Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Around here ...


BEING AN ARTIST ...
In my quest to become an artist, I jump at any chance to use a paint brush. My darling husband carved this block of wood to resemble a snow man (including his hat!) and I spent a few evenings painting him. I've got these cheap acrylic paints I picked up from Pearl last year, before they closed, so, I gave them a try. It took four coats of the white to get the smooth white effect of snow, and it took 5 coats of black to get the hat to look like I wanted. His nose was also created by dh and painted orange by me. The little green scarf was a quick crochet!



TEACHING ...
In my job, I follow a script to talk to fourth and fifth grade students about living in the Everglades and about water management. There's not much room for changes, but this year has been challenging. I haven't figured out (yet) how our program meets the new "Common Core Standards," but I'm working on it. My motto? As long as the teachers are happy, I'm happy!


DESIGNING ...
Still working with my darling daughter, the entrepreneur, and creating some fun things for use on social media. A lot of folks in my generation pooh-pooh social media, but, I think it's here to stay. As a user, I think it's a lot of fun and a great way to stay in touch with family and friends.

DISCOVERING ...
Many of the elementary schools I visit have butterfly gardens. The past ten years has seen a  huge, countywide movement to restore habitats for Florida's wildlife. Recently, I discovered a caterpillar that looks like a pile of bird poop on a tree branch. It's a swallowtail  caterpillar and, had it not been pointed out to me, I would never have seen it, much less recognized it! Once again, Mother Nature has an amazing way to keep the planet going!


Only 7 shopping days left until Christmas!




Friday, December 5, 2014

Catching up ...

There's something about that phrase, "Catching up ..." that I find very appealing. How do you do it? Do you ever achieve your goal? Whatever time you take to "catch up" is time you cannot spend doing something else, so aren't you, then, always behind? After all, you cannot spend a minute (or a dollar) twice. Would the linguists call this a conundrum?

Dictionary.com gives three definitions for the phrase when used as a noun:
1.  an effort to reach or pass a norm, especially after a period of delay.
2.  an effort to catch up with or surpass a competitor, as in a sports contest.
3.  an instance of catching up.

I'm thinking number one fits my thinking best. There has been a great period of delay in keeping up with my blog here, so I feel like I need to "catch up." But, do I really? Can I just tell you what I've been doing that I didn't have time to write?

Okay, then. I went to the Integrity Toys Convention in Orlando at the beginning of November.

I had an absolutely wonderful time! Three glorious days and nights hanging out with 499 other doll people. A doll collector can't ask for more than that! I was lucky that some of my best doll friends were there to share the experience and we made lots of wonderful memories. We also bought and received gifts of dolls, dolls, dolls! It was simply heaven!


I had a terrific time when I got home, too! So many dolls to debox, including these here! I am particularly thrilled with the Poppy Parker dolls offered at the convention. The table centerpiece doll was a gift for the table hosts (like me!). The gift doll is adorable. And, I bought the two convention dolls. (I almost didn't buy "Wild Thing," then had a change of heart. Now, I am super glad I got her!)

When I returned, I spent a lot of time doing stuff around the house. My darling husband has a new hobby (you can read a little about it here), so I've been trying to maintain our humble abode while he's doing his thing. Lord knows he's picked up the slack for me often enough; it's such a little thing to try to help him find more time for this new passion of his. He's really good at it, too!

Work. Oh. My. Yes. I have often written the drafts for my blog late in the day at the office, then finished them at home in the evening before publishing. But, November was a very busy month for me, so there wasn't much time for writing! I was visiting fourth and fifth grade students almost every day, talking about the Everglades and trying to inspire the next generation to conserve and preserve our fragile environment. However, it didn't leave me much time for anything else, so I was running to keep up until Thanksgiving.

Here it is, December 5, and I haven't put the Thanksgiving decorations away yet, much less, put up a Christmas tree. I think I'll be catching up on that this weekend.

So, back to "catching up" ... I don't think you can. I think you have to live in the moment and enjoy what you have when you have it. We hear about folks losing everything to fire and flood and other catastrophic acts of Mother Nature, and any one of us could be the next in line. I say screw catching up. I'm here now, and, that's all that really counts.


It's 20 days until Christmas and there's lots to do.

I better get busy.

Now that I'm caught up ...




hahahaahaa hahahaa haa!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hubby has a new hobby!


