Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween for the dogs?

My dog, Maddy,  is not one for costumes.  She does, however, love her squirrel costume.  Maybe its makes her feel like a wolf in sheep's clothing since she just loves to chase squirrels.  I just think its cute.

Some dogs just love to ham it up, don't they?

She also loves toys but you better keep those round toy shaped pumpkins out of reach or one will soon become her favorite...toy that is.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tax or Tack Shop


Whenever I attend a get together and meet new people the inevitable question will always arise.

“And what do you do?”

Sounds simple enough.  I say that I am an artist, which is pretty normal.  I then add that I specialize in equine art and I may get a few quizzical looks.  Finally, I tell them that I also run a Tack Shop.  

If you are not in a room with people who know horses,  no one, and trust me on this, nary a soul will know what a Tack Shop is.  I finally figured out why.  Mr. Webster is to blame.

 According to Webster’s dictionary the word tack is defined as the gear used in equipping a horse.  The only problem is that it is definition number 9!  It comes after things like tiny nails, zig-zags, stickiness and even some strange sounding nautical stuff.  It’s no wonder that non-English speaking people have such difficulty with the English language.  Nine definitions for a word and that’s not the least of it.  There are more than 19!

And to confuse matters even further, the word tack, when spoken, sometimes sounds to the uninitiated, like tax. So I find myself explaining even further that I do not prepare taxes.  I am not an accountant; I can barely balance my own checkbook.  I own a Tack shop not Tax Shop.  I even find myself avoiding any social events during the month of April.

So I try and think of creative ways to explain the shop. I say Saddllery…that works, I sometimes say horse equipment, then I usually give up and just say saddles, and such.  

So that being settled, I’d just like to let everyone know that I just love Quarter horses.  Yes, I said quarter not half, not two thirds but Quarter Horse --an American breed of agile horses capable of great speed in short distances, namely a quarter mile.  And that dear reader is fortunately definition number one, according to Mr. Webster.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Smartest, Cats or dogs?

Himalayan mix cat ACEO

Recently, my husband looked me square in the eye and said,

“Which do you think is smarter, cat or dog?" I immediately thought to myself that this was a setup, so I replied that each was smart in its own way.

He retorted, that no, he is 110% sure that cats are smarter.  Now this man is no cat person.  The only reason we have a cat is because I adopted a homeless waif of a cat that showed up at our door one day.  He insists, however that a cat has the upper hand cranially over any other species of animal. 

Personally I am a bit inclined to agree with him.  Olivia, the former orphan rules the house with an iron paw.  If she wants to go into a closed room she reaches and turns the handle.  I’m not kidding. And just you try and give her a pill.  She will give you the stink eye for the rest of the week.  Trying to grind it up into her favorite food doesn’t work either.  She just thinks you are trying to poison her and she will let that food rot without a nibble.

A cat can hide like nobodies business.  They hide in places you didn’t know existed.  Yes, that’s smart.  Smarter still is that if my cat sees that carrier she knows that she is going to the vet and it will be easier to catch a greased pig. 

Dogs are goofy, they love you they lick you and they sit by your feet whether there is something in it for them or not.  They love you unconditionally. They know who is boss.

Cats are wily.  They will pretend they love you if you give them tuna.  They will rub against you if you scratch the right spot under their necks, but everything, and I mean everything is conditional where a cat is concerned.   You better know who is boss.

I returned home from my cruise yesterday.  The dog went wild.  She yelped and jumped, and licked me like she hadn’t seen me in a year.  I petted her and then walked over to the cat, sleeping in her bed.  She raised her head, opened her eyes and…yes, she closed them again.  Nothing to gain here!

Cats or dogs, which is smarter?  What do you think?

Olivia watching TV

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Here is a riddle for you to solve. 

I dodge photographers and exit my room to flashing bulbs.  I eat in five star restaurants.  I visit the spa on a regular basis.  I have a maid that makes my bed and cleans up my mess.  I go to midnight openings and comedy clubs.  I travel to exotic places. I lounge by the pool and then the hot tub.  I play roulette and black jack.  I sometimes, get up at noon with a headache.  Who am I?

