The Icebreaker

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It’s 9:30 on Sunday night, and I can no longer hear my next-door-neighbor’s television. He must have gone to bed early.

If he’s home and he’s awake, his TV is turned on and tuned into news. I can’t make out most of what the talking heads are blathering on about, but every so often I hear the word “Trump”.

It triggers my PTED. Post Traumatic Election Disorder.

I’m trying to practice my speech for Toastmasters. This is the first speech a member gives. It’s all about you, I mean me. It’s the “icebreaker” that lets the other Toastmaster members get to know you, I mean me.

I actually gave this speech last month, but we’re having an open house in a couple of weeks to attract new members, and I was asked to give the speech again. I’m not sure that listening to me talk about myself is conducive to signing up new folks, but, I’ll give it a go.

Here’s the speech:

My name is Laurel, and I’m an artist.

That’s a really hard thing for me to say.

I grew up as the sixth of nine children and I was easily lost in the crowd. I always loved to draw, and the praise I got for that made me feel noticed.

I brought home pictures from kindergarten and my mother would gush about how I was drawing fully-fleshed out people instead of stick figures. She would show off the pictures to the neighbor ladies saying, “Look what a wonderful artist my daughter is!”

In a big family like ours, there wasn’t a lot of money for extracurricular activities, but my mother made sure I had art lessons after school. I hiked up to the Motherhouse, a huge convent at the top of a Rochester hill, and got lessons from a nun whose name I cannot remember. It made me feel so special.

In junior high, I drew cartoons for the school paper, and made posters for school events. I designed programs and tickets for school dances. I made banners to hang in the church on special holidays.

In high school, my friends would ask me to draw portraits of their favorite movie stars. At class reunions even decades later, they let me know they still had them and cherished them. I was kind of an art star at my little parochial school.

I was so excited to be accepted at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design after graduating from high school. I moved from Rochester to Minneapolis and prepared to dazzle everyone with my brilliant talent.

Imagine my surprise when I found I was not the most talented student there. All the art stars from all the little high schools were there, and I was pretty average. Not the best, not the worst, just…average.

That was tough enough, but part of our education was critiquing other students’ work. We hadn’t learned the Toastmasters’ sandwich technique of offering constructive criticism sandwiched between statements of praise, so the critiques were often quite…humbling.

I dropped out of art school after one semester. A former high school classmate offered to buy one of my paintings for five dollars. The materials had cost me ten. Does that make me a professional artist?

The other paintings were given as gifts to various friends and relatives, and eventually found their way into closets around the state.

I continued to try to put my artwork out into the world, but it was never accepted into a juried show.

Although I still got lots of positive feedback from most of my loved ones, I remember a particularly awful date I had with my boyfriend. I had a painting of a Native American woman over my couch, and a drawing of a Native American man on another wall.

My boyfriend knew I had created those pictures and I was tired of his total silence on the matter. I asked him point-blank what he thought of the painting.

“The hands look kind of funny”, he said. Ouch. Honestly, they did look kind of funny, because hand are very hard to paint, and the model had left the studio before I’d finished the painting.

I asked him what he thought of the drawing, because I was especially proud of that. There was a long pause, and then he said, “I guess I’m not into Indians as much as you are”.

We broke up the next day. Unfortunately, I seemed to have broken up with art, too, and gave up drawing and painting for years.

Now that I’m retired, I’m getting back into creating artwork. This time, it’s just for me. It’s for my self-expression, and I don’t need to show it to anyone else. I don’t need anyone else’s approval or praise. If I like what I create, that’s all that matters.

I am Laurel, and I am an artist.

Stay tuned…

P.S. Here’s a few beautiful things I made this week:







Operation Cash My Stash

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We have a rule amongst my sisters. As soon as a drinker spills her drink, she’s cut off from any more alcohol.

The rule used to be as soon as the drinker hit the floor, she was cut off. But by tightening up the cut-off time, we’ve saved ourselves from most further drinking injuries.

