Thursday, February 28, 2013

Two Letters

Dear Papa B.

Best wishes on your retirement!  We love you, and we are grateful for your prayers.


Dear Secular Media Who Have Been Speculating about the Aforementioned Event:

Shouldn't you at least entertain the possibility that a man who has devoted himself to the service of God and His people, and who has sought holiness with zeal since his youth might, just possibly, be telling the truth when he explains why he wishes to retire?

Yours truly,

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight  upon you.

-- Nathaniel Hawthorne

I came across this quote and it got me thinking.  As a go-getter, I'm tempted to dismiss it as pretty imagery.  I don't wait for things to happen to me, usually.  At the very least, I take whatever steps I can at the time to get the things I want, even if I know that the filling a particular ambition may be years away.  But I think this quote is true in at least one sense: to realize how much we already have often means being still.  It means pausing to be grateful.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


I want to assure my gentle readers that I am still playing in my studio.  

Right now I am working on a gift for someone who actually reads my blog, so it is going to be a secret until it is done.  It has six main parts and 12 subparts, and I finished work on two of the subparts today.  (There.  I don't think that gave anything away...)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Angel Mosaic Done!

Snow Day Today!

And what did I make in my studio?

I finished the angel mosaic:

I'm really pleased with how it came out.  Now I just need to afix something wherein I can hang it on the wall and it is ready to give the expectant parents.

To see how I did it, step-by-step, check out my tutorial on one of my favorite websites, Cut Out + Keep.

Don't Throw Away... Used Chapstick Tubes

This is probably a the most cheapskate thing I have ever done.  It was kind of fun, though.

I have been saving my used chapstick containers for a couple of years because The Magician has been talking about making our own chapstick for a while.  I gathered together all of my chapstick, and just counting Burt's Bees, I had 37 empty tubes.  (You can see why he is interested in making our own since one tube costs $2.99.)  I had discovered, however, in the mad hunt through the house for chapstick, that I had lots of non-Burt's bees tubes of chapstick that could still be used.  So I thought we should go ahead and put off making our own big batch, especially since the supplies were going to come out to about $50.  (This seemed like a lot to me, until my beloved pointed out that those 37 tubes of chapstick had cost $110.63.)

So anyway, we decided to melt the chapstick that remained in the tubes and see if we could replenish any of the empty tubes.

First, we removed the labels.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rocks - Part II

After my recent post on Rock Balancing, I thought I'd give it a try. Success!..


Be sure to read through this neat interview with a Rock Balancer.

And check out this YouTube video documentary on another one:


Click HERE for the definitive book on this art.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Zen and the Art of "Rock On!"

Today I'd like to introduce you to your next hobby.  A hobby both fascinating and tranquil.  One that requires little expense and puts you in contact with Mother Nature and science...

It's Rock Balancing.  Yes, you heard me right, stacking rocks upon other rocks.  I know, I know... you think I'm absolutely bonkers.  But give me a minute or two to convince you.  Take a look at the following images and remember that the only thing holding these sculptural pieces together is gravity.

Remember, these are not glued in any way.  All this takes is a wee bit of patience and time out in nature near a source of rocks.

Want to learn more and learn from an expert?  You can obtain the NEW BOOK by Peter Juhl and learn every facet of this fantastic art (and just imagine the conversations that will start if you leave this out in the open on your coffee table!!).

Then you can officially belong to this society, just like me :-)

You can find more mesmerizing photos and videos at and

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weekly Round Up

This week I…

...earned my first bit of income through this blog: $.18.  Someone ordered Top Gun through the Amazon link.  (I don't see names, just what they ordered.)  Now just $9.82 until I get paid.  Can you tell this blog is a labor of love?

...watched my first episode of Downton Abbey.  Yes, I think I'm hooked!

...Worked on a sewing project with Mom.  It’s going to be a table-runner.

...celebrated The Magican’s 44th birthday.  We celebrated with a cozy afternoon of getting soundly trounced by Anne M. playing The Settlers of Catan (One of our all-time favorite board games.)

...went to with The Magician to join my family watching my sister Rachel's performance in an oleo.  An oleo is a series of song and dance routines that have a theme.  This year's was traveling, so they had songs like "Route 66."  There was also a melodrama written by one of the organizers, and some comedy skits.  It's a church community-building event with all of the beer, pop, and popcorn you care to eat.  They do charge admission, but basically they break even.  They've been doing it for more than 30 years, and as they have been sold out for as long as anyone can remember.  I think it is a cool way to build connections in their very large parish, and I think it would be a lot of fun if we had something like that here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Don't Throw Away... SOAP!

Your bar of soap gets smaller and smaller until it eventually gets so thin it snaps in half.  In frustration, folks generally toss the two halves away. But wait!...

