A Failproof Teacher Gift

It's nearing the end of another school year.  Teachers are tired.

When my kids were little, for a few years we gave, (with the best intentions!), the standard things that we thought teachers would like (mugs and such.)

Teachers get a LOT of mugs.  They appreciate the thought, for sure.  But, think about it.  If a teacher has at least 15 or 20 students in a class, and roughly a fourth of the kids give the teacher mugs...Well, do the math to figure out how much cabinet space would be required to hold that many mugs after a few years.

A gift card, no matter how small, to a coffee shop or a bookstore, etc. is always appreciated by teachers I think.  (I know, I know, this is obvious, but often, parents overthink the whole teacher gift idea. Sometimes it helps to be reminded that a simple thing like a gift card may be the best option.) If a child (and/or) a parent includes a note of thanks (or only a note of thanks), even better.   (Even if a teacher doesn't like coffee, there is usually something to enjoy at a coffee shop, right?  And well...books!)

I'm a reading tutor.  I don't get nearly as tired or have nearly as many students as classroom teachers. They have my UTMOST respect.  I'm here today for them!

Here's to learning, living, and summer!

Linking to:

Thursday Favorite Things at Katherine's Corner
Home Matters at Life with Lorelai
A Pinch of Joy
Wordless Wednesday at Create with Joy
Inspire Me Monday at Mostly Blogging
Made By You Monday at Skip to My Lou
Picture Perfect at Amanda's Books and More
Wednesday Blog Hop at Claire Justine
Wildly Original at I Gotta Create
SITS Saturday Sharefest
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Capture Memories of Childhood Places

Our neighborhood library closed a few weeks ago. It made me sad.

No worries, the brand new one that was built to replace it is huge, light-filled, and amazing. But, the library that closed was the library of my children's childhood, so our last visit there before it closed was a bit sad.  Even a little teary.

My 21 year old daughter and I share a sort of giddy excitement over libraries. (I am a reading tutor you know!) We're both admitted nerds, and it's fun to have this similarity with her.   My daughter has been home from college for her Christmas break, and during the break, the library closed.

At our final visit, we decided to remember the library with pictures. (Low quality phone pictures, yes. But that isn't what matters here.  As a photography teacher once told me--Some photos are works of art, but others are simply to capture a memory.)

I've often wished I had taken a picture or two of more of my kids' favorite places.  Many of those places are now long gone.  (So if your kids are still little, you can benefit from this mild regret of mine, and do that now!)

Do you have photos of childhood places (either yours or your children's?)   What are your favorites?

Capturing Memories of Childhood Places

This is the place where the huge globe used to be. My daughter would run to it as a toddler, each time we arrived.

Linking to:
Thursday Favorite Things at Katherine's Corner
Friendship Friday at Create with Joy
Home Matters Link Party
Friday Features at OMHG
SITS Saturday Sharefest
Inspire Me Monday 
Wildly Original at I Gotta Create
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A Quote for Tuesday: Autumn

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
Albert Camus

Autumn leaves are like flowers in spring.

I love that quote so much because my daughter has often expressed that same feeling about leaves. I have mentioned many times (even here at my blog) how irritated I get with the trees in our yard, because of the work they create. 

My daughter's eyes widen in disbelief every time I say that I'm annoyed by the leaves.  "But mom, the leaves are so pretty, just like flowers."

This view from the rear of our back yard, reminds me how true that is!

Linking to:

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Painted Pumpkins (Kid Style)

When your kids are making a project, do you get the urge to "fix it"  it a little?  (As in, "let's straighten those candies on the gingerbread roof just a bit," etc.)  Yes, that was always my tendency too. (By the time my second one was making projects, though, I had loosened up a lot..)

I thought I'd share this picture of the pumpkins my niece and nephew painted for their fall centerpiece, as a reminder that perfect is not always better, and budding creativity shouldn't be squelched.

Here's to our fall projects (especially the kids'!)

Painted Pumpkins
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A Letter to My Younger Self

Getting older often (usually, hopefully)  means getting wiser. (To that, my wisecracking son would say, "Wow, Mom, then you must be really wise by now."    He would probably follow that up with, "But you look young for your age, usually.")

I've shared many of these thoughts with my kids as they grew up.  (Probably much more often than they would have liked!)

Things I wish I could tell my younger self:

  • People are often paying much more attention to how they are coming across, looking, sounding, etc., than how you are looking, sounding, or coming across.  Don't be so self conscious!

  • It's O.K. to choose a career that is more creative or fulfilling than lucrative.  Really.   

  • Life is not fair. At all. (Where in the world did that concept come from anyway?) Life is life, and  often, the most growth comes from the toughest times.  The default life is not the easy life. And that's o.k. Skip the pity-party.

  • DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, base your understanding about medicine or politics or anything important on what you see, hear, or read in popular media.  You often (usually)  have to dig to get the real truth.

  • Be more interested in other people than in yourself.  (I realize this is a variation of Number 1!)  Listen to people.  Don't just be formulating your next sentence while they are talking. 

  • Don't agonize so much over your decisions. Make the best decision you can at the time, and live well with it. 

