Monday, November 3, 2014

10 Uncommon Rules of Trail Running...

especially if you are trying out a new trail for the first time*

1.  Find a trail suitable for trail running.  Some areas are designated as a quiet sanctuary for wildlife and running is prohibited.  Of course, if you are being chased by wildlife... run like the wind!

2.  Do not freak out if you get mud all over your shoes and possibly your clothes.  Unless you live in a dry climate or your area is going through a drought... there will be mud hiding out somewhere.

3.  Take in the fresh air!  You feel that wind on your face?  It's fresh!  You are running like you were meant to run, through the woods, dodging branches, hunting food in the form of antelope or a fleeing berry bush, you are a survivor!

4.  Don't forget to look down on occasion.  Tree roots will send you sailing!

My phone... sailing.

5.  It's a good idea to have your phone in a waterproof covering of some sort, preferably in a color that doesn't camouflage itself in a woodland environment. This is especially useful after your phone lands 10 feet away from where you fell on your face.

6.  Take time to stop and get random photos of fungi, tree roots, and other natural objects that seem really amazing at the time.

7.  Don't always assume you know where you are going.  Never underestimate just how easy it is to get lost, especially on mountain bike trails that branch off every few feet into countless directions.

8.  Speaking of mountain bike trails, watch out for mountain bikes!  In some situations, it's a lot easier for the hiker/runner/ambler to get out of the way than for the biker to go around you.

9.  Be courteous and respectful, even if others are mocking your bewildered look and bloody knees.

10.  Enjoy your run, even if it turns into more of a jog or a stagger, with lots of photo and GPS breaks!   

*These rules do not include or replace the standard rules of trail running safety!  Obviously, do not run alone in a dangerous area; let people know where you are going; do not run if you have a medical condition without getting the okay from your doctor; do not run in an area that has had sightings of escaped convicts, zombies, wild boar, or unaccompanied teenagers;  do not run in the dark unless you are being supervised by a guide possum;  do not run in or near hunting areas during hunting seasons or Celtic rituals, especially if you have antlers;  and finally, do not run without remembering how awesome you are just for getting outside when you could have used that time to rewatch an old episode of Sherlock.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

This Old Backpack

I always put off back to school shopping until the last week.  It's not that I dread school starting, I just enjoy summer with the kids and it's hard to get into the "back to school" mentality until it's only a few days away.  We were so busy tracking down the right glue sticks and markers, I completely forgot that our rising second grader had a raggedy backpack!  

I like making things last as long as possible and I wasn't about to toss a perfectly okay (yet raggedy) backpack that could last another year (or two) if the side pockets hadn't turned into a shredded mess.   Oh, and by the way, I will think twice before purchasing a new backpack with that flimsy mesh junk again!  You're probably thinking I'm crazy for making such a big deal over side pockets, but I really like side pockets... and hydration!

So... the day before (yes, the day before) the first day of school, I ripped off what was left of the mesh and proceeded to crochet a pocket.  Basically, I made a cozy/cylinder using one of their water bottles and left an opening (where it attaches to the backpack)... so it was like a 3/4 cozy.  I started out with a circle for the base (single crochet), then worked the side back and forth in a half-double crochet/diamond stitch pattern.  Next, I found a large needle, some strong embroidery thread, and attached it to the backpack with a ton of stitches.  I left the blue elastic strap at the top to help secure the water bottle.  

I'm curious as to how well it will hold up throughout the year.  So far, in spite of looking a bit eccentric, it's working out well and her water stays cooler during these 95 degree school days.  The other side of the backpack looks basically like the first photo.  I only had time for one side and ... well... that's another day.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Blanket Statement

I first learned to crochet when I was 12.  My mom would make those funky ("funky" in a good way) ripple afghans and they were remarkably cozy and practical.  I watched her and picked up on the double stitch ripple groove and made about 10 afghans one year.  Sadly, after compulsive coverlet creating, I kind of fizzled out and focused on smaller projects for the next few decades.

"Citrus Rose"
Several weeks ago, our younger daughter asked me to crochet a blanket for her.  I thought, "why not?" We looked over some ideas on Ravelry and we always love the beautiful designs and ideas from Lucy of Attic 24.  We went with the Granny Stripe Blanket.  After the initial 2 starting rows, which are mostly just long and a bit boring, the rest is a breeze!  There are so many options here.  You can go crazy with color or keep it refined.  You can crochet lengthwise or widthwise, depending on how you want your stripes to run.  I went with assorted colors from my cotton Sugar N' Cream stash, we call the finished product "Citrus Rose."  For the edging, I used a basic shell stitch.  

"Violet Bluebell"

Of course, our older daughter wanted one immediately after feeling the airy, yet cozy softness of the triple-crocheted granny stripe stitch. Since she loves blues, I went with a cooler-hued stash to create "Violet Bluebell."  I used a different edging here, I'm not sure what the appropriate name for it is.  Basically, I start with a shell stitch and add a picot stitch to the middle of the shell.  

These blankets are perfect for this time of year, especially when they are made of cotton yarn.  You could also use a double stitch as opposed to triple, to create a slightly tighter feel to the blanket.  Thicker, woolier yarn would also add warmth, if you need that.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lions, Tigers, and a Bear of a Project!

