Friday, November 29, 2013

The BIG Shopping Weekend

When we first moved to the United States I found it a bit bizarre that right after the day everybody said how grateful they were for what they had, the very same people would get up at the crack of dawn and rush to the stores to get the best deals EVER. Some even camped outside stores like Best Buy to be the first in line and not miss out.

Looking back, I just sigh - ah, those were the good old times. The Geek belonged to those people who got up early on Black Friday and stood in line while Kaefer and I briefly groaned, turned around and went back to sleep. When the Geek came back for a late breakfast he usually had some hilarious stories to tell. The rest of Friday was spent in quiet bliss.

After a few years the temptation had died even for the Geek and we spent Black Friday in our home, blissfully unaware of the craziness going on in the malls and big stores.

And today? The shopping frenzy starts already on Thanksgiving itself. Some stores are open all day Thanksgiving, some open right at the time when you would sit down for the meal with your family and/or friends. Some stores stay open until 2:00 am or even the entire night. Other stores open at midnight. The "reasonable" stores open at 6:00 on Black Friday morning.

Are we really that greedy? Is it really more important to get a super deal than spend some time with family? Is it necessary to drag retail employees away from their families to serve the customers who obviously can't wait to be dragged away from family and friends?

I don't have the answer to that. However, I refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving. Somehow I hope that so many others think like me, stay at home and the Thanksgiving shopping will be only a short-lived "event". Well, I am not that naive.... I know it will stay like this, perhaps even get worse. Who knows, one day we might stop celebrating Thanksgiving altogether. A huge loss for saving a few bucks.

After Black Friday and before Cyber Monday there is another shopping day - Small Business Saturday. Being a small business owner myself, I hardly can ignore that. I just wish it was on a different weekend - does it really make a difference? Do people who spend their money on Thanksgiving and Black Friday have the time (and the energy) to go and support the local businesses in their neighborhood? Or small businesses online - where their neighbors, friends, teachers, colleagues sell their items? And - can small businesses even compete?

All of these thoughts were going through my mind when I was contemplating what to do with my Etsy shop over this sales weekend. Should I participate? Should I ignore it and just go on as usual? Would that even be sound business practice?

In the end, I have decided to offer 25% off the entire purchase in my store. After all, I have my shop and I want to sell my handmade items. Handmade is not cheap, and I am not planning on selling anything below its value. But I can say thanks to my customers by lowering my prices for a few days and thus giving them the opportunity to buy something that is real handmade (and heart-made for that matter) in a very affordable way. These images here show a few of the items that are currently available in my shop - it is pretty well stocked right now. By using coupon code THANKS2013 (all capitals) during checkout you will automatically get 25% off your entire purchase - whether you buy one handmade card or three journals. The sale expires at the end of Cyber Monday, December 2, 2013.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Snowman Full of Cheer

A couple weeks ago I decided to paint a ball ornament. Mindy Lacefield inspired me to try this when she showed how to paint a ball ornament with one of her cute little girls in  Christy Tomlinson's last year's Christmas workshop. Of course I knew there was no way I could paint a girl on a round object, but a snowman, I thought, should be easier.

Besides, I really like snowmen. For me they make the cutest Christmas ornaments, cards, decorations. Whenever we hit the snow in the mountains you can be sure that we are building some kind of snowman.

I painted a layer of gesso first and then a light blue background. My snowman, of course, ended up being pretty round as well. Since I like bright light green he got a bright green and red hat and scarf. Do snowmen have rosy cheeks? Well, mine does...

This little guy is available in my Etsy shop.

I'm sharing this with Paint Party Friday where you can find so many talented artists. Why not visit some of them? The list is here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Beauty of Thistles

processed with Kim's textures "kk_isobel" and "warmgrunge"

While I was recently walking around the lake with Jo, I decided to also hike a bit into the adjacent state park afterwards. The weather was so nice - sunny, but more on the cooler side. The light was beautiful, and I enjoyed this extra hour outside, photographing trees and thistles.

processed with Kim's textures "golden" and "warmlyvintage"

I love the dried thistles. Their shapes are so unique, the little "arms" that seem to wrap around the seed head look so intriguing. They really make this wildflower stand out in the fall.

Even their shadow is special! They look fabulous alone as well as in a crowd! We certainly don't have a shortage here!

processed with Kim's texture "vintagetexture"

This is my contribution to this week's Texture Tuesday over at Kim Klassen's blog.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Babushka-Inspired Brontë Dolls

In my last post I promised to tell you why I disappeared from my blog for a bit more than a week. The reason is pretty simple - I had signed up to participate in an arts and crafts fair. It was a rather spontaneous decision after an opportunity came up and I just couldn't pass it. I had two weeks to prepare, and I got extremely busy. I created like a mad woman and was more than grateful that my creativity was strong and present during those two weeks. I already had a rather good inventory, but I felt that I could do with a few more Christmas items. Of course I also practiced setting up my table several times with the result that setting up at the fair took us just an hour. I said "us" because Kaefer was my helper. She had created some polymer clay ornaments the evening before the fair and she actually sold some of them and made a bit of extra money.

