review: Fix Your Garden

Fix Your Garden

Fix Your Garden: How to make small spaces into green oases by Jane Moseley & Jackie Strachan, illustrations by Claire Rollet

This cute book is designed as a guide to creating your garden, whether it be a big yard, balcony pots, or something in between (most of the information is written to an audience working with an in-ground garden plot, though). It starts with the basics and features homey illustrations throughout, providing inspiration and occasional chuckles (such as with adorable depictions of pests like ‘Mrs. Earwig’). The goal of creating a cottage garden is referenced several times and fits well with the design of the book. As this was published in the UK, resources listed are UK-based.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Baldwin Public Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system


review: Colored Pencil Painting Portraits

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits by Alyona Nickelsen

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits: Master a revolutionary method for rendering depth and imitating life by Alonya Nickelsen

I have not done much in the way of colored pencil art myself, but I am a fan of picture books and some of my favorites use colored pencil (among other media). This book focuses on realistically rendered portraits, though, so it’s quite different from those picture books. Nickelsen focuses on using colored pencils to achieve the look of painting and starts with a discussion of some of the other tools that can be used (solvents, blenders, fixatives, and such). She then moves on to discuss portraiture techniques while integrating specific tips related to using colored pencils throughout. The book closes with a focus on five portraits she created, detailing the tools she used and steps she took to create them. An appendix rates various brands of colored pencils when used with different types of papers.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books


review: Garden Made

Garden Made

Garden Made: A Year of Seasonal Projects to Beautify Your Garden & Your Life by Stephanie Whitney-Rose

Divided by season, these projects are made using and reusing commonly available items and range from decorated pots and signs to things that are more fully created from start to finish, like seed paper. Stylistically, they fall into either the cottage garden or shabby chic aesthetic. Most of the projects are designed to live in the garden but several winter projects are suited to the indoors, including a variety of terrariums. A list of resources is provided for vendors offering the materials needed for some of the more specific projects.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Marine City Public Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL service


garage garden progress

This weekend we finally got a little bit of a break from the heat and humidity so I was able to get out and transplant some more clearance perennials and hand-me-downs from my folks.

Garage-surrounding garden

I started by clearing out the last section of this area next to the garage, which was full of crab grass and other weeds (speaking of, the Lamb’s Quarters has been ridiculous this year! It must love the heat). I yanked those out and put in some Coreopsis, Speedwell, Guara, Pachysandra, Lamium, and Vinca. I’m really just trying to get the area covered right now so that it will help keep weeds out. The gnats were THE WORST so I only stayed out as long as I needed to. There’s still some Wisteria popping up in this area but I didn’t take the time to do a good removal job – I just yanked what I could get. Maybe when it’s less horrible outside I can do a better job – I’m sure I will when, eventually, I am moving plants around.

The area this section continues into is looking pretty decent, actually:

Garage-surrounding garden

Aside from the big sprawl of crab grass I need to yank out of the Alyssum, this area is looking pretty okay:

Garage-surrounding garden

And the Alyssum and Hostas on the other side of the garage are looking pretty darn good considering I seeded and transplanted them all this season:

Garage-surrounding garden

Some Candytuft flowers are beginning to poke through the Alyssum in this area:

Dollar store Candytuft seeds coming through

And the Dill I seeded nearer the side of the garage is sprouting! Not sure I’ll get much usable this year, but next year hopefully it will come back:

Dill sprouting

Other areas of the yard are coming along, though due to heat and weeds things are definitely not looking as good as I wish they were. Please try to ignore the horrible crabgrass sprawling everywhere around everything!

The Moonflowers are starting to grow up my improvised triangular trellis:

Moonflower starting to climb

The Morning Glories and Zinnias around the birdbath are coming up:

Bird bath with morning glories and zinnias

I know that Morning Glories will want to be taller than this, but frankly I’m fine with just the foliage at this point.

The shrub rose out front has been reblooming again!

Shrub rose reblooming

I just love how unstoppable this thing is.

Despite being set upon by Japanese Beetles, the Zinnias along the front walkway are blooming pretty nicely!

Front walkway with zinnias and others

At least on the east side of the walkway. The west side must not have gotten as many seeds:

Front walkway with zinnias and others

I am so looking forward to cooler temperatures as we get into fall. I would love to spend a lot more time out in the garden than I’ve been able to – I just can’t take the heat! helped me a lot!


would you care for some Licorice?

Awhile back I wanted to make a hat for a friend who was going through a bit of a rough time. I looked to the internet, as you do, for inspiration and came up with licorice, which represents strength, gives a feeling of satisfaction, and is an anti-inflammatory. I also used multiples of 4, as four is reputed to provide a solid foundation, good support, reliability, commitment, patience, strength of spirit, and intuition.

Licorice Hat

This hat will also be comforting and warm based purely on the fact that it is made from worsted yarn at a gauge that provides coziness.

