Quick Tip Tuesday: Spice up your gift wrapping

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It is possible to be environmentally conscious and still present a well-wrapped gift that doesn’t get newsprint all over the fingers of the recipient (and the wrapper).  The best bet is to use upcycled paper bags or craft paper.  At the very least choose wrapping paper without the glossy coating so it can be recycled (as shown here).  Typical gift ribbons can also be replaced by real ribbon or, in this case, bias tape.  It gives the gift a much more polished look and can be reused by the recipient in a craft project or to wrap another gift (or stolen back by the giver to use again).

Also, you don’t have to wrap every part of the gift.  I made a nice little arrangement, with a couple wrapped gifts and the card, and some extra gifts (that would have been hard to wrap or taken a lot of extra paper.

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Of course, parents and grandparents always love things that are decorated or written on by their kids/grandkids.  For this one, I had our boy label the packages and then color on some warmed-up rocks with crayon (it makes a nice, melty effect).  The rocks served as the “bows”.

ImageAnd incorporating something unexpected in your wrapping, like the palm branch from a recent Palm Sunday, is really the icing on the cake.

Crossroads

Italo Calvino said: The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts. Describe the ghosts that live in this house: Image credit: “love Don’t live here anymore…” – © 2009 Robb North – made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic

I’ve been overwhelmed lately and haven’t had the time or energy to create much of anything.  And I haven’t liked it one bit.  But I have a little time tonight and felt the urge to blog… but what to say, share, do?  So I pushed the “Inspire me” link on WordPress and the image and quote above came up.  Of course, they’re pretty perfect for where my life has taken me right about now.

I’ve been thinking so much about balance, lately.  As I’ve been working to build a new department at my agency, one that I think I would truly love to run, I’ve had to give up a lot of the time I’d been able to spend on my crafting.   Things had gotten pretty stagnant in my last position and I had been able to do it without a lot of thought or effort.  This was a new sensation for me, as I’d always been pretty consumed by work (working in a mental health field can easily be all-consuming).  Luckily, I was able to channel the extra time and energy I had into my crafting and I realized that I’d gotten to really love that part of myself.

The quote speaks to me of my own “enlightenment”, or my moving up in the social services world into a position I’ve  always thought I wanted.  But the “ghosts” that I’m afraid that I’m creating are the possible ghosts of my creative, family,  and spiritual lives.  I’m afraid about work consuming my life once again, as it’s done at so many points in the past.  There aren’t enough hours in the day to be able to do everything I want to do.  But I know there are things I need to do.  These are the things I’ve learned about myself in the past several months of having the creative time I’ve had:

– When I have the time to be creative, I feel alive.

– When I have the energy to participate actively in my faith community, I feel connected.

– When I feel alive and connected, I’m a great mother and wife.

So, what to do?

I’m so scared about being that little house in the picture with the sad title:  “love Don’t live here anymore”.   I’m scared about not being able to balance the pressures of work and life and still make time for the things that really feed my soul.  I’m scared that the career goal I’d always aspired to (moving up in the agency, having the chance to have a greater impact on the lives of a greater number of people) may end up being the thing that makes me into a person I don’t want to be.

How do you balance work and life and yourSELF?

Heaven… I’m in Heaven

Mary, of Be Creative Mary fame, posted about this amazing place a couple weeks ago and I’ve been planning a trip every since:  http://becreativemary.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/day-226-goodwill-hunting-reusing-and-recyling/

The Resources for Rhode Island Educators, http://www.rrie.org/, is an amazing non-profit that takes materials from manufacturers to sell to the public for pennies a pound.  It can be anything from finished products (there were a lot of Martha Stewart Office things) to random do-dads used to make things.  For a $10 donation, we got a one day membership (a full year is $60, but it’s about 1 1/2 hours away so I’m not sure how often we’ll be going), and then most of the stuff they have is 40 cents a pound (some things are priced individually, but not much).  It was a veritable cornucopia of stuff for upcycling projects.

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There are some samples of things, here and there, that people have made, but there wasn’t much fancy about this place.  It just leaves everything up to your imagination.  The staff was nice and it’s amazing that so many business are willing to participate.  It was really stocked to the gills.

