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Saturday, May 30, 2009

The fascinating world of seahorses at the MOA!

We went to the MOA and saw an awesome exhibit at the underground aquarium. Take a look at these amazing sea creatures!

seahorse swimming

I'm fascinated & captivated by seahorses. They are the most interesting looking creatures and they are so much fun to watch. The one up above was zipping through the water by the power of its back fin. How do they move so quickly with just a small fin on their back? It amazes me.

seahorses sleeping

Here are two seahorses sleeping with their tails coiled around each other.

ribbon pipehorse

And can you see the seahorse in the photo above? These creatures are known as "Ribbon Pipehorses" and they blend in well with the vegetation that they grasp onto with their tails.

group of seahorses

Here are some of my favorite seahorses from the exhibit. I think they are my faves because of their bright and cheery yellow color. Look at the group of them gathered in the Anemone.

yellow seahorse swimmin'

This little guy was swimming all around, so I tried to get some "action" shots.

seahorse looking at you

And lookey here, the little guy faced me head on and I got a view of his cute little face from the front. He's looking right at ya!

lovely seahorse

This last photo is one of my favorites. It's the classic seahorse pose with coiled tail. After seeing the seahorses, it has sparked some inspiration for my work. I am planning on making some seahorse pieces soon. Aren't they amazing animals?

I tried to pick out a small sampling of the seahorse photos that I took while at the aquarium. There are some more pics I wanted to share of some of the other sealife at the aquarium. Soon they will find their way to my blog too. Stay tuned! :-)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Our "mini" trip to Minneapolis & Mall of America

We saw lotsa Legos, shops, restaurants and fish at the underground aquarium.

Fun!!! Take a peek.

lego display at MOA

This week my friend, Deanna and I went to Minneapolis, which is about a 5 hour drive from where we live. Our main reason for going there was to scope out some potential apartments for her sister who's moving to Minneapolis for her new job. Currently she's living in Wyoming, so it would be hard for her to look at apartments herself. Since we had a long drive we were planning on staying one night at a hotel in Minneapolis. And the hotel we stayed at happened to be conveniently located about 5 minutes from the Mall of America.

lego display at MOA

We left at 7am on Tuesday morning and arrived in Minnesota around 11:30am, just outside Minneapolis. Deanna's sister had about 10 apartments selected for us to look at. After calling for more info and appointments for tours, we ended up seeing 6 apartments on Tuesday. Then we had 2 more to see on Wednesday since the last 2 we weren't able to see. So in total we saw 8 different apartments in two days including 10 hours travel time and a visit to the Mall of America. We got a lot covered in two days.

lego display at MOA

We didn't do any power shopping while at the mall, mostly window shopping. We did visit the underground aquarium at the mall, which was pretty cool. They had a nice seahorse exhibit while we were there. I love seahorses. I took an ample amount of pics of the seahorses, which I plan on posting in my next blog post. In addition to the aquarium photos, I took some photos of "Lego-land" at the mall. I love Legos. I was a big lego fan when I was a kid. I could spend hours building Lego houses and buildings. It was so much fun. Somewhere in storage, my Legos are sitting. One of these days I should get them out and start building again. The lego displays at the Lego store are amazing and massive. The entire Lego Display reaches into the upper levels of the mall. At one part of the exhibit there is a huge Lego grandfather clock. For some reason I never got a picture of the clock. There is so much to capture and take in at the Lego Exhibit. It's awesome.

theme park at MOA

The photo above shows the view of the theme park from the second level at the mall near Lego-land. I wanted to go on a ride or two, but Deanna doesn't like theme park rides. And I didn't want to go by myself. It's just not as fun if you don't have someone to scream with on a ride. Years ago I went on a roller coaster ride at the Mall of America. That was when the theme park was named, "Camp Snoopy." Now it's "Nickelodeon Universe."

Deanna at Ko-ko-mo restaurant

Deanna at Kokomo's Island Cafe ~ May 27, 2009

We stopped for a bite to eat at the mall at Kokomo's Island Cafe. It's a brightly decorated tiki-themed restaurant. It's a fun place to eat. And we each ordered a delicious salad with Coconut Crusted Chicken, freshly slice mangoes, strawberries, oranges, and pineapples with greens and a pineapple-mango vinaigrette. Yummy! :-)

tiki bar at Ko-ko-mo restaurant

The photo above is the Tiki bar at Kokomo's

bathroom mirror at Ko-ko-mo

Even the bathroom is decorated in the fun Caribbean theme. I loved the mirror above the sinks. The entire frame of the mirror is made with shells. I also liked the pineapple light fixtures on the mirror. And of course, I loved all of the brightly colored decor displayed all over the place.

lookin' good door

And here's the inside of the bathroom door to the bathroom. Lookin' Good!

