Choosing one’s path

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

A note to the wise: to all of us, beware what path we choose. For writers: this the ultimate key to a good antagonist. Thanks, Mary!

IMAGE: This is another quote-image that’s been pinned several million times to Pinterest boards. I found this file on–yet again–on the pinboard of Stephanie Girolami-James, this time via the “Horror Quotes” pinboard of Amanda Rios.

Breaking out of patterns

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

When we look at creativity’s value, it’s everywhere.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Pinterest, and Professional Artist Magazine for this image. 

On picking up the pieces and moving forward

What is this week? Specifically, what’s the middle of this week? 

It’s the moment when the balance shifts, from Solstice-and- Christmas-stuff toward New-Year thinking.

It’s the time of the week when, if we’re back at work from a break, we’re picking up the projects we’d temporarily laid aside, and gearing back up for business-as-usual. Many of us are dealing with a pile of deferred work that’s been stacking up while we were gone, just waiting for our return to trigger the avalanche.

If we’re still on holiday break, we’re cleaning up the shreds of wrapping paper and ribbon, and deciding if it’s time to start taking down the decorations yet. If we had a live Christmas tree, it’s probably turning into a dry, brittle fire hazard. We’re living on leftovers (and more than a little bored with them by now). If the Christmas jigsaw hasn’t been fully pieced together yet it might be time to give up and put it back in its box.

The Unfinished Puzzle, by Daniel McLean

Some of us are traveling home. Some of us are still trying to figure out where to put stuff. Some of us are relieved that we survived for another year, while others are so depressed we’re not sure we did survive.

But the one thing about this point in the week is that while we’re making our Gotta-Go Soup* or Googling eco-friendly things to do with our old Christmas tree, we’re also shifting gears and moving toward the dawn of a New Year. What will 2017 bring? 

Well, some things are a given. A new Presidential administration, for example. That there will be more winter in the Northern Hemisphere before we get started on spring. That time passes and change happens.

Other stuff is less predictable, but when things happen they must be dealt with (even “good” stress is still stress). Perhaps a loss or gain in your family (or your waistline), a change in jobs, locations, or marital status. A new opportunity. A health issue.

Stuff happens. What we do about the stuff that happens is the test.

I hope you’ll move into the New Year from a place of wholeness and peace, but not all of us are so blessed. Whatever place you’re in, today, there are things you can do, steps you can take, plans you can make (although always with at least a Plan B, because life is like that).

I hope your plans will include two things:

(1) Being good to yourself

No one is as big a screw-up as they sometimes think they are, and everyone deserves a break sometimes. I don’t mean just pampering yourself, as with a “spa day,” though if that’s really what you need I hope you can find a way to manage it. I mean choosing good paths for yourself that lead to a better-for-you way of life, whether that’s an improvement in diet, a set of priorities that allow more exercise, or the setting of healthier personal boundaries.

(2) Finding or nurturing a passion

Without meaningful purpose in your life nothing is worth the effort. The needs of the world are many, and the challenges are great. We cannot solve all problems, but we can work with like-minded others to solve the particular problems that call to our hearts. We’ve recently had Boxing Day as a reason to consider what causes we value and believe in; now, more than ever, we must find ways to support and protect the things, the people, and the foundational principles we cherish the most.

So take this middle-of-the-week, picking-up-the-pieces day, and consider well how you will meet the New Year. We can go forward in despair, repeating old patterns hopelessly, or we can go forward with determination to hold the line on certain things and push forward for improvement on others.

Each of us gets to choose.


*Gotta-Go Soup:

If it’s Got To Go, it’s a candidate for Gotta-Go Soup (a variation on Leftovers Supreme). This is my grandmother’s recipe:

(1) FLAVOR-MATCHING: Assemble your leftovers. Evaluate what flavors would go together best, and separate them out (put the others in the fridge or the compost/garbage, as appropriate). Figure out what kind of stock or base would best compliment the flavors you’ve assembled.

(2) COOKING: Get out a big pot. Put it on the back burner filled with said stock or soup base. Reduce all your other selections to small, bite-size pieces, and put them in the pot, too. Heat it all up and simmer for at least an hour (smell up the house real good). Season to taste.

(3) EATING: Serve with warm, crusty French bread or other favored accompaniment. You might be surprised how good it tastes!

IMAGES: Many thanks to Life on the Buy Side for the photo of the daunting office paperwork backup, to the blog Meanders for the wrapping-paper wreckage photo, and to Daniel McLean and his Flickr Photostream for the image The Unfinished Puzzle (permission granted via a Creative Commons License). 

I appreciate the availability of the snowy highway photo (in Eden Prairie, MN–doesn’t look quite so Edenic in this photo, though) from Minnesota Public Radio’s Updraft blog. Many thanks also to the Buy a House Club for the image of the discarded Christmas Tree (from an article on better things to do with them), and to Inspiring Buzz for the quotation image about changes in one’s life.

I greatly appreciate the quotation image about being tender with oneself from Helen Hirst’s “Self Nurturing” Pinterest board, and to The Huffington Post for the Fabienne Fredrickson quote on passions as our calling. Finally, many thanks to Video Blocks for the photo of the soup pot.

