Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Made It! Market Holiday Marketplace is this Saturday, December 5th

Make the holidays happier by presenting loved ones with handmade gifts lovingly crafted in Pittsburgh. More than 60 artists and craftspeople will be joining together for I Made It! Market’s annual holiday marketplace on Saturday, December 5 from 12 – 5 pm at the Union Project located at 801 Negley Avenue in Highland Park. BarkerBell will be just one of the many vendors present.

The former church turned art and community space will be buzzing with activity as vendors selling handmade wares including plush dolls, natural body products like soap and bath salts, unique t-shirts, reconstructed clothing, items for babies and kids, jewelry, house wares, hand pressed greeting cards and more. If you have not yet started shopping for the holidays, you can fill your list in this one spot – better yet, wait to begin your shopping at I Made It!

To fuel your shopping excursion, the Union Project will offer lunch items and coffee at their cafĂ© and will also be selling ceramics made onsite in their downstairs studio. To learn more about the market visit our website at or visit our blog at to read about our talented artists. Visit the Union Project’s website at


Friday, October 30, 2009

Brooklyn Indie Market Steampunk II

As many of you know, this past weekend Niffer of 19Moons and I travelled to Brooklyn, NY to participate in the Brooklyn Indie Market's second annual steampunk day.

A rift in the space time continuum opened as steampunk fashion invaded Carroll Gardens in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. Neither the rain throughout the day, that was downright torrential at times, nor the rerouting of the F train that normally stops around the corner from the market deterred adventuring enthusiasts who turned out in large numbers.

Outside the red and white striped circus tent, attendees in their steampunk style could be seen strolling along side cars, buses, and modern businesses. Inside, stepping through the doors of the tent transported attendees back in time to an era that exists as an alternate timeline. Shiny brass gears and items inspired by steam powered technology mingle with Victorian fashion. Whimsical wares incorporating this technology with a Victorian aesthetic are the norm in this alternate era and were offered for sale by 20 different vendors.

A fashion show took place in the afternoon which I was prevented from seeing by the large number of attendees in front of my table, but thanks to the marvels of modern technology and You Tube I was able to transport to a prime viewing spot and see the show in its entirety. Toward the end of the first segment you can hear me commenting, "I have a little tiny window here where I can see." Viewing the models from the neck up through the tiny window I had from behind the crowd was surreal, but no more so than any other part of the day.

At the end of the evening, after a delightful dinner at the Union Smith Cafe, Niffer and I headed over to New York's only steampunk bar, The Way Station, for the afterparty. We sipped Absinthe as we enjoyed performances by Psyche Corporation and Karen LeBlanc, followed by a trip to the Tardis before heading back to our Bed & Breakfast.
I apologize for the darkness of this attempted shot of the Tardis Water Closet, but dark bars make for difficult shots and the effects of the Absinthe altered my perception at the time. More photos from the event can be seen on my Flickr photostream.

The event was widely covered by the press and stories can be seen at the following locations: Time Out New York, Steampunk Day at the Brooklyn Indie Market, Metromix New York (the edge of my table is in photo 47/51, to the left of Berit New York, and Niffer can be seen in photo 48/51), nonsociety (scroll right until you find the 10/24 entry), & Celine Gaille's blog La Preneuse de Temps. If there's other press I may have missed, please leave a link in the comments.
For those of you wondering what steampunk is, the best description I've seen can be found here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Barker's Herbs & Heirlooms will be at the Sundae Flea Market Today

Sundae, everyone's favorite artist's market/sidewalk sale, is returning home to Schenley Plaza (Oakland, Pittsburgh) from 12-5 pm, today, Sunday, October 4, 2009.

Brooklyn's own French Horn Rebellion will be providing shopping music, but the real stars of the show are Pittsburgh's creative masters, who will be on hand selling their work. Visitors to the Sundae Market can update their art collections and closets with original pieces from vendors of the city's extraordinary homegrown talent.

Please come join me at the last Sundae Flea Market for the year!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Barker's Herbs & Heirlooms Will be at the Grandview Park 100 Today

Grandview Park 100
Saturday, October 3rd
11:00 am - 4:00 pm
499 Bailey Avenue
(Mt. Washington/Allentown)
Pittsburgh, PA 15211

The event will have a fort for the children to explore, a storywalk, food and arts vendors, live music and entertainment, vintage cars, and more.

Come help celebrate 100 years of Grandview Park on Mt. Washington. I hope to see you there.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Barker's Herbs & Heirlooms at East End Food Co-op Art Harvest Tomorrow

Join a Fresh Crop of Local Artists (myself included) at the 4th Annual Co-op Art HarvestA community day of local food and farmers, live music, activities for kids of all ages and handmade art for sale. The festivities run from 12:00 to 5:00 pm.

