March 28, 2012


Discovered along my travels of central Michigan.

Concentrated Watercolors

Concentrated watercolors:
Last night I was scanning through my copy of Journal Revolution when I came across a rather neat technique that I wanted to use.  I flipped to the back of the book to find a source for the product used in the book and promptly looked it up online.  Dr. PH Martin’s concentrated watercolors.  I was in love.  I wanted a set so badly.  I was not, however, in love with the price.  With a trip to Las Vegas fast approaching I could not justify spending $100+ on paint.  Heck, I can’t justify spending that on such a small supply of paint any day.   And so I fell asleep last night brainstorming ideas on how I could make my own set of concentrated watercolors.
This morning I woke up and got right to experimenting with materials.  It was finally in the kitchen that I found my source of colors.  I honestly can’t believe how simple it ended up being and what great results I got in the end.  I used Wilton’s gel food coloring as a base for my paints.  The colors are vibrant,  you can mix to your heart’s desire to achieve a wide array of colors and they are fairly inexpensive.  I had a starter pack and then some to work with from doing Birthday cakes for my nieces but each jar is only $1.50 at Wal-Mart.  Michael’s and Joann’s might have a better selection of colors but you will pay about $.50 more.  You don’t need a lot so each jar will go a long way.   Here is what I started with to make my paints:

I started by cutting an 9x12 piece of watercolor paper into several pieces to use as test pieces for the colors.   I then used a new, clean paintbrush to scoop out a tiny amount of food coloring into a small glass baby food jar.   If you plan on using the color gels for food again I would suggest toothpicks or popsicle sticks to scoop the coloring out with.  Next add a small amount of water to the jar.  Less is best for more vibrant colors.  I used about ½- 1 tsp of water depending on the amount of coloring in the jar.  You want to mix it up well.  It might take a min or so for the gel to dissolve completely in the water and it’s a little more difficult to tell if it’s all dissolved with the darker colors. But just stir away until you don’t find anymore clumps of gel.  Once it was well mixed I spritzed a piece of the watercolor paper with water until it was damp then used a medicine dropper to collect my paint and drop it on the damp paper.  I mixed several different colors to try.  The more water, the less vibrant the color.  The more soaked the water color paper is the better the drippy effect of the paint.  Once I was sure I was satisfied with how the paint turned out I added more color gel and water to each jar and closed them up tightly to use for future projects. 
Here is the finished product.  Two of my test papers.  I made red/pink, green, blue, yellow and turquoise.

There you go.  So simple, so inexpensive, and so vibrant.  Enjoy your new paints!

March 24, 2012

How to wander

Or more accurately… how I wander.   I suppose you could wander any way you please.  But if you’ve never wandered before and would like some hints and tips, read on.

One of my favorite past times is getting behind the wheel and just driving.  In college, when I was having an off day I would get in my car and drive.  At the time I lived in Kalamazoo and I would end up all over the place, as far north as Ludington or Manistee, south to St. Joe, New Buffalo and once even just outside of Chicago.   I took mostly back roads and came across fun, interesting and often beautiful sites.  I always thought of Michigan as a rather dull state, until I started wandering.

Now, on my days off of work I often wander.  I don’t usually go as far as I did when I was in college, but my trips are never planned so I never know where I might end up.   My trips are always day trips. I leave early in the morning and I’m often home before dark or at the very latest, by 10pm.  I sometimes take a friend but I prefer to go alone.  It’s kind of like a therapy for me.  I get lost in my thoughts, and on the roads.

If you’re interested in wandering I’ll throw a few ideas your way to get you started:

First and foremost: have a reliable car!

I used to wander in my little blue Taurus but lately she is tired and uncooperative.  I suppose nearly 200,000 miles, two trips to California & back, a breakdown in the Mojave and aimless wanderings around Michigan has done her in.  She’s still drivable, though barely. It’s a good day if she gets me to work and back.

Now all my wandering is done in the family Jeep.  My dad bought the Jeep about 5 years ago for my siblings and me to beat the crap out of the sand dunes at Silver Lake.  But since they have nowhere to park it, and my car is so unreliable the majority of the time the Jeep makes itself at home in my garage.  As a “rental fee” for parking it in my garage I drive the crap out of it.

Second:  Pack a bag 

Okay, be reasonable here.  If you’re not planning on an overnight trip you don’t need a suitcase or anything.

But a large-ish tote will do.  I love my leather carry-all.  It holds everything I need and then some. It’s comfy to carry, it’s rugged and it’s stylish.   I’ll even let you in on what I pack in it:

- Most important: a phone & it’s charger.
- My wallet: ID, Credit Card, and a little bit of cash
- Sunglasses - Lotion, chapstick, and hand sanitizer.
- My iPod & an FM transmitter for some good driving tunes
- A book in case I find that perfect spot to stop for awhile and read a chapter or two
- iPad (I take this thing everywhere)
- my notebook for jotting thoughts to add to my journal when I get home.

