year I noticed that the theme leaned heavily towards the "homemade" look. Almost all the ornament were meant to look hand done. Well, they were hand done I assume. By someone in a factory somewhere.

Don't get me wrong, they were really cute. But it was hard not to see the irony - today's shopper doesn't have the time to actually create homemade ornaments. So they go to an upscale department store to buy ornaments that look homemade.

I've noticed that phenomenon a lot in the last few years. The more expensive the items in a store or catalog, the more they have a hand crafted or "grandma's handiwork" look to them. It's a nostalgia for.... what? A time when people had less money but, maybe, more time?

Do we really have so little time nowadays? I don't think it's an easy thing to generalize about, every person's situation is unique. But it's certainly something to consider in our own life - do we balance our time well? Could we slow down, buy less and do more ourselves, and still be as happy? Maybe even happier? I know I have a lot more flexibility in my schedule than a lot of people do, and yet I still seem to find myself unorganized and overscheduled more often than not. So far I haven't even managed to organize or simplify my thinking about organizing and simplifying. Another irony - trying to simplify can end up to be such a complex process.

Enough of a philosophical sidetrack. Back to the shop window...

I thought this baby shoe decoration was really cute. Can you see the wheels beneath it? (open the photo to see them) It's been turned into a baby buggy. The key is a nice touch. And it's glittered. I've seen so many cute things done with baby shoes lately. Which is nice, since babies don't wear them for long it's nice for them to find a second life that doesn't include doing a Hans Solo number on them.

This little angel head brings back memories. We had several on our tree when I was growing up. I think my mom bought one for each of us three girls. I liked them but I also thought they were a little creepy. Uhm, where's the rest of the angel? Was she decapitated?

This particular tree was decorated in a kitchen theme, including all these old cookie cutters. I still have some of these same cookie cutters from my childhood. How clever to add a pretty ribbon and hang them on the tree. Beats all the work of making gingerbread cookies, decorating them, and trying to hang them on the tree!

I particularly liked this little angel with the added bling and wing.

I took this photo through the side window, hoping to get less glare. If you open the photo you can see the detail better. I liked all the old toys under the trees inside the shop. check out the dollhouse and buggy.

That's it for now. You can check out a wicked chess game over at Beach Treasure. And come back tomorrow when I tell you a tale about the search for the perfect wrapping paper.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful - Buddha

Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses. - Alphonse Karr

We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. - Albert Schweitzer

If you haven’t all the things you want, be grateful for the things you don’t have that you wouldn’t want. - unknown

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. - Marcel Proust

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. - Meister Eckhardt

What if you gave someone a gift, and they neglected to thank you for it--would you be likely to give them another? Life is the same way. In order to attract more of the blessings that life has to offer, you must truly appreciate what you already have. - Ralph Marston

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

It is literally true, as the thankless say, that they have nothing to be thankful for. He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient. But a thankful heart hath a continual feast. ~W.J. Cameron

Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live. ~Jackie Windspear

When eating fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.--Vietnamese proverb

We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. ~Author Unknown

Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel. ~Author Unknown

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.--W. T. Purkiser

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. ~William Arthur Ward

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm happy to say I'm now on the downhill side of my latest creative angst. Our television is on the fritz so instead of just plopping down on the couch last night and flipping through channels, I went in the studio and starting cleaning up enough space so I can actually get to work on some holiday gift ideas I have floating around in my head. I'm still not committing to doing them, but at least I'm toying with the idea. And getting my work space organized as a result.

I slipped on work clothes on yesterday afternoon, a bandana to keep my hair back, and went outside to deal with my latest yard Furniturehenge. The only solution was to work on cleaning out space in the garage for it all. And like I discover every single time I venture into the deepest darkest jungles of our garage, despite daily accusations from my family - THE MESS IS NOT ALL MY MAKING! It's not even all my stuff. I hefted and heaved old car parts and bicycles and auto supplies and garden tools. I dragged and draped and hung camping gear and tires and lawn mowers and tool boxes and extension cords. UGH. But despite the annoyance of all the dusty physical labor to clean up other people's mess, it's worth the smug joy I get from discovering I am not solely responsible for the crimes of clutter against this household.

I also got 90% of the outside Halloween decorations cleaned up and put away. There's still a pile of bones laying on the front porch, and I need a ladder to get the skeleton down, but everything else is picked up. Hubby called from work and I told him I'd taken it all down. I thought he'd be pleased. Instead he was bummed, said he was still enjoying it, wanted to know why we couldn't leave it up longer. I said I'd like to get ready for putting up the Yule decorations. He suggested we just keep the Halloween stuff up and add the Yule stuff to it. I got a good laugh at the visual. I could put Santa hats on the giant spiders and skulls. Drape the gravestones with ivy and holly. Put sprigs of mistletoe inside the hanging metal pumpkins. Scatter candy canes through the spiderwebs. The scariest thing about this idea - if I hadn't already taken all the Halloween stuff down, I'd be really tempted to really do it.