All activities take place right in front of East End Food Co-op in Point Breeze- rain or shine!Details, including over 50 local artists, at

One Percent of the Co-op's sales for September 20th benefit the Kate and Peter Ambrusko Memorial Playground at the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park.

The Co-op Art Harvest is part of PASA and Western PA Buy Fresh Buy Local ® Local Food Month! More information about other events at

Friday, September 4, 2009

Crafts N At Craft Fair Tomorrow

Crafts n'at
Crafts N’At is handmade crafty awesomeness: Pittsburgh style. Come out to get inspired, support local artists, enjoy some BBQ, to check out an amazing array of goods/services in the silent auction and raffle, to support a good cause, and to have fun!
Crafts N’At is an opportunity for independent crafters to show and sell their wares, establish their business, and to celebrate creativity. It features 63 vendors (including me aka BarkerBell), make & take crafts for children and adults, craft demonstrations, live performances, a pick-a-prize raffle and silent auction, and an outdoor BBQ.
The Union Project 801 North Negley AvenuePittsburgh, PA 15206. There is also free parking across the street at the Craig Academy (corner of Negley and Stanton).Saturday, September 5, 2009{Labor Day Weekend}10am to 6pm
Crafts N’At is brought to you by the Pittsburgh Craft Collective. We are a group of 50+ members working to create a strong and vibrant craft community through social and resource networking, education and workshops, and information sharing.
The Pittsburgh Craft Collective will work each year to raise money for a charity in conjunction with this event.
This year’s show will benefit [ gravity + grace ] and the Parkinson Foundation of Western Pennsylvania (PFWPA).[ gravity + grace ], a contemporary opera written by Frank Ferraro, reveals his struggles with Parkinson’s Disease and will premier Sept 25th at the Hillman Center for Performing Arts.
All net proceeds of [ gravity + grace ] will be used to support the PFWPA programs and services for people with Parkinson's Disease, their families and caregivers.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The web that unites us all...

Selection of recent art cards (ACEOs) I've finished.

Over the past few weeks, I've been doing several shows and have been so busy in between that I've barely had time to get online, let alone blog about it. I have custom orders to finish, new ideas to find time to create, new stores wanting to carry by work, and charities asking for donations of my art. Time keeps flying by as I try to find a way to juggle everything without letting anything drop. I've barely had time to try to get everything done, let alone take time to stop and wonder at the marvel of it all. Throughout all of this, I've been frequently reminded of just how much the virtual world unites us all and provides us with common ground in the real world. I've even been able to meet several people in person who I'd only previously chatted with on Etsy forums, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

A customer at my table at McCarren Park

I was fortunate enough to exhibit and sell my work in McCarren Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY the end of June as part of the ongoing Artists & Fleas shows. I absolutely fell in love with the neighborhood and the high creative vibe there. At times, if you listen closely, you can even hear the artistic buzz in the wind. My work was very well received, numerous customers provided me with tips about places I could sell my work, and I met many amazing people. Most of my fellow artistans also sell their work on Etsy and many of my customers saw my work and recognized it from Etsy. The fact that we were all selling or shopping on Etsy along with the fact that we were all in the same park on the same gorgeous Saturday brought us together, if only for a moment. I even had two different customers take my picture because they wanted a record of the artist they'd purchased from. How cool is that? At the end of the day there was a flash rain storm followed by an amazingly beautiful rainbow over Brooklyn. All over the area, everyone was out, taking pictures with whatever camera they had in hand, many of them cell phones. Later, a group developed on Flickr to capture all of these gorgeous shots from different perspectives all over the neighborhood. The event was even featured on the Flickr blog and one of my rainbow photos was the 3rd down in the series of photos linked to the feature.

Watching the crowd at South Side Works during a rare, quiet moment.

Last weekend I spent three glorious days at the South Side Works Exposed Festival, in my tent, at the artists market. I shared a tent with fellow Etsy Pittsburgh team members Lz & EJ and our immediate neighbors were friends and team members as well. Once again, I got to meet many wonderful people and have numerous people tell me how much they like my work. Sales were great as well which always makes for an even better weekend. It was so busy I barely got a chance to leave my tent and didn't get to see the majority of other artists that were there, but I can't complain. As problems go, that's not a bad problem to have. I even got to see Elvis, when he made an appearance at the festival. After an amazing weekend, imagine my surprise and delight when I visited the Looking Sharp! blog by a new PCC blog contributor and discovered a photo taken at my table (hint: look for the picture of the camera necklace with the framed fairy flapper collage in the foreground). Sarah, the author of the blog, is one of the many amazing people I'd met over the weekend and is further proof of how the web unites us. This is also a vivid reminder of why I'm glad I embrace one of my personal philosophies -- always treat others kindly and with respect because you never know what kind of connections you might make and everyone is somebody important.
Elvis performing on Sunday morning at South Side Works.

