Saturday, August 31, 2013

Photos Galore!

Today I spent way too long on the computer uploading and arranging photos.  I had a Shutterfly coupon on wanted to use to order print for a physical artist's portfolio that I want to make.

The good news for you, my beloved readers, is that while I was doing that, I updated the gallery page with more of my work, old and new.

The other good news is that I have discovered that I have made way more stuff than I had realized!  I'm actually kinda impressed with my little ol' self.... :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013


For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.
-- Lily Tomlin

This one is sheer wistful thinking right now.  It is the first week of school.  Madness is inevitable.  (Yes, I'm pretty sure!)

However, the rest of you are welcome to try it -- Do let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Getting Crafty: Mosaic Box

Here is my current project.  It's about to get pushed to the back burner because I have some gifts to make.  Plus I want to use up a Shutterfly coupon that expires on August 31 so I need to sort through photographs on my computer to decide what I want order.  I want to compile a hard copy an artist portfolio.  The good use for my readers is that this project should result in some more pictures on the gallery page!

Mosaic is definitely an artform for the patient, but I love seeing it all come together.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Basement Wall Update

As has been mentioned in a previous post, I had to tear up part of the basement wall to see about the water that came a few weeks ago (I over-watered outside and it made it's way in somehow).  I tested all sorts of things and it appears that water was draining down a hole in the soil by the front sidewalk.  The dry heat this summer pulled the soil away from the concrete quite a ways.  Anyhow, I filled the area in and earth-bermed it to prevent this from happening in the future.

That left putting things back in the basement.  The bottom foot of plaster along that wall seems to have disintegrated over time.  We never saw this because of the paneling that the prior owner had put up along that wall.  So the first matter was to re-plaster that section.  I used a product called Quikrete Quikwall which worked great.  It's a portland cement product that includes some fiberglass in the mix.  It's very durable, spreads fairly easily once mixed, and is waterproof too.

Once the plaster dried for a day or two, I re-framed the bottom half with 1" x 2"s.  I had to use "Liquid Nails" caulk to keep some of it attached to the concrete basement floor.  Another day or two to dry for that and the wall was ready for the next step.

Then I put some of the original foam back in place, cut some new foam sections for one or two areas that needed replacing (and in the window well which really had no extra insulation!), and finally cut the paneling to size and nailed it all in place (adding some more Liquid Nails along the 1x2s to make sure things held solidly in place).

Now it's all done and looks good again.  We may eventually decide to re-do the entire basement but that is a long ways off if we do that as it would require a lot of tearing down to studs, etc. and rebuild from scratch!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Job Search - Missile Defense Agency

I'm looking at making a career change.  I need some new challenges and think it's time to move on from my current employer.  There have been some interesting things out there - most of which I don't qualify for.


I found and applied for two positions with a really fantastic place - The Missile Defense Agency!

Seriously.  This government agency appears to be quite the great place to work.  Not only because of the mission itself and their locations but also because of their overall work ethic and environment.  So this on the very top, top, top of my list of wanted calls for an interview.  And the really great thing is that the two positions I applied for include three years of training.  You can't find many employers nowadays that are willing to support their employees with their own training!

Anyhow, go over to the Missile Defense Agency and check them out.  I'll bet you never heard of them until now.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A humorous bit of dialogue

[There is a knock at the door.]

Me: [addressing a middle-aged man with a clipboard and a shirt proclaiming "Scott's lawn care"] Yes?

Greg: Hi, I'm Greg with Scott's lawn care.  We take care of some of your neighbors down the street.  I was just stopping by to let you know about our services.  For example, I noticed you have some clover in your lawn.

Me: That's on purpose.

Greg: [Stunned silence.  He has no idea what to reply.]

Me: [explaining kindly] We deliberately sowed clover seed in our yard.  It adds nitrogen back into the soil and is better for the environment.

Greg: [Somewhat dazed, but trying to be polite] Well, that is very interesting.  [He starts to recover.] Everything we put on your lawn at Scott's is okay for the environment.