I've made the emotional leap forward though. I'm always a little bit Addams Family, a wee streak of Halloween, year round. But it's been pushed to the back for now, for my yearly fling with elves and candy canes and snowflakes and shiny golden sun ornaments and holly and gingerbread and all things Yule and Christmasy. I'm ready. I'm gearing up for Thanksgiving and then straight on through the winter holidays.

I was talking on the phone today with a friend who's also getting into the holiday spirit and who also, like us, has multiple holidays to plan. She does a big family Thanksgiving, then a huge Hannakuh party for friends and family all, and finally Christmas, again the center of family gathering. She said she's felt more in the decorating spirit this year than she has for many years. She's not a woman who likes shopping but she found herself on a mission to find new salad bowls for her Thanksgiving table.

We were talking about tableware and decorating and family gatherings. Although she now has new matching salad bowls, she mentioned she had a hodge podge of wine glasses. I suggested she embrace the eclectic look but make it look purposeful by using those wine glass "jewelry" rings. She replied (quoted if not perfectly, then close enough):

"That's a good idea. I don't really want need to get new wine glasses because we don't really drink that often. None of us have anything against drinking, in theory, but the only time we really feel like drinking a lot is when we all get together as a family."

There was a moment of silence and then I'm laughing hysterically as she's trying to explain that she didn't quite mean to say that!! Yeah, sure. I KNOW her family. Fun, generous, smart, kind people. But kooky. Just like a family should be. Tooooo funny!

Speaking of dinnerware, here's a photo of my new plates.

That's a shadow. They're plain white with the black lace edge. They're from Target and were displayed in both the holiday and the every day dinnerware aisle. I think they'll be great fussied up for holidays and special occasions but will dress down nicely when combined with my other dishware that is mostly old, mismatched, and brightly colored. I've got autumn themed good china for Thanksgiving, new (gifted to me by my mom) Yule plates, and every day winter plates with snowflakes on them. So this dishware will be our every day plates for all the rest of the year miscellaneous fancy occasions.

Also, the fabric "tablecloth" in the background I bought to make napkins. Matches perfectly, doncha think. It's all food words in French. Although now I see it looks really nice as a table cloth. Hmmmm. Nah. I'll use napkins all the time, I'd rarely use a table covering. Also on the corner of the box, a fat quarter of green fabric. And a beautiful new journal I treated myself with from B&N and most of the new table top tree I bought in sale at Michaels. It's prestrung with tiny lights and I love the dark, retro glitz of it.

Now I'm curious. What sort of dinnerware do you use for celebrations? Holidays? Every day? Something handed down or paper plates? Mix and match or everything matched? And how much do you need to drink get through all those family gatherings? I'll admit that I do enjoy myself a spiked eggnog, a hot mulled wine, or a glass of our local spiced mead. Cheers!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I promised photos of my thrift store adventures. But first, a photo I took on the trip down to Reno. I had to stop and take a photo of these vapor trails.

You know you're a little bit different when you look up and say "Oh look, a giant string of pom poms."

This is small, about 8"x 10". I really liked the colors and owls are always a cool subject matter. When I got it home I realized it wasn't a print but a real painting or perhaps a print with some ink and decoupage work over it.

This is a rather large print (2' x 3'?) that was just too unusual to pass up. Make sure you double click to open it. The colors are much richer than they look in the small image. It's in the original frame (which is cracked, I tried to get them down on the price because of it but they wouldn't budge so I paid the full $8) and has a very old shipping tag (delivered to someone in Oakland, CA) still attached to the wire in the back but it's too faded to read any more. The protective paper backing sometimes has an information label or stamp butit is a bit shredded so there's nothing there. I really want to know more about the artist and this painting. It's signed "Patterson". I searched online but I couldn't find anything.

More finds. This little print in the middle - I know who the artist is on this one! The rest of the stuff from L to R: a red velvet chocolate box, a tablecloth with the most exquisite autumn colors embroidery (which appears to have washed out in the photo, pout. It has a water stain so I bought it to cut up to make pillows or whatever), a wicker birdcage, a red velveteen cushion for my sewing chair (I didn't pose her, Rosie jumped up and claimed the cushion immediately. Clearly I bought it for a little princess, yes?), a bag of old lace and whatever elses is in there, a giant red butterfly for the garden, some old cupcake tins for art (either AS the art or to hold art supplies), and some tiny, old, metal trays for art frames but I like them as they are so maybe I'll just enjoy them for awhile.

More stuff - little paper cutouts, old paper garlands, origami paper, glue sticks, an art card, wire, rolls of crepe paper, and some plate hangers.

