The Dream Begins!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share just one thing that I’m particularly grateful for this year. Yes, I’m most grateful for this incredible family I have been blessed with: two incredible little redheads who can make me laugh and make me cry all in the same moment…they are a true blessing; and my husband, who puts up with all my crazy ideas, no matter how hare-brained he make think they are…he has the patience of Job; and my sister, 10 years younger than I, we weren’t very close growing up, but now as adults, we grow closer by the day.

But aside from my blessings of family, dear friends and all of you treasures who take the time to read this little blog of mine, this year I’m also particularly grateful for the power of dreams, and for the courage to take a risk and follow them. And I’m grateful for Carmen, whose work you see here, for having the confidence in me to help us both work towards fulfilling a dream. My dream of a Purple Cottage and her dream of sharing her talents have merged into something we are both very excited about. The doors of The Purple Cottage are now open, and Art and Dreams Bound with Carmen Torbus is ready to go! Go take a look! I hope you’ll be able to join us!

~And I would be remiss in not admitting I’m grateful for chocolate, and for the chance to sneak a few licks of the brownie and cake batter bowls after I’ve poured the batter into the cake and brownie pans. There’s a very good reason I don’t make a huge effort to get all the batter out of the bowls.~

Pumpkins and Pies and Cheesecakes, Oh My!

I took this picture on a recent walk through the 100 Acre Wood. The one little berry poking out caught my eye. We’re getting ready for all the Thanksgiving festivities today. Growing up, I remember having huge Thanksgiving gatherings with my cousins down in Lakeland, usually at my Great Aunt Margaret’s house. We lost Aunt Margaret shortly before Mom died, so since then our Thanksgivings have been more on intimate side, which suits me just fine. It’ll just be me, DH and the girls along with DH’s brother, Pops, and Pops’ lady friend (hours of prep for 20 minutes of eating and all day spent watching football….that’s the best part for us). As I write, I have a Key Lime Pound Cake in the oven and I’m getting ready to make a Pumpkin Cheesecake. The girl with the sweet tooth is responsible for the desserts! My only other responsibility is my mom’s world famous Potato Casserole. DH is taking care of the ribs (instead of turkey), green beans and squash casserole. The Thanksgiving post I wrote last year is still one of my all-time favorite posts, so if you haven’t read it, I’ll share it with you again here. Enjoy your holiday, however you choose to spend it!

Adventure Cats on the Loose

That’s my Tink in that graffiti photo! My assistant Angie created this picture using a cool website called Photofunia. How fun this that? Timely too, considering the weekend my felines had. Savannah disappeared Thursday night, sneaking out through the sliding glass door left open by a friend who was staying with us downstairs. I didn’t see her all day Friday, and then late Friday night I heard terrible screeching and howling outside. I called her and looked all around but couldn’t find her. I left that same door open Friday night, hoping she’d make it back in and, lo and behold, there she was Saturday morning looking frazzled and hungry. Outside next to the driveway, we found big clumps of her fur. Poor girl! Not sure what she got in a fight with, but it wasn’t pretty. Normally, she sleeps on the floor at the foot of my bed, but Saturday night, she slept on my chest all night.

Saturday afternoon, Tink disappeared. Weekends with nice weather, we usually leave the doors open downstairs so both the kids and the dog can go in and out with ease. Apparently Tink snuck out while we weren’t looking (usually Isabelle does a fabulous job keeping her in check). We looked for her the rest of the day Saturday, Saturday night and all day Sunday with no luck. Then as I was cleaning up the dinner dishes last night, I heard her crying and found her on the front porch, also looking frazzled and hungry. She's not quite back to her oldself as she doesn't appear to have come out of the bedroom all day today, not even for dinner. My adventure cats need to learn to stay in the house where they live in the lap of luxury.

More Art in the Mail

Did I tell you this is addicting? Here’s my second mail art piece I made last weekend. I did this one on a bubble wrap envelope so it was a little more difficult to work with. Note to self: don’t use bubble wrap envelopes for mail art. :-) I’m working on two more today for a very dear friend who just lost her father this week.