My latest painting was a big one!  9' x 24' to be exact.  I painted a jungle/forest background for my little one's first grade play titled "Welcome to the Jungle."  I know what you are thinking.  At first, I was wondering who would get the role of Axl Rose but as it turned out, they used an entirely different "Welcome to the Jungle."  In spite of being a "bear of a project," I enjoyed every minute of it.  Painting for kids is the greatest honor.

I used approximately 10 cans of spray paint to create the background.  Since the kids were going to be dressed in warm colors such as monkey brown, giraffe gold, and lion bronze, I thought lots of cool blues and purples interspersed with sunrise colors would make the setting "pop."  2 heavy duty drop cloths from Home Depot served as the medium for this sizable project.  I cannot even begin to count the bottles of paint that went into the trees and assorted flora... let's just say I have a lot of bottles to recycle.

The biggest challenges involved space.  Ideally, I would have a huge wall with clamps for this type of project.  Alas, I do not.  I have a small table with clamps.  So, I did the best I could and took the canvas out after each painting session to get a true perspective of it in the driveway.

It took a few weeks to do this and the weather certainly did not help.  We had an unusual amount of snow for central Virginia, so it was often too wet to take the canvas out.  The play was also bumped back a couple of times because of all the snow days.  The music teacher in charge of this production has the patience of a saint, not to mention the energy of a hummingbird!

In the meantime, a handful of crafty, devoted moms were cutting felt, stitching lion manes, gluing feathers, and attaching monkey ears for dozens and dozens of little creatures.  The kids looked amazing and had no trouble getting into character with these adorable costumes.

Given the theme and the ages of the performers, the look I went for was kind of a "whimsical storybook edge-of-the-jungle" look.  The result was lots of very happy first graders who were proud to be "in the jungle!"  I would love to include a photo of the actual children dressed up for the play, but I have this weird thing about using children's images (other than my own) on my blog.  Trust me, it looks better with all the hippos, monkeys, and adorable faces in the foreground!

More images from the process...

painting the background on the first "dry" day

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hues of Blues

My kids often ask me the burning question, "Mommy, what is your favorite color?"  Of course, I never have a simple answer.  It usually goes something like... "Well, it depends on the setting and the situation.  I love green trees, periwinkle skies, to wear I prefer blacks, dark plums, ... " and it continues.  If I had to choose just one color, I would probably say green.  When I look at my Etsy shop, however, there are a lot of blues.

I did a little statistical observation and examined the first 6 pages of my Etsy shop.  I calculated the percentage of items in certain colors and the results were, well, not remotely shocking or exciting.

Blue won, with 34% of the listings being predominantly blue.

First runner up was green, with 31%.

I was a little surprised that only 16% was purple (with some lavender/pink hues).

I intentionally made my 2nd page predominately warm colors.  Red/orange is still only 14%.

Anyone preferring yellows and golds would probably not be that excited about my shop.  Only 5% of the items are in those hues.  I did not count the brass finish on some of my jewelry items, mostly I looked at the images featured.

I only have a trivial amount of white/grey listings.  This means I am rarely a candidate for Etsy's front page!
This item actually made it to the front page. 

What does this all mean?  It probably means it wouldn't hurt for me to get crazy and paint a few yellow/golden tree and forest scenes.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Scenes from a Fairy Tale Wedding

A while back, I had the pleasure of working with a lovely bride who wanted me to paint a backdrop for her wedding.   Since I had to ship this huge slab of artwork from the U.S. to South Africa, I needed something lighter than a traditional canvas.  I used curtains.  Yes, curtains.  Large, canvas-like curtains.  After adding layers, layers, and more layers of acrylic paint, the curtains felt more like heavy vinyl but I was pleased with the end result.

She sent me so many gorgeous photos!  Notice the bride is wearing one of my pendants...

...and Twig Studio bookmarks were wedding favors!

The bride and groom were adorable and the setting was absolutely magical!  

Apparently, the donkeys got to sample the bouquet!  

Happily ever after, you two!  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Managing and Mastering Mayhem

I love the holidays but the aftermath can be a bit of downer.  By the end of December, my studio was a complete wreck.  This image doesn't even show the half of it... the fourth of it!   I was starting to have anxiety attacks just thinking about the cardboard boxes in the floor, the paper scraps in the carpet, the bottles of paint sitting next to bottles of glue and glitter.

When you create, sell, and ship paintings, cards, jewelry, bookmarks, music, crocheted items, wine glasses, and assorted trinkets, the real challenge is organization, storage, and disposal.  Oh, I also sew and I have an embarrassing fabric collection.  I try to recycle paper and I reuse paper grocery bags and cardboard boxes as much as possible.  In fact, I go overboard.  I keep more cardboard boxes than I will ever use and I tend to keep small pieces of paper bags that should honestly be tossed.  I will never use all of the yarn that I have piled up in my stash and I have paintings I would not put up for display or sale, ironically stored next to the mountains of yarn.  I have clutter.  

I have checked out a few books for removing clutter, wasted precious time on Pinterest looking at organizational ideas, and crocheted countless grocery bags with the excess yarn in my stash to thin it out.  Realistically, I know that it is my nature to collect things that could have a useful purpose and as long as the clutter situation is kept in a sanitary state, is it really a problem?  Chaos is natural, it exists in the weather, geological formations, ecological phenomena...  I embrace chaos.  

After some focused cleanup with a little help from my husband, it's now clean chaos!  Sort of.  I still have a lot of work to do but I would rather spend my time permanently splattering my workspace with paint and finding a use for my obscure assortment of fabrics. 

a path!