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So, for the unbelievable sum of $12.50 (plus the $10 I gave them for the try-out membership and a little extra I gave for a donation), here was my amazing haul:

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I don’t really have specific ideas for a lot of it, but here’s what I was initially thinking when I saw some of this.  The tiles and glass are sure to become some kind of mosaic.  I’m going to give a lot of the sticky notes to my boy’s teacher (they were on her classroom “wish-list”).  I’ve been wanting some of those tags for ages and there was a whole bin of Martha Stewart Office stuff- I wonder if her company donated them or if they came from a retailer who hadn’t been able to sell them.  I’m thinking of making something for a friend of mine who loves horses out of some of the ribbon- it was from a huge barrel that seemed to have come from a company that makes prize ribbons.  I got a ton, so I’m sure I’ll donate a lot of it to my favorite local upcycling store, Knack (http://www.knack.org/) (if you didn’t see my post about it, please check it out- it’s my absolute favorite place in the world: https://craftymadre.com/2013/07/19/knack-my-new-favorite-place/)  I’m also planning to donate the conical spools to Knack.  They have kids craft workshops every other weekend and I was thinking these would make a great Christmas tree project.  The random knick-knacks and bottle tops were mostly my boy’s idea.  He kept picking up things out of bins and saying “I could use that.”  (A boy after my own heart.)  I did pick out the gold bottle tops to make Christmas ornaments for family this year (based on a craft workshop at Knack that’s in the above post).  And the sheets of paper are absolutely awesome.  The silver is sticky on the back (if I’d realized it, I probably would have gotten more).  I’ll have wrapping paper for a year.

My boy had as much fun as me, finding random things and suggesting what he would do with them.  This is my favorite find of his, a piece of clear plexiglass with a blue rectangle across the middle, which I’m going to try to make into an outdoor gardening bench (he calls himself “Luigi-Sam” in this picture:

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There was so, so, so much more that I wanted and my amazing wife gave me $60 to spend.  But, I knew I’d have no where to put it when I got it home.  I’m sure that we’ll be back again soon, though.  The bonus- there’s a Dave and Buster’s nearby, so I can always promise my wife a trip there when we go (which is where we spent the rest of the afternoon as a final hurrah before the boy starts school).  I’m so glad I saw Mary’s post about this amazing place!

Building a little garden and an upcycled planter

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We’re hosting the family reunion this year, so on Labor Day weekend about 25 people will all descend on my parents’ house.  My mom is getting a little worried, though, because they’d planned on having landscaping done this summer but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be even started by then.  Don’t get me wrong.  My parents have a beautiful, big yard, but it’s just not everything my mom wishes it would be.  So, today I went over and helped brighten up a little corner of it, by the front of the house, as a little eye candy when people were coming in.

This little area off the driveway used to be a little flower bed but has long-since been filled with weeds, grass, and 3 black-eyed susans.  I, of course, forgot to take a “before”, but trust me when I say that it was not pretty.  We dug it up with the help of my handy-dandy Fiskars weeder and a little old fashioned elbow grease.  My mom and I went shopping at the local garden center (I love it there, especially when I’m not spending my own money) and picked up some mums to put in 3 pots my mom had (since they’ll be in full bloom right around the time of the reunion) and some pretty ornamental cabbage as accents.  Here is is before the mulch:ImageMy folks had the sandstone in the backyard and it made a perfect border. My mom’s going to see if there’s any more at the garden center to replace the random rocks we put along the driveway.  They were kind of an afterthought but made a nice addition.  Image

And these were the finishing touches:

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The petrified tree chunk was hidden behind a bunch of bushes in another garden bed.  It had originally come from a huge tree in our church lawn that was cut down a few years ago, much to may people in the congregation’s dismay.  And I discovered the little frog when I was putting the gardening tools away in the shed.  He was my grandma’s and fit in perfectly.  It’s almost like we had unknowingly saved a spot just for him.  Maybe she had some part in that, looking down on us.

And here’s my latest upcycled gardening planter, compliments of Heather at Whipperberry.  http://whipperberry.com/2013/07/hanging-succulent-garden.html#_a5y_p=767637Image

She used International Delights creamer containers, which I certainly have plenty of, but I wanted to go with something a little more natural looking (as natural as plastic can be) by not painting them.  So, I used a couple different sized Powerade bottles (my wife loves that stuff) because they’re clear.  (Little Rufus wanted in on the action.)

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I cut holes in them with my X-acto knife, making a little flap for the plant to rest on, and cut small triangles in the bottoms for drainage.  I filled the bottle about half full with a loose dirt mix and not-very-delicately shoved the roots into the hole.  I had picked up these little Hens and Chicks from my favorite farm stand a couple weeks ago just for this project.  To hang them, I used some LAN wire that I saved from taking apart a computer keyboard about a year ago.  It totally went with the upcycle theme and it was green.  What could be better?  I just tied it onto the ring left over from the top and hung them from our gazebo.

At the garden center today, I got this cute, tiny little succulent and I’m planning to put it in a third bottle (the smallest size).  Three is a very good number in feng shui, representing creativity, family, and self-expression.  You can also see the threes in the plot at my folks’.  I know that at least family will be in abundance in a couple weeks.  I’m looking forward to it!