 My darling husband loves woodworking. He built our kitchen cabinets, the island in the office with cubbies for paper and books and such, and a shed for our generator, just in case we're hit by a hurricane and have no power. Recently, he found something new to do with wood and it's been a delight to watch the artist in him unfold, like a butterfly from a chrysalis. It began with blocks of wood and YouTube videos.



He bought some serious looking tools. I never saw tools like these and I had no idea what he could do with them!
This is the first wine stopper dh made. The wood block in the pic is how it looked like before he turned it! Very impressive if you ask me! Now, when I get home from work, he's usually in his shop, turning wood. And, the weekends? Right after he drinks his morning cup of joe, he disappears to his shop. I finally went out there with my camera to find out what the attraction was. And, he was happy to show me! :)


There is something hypnotic about the wood turning on the lathe and watching the shavings peel away as he guides the tool. I think I understand why he's addicted to it. It's like crocheting ... there's a rhythm to it and it pulls you in and you just want to keep doing it.


He made  a candlestick which I like very much. It sits by the front door now, ready to hold a Christmas candle! And, I've put in a request for a pepper mill. He's been watching the YouTube videos about turning bowls, and I'm excited that he would attempt something so ambitious. Please stay tuned for more projects!



When my darling husband is in his shop turning wood, Miss Minka Kitty keeps me company. She oversees life around the house from her perch by the fireplace. Unless I go into the Barbie room. Then she wants to hang out with the dolls!

What a life, huh?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September sweeps ...

Oh. My. September is nearly done.





We have created a lovely show at Art Gallery 21 at the Woman's Club of Wilton Manors: the art of Nia Nakis. And, what an absolutely delightful human being she is! A lovely group of her friends and students have visited the gallery and they've all agreed with me about what a gifted artist she is! AND, she's sold a couple of pieces, which is always fabulous for an artist! You still have time to see Nia's show if you're in the neighborhood. It doesn't close until Friday, October 10.



I recently visited a passive park out west next to U.S. 27 ... Chapel Trail Park Nature Preserve in Pembroke Pines. Walked all the way out the boardwalk and took photos to share with my students this year. I think it's important to show them what's out there; places where they can go and experience the Everglades for themselves.





I've been doing a little design work for my darling daughter, the social media maven with the Master's Degree! This is a sample of the things we've created together ... (SoFi is pronounced like the name, Sophie) and I'm enjoying the entire process! It's been a fun way to, once again, dabble in some graphic design and to work with my girl. I'm so proud of her, my little entrepreneur!




My day job's kept me jumping, too! Research projects, prepping for school visits and wrapping up the budget for 2014-2015. Danbo will attest to that, too! He's been hounding me to clear my desk!






And, let us not forget that 30 days from today I will be with dolly friends, old and new, at the 2014 Integrity Toys Convention in Orlando, Florida where I and 499 likeminded folks will play for three glorious days with all those gorgeous Integrity girls!


C'mon, October!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Around here ...


September. It's still hot here in south Florida, but the light is changing. That's how I know that those "crisp autumn days" are approaching. Nope. No colored leaves here. And, no, the temperature changes are infinitesimal ... maybe one degree cooler than August, so we're talking 89 or 90 instead of 91 or 92. Still, the light is changing, so I know fall is in the air.

I like the beginning of the school year. It gives me an excuse to deliver pencil bouquets to the teachers in my 12 elementary schools along with a newsletter reminding them about our environmental programs. The kids are all decked out in their new uniforms with freshly cut hair and polished shoes! It's a time of great hope that THIS year will be the best one ever!

Art Gallery 21 will open its 2014-2015 season next week, so I've been busy preparing for the first show with artist Nia Nakis. She uses acrylics on canvas to create vibrant images of Florida and the Mediterranean area where she was born. It's her first one-woman show and I'm very excited for her!

I'm anxiously counting the days until I leave for Orlando and my second Integrity Toys Convention! Last year I traveled alone to Los Angeles and had a fantastic time, but, this year, I have several doll friends who will be in Orlando with me, so that will make it even more special I'm sure! I've applied to be a table host, but they're not notifying people until later this month, so I'm eagerly waiting on that, too! I wish there was somewhere on the internet where you could post a sign that says, "PICK ME! PICK ME!"

