April 29, 2012

more paper and ink-- and some other stuff

Friday after work, I got out the inks and stencils again. I didn't take any pictures of the process, which I should have-- I was sitting out on the grass, with my papers and inks scattered all around, holding the paper down when the wind blew... I'm sure it was quite comical to watch, although Tom didn't say so (thank goodness).
I got some pretty interesting patterns and colors to use for my scrapbooking and art journaling-- some were 'real' stencils purchased from the art store, but some patterns were made with more unusual things- one of the pieces in the upper left photo has a blue shape that reminds me of a chess or game piece, which was actually packaging from a plumbing fixture, I think (I saved it months ago, so I don't remember exactly where it came from). The upper right photo has a pattern on that's actually from 'sequin waste' which is leftover from when they manufacture sequins. And the lower right photo is my collection of inks-- I have 10 so far, but there's enough space in that container for a couple more, I think!! lol!
a random photo, taken in the side window of my car-- I'm trying to decide between finishing growing out my bangs, or getting them cut again, so they're out of my eyes. --so far, I haven't made a decision.
another journal page that uses some random different things; a magazine image (the greenhouse image), some painted papers, and photocopies of some of my journal pages, both in color and in black&white. (those pieces of paper covered up some writing underneath that I didn't really like the look of-- if you don't like it, cover it up!!) The bottom border is decorative tape (3 different kinds, layered on top of each other).
and, to finish it off, another random shot-- I had these old bath towels out for something (can't remember what) and put them here till I could carry them upstairs. Turns out, Butters thought they looked quite comfy! 

April 24, 2012

back to playing with paper, ink, and glue--

you've probably noticed that I haven't done any art-making for a while, haven't you? I get plenty of inspiration on the web for scrapbook layouts and art techniques, but just haven't felt like actually executing any of them lately. This makes me feel 'out of sorts' and even less inclined to do any art-- it's a vicious cycle that's difficult to break out of. It seems to go in cycles for me, between scrapbooking, art journaling, and regular life (laundry, hanging out with Tom, cooking dinner, dogs and cats, working, you know- the usual life stuff) along with other things. Lately it's been the other things that have taken over- I've been doing a lot of reading (I've read some pretty good books and I still have a stack of 'to-be-read' books sitting on the kitchen table), which is good, since I love reading. Scrapbooking seems to take too much preparation and planning, so that's out till my next weekend getaway (in a couple weeks- yay!!) but I've finally gotten to the point where I just had to do something with paper and glue-- 

Last weekend, I went to the Creating Keepsakes Convention vendor fair-- I picked up a couple new products that I'd been wanting to try (along with some yummy new scrapbooking paper I'll show you soon), and this pile of papers is my first results. One of the more popular things out there right now is spray inks, which you can use by themselves on your scrapbook or journal pages, or use with masks or stencils. I got 6 colors of ink, and a new stencil: The photo above is some of my inky experiments, on brown paper, vintage writing paper (you know, the thin brown paper with lines, that little kids use when they're learning to write?) and a scalloped piece of textured scrapbook paper.
This was made with the new stencil (it's of an antique ledger page) and some of my new inks- the brown, sunshine yellow (it looks a bit orange here) and green are new Dylusions Ink Sprays. Very vibrant, saturated translucent colors, and they're going to be fun to play with once I get the hang of them. I've oversprayed the ledger page background with another stencil- the thin branches. (by the way, this was all done on the brown paper bag the stencil and inks came in, from the store- how's that for recycling?? lol!!) The blue is a different ink I already had (October Afternoon Sprinklers) and gives more of an opaque coverage.