  • DO NOT stop swimming laps, playing tennis, or racquetball.  Just because you aren't on a structured team doesn't mean you should stop doing those things.  

  • Carmente's Pizza will be closing when you are 31 , so you should have their pizza delivered  more often!

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Color and Design Ideas are Everywhere

When you are planning to create an art project or craft or redecorate a room,  do you agonize over color and design choices?  There's Pinterest, of course.  But do you still feel a little lost?  It took me so long to realize that inspiration is everywhere.  

That last sentence makes me sound absolutely oblivious.  Well...

I'm not completely oblivious, but I am much more conscious now than in the past that color combinations and design ideas are all around me.  (I know some of you are saying, "Duh.")

Here are some of my favorite sources of color and design inspiration:

Nature.  Some of the most beautiful color combinations appear in nature.  Colors from nature           evoke feelings of calm and peace for me.  Several of the rooms in our house are decorated in             colors of water, sand, and sky. (By the way, the wood floor in our kitchen is natural hickory. I resisted getting wood flooring for the kitchen for a long time, but I love how it looks. It's also extremely hard and durable.)

Color and Design Tips
Yes, that's a wall phone. It's not connected...

Fabrics. Look at your clothes or other fabrics around your house. After posting about Zentangle designs a couple of posts ago, I began noticing the designs in our shower curtain and towels.  More Zentangle inspiration!  For color pairings, walk around a fabric store and observe the color combinations in the materials there.

Wouldn't the color combination on Sunny's harness be perfect for a child's room? (I'd like it for one of my rooms!)

Advertisements and Packaging.   Ads are all around us, and can be wonderful sources of color and design inspiration.  The colors on this box are similar to the combination on Sunny's harness!

 What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration?

Linking to:
Pretty Pintastic Party at An Alli Event
Saturday ShareFest at SITS
Inspire Me Monday
DIY Sunday Showcase
Crafty Spices Social Weekend
LouLou Girls
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Photography Tips: Bouncing the Flash

Contrary to popular belief, flash photography is not the evil stepsister of natural light photography.  When used well, in fact, the flash can be completely undetectable. So my first piece of advice here is, Don't be afraid of flash!

These days, DSLRs are so good in low light, that many people decide they will never use flash.  The truth is, though, there are times when a flash will help. When it's too dark inside or when shooting outdoors in bright, harsh sunlight where there is no open shade, for example.

Those pop-up flashes on DSLRs are pretty bad (unless you like washed out faces and harsh shadows!) But an external flash changed my photography forever.

An external flash spreads more light, and you can use it to bounce the light, eliminating all of the nasty, direct flash problems. My flash swivels and tilts in different directions, so that I can bounce it to get the best light available. (In Nikon lingo, the external flashes are called Speedlights, and in Canon, they are Speedlites.)

How to use Bounce Flash

The flash simply slides into the hot shoe on the top of the camera. (Using it off-camera is another way to get great light, but I haven't used mine that way yet.)

To bounce the flash,  I usually point it at the ceiling behind me, at a side wall, or on the ceiling in front of me, and the flash spreads nice light onto my subject.  (It's best if the wall is white, as colored walls will give odd color casts. That's why ceilings work well. I've also bounced off a piece of white foam board, poster board, or someone's white shirt!  ) By adjusting the angle of the flash, I can control where the light will fall. It's really a simple process.  I use the auto (TTL) setting on the flash. If you buy the same brand of flash as your camera, the camera and flash will coordinate to determine how much light is needed.  See, it's that simple!

Photography Tips

This photo of my daughter  and Sunny was taken a few years ago, in our kitchen.  I had not taken a flash photography class yet.  I simply bounced the external flash up to the ceiling.  Had I used the pop-up flash on the camera, there would have been a harsh shadow behind them.  The shadows from direct flash are worse with vertical photos than horizontal ones.

Now here's an example of direct flash, without bouncing... See what I mean? Ugh, shadow.

If you're not ready to make an investment in an external flash, there are a few ways to soften the pop-up flash, without spending a lot of money. One solution that I've seen online (but haven't tried), is to place a business card at an angle in front of the pop up flash, so that the light bounces up. I've also used a product called the Puffer from Gary Fong. It's just a piece of plastic that diffuses the light coming from the flash. You need to up your exposure compensation quite a bit when you use it, because it really cuts back on the light.  Another option that basically works the same way is to tape some tissue paper over the flash! Try to keep the actual tape from covering the flash if you try that.

* Note:  affiliate links are present.

Want to Learn More?

I've taken several photography classes at Craftsy online. They are wonderful and not expensive. I learned a lot from their Portraits with an On-Camera Speedlight class.  I continue to watch the videos over and over.  I also highly recommend ClickinMoms. I have learned so much there--composition, lighting, equipment tips, Lightroom--it's all there. ClickinMoms has your choice of monthly, yearly, or lifetime membership fees.

I now shoot with DSLRs that are much better in low light than my first one. (I have a Nikon D7000 and a Nikon D5100. The newer versions of these are the the Nikon D7100 and the Nikon D5300. I love my cameras!  There are still many times when I need my flash, so I'm glad to know how to use it well!  I'll always be learning new things about flash and new ways to use it.