This interesting fellow I bought yesterday at our local thrift store. I just noticed his skirt is caught up in the photo. It does hang down properly usually. He's a puppet. I'm assuming some sort of ceremonial dancer or character. Thailand? India? Anyone know more about him? He had a white faced brother as well but I just bought the one. I told the man at the thrift store "I don't know if anyone really needs two of these." There was a short silence and then at the SAME TIME we both said "I don't know if anyone really needs ONE of these!" We cracked up laughing. I bought him as a gift for my son, who has a sort of ethnic variety thing going on in his decor. But he might stay with me. We'll see.

Didn't I find some great treasures!? There's lots more I brought home too, but I think this is enough for now. The rest is more decorative than artsy. The photos of furniture (and scarves) I posted today on Beach Treasure. You can't believe the bargains I found - go see!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm not really posting this at just before midnight. I didn't even get home until after midnight. It's actually 1:30 am. But by the magic of "post options", I'm able to make the date make sense since my "day" isn't over yet.

Let's just say, it truly is possible to SHOP 'TIL YOU DROP. Or at least, shop until you're exhausted and all the stores are closed and your feet hurt and you're completed dehydrated, and there's nothing left on your list undone. I had a very successful shopping day.

Since gas costs a fortune, I try to combine as many tasks as possible into one trip. I wanted to do some flea market treasure hunting and I wanted to finish as many possible things on my "to do" or "to buy" list that required out of town shopping as possible. So I split the day. The first half was the just for fun part and the second part was, well, still fun, but things I needed at Home Depot and Target and Trader Joes and Old Navy and Michaels and Penneys and Sears and Ross and Barnes and Noble and so on.

I hit the thrift stores first as they don't stay open late like the chain stores I needed to visit. I was bored of the same two thrift stores in our town. It was great fun to visit these new ones, new to me that is. I scored big time. And I not only stayed within the spending limit I set for myself, I spent less. I was a little annoyed at how a table I bought was treated by the fellows who brought it out to my car, they scraped what was otherwise a perfectly fine table top. But since they worked hard to help me out, to take the table apart so I could fit it in my car, and I got it for a steal of a price, I'm trying hard not to sweat it. I'm sure I can fix it.

I made up for my frugality by the spending I did later in the day although surprisingly, I didn't do a lot of impulse buying. Most of what I got was ON the list. I'm rather amazed that I managed to get to all the places on my list and I was able to FIND all the things I wanted to purchase. I did it by being pretty efficient with my latter shopping and by not stopping to eat all day. Except for a sample of soup at Trader Joes. By the time the shops closed up and I could finally stop for a meal, I was ravenous. I told the waiter at Marie Callenders, when he asked "How are you tonight?", I said "Ravenous." So while I was looking at the menu he brought me a plate of their famous sweet cornbread that was literally the size of an entire cake! I only managed to eat a corner of it. So I brought it home. Yum.

By the time I was through, there wasn't an inch of space left to put any more packages in my entire little Subaru. And that was with the back seat folded down! (Of course three pieces of furniture took up a lot of space.) I was too tired to unload it tonight when I got home. The weather is oddly warm, almost like a summer night. When I passed by the time/temperature sign on Main Street tonight around midnight it said it was still 50 degrees out. So I have to get out there early tomorrow before it heats up to unload the car so the chocolate doesn't melt. There was MAJOR chocolate purchasing. MAJOR. The only one I sampled so far was a lavender milk chocolate and to say it was delicious is like saying the ocean is a little wet.

There was also major glitter purchasing. What can I say. It seems everyone is glittering everything this year. Glitter on the blogs, glitter on the holiday decorations, glitter on cards and tiaras and shoes and trees and pretty much anything that can't run away. So now I have this overwhelming need to glitter things. I bought a bunch of different colors. Every color they had on the rack. They were out of purple and pink so I missed out on those. But I think I've managed to cover the rest of the color wheel. Now when I look at things I think "Could it be glittered?" This might get out of hand.

So first things first. Early tomorrow, unloading must happen. Then, even before I glitter anything (but probably not before I eat more chocolate), I'll try to take photos. And share them. Stay tuned.

Oh, and thank you to those of you who answered by creativity post question. Hopefully more of you will join in with some insights. I'll keep checking back all weekend for more comments.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Having recently dealt with plumbing problems in my kitchen (now, two and a half days later, all fixed thank goodness), my mind turns to the idea of water - too much, too little, contained, flooding all over the place but not where you want it to be. So I have a question post for all of you. I hope you will all participate by sharing an answer, an insight, or even add to the confusion with another question if you're a troublemaker.

Question: Is your creativity flowing? What are your "faucets"? In other words, what turns on the flow for you?

I'm sure we all have some faucets in common, though some people might have unusual ways to get the flow going. What are your faucets? Do you have any unique or specific rituals or activities that get the energy and enthusiasm running? How do you deal with "plumbing problems"? When your ideas gets plugged up and won't go anywhere or your enthusiasm leaks out before you can use it productively, what are your tools to get things working again?

