Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: creative solutions

My horse-trough “Hab” lives on!

A I recently confessed, I’m a lifelong gardener. However, in the last few years Earth has had little need to “fear my botany powers.” After a couple of bad falls on the ice a few winters ago, it was hard for me to get low enough to garden. I needed some kind of raised bed for easier access.

Signy and Pascal created a sturdy base for my project last May. Later, Ty filled it for me.

Well, thanks to my Beloved and my long-suffering adult offspring, I’m back, Baby! My Mother’s Day present was a galvanized horse trough on a sturdy wooden stand, filled with rich, composted soil. This collection of creative solutions now sits on our back patio in easy reach of a hose, and I’ve been having lots of fun with it.

My cool-season crops (spinach, kale, and a leaf-lettuce blend from Morgan County Seeds) continued to yield regular crops of salads and greens well into what we Kansas Citians think of as “winter.”

As cold weather approached, Pascal and I made a “dome” out of two basement-window-well covers, to protect my plants from the frost. On windy days (here at the edge of Kansas, we get a few of those), a bungee cord holds it down. It’s not excessively elegant, but it works.

But then it snowed. It got really cold. I thought when temps hit the single digits that my horse-trough garden was a goner.

I was wrong. Under the dome, it’s alive! How can this be? Fortuitous placement, it turns out. Back in May, we set it up right next to a furnace vent. The air goes out, and directly up under the edge of my makeshift dome. You can see the life-giving vent pipe at lower right in the photo below:

We’ve gone through two rounds of single-digits and snow, now, and each time I’ve gone out as soon as I dared, uncovered the garden, added a couple quarts warm water, and my crops have come back to life. In fact, I really need to harvest again.

Potatoes in the Hab, from The Martian: now that’s extreme farming!

I’ve started thinking of my little survival-miracle on the back patio as “The Hab.” (For Christmas, my son gave me a copy of The Martian, by Andy Weir. Thanks, Ty!). My horse-trough garden is not as amazing as “Martian potatoes,” but who knows? At this rate I might be able to harvest spinach all winter long.

IMAGES: I took most of these images myself, except for the last one. Many thanks for it to NASA! It’s from their fascinating article, “Nine Real NASA Technologies in ‘The Martian.'” 

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!


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. Consider it a new take on the old phrase “fabric of the imagination.”

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!


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.

Piecing it together

Artdog Quote of the Week

IMAGES: Many thanks to Immigrant Times for the puzzle-pieces photo, and to Quote Addicts for the Felix Adler quote. 

Amazing healing powers!

While not a cure-all, you might be surprised.

Sometimes the best cure for depression is something that gets us out of ourselves and focused on other things . . . . such as the love and needs of a puppy or rescue dog. Consider adopting a canine companion from your local animal shelter, if you’ve started to feel as if no one really cares about you. 

There’s no mistaking when a dog loves you! Of course, that love must be reciprocal for the magic to really work. Being someone your dog can count on will nearly always make you a better, happier person, too.

A note of caution, however: there are times when a good psychologist or psychiatrist really IS what’s needed (in addition to the dog, perhaps). Don’t use your dear best friend as an excuse not to seek help, if “puppy therapy” hasn’t improved your outlook substantially in a few weeks’ time at most. There are some chemical imbalances or other difficulties you really do need to see a human doctor about!

IMAGE: Many thanks to Mactoons for this image and quote. 

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