Repurposed wraps: “second careers” for a variety of items

Artdog Images of Interest 

Do you believe in second chances? Second acts? Second careers? How about onsite recycling?  Today I have a lineup of repurposed items you might want to reconsider for their gift-wrapping value. You might be surprised and delighted with some creative ways to re-use things that it’s possible you have already lying around.

And anyway, it’s almost Christmas! Who has time to go out for wrapping supplies, when there are options available at our fingertips–if only we have the creativity to see them!

Wrap it in . . . 

In Thursday’s post I shared the idea of using fabric scraps in place of wrapping paper (among other ideas), but those aren’t the only non-traditional wraps you can utilize.

Remember printed-paper newspapers? Well, some of us old fossils still like to read that form of news. Among their dozens of other secondary uses, they can make attractive, economical gift wrap.
Here’s another blast from the past: paper maps! Yes, we used to rely on them to get us places. Now they can enjoy a second life as gift-wrap. Designer Bryan Patrick Flynn offers an example here, and suggests we might choose a map of a specific place the gift-recipient knows and loves.
Designer Denise Sharp recycled these old film tins for gift-enclosures, and gave them a special look with a well-chosen ribbon. Here’s a creative challenge: what old baskets, boxes, tins, or jars do you have lying around? Could they be exactly the creative wrap-up you were looking for?

Top it off with . . . 

Accents and flourishes make all the difference when your goal is a stylish presentation. Ribbons, bows, and other tie-ons can make even ordinary butcher paper or kraft paper stylish. Here are a few recycled creative toppers to brighten up your holiday gifts.

Is your old Scrabble set a few tiles shy of a full box? Recycle the rest as eye-catching gift box name tags, as suggested here by designer Bryan Patrick Flynn, then hint to your family that you need a new Scrabble game! Don’t want to break up your perfectly good, complete set? Scrabble tiles are also for sale as craft items, though that kind of defeats the “onsite recycling” idea!
Here’s another creative idea from Bryan Patrick Flynn: use paint chips as colorful gift-box tags. Cut them into shapes, strips, or use as they are, with printed or permanent-marker names added. 
It might seem like a “well, duh!” once we mention it, but if you’ve done much gift-wrapping you probably have lots of little scraps of cool-looking wrapping paper left over. Recycle them as eye-catching accents, if there’s not enough left to cover the whole box. This example comes from designer Morgan Levine.
In the right creative hands, all sorts of odd bits and bobs can become attractive tie-ons to set off a gift package. These are old pieces of artificial greenery and cinnamon sticks, from Handmade Holidays,. You might also consider the potential in old toys, cut-outs from Christmas cards received in past years, old Christmas ornaments, or pinecones from old holiday wreaths.

I hope this series on creative gift-wrapping ideas has helped stoke your creative fires and brightened your holiday a little. Yes, I know it’s another whole week till Christmas–but after seeing a good idea, making it happen takes time. I hope I’ve offered up these ideas in time for you to actually try some. Happy wrapping!

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Honolulu Advertiser, for the illustration of several ways newspapers make creative gift-wrap. Thanks also to HGTV, whose “Holiday Gift Wrap Ideas” collection continues to inspire. And a big thank-you to designers Bryan Patrick Flynn, Denise Sharp, and Morgan Levine, as well!

Fabric of the imagination

Bonus Artdog Images of Interest

This month’s pre-Christmas Images of Interest have focused on creative strategies for wrapping gifts. In today’s “bonus round,” we’ll look at creative ways to re-use various kinds of fabric and notions, to brighten up your gifts with a creative wrapping touch.

H. Camille Smith uses leftover fabric trim to add texture and color to gift-wrap.
Wrapping a shipping tube? Use a fabric remnant, and a scrap of ribbon from the notions box. H. Camille Smith came up with this one, too.
Wrap your boxes in paper or fabric, and finish them off with a yarn pom-pom, for a unique look. Thank Marian Parsons for this realization of a popular DIY craft idea.
Layla Palmer made these mantelpiece decorations with fabric-accent gift ties and upholstery fabric wrap. What works for the mantel could also work under the tree.
Got a raggedy old sweater you never wear anymore? Re-purpose the knitted fabric as a cozy holiday wrap for a candle in a jar (as here, from H. Camille Smith), a tin of cookies, a candy jar, or other gift that could use a warm and snuggly look. Tie with a scrap of ribbon, et voilà!

IMAGES: Many thanks, first of all to HGTV, whose “Holiday Gift Wrap Ideas” collection continues to inspire. Many thanks also to designers H. Camille Smith, Marian Parsons, and Layla Palmer, whose ideas made this post possible.

Awakening creative joy

Artdog Quote of the Week

It’s back-to-school season this month, and my focus now shifts to the vital importance of nurturing creativity in schools.

Einstein Quote art of teaching

I’d like to tie this month’s theme to last month’s “strength in diversity” theme. I see the two as being intertwined. We cannot be strong in our diversity unless ALL of our children receive the best possible education.

Creative connections made in schools are some of the strongest motivators. As a teacher who’s worked in both rural and urban schools, I can tell you that at-risk students who cannot find relevance in their schoolwork won’t stay. If they don’t stay, we all have failed.

But if they stay–if we engage them, intrigue them, give them interesting things to do and reasons to persevere–then the future opens up with ever more and greater possibilities and promise.

IMAGE: Many thanks to The Artful Parent for this image.