I spent some time at the jewelry bench last night too! I have one of my biggest shows of the year coming up the first weekend in December, Market Days in Tallahassee, and this will be the first time I’ve combined both my jewelry and my photography at that show. My Harvey Collection series was shot just down the road from Tallahassee, so I’m hoping they will attract some interest! Now I just need to get a few more new jewelry designs completed (oh, and I need to matt dozens of square format photos I haven’t gotten around to matting yet…yes, I am the world’s most proficient procrastinator!), and we’ll be good to go. Luckily, I’ll have five days off with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up. I can’t imagine how crazy things would be if I ever decided to include mixed media pieces in my shows!

I also had a great talk with Carmen last night and we are just about ready to release all the info for our retreat! Yippee! We are both so excited. It’s called Art and Dreams Bound with Carmen Torbus, and Carmen has some fantastic things in store for you. Hope some of you can come! This has been such a wonderful experience for me…being able to use my everyday skill set of retreat and conference planning and turning it into an artful experience. Not much difference between art and leadership when it comes down to planning a retreat! We’ve had to move the date to May 21-23 instead of the earlier April date, but everything is coming together wonderfully. I’ll have the info posted shortly!

Art in the Mail!

I’ve been wanting to play around with mail art for a while and finally created a few pieces this weekend. My step-mom Sharon had been asking for some new pictures of the girls for months, so I figured since it took me so long to send them to her, I’d at least dress up the envelope! This piece was done on a 6"x9" photo mailer. I really had fun creating this, and I can see that it could become addicting! Thanks to Roben-Marie for the inspiration.

All Tagged Up

I was incredibly productive this weekend! My dad was in town for a visit and he’s always up for a project so I talked him and DH into finally putting up my shelves I’ve been wanting in my studio. Whoo hoo! I’ve filled them with all my rubber stamps. Yes, I could show you a picture, but I didn’t think to take one before I trashed my workshop playing again. I’ll work on that! As for the playing, here’s one of my creations from the weekend. I mentioned Roben-Marie’s altered art tag tutorial in my last post, so here’s my first tag. Click on the photo to enlarge. It took me a couple incarnations to get it like I wanted it, but I’m happy with the finished product! The back (below) actually includes a strip cut from the failed first attempt. Perfect for recycling! I’ve had this phrase in my head for a few weeks from a nursery rhyme challenge I saw somewhere, so I finally put it to good use. I’m finding that I’m definitely a finger-painter. :-)

So what's my wish? My wishes lately have been funneled into my Purple Cottage. Carmen and I are almost ready to release our first program! What are you wishing for?

Playing with Ink and Stencils

Yesterday morning I spent some time catching up on Roben-Marie Smith’s video tutorials. Roben-Marie is an excellent teacher! The altered art tags video sent me to the office supply store to pick up some shipping tags. But before I started playing on those, the girls and I spent last night playing around with stencils and punchinella (sequin waste) and spray inks on plain white index cards. We had ink EVERYWHERE. I need to learn a little self control there. These are just a few of our experiments. And yes, the colors truly are that bright and vibrant (you know I’m a color girl!). This stuff is addicting. I must admit after playing with what I had, I went online and ordered 12 colors of the Adirondack color wash ink spray. Like I said, I need to learn a little self control! :-) Got a great price at though! So today, I spent some time cleaning up and reorganizing my studio!

Dreaming of Art and Dreams...

On the heels on Carmen’s Spill It! online workshop, I’ve started taking Susan Tuttle’s Visual Poetry workshop, in which I’m learning tips and tricks in Photoshop for altering my photographs. I’m about a week behind (as usual, aren’t I always behind?…though this time it’s been because I’m still having too much fun playing with Carmen’s workshop). Thankfully, the first week covered techniques I’m already pretty familiar with. Now I just know how to do on purpose the things I’ve stumbled across on accident! I took this photo about a month ago while on my trip to check out my dream property, diffused the light levels a little bit and added another layer. Click on the photo to really see all the pretty script. Pretty dreamy, huh?

Speaking of dreamy, remember those baby steps I told you about here? We are picking up steam! I’m working Carmen, my fellow dreamer for this first round, to create our first art retreat! Yippee! Carmen will handle the teaching while I handle the logistics. I plan and facilitate leadership retreats and conferences in my day job, so what better way to take what I can already do with my eyes closed and make it artful. Carmen and I are both so excited! I hope to have the website for the program up soon…the first official trip to the Purple Cottage…and Carmen’s program will be Art and Dreams with Carmen Torbus. For now, mark your calendars to take a fun little trip to North Florida April 9-11, 2009. Details to come! Yeah!