I was trying to finish some more Christmas cards for the craft show, and took a big chunk out of my finger while cutting ribbon. New rule for crafting: If you’re bleeding, you’re done.

The craft show was a huge success. That is, if you don’t count how much money I made versus how much time I spent making jewelry and Christmas cards. Not to mention the cost of the materials.



But that’s okay! Even though I downsized my craft stash before moving to Costa Rica, I still have waaaay too much stuff. That’s why I launched Operation Cash My Stash.

I sold a necklace, about 8 pairs of earrings, and 4 packages of cards. That’s $134 dollars for Operation Cash My Stash. We (the royal plural) are pleased.

And yes, one of the first things I did at the craft fair was spill a cup of coffee on my display, which consisted of jewels on white cards, sitting on a white table cloth.

And yes, No.2 Sis (so grateful for No.2 Sis offering to be my helper) immediately cut off my coffee supply. Rules are rules.

Meanwhile, the cottage is quite a disaster, since I’ve been so focused on creating stuff for the fair.

Sigh! Back to doing dishes, vacuuming, washing clothes, mopping floors, and scrubbing toilets. Retirement is so glamorous!

Stay tuned…

P.S. A special thank you to my niece S2 (No.2’s middle daughter) for donating the table fee for the craft show! Hugs!

Chicken Water And Craft Fairs

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Colder weather has arrived here in Minnesota, and you know what that means.


I made a batch of chicken soup from a grocery-store rotisserie chicken carcass. It was a two day process.

The first day, the chicken was stewed 8-10 hours in the crockpot with garlic, onions, and miscellaneous veg (I actually only had celery). That made the stock.

Day 2, I pulled out all the bones, skin, and old veggies. Then, after going shopping, I put fresh onions, garlic, carrots, and celery in the crock, along with the chicken meat, broth, and plenty of spices. I let that stew for another 8-10 hours.

And voila! After two days of cooking, I had a big batch of chicken water. I mean soup. The blandest soup ever made.

It was very audacious of me to think I could have any sort of culinary success without a tried-and-true recipe.

Anyway, if cold weather means soup, then soup means crackers, and crackers mean cheeses. I love cheeses. After making the grocery store veg run, I made a cheese run.

cheese and crackers


The other thing cold weather means is Christmas craft fairs. My niece, S2, e-mailed and asked me if I’d like to participate in the craft fair her kids’ school is putting on.

At first I said no, since I’m retired and it kind of sounded like work. But then No.2 Sis (S2’s mother) pointed out that I have a whole room of my apartment stuffed with craft supplies, and I could possibly turn some of those supplies into cash.

Hmm, was that brilliant or what? I started thinking of the room of “The Vault” instead of “The Studio.”

So I signed up for the craft fair at Nativity of Mary School in Bloomington, Minnesota, which will be from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 9th. And yes, this is a shameless plug.

So far, I’ve made 90 Christmas cards, 40 pairs of earrings, and 3 necklaces. I’ve got almost 2 weeks left, so I’m sure I can get those numbers higher.

My goal is to run out of Christmas paper for card-making.

I’m sure I have too many craft supplies to run out of most of the other card and jewelry components. And remember, this is what I have left after a considerable amount of down-sizing! It’s a little embarrassing.





hand-made Christmas cards


Stay tuned…



Project Backup

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I’m falling behind (WAY behind) in my resolution to only take on one project at a time.

My kitchen has plenty of cupboards, but they all open away from the stove. That makes it hard to access spices while cooking.

I bought a metal tray at an antique store and nailed it up over the stove (very low-tech, I know). Then I bought these magnetic spice tins from Amazon. I filled the tins with my most commonly used spices, added these labels, and plopped them up on the tray for easy access. One project down, untold multitudes to go.