Tomorrow I'm going off for a big city shopping day. I've got a handful of items I can't find in town so I'll combine picking up the things on my list with treating myself to some holiday window shopping (maybe a bit of holiday gift shopping too) and a nice lunch. It's a two hundred mile round trip so I like to make it worth the trip, make a whole day of it. (I know that distance sounds insane to some of you folks. It's a wide open spaces Western thing. There's nothing closer to me except deer, fir trees, chaparral, rocks, scrub oak, mountain lions, cattle, barb wire fences..... you get the idea) So, I'll have plenty of time while I'm driving to give this question some thought and come up with some answers to share with you. But first, I want to hear what you all have to say about it.

Come on. Don't be shy! If I have to, I'll bribe you. 'Cuz I'm really looking for some new insights. I think I'll be on the lookout tomorrow for a little gift or two to offer for the best new idea. Share folks. And don't bother mentioning the dancing naked on the roof with an umbrella while singing old show tunes. I know it gets the adrenalin racing and the mind buzzing but my neighbors signed a petition requesting I NOT do that anymore so...... I need something new. Help me out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The good news - Yesterday evening my kitchen floor got a good washing. The bad news - it got washed with water from the kitchen sink that for some reason has decided to go straight down the drain onto the floor, bypassing the use of pipes altogether. Hubby and I took at look at it this morning and could see where it was leaking but it wasn't a junction we could tighten. We apparently need either a new pipe or a new garbage disposal or perhaps both. We definitely needed a plumber. The plumber couldn't come until tomorrow morning.

I should have stayed home and gotten a lot of cleaning and sorting done today but instead I had to go out to the health food store and somehow, instead of driving home, I found myself driving to a furniture store afterwards. My mom bought all her furniture there long ago, it's a town focal point. I've been to flea markets in their parking lot a half a dozen times. I cut through their back loading dock on the way to Walmart at least once or twice a week. But in thirteen years I've never been inside.

I was surprised how huge it was. I got lost for ages. I bought a lamp. I'll take a photo for you later. I brought home a linoleum sample. There were lots of other beautiful furniture and decorative things but I wasn't tempted even a tiny bit to buy any of it, placing it at the mercy of my clawed felines. No, I just wanted the inspiration. It was fun.

And since I'd already wasted most of the day I thought I'd go visit Every Bloomin' Thing, a local nursery about three miles outside of town. Melissa, the owner, just built a huge new building and filled it full of lovely gifts and interior decor (to balance all the lovely plants and exterior decor they already sell) and I thought she might have some holiday displays out already and then I could be inspired in both a designer home way and inspired in a holiday decorating way.

She had decorated, boy had she! And she was kind enough to allow me to take photos to share with you. I'd offer you a website but alas, she doesn't have one for the store. But you can still enjoy the luscious prettiness and feel all holiday spirity after viewing them, like I did. I wish the photos gave all her displays justice - it was all so wonderful in person. You have to imagine quiet holiday music playing in the background, the sound of various indoor fountains burbling in accompaniment, and all the tiny details that my blurry photos don't pick up. Oh, and a friendly sweatered pooch that helped give me a tour of the place. I'm sure you can see more if you click and open the photos.

Here are three of the numerous trees she had decorated. The thought of decorating ONE tree seems like a daunting task to me these days. This woman and and one or two staff decorated about a dozen of these wonders! These particular ones had a sort of rustic country style. She had another tree, an entire room actually, done up in cowboy style.

This spot was more a winter warm table display than any specific holiday. I liked all the old iron elements, the oversized dried arrangement and what looked like an old quilt. Peeking from behind it is...

this corner that looked like a tiny flower market. You can't see the little water fountain just to the right of the flower tins.

She has an entire room devoted to baby, children, and pet lovers. It had it's own tree full of baby ornaments. I think it had a pet tree too but I can't remember. I really got a kick out of this. You know the advent calendars that have little windows that open up into tiny pieces of candy or chocolate? Well, this one has windows that contain doggy treats. To help dear little Fifi and Rover wait for their big gifts wrapped and waiting under the tree. It's completely over the top but if I wasn't in a "less is more" and "save for Paris" mode, I so would have bought it. This is the degree to which I have become one of those old ladies with their little dog children. I didn't buy it though. So Rosie will have to make do with daily doggie treats out of the plastic bag from Petco.

A lot of the holiday display was color coordinated in old fashioned red, white and green. It's not a color scheme I tend to display in large amounts anymore but for some reason it really got me in the holiday mood. Don't you just want that Naught but Nice scarf?!

The one exception to the red, white and green was this "Wine Country" holiday tree. It's sort of blurry but you can make out that it's in gold, burgandy, purple, orange and what's this green called - chatreuse? I might have to go back and buy something off this tree.