Update: We've had to move the date to May 21-23, but we are almost ready to release all the details! Yippee!

Playing Catch Up

Cleaning up my mess of a studio today, I found several requests I’ve been needing to get too. One was a mother’s bracelet that needed to be reworked and another name added, and the second were these earrings. Ms. Lily’s probably forgotten all about them by now! Her request was completely buried in a basket the girls had filled with their stuff (everyone’s stuff ends up in my studio). Ms. Lily purchased these from me at the Bartow Blooming Arts Festival in March 2008 and lost one last Fall (yes, that would be Fall 2008). She mailed the orphan back to me and asked if I could make it a pair again. Well, better late than never, I guess. They are finally on their way. The stones on the bottom are aquamarine, topped with clusters of khaki and lt. Colorado topaz Swarovski crystals with 14K gold-filled findings. Since I’ve been working on so many varied art forms here lately, my studio is in a constant state of undo! Sorry for the glare; getting a little late in the afternoon to be taking pictures! Now if I could just find my special little packaging box….

November Free Bling!

Free Bling Friday time! picked number 52 out of 52 entries (two entered via email!) for October’s Free Bling winner, so congrats to Andrea V. from Rock Falls, IL.

For November, how about a little bling for your home? November’s entry is my “Watching Melrose” photo mounted on a 6” x 6” wood block. You can find this photo in my Etsy shop here. These look great sitting in a window sill or on a shelf. To be eligible to win, simply leave a comment in the comment box (be sure you leave me a way to reach you and where you are from!) or email me with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from by midnight Thursday, December 3. Want two entries? Tweet, blog or Facebook this giveaway and leave a second comment with the link. The next winner will be drawn via Friday, December 4. Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email reminders or subscribe in the reader of your choice in the right column over there. Be sure to join my Facebook Fan page over there in the right column as well for Fan specials!

The Dream Takes Shape: Part I

I was catching up with some Facebook friends last week and my blogging and art friend Carmen shared, “Having an article and blog feature in this issue of Artful Blogging is a dream come true! What's on your list of dreams?” I shared with you one of my dreams in my Purple Cottage post. Then I told you I’d be checking out a piece of property I’ve been watching for quite a while in this post. I’ve admitted here before that I haven’t totally bought into the whole “universe bringing you what you desire” concept just yet, but some little things here and there have been leading me more towards believing that, and my little visit to check out this property was a big knock on the head! I’ve known the property since college; it’s been unoccupied for at least 15 years. In that 15 years, it’s also never been for sale. So, guess what? The first time I go over to seriously take a look at it? Yep, big For Sale sign right up front. Here are a few pictures.

Walking around the property, I was able to really think through my dream, standing right there…right where it could actually happen. There are 10 small cottages and two small-house type structures on about 3.5 acres with 700’ waterfront footage and two docks with 16 boat slips, and then another 4 acres of undeveloped land across the street. All the structures, as well as the docks, are in good solid shape; they just need some TLC and cosmetic enhancements. So what would I do with it? The cottages would remain just as they were initially meant to be used, for lodging. They are all about efficiency size, though I’d put double queens in each for bedding to allow for more flexibility. I’d renovate one of the larger buildings into a classroom/workshop space and the other into a cafĂ©/gallery space with “front office” facilities. I’d use the facility as a whole for all-inclusive art retreats, wellness retreats, and corporate team-building retreats. While the cottages are not being used for retreats, the facility would essentially be a B & B, targeting couples/families and/or corporate big wigs looking for a unique, peaceful getaway. We’d have charter fishing services available for both the retreat attendees (thinking bored husbands/boyfriends here) and B & B guests. We’d subdivide the property across the street so it remains deeded separately from the “business” property since that’s where we’d build our houses.