Here’s the basis for the next project. I bought this picture from Goodwill for the frame. I’m going to replace the print with my affirmation, “Life is sweet”, and hang it over the kitchen sink.



I acquired my Grandma’s two antique dining chairs from No. 4 Sis. I had my handyman do some repairs on them. Now I have to paint them.



I bought this little footstool from a second-hand store that has, unfortunately, recently gone out of business. I may reupholster it at some later date, but for now I’d like to paint the legs.



And yesterday I bought a tiny side table to go with No. 8 Sis’ tiny arm chair. The table was from a soon-to-go-out-of-business antique store. It only cost $4.50! It needs to be painted, too.



All the furniture on the “paint list” will be painted off-white and then be distressed.

Okay, not untold multitudes of projects, just four.

Time to get to work!

Stay tuned…

P.S. I screwed up one of the Christmas cards I was making. I stamped the sentiment crookedly and tore the paper when I tried to reposition an ornament.



Instead of throwing my “oops” away, I turned it into a birthday card by putting a matted strip over the sentiment and a matted banner over the tear. I like it even better than the Christmas card I was trying to make!



Stay tuned…


Christmas Card Evolution

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A bit of advice: Do not put a load of clothes in the washer on hot, and then jump in the shower. Although an icy shower is very invigorating.

Another tip: Having an episode of “Hoarders” playing in the background really helps motivate one to clean the house.

I needed 12 birthday cards in June and 2 in July. I did make some, but I didn’t love them, so I raided my card stash. Since my birthday cards were just “meh”, I decided to start on Christmas cards.

This is the first one. I glued aluminum foil to card stock and then ran it through the Cuttlebug inside the Stampin’ Up Holly Textured Impressions folder. Then I punched out the circle “ornaments”.

Christmas card, Stampin' Up, aluminum foil


Meh. It needs more.



I used different punches for the “ornaments” and added some punched stars.

Better, but…



I’m happy with this. I think I’ll make a few more.

Stay tuned…

Mass-produced Birthday Cards, May 2017

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Me and No.2 Sis, on the couch, watching TV and playing on our phones.

No.2 Sis: I’m tired.

Me: Me, too. I found this shade garden on Pinterest.

Sis: I think it’s nap time.

Me: I could grow ferns and hostas.


Me: But, for color, I could add blue veronica.


Me: Day lilies would add color, too.


Me: I wonder if Tiger lilies grow in the shade.


Me: OMG! You’re tired, and I’m still sitting on the couch, which is your bed!

Sis: {snore}

I guess once Sis chants the magic words, “nap time”, nothing else is required.

I had a lot of birthday cards to make in May, so I wanted something I could mass-produce. I used Freshly Made Sketches #207.

I found three coordinating designer papers in a feminine pack, and three in a more gender neutral pack. All supplies are from Stampin’ Up.

I cut a 2 inch strip from each piece of paper, then cut each strip into three lengths. I shuffled the papers so each card had a variety of patterns, then glued it all down.



Added the sentiment and, kapow! shazam! Six cards in less than half an hour.



I can’t wait to get into my own apartment, and I’m sure No.2 Sis feels the same (although she’s been a very generous hostess).

The furniture’s been delivered, so it’ll be as soon as I can get off the pain-killers. Yay!

Stay tuned…



Birthday Cards, April 2017

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Yesterday was a good day. I was conscious and pain-free, two of my favorite things. Well, in the top 10 at least.

No.2 Sis took me to the orthopedic clinic, where I got a cortisone shot in the right knee, and finally got surgery scheduled with Dr. Jack for the left knee. You know, the knee I’ve been trying to get replaced for the last 9 months, the one I damaged even further in Costa Rica by falling hard in the road.

Then I took a mega-dose of pain pills, as per the recommendation of my general practitioner, Dr. Kitty. She had promised (apologetically) to hurt me during a procedure scheduled for later yesterday. After she got started though, she found out she didn’t need to do the hurty procedure after all. Suh-weeeet.