I really fell in love with a little red ornament on a tree at my favorite french decor store too but I haven't bought anything yet. Instead I'm just window shopping and trying to decide on an overall theme or plan before buying things willy nilly. Not that buying willy nilly isn't FUN, and I certainly adhere to the Willy Nilly Purchasing Plan when it comes to antique shops and thrifting, but I kept reminding myself that everything that comes into the house needs a spot and might also need to be packed up part of the year. Already have too much to play with, don't need more. (Yes, I am absolutely aware of the contradiction between applying practical buying rules to new stuff but not old stuff. I'm not dissuaded by logic however, so don't bother pointing it out.) Anyway, back to the fun photos...

Here was the reddiest and whitiest room. Well, greeniest too I suppose as the trees are green. Like I said, I don't want to decorate in red and white this year but it still delighted me. The table display dinnerware is all about peppermint candies and candy canes. Oh, and if you look just to the left of the quilt, on the floor, you can see a three tiered metal tray painted like peppermint candies. Can you see it? I was tempted by it, so tempted. Fortunately it was pricey enough for me to come to my senses before I got it to the cash register. Not that it was overpriced. There was a lot of work in it. Anyway...

I've got a candy cane, candy house theme started for our outdoor decorating. We love throwing our giant candy canes up into our corner tree every year. For some reason I always end up trying to decorate the tree on the coldest, windiest day. Sometimes even the darkest evening. Not sure why, I haven't planned it that way. But it's practically a tradition now. Then two years ago I found those icicle lights that are so popular in red and white - more candy cane! I want to find or make some giant lollipops and candy ribbon and gum drops and gingerbread cookies and other holiday treats and do a whole "gingerbread house" outdoor display. That's not gonna happen next year, but it's on my "wanna do" list.

For the last five years or so I've moved away from our traditional hodge podge holiday decorations into more celestial blues with gold and silver. I love it, my family hates it. I've tried a couple of years just putting up the blue and sparkly decorations and I always break down and add all the family favorites after a few days. It's not just my holiday, sigh. I've also done some little retro display corners with old decorations my mom passed down to me a couple of years ago.

This year I'm imagining something more botanical and nature themed. I've always been pulled in that direction but this year I want to incorporate a more European and lush look. Who knows, I may go in a completely different direction when I end up pulling all my boxes out. But that's the idea I'm germinating at the moment.

Since I was already two thirds of the way out to my friend Shelley's house from the nursery, I drove out there to her country home to see the new house color they'd painted a few weeks ago. She was really unsure about it but I loved it. It was the mossy green color that I had invisioned when we painted our house. We ended up, after buying a half dozen greens and finally giving up, with a more gray blue green than I wanted. Her home looked really nice in a mossy gray green with cream trim. She invited me in and we shared some of her tea stash from her visit to Betty's Tea Room. Ooooh, what a treat!

One more photo from the nursery -

I might be half a month behind where I planned to be by this time but I still "B.E.L.I.E.V.E." I can still find a way to do some crafting and and gift making and tag designing and decorating and holiday fun activities. I'll get started on it immediately. First thing in the morning. Just as soon as I take down the Halloween decorations. And I deal with the plumber. And the messy kitchen. And the rest of the boxes. No, no, really. Look at the photo again. I BELIEVE!

If you'd like to see some outdoor photos I took today, check out Beach Treasure.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Does everyone know about Bloglines? Bloglines (or other similar websites) is a service that lets you keep track of all the blogs you like to read. It also tells you when there are new posts on each blog which saves the time you would otherwise spend checking for them and being disappointed. Of course it also means I feel guilty when I see all those unread new posts on my blog roll. And after finding so many wonderful new bloggers during the Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun Halloween party, I've doubled the number of blogs I want to check regularly. On top of that, I don't even have all my old favorites listed there yet. I am overwhelmed with new blogs.

Not a bad thing. Just means I have to rethink how I visit. I used to try to visit daily or at least every day or so. But I noticed that others visit my blogs less often but read through a week's worth of posts at a time. I might do that. Or maybe as time goes on I'll just find myself drawn to a smaller number of favorites and let some blogs slip out of radar. I'm so afraid of missing something good! But honestly, there are thousands of blogs out there that I'd probably adore that I don't even know about yet. (yet - like I think I have the time and ability to someday find them all!) My point here is probably that as much as I love all my new blogging resources, I have to find a balance, just like I have to find a balance in the creative pursuits I want to do. I can't do them all. I have to choose.

Though that's not really what I wanted to talk about today. I brought up Bloglines because somewhere out there in Bloglandia (who started that term?) I've run across some folks doing a "Who is Your Muse?" posting project. I should find who and where and link to them. Maybe I'll stumble back over the sites in the next week or so and I can add the links then.

But for now, it got me thinking. Who is my muse lately?