Me: My husband and I practice frugality and voluntary simplicity.  We wouldn't be interested in a lawncare service.

Greg: Can you tell me what that entails?

Me: [cheerfully] It's a lifestyle choice that involves, among other things, not spending money on things you don't care about just to impress the neighbors.  But best of luck with the other houses on the street....

He was a nice guy and I hope I didn't come across as 'holier than thou.'  But I would no more pay for a lawncare service than I would go clad entirely in velvet or take a bath in champagne.

I didn't get around to explaining this, but apparently clover was a standard addition to grass seed packages for years.  Then in the US Army developed a deforestation chemical designed to aid in starving out the enemy.  It also worked great as a weed killer, except that it killed clover.  So the company who bought the patent started a successful marketing campaign to convince American suburbia that the perfect lawn had no clover in it.

If you are curious, you can read all about it here and here.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Nice Niece with a New Hat

Hats off to Aunt Amy... and boo to Aunt J. who took this long to deliver it!

Rock Star

I'll be giving a review soon of the book "Center of Gravity: A Guide to the Practice of Rock Balancing."  As I've been reading it, I've been giving some serious thought as to how I can develop and further my rock balancing art.

I've decided that I need to take more pictures of my balances and create an online portfolio.  I'm even thinking about contacting some local landscaping companies, that have booths at our annual "home and garden" show, to see if they'd be interested in having me do some rock sculptures as part of their booth displays.

Then I'd like to see about getting into a local art gallery as a featured artist one month.  This is kind of what I was thinking:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Redneck Wrapping Paper?

Ok, are you a redneck if you seriously consider wrapping this:

 with this?

(I didn't.  But I thought about it.)
 I was going to top it with a big tissue paper flower like in this uTube video.

Happy Birthday to Me

Thanks to my dear husband for getting me exactly what I wanted!

(The fact that he needed it to mix the plaster for fixing the basement wall is a total coincidence!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wax On, Wax Off

The other day my wife asked me what type of work I'd do if I had any opportunity available.  It didn't too long to decide.  I said that I've always wanted to teach martial arts - tai chi to be specific.

But in order to teach, one first has to learn.  And best to do so from a Master!  There are many forms of tai chi out there - Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun, etc.  But the one that I find the coolest is from the Wudang mountains where they say Tai Chi supposedly originated from.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Calling All Failures

Professor Elizabeth Langland wrote a book called Middle-Class Women and Domestic Ideology in Victorian Culture which is where I first remember encountering the term "non-narratable."  Basically it means the kind of stories that a society does not allow to be told.  In her book, she was talking about stories where a servant girl marries her master, stories which were common in 18th-century fiction but "non-narratable" in 19th-century fiction, with a few qualified exceptions.

I'm wondering if stories of entrepreneurial failure are non-narratable in our culture right now.  Perhaps "non-narratable" is too strong of a phrase. Most books on the subject, after all, generally include a short cautionary tale in there someplace.  But my husband and I are thinking of starting our own business, and the stack of books that we checked out from the library looks something like this:

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Steve Blowing His Own Horn

Ok, normally you don't want to see your relatives on the news, but this is pretty cool:

Here's the news article on CNN Money.

The second guy from the left (the first guy you can see completely) is my Uncle Steve, one of my all-time favorite uncles.  He and his wife Amy are the most generous, open-hearted people I know. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Yacht Spotting

When we were in Split, Croatia back in June, we saw a super yacht.  Later when we got back home I was looking through my pictures and noticed that I had the boat's name in the shot.  So I checked online to see what I could learn about the yacht.

Turns out you can learn a lot about super yachts!  First, HERE is an interesting bit about the dimensions and specs.  Unfortunately I couldn't find anything anywhere about who actually owns the boat.  But I did find a cool site that lets you track where such ships are currently and where they have been the last few days, including a nice map.  At the time of this writing, the yacht is traveling around the Greek islands.

