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Archive for the ‘Home and Garden’ Category

These Standouts Stand Out

Happy Friday! I decided to experiment with a new contemporary print technique by ordering my first “standout” or “box mount” prints from Mpix. The two photos I chose are of contemporary themes (both taken in Barcelona) so I thought it would be suitable. I had them printed on metallic paper (great choice for vibrant colors), then mounted on this 1.5″ foam, the sides being a smooth black. I promptly received them in the mail (thanks, Mpix!) yesterday and love the look! They are so smooth, shiny, vibrant….and light! Now I just need to figure out how to attach hanging wire to them and enter them into the annual Isle of Wight Members Show….hopefully they will be accepted, even though they are not technically ‘framed’. Has anyone had experience (success or failure) using photo print mounts in an exhibition?

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More about standouts here

My Newest Oil Painting

I hope everyone is having a great week! I want to share with you the most recent addition to my oil painting portfolio, a 36″x54″ (big!) oil on canvas of a pastoral scene that I recently completed. This was created for a friend’s mom, based on the view from her house.

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Oil paintings by Jennifer Lycke

Spring Oasis

It’s officially Spring at the Lycke house when we turn our deck and pergola into a little colorful oasis. I went with a red theme this year, choosing red and white petunias for the hanging baskets, a bright new red pillow to contrast the blue and green pillows, and a red candle. The begonias in the potted plants are also a pinkish red. I also tried a weatherproofing spray (303 High Tech Fabric Guard) this year…hopefully this’ll keep the Sunbrella cushions drier and free from mildew this summer. I will let you know how it works out!

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Non-toxic Oil Painting

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to live a more non-toxic life as part of my fight against thyroid cancer. Well, I’m also an artist. As I’ve just accepted a new oil painting commission, I’m researching ways to make the painting process safer and less toxic. As many people have become concerned about the health and environmental effects of the products we use, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. So far, here are a few suggestions I’ve found:

1) Use good hygiene and cleaning methods. Definitely don’t put your brushes anywhere near your mouth. Supposedly, VanGogh ingested traces of his oil paints as he worked, and this may have contributed to his mental and physical decline. Also, try to wear gloves as you paint. I know in the past, I’ve been guilty of getting oil colors all over my hands as I paint. Even though I’d scrub my hands afterward, remnants of stubborn color would still remain. This can be absorbed into your body, along with any toxic ingredients, so you should minimize skin contact.

2) Use good ventilation. Outdoor Plein Air painting is great. If this is not an option, paint with as many windows and doors open as possible. Paint in a garage with the doors open. Or use a studio with a built-in ventilation system and/or lots of windows. Use fans and air purifiers as well. I have a small window, but also use a purifier and a fan to blow any fumes out the open window. Put a ventilation mask on if you are still concerned.

3) Check the ACMI (Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc.) labels. This is a non-profit association that tests for toxicity in paints and media. Look for the AP (Approved Product) certified nontoxic seal on your individual paint tubes (every color may be different, even within a specific brand or line of paints). Avoid the CL label which indicates that caution should be used. In general, avoid the Cadmium colors and the Cobalt colors, including Cerulean Blue. Lead White (also known as Flake White) has been banned in most countries because of its toxicity, now selling the safer Flake White Replacement color. Most major art supply catalogs and websites will indicate the labels for each paint color. For more information, see the ACMI website.

4) Avoid turpentine and most thinners and mediums. In my research, it appears that Walnut Oil is safe and a quality choice. There is also M Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium which is non-toxic, if you’d like a fast drying medium (oils such as walnut oil are not fast drying). I have a bottle of water soluble Stand Oil at home that has the AP label. There may be other limited choices, but use caution.

5) Use simple soap and water for cleaning your brushes and hands. My art professors in college suggested we use regular dish soap for washing brushes. This is easy on the budget, as well as health. I used to swirl the brushes into the palm of my hand with soap to clean them. Now I will use a clean surface, such as my palette, to swirl, to limit the skin exposure.

6) Make sure to close all paint and medium containers as soon as you are done with them and clean up thoroughly.

With these precautions, you should be able to oil paint safely and enjoyably. If you know of any more safety tips with regards to oil painting, please let me know!

