Thursday, December 24, 2015

White Christmas

Even though we live in the heart of the Midwest, there is no guarantee of a white Christmas. Forecasters had predicted rain this morning, with a few flurries mixed in.

Rain turned to light, fluffy snow earlier than expected and left us with a soft blanket of 8+ inches. Lovely way to start the holiday. Our yard is a winter wonderland and Barney is the self-appointed Snow King.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Create Photo Art the Easy Way

You don't have to be a graphic artist or even a great photographer to create unique photo art with some of the online digital tools available today.

Admittedly, I'm an amateur who likes playing with crafty-looking add-ons and altering basic photographs to change the style. I like to layer backgrounds and add overlays. I'm particularly fond of making my photographs look like ephemera.

Last week, I took this photograph out the window of my ninth-floor office during a light snow. It's not a high-quality photo, as the light was poor and I was using my iPhone 5. But, I liked the photo and posted it on Facebook. Then I decided to play around with it.

While there are many free digital photo-editing tools online, I generally use PicMonkey. It's easy and it feeds my need for cheesy, crafting-looking creations. There is a free version that offers many nice editing tools and a premium version that has many additional options. I pay for the premium version. It's worth the cost for me because I use it a lot.

The first image above could be featured in a small frame as a holiday accent or used as the front of a handmade holiday card.

Other styles of the same image open up many possibilities for the use of just this one photograph.

As you can see, photo editing allows you to make something interesting from a mediocre quality photo. The combinations of backgrounds, overlays, text fonts, frames and cutouts make the possibilities endless.

Explore some of these highly rated photo editing programs to find one that suits your needs best.

Make it a great day!
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Friday, July 10, 2015

Attract Butterfly Royalty to Your Garden. Welcome, Monarch!

Butterflies bring out the child in me!

I started chasing butterflies when I was five or six (that's me at age 6). When I got my first single-lens reflex camera my freshman year in college, I started photographing them.

Several years ago, I started a butterfly diary and have continued to record the butterfly activity in our yard. Admittedly, the fluttering around our yard is impacted by the number of trees we have. Shade is a blessing on a blistering hot day and when the electric bill comes due, but it also casts a shadow on a butterfly garden.

We do, however, have a precious little patch under our kitchen window that the sun shines bright on for enough hours of the day for black-eyed susan, bee balm, zinnias and a large butterfly milkweed plant--asclepias--to grow.

The pink butterfly milkweed is the caviar of the monarch world. It can be somewhat difficult to find. I ordered mine online. But, it's easy to grow, hardy (it winters over in our borderline Zone 4) and, if you let it go to seed, will send up new plants the following year. Plant it in the back of the garden, though. It grows to four feet high or so.

The pink butterfly milkweed is the caviar of the monarch world. The butterfly lays her eggs singly on the leaves and blooms of this plant. When they hatch, the larvae feast on the plant and when ready, build a stunning green chrysalis trimmed in gold specks.

This flashy caterpillar was one of 23 that hatched on my milkweed a couple of summers ago. I think I squealed with delight that morning!

This pretty lady hung around the milkweed plant for four to five hours one day last week. She fed on the blooms and laid A LOT! of eggs. Can't wait to see how many hatch.

Looking forward to having more garden royalty in the coming month.

A note about my photos:  I had fun enhancing the horizontal top photo and the collage with lovely textures from Kim Klassen.

Make it a great day!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

1950s Chalkboard Gets a Chalk Paint Makeover

Seems somehow appropriate that this well-used 1950s chalkboard be made over with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. This nice-sized board was an estate sale find.

The actual black chalkboard looked a bit like a spider web. It had hairline cracks all over.  As I often do, I forgot to take a before picture. This is a "semi before" shot after I had painted the chalkboard section with three coats of chalkboard paint.

The wooden frame was in good structural shape, but had lost its lustre. The chalkboard was well-worn. The bottom of the frame has a nice chalk-holder ledge.

My daughter-in-law has wanted a chalkboard for her kitchen for some time, so I thought I'd give this one a makeover for Meg.

I left the original sticker on the back to preserve its vintage character.

My son had refinished a vintage hotel mailbox unit I found at a local thrift store in ASCP Chateau Gray, which they repurposed for use as a sideboard in their dining room. I decided to stick with that color for the chalkboard frame. The colors of the two pieces are much closer in person than my photos show.

First I applied a coat of ASCP Graphite. Then I applied a coat of Chateau Gray over the Graphite. I used a sponge brush, but because I felt lazy and was on a tight timeline to finish this project before the kids came to visit, I used it almost like a dry brush. It's easy to do--just wipe most of the paint off the sponge on the side of the paint container.

I was going for a heavily distressed look, which I think it created. Best of all, there was no need to sand. Basically my lazy technique saved a whole step.

Finally, I applied a coat of ASCP clear wax.

I added a pretty canvas ribbon with a coordinating stripe and a vintage mini tart tin as an embellishment.

I finished it in time for the kids' visit. And, she liked it!

Make it a great day!
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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Autumn on Our Acreage

This time of year, I know we are truly blessed to live on such a beautiful acre in the center of the city. Backing onto a steep, wooded ravine with a small creek running through it, our slice of heaven provides all the texture, color and crunch autumn has to offer.

No other explanation necessary. Sit back and enjoy the view.

Make it a great day!
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