Remembering Earth Day, Save the Whales Day and my dad’s birthday

This week in April is one full of memories for me and my family. My dad’s birthday is April 21 and he would be 94 years old on Tuesday. He had Alzheimer’s Disease and passed away several years ago. I think of him, around this time every year and his connection with Earth Day and Save the Whales Day ( if such a day was ever designated for this cause, I don’t have proof).

My daughter Maia is a born environmentalist. Be patient, I am getting to the point. She loves the great outdoors, the woods, the beach and especially visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm in upstate New York. Most of her passion came from wonderful teachers she had in grade school in the Northampton, Mass. area.

Photo: Earth Day Network

During the mid-70’s education was all about the environment and it seemed like everyone was on board.

In kindergarten, her class studied about the plight of whales and built a huge paper maché whale that was hung in the Southampton Elementary School’s library. It even got press coverage and Maia was in the photo.

Back then we were big celebrators of Earth Day and involved each year with various “Save Our Earth” projects.

Dad was an outdoors man who cherished the wildlife and the land. He never spent many waking hours indoors. Even on Summer evenings, when it rained, he would perch himself on the porch swing and listen to the frogs sing their praises to Mother Nature. Dad would relax knowing the vegetation was being nourished. The thing I admire most about him is his lifelong dedication to take care of his tiny spot on the planet.

So, let me boil this down. In the late 70’s, when Maia was eight or nine she started feeling sorry for grandpa, because grandma’s birthday was also the first day of Spring. So she informed him that April 21st was “Save the Whales Day.” I think it was more like a commemoration sometime in April every year, back then. I can’t find out much more than that online, and it is celebrated all different times of the year, nowadays. Here is a link:

Actually Earth Day, was closer, April 25th, and a few years later she told him she got mixed up. It didn’t matter to him as he appreciated her intentions. Here is a link to Earth Day:

Besides, he was happy to celebrate both days, He always made a big deal out of his birthday being special because of Maia.

This week I will pay homage to my dad, to our Earth, the whales and beautiful, thoughtful children.

I need to carve a whale stamp. In the meantime, enjoy these samplings of my work:

Watching birds

The view over my computer screen and out the window toward our bird feeder.

Do you think someone would pay me to watch the birds that swoop in, hover over and traipse around the feeder in our yard? Because I have a lot of experience. I would work for bird seed, even for free. Oh heck, I am already caught up in the bird watching bug and I am not getting the tasks I should be doing, done.

1-1-DSCN1454My studio overlooks the yard where we’ve hung our popular bird feeder. It tends to be a favorite place for squirrels, rabbits, turtles, snakes and especially birds to congregate. They all get along, with just a bit of push and shove now and then. Their biggest fear is when one of the neighborhood Red Tail hawks swoop down to grab something for lunch. Everything scatters and it is usually a dove that falls prey.

The hawks will soon be making regular passes, looking for food. This is nesting time and our yard serves as a convenient take- out spot for the adult hawks seeking to feed the young. For now, all is calm. Once the hawks start swooping, the mood shifts to being vigilant. The last few years, I’ve noticed something. The birds, the bunnies and squirrels stay alert. Every creature immediately scatters, heading for the bushes and trees or planters on the nearby porch, when a hawk appears in the sky. I can see the hawk’s shadow on the lawn as it passes over and I feel like hiding under my desk.

Here is another way I do some bird watching and it is of Red Tail Hawks.

Right now I am passing my time (wasting, maybe) watching the birds gathering nest material and stopping often for a seed snack. Most of these birds — cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, doves — are year ’round natives, with robins, orioles, bluebirds, gold finches and such passing through. I expect they are all sharing tales of winter with each other.

A paradise, yes. It is March in Florida and Spring has sprung with glorious weather and new life is hatching and sprouting. All is new. And this is just the start of another year. First the nesting, then watching as parents teach the fledglings how to survive. Summer is social season with a lot of fresh food everywhere and then back to cooler months and planning for Spring. Either I am part bird, a bird-minder reader or …. This is how it appears, to me.

Inspiring, yes.This is where I sit and sketch critters for carving stamps and for painting, like my bunnies design. This Spring I will focus on carving more bird designs and do more sketching with details.

Peaceful, yes. Until the hawk thing happens, again. There is peace and harmony. Too bad humans can’t get reach the same level.