Carolina Jasmine on My Mind

Carolina Jasmine
With a mild Winter and early Spring this year, yellow blossoms are just bursting on our deck this week. These Carolina Jasmine vines were planted about 3 years ago in our mostly shaded, partial sun backyard. The small plants were placed in the ground, and spaced according to where the vertical posts of our pergola are. The first 2 years consisted of lots of watering and training the vines to work up the sides of the deck, around the posts, and finally to the top of the pergola. Although it still has a long way to go to create a thick pretty covering from the sun, it has now grown enough that we can reap enjoyment out of our lovely yellow flowers and thick green vines. The scent and blooms this week are lovely!

Easy Chalkboard DIY

After being inspired by a lot of craft and home organization projects on Pinterest, I’ve been rushing home from work lately to try to fit in my own little creative projects. One of these projects is my DIY framed chalkboard. I’d been browsing Pottery Barn and Ballard Design catalogs, and both companies offered a very classy framed chalkboard for displaying the menu of the day or household to-do lists. Of course these were very costly. Here’s my own DIY version for a fraction of the cost.

1) Buy a small can of chalkboard paint at your local Home Depot, Lowes, or other home improvement store. You can also look online for a recipe to make your own paint.

2) I found an empty frame I had lying around the house. The size was perfect for my pantry wall, to replace the ratty old dry erase board we had there.

3) I found a flat piece of cardboard and trimmed it down to fit in the frame I found.

4) Using acrylic gesso, I primed the cardboard.

5) Once the gesso was dry, I painted 2 coats of chalkboard paint onto the primed cardboard, letting it dry for a day between each coat.

6) I fit the painted cardboard into the frame with the frame backing and used industrial strength adhesive-backed Velcro to attach to wall.

7) (optional) We had this little container that we also Velcro’d to the wall. This is to hold the chalk and eraser. If you use a frame that has a bit of a shelf or lip, you can keep your chalk there.

Note: I also saw Magnetic Paint next to the Chalkboard Paint at Lowes. Another option would be to create a magnetic board instead, or even layer the magnetic paint underneath the chalkboard paint to make this a multi-purpose magnetic blackboard!

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Wine/Beer Label DIY Project

DIY Beer and Wine Label Collage

DIY Beer and Wine Label Collage

Here’s an easy DIY project for your home bar, entertaining area, man cave, media room, or wherever this might fit in with your decor. If you have some favorite wines or craft beers, save the labels from the bottles and use them to make a collage. In our household, we entertain with Belgian beers and Chianti wines. To remove labels from bottle:

1) Soak empty bottle for several hours in warm water (we put them in our kitchen sink)
2) Attempt to peel the label off.
3) If steps 1-2 weren’t enough the dissolve the glue, apply Goo Gone to the label area liberally and let this soak in for a few hours.
4) The label should peel off.
5) Save the labels and let them dry out. If necessary, use small objects on the corners to keep the labels flat as they dry.

Find a picture frame with glass. I usually have several extras in storage, so I tend to use something I already have. Depending on the size of the frame you are using, collect enough labels to fill the picture area of your frame (obviously, a larger frame will require more labels).

Once you have your collection, lay out the labels in an eye-pleasing design. Remember the artistic guidelines of creating balance in your design, by balancing colors, values, etc. to make the design attractive. You don’t want all light-colored labels on one side, and all dark labels on the other side. I usually start out with the larger labels, and then add the smaller labels as I go along.

Once you have your layout, use a method to attach the labels, such as double-stick tape or glue stick.

Frame your collage, clean your frame, double-check how everything looks in the frame, and (if everything looks good), you’re all done! Hang in your entertaining area.

Note: This project can also be created with cool cardboard drink coasters!

Pillow from Rice Bag Easy Project

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I have been organizing at home since the beginning of the new year, and I found this cool empty bag that had contained authentic Spanish rice, in the back of my pantry. This bag is made from nice sturdy cloth and has a cool retro look to it, with some international flair.

I don’t have advanced sewing skills, but do know how to make pillows. In this case, most of the work was already done, as there was already stitching on 3 of the 4 sides…all I needed to do was 1) iron the fabric to get the wrinkles out, 2) stuff the pillow with stuffing from the fabric store, and 3) use matching red thread to hand sew the fourth side together.