The first thing I thought was - Nature. Nature is my muse. Mother earth in all her ragged, colorful, noisy, still, awe-inspiring, ephemeral, time enduring, delicate, pattern loving, chaos causing glory. So Gaia would be my muse.

But then what about the reflection of the sky off a towering wall of windows, and the curve of a perfectly carved wooden spoon, and crumbling gravestones, and the intricate pattern of words across a page? Human made things and the stories that are born and grow inside of them inspire me. These things are my muse as well.

In other words, everything and anything is my muse.

Not very helpful? Yeah. So then I thought - Who are my muses just at this particular moment in time? I don't have to commit to them for a lifetime of inspiration. Just narrow it down to what calls to me recently.

What about all those other art posting bloggers out there!? Since I've been finding so many new ideas and images online, I'd have to say that the blogging community is a current muse.

Travel. I'm grounded in my day to day life most of the time but all it takes is a photo or a smell or a memory and I'm floating again in a dream of faraway places.

In particular, Paris still calls to me. To me, Paris is creativity incarnate. It bathes one with images and stories.

I can't explain why. I loved all the new cities and towns we visited but, Paris resonates in a deeper, soul touching way. I know I'm not the only person that feels this way so I'm a little embarrassed at claiming it as my own. Right. Me and a million other people. Although I know that different places haunt other people. Some feel the same way about Italy. Or the desert. Or New York. Or the ocean. (I'm an ocean person too. If there's an ocean, I'm at home there.) I don't know. Maybe I lived there in a past life?

Friday, November 09, 2007

I'm so proud of myself. I actually got up off my softly cushioned back side and marched myself into the studio and got to work. Lots of cleaning happened. I cleared out what was stored in the armoire and moved it into the living room and it looks nice, so the smaller cabinet that was housing our videos will go back to the studio to hold most of the fabric I took out of the armoire.

First though, I had to take all the videos out of the cabinet. Some of them are VHS tapes that have been in there unwatched for a decade, others are new DVDs crammed in wherever there was room. So I took the time to sort them out alphabetically in little stacks all around the living room so they can be sorted, duplicates and unwanted movies tossed. A lot of them are homemade tapes with multiple movies or television shows on them and those are still in a pile that will be harder to sort but hey, I'm making progress.

Although I'm getting a lot done, it's not like it's very interesting to look at, so instead I'll share some photos of the little bag of goodies I brought home from the thrift store this afternoon.

You'll really have to click to open these images to see details. This one is labeled with a name on the back and a date, 1976. Sort of frightening that 1976 sounds like long ago to me now since I was already an adult then. Just barely an adult, but still. Anyway, this is cut and displayed in a 3-D style. It reminds me of the little fruit and vegetable shops we saw all over England.

I don't know if you can tell the "silk purse" is very shimmery. It will be fun to fill and display. The little box has a wee fairy on it and inside it's like a tiny jewelry box with a mirror in the top. The little cloth is hand embroidered with a winter scene. You need to open the photo to see the smaller items - the cat pin is very nice, heavy metal. The hat pin has little diamonds (I assume not REAL diamonds) around the base.

This old serving tray is fairly large, about 12-14" across the length and I thought it would look cute with beads or fruit or whatever heaped in it for display. The little rustic pears were twenty five cents each. At the fancy home decor shop they are $4-6 each. The gloves are too small for my hands, just barely, but they are so sweet. Can you make out the rose pattern crocheted (knit? I'll have to look closely at them again) on the ends of the sleeves?

These are nice botanical prints but I really bought them for the unusual long shaped frames. I might be tempted to display the middle one just as it is but I'm hoping to use the other two to frame collage or other art.

That's it - I have to go spend some time with my vamp now. Mick St. John. Moonlight has never been so appealing.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I'm doing it again. And by "doing it" I mean "not doing it". "It" being creative or even simply productive. I had a month of really energetic accomplishments and then a break came up in my schedule and I thought "Oh good, I need a small break". And I took it. And then after a few days had gone by and I felt rested, found myself still sitting down by the side of the road. I felt ready to move on but couldn't find the energy to get up again.

It's that same old problem with inertia and momentum. The same ol' crap shows up in my life and in my head. What direction was I going again? Do I want to keep going that way? Or should I try that little road off there to the right? There are family distractions and little emotional brambles and creative dilemmnas and it just seems too hard to get going.

I'm not having the Big Angst with a capital A that I was having earlier this year. It's just a little angst. Or maybe it's more of a Big Annoyance. I'm annoyed with myself, with my life. Here we are nearing the end of the calendar year and I still haven't finished getting rid of all the crap in my life that I am always complaining is tying me down. At least I'm feeling pissed off about it instead of overwhelmed. Or rather, being pissed off is in the lead at the moment, overwhelmed is still huffing and puffing somewhere back there, dogging my steps.