Do you have tips for bouncing the flash?

*  If you click on and purchase from an affiliate link, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

Linking to:
Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings
Good. Random. Fun.
Life Thru the Lens
The Weekend Blog Hop
Inspire Me Monday
Sunday Showcase at An Alli Event
Crafty Spices
Picture Perfect
Turn it Up Tuesday
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Learning to Zentangle

Well, the title of this post is Learning to Zentangle, but you really don't have to learn a lot.  It's actually just a way to create images with structured patterns. Very relaxing and fun.  I bought a book, but there is also a lot of Zentangle inspiration on Pinterest.

The first time I saw some Zentangle designs, I was instantly intrigued by them.  They reminded me of the drawings I made for years in my spiral notebooks in school when I was supposed to be taking notes. Even in college.  (I did take notes too. I don't know how I had time for note-taking between all of that doodling, but I did...)

Not surprisingly, I wasn't the first one in my home to break open the book and give Zentangle a try. You might already know that my daughter is usually the one who ventures first into new creative projects. (She actually makes some of the Pinterest stuff she pins.)  She was home from college for the summer and spent some time making these fun patterns.

(My daughter has always insisted that she "can't draw.")

Zentangle at anartfulmom.com

These are phone pics, so not the greatest, but you get the idea.

 I got the book, Totally Tangled, by Sandy Steen Bartholomew at my favorite art store. (Shout out to ArtMart!  Not affiliated...)

I love the designs my daughter drew.

Have you tried Zentangling yet?

Linking to:
The SITS Girls Craft and Recipe Linkup
Thursday Favorite Things
Handmade Tuesdays
Simple and Sweet Fridays
Create, Link, Inspire
Treasure Hunt Thursday
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5 Blogs You Should Visit

Hi there!  With summer flying by, I'm in the middle of a lot of things and enjoying some little treats. Like the saltwater taffy I got on the little getaway I took with my husband a couple of weeks ago.  Lots of it. From a little place in Southwest Missouri, right off the highway, called The Candy Factory. The Bubble Gum flavor is good, the Frosted Cupcake is even better, and the Apple Pie flavor is amazing. Maple Bacon-no. There are many, many more. (Can you tell how much I love the taffy? Enough to walk around with my phone and take pictures of it...)

But I'm digressing again. I've been thinking a lot about changing things up at my blog lately. So I've been thinking about the blogs I love and why I love them.

There are some blogs that have that "something" that could be described as heart, substance,or soul.

There are some that contain so much useful information in an entertaining way.

And there are some that inspire me to create.

Here are 5 fun blogs to visit:

If you are a fan of bloggers who write from the heart and are incredibly creative and talented in both writing and photography, don't miss Tamara Camera. I often get teary and then laugh hysterically in the same post.

You will find an art teacher turned blogger who creates beautiful things at Grow Creative. Great tutorials, and you can buy her artwork too.

I learn so much about blog design and blog fixes at Carrie Loves.  It's my go to place for techie tips. Don't miss it if you need some blog design help.

Katherine's Corner is a really friendly place, and I pick up so many tips about so many things. I was a co-host for one of her link parties a few years ago, and she's as nice as can be.

If you love crafts and want some inspiration, visit Gluesticks Brandy has a lot of projects, recipes, and some free printables.  Parents, even if you don't adore crafts, check out the Kids Crafts section for some fun things to make with your kids.

Those are just a few of my favorite blogs. I'd love for you to share some of yours.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!


I didn't try the Chicken & Waffles taffy but kind of wish I had...
Linking to:
SITS Saturday Sharefest

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Mini-Book/Photo Book from Flip-Flops

Mini-Book, Photo Book from Flip-Flops~An Artful MomToday, I want to show you a little book I made for a friend's daughter.  Yes, these are real flip-flops. (Think dollar store!)  Little girl size, so they make a cute little book. Do you know a girl who might like to fill one of these with little summer pictures?

Here's how I made it:

To begin, I folded a piece of the scrapbook paper in half. I then  traced the flip-flop onto the paper, and cut it out, being careful to leave part of it connected at the fold.  I did this twice, and then taped them together to make 4 foot shaped pages. (See the picture below.)  Before I glued the first and last pages to the book, I adhered a strip of ribbon to each flip-flop, so that it could all be tied shut after the pages went in.

There are other methods to make the pages. Next time, I think I'll punch holes in the side of the flip-flops, and then tie them all together with ribbon. It would open like a typical book, rather than an accordion type.

The really fun part of this project, for me, was decorating the "cover."  I knotted coordinating ribbons around the straps, added a fabric flower (that I personalized), and a rhinestone for some bling.

Rachel was delighted with her little book, and that made me happy.

Let me know if you give this a try!

Linking to:

Inspire Me Monday 
Made by You Monday at Skip to My Lou
Share Your Creativity
Handmade Tuesdays
Frugal Crafty Home Blog Hop
Think and Make Thursdays
Thursday Favorite Things
Being a Wordsmith
Share It Sunday
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