Last night I exhibited and sold my work at Northside Urban Pathways School as part of the ongoing gallery crawl in downtown Pittsburgh. Sales weren't as great as they had been at the last gallery crawl in October, but summer shows are always slower. Plus, it rained off and on over the course of the evening which cut down on crowds. Still, I met many interesting people and got to see a few friends as well as repeat customers. Despite slightly slower sales, I gave out business cards and got a few tips for local stores that might be willing to sell my work. I always greatly appreciate all my customers and am especially grateful when I have customers suggest I call a specific boutique and tell me who to ask for and give me their name to use as a referral.
A portion of my table at the gallery crawl.

Throughout it all, people constantly have been referring to me as an artist. For me, this is one of the most powerful words in the English language. It holds so many different meanings depending on one's perspective and can be both complimentary and confrontational. This is the highest compliment anyone could pay me yet I'm always somewhat shocked and amazed when they do. My father is an artist - what most refer to as a "fine artist" and draws amazingly detailed pen and ink sketches & paints incredibly realistic paintings. I have always admired him and have grown up somewhat in awe of his talent and for a long time didn't feel I had artistic talent because mine isn't the same as his. I eventually discovered my talent and have been constantly stretching my creative wings and challenging myself since. Thanks for your continued reading and support as you travel on my creative journey with me.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Just a Steel Town Girl on a Saturday Night

While working on punching up my bio for some craft show applications, the song Maniac (from Flashdance) kept playing in my head, so I had to rework the lyrics to create a crafty version and hope my readers will appreciate it:

Just a steel town girl on a summer night
Looking for the craft of her life
In the real time world no one sees her at all
They all say she's crazy

Locking rhythms to the beat of her tools
Changing movement into her art
She has crafted into the danger zone
When the crafter becomes the craft.

She's a maniac on the floor
And she's crafting like she's never crafted before
She's a maniac maniac on the floor
And she's crafting like she's never crafted before

The original lyrics can be found here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Preserving a bit of early summer in a jar

When I was quite young, my Gram planted a strawberry patch simply because I loved them. Over the years, the patch grew and produced more berries than we could eat fresh, so Gram began making freezer jam and freezing bags of sliced, sugared berries that could be thawed for strawberry shortcakes or topping ice cream even in the middle of winter. With strawberries in season, my boys and I enjoyed the annual Strawberry Festival at Triple B Farms this past weekend. We enjoyed a breakfast of strawberry pancakes and bought strawberries to bring home. Today, faced with the fact that we'd eaten all we could before they got to the point of being overly ripe, we decided to preserve our own small bit of early summer in jars. Sadly, these five jars won't last long once they start having peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches or jam on toast so we'll be making more early next week. Fortunately, freezer jam is quite easy to make.

Strawberry Freezer Jam
2 cups crushed strawberries (we use a potato masher)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 cups sugar
(1) 1.75 oz. pkg. fruit pectin
3/4 cup water

1. Combine fruit and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add sugar, mix thoroughly. Let stand 10 minutes.
2. Combine fruit pectin and water in a small saucepan. Bring water to a rolling boil and boil, while stirring, for 1 minute.
3. Add cooked pectin to fruit mixture. Stir for 3 minutes.
4. Ladle jam into jars (I save ones we've emptied over the year, then clean, & sterilize them) , leaving 1/2 inch head space. Apply caps and let jam stand in refrigerator until set, but no more than 24 hours. Serve immediately, refrigerate up to 3 weeks, or freeze up to 1 year.
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Come Visit Me at the I Made It! Cozy Market Today

Curious about what I've been making lately? In the Pittsburgh area and just want to stop by and say hello or purchase unique handcrafted goods from talented artisans?

I'll be at the I Made It! Cozy at the American Jewish Museum SUNDAY, June 7 from 2 - 6 pm. Enter the JCC on Darlington Road (near Forbes Ave.)

40+ local craftspeople come together to celebrate the American Jewish Museum's current exhibit, Nests, and to offer crafty objects for your own nest. Artist Anna Divinsky examines birds' nests as a metaphor for Jewish immigrants finding and building new homes in the United States. She is creating a larger-than-life nest installation in the museum and leading workshops with people of different age groups from diverse communities, exploring memories of leaving home and building a new life. During I Made It! Cozy, Ms. Divinsky will give demonstrations about her techniques and conduct workshops with visitors.

I Made It! vendors will be contributing handmade items to be auctioned off with proceeds benefiting the American Jewish Museum.

