Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2011 in 2011 Update

As of today I'm up to 404 items.
Since the last update (358) I've done some trashing/recycling and basic cleaning out of some things. I didn't learn anything new this time around (like I did with the e-cycling), but I'm still a big fan of Craigslist. I have a handful of items that I need to put on there to sell or give away, but I'm just so lazy about taking pictures. I shouldn't be, the pictures most people post on Craigslist aren't exactly what I'd call award-winning, but they get the job done.

The most interesting items from this update are being picked up this evening. It's a cat tower that my cat just never played on- I think it's a little too un-sturdy for her weight- and a handful of her toys, also that she never played with. She has a handful of toys that she likes, and some she just never showed any interest in. I cleaned them off (when we moved, they were thrown into a big box with all of her things and everything in there inadvertently got cat hair on it) and put them into a bag to give away with the kitty tower.

It's funny how I felt bad getting rid of her toys... like she has no say in the matter. I know I shouldn't feel bad, little kids give away their toys all the time when they are too big for them or just no longer have an interest in them. And I know my dear little kitty only needs a few toys, so why not just hang onto her favorites and get rid of the rest? Especially when she's content to play with something as simple as the drawstring on a pair of shorts in the laundry...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My New Favorite Book...

"The Life Cycles of Butterflies" by Judy Burris & Wayne Richards.
You can buy it from Amazon (at a VERY reasonable price of less than $12!) here:

I learned about this book online a few weeks ago- I wish I could remember where I read about it. I think I was following a butterfly gardening blog and the author posted about it. Anyway I had the book at the forefront of my mind when my husband and I recently passed a Borders with a big "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS!!" sale sign in the window. We were on our way to dinner with friends, but I begged to stop by if dinner finished early enough.

Dinner finished around 9:45, which I figured was too late, and I had on some ridiculously high-heels and wasn't exactly prepared to be running around all over a bookstore in search of ONE book. I told him we could just go home and I'd stop by the bookstore the next day.

But being the wonderful awesome honeybee husband that he is, he pulled his car in front of the store and dropped me off. The store closed at 10:00, so by then I had about 10 minutes to find the book.

I dashed in and took a glance around the first floor. Humor, no. Young adult, don't think so. Travel, no. Self help... no? I headed for the escalators. And, of course, they weren't working... but for my convenience they had become stairs, which I climbed as quickly as possible in previously mentioned ridiculous heels.

As soon as I got upstairs I saw the SCIENCE section.
Now we're on to something.
I headed that way and saw NATURE
and then ANIMALS.
I found the kitty books.... then the dog books... birds... reptiles...
And there it was. In all its glory. It was the first book I laid my eyes upon. It was the last one.

I did not open it. I did not read the back cover. I did not look at the price. I did not pass go. I did not collect $200.

I did quickly grab another cool looking insect guide book and head toward the way-too-tall-for-ludicrous-heels-escalator-turned-stairs. I made my way down safely, somehow, and got in line to check out, just as the announcement came on that the store was closing.

I guess you're waiting for a review! I can tell you, this book is everything I hoped it would be AND MORE. I wish the online version had a "look through" option, but just believe me when I say it is well worth every penny if you're interested in butterflies and their caterpillars and how to get them into your gardens. I could look at it for hours. Flip through. Re-open. Re-read. Skim through again. Pause. Repeat.

The best part was that as I was looking through the whole thing for the first time, slowly taking everything in, I realized I was getting close to the end of the book. Noooooooooooo!!!!!! I want it to last FOREVER..... But as I turned the pages, I kept finding more and more cool stuff. A whole section on host plants. A section on nectar plants. A section on butterflies that they didn't have quite so much documentation about, but showed them anyway.

I can't get enough of this book! I finally put it on the bookshelf tonight since it's been sitting in various places around my room for the last couple of weeks, but I don't expect it to remain on the bookshelf for very long :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How-To-Tuesday: How to save your colored inks!

This is a pretty simple How-To-Tuesday, and I'm a little embarrassed to say I never figured all of this out until very VERY recently since I'm not one to play around much with the various print dialogs my computer offers. I typically look at paper size, paper type, borderless printing, and if I'm making an art print I make sure the quality is set to either "Best" or "Maximum DPI."

Of course when trying to be eco-friendly it's best to print as infrequently as possible, but sometimes there are documents you simply must print. I always use 100% post-consumer recycled paper from Staples.

For years I've been clicking the "Paper Type/Quality" section of the print dialog and selecting Grayscale. The black ink cartridge for my HP printer is HUGE and the colored ones are so little, and they are expensive, so obviously I don't want to waste them when I'm just printing a coupon or typed document.

It would seem obvious to me that if you tell the printer to print in black and white only, it will do just that- only print from the black cartridge.
But NO!

Here's are the other things I recently discovered!

Click "Color Options" then choose "Black Print Cartridge Only." Otherwise you have your colored inks combining with the black ink to print a black and white document. How silly is that!