Sculptures outside Atlantis in the Bahamas

Give up?  No, it’s not a rock star or an actor, its me!  I am on a cruise and I will back in a week.  See you then.  J

Friday, October 15, 2010


"Wake up call" ACEO

Just admit it.  You love your coffee.  There are, however, certain rules that one must follow in order to brew a perfect pot.  It should be hot, but not hot enough to burn the taste buds off your tongue. It should be strong but not strong enough to keep you awake for a week. 

In this busy world it is sometimes necessary to stop at a convenience store for your daily dose of java. Convenience stores have not quite mastered these basic coffee making rules. The temperature of the coffee in these establishments can be similar to molten lava.  And the strength of the coffee is a crapshoot at best. Still, as they say, any port in a storm.

If your intention is to take the coffee with you as you drive it is necessary to ready your Styrofoam or paper cup for transport.  In order to manage this you must find the correct top for the cup.  This is not as easy a task as it appears. After trying on several various sized lids, you hit on the correct one.  Funny it just happens to be the one that didn’t look right to begin with.  You wonder why it’s the larger lid that fits on the smaller cup.  Oh well, you reason, its probably just the caffeine withdrawal fogging your vision.

Now that you have your lid properly sized its time to fix your coffee the way you like it.  What?  You like it black?  Warning, warning, if you are hoping to drink this brew before your evening meal you will need to use some sort of cooling ingredient.  This would be in the form of milk or cream.  Beware of places that use powdered creamer. They do nothing to change the temperature of the coffee.  If you just cannot tolerate your coffee any way but black, you will suffer consequences.

It smells good and the smell draws you in.  At this point you are caffeine deprived enough to kill the next person who nods and says, “Good morning.”  You gulp.  You spew.  You yell.  And maybe you even curse.

There are benefits, however.  There is nothing like liquid fire exiting from your mouth and running down your shirt to get you moving in the mornings.  Wearing brown, black or tan on days you stop at the convenience store is a wise decision.  Stains are much easier to remove.  An additional benefit will be to your diet. Food will lose its appeal since you no longer possess taste buds.

Styrofoam and cardboard insulate the contents but do little to protect the hands.  Picking up a filled cup can be quite a surprise when your hands let go on reflex.  If you don’t want to sneak out the door and pretend the flood wasn’t your fault be sure and pick up one of those little sleeves that fits over the cup. Then, go have a coffee break.  J

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to have a successful face-painting booth at your fall non-profit event

Butterly and Zinnia ACEO

I have painted hundreds of faces to raise money for school, church and other non profit events that I have been involved with.  As a result of these experiences I have come up with a checklist to make this the best experience possible.

1.     Leave the full face, face painting for Halloween costumes or very experienced face painters.

2.     Enlist the help of students, parents and other volunteers, at school events where there is an abundance of children, the more painters, the better.

3.     Children are indecisive.  It is best to have a poster board with designs painted on them as an example of the motifs available.  Having set designs makes it easier for all. 

4.     Simple designs are best. Hearts, flowers and butterflies are perennial favorites with girls and as we all know, boys just love spiders and snakes.   I always have two sections of the poster board with the available designs, one for girls and one for boys.

5.     Incorporate seasonal motifs in your available designs.  Pumpkins, autumn leaves, candy corn, all perfect designs for fall.

6.     Give children the option of whether they would like the design painted on their face or the top of the hand. 

7.     I have always used a non-greasy water based pan paints specifically designed for face painting.   These paints, which are available in craft stores under the name, “Snazaroo”, are inexpensive and go a long way. 

8.     Buy an inexpensive small round brush and toss the one that comes with the paint kit.

9.     Set up a table with chairs and have water and paper towels available.

10. Bring a large hand mirror.  Kids love to view their art.

11. Make sure you have a sign listing the cost and note that all proceeds go to the non-profit organization.  Most people have no problem with a flat rate of one dollar.  You can, however, charge 50 cents.

12. Know what is popular with the kids.  If it is a simple cartoon character make sure you have that design available.  I can’t tell you how many Bart Simpson and Ninja turtles I have painted in the past. 

13. Have your painters practice so they feel comfortable with the designs on your list. 

14. If you make a mistake, don’t fret, just wipe it off with a damp paper towel and start over.  Kids are very forgiving and patient when it comes to having their face painted.