And here ^^^ is the first art journal page I've made in months. I used a bit of one of the stenciled and inked papers (it's in the upper right-hand corner-- it's got pink, green, and the sunshine-yellow inks on it), and a few things pulled from here and there in my collage stash. The background is heavy watercolor paper, which I colored with my Stabilo 3 in 1 Woody pencils. (they're chunky colored pencil-slash-watercolor-slash-wax crayons, and they're a ton of fun to use!). I also used a couple of my newest decorative tape purchases from Target (the blue stripe and the light pink polka dot). 
Here's a close-up of the text; a Georgia O'Keefe quote which reads: "I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way- things I had no words for." I thought it was fitting, since I had been without my 'art-making' words for a few months, now-- it feels really good to get back into it again!

Here's an extreme close-up: I also drew in details with some of my Signo gel pens (sparkle, glaze, and my favorite, the white pen- the one from Japan-- it's the best!). 
And, because it is still spring in the desert (even if it DID break a heat record from 1949 yesterday with a temperature of 105F recorded at Sky Harbor Airport- yick!!), I thought I'd close with a couple spring-ish photos. These photos are of our backyard mesquite tree in full bloom. Not your typical-looking flower, are they?? Actually, each of these fuzzy catkins is made up of hundreds of tiny flowers. 
They are a somewhat messy tree, actually, between the teeny oval leaves (they fall off in the winter and are impossible to rake, being that they're only about 1/8 inch long) and the beanpods that form after the blooms are pollinated, but I do love the shape of the tree, and the shade it gives the backyard! So now, I think that brings me up to date with what's blooming and growing in our yard-- I'll have to keep my eyes out for the next thing!  (after I make a few more art journal pages, that is- lol!!)

April 22, 2012

random photos

just some random photos from the last week's activities...

last Sunday, I met one of my friends (Jessica, also a co-worker) at 'As You Wish' for an afternoon of crafty artmaking. This store is one of those place where you can paint your own pottery and get it fired; they also recently added glass fusing to their 'menu' which is what we did. You pay a flat fee for the workspace, time, and colored glass, and pay separately for your glass 'base' (they have sizes from coasters up to a 12 in. platter), then pay for it to be fired in the kiln. You make whatever design you want, leave it with them to fire, then you pick it up when it's done. It was a really fun time!! They provided safety glasses, a cutter, snipping pliers thingamajigs, gloves, etc. and we provided the creativity. 

Here's my design, in progress- I did some abstract (easier than realistic!) cacti; an ocotillo with two prickly pear, sandy desert, and some clouds. It was harder to come up with a design than I thought it would be, but in the end, I liked my result. They provided boxes with pieces in all different colors, and you can cut whatever shape you want-- they also provide containers of 'frit' which is basically ground up glass, like glitter. That's what I used for the sand. The larger pieces are glued in place with good old Elmer's, and the frit is held in place with- wait for it- hair spray!!  That keeps the pieces in place till it's fired, when the layers of glass get fused together with the heat.

 Our rope cholla, with the first couple blooming flowers. There's many more to come-- it's just loaded with buds! The bees were happy about the new flowers, and were quite busy.
 The prickly pear is going to go crazy with flowers, too-- the bulgy bits you can see across the top of each pad are all flower buds!! It's also going crazy with new plant growth, too-- I'll need to prune some of the new pads off before they get too much bigger, to keep it under control.
A cute baby birdy in amongst bougainvillea blossoms. (do you like that alliteration?) This was taken at the Tempe Marketplace mall, outside the 'As You Wish' store... this mall has a lot of really pretty outdoor spaces with flower plantings, fountains, fire pits, and tables and chairs for relaxing. (they also have misting systems for the summer, thank goodness!)