People who aren't doll collectors don't understand why we love doll conventions. In addition to the IT Convention, there's the National Barbie Doll Collector's Convention and the United Federation of Doll Collectors Convention, and there are conventions in Japan and Paris that, if I had the resources, I would gladly attend.  I'm certain it's because we doll collectors form our own tribe and there is no need for explanations about what many perceive as an eccentric hobby. When you meet another doll person, there are so many things that are simply understood via osmosis. It's truly the most wonderful experience one can have and I highly recommend it!

We had another Super Moon this month, and that was awesome to see! It's like something out of a movie right outside your front door!

As you'll see, the days between now and the New Year will fly by fast! Halloween's just around the corner, then, Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to go by at warp speed. Hang onto your hat and have a good time! Wishing you all a glorious September!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My 5 Favorite Doll Photographers ~ Summer 2014

I love looking at pictures of dolls. Scientists have proven that looking at pictures of puppies and kittens can alter your brain waves and calm you. Then, there are those exciting, romantic landscape photos that give you a glimpse of another part of our planet. I love those, too! But, I love the doll photos best.

My favorite professional photographers are Annie Leibovitz, Mario Testino and Edward Steichen. They each have a distinctive and unique style and when you see one of their photographs, you know immediately who shot it. Their point of view through the camera lens is quite different from anyone else's.

In the doll world, we are blessed with many talented and creative doll photographers. It's a great deal of fun to see how each photographer's work changes over time as they learn new camera techniques, Photoshop tricks and all the other things that go with being a fashion doll photographer. These are my current Favorite Five!

Ready?

1. Sharon Marie Wright
She is a card carrying member of Screen Actor's Guild and an Emmy winning film director. Her experience is truly reflected in her photographs, too. Her images aren't just static pictures of dolls. Sharon's pictures tell a story. She's very artistic in her use of light to set a mood and her sense of humor is always evident. Often imitated, but never duplicated, she has raised the bar on doll photography since she emerged a couple of years ago.




Sharon is very generous as an artist, sharing tips and tricks about her techniques with other shutterbugs. But, even when you know how she did it, it's still difficult to make photos that look like hers. Sharon is one of a kind and much loved by her huge fan base of doll collectors and fellow photographers.





UPDATE: "Congratulations!" on Sharon's recent appointment by Jones Publishing as Executive Editor of Haute Doll Magazine. I'll look forward to seeing the next edition!







2. Deb Buckner 
(flickr handle: *disenchanted*deb)

Deb lives in Ohio, so I envy her the four seasons! (Here in Florida, we have a wet season and a dry season.) She often shoots her girls outdoors, and it's fun to see the changes in the weather through her doll photography.
I was first attracted to Deb's Poppy photos because she stages many of them in wonderful dioramas. She creates these dioramas, sewing, sawing, screwing and gluing things into place. I saw a vintage Susie Goose vanity in one of her dioramas that had been painted and I liked it so much, I messaged her and asked how she did it. Ever gracious, she told me everything I needed to know to make my own, including which paint works best!





It comes as no surprise that Deb is a talented seamstress, too! When I have admired her doll's fashions and inquired where they came from, her humble response, "I made it" just blew me away! We share a love of Poppy Parker and have become Facebook friends where I discovered she, too, collects the Fashion Royalty girls. We must be kindred spirits because we have a mutual admiration for Vanessa and Victoire Rouge. I've used several of Deb's photos for the banner photo on my Poppy Parker Fan Page on Facebook and I am extremely grateful that she is so generous in sharing her photos.








3. Barbara of Adelaide, Australia (flickr handle: poppybelle)

I cannot remember when I became aware of poppybelle. I think it was her Poppy Parker pictures that first drew me in. Browsing her flickr photos, I discovered that she does remarkable portraits of Poppy Parker and the Fashion Royalty Girls (I think Agnes is her favorite!).











I am particularly fond of how she redresses and restyles her girls, making them look so different from their original incarnations. The way she uses light and how she poses the dolls make her pictures clearly recognizable.














I am most appreciative of poppybelle's generosity in permitting the sharing of her photos. I am somewhat envious of her Poppy collection, too! She has many of the early dolls!









4. Lisa/Alex's dolls via flickr

This photographer gets around! Her travels take her to visit people and places which are reflected in her flickr photos. She photographs indoors and out, and I'm guessing she lives somewhere in the northeast, as her winter photos include snowy scenes!