Next click "ink" and set your slider over to "Light." You won't get a super super dark print this way, but for most things, how dark do you really need it?

Play around with the sliders and see what kind of results you get.

I hope these simple little tips help you save on money and ink! Better for your wallet and the environment.

*Note, this dialog is on a Mac computer, but I think windows computers have a similar print dialog.

Friday, March 11, 2011

New Painting! Operation Fill-A-Frame #7

My mom gave me two giant silvery frames that my husband and I decided would look good behind our couch in the teal room of our house. The two frames have been sitting in the office forever, and since they're part of Operation Fill-A-Frame (even though I don't plan on selling them), I figured since I had the idea and the intent, might as well get started on them.

We decided that some tropical birds would look cool in that room. The only birds I'd painted were these penguins and the blue heron, and for a few years now I have wanted to paint some more tropical birds... just kept putting it off. I knew right away that one would be a toucan but was unsure of the 2nd bird.
I got out a couple of canvases and began painting blue skies:

The skies were tough because if I made them too dark they would look nasty and stormy, but if I made them too light, they'd clash with the dark teal that's already on the walls. I thought these were going to be too dark for my liking but they ended up being just right.

I started the first one and sketched a bird I found after extensive research online. I ended up changing the bird quite a bit though, and added those fun little plumey things on his head.
First coat of paint, just blocking in color.
You're going to think I'm crazy, but after the first night of painting- sketching out the composition and blocking in the color, I was playing around online and went to GraphJam.com, one of my favorite silly sites. I saw this graph and didn't care so much about what the graph was actually representing- I just couldn't get enough of the color scheme.

I had to have it.
I decided to adapt my black bird to this color scheme. I made him a dark purple instead of just flat black.

I did a little more work on the plants, painted his wings, and gave him a bright orange beak rather than a plain gray one.

Finished up the details on the bird and the plants and framed him up. Done!

I'm not too happy with the composition in the mat the way that it is- even though I measured, I still went too high with his head. I might have to actually use my husband's circular saw and cut off the bottom 2 inches of the painting (I didn't paint anything there anyway) and move it down in the frame to where I want it. It's a canvas panel, so I think sawing off the bottom should be OK.

I also changed up my painting process on this one. Instead of taking a month or more to do a painting, I did this one in about 4 nights- 10 hours. I could have easily spent 40 or more hours on it though. What I'm finding at art shows is that people enjoy my art, but they seem to enjoy the subject matter more than the technique and craftsmanship that goes into it. If I spent 40 hours on a painting, I've got to charge a pretty good price for it to pay myself for my time, right? But if people like a picture but don't care or notice that every leaf has the tiniest amount of detail in it and is blended to perfection, why painstakingly take the time to do all of my paintings that way?

It's tough because you don't want to sell out, but at the same time if you have an idea that you think people might like, you've got to make it marketable- if you're going to try and sell it, that is. I'm experimenting a little with trying to find a balance there, so as I do more paintings, you may notice some of my new stuff being cheaper. I figure if I ever get myself into a prestigious art gallery, that market is going to be a lot different than the outdoor-art-show crowd (at least the ones I've gone to). The art gallery can appreciate the detailed florals, the outdoor crowd will probably enjoy the same subject matter with a fraction of the time it takes to create a more detailed piece.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, March 7, 2011

2011 in 2011 update and more E-cycling.

Admittedly, I am not doing nearly as well as my friend Jen with 2011 in 2011. But what I've done so far has not been very involved- it's been mainly just tidying up, or listing things on Craigslist that I was being lazy about. So for not having put much work into it, I'm doing okay!

My update includes a bunch of plastic hangers I gave away on Craigslist. Our closets in this house are teeny tiny so in addition to having to get rid of (donate) clothing, I switched to the thin metal hangers since the big plastic ones take up more room. The guy who took the hangers owns a bicycle co-op in Old Town Alexandria and had just gotten a donation of a bunch of bike clothes-- but had no means of hanging them. I had both hangers for shorts and hangers for shirts, so I'm sure I helped him out! :)

The rest of the recent additions to my list were trash or recycled items.

I've got a few boxes of "ready to go stuff" that haven't been added to this list:
One is a box of miscellaneous donation items, 25 to be exact.
Another is a box of 12 empty jewelry boxes from back when I sold jewelry- I'm giving those away via Craigslist.
Another box is a GIANT box of clothes that my husband went through this past weekend and decided to donate- he had a lot of stuff that didn't fit, or he didn't like for whatever reason. I told him I was excited to add the items to our 2011 in 2011 and he said "what!?" I explained it to him, and his response was "no way, I don't wanna be part of some online thing." Well if the caterpillar ticker above is "some online thing"....... too bad! I'm counting them and adding them up.