...did you know those little scraps add up and can be reclaimed into a new, usable bar?  Never throw soap away again.  Here's how:

Step 1:  Collect all of your soap dregs that you've been collecting over the weeks.  Make sure they are all dry.

Step 2:  Start to break the old bars down into the smallest fragments you can.  The smaller the better.  This will help them re-glue themselves together better later on in the process.

 Step 3:  Now you'll have a nice styrofoam bowl full of soap fragments!

Step 4:  Add some hot water to the bowl.  Just enough to cover the soap.

Step 5:  Soapy-hot water soup!

Step 6:  Put the bowl of soap into your microwave and heat for about 30 seconds or so.  You want it nice and hot but not so hot that it is scalding.  So be careful!

Step 7:  Steaming HOT bowl of soapy-hot water soup!  Yum-yum (NOT!).

Step 8:  Take a drinking glass or something with a nice smooth bottom.  Carefully mush the hot soap to press it together and push out some of the water.  Go slowly and be prepared to have some soap stick to the bottom of the glass.  Just remove it, drop it back in the bowl and keep mashing.

Step 9:  Drain off the excess water.

Step 10:  Carefully mash the drained soap to press it together more firmly.  As you press into the center, the sides will creep up the side of the bowl.  So work the sides down as well to even it all out.

Step 11:  While you were pressing the soap into a more solid mass, you will notice a soap slurry forming on the top.  Just go ahead and smooth it out with your finger to make it nice and smooth.

Step 12:  Go ahead and set your bowl aside to let it cool down.  It won't take long.  But to be on the safe side and to give the soap enough time to properly harden, wait for an hour or so.  Once it's cooled down, cut slots all around the styrofoam bowl.

Step 13:  Carefully peel back the bowl back from the new bar of soap.

Step 14:  And - Whoala! - a new bar of soap.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I Made It Myself List

It’s a sort of DIY honor roll of independence…. listed in order from common to less typical.  If there are any you’d like to see pictures of or that you are wondering how they were done, just let me know.
I’ve made:
Bowls (papier mache and magazine)
Dinosaur costume
Artwork (many and varied)
Quilt (entirely from leftover fabric)
Book of Art Quotes
Notebook (from recycled paper and cardstock)
Christmas ornaments
Book safe
Address book (Alpha and by birthday month all in the same place)
Desk organizer
Faux stained glass gratitude gar
Hair gel
Hair dye (tint, more like)
Revolving jewelry stand (I had some help from Dad on this one.)
Headboard (This one was more Robert….)
Tie twists
Rubber band holder

Three tables

It’s not much, I suppose, but hey, it’s something.  I hope to continually add to the list.  I have a baby book and a sturdy denim picnic blanket underway…

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Month Without Quite So Much Sugar

Today makes a month without sweets.

Sort of. 

Ok, Elizabeth W. brought over homemade cookies to a crafternoon a couple of weeks ago.  Had to eat those.  (Side note: Amazingly tasty!)  And I guess for some people grape juice and Yoplait whips and Tic Tacs have enough sugar to count as sweets.  But no cookies, ice cream, donuts, flan, hard candy, etc.  I haven’t had one of the bright, beckoning peanut butter-covered-with-chocolate little gems that have been whispering enticing things to me from the little glass dish on Mary’s desk at work.  I am still mourning a double-decker piece of moist chocolate cake with chocolate chips baked into it that I passed up.  (I suppose I should just write an ode to it and get it out of my system.But, for the most part, I met my goal.

So, what happened?

Lose weight?  Nope.  Even though I increased my exercising marginally.
Less moody/anxious/grouchy/uptight?  Yes.  Noticeably.  Not that I'm mellow now, or anything.
Better memory?  Yes.  
Better sleep?  Maybe a little.  Or maybe it’s in my head.  Nothing significant.

Today is Fat Tuesday.  I’m going to have chocolate.  Specifically, the European chocolate you see below, which has a deliriously fantastic strawberry cream in the middle.  Yup—that is the “before” picture!

I’m curious if my sugar-deprived body will have any reaction.  But mostly, I am looking forward to---Ah!  Yes!  So very, very good!  Ok, I'm not going to eat ALL of it.  At least, I'm not planning to...

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Year Without Crafting for Money Begins

As of Tuesday of this week, I am taking a break from crafting for money.  Why?  Well, there’s a lot more crafting than money it in, for one thing! 

I was at Urban Legends, a little gallery which also offers art classes.  (I'd include a link to their website, but it has disappeared.)  The owners are much more interested in the art classes than in the gallery.  It was still a good experience but I made far more money with my freelance writing and editing last year, and just a little bit more than I did at my last craft fair. The only reason I made any money at all is that I didn't have to pay the monthly fee due to a barter for services.