Completion of my ICAD Challenge!!!

ImageI DID IT!!  61 cards in Daisy Yellow’s 2 month long Index Card a Day Challenge.  In case you weren’t following along, here’s where all the magic began:

http://daisyyellowart.com/icad/icad-faq.html

She’s been doing this challenge for at least a couple years now and the only rule is that you have to use index cards as your “canvas”.  You can use any medium or mixed media combo you want and people came up with some pretty amazing ideas.  The idea was to do one index card a day but she suggests committing to 7 a week (which was a big help with keeping the pressure from being overwhelming for me).  She posted optional themes for each week and a list of (again, optional) prompts to choose from.  I decided to use mine to created a catalogue of quotes that I want to remember for future pieces and experiment with different techniques and mediums.  At first, I found myself really leaning on the themes and prompts.  After the first month, though, I was just inspired by everyone else’s work and I had more than enough ideas on my own.  I followed her Facebook group pretty closely and checked out the Flickr group fairly often, as well.

As a relatively new blogger, and a newly committed crafter, this has been an amazing experience.  It really got me to focus on doing something creative almost every day.  I also tried out a lot of new techniques, discovered a lot of new crafters on Flickr, and got a boatload of encouragement from Facebook.  Looking back on my 61 cards, I can see so much growth in my work and willingness to experiment.  I don’t really like all the cards I made, by any means, but I do like that I made them.  And there are several that I really do love and feel so proud of.  I, honestly, couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend the first couple months of my summer and I can’t wait for next summer’s challenge.

Here are some other bloggers who also been doing the challenge and who’ve provided me with additional inspiration:

http://defineyourjoy.com/2013/07/27/last-full-week-of-index-cards/ – I kept coming back to Natasha’s blog.  She focused on collage for her cards, but even given that boundary she had such a wide variety. I loved seeing her daughter’s cards displayed right alongside hers and hearing how proud her daughter was of her work and their posts.

http://tangledpen.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/thank-you-index-cards/ – She has some lovely cards and is a great drawer (a talent I envy).  Her son joined in, as well.

http://journey2wonderful.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/mini-art-challenge-week-8/ – Just like my theme was inspirational quotes, hers was illustrating books she’d read.  Some of them sound really good, and the cards make them all the more interesting.

http://joyfulploys.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/final-icads/ – Mary did all 61 cards.  I love her style.  There’s a great mixture of bold, contemporary pieces with vintage and more subtle tones mixed in.

http://pixelknitsponderings.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/index-card-a-day-2013-the-last-cards/ – Janet also did all 61 cards and has a great group shot of them at the end.  Congrats!!

Finally, I’ve been posting mine in little groups all along, so if you want to see some others check out the ICAD tag on my tag cloud.  Here (drumroll) are my last few cards:

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“Leap and the net will appear” really sums up my feeling about doing this challenge.  I jumped in, let go of judgement (over and over again), and kept creating.  I think that’s kind of what the challenge was about.  What do you think?

Catching up on ICAD

ImageHere are my next 4 ICAD projects.  They actually all sprung from the first one, which was built around the proverb:  “Bloom where you are planted”.  I was looking through my magazine word and image collection to do a collage, knowing that I’m not great at drawing and wanted flowers (for obvious reasons).  I couldn’t find the words, so I got out my Geli-stix pens (with this week’s theme being “ink”).  I don’t know why I still have those pens because I’ve never liked them.  They only work intermittently, so I have to go over and over the lines and it wasn’t the look I was going for here.  Oh well.  I tried drawing some flowers on it, but didn’t like those much either.  I can’t throw anything away (hence, the pens) so I decided to experiment.  I screwed open the pen and used an Xacto knife to cut the cylinder that holds the ink.  I tapped, and blew, and flicked the ink all over my little card.  It was so fun.  So I opened up a couple more pens.  Then, I took a couple other cards and blotted up the extra ink, giving me backgrounds for 3 more cards!  And these are my final products:

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Of course, the last one is the the original card.  (Remember, I can’t throw anything away.)  I went over the original lettering with a silver and a black sharpie.  I guess my little card did bloom, after all.

The best part of the story is that I posted another card on Daisy Yellow’s ICAD Facebook page, saying that I really didn’t like those Geli-stix.  Another person in the group suggested that I gift them to her, because she would use them.  As I was going through my aforementioned magazine word collection looking for the first quote (that I ended up doing a lot of word-by-word and letter-by-letter) I found the quote from the Bhagavad Gita… a perfect way to use one of my inky backgrounds.

This whole exercise was certainly an “adventure of the mind”.  I love how things work out sometimes when I open myself up to whatever the Universe might bring me.  THAT’S the source of all creativity, I think.