My last group of items is... these disks.
CDs labeled 2002 and earlier, plus floppy disks and zip disks, which I have no way to even read!
I wasn't sure what to do with these- I thought about scratching the disks to oblivion to protect my files, because who knows what's on there (even though most are labeled) and when I'm famous I wouldn't want someone to go scrounging these up and selling them for a fat profit. But even if I were to try and obliterate the information on the disks, I'm still left with the disks themselves. What do I do with those!?

Answer: GreenDisk.com.
Apparently they take your old media, erase all of the information on it, and either reuse or recycle it in the best way that they can.
Here's the full list of what they take. It includes CD jewel cases and VHS tapes, too!
They charge a fee for their service, but luckily for me I don't have much stuff to send to them. To send them < 25 lbs of items I'll have to pay a $9.95 fee, plus whatever it costs to ship the disks to them.

If you're in a similar situation but ONLY have CDs to recycle, you can try this company and you only pay for the shipping:
CDs are considered a class 7 recyclable plastic.
You can also send this company your hard-drives, if you've got those to recycle.

I hope this post enlightens you once more on some ways to dispose of your electronic waste in an environmentally friendly way :)
If you have other electronics to recycle, you can read my post about that here:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Dr. Seuss Day!

Let's celebrate with one of my favorites... The Lorax!
In honor of Dr. Seuss and helping the environment, here he is :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spring is coming!!

I am so happy that it's March!
Ever since I moved into our new house in September, I've been dying to do some landscaping and planting and gardening.
I planted just a couple of things last fall, and some bulbs.. which are slowly but surely starting to poke up from out of the cold ground!

One part of spring and summer that I enjoy the most is eating meals outdoors. I can't explain it... but there's just something about it that makes the whole experience more enjoyable to me. With that in mind and in anticipation of warm weather, I painted this little wooden utensil holder- perfect for a picnic, or any meal outdoors!

It has 3 compartments up front for silverware and one long compartment in the back for napkins.

I also realized that if you wanted to use it year-round, it would make a great desk organizer! :)

I found the original item at a thrift store. It was in okay condition, which means luckily it didn't need much work..... but just seemed like it needed a little cheerful pick-me-up. I painted the design in acrylic paints and spray-poly'd a couple light coats over the paint for durability.

If you're interested in a ladybug picnic all your own, the item is in my Etsy shop here:

Or if you're in the market for any other custom-painted box or item similar to this, please contact me and tell me what you'd like! I love doing commission work :)

Happy March, everyone!

Monday, February 28, 2011

E-cycling (Electronics Recycling)

Recycled 2 very very old DirecTV receivers today!

Electronics are becoming a HUGE source of waste! Most people have no idea what to do with their non-functioning old electronics. You can read more about "e-cycling" (electronics recycling) on the EPA's website here:

Did you know it's very easy to find a place to recycle your old electronics? Some stores like Best Buy and Staples (you already KNOW about my Staples love!) take electronics- most of them charge fees. Click the names of the stores to visit their e-cycling sites. At Best Buy they charge $10 to recycle certain things, but you get a $10 gift card in return for some specific electronics... not bad.

You can try these sites to find out more about electronics recycling:
My Green Electronics
ECycling Central

Also Google is a wonderful, wonderful thing. To find a place to take my electronics I just Googled "electronics recycling [my city] {state}" and results popped right up! If you don't live in a big city, try searching for your town and state anyway. You might be surprised! If nothing pops up in your immediate area, try searching for the biggest city closest to you. You may find somewhere relatively close where you can drop things off, and most recycling places don't charge a fee (at least that is what I've been told).

Friday, February 25, 2011

More 2011 in 2011

Adding more items to my 2011 goal for 2011 (read about it here).
Finally ran errands and made some donations today! And threw away one thing that wasn't recyclable (at least not in my area)...

For a total of 42 items today. And these are without even trying- for the most part, things that I set aside as we unpacked in the fall and just kept piling up. Finally got them out of the house today! :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2011 in 2011

My friend Jen (over at Jen and Joey Go Green blog) posted recently about a "2011 in 2011" challenge. The idea is to get rid of 2011 things in the year 2011! "Get rid of" meaning: donate, recycle, throw away, sell, give away. Since we just (ok 5 months ago) moved, it's been the perfect time to really unpack and analyze everything we have and why we need it. Of course we don't need it all. The office (in this case 'my' office because it's all my mess) is crowded and cluttered and I can say the same for other rooms in the house. The problem is I don't even know what to do with some of the stuff. Participating in this challenge will force me to FIGURE OUT what to do with the stuff! :)

So here are the rules, from KidStuffWorld:

What Counts
Anything that has taken up residence in your home. Any item using valuable floor/counter/table space you could be using or areas you could be not using in a more calming, soothing way. This could be stacks of papers and magazines, clothing you no longer need or wear, items in your cupboards you haven’t touched in years, toys no one plays with, hair and body products you have never opened … you get the idea.

