Sunday, August 28, 2016

Making Time to View the Rocks

Life gets busy, I totally get it. Rush to school, rush home, rush to activities, there's always a million things to do. Today my husband has the flu. THE FLU! What horrible timing! Let's face it, there's never really a good time for feeling lousy, but we're going into the second week of school and there's a lot to do! But today our plans changed, we dropped everything, and the kids and I decided we would make homemade chicken noodle soup for their dad. My grandmother always said that chicken was medicinal, and we sure could use all the help we can get! The kids and I grabbed our shoes, held our breath, and darted out the door for the grocery store!

Just outside of the nearest town, on the hill that overlooks the dam at the end of the lake, something on the edge of the road caught my eye. While driving to the store I noticed that the usual wall of rock at the top of this hill had unusual rock piles at the bottom of it. I slowed down and was excited to see that someone had been making balanced rock sculptures there! They were just tall enough to peek over the tall grasses on the bank at the edge of the road. I vowed to get a closer look.

On our way home the kids and I stopped to investigate, we wanted a closer look. We talked about not touching the work of others. If something is going to happen to these balancing rocks we're going to leave it to nature so others can enjoy these little sculptures. We talked about the time it must've taken to create them. There had to be 20+ stacks scattered about along the road! How long did each one take? How many visits were made to continue the work? Is it the work of one person or many? A friend suggested it could be the work of Sasquatch. Perhaps a family of them? My neighbor said she saw a woman that drives a Subaru parked along the road there, working to balance rocks. 

For whoever is doing it, I hope it continues. It was a lovely surprise on a germ filled day, the time it took to create these was appreciated, and it caused my family to pause for a moment to enjoy something new instead of rushing through our to-do list. We greatly admire the collection. Smell the roses, view the rocks, you won't regret it. 

The Thrill of the Find

I've been pretty fortunate in my life to have some truly wonderful people cross my path, some for a short while, some revisit from time to time, and others will be around as long as we're living. A professor I knew once said that some of these folks we meet leave their fingerprints on you forever, they have a lasting impression. My college roommate, Grace, is one of those lasting-impression-around-for-life kinda folks. So when Grace asks if I'm up for an adventure, I lace up my shoes and hit the road!   

Grace has settled in Williamsport and I love visiting her there. Otto's Bookstore is a favorite place to peruse when I'm in town. It's one of the 5 oldest bookstores in the country! Is your mind blown? Yeah, mine too. It's a super cool old place, the folks that work there are smart, kind and helpful, so do yourself a favor and check it out. A great time to go would be when Williamsport is celebrating a First Friday. Their Uptown Music Collective will give you CHILLS they're so good! Anywho....back to my adventurin'....Grace and her husband Jeff are the coolest couple around. They're funny, their house is adorable, and they cook great food when I visit them. It was amazing! I had the best sleep ever in the most charming guest room I'd ever seen, and was ready by 7am to hit the road with them. After a McDonalds breakfast, we were on our way to New Berlin, Grace's hometown, to celebrate New Berlin Day

This old little town is so cute it belongs on postcards and in romantic comedies. SERIOUSLY cute! The town is full of old brick houses with large windows, tall wooden doors, beautiful trim and shutters, and unique little details everywhere you look. I especially love to visit for New Berlin Day. Several streets are closed to traffic and are lined with booths of antiques and vintage finds ranging from whimsical costume jewelry to dishes, military items to household goods, framed art and a multitude of crafts. The first booth I really sank my teeth into was probably the coolest of them all. The man collected face jugs and had several on display. After noting the price tags on them I did a lot of pointing and questioning, and he thoroughly enjoyed telling the stories behind them. The first jug we chatted about was white and blue. He had commissioned an artist he knew, who reluctantly obliged. He requested that it be based on Queequeg, the harpooner from Moby Dick. I thought it was interesting that he would choose that specific character of all the possibilities in the world. He was more concerned with the fact that Queequeg was smiling on the jug, to which the artist explained he was a happy harpooner and the man just had to deal with it. The other notable jug was a double sided monkey face with blues and greens in the glaze. I'd rather look at Queequeg, the other jug is just a wee bit too intense for me. 

The very same booth that boasted face jugs also had a beautiful collection of wooden circus people and animals on display. They had cording inside to allow the joints to move, they were hand painted, and I loved them. The price tags had me pointing a bit more and touching a lot less. 

These gorgeous tigers instantly made me think of Henri Rousseau's "Surprised!". My 1st graders would LOVE these little wooden tigers! I loved these little wooden tigers! I did not love the price tags....But! Here is a cool link to a video I show kids when we talk about Rousseau's painting in art class that other kids are sure to love!