 hibiscus (?) flower- also at the mall
 baby birdy's mama, coming to feed him. She didn't appreciate me hanging out there, so I left them alone after I got a halfways decent photo.
 talk about random, this one is definitely it! I just liked the swirly rainbow-colored design on this vending machine. (maybe I'll use this idea somehow in a scrapbook or art journal page someday.) 
 a couple more 'totally random' things: first is this bike rack design, also from the mall. Second is the fact that the other day I accidentally shut Ariel in the pantry for the entire day! LOL!! I looked for her before I left for work, but couldn't find her-- I figured she was upstairs looking out the window, but she popped right out of the door when I opened it to get the dog food in the afternoon-- darn her, she's quick! I don't know how she snuck in there without me seeing. (and she's quiet; she didn't meow at all, even when I was calling her! Luckily, she didn't destroy the place while she was stuck inside all day.)
 more totally random: just a shot of what can fit in my Fit. We unfortunately just had to get rid of our chest freezer- it finally gave up the ghost after 10 years of use and five moves... :(  Luckily, the local recycle place was having a free bulk hazardous waste dropoff, so we took it there yesterday to get rid of it. 
 the first prickly pear blossom-- when I first moved here, all the bright flower colors took a bit of getting used to, but I've since come to realize that they fit in with all the bright sunshine we have here. Paler colors would just be 'washed out' visually in all that bright light.
Look, our backyard is a putting green! Not really, but it does look as good as one- Tom spent a few hours today out in the hot sun (the high today was 100+) mowing and edging the grass for the first time. He mowed it down a bit farther than usual, to get rid of as much of last season's dead growth as possible. The dogs are still trying to find some leftover grass stems to eat, though!! sadly, no salad for them today.
Butters checks out my finished glass piece... I'm not sure whether she likes it or not; she'd probably like it better if it had cat food on it! I really like how it turned out! I don't think it's going to be used for anything though, except to decorate the kitchen (once I figure out how to hang it, that is).  

April 18, 2012

A Sunday Drive (aka: let's see where this road goes!)

caution: very picture-heavy post ahead! (click on any of them to view larger.)

We've been living in Maricopa for years now, but never had occasion to drive west out of town... so, a couple weeks ago we decided it was time to see what was out there! Turns out, what was out there was sort of interesting! If you like that sort of activity, that is... which we both do, on occasion. 

Hwy 238 heads west and ends at the town of Gila Bend, about 40 miles away. Gila Bend is a sort of 'way-station' where you can pick up Interstate 8, if you're heading to San Diego. But, it's interesting in its own right (I confess, I did 'Google' it before we headed out, just to make sure there was something there worth seeing!)

Before we got to Gila Bend, we passed through some very pretty open desert and mountains... The photo above is a Saguaro cactus next to its 'nurse tree' that I spotted along the highway. (The saguaro is protected by the tree as it grows, then eventually outgrows its shade and shelter.) We actually stopped at a trailhead for the 'Sonoran Desert National Monument', an area consisting of almost 500,000 acres of desert landscape run by the Bureau of Land Management. We certainly weren't wearing the proper clothes for hiking, but I would love to go back there and explore (a little, anyway). 
So- Gila Bend was founded in the 1870s, and is named for a nearby bend in the Gila River (surprised? lol!). It's near the site of an ancient Hohokam village that was visited by Spanish priests and colonists as early as 1699 (it still boggles my mind that things out here are that old!), one of them being Juan Bautista de Anza, who traveled through this area on his way to settle San Francisco. Now, the town's population is around 2000, although it looks like there might have been more to it at one time, since it's right along historic stagecoach routes and right next to the transcontinental railroad route.
These photos (the Stout's Hotel sign, as well as the ones above and below), are from hotels in town. Stout's Hotel was built in the early 1900s, and according to the information posted, was a popular stop for actors from California on their way to Tucson to film Western movies at the Old Tucson movie studios. The other hotel and restaurant's design is quintessential mid-century modern, isn't it??  
I love the sign!!  We went into the 'Space Age' restaurant to check it out, but didn't stay long. From info on the internet, it seems the motel was built in 1962, and the restaurant burned to the ground in 1998 but was rebuilt shortly after. Apparently the interior was a lot more kitchy and funky before they rebuilt it; plus, the reviews I read of the menu were just so-so, with ordinary-sounding food.
So, this is where we ate, instead! Sofia's Mexican Food, a bit farther along the main drag through town. Not much to look at from the inside, but wait till you see pics of the food!! We got lunch and an appetizer... and, we ended up having enough food for lunch the next day, too. 