What Doesn’t Count
The only items not included in our challenge are things you will be replacing with an item of a similar nature (i.e, – food, recycling, beauty supplies you use on a constant basis, laundry detergent) and items you bring in your home after you start the challenge, like mail, new clothing, etc.

The only exceptions to these guidelines are 1) when you leave mail lying on the counter for a week (or more) and it takes control of your kitchen. Go ahead and toss it and count it. Or 2) when you find 5 empty TP rolls in your guest bath or 3) large empty bottles of laundry detergent in your laundry room just junking up the place. Don’t be hard on yourself, just tally them in with your other items and be done with it. Vow to do better the next time around.

 While I didn't actually commit to participating until this morning, since the challenge is for 2011 and not just the rest of 2011, I'll count up some things I've gotten rid this year of that were cluttering up the house thus far:

3 picture frames (sold via Operation Fill-A-Frame project)
2 cell phone chargers (mailed out in a Cell Phones For Soldiers envelope)
1 cell phone (mailed out in a Cell Phones For Soldiers envelope)
1 canvas print (had it for 3 years and hadn't sold it yet, so gave it to our new rental tenant as a housewarming gift)

So that's 7 items without yet trying :) 
I also have about 10 old towels bagged up downstairs to deliver to an animal shelter (they're bleached and/or stained from cleaning) and a few other items like that, but won't count them yet since they're not actually out of the house. 

I'll be sure to post updates on this and try to remember to keep it updated. Let me know if you're doing the challenge, too!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another great item from BuildASign! :)

I received the last of my promotional items in the mail from BuildASign.com! It's a fully customized aluminum license plate!

You can go on BuildASign's website and create a fully customized license plate, or personalize one of the many templates they have available. Way cool!

While I can't legally put this on my car and drive around in the state of Virginia (a REAL plate is required on both the front and back of the car here), it's going to be a wonderful item to have with me for people to touch and feel when I'm out promoting the plates. I was squeeing with delight when it arrived in the mail and I pulled it out of the packaging! It's so cool to see it in person, to get a real feel for how it's going to look when I finally get these things passed into legislation, and BuildASign did a great job with the print. The plate is sturdy and feels like if I have to it around to a lot of events, it won't get scratched up in the process; the ink most certainly does not feel like it's going to easily start rubbing off or anything like that.

(Oh, one thing my husband pointed out- he asked why Virginia wasn't centered. That was definitely not Build-A-Sign's fault, that was all me- when I was building the template I just tried to make sure everything that I wanted to fit on the plate was within the bleed area, I didn't even really look at where things were centered. My fault, not theirs!)

I haven't mentioned the plates much since I created their own special website, www.PollinatorPlates.com . Right now the goings-on focus only on the state of Virginia, and I know I have readers from other places :)  But if you're in a state that you think would enjoy showing its love of pollinators via fancy-pants vehicular accessory, by all means let me know. We can research how to get one passed in your state and I'd love to work on another new and unique design!

Friday, February 11, 2011

"In The Waiting Line" Operation Fill-A-Frame #6

Operation Fill-A-Frame #6 is complete! This one is very similar to #5 and thus has the same title (with a 2 at the end). "In The Waiting Line 2" is another butterfly and caterpillar study, this time featuring the Tiger Swallowtail, also known as the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Just like the Monarch "In The Waiting Line 1", the mat of this picture is outside of the glass, not under it. (It feels like a hard wood or plastic and is painted.) The two drawings are on a single sheet of Canson Recycled Bristol art paper, and the drawing was created with ink and my Forest Choice colored pencils.

This was another quick one, and thus, is a cheap one! $25 for this framed original drawing in my Etsy shop- you can see the listing here :)

Man, oh man, did I learn a LOT while researching this piece.

First of all, let's talk about this caterpillar.
Years and years ago I painted a swallowtail caterpillar- does this guy look familiar?

He is, indeed, a swallowtail caterpillar. When I took the original photo of him and looked him up, that's what I learned. It made sense because the year I found him, our yard was covered in yellow tiger swallowtail butterflies.
It turns out, he's NOT the caterpillar of the tiger swallowtail. Nope. (It's very easy to get confused because if you do a Google image search for Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar, just "swallowtail caterpillar" is included in the search and pictures of those guys come up!)

He is the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly, seen here:

Photo by Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man)
So if those caterpillars weren't from the tiger swallowtail, then where did all those butterflies come from? And why were they staying??

Answer- because their host plant is (....drumroll....) the Tulip Tree! Well, that is one of their host plants (this should look familiar, too!) Our house was surrounded on all sides by Liriodendrons (I also learned the Tulip Tree has a bunch of different names!)  :)
And their caterpillars look way, way, way different than the guy above that I painted! What's very interesting is the variation in the caterpillars themselves. I was looking all over the web for clarification of the different caterpillars and didn't understand why so many different looking ones were all tagged as the tiger swallowtail.