Kaefer took a picture of me behind our table.

Sorry for the bad quality - it was an indoor show and I only had my small camera with me.

The show went pretty well for us which was nice. However, I almost enjoyed more talking to the other vendors and the interactions with the customers. All in all it was a great experience.

One thing I did for the show was creating these babushka-inspired dolls.

This yellow one was the first one that sold.

The inspiration for them I found in one of the classes by Christy Tomlinson. Guess what the inside of each doll is? An old lightbulb - those that we don't use anymore because they are not energy-efficient. The lightbulb is wrapped with air-drying clay and then further decorated.

Here you can see them in various stages of progress:

After the clay had dried overnight, I painted the dolls with a layer of cream acrylic paint. After that was done I changed my mind again and decoupaged them with torn book pages. These pieces came from a cheap edition (thrift store find) of "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë. That's the reason I also call these dolls "Brontë dolls". The decoupaging of course was the stickiest part of the entire project. When the dolls were completely covered in the torn book pages, I painted them with acrylic colors and then embellished them with stamps, rub-ons, small rhinestones and a white marker (Sharpie's mean streak). I had attached a screw-eye to the top when I had wrapped the clay around the lightbulb, and now I knotted a piece of lace ribbon around it as a final touch.

I am very happy how the dolls turned out and really like them. I am glad that I decided to paint tiny faces on them - I looked at real babushka dolls and loved the simplicity of their faces, so I adopted that idea and applied it to my dolls. I think they're quite cute.

This doll will end up in our Christmas tree
(it was the first and only one that is not decoupaged)

I am linking up to Paint Party Friday. I have no idea when I did so the last time - probably several months ago. It feels good to be a part of that talented group again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I haven't been here for over a week, and I am sorry that I just disappeared without a word. I didn't mean to do that, but last week was a wild one. I will tell you more about it in my next post, but today, I just want to play with "Texture Tuesday" again.

I chose an image that I took last week during a very quick walk around the lake - Jo and I both didn't have much time, but we wanted to get out and move a little bit in an area that we both love. As if the birds knew that we were in a rush they didn't show themselves - as if they were thinking that they couldn't tempt us to stop and watch them. Because that is what we do, no matter how often we have seen "our" black-crowned night herons and green herons. But as I said, they were hiding.

The lake was very still that morning, the light was beautiful, the sun had just come through the clouds, it was very atmospheric. While the sun had hit the other side of the lake, these boats were still mostly in the shade, just lit up in a very few spots.

I blended the photo with Kim's texture "kk_appreciate" in soft light at 100% and then removed the texture again on the boats (at 50%) because the texture had lightened them a bit too much and I wanted to stress the shade. A quick layers adjustment, and that's it.

As you can see, I never get tired of the lake. It is such a beautiful place.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Every 15 Minutes

Every 15 minutes someone in the United States is injured or killed in an alcohol-related incident. “Every 15 Minutes” also is a nationwide program that takes a pro-active step in educating high school students about making mature decisions when alcoholic beverages are involved.

In October Kaefer's high school was hosting this two day event. “Emotional” cannot even remotely describe this event – it was moving, heartbreaking, intense, powerful, and – hopefully – had a high impact on the participating students as well as the teenage audience (and the parents who were present).

On the first day a car crash simulation was held. Police, fire and ambulance responded to this emergency as they would to an actual crash. Five students were involved – one was pronounced dead at the scene, three died on the way to or in the hospital, and the (uninjured) drunk driver was given a field sobriety test, arrested and brought to jail, where he was taken before a judge for sentencing. The parents of these five students were notified by police (including the law enforcement chaplain) that their children were killed or arrested (of course these parents knew about it beforehand). In addition, every 15 minutes throughout the school day, another participating high school student’s obituary was read, detailing the alcohol involved incidents that caused his or her death.

On the second day, a “memorial” was held. A video of the previous day’s events was shown were we saw what happened at the hospital and in jail. There were speeches, the most memorable one by the undertaker who talked about what happens afterwards, what the consequences for the families left behind look like. I will never forget his image of “the empty chair at the dining table” that holds all the horrors in its simplicity. Letters the “dead” students had written were read. Most heartbreaking was the letter of a mother.

Yes, it wasn’t real – but it felt frighteningly real. I have never seen 1600 teenager being so quiet. A few seats down from me sat a senior boy who was openly weeping. Many of the teenagers (and all of the parents) cried. Tissue boxes were handed from one person to the next. It was moving and immensely powerful.

Did it have an impact? I have high hopes that all the students who actively participated will never be involved in drunk driving, and so I hope as well for all the other teenagers who witnessed this event.

You can read more about the “Every 15 Minutes” program here, and if you’re interested to see the program in action, there is a very good video from Santa Rosa High School here.

Cross-posting at Vision and Verb, a global gathering of women of this age. If you have never been to Vision and Verb why not check it out now?