Sunday, December 14, 2014

My December Garden

(Click on any picture to view a larger image.)

Snapdragons
Spike plant and Ivy
It is the middle of December here in New York and Mother Nature still amazes me. I still have flowers blooming and my cilantro is still perky. In the glass shed I use as a makeshift greenhouse, there is a pot of white snapdragons that won't quit. It just keeps blooming and blooming. Right next to it there is a pot that contains a spike plant and some ivy that is as fresh now as it was in June.



Cilantro
Sweet Allysum
Lest you think that the only plants performing well are in a sheltered environment, let me introduce you to some of the others that are planted outdoors. Although my white sweet allysum which grew and bloomed like gangbusters all summer is waning, it is still putting on a show with a handful of tiny white snowball blooms.

Lavender
Pansies
In raised beds on either side of the allysum I have lavender and cilantro. The cilantro doesn't grow tall in this weather but the leaves are still fragrant and tasty and I just harvested some for my kitchen. In my backyard I have purple pansies that apparently missed the memo that winter was upon us and are still blooming with impudence.

I've been making adjustments to the hoop house I erected over the raised bed in my front garden. Last year I dismantled it for the winter and covered the bed with a layer of bubble wrap to insulate the soil somewhat and protect the onions I had planted. It seemed to work well enough. This year I'm trying something different. I'm planning to keep the hoop up and covering it with plastic and have added a ridge pole across the top of my hoops to strengthen the structure. I'm making a fitted cover for the hoop house from a roll of heavy duty plastic. I'm going to order special clips to hold the plastic in place and plan to install openings that will allow me to access the interior of the structure. I've never done this before and have no clue how this will work out so wish me luck. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Until then...

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Crunch Time

(Click on any photo to view a larger image.)

Thanksgiving has come and gone and my head is still reeling from the speed with which the holiday season arrived. You would think that by now I would get the hang of this seasonal timing but I seem to be slipping backwards each year. I can almost feel Christmas sitting in my lap already and I haven't done a thing about it yet.


As my To Do list gets longer and longer, it's becoming more difficult to carve out time to make cards but I was able to eke out two simple ones in the last week. When my time gets crunched, I have to do away with frou-frous and work simply and quickly.

First, there is a birthday card for my purple-loving daughter in the Coast Guard who loves all things aquatic. The color choice and theme were obvious and it gave me the opportunity to play with a die set I had not used before, Spellbinders Shapeabilities Nautical Frame and Accents. It features a frame sized for an ATC (Artist Trading Card: 2.5" x 3.5") with a cute little sand castle in one corner, as well as other dies related to the nautical theme such as the wave pattern along the bottom of the card. I embossed the background with Spellbinders M-Bossabilities Sea Beauty embossing folder, then stamped and embossed the sentiment. Simple.

The other card was created for a swap with Oriental Stamp Art (OSA) Yahoo group, of which I am a member. This was part of the monthly Black and One Color swap. Participants make a card using only black and shades of a second color. This month is was red. Again I had the opportunity to play with a stamp set that I had actually forgotten about and never used before, Floral Vine (CS220G) by Forever in Time. I had a small piece of the black and red dragonfly washi paper and layered it onto red cardstock. Stamped the dragonfly from the Floral Vine set onto the red circle with VersaFine Onyx Black ink, then stamped a portion of a swirl from the same stamp set in VersaMark watermark ink and dusted it with PearlEx pigment powder (one of my favorite techniques). I lightly sponged VersaFine Smokey Grey ink around the edges of the circle, layered it onto the card then stuck on some red rhinestone bling in one corner. Again, very simple yet effective.

I'm still hoping to find time to make some Christmas cards to send out. Oh well, one more thing for my To So list.

Ballo ergo sum .
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Healing Myself through Art

(Click on a photo to view a larger image.)