Another neato booth had a collection of hats that would have the wearer the envy of the room, the talk of the town, the most stylish person get the idea. They were unique and stunning!

This colorful feathery number really caught my eye! Isn't it just gorgeous?! Grace didn't think so, our tastes are very different, and that's okay with me. That just means fewer people to elbow for stuff I like looking at. Right? Right. 

My favorite kind of rooster is a quiet rooster. This one was both quiet AND handsome! A cool papier mache find...

These made me think of our Floridian family and our seafood feasts! The color, the whimsy, it was love at first sight!

It doesn't get much more old timey adorable than this! Music from this beautiful little hand cranked machine could be heard from every booth and it was delightful

Wind from the east....I loved the green top of the town museum (it's my favorite color), and that it made me think of Mary Poppins....Like her, New Berlin is practically perfect in every way.

My eyes feasted on several lovely things that day but I only brought a few little treasures home from my adventure. My daughter loves puppies, and this little cast iron dog now stands guard from her dresser. My son enjoys learning about WWII, and was thrilled with this hat from 1941. It's not about how much you spend or how much you bring home, it's about the company you keep while you're searching for great finds and the stories behind them that make adventurin' so much fun! I'm already looking forward to next year Grace!

Friday, August 19, 2016


School is a busy place to be, even in the summer. It's especially busy in the weeks and days leading up to the first day of school for students! You'll find cars in the parking lot outside at all hours of the day, lots of them...custodians and maintenance folks wrapping up summer projects to spruce up the school and grounds (our school looks AMAZING!!!), and teachers. Lots of teachers, some of us wearing yoga pants and Star Wars t-shirts, all busy working on bulletin boards and classrooms, prepping for meet the teacher night. First impressions are important! 

I spent a lot of extra time in my room organizing supplies in cupboards and on shelves, decorating, developing new ideas that can improve what I do and how kids experience art, but I also spent time decorating the lobby. It's extra, but it's significant. It's the first handshake you receive when you walk through the door. You learn a lot about our building when you enter it.

Check out that glitter and those globs of splatter paint....I painted and glittered up the lettering on my living room floor while listening to the Olympics. My husband wasn't impressed by the glitter.....oops!...anyway...On the day I started working on the lobby wall I had my daughter with me at school. It can be boring for teachers kids to hang out at school all day while their parents work on setting up their classrooms but Clare McKee was a trooper! Seriously, that kid could be an Olympic gold medal helper! She was such a fantastic helper in my classroom, refilling crayon boxes and marker bins with new supplies, sorting the scrap paper bin, writing our last name inside the new books I brought to school for the art classroom, organizing the book shelf. IT. WAS. AWESOME. I appreciated her help, we saved a lot of time working hard together, and she was proud of a job well done. Winner winner, chicken dinner! When we'd finished up in my classroom, she tagged along to keep me company in the lobby. Another big project needed some time and attention: turning the wall into a welcome sign for meet the teacher night. 

We got to school early that day and had been there all morning and afternoon working in my classroom. It was HOT in the school.  I-need-water, unladylike hot (ok, maybe that deserves an Oscar for drama, but it was a sweaty day, ok?). I was climbing up and down the ladder with a stapler and large awkward pieces of paper torn from large rolls. It felt like it was taking forever. About half way through the project Clare and I were joined by another young lady, the daughter of a coworker waaaay down the hall. She was checking out what we were up to. The crinkling paper made a lot of noise and she was looking into it! She'd be a great detective. She sat quietly for awhile on one of the green cushions near my ladder and then asked if I was having fun working on the wall. It was a great question, and extremely thoughtful. Was I having fun at the moment? I thought about it for a second. Not really. I'd been working on the wall for a loooooong time (Clare would agree), I was warm and thirsty and I knew I still had a long way to go. Some aspects were fun. It's encouraging to step back to see the big picture, to check your progress and critique what needs a bit of tweaking. The challenge of it is thrilling. I answered her honestly, "sometimes, but no, not at the moment". Can you guess the next question? Yep! "Then why are you doing it?" Another good one! This kid was on a roll! Move over Nancy Drew!