Some are bright neon green. Some are brown. Some are multicolored. This is due to the different instars of the caterpillar. Each time the caterpillar sheds its skin, it looks slightly different. This happens to a lot of caterpillars, but this one seems quite dramatic to me.

Imagine my world being turned upside down upon finding out this whole time I've been telling people this caterpillar grows into the wrong butterfly!  (Sorry!)

Imagine my confusion when I found out that all male tiger swallowtail butterflies are yellow and black, but only some of the females are yellow and black. The rest are just plain black! (There is also a rare morph of the two.)
See great pictures and the explanation here:
Eventually I'll learn the differences.... but in my confusion and endless searching for which butterfly was which, I found out there are Black Swallowtails, Black Tiger Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails, and Pipevine Swallowtails


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How To Tuesday: Signature after your blog post!

I'm sure that a lot of you have visited blogs where people post and at the end of each blog post is their signature. Or something that looks like a signature. I know when I first saw it on a blog I thought, "Hey, I want that! That looks cool!" It makes the blog seem more personalized... almost like you're reading a real letter from a person. Which is funny... because adding a signature to your post is a completely automated process :) One which I'm sure Blogger will simplify and have a gadget/option for in no time at all.

But until then, what's a blogger to do?
...Fake it.

1. Before you can add a signature to your blog post, you'll need... a signature! An image (.gif, .jpg, .png, etc.) hosted somewhere online. You may even be able to use the Picasa album that Blogger sets up for you- but I'm not too familiar with how that works. Anyway, create your image, then upload it and save it somewhere online.

2. After you upload your image, right click it and copy down the address (or open it in a new window so the address is visible in the address bar.)

3. Go to your Blogger dashboard page and click on "Design" at the top. Then click "Edit HTML."

4. If you want to be safe, click on the "Download Full Template" link at the top of the page and save it in case you screw up. If you want to live on the edge, skip this step!!

5. Check the box that says "Expand Widget Templates."

6. Click your mouse in the HTML code window.
(Note: Apparently the blog code is done in XML, which kicked my butt a little when I was trying to do this, since I was using HTML....)

6a. At the top of your web browser's main menu, click Edit, then click Find
(in most browsers you can hit CTRL + F or Command + F on a [much cooler] Mac!).

6b. Then enter this in the Find:  
<div class='post-footer'>
(you can copy and paste from here to be sure to get it right.)

7. If you found that code in the HTML code window, insert the following code above it, on the line before it: 
<br><img src='http://www.YourImageAddressOnTheWeb'/></br>

Be sure to include the file extension of your image at the end of the address! 

You're basically going to add <br><img src=''/></br> and then insert your complete  image address location between those two single quotes :)

* * * * * * GEEKERY ZONE * * * * * * * * * * GEEKERY ZONE * * * * * * *

The <br> and </br> put your signature image under your blog post, on a separate line (instead of next to the text).
The <img src=''/> tells the internets where to find the image you want to display.

* * * * * * * * RESUME NORMAL NON-GEEKY ACTIVITIES * * * * * * * * *

8. Click Save Template. If you don't get any mean bright red error messages, congratulations! You did it right!
Now view your blog.
If you want more space around your image, you can try
<br><br><img src='http://www.YourImageAddressOnTheWeb'/></br></br>
instead. The extra <br> at the beginning and </br> at the end will give your image another separate line before it.

That's it!
If it doesn't work, and you keep playing around with it and it still won't work, you can either click "Clear Edits" or upload the file you saved of your original HTML... if you saved it!

*PLEASE* Let me know if this works for you, or if it doesn't, or if you have questions. Different blog templates work slightly differently and I used the coding that worked for my template... but I can't test them all.
If you comment here I'll try to come back and respond! I hope this works for at least someone out there who finds it and is helpful to you! :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

"In The Waiting Line" Operation Fill-A-Frame #5


Operation Fill-A-Frame #5 is complete! This was one of the frames I was looking forward to filling the most. "In The Waiting Line" features a big (4th instar) Monarch Caterpillar, crawling and munching his way among the Milkweeds, awaiting the time to turn into a chrysalis and become a beautiful Monarch butterfly!

The title seemed appropriate for a caterpillar and was also the name of a song I listened to while creating the art- listen here:

The mat of this picture is outside of the glass, not under it. (It feels like a hard wood or plastic and is painted.) The two drawings are on a single sheet of Canson Recycled Bristol art paper, and the drawing was created with ink and my Forest Choice colored pencils. I hadn't done a colored pencil drawing with ink in a long time- maybe not since my 30 bugs in 30 days project! I yearned to do something a little realistic, a little cartoony, and so this was created.

This was a quick one, and thus, is a cheap one! $25 for this framed original drawing in my Etsy shop- you can see the listing here :)

I have another frame identical to this one and will probably do another caterpillar/butterfly combo drawing. I'm thinking an eastern Yellow Tiger Swallowtail butterflies for the next one!