It happened again. My husband brought home a bug and infected everyone in the house. He got over it in a few days. I, on the other hand, have been feeling lousy for a week. Although I'm grateful that I have no coughing, little sneezing and no fever, the lethargy I am experiencing is awful. Normally I am an energetic person with a hundred and one things to do and a hundred more that I want to do. When I'm feeling this dragged out and blecchh, I do only those things  that comfort me and for me that's art.
 I completed these two cards this week. The pink and black card is for a Black and One Color swap and will go to one of my fellow Oriental Stamp Art members who lives in Australia. The layout is simple and clean and contains many of the elements I love most - high contrast, silhouettes and just a touch of bling.

The blue monochromatic treescape was made as a thank you card for our upstate neighbor who has been like a godfather to us, helping us out with just about anything we needed with the house we have purchased up the road from him. The bare trees remind me of the mountains that surround us in upstate New York. In my last post, I posted a photo of the first area snowfall as seen from the deck of our home and served as the inspiration for the card. It is a one layer card created with masking and sponging techniques as well and multiple stamping to create the forest. Again, it is simple in its layout but conveys a sense of serenity and calm. It also is suitable for a man, something that I struggle with most times because I love using more feminine touches.

These two cards, along with massive amounts of chicken soup and rest, have been my medicine. No doctor visit, no prescriptions and no co-pay. Can't beat that.


Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, November 3, 2014

Snow On The Mountain

(Click on any photo to view a larger image.)

Battery lanterns for light.
Kerosene heater for warmth.
After many years of dreaming about it, my husband and I finally purchased a home in the mountains of upstate New York. Like any home that is not brand new construction, it requires some tender loving care to make it livable. It also requires some utilities. That's right, there is no electricity, no gas, no water. We're in the process of getting these utilities turned on but it has been a nightmare dealing with National Grid for our electricity. Without power, we can't get our gas turned on and we can't pump water. This should be taken care of this week. In the meantime, hubby and I have been up to the house twice this month and we've essentially been camping indoors. Fortunately for us, we are old hands at camping and have been making do with a little help from our neighbor who has allowed us to get water and use his kerosene heater.
Western view from the deck.

Northern view from the deck.
It gets a lot colder a lot faster up in the mountains and this past Sunday we awoke to find a dusting of snow lying on the ground and clinging to the trees. It was beautiful...cold but beautiful. I took these photos from the deck in front of the main entry door. A view like this makes all the work and the inconveniences worthwhile.


Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Month's Worth of News

(Click on the photo to view a large image.)

One month ago I created a Hallowe'en scene from electronic cutting files just for the heck of it. (Go HERE to see that post.) I enjoyed that project so much that I decided to create another one. The top right photo is the scene I created in September. Center right is the scene I completed in time for Hallowe'en.

Although I used the same house, I took a little creative license with it and tricked it out a bit. This house boasts molding around the windows, purple shingles on the roof and overhangs as well as doors that open and close. There's also a bit more going on in the scene. The flying bats are three dimensional with wings that pop off the page. There's a real bad ass evil tree lurking to the right of the fence watching the group of trick or treaters approaching the house. When the doors of the house are opened, the Grim Reaper is standing there awaiting the arrival of his "guests". I tried to give the scene a little more dimension with a cloudy sky detailed in shades of gray, blue and purple chalk. The grounds around the house are also detailed in shades of gray and green inks. The rolling clouds and ground were created using a masking and stippling technique.


To see more detail photos of this project, visit my Photobucket gallery HERE.

In other news, this month has been one for the books. My son celebrated his 25th birthday, my daughter was here on leave from the Coast Guard, my husband and I had multiple social engagements and, as if that's not exhausting enough, we bought a house in the mountains which will become our retirement home. Halloween Day also happens to be our anniversary. This year marks 28 years married. All this and the holidays haven't arrived yet.

I'm tired just thinking about next month.


Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, October 3, 2014

Another Floral Surprise

(Click on a photo to view a larger image.)

Last year I got a zebra plant (Aphelandra squarrosa) that miraculously survived the dry air in my home over the last frigid winter. This year, when the weather warmed sufficiently, I placed in outdoors next to my avocado and mini roses. A few weeks ago I noticed something I hadn't seen before. It appeared as if my plant was going to bloom! Never having had a zebra plant before, I didn't know that it bloomed. I assumed it was a foliage plant. Well, I was wrong. Here are some photos showing the transition from foliage to bracht to blossoms. Now that October is here and the first frost is not far behind, this last hurrah of summer is a very welcome sight.