To learn more about the AJM and Anna Divinsky's exhibition, visit the AJM's website.To learn about some of the IMI vendors participating in this market, visit the IMI blog.

In July, I can also be found vending on the South Side as I Made It! Market joins the South Side Works' EXPOSED ARTIST'S MARKET

July 10, 5 - 10 pm July 11, 2 - 10 pm July 12, 2 - 6 pm

Spend an afternoon and stay into the evening...wander through the artist's market to find fine arts and unique one-of-a-kind goods, stay and dine in the South Side Works or enjoy festival foods from local vendors. Check out the sidewalk sales and enjoy the lineup of live musicians.
Vendors: Apply Here

Friday, May 29, 2009

Travel Blog: Long Overdue Final Entry

As usual, I had the best of intentions to write blog posts on a daily basis once I returned from vacation, but as you can see in the gap between this entry and the prior one, I'm lagging a bit behind on my schedule.

For some reason, I simply can't seem to force myself to tackle chores I find to be monotonous without breaking them down into small, manageable chunks. Due to that fact, I only finished going through all my vacation photos last Friday, and am now finally getting back to the blog.

Tuesday, we headed to the Aquarium and got there just after they opened. The boys were so excited to be heading into the aquarium, they wouldn't even stand still long enough for me to get a good shot.

In the interest of finally finishing this series of posts, I'm going to just sum up the rest of the trip quickly here so I can move on to other topics and hope to soon post about some of my new art projects.

After the Aquarium, we visited the Fort Sumter museum then headed to the open air Market for unique shopping followed by lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp.

Wednesday was Jared's birthday, so after a morning at the beach we headed to visit the

Yorktown followed by an afternoon of me dragging Jared all over Charleston so I could take numerous shots of cemeteries and houses, and whatever else struck my fancy. I did, however, treat him to a birthday dinner at Poogan's Porch which is his favorite restaurant in Charleston, so hopefully he enjoyed his day at least a little.

Thursday we spent another morning at the beach followed by a trip into Charleston for lunch at 82 Queen (my favorite restaurant in Charleston). After lunch, we enjoyed a walk through a few more cemeteries and Julian enjoyed using his inherited digital camera (I gave him my old one after getting a new one for Christmas) while Jared & Kendall tried not to be too bored.

Friday, we spent the majority of the day driving to Williamsburg, VA which is a convenient halfway point on the way home and gave us a chance to spend the following day at Busch Gardens. The boys had a great time and even though rain was forecast for the day it held off until around dinner time so we were able to enjoy a full day at the park.

Kendall decided he was hot needed to stand where the Escape from Pompeii ride splashes down. He got cooled off in a hurry.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Travel Blog: Day Two - Two Boys and the Sea

Monday, April 27th, our first full day at the beach house, we spent the majority of the morning at the beach. I'd already finished my "beach book" , Twilight, before we even got to the beach, so I sat, camera in hand, watching the boys frolicking in the surf, and soaking up sunshine. Of all the simple pleasures in life, there are few I enjoy more than watching kids having fun, especially when the kids are mine. More pictures from the day can be seen on my Flickr page.

We couldn't have asked for nicer weather for the trip. Every day was sunny and the temperature was between 75-80. At the beach, the ocean breeze kept things so cool and comfortable, no one wanted to leave. Sadly, though, sunblock starting wearing off and the sun got stronger as it climbed higher in the sky, so we bid a fond farewell to the sea with the promise that we'd soon return and headed off for other adventures.
My in-laws took our boys to Angel Oak, nearby on John's Island. Angel Oak is a live oak tree and sprouted nearly 1,000 years before Columbus ever set foot on the soil of the New World. While it is indeed lovely and impressive, we've seen it several times so instead opted to head off in search of lunch and to pick up a few things we needed from the closest Target, most notably the book "New Dawn" for me.
On John's Island, close to Seabrook, at the site of the old tomato packing plant, stands Stono Market which features fresh, local, fruits and vegetables along with regional gifts. More importantly, it also houses the Tomato Shed Cafe, which serves inexpensive lunches featuring fresh, local ingredients served in home cooked style. I had a delicious tomato sandwich with bacon, lettuce, and onion added to it with a side salad of fresh greens and pickled beets. Jared opted for the pulled pork sandwich and for dessert we enjoyed a slice of fresh cinnamon bread topped with vanilla ice cream and fresh sugared strawberries. The strawberries were so delicious we bought a quart from the market to take back to the beach house with us.
Content, with stomaches full, and errands completed, we headed back to the beach house where we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and a dinner of grilled burgers and hot dogs, accompanied by fresh tomatoes and corn we'd picked up at a small farmer's market while we were out. Few foods are better than simple meals made from locally grown produce and the company of our family added extra flavor and joy to the meal.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Island Travels

It's been a while since my last blog entry as it seems that all my time for the past few weeks has either been devoted to preparing for our trip or to the trip itself.