Friday, February 4, 2011

UPCYCLING on the brain!!

It must have been giving new life to all these old picture frames* that got me slightly obsessing over upcycling recently.
I've found myself second-guessing almost *anything* I'm throwing out!
(* Technically my Fill-A-Frame project isn't really upcycling, more like "fixing up" since I'm just either filling up existing frames that are already in good condition, or re-painting those that aren't in such good shape.)

First of all, you may ask, what's "upcycling"? Is it different from recycling? If so, how?
Upcycling is to giving new life to something that otherwise would have been thrown out- thrown out into the trash or the recycle bin, whichever. We've all heard reduce, reuse, recycle. Upcycling can be thought of simply as the reuse part of that.

You don't even have to reuse it for what it was originally intended. For example, you don't have to take an old plastic bottle (from soda or water) and fill it back up with something else to drink. You could cut it in half and make two little domes to put on top of seeds you've planted and are awaiting germination!

The difference with recycling is that the bottle would go to a processing plant where it would be melted down with other plastics and eventually formed into something else. (You could still recycle the bottle after using it for your seed-greenhouse, of course.)

Back in December I started learning about Winter Sowing. Have you heard of it? In a nutshell, you fill a container with dirt (make sure it has drainage holes or add your own), plant seeds in it (most times native seeds or plants that reseed themselves in your gardening zone work best), cover it with clear plastic (with holes in it), stick it outside, and at the appropriate time in Spring the seeds will figure out when to germinate and do so!! Then you can plant little clumps of the seedlings right in your garden. There's no worrying about wildlife eating them, there's no hardening off, there's no taking up a ton of room in every warm windowsill of your house.

Here is a whole page about it if you want to learn more!

Upcycling is HUGE in the winter sowing community! I have occasionally poked drainage holes into the bottom of a yogurt or margarine container to try and grow a plant big enough to be planted outside. I had no idea there was a whole cult of people who do it every year- sometimes with HUNDREDS of containers in every shape and size- to get their seeds started for their gardens. Amazing!

From WinterSown.org

I've always had such terrible luck with seeds, even back when I had a greenhouse. I planted many many seeds and ended up with only a handful of plants to show for them- some lime green zinnias and okra and tomatoes. It was the hardening-off process that did them in, but with winter sowing the seedlings were born outside, so they're completely ready for the outdoors!

My collection of random seeds in my repurposed pottting station
I've started a few flats of seeds myself- so far, just 3.
A plastic tray from some edamame became a greenhouse for some Campion seeds.
A plastic tray from Ortega taco shells became a greenhouse for some Larkspur seeds.
A plastic tub (with holes already in the top and bottom!!) from grape tomatoes became a greenhouse for Black-Eyed-Susan seeds.
I've got 2 empty strawberry tubs to use, also with drainage and ventilation holes already in them. I plan to put Pink Coneflower in one and.... not sure about the other.

I have so many seeds saved up I don't even know what some of them are!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Banner from BuildASign.com is here :)

I just got my Pollinator Plates custom banner from BuildASign.com!

I am so happy with it!

Here it is!

What's great about this banner:
  • The banner material itself feels super strong and durable. Honestly, for the prices online (this one is a 24" x 48"- that's 2'x4'- and only $23 and I'm not even kidding), I was expecting something flimsier that might tear easily and probably not last for very many uses. I was very pleasantly surprised!
  • The colors came out very true-to-life. Colors usually vary from monitor to monitor, and a slight variation wouldn't have disappointed me. Again, another pleasant surprise! It looks exactly the same as the image that I sent to them! The colors are so bright and vivid!
  • It also came with 4 grommets, one in each corner. Again, for something so inexpensive, I expected maybe one grommet in each top corner for hanging. 

I am so pleased with this!

It will be the perfect size for a 6-foot table or a 10-foot booth spot, the sizes I've seen most commonly at various events. My little table is 5-feet long, so it will work with that as well. Once I can start the official process of collecting license plate applications, I plan to go "out in the field" as much as I can, to as many events as I can, to obtain as much interest as possible. I will even dress up in my bee costume if that is what it takes... (But hopefully with an eye-catching banner like THIS, the bee costume won't BEE necessary.)

So if you're in need of a banner, I highly recommend BuildASign.com! You can order from their templates, or use their online design software (VERY easy), or create your own custom design (like I did here with this one).They have lots of other fun stuff besides banners, such as personalized street signs and license plates, stickers, signs, magnetics. Playing around on their website made me miss my days of working back at the sign shop.... Le sigh.....

Monday, January 24, 2011

Operation: Fill-A-Frame #4

"Love You To Death"
Oh man... what to say about this piece, where do I start?