 

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Clearing A Creative Block

(Click on any photo to view a larger image.)

Last night as I returned home I was welcomed by a surprise in my garden. The moon flowers that I had planted months ago and that never germinated (or so I thought) had not only sprouted but had climbed up my trellis and were in full bloom. Apparently they were hiding among the other vines climbing the trellis and went undetected. If you are not familiar with moon flowers, they are glorious. Their blossoms are creamy white and are the same shape as those of a morning glory (the two are related) but they measure anywhere from four to five inches across, only opening at night. Because of their creamy color, they look like miniature moons floating over the garden. I can't tell you what a smile it brought to my face to see the return of one of my favorite nocturnal flowers. HERE is a link to a one minute video I found online of a moon flower opening in real time - FAST!

The feel-good emotions I got from viewing my gorgeous flowers helped me to crack through a creative block I was experiencing with a Halloween decoration I was working on. This scene was created using several free digital cutting files, most of which came from birdscards.com. You can find many of the files used in this scene HERE. Choosing which files to use and where to place them was easy. My block came at the very end of construction when I didn't know what to do with the top border and the space between the words at the bottom border. I let the project sit and stew for a day, then returned to it the morning after my moon flower surprise. The creative cobwebs were gone and the project was finished in no time.

Moral of the story: A walk in the garden can clear your mind.


Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Creative Withdrawal Pains

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

In the past two weeks since my parent's birthday celebration and all the work that went into planning the event (click here to read about it), I had hoped to catch my breath and slow down for a bit. Not a chance. I spent the time catching up on things I had to set aside in advance of the celebration. So busy have I been that I haven't had any time to sit down and craft just for the pure enjoyment of it. I don't do very well when I can't create something. I become irritable and easily annoyed, much like a smoker in need of a cigarette. Tonight I finally decided to put everything aside and make a card.

My layout is rather simple and yet while I was making the card I felt like a neophyte, trying to figure out what to do. It seemed to take me forever to complete. One reason is because I chose to hand color the flower with colored pencils, something I haven't done in quite a while and had been missing. I suppose another reason is because I'm out of practice. Now that the card is complete I can go to sleep and rest.

Verse and floral image stamps are from Stampin' Up's Asian Artistry stamp set. Background washi paper from Hanko Designs. Stardream Gold accent paper. Black satin ribbon layered onto sheer gold ribbon for embellishment.

I'm off to bed. Zzzzzzz.

Ballo ergo sum

- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Memories Are Made Of This.

(Click on any photo to view a larger image.)

Every summer I vow to slow down and enjoy. Every summer I do anything but. This summer was no exception. I'll not bother to mention my gardening work. There's plenty of that in other posts. I'll just get to the rest of it.

I had heard that one of my cousins in Arizona had sustained a very bad leg break that would keep her in a cast for three to six months. I sent her this black and white get well card. Materials used were Spellbinders Nestabilities Scalloped Circles and Standard Circles, Spellbinders Borderabilities A2 Curved Borders 1, Memory Box Vivienne (cutout) and Darla (solid) butterfly dies, Spellbinders Shapeabilities Sprigs (leaves) and Cuttlebug Swiss Dots embossing folder. Solid butterfly was cut from vellum and embossed. I punched tiny flowers, sponged the edges with a coordinating ink and embellished them with tiny self adhesive rhinestones. Stamped verse from Inkadinkado Round Frames set.

My parents share the same birthday. My father, who is a year older, turned 80 this year and we marked the occasion with a semi-surprise luncheon at my house. The birthday card I made for them also served as an invitation to dine at my home. I call it a semi-surprise because although they knew my sister's family and mine would be there, they were not aware of the other family members that had been invited. My father, in particular, was surprised at the attendance of his brother and nephews who live nearly three hours away and whom he doesn't get to see very often. Card materials feature a variety of die punch and electronic cut flowers and leaves, Spellbinders Floral Ovals and text from Cloud 9 Design's Simple Thoughts - Happy Birthday clear stamps.