I have a close friend I’ve been thinking this through with. Kath has been a high level exec with Coca-Cola since we graduated from college and is ready to escape from the corporate world. We are the perfect team for this. I have the retreat planning, leadership, team-building, and art background, and she has the wellness, business and corporate contacts background. Our husbands would handle the excursions, dining and general maintenance aspects. She also has twin boys who would grow up having the hots for my twin redheads. :-)

So back to Madame Universe and her connection to the property and my current employment. As I was driving over to see the property, I got the call to schedule my final interview for my position of choice. Then, boom. The next morning, there’s this big For Sale sign staring me in the face. My dream, right there ready to happen. That was a Friday; my interview was scheduled for first thing Monday morning. Interesting timing, don’t you think? When I didn’t get the offer for my first choice, that For Sale sign popped back into my head. Maybe that was part of my message that a new job was not the right thing for me right now. I’ve always been one to follow my gut, and once my top choice was off the table, I knew I needed to stay where I was.

So what’s next? What’s next is to just keep the dream alive while we work through the possibilities. The property is currently listed for $1.6 million, but given the economy, the amount of time it’s been sitting there, the fact the most others interested in it would probably be knocking down what’s there and starting from scratch, and what I’ve learned from others who have property in the area, I think we could get them down under $1 million. So we’ll see what happens. Initially I hesitated sharing my thoughts with you here, because once you put it out there, it’s out there for anyone to snag, right? But then I realized that if you don’t share your dreams with others, how can they help you get there? This particular piece of property may work out, and it may not, but it’s made me realize that I can do this...if not with this property, then with another. For now, though, baby steps. Still working out the details on my first baby steps, but I’ll share those with you soon! In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on my initial plan.

Right Where I Need to Be

Sometimes I think it takes almost walking away from something to realize that what you currently have is truly a pretty good thing. That’s the lesson I learned last week. As I’ve shared with you guys here recently, I’d applied for a new job, still with the College but a little different focus than what I’m doing now. The process took a looooonnnnnnggggg time. However, I’m now done. :-) The results? I was one of two finalists for the position at the campus I was most interested in, but the position went to my competition. This Thursday, I’m scheduled to have my final interview for the position here on my campus. But I won’t be having that interview. Why? Well, since this process has taken so long, it’s given me the opportunity to really think things through, and I realized that I’ve got a darn good gig right where I am. I realized that I was far more attracted to the opportunity to once again work with a former colleague and supervisor than I was to the actual position itself, so I have officially pulled my name out of the hat.

I truly do enjoy my job (College-wide Coordinator of Student Life and Leadership Development for those of you wondering). Sure, there are the occasional rough spots, as all jobs have, but I know that I have a positive impact on the students that I work with, and I know that when they take the time to really listen, I’m teaching them very important life skills, while oftentimes having a darn good time in the process. More importantly, I have a heck of a lot of freedom and flexibility in my current role. That freedom and flexibility gives me the opportunity to do what’s most important when necessary: spend time with my girls. I can go on field trips with them, visit them at school for special programs, take a day off with them when needed without the world coming to an end. Moments after I met with my Campus President to tell her my decision, I felt the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. That’s when you know you’ve done the right thing.

All that said, I received another little knock from the universe here recently that also helped steer my path. Stay tuned. I’ll tell you what that was a little later this week. So, give it some thought. Maybe you are right where you need to be at this moment too.

Winding Down with Spill It!

In the spirit of full disclosure, here’s the last of what I’ve done with my two Spill It! canvases for Carmen’s class, at least for the transfer technique. The house came out better than the flower, but safe to say both of them will be collaged over for other projects. (First look at the house here.) I added some paint around the edges and a few more dabs here and there on the house, but there really was no hope for my flowers! I’ve been trying to figure out what went wrong here, and best I can tell, I, um we, scrubbed too much and got all the way back down to the canvas, which you can really see on the left side (below). I say “we” because I let Sarah and Olivia have their way with rubbing the paper off this one.

So what would I have done differently? First, I wouldn’t have tackled such a large canvas (11 x 14) for my first efforts. Smaller probably would have been better in this case. Second, I wouldn’t have had my friend Melissa, who owns a print shop, print the photo copies for me. I neglected to tell her what I was doing so she printed them out on nice, high quality glossy paper, assuming I was going to use them as they were…as photographs! When I asked Carmen about this, she agreed that the higher quality paper probably did make the rubbing off more difficult. Overall though, I learned a ton and Carmen is incredibly encouraging. I learned that I love making backgrounds the way Carmen demonstrated (here) and that I’m not crazy about image transfers. Still working through the basic collage and drip writing lessons so I’ll share those with you soon.