I think part of this is just an annual event where the winter holidays come up and I'm faced again with the fact that my fantasy life is never going to be my real life. I'm never going to be organized enough to make all my gifts and wrap them in handmade paper while snacking on homemade holiday treats in my perfectly maintained and decorated home. This is the time every year when I realize that shipping dates cut my holiday gift making time into half of what I thought I had left. And I start to think of how much time each and every project truly takes.

Too, this year I'm thinking of all the other things I'd like to be doing INSTEAD of making a perfect winter holiday season. Like, finish getting rid of all the mess around here. And start cooking and homemaking again. I used to be frickin' AMAZING at those things. No. REALLY!!! I swear to you. With a cherry on top. Pinky swear. Cross my heart. Whatever.

And read. I know you can't make a career out of reading but that's what I like to do. The weather turns cold and I just want to hole up with a book and a hot cup of coffee and hope no one asks me to do anything. I mentioned (although it was on my other blog) that our local Starbucks was remodeling. They covered up their windows and for a month or so now they've been offering free hot coffee from a kiosk set up in their drive thru lane during dry, daylight hours. It's been lovely having free lattes but I've been looking forward to the unveiling of their new interior and of course looking forward to having them open on rainy days and cold nights. (Which start early now. Maybe some of this is just adjusting to the change off daylight savings time.)

Yesterday the windows weren't blacked out anymore so I stopped to see if they were actually open. No, but a peek in the window showed me the same two old armless, upholstered chairs and nothing new in color or design. Bleh. I was hoping for some of those velvet "sink into them" overstuffed chairs that other Starbucks have for readers and daydreamers. They said they'll be open today, so maybe tonight I'll go take another look.

And if that's not enough, I'm having a Words vs. Images battle in my head. This is Nanowrimo month and although I've decided it's insane to participate this year, I still find my head filled with plot ideas and character possibilities. I've been gentle but firm with myself that this is not a good time to disappear into my laptop (and Starbucks, since I find it hard to write at home) but myself is pouting and annoyed at me.

I think the only real solution is to stick some earplugs in my brain. Brain plugs? Just stop thinking, get my pouty ass up off of whatever comfy spot I've planted it, and get back to work on cleaning up my life. Can't I have a magic nose wiggle or folded arm blink that will do the work for me instantaneously? Please? .................. No? Damn.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I forgot to mention yesterday, I put up some Before and After photos of my painting and redecorating on Beach Treasure. I did most of the talking about painting and rearranging and what not over here, don't know why I decided to put the pictures up over there. But in case you only read this blog, you might want to go check them out.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Jennalee of artrageous afternoon tagged me for the random meme that's been going around. I've enjoyed reading about other people's random wierdness and I've certainly got a lot of wierdness to choose from for my own list.

Here are the rules for this tag:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven random and perhaps wierd things about MOI.

1. I don't seem to be more right or left brain dominant. Instead I tend to test as strongly BOTH. I guess I'm well balanced.

2. I like Gothy things even though I'm two or three decades older than most people that embrace a Goth style.

3. I don't own any high heels. Hmmm, there might be small blocky heel on a pair of boots I own, but I can't remember the last time I wore them anyway.

4. I like the taste of healthy foods (vegetables, soy, whole grains) more than I like the taste of junk food. Not that I haven't eaten my share of junk food. I gave up being a purist about that sort of thing long ago. But if I get to choose, I almost always choose fresh and healthy over sweet, fat, rich, or salty.

5. I fantasize about living two diametrically opposing future lives. I dream of living in a culturally rich, artsy city. I'd live in a flat above shops and walk to the corner coffee house or market. Or maybe it would be smallish city and I'd own an old Victorian within a few blocks of the downtown. BUT! At the same time I also picture myself living far from the bustle on a secluded piece of property. No noise, no neighbors, dark star strewn skies, room to garden, woods to walk in, privacy for a bonfire or outdoor ritual if I wanted. I can't decide which one I would love best. I've done both and was happier in both those situations than in any of the other situations I've ever lived in. I can't realistically have either of them at the moment, so I guess it doesn't matter which I would choose. Maybe time or fate will decide for me. Or who knows, maybe I'll become an overnight financial success (uhm, selling dust bunnies?) and be able to own BOTH a house in the city and a house in the country.

6. One of my fantasies for most of my adult life was to have an old truck I could galivant around in. Spunky farm gal, that would be me. Ironically, we now own an old truck. A metallic midnight blue '64 Chevy. It was originally my son Joe's teen "fix it up" project with his grandpa. But he lost interest in it and hubby ended up sinking primarily his own time and money into it, so it became our truck. Hubby would gladly let me drive it, claim it as my own, but I think of it his truck and I have no interest in it. I've only driven it for a short distance a couple of times in ten years. Now that they are adults, both of our older sons want the truck that neither of them thought was "cool" when they were teenagers, but I still like the idea of owning it. Plus, we do use it for truck jobs - bringing home large furniture, hauling stuff to the dump, bringing home the Yule tree.