A place to get paperwork done, no. I take that back. I do get the things that need to be done on my computer accomplished as long as I get frequent bird watching breaks.

Better stick to my day job.

Woodpeckers are aggressive around the feeder.


Social media frenzy

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I am here, everyone. Didn’t go anyplace or abandon you. In fact, I am busy trying to figure out all of this social media stuff.

Okay, I really need to get my income taxes done. I have the paperwork. The business I’ve done this year is little compared to that Etsy 3 Bird Nest store everyone keeps talking about.

So filing taxes shouldn’t be a big deal. Yet, I procrastinate. That leads to sublimating. For me. it is all about going through the to-do (someday) list and finding stuff that doesn’t seem quite as boring to do and accomplish before it is the last minute to finish up the tax paperwork.

This year, among other projects, I decided it is time to jump on the social media merry-go-round to get Antsy Artist Redux out there in the world’s mainstream. Every where I go online, I am being told you must do this and that to get noticed and more, to get known.

It isn’t enough to have a Twitter or Pinterest account. You need to engage. You need to interact. You need to get as much exposure for your business, as possible. Boost sales, attract followers, increase tweets, get pinned. I get that and occasionally I get pumped up over the thought.

So, I put the tax paperwork in neat piles and decided my time between now and the last minute would be better spent becoming famous via social media.

Converting personal accounts to business ones was so easy and fun. Reading the sites’ lists and steps to meeting my goal, was tedious but not bad. Even with the free parts of the business accounts, there is a lot of work to do — at least in my estimation.

In one, case, I’d actually set up a business account two years ago and forgot about it because I didn’t feel like doing all of those steps. Now that I reminded them that I still exist, they not are giving up on me, again.

I still think it takes more than spreading yourself all over the internet. I may be wrong and I don’t have any answers.

I already spend hours every day keeping my Etsy site up to date. And more hours creating new pieces (which is something I would rather do 24 hours a day).

So, now I have three networking sites sending me emails with tips, reminders and updates. I haven’t done anything, but read what I am supposed to be doing

Yikes. So much for sublimating with something fun. Maybe I learned my lesson. It is more likely that I will be more particular in the future.

By the way — Don’t miss out on a great deal. Get a handful of spiced pins, either red hot peppers or really cool ice cream cones, and save.

Gotta run. I am going to put off this social media stuff for now and do my taxes.

Chinese New Year

T-shirt fits Chinese New Year.

Today is the first day of the new lunar year, Chinese New Year 2015. Festivals and celebrations were held all over the world last night on New Year’s Eve to welcome the year of the sheep, or goat or ram. Well, despite the confusion as to the designated species to represent the year, revelers seemed to pay little or no attention to the kerfuffle.

Personally, I prefer the sheep designation. When I was growing up on a farm in upstate New York, we raised sheep for their wool, but mostly to keep the huge pastures properly trimmed. Every February, when winter seemed its coldest, the ewes would give birth. Most of the newly born lambs spent their first hours in the enclosed back porch of our house. Mom prepared blanket-lined cardboard boxes for them to snuggle down in to nap and prepare for a life outdoors. They were born, sometimes twins every couple of days apart, usually at night. When dad brought them in they were wet and shivering, not able to stand. We would take turns drying and warming them with an old hand-held hair dryer.

When they started “bleating” they would be fed from a soda bottle fitted with a nipple and full of some warm milk formula made lovingly for our baby lambs. The most fun came when they got their strength and jumped out of their little temporary nest boxes. If someone accidentally-on-purpose left the back door open, lambs would try out their new legs on the living room carpet.

Later on, when I was living in Massachusetts, we had a male pygmy goat with horns and he was a piece of work. Long story shortened, we went out to dinner with friends, stopped by at a farm auction and Joe talked me into bidding on this cute little goat, we thought was a kid. I won it. The kid turned out to be an adult goat, just smaller than most. I was leaning toward having milking goats, someday.

Billy Joe, the goat, was tethered in the lawn during the day and penned in what was our garden shed at night. He would pee on his head to attract the surrounding female goats, which were actually dogs, Yes, our pet and our neighbor’s German shepherd. He would occasionally get loose and run the neighborhood with the dogs or try to challenge them into a butting contest. He would butt the back door trying to come inside and I worried he would smash a window. We found a farmer willing to give Billy Joe a good home. Turns out Billy Joe made my fears come true. His free roaming days on the farm were through. He was bound to being tethered after smashing a huge picture window.