As a Mom, I got the pleasure of locating everyone's summer clothes, washing said clothes, and packing for myself and our two young sons. This, in addition to making sure the house was clean and tidy before we left (one of many quirks I inherited from my mother). After preparing for vacation, I really needed one! My husband moans about having to lug suitcases to the car, pack the trunk, and drive all of us to our destination, but I think he has no idea just how easy he has it compared to all the behind the scenes work I put in just to make sure the trip can happen in the first place.

Every year we take a trip with my in-laws, even if it's just a long weekend, but most years we make the trek to Seabrook as it's my mother in-laws favorite spot, and for good reason.
We spent the first day driving to Mt. Airy, NC where we spent the night. The town holds the distinction of being Andy Griffith's hometown, but for us it's merely a convenient halfway point.

On the second day, after a brief stop at the Piggly Wiggly on John's Island for groceries, we arrived at the beach house my in-laws had rented for the week.

Although it's not an exotic remote tropical island, Seabrook is lovely and life on the island definitely follows a slower pace than much of the world outside. We spent our trip enjoying many trips to the beach, and exploring the surrounding area, including numerous trips into Charleston.

Favorite nearby locations include:

Rather than write one, long, lengthy post about the trip, I've decided to write a mini travel blog, with one entry per day for the time spent on the island. Stay tuned tomorrow for the first travel blog entry.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What to do with leftover Easter Eggs

Like so many other people, my boys and I colored Easter eggs this past weekend. My 10 year old drew designs on most of his eggs with crayon before dipping them in multiple different cups of color. Since we'd recently rented (and watched) the movie Bedtime Stories, many of his were based on characters from the movie.

I purchased 2 dozen eggs at the store on Thursday, thinking we'd color 12 and I'd have 12 left for baking. Somehow I knew, even at the time, that all 24 would likely end up boiled and colored. Julian had finished coloring the first dozen before his younger brother, Kendall, was even out of bed.

Once Kendall decided to join us, I had the second dozen eggs finished boiling so he could also color 12 (I must be fair and keep things even). His eggs took on a similar theme in keeping with his older brother's ideas. By the time they were finished, I had two dozen boiled, colored Easter eggs. There is a limit to how many hard boiled eggs we can eat. So, I was faced with the dilemma that faces so many others this time of year. What to do with all the leftover Easter eggs?

My personal favorite way to use the extra hard boiled eggs is to make egg salad, by chopping the egg and mixing it with mayonnaise and mustard until it looks right, then adding some chopped dill pickles to the mix. It makes delicious sandwiches.

For a slightly more fancy way to use some of the leftover eggs, you could also make deviled eggs:

Best Deviled Eggs (from my Southern Living Cookbook)

6 hard-cooked eggs

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 Tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1/8 teaspoon salt

Dash of pepper


Slice eggs in half lengthwise, and carefully remove yolks. Mash yolks with mayonnaise. Add relish, mustard, salt, and pepper; stir well. Spoon yolk mixture into egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika. Yield: 6 servings

Enjoy! Feel free to comment with additional ideas about other ways to use leftover Easter eggs.

More pictures of our egg coloring adventures can be viewed on Flickr.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Feline Gardening Dilemma

Spring, the time when a bird's song beckons gardeners as a siren to a sailor, has finally arrived to my portion of Western Pennsylvania. Birds are singing and plants are awakening from their winter slumber, stretching ever skyward as the sun begins to warm the soil. Throughout the garden, lilac buds swell, tulips and daffodils prepare to bloom, and the crocus have already begun to bloom. Even the strawberry plants, which I grow in part as tribute to the memory of my Gram and mainly because my boys and I love to eat them, are emerging and unfurling their lovely green tendrils.
While growing up, I spent every weekend I could with my paternal grandmother. She was an avid gardener and instilled a love of gardening in me. Perhaps it was just the time we spent outside together, or perhaps it was the promise of taking a break as a reward for hard work, a concept which I grew so fond of that she would later tell me I wanted to take a break every 5 minutes. Regardless of the reason, she taught me the value of putting forth effort to achieve a desired goal and that hard work would be rewarded. She grew up on a farm, during the depression, in the rural south. This shaped her in ways I never fully understood until many years later. I did, however, even as a child, understand that she grew flowers for their beauty and fragrance and that she didn't grow fruits and vegetables because she didn't have to. The only exception was one apricot tree. After seeing how much I enjoyed the strawberries and cream one of her neighbors shared with me, she planted a strawberry patch just for me. This event would later become a rather momentous occasion in our history together, but enough reminiscing, I must return to my springtime tale of feline woe.