A lot of hours go into the inspiring things you see in our school. Time away from family invested in other families in our community. The fun bulletin boards, the hall displays of student work, the organized and themed classrooms, the special displays in our lobby for events. It all takes TIME. Days and weeks and hours of extra time. So why do it? I told her that meet the teacher night is a big deal. A VERY big deal. For some folks it'll be a welcome back to a school, teachers and friends they already know. That's pretty exciting! But for some it'll be a brand new place filled with brand new faces, and that can be scary. I want people visiting my school to be inspired when they walk in, to feel welcome, to know that exciting and unique things happen there, to feel special because they're a part of that, and know that the teachers there are committed to the doing what's best for kids. Always. That's why we do it. I think the night was a success! I've never had so many smiling faces visit the art room before! So many friendly hellos, glad your backs, hugs, high fives, it was great! It was almost like we were having a party in my room and I'm already looking forward to next time. Be watching for info about Fall Into The Arts this November! It truly IS an art party! Y'all come back now, ya hear?! 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Vintage Map

One mans trash is another mans treasure, and for my family it couldn't be more true! Few things in our home are brand new. Older things have dings, scratches, patina, wear, and markings that tell a story. Everyone loves a good story. These items have character. Plus, the thrill of the find is part of the fun! Every year for our anniversary we go on a hunt for a cool new-to-us old find to add to our collection. 

This year we had a vintage map framed for our walls. IT. IS. AWESOME. And huge. Let's focus on the awesome part...I've seen plenty of boring maps and boring wall art, but vintage school maps from the 50's and 60's had such rich colors they're hard not to notice. We came across a bundle of maps and gave most of them away. This map of the USA was the only one we kept. So much of the world has changed names, but we can talk with our kids about this map and it's relevant. Their future social studies and geography teachers won't scold us for confusing them. Maybe it'll improve their Scrambled States of America game skills!

Check out that gorgeous color! They're beautiful enough to inspire the color palette of a room! Those oranges and greens together are soooo goooood...The mountain shadows, the tints and shades, the fonts used, it's truly a winning aesthetic mix!

For our anniversary, Randy visited Marwin Cummings, known for his woodworking and framing skills, to tackle the best way to go about framing this map (40" x 48"!!!). Mr. Cummings is kind, generous, knowledgeable, and skilled

Mr. Cummings and Randy did a BEAUTIFUL job mounting and framing this! It will be a focal point and conversation piece in our home! Sincerest thanks sir!


Check out that font! We love this part of the map. Orange is Randy's favorite color, and I love green. What a great mix! Stunning map, fantastic framing, lucky eyeballs!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

what I'm working on #4: The Glitter Trail Mystery

My grandmother was awesome. She was smart, she could sew, she was creative, she loved learning new things, and she was always up for an adventure. She was my favorite person. When I was younger she lived downstate and would often travel north to visit. When she saw me, instead of cupping my face in her hands and telling me how pretty I was (I was a nerd and a tomboy), she would ask me what I was reading. She wanted me to know things, to do things, to read things. She'd save The Mini Page for me to read from her local newspaper and would often bring a book along on her visits that she thought I might enjoy. During one such visit she brought a few Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, on loan from my Aunt. 

The books were old. There were slight signs of wear from being previously loved, and I couldn't wait to dive in. They did not disappoint! I fell in love with Nancy Drew stories! Thanks Gram!!! I rushed to the library and was thrilled to find they had a complete set on the shelf for me to enjoy! The cover art was dated but dynamic, the binding was yellow (easy to spot on the shelves) with a Nancy Drew logo and the number of the series, and they were SO COOL. Were? They're STILL cool! As a kid I never had a complete set of my very own, but whenever I find them at a book sale or yard sale I snatch them up to add to my shelf. If I find that I've got duplicates, I share the wealth and gift them.

Well, we collect children's books and, as with anything collected, our shelves were bursting at the seams! We decided it was time to let go of the books we've outgrown. Our children asked if they could have a book sale to raise money for a game they've had their eyes on. Yep! Entrepreneurial spirit, goals, dedication, work, of course we'll encourage that! While they arranged, sorted and sold, I set to work painting in the grass behind them. (Focus on the adorable little entrepreneurs and ignore the landscaping, we just ripped out the shrubbery and haven't replanted yet!)

The project? The book theme for my classroom door this year. The book? Why, Nancy Drew of course! Rather than copying an existing book cover I made my own version with a personal twist. I've been known to use glitter from time to time. Surprised? Well, whenever there's glitter anywhere in the school I'm usually teased about it. My solution is to suggest that perhaps the glitter trails are caused by another shadowy figure that may or may not resemble a certain football coaching music teacher I know. 

What? It could happen... Just keep painting, just keep painting....

Oh! And glitter! Don't forget the glitter... Our music teacher LOVES glitter. See?!

I used a few metallic paints and in certain lighting you can really see the shimmer. The image on the left is with the lights on, and the image on the right is in natural lighting. This was a lot of fun and working on it brought back many fond memories. I hope my students have a sense of humor and enjoy this cover! I hope the music teacher has a good sense of humor as well! Finishing the project made me feel like I'd just finished reading a good book, and it's time to start another!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Haitian Art

A few years ago I read about a couple that saved up their nickels and dimes to buy artwork. They invested in things they really wanted to look at, things that told a story, that inspired them, that they loved. In a world of changing fads it's a very personal choice. It means you're comfortable with your own taste, that you don't need others to like what you like, and that is freeing. Randy and I collect art and things we like to look at. Our walls are an eclectic mix of graphic design, old signs, metal bits and wooden things. And color. Lots of color. When I was younger my grandmother had a green room. It was her favorite color (it's mine too). I thought it was so cool that she chose it as the color of an entire room, not caring if anyone else liked it or not. I decided that when I had a house of my own that I would choose fun colors that I liked too, and I have.

