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”.

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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?

Art in the Orchard

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Here are some more photos from our adventure to the “Art in the Orchard” exhibit today (http://www.parkhillorchard.com/art).  If you’re anywhere near the Western Massachusetts area, I highly suggest you come check it out.  It’s totally worth the trip.

The one above was my favorite, I think.  I’m kicking myself for not taking a photo of the title card, but it’s called “Living in Landscape” by Lyn Horan (http://www.carolynlyonshoran.com/).  I just found out that she’s an instructor at one of my favorite local artist retreats/studio communities, Snow Farm (http://www.snowfarm.org/instructor/items/lyn-horan.html).

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This one is amazing (and the reason I desperately to learn to weld).  And there’s the info on it (I actually remembered to photograph the card.

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The piano hanging from the tree was super cool, but the title, “Death of Music” made me sad.  He said that he was trying to represent censorship in music, but all I could think of was the loss of another instrument in the world (it might also be because my mom was a piano teacher when I was growing up).

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I sent my brother a couple pictures as we were leaving and he went to the exhibit later that afternoon and took some amazing photos.  Here’s his post of a photo of this one (with a rainbow that he was luckily enough to catch):  http://lorrinbaker.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/rainbow-and-horse-sculpture-art-in-the-orchard-easthampton-ma/.  These weren’t my favorite sculptures (they were called Ghost Horses in a installation titled “Herd” by Joe Landry) but I love the view with the clouds rolling in.  It actually started raining just as we finished picking our second basket of apples.  I think we must have gotten almost 1/2 a bushel.  The wife’s going to have a field day in the kitchen tomorrow while the boy and I are at church.

My favorite part of the day was this huge red frame created by a local frame shop, Eastmont Custom Framing.  (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eastmont-Custom-Framing-and-The-Elusie-Gallery/175553662476120)  They challenged people to photograph themselves in and around the frame and post the photos on their Facebook page.  We had a blast with that:

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Up, up, and away!

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Arabesque.

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The family.  🙂

My boy’s favorite part, he said, was getting this close to a chicken.  It’s the simple pleasures!

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Family Reunion Fun

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We had a family reunion this past weekend and I made some “souvenirs” for folks.  I printed photos that my brother had taken at our last 3 reunions and made them into wall hangings for each family.

The first one I made for my sister and her family.  She and her husband and are both teachers so I used the cover of an old picture book I’ve had sitting on my craft shelf for just such an occasion.  I took off the front cover to use as a “frame” and then glued down the photos with my handy-dandy Mod-Podge.  I had picked up a bunch of napkins with lacy edges at a local thrift store recently to use in crafts, and it seemed to go with the shabby-chic look of this cover.  I glued them all down with Mod Podge, making sure to let the layer I used to glue things down overnight before putting the layer over the top.   This really helped avoid bubbling, which is always a problem when I decoupage (impatient much?).  I also used a little plastic bag to smooth out the glue around the edges of the photos to avoid getting it on my fingers and then getting gluey fingerprints on everything else I touched.

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I found some cute little knick-knacks in my “miscellaneous metal” and attached them with UHU Twist and Glue.  I love that stuff.  (This binder clip is holding down the fancy paperclip while the glue dries.)  Finally, I glued a piece of bric a brac on the back as a little hanger (and duct taped it down, as well, for good measure).

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This one was for my aunt and her partner.  I used the back cover from the book, above, because it had a really neat, small town drawing on the inside of the cover and they live in a small town in Vermont.  I colored in a few parts of the picture with colored pencil and glued on a couple little clay button hearts and a little yellow flower.  I glued (and taped) on a piece of cotton hem tape as a hanger.

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For the one for one of my cousins and her family (who also live in VT), I used part of a “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”  LP jacket as the background.  (I’ve totally been saving that for something special).  I made sure to  place the photos so you could still see some of the great artwork on this album.  I added some ribbon and some little plastic flowers as embellishments and then glued a picture hanger on the back. To keep the jacket closed, I put a couple little brads on the side.

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The last one was made for my other cousin and her family who live in Long Island.  They’re the much more cosmopolitan group of the bunch (a professional dancer and a neurosurgeon) so I tried to make it a little more contemporary.  I used a piece of mat board and then some little square note-papers glued on randomly.  I embellished it with washers to keep with the geometric theme and then glued   a picture hanger on the back.

Here they are all drying on my craft-table (it was insanely humid while I was making them and Mod Podge and humidity don’t necessarily go well together).

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I love how each collage is totally unique and made really specifically to try to fit with my perception of that family’s aesthetic.  It was so fun to see how much the kids, especially, grew and changed from year to year.  I’m envisioning making little additions to each one each year that can be brought home and attached.  (We’ll see how that works.)

Oh, and I also made this watermelon shark bowl.  🙂

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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!