Voila! (or should I say “Ya esta!”)

I think this unusual pillow looks rather handsome on our leather barstool…like something they might even have at Restoration Hardware, but for a fraction of the price.

Free Gift Tag Project – What To Do with your Old Christmas Cards

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Yesterday I spent taking down the Christmas decorations, de-cluttering a bit, and getting the house back to “normal”. One of my mini-projects that I did yesterday is something that I learned from my mom…a simple way of having custom gift tags for free next Christmas.

Most people don’t have room to keep every Christmas card they receive each holiday season, but I don’t like just tossing them out and letting them go to waste. So, after the Christmas decorations (and cards) are taken down, I usually set aside a little bit of time (usually while I’m watching TV anyway) and make tags out of the old Christmas cards I received. Just grab your cards and a pair of scissors. All you have to do is look for little patches or areas on the card designs that would make a good tag. There should be some blank area somewhere on the new tag to allow for writing. Also make sure that there isn’t already some handwriting on the back of the section you cut out.

I usually pick little designs that are on the card…a Christmas tree, a horn, a reindeer, a star, etc. and cut out a square or rectangle, usually 1 or 2 inches on each side. Even a solid area of red or glittery gold can make a nice tag. I also like this process because I get to look through this year’s Christmas cards and letters one more time. Sometimes during the holiday rush, we also rush through everyone’s thoughtful letters and notes, and may forget something that they have said. At the end, I have a large stack of free gift tags to use next year. I store them in a small container aptly labelled “Gift Tags” for next year. Happy snipping!

3 Foods You Should Be Eating, But Probably Aren’t (Part I)

In a couple more weeks, we will be starting our 2012 New Year’s Resolutions. In my online research on becoming healthier and overcoming cancer, I’ve learned about many different foods to try to incorporate into one’s diet to improve health. This post (and the next one), I’m dedicating to some foods I’ve learned about that you may want to try incorporating into your diet. Although I should specify that I’m not a nutritionist, there is a lot of positive information out there regarding these foods, which you should explore further if interested.

1) Kefir – a cultured, yogurt-style drink

Kefir is a smooth, slightly sour drink that tastes like yogurt. The name originates from the Turkish word “keif” which means “good feeling”. Hopefully this drink will have you feeling good. This beverage is easily digestible and contains many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, B2, B12, D and K, and calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. It also contains probiotics, and is responsible for improving immune function and digestion issues. It can possibly improve IBS, as well as other issues, such as high cholesterol, allergies, metabolic disease, and possibly even cancer. Kefir is now commonly sold in grocery stores and is often paired with other flavorings, such as blueberry or pomegranate. I have recently seen Kefir in both Bloom and Trader Joe’s, and both versions are delicious. Kefir can be sipped from the bottle, used with cereal, or as a substitute for yogurt or sour cream in recipes. I have read you can even freeze it and turn it into ice cream.

2) Raw Honey – the real stuff

No, we’re not talking about the stuff in the plastic honeybear containers at your local Food Lion. Make sure it says “Raw” and that it’s real honey. Much of what we see in our typical grocery store is NOT the good stuff. Fortunately, Trader Joe’s sells raw honey, that has been shown to be real in this study. Real raw honey has good bacteria and contains a wealth of nutrients, including B vitamins. Honey may promote better blood sugar control and improved insulin sensitivity, and is certainly a healthier sweet alternative to white sugar, especially for diabetics and those with metabolic syndrome. Honey also improves immune function, which results in better health overall. There seem to be certain unusual compounds in real raw honey that are not found anywhere else, but may be partly responsible for the medicinal purposes of honey. For children, try buckwheat honey instead of cough syrup to improve cough symptoms. In your daily diet, try a tablespoon with your tea or coffee, as a sugar substitute in baking, or on bread in place of jelly.

3) Beets

Now, everyone know what beets are, but do you know how good they are for you?
Beets contain a great deal of fiber, which is good for weight loss and digestion. These colorful root vegetables contain powerful nutrient compounds, such as carotenoids and phytonutrients called betalains that help protect against heart disease and maybe even cancer. Some of these contain strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification functions. Certain studies even indicate that beets may have anti-tumor properties. Try marinated beets or a warm soothing borscht during your next meal.

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