We decided to get a quesadilla as an appetizer- we had no idea it would be as large as a pizza! (it was tasty, but we did need to save room for our entrees.)
Tom's Carnitas chimichanga-- very tasty as well. There were a couple fast food restaurants in town, and there were actually people at those places, but I really can't fathom why someone would want to eat Taco Bell or Burger King when they could get this instead! 
My combo plate with two carne asada tacos and a shredded beef tamale. Again, tasty!! (I remember, though, when I lived in Illinois, I thought Taco Bell was what Mexican food was like-- boy, was I wrong!)
This is a bit of the restaurant interior. (apparently,  the owner Sofia lives in Phoenix, which sort of bummed me out-- if we were at her restaurant, I wanted her to work there, or at least visit the place while we were there!)
And then, of course, we had to stop at the 'World Famous' Gila Bend Gift Shop. Didn't actually buy anything, but there were a couple photo ops, like this one of Tom standing next to the gigantic Gila Monster on the front wall. (it could have been ours for only $600, too- lol!)
The backyard of the shop was full of iron sculptures and yard art (mostly made in Mexico, I believe). I loved this goofy stagecoach wagon train of ants!! Sadly, the gift shop is for sale, along with its entire inventory, for only $175,000. The whole town had the somewhat 'abandoned' feeling of the small town in the movie Cars-- it was 'passed by' when the interstate was built. With a number of empty businesses and run-down buildings on the main drag, Gila Bend seemed to also have been 'passed by' since most automobile traffic probably bypasses the town entirely nowadays by traveling on the interstate (unless someone wants to stop at McDonald's or the gas station, that is).
The train still goes through Gila Bend, but now that the automobile has overtaken the train for personal travel, it looks like it's mostly freight trains on their way through to somewhere else. We walked along the tracks for a bit, right behind the Space Age Lodge motel... 
I got a couple nice photo ops, with the water tower, some abandoned gondola cars, and the train that came through as we were walking along the tracks- the engineer even gave a few extra whistle blasts for us as he went by!
an 'artsy-type' photo of the abandoned gondola car-- although it looks positively ancient, the date on it was 1995, I think-- apparently a lot of travel take a toll! (I look pretty bad after traveling for a long time, too- lol!!)
a shot of statues at a roadside shrine along the highway... 
and one last shot of the desert landscape near the Sonoran Desert Monument. (I recommend clicking on this one to view it larger, for sure.) The ocotillos were just amazingly gorgeous along this stretch of road; this photograph reminds me of a vintage picture postcard! 

If you got this far, thanks for reading, and for coming along with me on our Sunday drive mini road trip!

April 09, 2012

AZ spring flowers- a couple snapshots

not the best photos, but wanted to get a couple snapshot of spring blooms in our backyard flowers to show my Mom-- here you go!

one of our aloe plants- it's very reminiscent of how hostas bloom, to me. 
(notice the group of pups around the main plant? yeah, I think we'll have to keep an eye on this one, for sure!)

 a close-up of the flowers- it looks like only a few of them are actually blooming at any one time, and they bloom from the bottom (again, very reminiscent of a hosta) We have seen the hummingbirds at them, although I think I'd have to sit for hours to actually get a photo of it.

 a poor photo of our backyard ocotillo- the gray canes against a brown wall doesn't photograph too well! (fyi, I did some funky editing with the photo, too...) if you look up at the top near the top text, the small orange dots are actually the flower clusters, at the top of the canes. 

here, I was trying to get a close-up of the flower clusters- kind of hard to do, considering they're 7 or 8 feet up!! Like the aloe, these are also small, tubular flowers that the hummers drink from. (I can't imagine they get too much from any one flower, though!)
this photo I found on the internet is a bit lot better: web photo of ocotillo with bee

so yes, there are flowers in the desert-- you just have to look a bit harder for them!