What I learned:
- Even if though my raw material was all pretty much free, I made a profit only if I consider my time as not worth much.
- There are two ways to make money selling stuff. 
             The Grocery Store model = tiny markup, big volume
             The Boutique model = huge markup, few sales. 
Tiny markup and few sales does not work well!  (I haven’t figured out how to get to huge markup and big volume!)
- As an artist, you have to decide where you are on this spectrum:
Work for 6 months on something you sell for $20,000  < ------------------------ > Make thousands of items quickly and sell them for very little.
-I’m just not willing to be a factory.  When you do something over and over again, you get really good at it.  And really bored with it.
- I like sales.  I like meeting and chatting with who ever is buying my stuff.
- I like marketing. 
- I like control. 
- It’s hard to work when you don’t know if there will be any return.  During the second half of the year I kept making things only because I said, “If this doesn’t sell, it will go on the wall there.”
- Thinking about money too much makes me greedy, stingy, and a bad conversationalist.
- Crafting for money makes me lean toward quickie art forms and means that I resent it when mistakes (i.e. learning) takes too long.

Conclusion:  I have lots of things I want to make for our home and my friends.  On deck: lamp stand, back-pack purse, clothes for traveling in Europe this summer, cloth baby book, a coffee table, denim picnic blanket, embellished storage boxes, and a painting for over the fireplace.  All without spending more than say, $20.  I might be able to do them all for free.  Stay tuned…

Sunday, February 10, 2013

DIY Chapsick?

My beloved has convinced me to try making our own chapstick.  I am firmly addicted to Burt’s Bees.  I love the stuff.  I’m going to be buried with it, in additional to my ever-present water bottle.  But it is expensive and so I’ve been dutifully saving empty tubes for a while now.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Today's Not Typical Activity

So what are you doing today that is not typical?  Unconventional?  Cool or artsy or thrifty?  Or just not done any more, even though it should be?

Mine: mending.

Ok, not cool.   But it is (comparatively) unconventional. 

How about you?  Feel free to post your non-conventional activity of the in the comments.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hermann the Hamster

He is Hermann.  He's our blog's pet hamster.

Click in his cage to drop food pellets for him to eat...
Move your mouse for him to follow...
Click the inner cage wheel joint for him to go inside!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Playing in My Studio with My Mom

Mom came over to play today!  She used to love to paint, but I don't think she's picked up a brush in 20 years.  I persuaded her to coming over, and I think she thought we were going to do mending first.  But it's Sunday.  Sunday is a day of play.  Er, rest. Same thing, really.

Anyway, the "canvas" was cardstock that goes between layers of bottles in the factory where she works and the paint was cheap, little-kid, tempera, poster paint and I still had trouble persuading her to "waste" stuff by just playing around.  And she wasn't thrilled with what she came up with.  It had been awhile.  But she said she had fun... and she's going to pick up some watercolor paints because she has an idea....

She is one of the dearest people in the world to me, and I was so glad to see her take this tiny bit of time for herself.  (She still wants to come over next week and mend stuff for Grandma Rose.)

This is her cleaning up.  I couldn't figure out what was taking so long until she asked me for a Q-tip....  Really, Mom?  Are you sure you aren't related to Robert instead of to me?  Yes, she took a Q-tip to the palette, which is now very clean!

Another Baby Shower Gift

I'm just getting started with this one.  I want to make a cloth baby book for Gen and Doug who are expecting their very first little one.  (Shh!  It's a surprise!)

The photo is me wondering what I've gotten myself into.  I'll post a How To when I get it done.

Angel Mosaic Progress

I did some work on this while waiting for Mom to come over to play in the studio.  The torso looks really shiny but that is because it is still wet with Modge Podge.


I still don't know what I am going to do for the face....

So Much for Frugal February....

I was toying with the idea of Freakishly Frugal February.  However my husband shot down the candles-instead-of-lights idea and my car needs $800 worth of work/preventative maintenance.  (Our mechanic has pretty much forgotten what we look like it’s been so long.  So I suppose it is about time…)  Ergo, February is now Pinch Pennies and Remember to Count Blessings month instead.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Budget Numbers for January

It’s Feb 2, which means yesterday was budget day!  How did we do for January?

The good news:
We put extra money toward the mortgage and a significant amount in savings.  (The extra towards the mortgage is higher by $55 because of my freelancing.  That always makes me happy!)

The bad news:
The total amount of passive income generated was…. Wait for it… $3.06.  The amount of passive income we need for retirement income, based on this month’s expenses and therefore not including inflation is significantly higher than that!
More bad news: Due to tax increases, $97.98 is missing from our paychecks.

I’m grateful, though, that we were able to put money in savings and to more a little closer to being mortgage-free.  Heck, I’m grateful we have food on the table and a roof over our heads!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!