Sheep and goats. Do you see where I am going here?

The extent of my knowledge regarding the Chinese New Year is that it happens about two months after the real New Year’s Day, includes fortune cookies, dragons and it is always designated as the year of an animal according to the Chinese zodiac.

Our family has celebrated Chinese New Year in the past with a Chinese meal. With me around, I am sure we crafted up some paper lanterns. I made felted Chinese fortune cookies, like these in my 24/7 Store.

During a Disney World visit our daughter, Stephanie, gifted me with this t-shirt (pictured above) for my birthday. That is another one of those years, which I think can be interpreted as boar (strong, determined) or pig (smart and a slightly more docile). My shirt is designed with the boar.

Which proves every family is diverse in personalities. And, I guess even the Chinese Zodiac gives people choices.

Here is an article about this year’s Zodiac designation(s):

Happy New Year!!

2 MUCH FUN 4U: DIY Valentine’s Day gift for super granddaughter

Valentine’s Day fun: Countless hours of carving for 5SOS stamps.

My youngest granddaughter made a simple request. She asked if I could make her a stamp with the logo of her favorite band. Bear in mind, this was during Thanksgiving weekend and I was just about over my head with preparing my Etsy shop, Antsy Artist Redux, for the holidays.

I explained that I couldn’t do that because of copyright laws. I brushed her off and now I want to make it up to her. In the first place, I am not making and selling anything with their logo. I am making their No. 1 fan very happy.

Taryn, 13, will travel hours to see 5 Seconds of Summer (5SOS). Well, she will get her mom to drive her, that is. I am not telling how many years it has been since my teen idol days.

I am touched that she asked me to make something she really, really wanted. I make a lot of things and don’t often get such specific requests from loved ones.

I was thinking about this for a while and it came to me. What better day is there for a surprise gift from Grandma, than St. Valentine’s Day? I did check with her mom, my daughter, Maia, to make sure this is still her favorite boy band. It is.

I found their logo online, which turned out to be a breeze to carve. The second time around, that is. As pictured it is the symbol for counting five with SOS, But, as usual, I had to make it a real project. The first stamp I carved was just the four marks and strike though representing five. Then it hit me like daylight and I realized that wasn’t the whole logo.

The second stamp came out better yet and was what I meant to carve in the first place.

While carving, I imagined Taryn and her friends plastering everything, including themselves with this stamp.

I sent her it to her with some little hearts and flower stamps I had around with a letter and stamp pad. Taryn received the box yesterday. She loves her new stamp, liked my letter and said she will be stamping it on everything. That makes me happy.

If you are interested in taking on a similar task here are the steps. Or contact me for a better online tutorial source.

You will need a piece of Moo Carve or other rubber carving block, copy or drawing of the image to carve, craft knife or carving tool and a pencil.

Draw or print out a copy of what you want on your stamp. With a pencil, go over the part you want to use, several times. This will help transfer the design. Or you can draw your design on carving block with a pencil. That allows you to make the image larger or smaller. But when you draw directly on the block remember to reverse the image or your print will be backwards.

You can cut the carving block to a smaller size to fit your image. Using a sharp kitchen knife, I cut about a 2″ by 1 1/2 ” rectangular piece to use from a 4″ by 6″ rubber block. That way I didn’t have a lot of excess block to cut away.

Flip the design right side down on the carving block surface, and rub the back with the side of the pencil to transfer the image onto the block.

In the first “mistake” stamp I carved around the border and each part of the image, using deep cuts. That was fine for that stamp, but the second one, the “real logo” is cut in reverse. I used a small gouge tool to carve the logo image into the block. A craft knife would work fine. Be sure to make your cuts as deep as possible without wrecking the stamp. I carved away excess block from around the border.

Once it is roughed out, clean off debris and test your stamp. Fine tune and keep testing until you are satisfied with the results.

Mine looks great. Keep the image simple and something that isn’t to colorful.

I could have carved a wood block, which would last forever, but that is more time consuming and maybe Taryn will move on to another favorite band. Lately, arthritis in my fingers makes wood carving difficult.

I enjoyed making a special stamp for Taryn. Maybe as much as she will enjoy stamping everything.