Licorice Hat

Take a bite at Ravelry, Etsy, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy.


Review: Just Add Watercolor

Just Add Watercolor

Just Add Watercolor by Helen Birch offers “inspiration & painting techniques from contemporary artists.” I am not a painter, nor do I think I’ll take it up anytime soon, but I adore this book regardless. It is set up so that each double page spread is a combination of information about a particular technique or strategy for using watercolors along with a lovely work of art that illustrates the technique or strategy.

I find it interesting to read about these techniques even though I’m not using them – some of the underlying philosophies and ideas translate to other forms of art and creativity. I also find the artwork featured in this book to be very inspiring. They vary quite a lot in style and feeling, but (perhaps because they were selected [or created?] to typify a specific idea, each one provides a connection for the viewer. Despite their relatively small size (the book is only about 5.5″ x 7.5″), I found myself drawn in when looking at each piece. (I will admit that much of my favorite picture book art uses gouache, and a lot of these use that.) I definitely see this as a book I’ll keep at hand to peruse and to use as inspiration for other creative endeavors.

Full disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books.


American Dog Walker: The Art of Bruce Thayer

There is currently a terrific exhibit at the CMU Art Gallery, featuring the works of CMU alum Bruce Thayer, an artist who is heavily influenced by the Chicago Imagist movement.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I have to admit I knew nothing about the Chicago Imagists before going in to this exhibit, and I hadn’t heard Bruce Thayer‘s name before. I’m so glad I went, though, as I learned a ton and really enjoyed the art on display.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Alice in the Wonderful Dog Walk, 2013

Much of Thayer’s art is political, but some is more telling of his daily life and routines, like this watercolor. (Also: I am a sucker for dogs.)

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Blame Game, 2013

Thayer was an auto worker for many years and experienced firsthand the struggles of the economic downturn and the effects of the changes in American manufacturing over the last few decades.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Working Stiff, 2005

Thayer’s combination of drawing, painting, stamping, and other techniques is very effective, I think, in conveying the anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, and anger that auto workers and others felt during these troubles. Thayer’s ability to combine different techniques and themes reminded me of some of They Might Be Giants’ early music (the Pink album and Lincoln). Both use imagery from popular culture, political themes, and seem to have a sense of humor. I’m not sure I’m really putting a finger on why the one reminded me of the other, but it did.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Shift Change, 1989

This piece is one of a few cut out assembly-acrylic sculptures in this show. I like the way that this piece brings the auto workers to life as they appear to be dancing. It seems that the balancing act of being an auto worker could easily have felt like a dance at times (juggling productivity with diminishing resources and increasing demands and trying to maintain one’s self-respect).

This exhibit will be on display at the CMU Art Gallery through November 8, 2014. I highly recommend checking it out.



Several years ago I got the itch to make a neat clock and bought a clockwork kit at the Lob. Of course I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted the clock to be, so I put it off and ended up not actually making one. After unpacking the little clockwork kit again at Castle Greystone, I decided that now was the time. (Haha.) I asked K what he thought would make a good clock and he suggested the Doctor Who LP he’s had for several decades: perfect!

Hallway with new Who clock

He put it together in a matter of moments and after a little looking around, we decided to put it in the hallway.

New old clock

I think it looks great! Ideally we’d like to get some longer hands, as these are a bit too short for the scale of the LP, but for now this will do. It just seems so fitting to use a Who-themed base for a clock, doesn’t it?


the gang’s mostly here

Last week while preparing to leave for a trip, Susan discovered that one of my Blythes, Willow, was hanging out in her CraftyTown. She’s been there for months and neither Susan nor I realized it. D’oh! This inspired me to get the rest of my girls unpacked, having been boxed up for the duration of our moves during mid and late 2013.

Several of them were looking pretty box-haired, so I did a couple of hair treatments to get them back to looking nice again.

Dolly hair day

Dahlia has had a few hair treatments from me in the past, so hers was pretty easy and quick. All her hair is one length, which makes washing easier (though drying is a bit goofy, as you can see).

Dolly hair day

Maude desperately needed some help – her hair was still a little greasy from the factory and I hadn’t made time to wash it yet since getting her. Her hair was also a bit wonky in terms of cut, so I took this opportunity to trim her bangs to a straighter line (they look a bit off in this pic because some of them are drier than others).

Dolly hair day

Finally, Turtle got her first hair treatment (I think) from me. The way her hair is rooted/thatched is different than the Blythes, which makes it lay the way it’s supposed to pretty easily (with the exception of parts of her bangs).

The Girls

Then I finally got some clothes on them all! Going through my Blythe wardrobe alerted me to a few projects I want to work on: Middie knits and dresses, more skirts (both knit and sewn), more cardis, and more knit accessories (scarves, shawls, etc.). Hooray for inspiration! What are you making for your Blythes lately?