In a large heart shaped basket I placed some paper, envelopes and pens along with this oversized tag (left)  featuring a photo of my folks taken during their youth. It was the same photo I used for their anniversary favors. The guests were encouraged to write a message to the birthday couple or to insert a card of their own into the basket. As decorations I created more oversized tags, this time featuring a photo of my handsome father taken at my parents' 60th anniversary celebration in April on one side and the event on the other. I hung these around my house and in the backyard, then distributed them to the guests as favors afterwards. The tags, the heart, the corner stars and the black text were cut using Craftwell's eCraft electronic cutter. I created the cutting files in Serif DrawPlus 6. The black text is self-stick vinyl.

Here is a picture of my father posing with his photo cake. Yes, people, he really does look like that. No Photoshop. No trick photography. My dad is a handsome man who looks much younger than his 80 years. Eat your hearts out, ladies.

This is a photo of some more handsome men, my son, Alex, holding my cousin's grandson, William, both of them wearing a good coating of cake frosting on their faces. The expressions on those faces are priceless. My nephew Michael in the background is also enjoying the moment. The fact that a sudden deluge washed out the backyard and we all had to run indoors didn't dampen the fun.

Family, food and good times. This is what memories are made of.


Ballo ergo sum

- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Babies Are Back!!

Two weeks ago, the unthinkable occurred. My computer died. Well, not exactly died. It was more like it went into a coma. It would begin as usual and then hang at the BIOS screen and not boot up so for all intents and purposes it was dead. I couldn't access anything on my hard drive and  (HORROR OF HORRORS!!) I couldn't connect to the internet. This state of affairs was particularly vexing inasmuch as I had just upgraded my system's RAM, video card, operating system and power supply. I had invested in enough upgrades to consider my computer brand new. It was working beautifully for three weeks until PFFFFT!...it wouldn't boot up. I immediately called my brother-in-law, the computer whiz who installed all the upgrades. He had never before seen anything like the problem I had. After eliminating all the obvious causes, he guessed that the problem was either the motherboard or the hard drive, neither of which is good news. It was now time to call in the big guns.

I took my electronic lifeline to Sysut Computers on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn and left it in the capable hands of Adam. The following day I heard the diagnosis...it was, indeed, the motherboard, a rare but not unknown condition. A replacement board had to be ordered, installed and the computer checked to make sure all was running well. The new replacement took nearly a week to arrive. Although it took very little time to install, there was still the issue of testing the machine to make sure everything was running correctly. This ran into the Labor Day weekend so, of course, I couldn't get it back until after the holiday. All told, I was without a computer for 15 days. My trusty Kindle Fire allowed me to access my email during the downtime.

Normally I lose my mind when my computer acts up. My heart starts to race, my breathing becomes quick and shallow and hyperventilation is a distinct possibility. The thought of cutting the electronic umbilicus is gut wrenching but this time...nothing. When faced with the reality that my machine was not going to move past the blue BIOS screen, I just sighed, then turned to my second favorite machine...my trusty and ever present sewing machine. If I was told I had to leave in a hurry and could only take three things with me, my computer and my sewing machine would be my top two. THAT'S how much they mean to me.

Let me be the first to tell you not to believe those who say that lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place. Why? Because my sewing  machine also gave up the ghost not one, but TWO times in a span of three days. I had it serviced after the first incident, brought it home and it worked like a dream for about 24 hours until I heard an unwelcome CRUNCH and the feed dogs came to a stop. (For you non-sewers, feed dogs feed the fabric past the needle. You cannot machine sew without them.) A second repair shop trip revealed a drive gear that broke into several pieces and tumbled out of the machine like confetti when the repairman opened it. Fortunately it was a quick fix and I was back to sewing in no time. I caught up on loads of mending while I was waiting for the computer to return.

So my mechanical and electronic babies are back at home and I am a happy, happy woman. Happy, that is, until the credit card bill for all these repairs comes in. Hyperventilation may yet be the order of the day.


Ballo ergo sum - Gitana, the Creative Diva