Yesterday, at first glance, was not an ideal gardening day as it was overcast and around 41 degrees at 11:00 am, but my boys were desperate to get outside and play. Since I'd far rather they expend energy getting fresh air and using their imagination, I agreed that after lunch we'd go out and see if it was warm enough and they could play while I worked on tidying up my gardens. By the time we'd finished lunch the temperature had climbed to a balmy 49 degrees so out we went. I practice organic gardening and have found I'm much more successful in my gardening endeavors by listening to Mother Nature and working with her. At the end of each gardening season, I allow the majority of the leaves in my yard to remain where they fall. The wind distributes them to the flowerbeds and they provide a warm, natural blanket for the plants winter slumber. The first task at hand was removing these leaves and preparing my vegetable patch for the few things I can plant now.

My gardens are cottage style with plants springing up in unexpected places as seeds fall and sprout where they choose. Years ago, I planted a border of flowering herbs in my vegetable patch to attract bees and beneficial insects. The plants have long since escaped the confines of the border and bloom freely throughout the vegetables. I don't mind as it has resulted in adding beauty and fragrance to the vegetable patch while attracting bees for pollination. The downside of this is that I now have several catnip plants growing throughout this area. Where the leaves covered them throughout the winter, they are already growing and the mere process of clearing the leaves away sends out a fragrance that beckons to cats from yards away. Stray cats seem to adopt us, and soon, one of them was happily nibbling on catnip and rolling around in the warm, freshly tilled soil. I don't begrudge him his indulgence of catnip, as I plant it for my feline friends after all, but I envision trampled seedlings in the months to come. If I didn't already have a surplus of house cats, due in part to taking in strays, these garden pests would enjoy a trip to the vet and a home inside but sadly, this is not an option. So, I continue to feed them outside, offer them shelter, and even allow them to sleep inside our enclosed porch next to a heater on cold nights and ponder how to defeat these feline garden nemeses.
My backyard borders 10 acres of natural, undisturbed woodland. I've had to learn to live in harmony with the deer, groundhogs, wild turkeys, and other native residents. I'd like to think the cats should be no different, but I know better. The native residents run away when Ginger, our Brittany Spaniel barks at them. The cats turn an aloof feline shoulder to poor Ginger and continue doing as they please. Herein lies my dilemma. How do I keep the cats out of the vegetable patch while employing economical, organic, environmentally friendly methods? Somehow the cats and I must find a way to exist in my gardens in harmony.

After much research, it appeared that my best options are introducing smells cats dislike (such as citrus peel, coffee grounds, and lavender) and utilizing chicken wire. Unfortunately, these cats must have missed the memo that citrus peel was supposed to keep them out of the garden. Last summer I introduced a recycling bin for coffee grounds in the office and utilized the grounds for mulch around acid loving shrubs and as an addition to my compost pile. My feline friends did tend to avoid the areas where I used the grounds, but since I'm currently between day jobs I'll have to try to encourage a nearby Starbucks to give me their grounds or resort to other methods. In the meantime, I'll try planting my vegetables in small areas at a time so I can surround the area with chicken wire until the seedlings have grown large enough to avoid being destroyed by a frolicking feline. Hopefully, if I allow them access to small patches of catnip, they'll allow me the undisturbed use of the rest of my garden.

Friday, March 13, 2009

PopCulture PopCan Flowers, Environmental Consciousness, the Economy, and Vintage

I've been fortunate lately to have a few bloggers notice my items and blog about them. The latest of these is Tess, from the Diamonds in the Rough blog. The blog features recycled products catalog for the conscious consumer and one of my PopCulture PopCan Jewel Flowers were included in a post about eco-fashion trashion trends.

Tess has a shop on Etsy, called Yellow Dog Vintage and offers a varied selection of vintage finds. I love vintage for many reasons, such as it's ability to evoke the past. More importantly, buying vintage is environmentally friendly and a great form of repurposing items. Take a look at this lovely, springy pillow from her shop.

For those of you reading this who live in the United States, I know many of us are concerned about the economy and how we can do our small part to stimulate it. I've given this much thought and my solution is to shop from other US shops and companies. To help my local economy I buy from local companies whenever I can. As the weather warms, I will soon be buying my fruits and vegetables from local Farms and Farmers Markets.

Purchasing an item from Etsy sellers who also live in the United States is a great way to stimulate the economy. Support independant artisans and buy a unique handmade item for a gift or for yourself. Even in tough economic times we all need little indulgences. A small purchase for yourself can bring large rewards in the smiles it elicits. Buying vintage also accomplishes this while helping the environment and keeping lovely items like the pillow pictured above out of landfills.