Chronologically sounds good...
I started with the frame. I bought it at least 2 years ago. I thought the coppery-metallic-orange would look great filled with some orange tropical flower. But after getting the frame home I found myself less than enthusiastic about filling it. A tropical flower didn't seem right for it... but I had no idea what did seem right. So there it sat. I felt a twinge of guilt every time I saw it, thinking I had wasted money on yet another frame I was never going to fill, another project I was never going to complete.

In 2009 my awesome husband took me to Reptiland in Pennsylvania for my birthday. The place was amazing! (I loved it so much we returned in 2010.) There were frogs, snakes, turtles, and a butterfly house! Since it was late in the year when we went, most of the foliage and flowers were gone and only a few lonely surviving butterflies remained. I took tons of pictures of them. It was cold; they weren't moving much; you could get so close to them.

Here are two of the pictures that I took and the two that inspired the piece of art:

Fast forward to now and it's January and I'm working on this Fill-A-Frame project. I decided to take a break from the 8x10's and standard sizes I had around and get this square copper frame back out. I decided instead of a tropical flower, a monarch butterfly would look much better with the orange tones. I went through my Reptiland pictures again and loved the composition with the two butterflies (above) so much that I did a nasty (meaning, executed poorly but good and accurate enough for me to work from) rendition via Photoshop of what two monarchs would look like in the same position and began to work on the drawing.

Nasty Photoshop reference rough-draft
(I originally planned to extend the drawing onto the mat again, but I didn't have any white or light colored matboard around and eventually decided that I wanted only a small mat on this art, so unless I messed up the mat and HAD to color over it, I'd rather just have a plain mat.)

Here's the finished drawing:

I usually have trouble naming a drawing or painting, but most of the Fill-A-Frame project names are coming from songs or albums I'm listening to at the time that I create the art. It seemed quite fitting for this piece that the song I currently can't stop listening to is called "Love You To Death."

Why fitting?
I know, usually my art is super cheerful and happy, right? I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone a little for this one.

Here's why. The pictures that inspired the art were taken in a butterfly house... right before winter. Normally Monarch butterflies would migrate, but when importing live butterflies (chrysalis) from other states into a butterfly house, it's actually illegal to release those butterflies into the wild. When you visit a butterfly house, do you ever notice all of the signs asking you to check for "hitchhikers" before you leave? It's not just because they don't want to lose their butterflies... they don't want to break the law! When non-native species are released into a new environment, they can breed like crazy and mess up entire eco-systems... so there are strict laws against releasing those imported butterflies.

So even though the Monarch species was native to the area of the butterfly house, they still weren't allowed to be released into the wild. They, and the other remaining butterflies, had to just sit in the butterfly house and wait to die in the cold. I found it particularly sad with the Monarchs since they would've normally migrated south. They were imprisoned and just waiting for death.

Since there were a pair of them in this picture (well, in my made-up picture), it seemed at least a little more comforting that the two butterflies had each other and could wait for death together. Hence the "Love You To Death" title. (I know that's not what the actual song is about, but the title fit well.)

Next it was time to mat the drawing. Since I didn't need a huge mat, I went to a local art gallery to see if they had any matboard scraps around that they might otherwise be throwing away. Sometimes galleries will sell them to you cheap or in rare and especially nice cases just give them away! :) I got EXTREMELY lucky because not only did I find one of those NICE galleries, the lady working in the matting section even cut it to size (I did the inside cut) and the mat was this really cool tan color with some grayish-fibery-pieces in it. It was perfect; no way was I going to draw on it.

I put it all together, and there you have it. My first piece of sad artwork.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Operation Fill-A-Frame #2 & #3

I filled up a couple more frames a while back and completely forgot to post about it!

Valentine's Bugs!
This artwork wasn't created specifically for Operation: Fill-A-Frame, it was actually created last year for an Etsy Team Challenge. However, like the frames, it was something I had laying around that I wanted to finish (i.e. frame it) eventually. So the two projects came together perfectly! I had the art... I had the frames... They just needed mats.

I was really torn between matting it in green or red. The dark green went well with both pieces and seemed practical because dark green is easy color to match to almost any decor in any home. But since the art was created for Valentine's day, it made sense to frame it in the obligatory red. People love buying things in red for Valentine's day... for what other reason does every store currently look like red, pink, and magenta came in and threw up all over their entryway!?

I decided to offer the option of either color mat.

They are both pastels with ink. Both pieces are currently $35 each, but check the listings as they may go on sale. I may offer a bundle discount if someone's interested in buying both!

Original "Bee Mine" framed artwork
If you're interested in buying this piece or seeing more photos, it's here in my Etsy gift shop:

Original "Love Bug" framed artwork
If you'd like to buy this piece or see more detailed photos, it's here in my Etsy gift shop:

This ladybird beetle one was a tough one- I had an idea for the composition but it took a lot of sketches to get it just right. Ladybugs love climbing around on the grass and the red and green colors look so nice together. The little beetle is pulling down blades of grass into the shape of a heart, and I made his little body slightly heart-shaped too :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Please Vote :)

(Or as Puff Daddy (P. Diddy? Diddy?) would say, Vote or Die!)