I treated No.2 Sis to a celebratory dinner at Baker’s Square. (Pie.)

She started reciting a nursery rhyme while I drinking water, and I damn near drowned, laughing. I may have been a little loopy from the pain-killers. It still was a very good day. (Pie. Definitely in the top 10.)

I have a niece and two grand-nieces with birthdays in April. I wanted to get back to making cards. I missed it so much while I was in Costa Rica.

The challenge was to use as little as possible of No.2’s stash, because my stuff is still all packed up.

I bought a paper pad, Fashionably Chic, by Recollections, at Michael’s. I just used some of Sis’s black and white paper, black ink, adhesive, and one stamp. The stamp is the owl from the Stampin’ Up set, Punch Bunch.

Ugh. Her paper trimmer is very dull, so I had trouble making clean, square cuts. Oh yeah, I used Sis’s paper trimmer, too.

I used 3 sketches from Pinterest for the layouts.

The first sketch is from Sweet Sunday Sketch Challenge #294.

The second is from Mojo Monday #396.

The third sketch is originally from Quintessentially Me. I couldn’t find this exact sketch, so this a link to all of her card sketches.

If you want to see my Pinterest board with the sketches I’ve collected, click here.

Stay tuned…

Fashionably Chic, Stampin' Up, Punch BunchFashionably Chic, Stampin' Up, Punch BunchFashionably Chic, Punch Bunch

Double-Z Card, or 334

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I made this cute Double-Z card (tutorial here) for my niece’s upcoming 5th birthday.

Double-Z card (2)

I remember my conversation with her on her last birthday. She was pulling out the first instrument, an ear examination thingy, out of her new doctor’s bag.

Me: That helps you look in people’s ears.

Niece: Yes. It’s an otoscope.

Me: Um…I…er…I didn’t know that.

Shown up by a four-year-old.

Anyway, change of subject, I’ve had to rethink my house decluttering attitude a bit. I’ve lately been focusing on how to make money off of my junk (insert dirty joke here) instead of just getting rid of it. That’s led to too much of “I’ll save this and sell it later”.

I’ve decided I must just focus on getting rid of stuff again, and forget about selling it.

I must also admit that I looked on e-bay to try find prices for what I have to sell, and found that my junk probably wouldn’t sell at all. Apparently, my junk is nothing special.

So, I set a goal of getting rid of 30 bags, boxes, etc, in April. No.2 Sis came over Saturday and we played “Hoarders”. I set on a chair, going through boxes, and handing stuff off to her with instructions like, “Keep, donate, garbage, recycling, etc”.

We added 2 more boxes of books to the 4 bags from last week and made a run over to Half Price Books and sold them for $37.

Yes, I know I said I wasn’t going to sell stuff, but this was quick and easy.

We also packed up 4 boxes and 1 bag of donations and dropped them at Goodwill.

2 boxes books.

5 boxes/bags donated.

2 bags recycling.

1 bag garbage.

Total: 10 bags/boxes so far in April, which brings my total to 334 bags, boxes and small pieces of furniture cleared out of the house since January, 2014.

Stay tuned…

p.s. Lest you think this sisterly help is all one-sided, I must inform you that I went to No.2 Sis’ house on Sunday and helped her install kitchen cabinet hardware. It looks smashing!



4 Card Designs From 1 Stamp – Medallion

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I decided to challenge myself with my card-making by picking out a random stamp and making 4 different cards with it. Of course, I got LOTS of help from Pinterest.

I chose the “Medallion” stamp.

The first card was tweaked from a design by Tina White. I changed the colors slightly, used washi tape instead of ribbon, and added some rhinestone bling to “Dasher”.

The “noel” sentiment is from “Many Merry Messages”.

Medallion, Dasher, Christmas card


























Hmm, I can see I need some ink refills or new ink pads!