This post began as a way to say thanks to a fellow blogger who noticed one of my items and ended up being a bit of a rant about something that' s been much on my mind of late. In light of this rant, I think Etsy should adopt a new tagline: "Save the economy one item at a time!"

Monday, March 2, 2009

My First Design Team Challenge

An Etsy friend of mine, who has a shop called Duct Tape And Denim, asked me to be a member of her design team awhile ago. Of course, I was extremely honored and happy to agree to participate. About once a month, she mails each of the design team members all the same materials and we each make 3-4 projects and send her pictures to illustrate the versatility of her products.

I received all the lovely items pictured above. The turquoise crepe paper was wrapped around everything but I utilized a piece of it as well.

The items from her shop that were included were a few items from each of the following 1) WORDS OF LOVE - 20 - 1 inch Scalloped Paper Circles with Typed Loving Words 2) Blank White Tickets 3) LOVE IN MANY LANGUAGES - 20 - 1 inch Scalloped Paper Circles with Typed Words In Foreign Languages 4) Set of 10 BLANK Gift Tags - Large with Strings 5) 100 PLUs Piece Paper Pack - Vintage and Antique Book Pages - Childrens Textbooks Math Foreign Languages Spanish German Russian Asian - 1896 to 1960s - 4th Edition 6) 50 - Vintage Paper Postage Stamp Shapes 7) 25 - 2.5 inch Scalloped Ovals 8) Vintage Paper Birds - Old text, maps, foreign languages 9) Butterflies from Vintage Papers - Text, Books, Ledgers, Maps, Music, Foreign 10) Vintage Loving Couples COLLAGE Sheet and a few other goodies.

Needless to say, I had plenty of creative inspiration to spark my creativity. I don't normally work with blank tickets or the little envelopes I received, but I was determined to create something with them. The end result was a little envelope to contain happy memories, using the manila envelope, the happy word scallop, memories word scallop, blank ticket, heart punch, dove punch, and a bit of lace from the packaging.
From the three gift tag blanks I received, I created three different tags using images from one of my Flickr friends, takeabreak.

My favorite item, however, is the collage I made utilizing a vintage book page adhered to a bit of a cereal box as the background. The collage is entitled "Mother Means Love in Any Language".

Please visit the Duct Tape and Denim blog to see what other design team members created.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Camera Necklace Featured on Autumn Olive Blog

More and more sellers are discovering Etsy lately, so due to a number of factors it's getting harder and harder for anyone's items to be seen. Imagine my surprise when I signed on today to discover that not only had one of my items been seen, but also that it had been featured on the Autumn Olive blog.

The blog is written by Melinda, from Vivid Texture, on Etsy. This shop has been one of my favorites for some time due to the fresh approach she takes toward upcycling wool and other goodies for you and your home.

My favorite item currently in her shop is her Spring Green Fingerless Gloves (also great wrist warmers) pictured below:

These upcycled lovelies offer a fresh take on being green!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Steampunk Meets a Cracker Box Mixed Media Collage

My Steampunk designs have been a natural evolution of the Victorian style I am so drawn to and allows me to incorporate many of the things I love: Victorian imagery, recycling, and quirky items that are off the mainstream.

I frequently repurpose food packaging, such as cereal boxes or cracker boxes, for inserts while packaging to stiffen envelopes, or as a basis for a gift tag or collage. For some of my collages, I cut a shape out of a cereal box and then build my collage over the shape, such as an egg for Easter, a Shamrock for St. Patrick's Day, or a heart as the basis for my original poem "Key to My Heart" mixed media collage.
The latest venture took me into the world of ACEO's and thanks to a tip from ArtSnark, I discovered a fabulous blog called Paper Mischief. This blog led me to the fabulous images I used in my ACEO's which I built on a cracker box piece, cut to the requisite 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 size. Her Past Portraits group on Flickr provided a fabulously generous source of images and inspiration.
My favorite of these is my piece I entitled Steampunk Fairy. His wings are made of brass stampings that I antiqued (using a process I'll post a tutorial for in my next blog post), and his thought bubbles are made from vintage watch gears.
Please share your comments about other uses for upcycling food packaging, such as cracker boxes. I look forward to reading your ideas.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Warning! This Bag May Bite!

Last year, while at Zombiefest, I had the pleasure of meeting Justine, from Bags That Bite. She is, hands down, the nicest seller I met that weekend and many of her bags feature openings that are also monster mouths. All of them are adorable and I found it impossible to choose just one.

After thinking about it for a few days, I purchased the Skull Zipper Bag for the rare evenings when I get to go out for an adult night out. I finally got a chance to use it and wanted to show just how very many things fit in it. In addition to all the items pictured, I also had my digital camera in the bag. It easily held all the essentials for a night out and then some. We'd gone out with friends to finally celebrate my 40th birthday, a week and a half after the fact, but the wait was worth it. We had a fabulously fun night out at Pipers Pub for dinner and then dancing at the Lava Lounge. We're already planning another group night out dancing to 80's alternative and wave, so hopefully Skully will get to go out again soon.