Third: Pack a Lunch 

You don’t necessarily have to do this but I always take a lunch with me. It’s healthier, cheaper and more satisfying than stopping at a fast food joint.
I’m a grazer/snacker anyway so a cooler with a few different things works out much better for me than stopping for different snacks along the way. And I know I’m eating well.  I usually take an “entrée” such as a salad, or a sandwich; something that can be eaten cold.  Then I pack a few fresh veggies and/or fruits, a protein shake and a treat like a couple of cookies and my favorite soda.

Fourth:  Take a camera! 

Or three, or four.  I tend to overkill on the cameras but I’m a photographer so to me they’re more necessary than food or a map (which I’ll get to).   I always take my Digital SLR, and then my Canon AE-1 because I love the old school feel of it and I love film.  I might throw in my Polaroid because I like to have collection of instant prints to switch out on my bulletin board at home.  I take my point & shoot for the video feature. And I also tend to use the camera on my phone A LOT to take quick shots as I drive (I’m a drive-by shooter.)

 Fifth: Take a Map 

This is seemingly an important item but somehow ended up close to last. Okay, I’ll be honest. I never take a map.  I always think about picking up a Michigan Atlas or grabbing a regional map at the gas station, but I never do.  I know North from South and East from West.  I generally know which direction I need to go to get home.  I’m wandering, not looking for a specific place so I don’t have much use for a map. And worst case scenario, I load up the GPS on my phone to give myself and idea of where I’m at.  But if you’re not good with directions, you don’t have GPS on your phone or you’re not comfortable driving without one I would suggest taking one.  To be honest, usually the only time I get lost is when I have someone in the car to distract me or someone giving me directions. Lol.

Sixth:  Just Drive. 

I don’t think about where I’m going to go. I just drive.  My most recent trip took me to the cemetery where my uncle is buried, to my parents property on the lake, to a now abandoned amusement park my dad took me to as a child and then half way across the southern portion of the state in search of more abandoned and decaying things. If I saw something as I was driving I pulled over. If I thought of something that I remembered being in that particular area I was in, I sought it out.  I went out of my way, I back tracked, I ended up in familiar places and then discovered new places I’ve never been to.  

Just have fun and stay safe.

This post is actually a prelude to one of my recent adventures. So stay tuned.

March 20, 2012

Home Makeover: Living Room Edition

Recently I went on a home makeover binge and spent weeks cleaning, decorating and painting. Suddenly I a burned out. That's usually how it goes. I get the mood to renovate for a few weeks and then I am over it for a month or so. Here is one of the end products of my recent binge, My living room was dark and drab and depressing I hated the colors and the style. It felt cluttered and crowded. For my birthday last september my parents offered to buy paint to redecorate my living room. So six months later I took the up on the offer and headed to Lowes to pick out my colors.

Here is a basic idea of what it looked like before sans furniture.

I wanted something modern and neutral.  I want to be able change out décor and colors of furniture etc without worrying about the walls. So I went with white trim & ceiling and a soft beige for the walls.  Originally the room had a mauve accent wall.  I hated the color and the dark accent wall soaks up the light from the window across the room, leaving the whole space dark and dreary.  I ended up painting all the walls the same color and it really brightened the room.  I hung some shelves I bought last year at Ikea, moved my computer desk to the spare room to clear out some clutter and eventually the TV will be hung over the fireplace to rid the room of my behemoth entertainment center and make room for some wall art.

Here are the after shots of a more modern living space.

The fireplace is my favorite part of the room/redo even though it’s never been used.  It was such an eyesore before. It’s amazing what a little paint can do to change up a room.

Here is the fireplace remake:

So that’s that. Next on my to do list is to repaint the dining room to tie it all together and gut out the living room closet for its mini-mudroom makeover.

March 18, 2012

Sunday Morning

Taking a break from spring cleaning today. I finally managed to put my office together. Well kind of. Spent my morning playing artsy fartsy.

March 9, 2012

Busy Bee

The past two weeks I have been buried in projects. I am taking a breather this weekend ( kind of) to help a friend move. I finished painting and redecorating the living room, started some spring cleaning/organizing and pulled out the dresser I have been working on and made a bit more progress there. After the weekend I will hopefully have some more photos of my recent projects but here are a few teasers:

February 25, 2012

Sister Time

My sister is headed to a Pinterest Party tonight.  What a neat idea. Everyone brings a project and a recipe they found on Pinterest.   She needed help with a project so she stopped over this morning to raid my scrap booking supplies.  We whipped together a shadowbox project for her daughter's nursery with inspiration from a post she saw on pinterest.  I usually spend Saturdays cleaning but this was a way more relaxing way to spend my Saturday morning before heading to the restaurant to work.