15. School logos are also a good item to have on your available list.

16. There will always be one or two children who ask for a design that is not on the list.  I try to accommodate all, if possible.  The worse that can happen is the child will not like the design and it can be wiped off.

17.   Look for designs in clip art collections, etc. 

Have a fun and successful face painting booth. One thing never gets old.  After a design is finished I hold the hand mirror up to the child’s face and watch the delight in their eyes as their smile broadens.  That is what it is all about.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The baby sister

"Mom" pencil sketch

What is your favorite Autumn memory?

In my family all of us kids are born within a two-week time span between the end of September and the middle of October.  The year my little sister was born my parents took their remaining three children over to a neighbors while my mother was in the hospital.  Funny how I don’t remember the neighbor but I do remember the paper plates we used to color and create pumpkins.

Those were the days before the creepy looking, super realistic ultrasounds.  They were even before the old sonograms where you had to just take the technician’s word for it.  It was the days of predictions by everyone from the hairdresser who just knew that the baby would be a boy since you were carrying so low, to the doctor who made his assumptions from the kicking.  I didn’t know whether my new sibling would be yet another boy, or the little sister I was wishing for. 

The first thing my mother did when she got home was to set the new arrival wrapped in a pink receiving blanket, in my lap.  There I was, the proud six-year-old big sister sitting on the couch with a newborn baby cradled in my lap while relatives chided my mother for allowing a “child” to hold a newborn. 

“She’s going to drop her.” They moaned.

And my mother just smiled.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On the movie "Secretariat"

Last night I saw the new movie, “Secretariat” and although this blog’s purpose is not to print movie reviews I just have to say a little something about it.

I’ve always been involved in the horse industry.  I’ve operated a Tack Shop for years, and my daughter has been showing horses since she was two.

Since my family lived not 20 miles from the farm where Secretariat was born (Which is now the site of the Va. State Fairgrounds) I pretty much grew up knowing about Secretariat.  I never actually had the opportunity to see him up close, and I didn’t know the family but even so I can’t help but swell with pride knowing that this amazing horse once grazed nearby.

As I watch the screen I already know how the story ends, but the adrenaline still surges at scenes of races run. And when it is over and I see the roses draped over that red sorrel chestnut horse, I know why I love horses.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Trick or treat...or not

Candy corn ACEO

Back when I was a kid and Halloween fell on a Saturday there was no waiting till you got home from school to go trick or treating.  Candy loving kids didn’t wait till dark to begin their collections.  While I wasn’t much of a candy eater I still enjoyed donning a costume and going trick or treating. 

On one particular Halloween, my mother decided to take us downtown telling us that even storeowners gave out candy to costumed kids.  We had already amassed quite a bit of candy from the neighborhood and the weight of the candy stressed the twisted paper handles of my paper Halloween bag.

My mother decided to cross the street and leave my brothers and I at a fenced playground while she went into a small store.  Unfortunately the playground closed and we waited none too patiently outside the gate. 

I could see them coming; a group of about 6 or seven kids swinging their Halloween bags.  It wasn’t long before they confronted us.  They got my sibling’s bags with no problem, but I wasn’t giving up so easy and I held on tight.  Even so, it didn’t take long, and they continued up the street looking for easier collecting.  When my mother returned, there I stood, holding my handles.

Funny but I don’t remember not having any candy that year.  I don’t remember much of anything except standing there holding those handles.

It wasn’t all bad though because I learned a lot about myself that day. I learned that I was not about to go down without a fight, and I never would.  It was about triumphing without winning.  While I didn’t keep my bag, I held in my hands that day the symbol of my tenacity, those twisted paper handles. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Leave the leaves

I am no poet believe me, but I figured what the heck.  Besides, a short 5 line limerick was more my style. So in honor of the Fall season I present my pastel painting "The Old Timer." and my original, never before seen, unique, crystal-lized, and oh so true,  Limerick, "Leave the leaves."  :-D

Leave the leaves Limerick

There once was a gal with a rake
A Pile of leaves she did make
A swift wind did blow
And wouldn’t you know
Her poor back was destined to ache

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kids CRAFTS--Instructions to make Frankenstein's Monster eraser

Ok, as promised another eraser clay project…

Frankenstein’s monster eraser

In case you didn’t know it, Frankenstein was the name of the maker and not the monster.  J

You will need:

Sculpey eraser clay kit

Clay tools included in the kit

Oven for baking

Pan lined with aluminum foil

A piece of typing paper or waxed paper on work surface

1.     Cut ¾ of the neon green clay.  Knead in your hands to warm and soften.  This will condition the clay.  Roll the softened clay into a ball and then roll on the work surface to create a thick tube shape.  