Ah, what a life, no?  Anyhow, it really is amazing what all you can find on the internet!...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Upcycling Glassware

I made these this week, and I’m really pleased with how they came out.

Here’s our fruit dish before:

And after….


Here's a second one which I like even better:

I hope to post a step-by-step tutorial eventually, but here’s the answer to the most important question: The glue I used was Beacon 527.  I did it in the garage, with the door open for ventilation.

Hope this inspires you to try some upcycling projects of your own!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Magical Television

Did you know that Jeff McBride, the stage magician, runs a magic school in Las Vegas and that the school offers free "learn magic tv episodes" every Monday?

The shows run an hour or so and are posted later in the week each week.  He has several other magicians on to discuss the topic of the week.  While you won't learn how to do tricks/effects, you will learn where to go to learn more, the philosophy of magic and performing, etc.

You can check out  HERE.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Croatia: Green and Growing on Supetar on Brač

One thing I loved about the island is how it always seemed to be blooming.  People took care to have green and growing things around them, usually edible.  They used rosemary, basil, grapes, fig trees, strawberries, olive trees, and nectarine trees as shrubs, borders, shade, and ornamentation.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Weekly Update

This week (or weeks--it's been awhile since I've done an update) this is what we've been up to:

- We observed the annual zombie walk in our town.  A little too gruesome to post pictures, but a fascinating phenomenon.   I wondered if it was related to the quote from Tacitus that C. S. Lewis uses in The Great Divorce: "They terrify, lest they should fear."  Perhaps if we play at being dead we won't mind its inevitability so much.  (Or perhaps we English profs overthink things....)

- Our friends Doug and Gen gave us strawberry rhubarb jelly made from some of the strawberries we missed out on since our garden was producing while we were gone.  What a classy thing to do!  I was really delighted.

- We got a check from the insurance company.  They retroactively switched me to a carpooling policy so we got the difference from our premium since early June when we paid our bill.  I am entitled to the discount as long as I drive less than 7,000 miles a year, which shouldn't be a problem.

- I sold some books at our popular local used bookstore, A Novel Idea.  Here is Catherine and a cat examining them:

- My niece Arwen  and I went to the Hillestad Gallery to see an exhibit of African artifacts.

- Arwen and I also played dress-up:

  - I came back from the thrift store's $1 bag sale with three bags.  I walked to Mass without a wallet because I knew I'd be volunteering afterwards and I told myself I had no $ to buy stuff and no car to get it home in.  But I succumbed anyway.  I bought three bags worth and dear Judy gave me a lift home and waited while I went to fetch the $3.  But I have all these cool upcylce ideas!

- Thanks to the above shopping spree, I started a project in a medium I rarely use: glass.  (Stay tuned!)

- I organized the den.

Here's before:

Here's after:

 It may not look like much, but I'm slowly taming the paper tiger....

Next week I'm looking forward to writer's group, hanging out with Marcia of Marcia's Musings, and some high quality board games time with Stacy.  Much to be grateful for, even if the basement is still a question mark and it's supposed to rain....

Fun in Photoshop: Attempt #1

I'm so excited!

I've always wanted to learn more about Photoshop.  So this afternoon I started playing and (with help from The Magician) I took this:

(one of my paintings)

and this:

(from the dress-up fun I had with my niece the other day)

and made this!

Now that was fun!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Croatia: Traveling Shots

These were at the airport in Split. I presume that they also capture rainwater, probably a hot commodity in that dry country.  I love the way they are beautiful and multi-functional, as they also provide shade.
Traveling between Split and the island of Brač where we spent nine days with my beloved's family meant a ferry ride.  Unlike the one in the picture, the ferry also took cars, trucks, and motorcycle, and it had an opening in one end for the vehicles to drive on and an opening at the other end for them to drive off.  No turning around needed!  I thought that was pretty spiffy.

The view was pretty cool, too.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Basement Update

We're ignoring it.

Ok, not totally.  We've run the dehumidifer until it no longer smells moldy and musty.