7. I prefer eating with chopsticks over eating with a fork. Even if it's not Chinese food. Pasta of any kind. Stir fries. Fruit salad. Oh, anything really. Okay. Maybe not soup.

Hmmmm, you know what I just thought of? I was tagged on my studio blog. So maybe these should have been seven random artsy things about myself. I don't feel like deleting what I already wrote. It's harder than I thought to come up with odd things to say. I'll just do a second seven.

Seven random and perhaps wierd ARTSY things about MOI.

1. I'm not a huge fan of modern art.

2. I like Shabby Chic but not in the typical sweet way. Maybe what I like is more Shabby Goth?

3. I love words and I love images. It's like right brain/ left brain, city/ country. I can't pick between them. I can't pick between cats and dogs either. Or tea and coffee. Hot colors and cool colors. Kitschy or, classic. It's a curse. I'm frustratingly well balanced. Or maybe unfocused. Undecisive? Shut up. I like the term "well balanced" best. But it's still a curse. You should be with me when I'm ordering from a menu. The stir fry or the fish and chips? Oh, which to choose!?!

4. I have a love/hate relationship with hats on people in collage work. On one hand, it's so cute and I wish I'd thought of it before everyone else. On the other hand it's overdone. Over OVER OVER done. So I can't do it. (I know, never say never) I envy and admire it and want to scream when I see it yet again - all in one breath.

5. My aunt used to own a sketch by Picasso. Which he made for her. At a party. She was at. With Picasso. Well, she didn't come with him. But she was at the same party he was at. She got wierd and I think into drugs as she got older and has since passed away. I don't know what happened to the Picasso.

6. Sometimes art makes me feel like crying.

7. The first artist that I thought of as "my favorite" was Georgia O'Keefe. When I learned more about her life, about how she chose her art over having children, I felt sad for her and sort of let down. Why couldn't she do both, like our generation of women were taught was possible. Why wasn't she a better role model!? ("I am woman, hear me roar!" or "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever let him forget he's a man, 'cuz I'm a wo-o-o-oman.") Later, as I grew, had children, observed the life and choices of woman around me, my criticism of her disappeared. She was right. Not that you have to choose one over the other like she did. You can do both. But you can't do both the same way you can do one or the other. Family, career, children, self - they all have to be juggled in only so many hours in a day. There's always something that's sacrificed.

Okay, that's it. Now to tag seven random bloggers:

1 Creative Slave
2. Moonsinging
3. Simply Mein
4. Susan in Stitches
5. Magical Musings
6. Artistic Creations
7. Artquiltmaker

I didn't check so, if you've been tagged already, feel free to pass. Or if you hate these things, feel free to pass as well. No obligation. Just play if you want.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

What a difference several weeks can make. When we drove over the mountains to William's football game in mid-October we stopped, as did several other cars even during the short time we were there, to take photos of this copse of aspens in all it's autumn splendor.

Yesterday we stopped again and I took more photos. This time we were the only car interested.

The first time I took photos the trees were showing off a glamorous, last hurrah display of this past summer's growth.

This time all that was left were the "bare bones" of the forest.

Golden coins that had scattered across the forest floor...

...had dried and faded.

The umbrella of color....

....had blown free, leaving the branches stripped and stark against endless skies.

Despite being the only people interested in the leafless trees, I felt they were just as beautiful in their winter simplicity as they were when flamboyantly draped in their foliage. It was just another season, another stage, a time of waiting, pulling in, resting, so they are ready for their spring rebirth.

As we drove on over the mountains, I thought of how the trees reminded me of my Halloween costume this year, of La Catrina as I've just discovered she is named.

Like the trees, like La Catrina, we may dress ourselves up in colorful haberdashery, but we are all, really, just the bare bones hidden underneath. The well dressed lady is known for her traditional Day of the Dead symbolism, both honoring our love for those who have departed life and the reminder to embrace life while we still have time to celebrate it.

But like the trees she can also symbolize all those little deaths that we experience because of the inevitable ups and downs and detours within our lives known as CHANGE. Whether planned or unexpected, change in our life creates a need to remember our basics, the bare bones of who we are, and more often than not, the need to discard the leaves, the finery we've built up over time.

Now that the harvests of the last year are complete (at least in this half of the world) and nature is settling in for a winter's repose, it's a good time for us to follow in her footsteps. We can toss off the outgrown ephemera of our lives. This might mean letting go of old ways of thinking, old ideas or limits, excess belongings or expectations, or any number of emotional, psychological, or physical baggage that weigh us down and prevents us from moving into the new growth that awaits our readiness just round the bend. It's a good time to cuddle our bony fingers around a hot cup of hot tea, bundle our bones inside a favorite old quilt, and spend some winter time reflecting on what new sort of wardrobe will fit our lives in the coming spring of the year.