Deanna outside of MOA

Deanna by her car at the Mall of America parking lot.

And this is how close of a parking spot we got to the mall. It pays to get there at 10am right when the mall opens. We had a nice "mini" trip to Minneapolis. If you've never been to the Mall of America I suggest you come and see it sometime. Stay tuned for my next blog post when I write about our visit to the underground aquarium at the Mall of America.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Patty's gorgeous lilacs

pink lilacs

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day. It was a perfect day to take pics of flowers outside. And yesterday I happened to be at my friend's house for a visit and to take some photos outside. My friend Patty recently returned home from her stay in Georgia during our brutal Wisconsin winter. She was so lucky to have missed most of our snowy, cold winter.

Patty's house

Patty has some beautiful lilacs blooming in her yard and she wanted me to get some photos with my camera. Here's Patty's house with one of the gorgeous lilac bushes blooming in her front yard. She also has some lilac bushes growing her in back yard too.

Patty's front window

This lilac bush is growing right outside Patty's front window. When you're inside of her house looking out this window, you get a spectacular view of the pretty lilacs. Ahhhh! Too bad they don't stay in bloom forever. They are so pretty.

purple lilacs

This photo above is one of my favorites. I love the colors!

purple lilacs against blue sky

And as I mentioned, the day was so gorgeous to take photos. The air was warm, but not too warm and it wasn't too windy and the bright blue sky was beautiful. Whenever there is a gorgeous blue sky outside, I try to capture it in some of my pics of the day. Look at how nice the purple and the white lilacs look against the sky.

white lilacs against blue sky

After I was at Patty's house, she followed me to my house. Then she and I took a short walk on the nature trail near my house. Afterward, I made one of my favortie recipes for a tortellini salad. It's so delicious and easy to make. We had a terrific day.

white lilacs

Tomorrow I'm leaving for a mini trip to Minneapolis. One of my friend's sisters is moving from Wyoming to Minneapolis. So Deanna and I are going to help her look for apartments there. Deanna's bringing her camera along so her sister can see how the apartments look. We will be staying over for one night since it is about a 5 hour drive to Minneapolis. We won't have too much time to go and see things, but we may try to catch a movie. We're thinking of seeing "Night at the Museum." Anyone seen any good movies recently?

Have a good day. :-)

Talk to you later. Don't forget to leave a comment here at my blog. I love to read them.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I brake for flowers, yes I do!

blossoms and sky

This last week I was fortunate enough to be able to venture out on the nature trail on some nice, sunny days. Too bad the wind was a bit fierce on one of those days. Anyway, I was thrilled to see so many gorgeous blossoms blooming out on the trail. As the title says, "I brake for flowers!" When I ride on the trail I keep my eyes wide open to catch any glimpses of the beauty, patterns and textures of nature. And when something catches my eye, I put the brakes on my bike and stop to drink in the beauty and "capture the wonder" as I take photos. Sometimes I have to backup and reverse my direction to find what I almost missed by pedaling past.

gorgeous pink blossom

One blossom

blossom pair

two blossoms

pink blossoms


dandy dandelion

And a dandy little dandelion!

mini blossoms

So many flowers, so little time!

It never ceases to amaze me how intricate and beautiful nature is. It equally amazes me how a round, fuzzy bumblebee is able to zip through the air, looking too heavy to fly. I saw some fuzzy bees while taking photos of the flowers. Who knew I'd meet them there?

large tree

Off the beaten path, I found this tree growing in the middle of a farmer's field. I think I have a photo of the same tree during the fall with yellow leaves against a dark sky.

bench on nature trail

And here's one of my favorite features on the trail. No, not the bench, but the "tree tunnel." There are a few tree tunnels on the trail. It's so much fun riding through a tunnel of trees on a sunny day when little sparkles of sunlight dot the path on the trail. I never get tired of riding in them. They are such a wonder to behold. While riding on the trail, I'm not only a spectator but a participant experiencing nature in the moment.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Life of an Artful Pen from beginning to end, part 3 the "finale"

Artful Pen title with buttons

Ta-da, it's the "finale" of my Artful Pens in process series. Now you can see my Bee Artful Pens "buzzing" through my blog in living color. But first things first. My last entry ended with the process of mold-making. Now I'll discuss what happens after the molds and castings are made.