My second card design came from Mamaxsix at Split Coast Stampers. The flowers and the sentiment came from the “Asian Artistry” stamp set. Again, I added some bling, this time to the middle of the medallion.

Medallion, Aisan Artistry card


























I used triple-time stamping for the third card. There are a ton of tutorials for this technique on Pinterest and YouTube, so I just picked a random site to link to, Stamp With Brian.

The “happy” sentiment is from “Define Your Life”.

Medallion triple-time stamping


I got my fourth card idea from Inking Out of the Box. They made a Medallion Wedding card, but I turned it into a Christmas card. I should have stamped the white medallion after sponging the cherry cobbler ink, though. I thought the cherry ink would wipe off of the embossed medallion better.

The “silent night” sentiment is from “Jingle All The Way”.

Medallion, silent night card


























All the stamps, paper, ink and accessories are from Stampin’ Up.

I made 4 each of the Christmas cards and 2 each of the others. And no, I didn’t do it in one day; it took me four weekends!

Stay tuned…

p.s. I know the first words of some of the paragraphs are beside the picture instead of beneath it. I can’t figure that out. Grrrr.

Crazy Busy Week, and Cheese

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I had a crazy, busy week this week, with something scheduled every night after work. That kind of schedule makes me very, very crabby.


After working 9 hours, I attended the first half of an 8 hour class, “Driving Now That You’re an Old Fart”. Actually, I believe it was called “Safe Driving For 55 Plus”, but you get the drift. You know all the things that annoy you about encountering oldsters on the road, like driving too slowly, leaving too much space between cars, slowing down for green lights, leaving turn signals on for miles? Those things are actually taught in this class.


Second half of “Decrepit Driving” class.


I had a chiropractor appointment scheduled, but I canceled it due to fatigue. Plus, it’s costing me LOTS of money to go in twice a week, and it doesn’t feel like it’s helping. No.2 Sis suggested Courage Center for physical therapy.

Anyway, I ran errands on Wednesday, including a $87 grocery store run. I was out of cheese.


My Stampin’ Up pusher, sorry, distributor, came to my workplace, The Company, and put on a SAS (Stamp-a-Stack). Me, a half-dozen co-workers, and several guests each made 15 Christmas cards. We also had a pot-luck dinner. I was in charge of set-up, tear-down, and lunch meat.



Friday was my day off. No relief. I had an 8:30 lab appointment, for which I had to start fasting right after the Thursday potluck. No bedtime cheese snack. Harumph.

Then, at 10:30, I had a channeled reading from Chanda Parkinson. This was a gift from my BFF “G”, and it was very enlightening. Chanda told me I was spreading myself too thin. Oh wait, I knew that already. The rest of the info I got was truly enlightening. Thanks Chanda, and thanks “G”!

At 11:00, No.2 Sis came over to my house and helped me move all the small furniture into the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room, so the carpet cleaners could have a clear path.

Ultimate Carpet Cleaners came at noon, and did a wonderful job of cleaning my dirty carpets. I had had Stanley Steamer in not too long ago, and the carpet looked good for a day afterwards, but then reverted right back to its previous dirty state. Ultimate was much more impressive (and less expensive).

Plus we got these awesome shoe-booties.


Sis and I put the small furniture back, with strips of plastic underneath to protect the wet carpet.

Then we gussied ourselves up, gassed up Gypsy Blue and drove across town to meet our Aunt and Uncle at No.3 Bro’s art show. We figured it would take us 45 minutes. In the rain and Friday night rush hour, it took us an hour-and-a-half. We missed Aunt and Uncle, but we got to see Bro, his girlfriend, his 2 sons, and his ex-wife. And, of course, Bro’s awesome paintings and the wonderful paintings of 2 other artists.

On the way home, I ran to the grocery store (cheese).

And now it’s Saturday. Now I can rest. And feast on cheese.

Stay tuned…

p.s. I shared this at Chic on a Shoestring.