I'm running a 24 hour poll on the Pollinator Plates blog regarding the design of the plate. Virginia has a lot of plates with a lot of blue in the background, but none (or at least very few) that are pimarily green. I posted two designs and want to choose the final one by tomorrow so I can send my legislator another letter with the new design.

If you have a moment, could you stop by the Pollinator Plates site and vote? The poll is in the upper right corner:

Thanks!! :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oh no! I forgot my bread!!

I haven't posted about Tacos Y Burritos in a while, so like I recently did for my Tosh, here's a post for him since I have a silly story about him to share.

Tacos Y Burritos in Harrisburg!!

Today I was making a PBJ and used up the last 2 slices of bread. When this happens, we give Tacos the end (butt) of the bread as a treat. I'm not sure how "treaty" it is to him but we figure it has to be healthier than most other dogs treats out there (which, yes, he does get-- we are not totally mean!!) :)

I gave one of the ends to him but he wasn't very interested. I finished making my sandwich and thought he might like to go outside for a bit. So I asked him to speak (we're trying to teach him "speak" to be let outside... hoping that one day he'll figure out if he NEEDS to go out, when he speaks, we'll come open the door for him!), he did, I opened the door. He went out, immediately did a 180, and just stood there at the door looking back inside.

That's pretty odd since he's not like a cat who will waffle all day between in or out. He's pretty decisive about it!

I told him to come on back in and he did. I closed the door since it is cold outside today. But he seemed so excited to be outside, so I thought maybe he was just confused.
I asked him to sit, he did, I said "good boy" and patted him on the head.
I asked him to speak and he smacked his lips at me.
I asked him one more time, and this time he spoke- making one of his little whiney howly husky noises.
Once again, I opened the door- this time he whirled around and grabbed that sad looking bread butt and sprinted outside with it!!

Hahaha! So the first time he had forgotten the bread, realized it immediately, and wanted to come back in and get it. Then took it outside WITH A PURPOSE.

Dogs are so weird!

"Who you callin' weird!?!?"


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Want! Want! Wednesday...

Ohhh, Home Decorators catalog. Here you come with what I need, right on your cover this month. Martha Stewart now has a special Craft-Room line of furniture! Too bad I won't be splurging on it, but here it is for those of you who need inspiration to reorganize your craft rooms:

See the collection here:

And my favorite piece from the collection:


*Siggghhhh*, a girl can dream, can't she? :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Operation: Fill-A-Frame #1

Now available in my Etsy shop:

Number one is complete! A couple of nights ago I dreamed about moths- fuzzy, soft, friendly moths flying around and landing on people and instead of going "EW EW EW!" and swatting and flailing at the moths, everyone welcomed them, which made me happy. I always enjoy a friendly moth visit :)
Anyway, the dream was what inspired this piece. I've wanted to draw or paint an Oleander Hawk Moth with Oleander forever, so I finally did it.

I did 3 new and different things with this piece:

#1 I left the background white. I usually can't do that with colored pencils because the little flecks that accumulate as you press down HARD (like I do) stick to the paper and make tiny obnoxious specks. You can blow at them and hope they fly away, or sometimes take a pin or tip of an exacto and try to remove them like a surgical procedure. More often I end trying to so-gently brush them away with my hand... which results in a colored smear, hence why my backgrounds are always filled with color. At least with a painting I could just paint the whole background white when I'm done and cover up the mistakes! ...Now don't get me wrong, I had my share of little flecks that did find their way onto parts of the paper where I didn't want them! When that happened I added a flower bud or a leaf to cover it up :)

#2 I used a new set of eco-friendly colored pencils. I wrote a little about this yesterday in my review of the colored pencils (it was my first time using them and I loved them). I picked out the frame I was going to fill, then grabbed my box of colored pencils and picked out the paper I was going to use- a Strathmore drawing paper made from recycled paper. I realized at that point that if I used my eco-friendly colored pencils instead of my regular ones, this whole finished piece would be made from environmentally friendly materials and I thought that would be really cool. So I put back the box of colored pencils and, instead, took out the little package of 12 eco-friendly pencils.

This presented a challenge as well because I went from having a whole box of many colors from which to choose, to having only these 12. And of those 12, I used only 9:

#3 I let the drawing overflow onto the mat. I've always wanted to do a drawing and mat it and have parts of the drawing spill onto the mat for that sort-of 3D effect. I've seen it done so many times by other artists but never actually completed a drawing where I felt like putting some of it onto the mat would necessarily add anything to it. I decided that it would be fun to do with this piece.

Here are some pictures of the piece as it progressed:

Moth is done, starting on the flowers.

The drawing on paper is done. Time to mat it up!

The drawing extended onto the mat.

Framed & ready for its close-up :)