We've had some .... discussions.... about what to do with the basement.

(J. realized after it was basically dry that since we'd be tearing up carpet eventually, we should have just cut out and tossed the water-soaked carpet and saved all that money on the electric bill by skipping the dehumidifier.)

J. has made an arbitrary decision not to do this: 

They are all images of stuff you can hunt.  Yup.  It's called a man-cave and it's also called trying too hard.
(With apologies to my friend Jen S., whose doesn't really like this aspect of her basement anyway!)

The Magician is going to try to figure out where the water is coming from some time this week.....

Finished! Country-Cute Skirt

I finished it yesterday, and wore it to the best thrift store in the whole world today.  The other girls there just loved it.

It is a recycling mash-up with denim shorts plus cotton gleaned from men's shirts intercepted on the way to the rag bin.

(The "painting" is also fun-with-fabric and an easy decorating trick.  It's just fabric on a frame.)

I did mess some stuff up (and right in front, no less) but it was fun to make and it's so nice to have a quick easy crafting fix!  I made something!  After all those weeks of traveling and looking at stuff other people made (Nice waterfall, God.  Cool altarpiece, unknown medieval craftsman.  Beautiful weaving, glasswork, jewelry, folk costume, etc. etc.) I finally got to do some making myself.

Follow the jump for a brief photo essay on how I made it or head over to Cut Out and Keep for the full tutorial.  Questions and comments are welcome!  Just click on "no comments" below to leave a comment.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Croatia: The City of Split

Split is most famous for being the home of Diocletian's palace.  Diocletian is famous because
1. He was the most fanatical persecutor of Christians.
2. He was the only Roman emperor to ever retire.
3. He grew cabbages.

Oh, and he built this really big retirement palace not far from his supposed boyhood home of Solona.

Today, however, the palace is more like a city block defined by high walls.  Inside is a cathedral, bank, coffee shops, apartments, you name it.  The grandeur that was Rome is entirely missing. (Except for the basement. Sort of.  We'll get to that later.)

This is one of the defensive walls around the palace.  Walls like this always remind me of my mom because when we were in Roman walking alongside similar walls on our way to St. Peter's Basilica, Mom started weeded the walls.  No joke.  We've got pictures.
 See?  Here is mom weeding the wall:
Here a couple of other shots of the palace.  As you can see, time and random architectural changes have taken their toll.

The palace does still provide some straight lines in an otherwise convoluted pattern of streets….

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Current Sewing Project

Here's a sneak peak:

Any guesses?

Budgeting: June and July

Budgeting is all out of whack right now.  We were gone from June 19-July 23.  The Magician paid ahead our bills, but took some unpaid vacation, plus obviously we used less electricity and gas not being here (we unplugged everything we could before we left), etc.  So the numbers don't provide much in the way of useful information.  Other than the fact that interest rates on savings accounts are beyond lousy, but we all knew that already, didn't we?

Two highlights, though:
  • Thanks to whoever bought items through our Amazon link in July.   We had NINE purchases, our highest yet!  (We don't get names or details, so we don't know who you are to thank you personally, but we appreciate it!)
  • The escrow on our mortgage went up last year even though our property taxes didn't.  Multiple patient phone calls did nothing.  But this month we got a check for $350.52... It's going to get applied to the mortgage again, but this time it will be taking an extra bite out of the principle.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Croatia: Welcome to Split

This post offers a glimpse of Split, the first city we landed in.

Tired, cranky, sweaty, carrying a heavy back-pack?  No problem!  Here you see the first of many ice cream bars eaten in order to promote marital harmony, and up the odds that we would actually make it to where we were going without him having to carry her.
 I'm really glad we discovered the magical healing properties of ice cream early in the trip!

Of course, when you only have three changes of clothes for five weeks, you kinda have to avoid getting ice cream all over your clothes.

This is the courtyard of the pension where we stayed, Hostell Nikolla.  It offered free internet access with an actual computer rather than wi-fi..