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!