Tap each end onto the work surface to flatten.

2.     Break a small large pea sized piece of purple clay and condition as before.  Use the clay roller to flatten thinly.  With the flat edge tool cut out small triangle shapes from the flattened piece of purple clay.  Attach to the top of the green tube shape to represent hair.

3.     If you want your eraser to be a pencil topper, now is the time to use the pointed end of the pencil to drill an opening at the bottom.

4.     Break another tiny piece of purple clay and roll into a little snake shape about ½” (measurements do not need to be precise) and cut in half with the clay tool.
5.     Attach to head ¾” of the way down on each side.  Use the clay tool to push onto the head as shown in photo.

6.     Roll two pieces of yellow clay into small balls and flatten. Add two small purple flattened balls on top of the yellow ones. Press into place on the face.  With the pointed end of the clay tool mark into clay an upward curve.  Add three stitch marks around mouth line.

8.     Bake in a 250 degree F oven for 10 minutes.  Do not over bake or increase the temperature.  Let cool before picking up eraser.

Do not use a microwave oven.  This project requires adult supervision.  Do not use cooking utensils when working with the clay.  

Sunday, October 3, 2010

We interrupt this Commerical for a Program break

Puppy ACEO

Imagine the scenario.  You sit down late in the evening in order to take in a little TV.  You grab a drink, a soft pillow, and your coziest afghan and snuggle onto your overstuffed sofa. The dog is lazing by your feet looking as if posed for a Norman Rockwell painting. Flipping through the channels, you settle on network TV.  You are lulled into a state of utter relaxation.  The channel goes to a commercial break.


You dive for the remote before everyone else in the house is jolted awake and hit the mute button.  That’s what you get for not using your TIVO or DVR.

Yay!  Congress is finally thinking about the middle class citizen.  Halleluiah and praise whatever deity you worship because at the end of September Congress passed legislation that will require the stations to keep the commercials at the same volume as the programs that they interrupt.

Finally you can watch television without having a heart attack from fright every time it goes to station break!  Finally! 

I’m sure it will take a little while before it goes into effect, but hey it’s a step in the right direction.  Now for the question at hand, where did that remote land when I jumped out of my seat?

Friday, October 1, 2010


When I was a kid and I wanted to carve a pumpkin for Halloween, I’d go into the kitchen and get the sharpest and longest knife I could find.  The whole time my mother would yell and fuss that I was going to cut my fingers off. 

As carefully as I could I would gut the big orange gourd and pull all the gooey seeds out, scraping with a large spoon. My next step was to use a serrated steak knife with which to carve out the traditional three triangle shapes and a crooked arc for a mouth.  It was tough work, and my arm ached and sometimes it didn’t look as perfect as I would have liked, but it was a traditional Jack-O-Lantern. 

The days of makeshift tools in a dimly lit kitchen are now over for most.  Little serrated saws in various sizes make carving pumpkins a much easier task, allowing for fancier and more intricate carvings.  Fingers remain on where they belong; although much to mother’s surprise I do still have all ten. 

The worst thing about carving a pumpkin is its longevity.  You carve a great design or even a not so great one and the day after Halloween it has drooped several inches and the inside develops a funky black mold.  So you set it out for the trash service. 

These days I now get several pumpkins.  I carve a unique design on one for lighting on Halloween and I usually paint one. One only needs a few acrylic paints and a little imagination.  Anything goes from funny faces to fall motifs.  There isn’t a more forgiving way to decorate a pumpkin.  If you make a mistake before the paint has dried you can simply wipe it off with a wet cloth. 

Feel free to use any of my ideas here or create some of your own.  This year your pumpkin can last till Thanksgiving if the design is appropriate.  My pumpkin is Scarecrow, what’s yours?
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