bees attached to pen

The photo above shows my bee pieces attached to the pen clip with some strong glue. Note, the pen clip was first covered with a layer of Apoxie Sculpt to ensure a good foundation to build my design upon. And the beauty of Apoxie Sculpt is that it adheres to itself and beomes a "solid" piece after being placed on another piece. This characteristic of Apoxie Sculpt ensures that my design is solidly attached to the pen clip.

bees on pen

After I attach the bees to the pen clip with glue and I patiently wait for the glue to set, I go back and fill in any "open" areas with some Apoxie Sculpt. To help smooth out the Apoxie Sculpt, I use some water on my fingertips. This can be a sloppy/drippy process. If I get any drops of water mixed with some Apoxie Sculpt on the pen surface, it will be permanently be there once it's cured. And that's not the result I want to end up with. Thus, I use a clear sheet of plastic beneath the pen clip to help prevent drippy drops from messin' up my pen surface. Another method I recently used to prevent this messy problem is using a coat of liquid mask on the pen cap surface. It's a bit smelly, but works pretty nicely and after I'm done with the pen, the liquid mask peels away. You can see the liquid mask "in action" in the next couple of photos. That gummy yellow looking surface is the liquid mask safely protecting the pen surface.

bee pen after dremeled

There's the liquid mask on the pen cap of a bee piece that just went under the Dremel treatment. I try to clean up and smooth out the surface of my pieces when needed. And my Dremel stone grinding bit works wonderfully to tackle this cleaning task.

bee pen

In the photo above, I used a yellow colored Apoxie, to touch up areas on the bees. Yes, Apoxie Sculpt comes in a few different colors, but my preference is using the neutral gray color for most of my work.

pens getting gesso coat

After the Dremeling is completed, it's time to put a coat of gesso on the surface. This helps me see if there are any remaining areas that need to be cleaned. Plus, it provides a nice surface/foundation to start painting.

So, now comes the fun part, the painting. The pens go from this:

bee pens pre-gesso

. . . to this, pens with a colorful coat of paint . . .

bees painted

. . . and finally, pens coated with some glaze to protect the painted surface.

bees finished

What pen design is your favorite, A, B, C or D? Please comment below.

pens finished

One other thing I wanted to share is that one of my spotlights that I created at the ByHand site is featured at the ByHand Gallery blog. Yay!!! Stop by and check it out. I created a spotlight of some the adorable and colorful items from some of my "hearted" Etsy stores.

ByHand Gallery spotlight

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Life of an Artful Pen from beginning to end, part 2

Artful pen title with buttons

In my last post I demonstrated how I make my Artful Pens up to the point where I make a silicone mold of my original piece. And now the demo continues into the fun and challenging and sticky, messy process of working with silicone. Yay!

bee two part silicone

Here's my bee piece all ready to go under the silicone treatment. The next photo is the silicone I use. It comes in two parts. To make a mold, I scoop out equal amounts of part A (white) and part B (blue).

original piece with equal amounts of silicone back view of piece covered with silicone

After scooping out equal parts I then mix both parts together, making sure it is mixed evenly and done quickly. The silicone material sets quickly, so time is not your friend during this process. Once it's mixed evenly, I immediately press the silicone into the more detailed areas of my piece and the "deeper" areas on the surface. This is done in a thin quick layer to make sure the detail "sets" before the silicone cures. When I'm at this stage of the process, I always feel like I'm on some game show where you need to beat a clock counting down the seconds. I'm in a "hurry, hurry" mode and I try to work "lickety-split." There is no going back once the silicone is mixed and when it sets/cures, that's it, the time buzzer blares and you're outta luck.

pressing silicone onto original piece

After this first layer, I go back over it with a second layer to make sure the mold is thick enough. However, do not go too thick, otherwise you are just wasting your precious silicone, which does not come by cheap. And sometimes after I release the original piece from the mold, I hold it up to the light to see if there are any patches of light peering through my newly crafted mold. After making oodles of molds, I've gotten a better idea on how to make my molds and knowing a good thickness. It's hard to suggest a specific amount of thickness, as this depends on the size and detail of each individual piece. However, I would say that approximately a 1/8" thickness would be a good rule of thumb.

pieces in molds pieces released from the molds

The above photos show some pieces cast with Apoxie Sculpt. The first photo shows the Apoxie pieces as they're done curing and just before being released from the molds. And the next photo reveals how each piece looks after being released from the molds. Don't you want to start mold making now?

Stay tuned for the next post featuring the next phase in the life of an Artful Pen, it should be "colorful"! :-)