My boys have both been bugging me to buy each of them one of her bat packs for awhile now. One of these days, I'll just have to surprise them with one. I have a bat crazy (crazy about them, not crazy like one) nephew who'd love on too!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pesky Punxsutawney Phil Prognostication

How's that title for a mouthful of alliteration? It's official, that pesky Punxsutawney Phil prognosticated another six weeks of winter. On a positive note, in honor of the prediction, the Etsy Trashion Team blog featured one of my items.

As many of you know I live in Western PA, not too far from Punxsutawney and the home of the famous groundhog Phil. Sadly, despite cold, cloudy skies here outside Pittsburgh, Phil saw his shadow, thus forecasting six more weeks of winter. Sometimes it feels like spring will never come! But, as there's nothing any of us can do about the weather, I try to make the best of it.

Groundhog Day is celebrated annually, in the United States and Canada, on February 2nd. According to folklore, if the groundhog emerged from his burrow and didn't see his shadow he'd leave the burrow signifying that winter was about to end. However, if he did see his shadow, he'd retreat into his burrow for another six weeks of winter. Wikipedia has a lengthy entry about the history of the day.

My favorite explanation of the history is as follows: "In the United States the tradition may also derive from a Scottish poem:
As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and snow
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop"
Photo by Carolyn Kaster, AP
Ben Hughes, handler of the weather-predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, holds Phil in the air after removing him from his stump at Gobbler's Knob on Groundhog Day, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009, in Punxsutawney, Pa. The Groundhog Club said Phil saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Taste of the Past (originally intended title was Home for the Holidays)

My brother, Jon, was very happy to see me!When I was growing up, my Gram and my Uncle Mack were part of every holiday. The year after I graduated from high school, Mack passed away and six years ago, shortly before Christmas, my Gram did as well. As I'm sure is the case for many of us as we age, Christmas is bittersweet and causes us to miss them all the more. While they may not be physically present, they remain with us in spirit.

I moved from Seattle, WA to Pittsburgh, PA in January 1997, the day after my Gram's birthday, so I wasn't anywhere close to home for my birthday that year. After moving here, it became increasingly difficult to make it home for Christmas. The next two years I literally couldn't afford to go, but Christmas 1999, when my oldest son was just past 1 year old, we made the trip. This would be the last Christmas I would spend with my Gram. Until this past Christmas, it was also the last time I'd been with my family over the holidays.

My husband is an only child, so it's especially important for us all to be here for Christmas and our boys, especially our youngest, have always celebrated Christmas the same way. Given all of these factors, we opted to fly out of Pittsburgh the day after Christmas and my sister convinced my Mom to wait to celebrate Christmas on Saturday. My sister, Ann, and her husband were the only ones who knew we were coming so everyone else would be surprised (and also so they wouldn't go overboard on gifts). I can't even begin to tell you how nice it was to sing along to "I'll be Home for Christmas" without feeling sad for the first time in nine years.

Ann intercepted packages for us under the guise that she'd mail everything to save on shipping, so we got to open our presents along with the rest of my family. One of my presents was decorated with a package tie Mack had made. His presents were always beautifully and artistically wrapped and his stunning gift wrap was as much an anticipation as what was inside the package.

In honor of our visit, Ann made several of the Christmas goodies my Gram had always made, especially Gram's Lane Cake and Pound Cake. The pound cake was always her favorite so when Gram passed away Ann naturally inherited the cake pan Gram always used along with her tin cake keeper. Eating a piece of lane cake, and then later the pound cake out of Gram's container, evoked many memories. It made me feel, if only for a moment, as if she was there. Perhaps she was, watching, and smiling at how I've grown since I was a girl of 12 and still sitting on her lap.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Birthday Presents Rock!

As many of you know, I turned 40 this past Wednesday and the day was relatively uneventful. We had planned to go out to dinner, but the weather, and consequently the roads, were too bad for us to be able to. My husband absolutely gets a huge gold star for the evening as he stopped at the grocery store on his way home from work and made an absolutely phenomenal dinner. The menu consisted of spicy crab cakes for an appetizer followed by Filet Mignon (topped with mini sliced portabellos that had been sauted in garlic butter and blue cheese all of which was warmed and melted under the broiler), asparagus, and twice baked potatoes. Dessert was a divinely decadent chocolate torte and champagne. To top it all off, he got me the lovely Victorian hot chocolate set pictured above and...the best birthday present EVER...a portable lighting studio.

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