I like Lisa/Alex's casual outdoor style a lot. She places her dolls in such a way that it appears to be perfectly normal for a doll to be there. Some people might find that a little strange, but I like it. It's why she's on my list.











She does really nice portraits of her girls, too. Her pictures clearly show her love of fashion dolls and that's REALLY what it's all about, in my humble opinion. Many thanks for allowing the sharing of photos!


















5. Michaela Unbehau via flickr 

My opening photo comes from the lens of this up and coming fashion doll photographer. She was recently profiled in the Winter 2013 issue of Fashion Doll Quarterly.



Unfortunately, Michaela does not allow sharing of her photos. No. Pinterest. No Tumblr. No Facebook or Twitter sharing. Which is a big bummer for me. She creates these amazing images of fashion dolls and we all want to see them, but she doesn't make it easy. I apologize if it sounds like I'm coming down on her. I just don't understand why people participate in photo sharing web sites and then don't want to let anyone share their pictures. I just don't get that.

So, now you're wondering where I got these photos posted here, right? Yep. Figured as much!

I found them on Pinterest. There are only a few. Like I said, she doesn't permit sharing. But, I did find a few and that's all we needed for this purpose.

That said, you can click on the link and go to Michaela's flickr site where you can see her amazing photos. Enjoy!


A final thought: I encourage doll photographers to watermark their photos before they upload them to the internet. When they are watermarked, we know who they belong to and can give the proper credit. As a long time doll collector, the internet has provided a wonderful environment for us to share our hobby, most often through photographs. If you're a photographer, claim your work so we can "LIKE" it! Isn't that what it's all about?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

bullies on the highway ...

I have a really big beef with folks who drive. It's one of those things that no matter what a person does, it's not going to change anything. But, I still have a beef. So, I have decided to air my grievances here on my blog. After all, it is MY blog.

I live in sunny south Florida and use I-95 every day to get to my job. I follow all the rules of the road. I don't talk or text while I'm driving. I don't get in the fast lane and drive slow. I don't cut in front of people. Consequently, I haven't been involved in a traffic accident for 10 years.

Monday through Friday, I drive west on Sunrise Boulevard to the entrance ramp for southbound I-95. The problem is with the access to the entrance ramp. I don't know what engineer came up with the design, but I'd like to smack him up aside his head!

Sunrise is a 3-lane major roadway. On the approach to the left turn lane for the southbound ramp to I-95, the left turn lane is a single lane. There is a traffic signal to allow the traffic crossing Sunrise to the northbound ramp. On the other side of this intersection, the lane continues as a single lane until 5 car lengths before the traffic signal that permits that left turn onto the southbound ramp.

THIS is where the problem is. At the 5 car lengths point, that single left turn lane expands into two left turn lanes, allowing 2 cars through the signal on green, thus moving the traffic quickly onto the Interstate highway. What wasn't taken into account by that engineer was all the jerks who were going to race by those of us in line single file to cut in front of the cars approaching that 2-lane section of road. They speed by the line and cut right in so they make the next signal, instead of having to wait as many as three rotations of the signal to get through the intersection like the rest of us respectfully do. And, they appear to have no conscience about it. I blow my horn at them. I yell at them. I have even engaged in unladylike gestures when a driver is particularly rude, but all to no avail.


This vehicle cut in front of me and when I honked,
the driver used a rude gesture to express his annoyance
that I would blow my horn! Talk about jerks!

When I was a school girl and someone cut in the lunchroom line, there was a lot of verbal protest and the person was forced to go to the end of the line. We can't do that here. The police don't care; they've got real crimes to solve, real criminals to chase. So, I am stuck with these bullies on the highway and there's not a darned thing I can do about it.






Then, one morning I started taking their photos. I love my Galaxy S5 and its 13 megapixel camera. So, that is how I vent my frustration now. It's how I prevent "road rage." Instead of yelling or honking, I take their picture. If they have no regard for me, why should I have any regard for them?







I know it doesn't change anything. These drivers are still bullies. But, it makes me feel better to take their pictures. (The ones you see here are from August.) And, it is a relief to post them here and put them out to the Universe.




If you recognize a car, feel free to tell that driver to stop being a bully.  I hope you embarrass that person. They deserve to be embarrassed, among other things.

The world is tough enough without having to fight to get to work. No one is going to get where they're going any quicker by being in bully. In fact, you might even make yourself late. I think they call it karma ...