Some of our friends think I'm crazy because our walls are sooo green, others think it's fun and whimsical, some say it's "funky". The most important thing is that my family loves it. It makes a great backdrop for all of the miscellaneous things hanging about the room. 

This is one of the newest additions to our funky walls. My mother-in-law and several wonderful folks from her church have made regular trips to Haiti to help a school there. They have done incredible things for children. Before her last trip my husband asked her to please bring home Haitian artwork, and she did! While visiting family this summer she invited us over to choose a piece of artwork to take home with us, and I fell in love with this bright metal tap tap bus! Tap Taps are brightly painted buses used as taxis in Haiti. They don't move forward until filled. I love that it has character, it's metal, I love the texture, and the colors are gorgeous. 

Each piece of art on our walls has a story. My mother-in-law would say that some of them are conversation pieces, and this metal tap tap bus truly is. Metal Haitian art is made by repurposing the steel from transported oil drums. The top and bottom are removed, the drum is set on fire to burn off any residue and paint, and when cooled they are cut open and flattened into a sheet. Then the art begins! My husband knew how much I loved this piece and chose it from the his mothers collection even though he really really loved a painting a bit more. When I realized he'd done this I arranged for the painting to be his Father's Day gift. He was thrilled!

Wood is hard to come by in Haiti so when you buy paintings from an artist they remove the canvas or painted material and keep the wooden frame it was painted on. You roll up your new painting and take it with you, they attach another piece of material to the wooden frame you left behind and do another painting to sell. The sizing isn't always a traditional frame size. In order to hang this painting Randy had to stretch it and staple it to a new frame (in this case, an old board). 

He added an outer frame that he made out of old barn boards, and it's PERFECT. 

The bold graphic colors really stand out against each other. It also pops against the bright green wall of the living room. Being able to look at inspiring things that we enjoy has made this tiny house a cozy home. 

On the road again...

We are an adventure loving family! Yesterday we were invited to join two other families for a day trip to Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, Pa, and we excitedly accepted! Travel with kids can be dangerous if they're bored. Boredom leads to making bad choices that drive people crazy in small spaces (like a car), and I value my sanity too much to risk it. Normally when we travel the kids have several Calvin and Hobbes books to read. I pick them up for a buck or two at yard sales and book sales, and they are treasured in our household. They're carefully planned and drawn beautifully, they're adventurous and funny, and they're packed with big new words to expand the vocabulary of my children! We discuss words they don't know, and it's great. Bill Watterson, the creator and author of Calvin and Hobbes, is brilliant. 

We also take art supplies for doodles. You never know when you'll see something that inspires an idea. I take my moleskine sketchbook EVERYWHERE. I mean it, it goes everywhere with me. The Appalachian Trail, the dentist office, faculty meetings, car rides, it goes where I go. It's the perfect size for toting around, it has a secret pocket in the back to store anything that's relatively flat, and a stretchy band easily wraps around the front to keep it closed so it's not all loosey goosey in my bag. The paper quality is great for mixed media sketching- ink, watercolors, colored pencils, etc. Plus, my favorite pens seem to really love this paper too. Well wouldn't you know that for this drive we forgot our go-to entertainment stuff for the kids?! What to do?!?! We played an animal version of 20 questions, guessing what animal someone was thinking of. Does it have feathers? No. Does it have 4 legs? Yes. Does it live in water? Sometimes. You get the idea...Randy loves to drive, which is perfect because I don't. Driving stresses me out. So while he expertly drove and we played 20 questions, I sipped coffee and sketched fish! We both try to squeeze in sketch time whenever possible, and car rides are perfect for sketching when the scenery is bland. 

My time is valuable. There never seems to be enough hours in a day to conquer the many projects, develop all of the ideas, read all of the blogs, articles, and books (last on the list is housework, that's not going anywhere). So my goal each day is to make the most of my minutes! Yeah, yeah, I know. Easier said than done some days, and the same is true for me. Our family is BUSY, so it's a personal goal that I look for ways to make the most of any free time I have. Carve out time to invest in yourself and your family. Fight for that time, it's important. 

The car ride wasn't the most exciting part of our day, of course. The roller coasters were!!! BUT... we had fun in the car on the way to our adventure making the most of our travel minutes!