Friday, January 19, 2018

My First Funny Fridge Magnet Design of 2018

I've wanted to create this magnet since I thought it up in December. The inspiration came from a Psychology Today article, more for the term rather than the nature of the article.

I and my husband wear our hearts on our sleeve when something or somebody  irritates us, and that heart can travel up to our tongue to spew a passionate response; yet said sentiment is best kept zipped up.

This funny magnet is a hint on how to release some stress in the wake of dealing with idiocy, or with a plain idiot.

Rolling your eyes in private works too, for me, a real stress reliever, I highly recommend the exercise and hope in the future a new form of Yoga can be birthed to include eye rolling, and it shall be called 'HathaSumSanity' Yoga.

And this new Yoga will include tongue sticking out poses too. Growing up in a house too close to a difficult neighbor, my mother once admitted when she pulled down the shade of the window that faced this neighbor each night, she'd stick her tongue out. No one knew but us. This was her way of releasing the stress from harboring words best left unsaid. 

To purchase this 2.25" magnet or pinback or view my other funny stuff, click here to virtually travel to my ETSY shop:

www.smirkinggoddess.com

Thank you for stopping by.




Sunday, January 14, 2018

Another Product Made Using my Free Pineapple Stencil

In between studio work, I often let loose through creating something for our home, or exploring a new medium–yesterday it was carving my own rubber stamps. A few year's back, I opted to stencil a pineapple on our front stoop, the pineapple being the symbol of colonial hospitality, and we live in a house built circa 1664.

But trying to find a plain pineapple stencil proved more difficult than I assumed. I thought I would draw one myself, but at the last minute found one online that was under public domain. The only problem, it needed visual help. So I re-inked some areas, scanned it in and cleaned up the rest in Photoshop.

I've been fortunate that some of my readers have shared their pineapple stencil creations with me and you can find the result here:
https://smirkinggoddessreview.blogspot.com/p/fun-stuff.html

Yesterday reader RaeAnn emailed me her creation, a hand-stenciled glass vase. Beautiful! Don't you think? I still offer this stencil for free as it's not an entirely original creation of mine. As you can see, RaeAnn stenciled initials on top.

Over the years this stencil has been used for a Taiwan ballet company performing in San Francisco, a pillow case cover, a copper decoration for a garden gate, two teachers have used it for a classroom project too.

If you use this stencil, please email me a picture and I will add it to my blog.

Happy decor-creating!

Warmest regards,

Suzanne

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Starting the 2018 New Year off with Handpainted Whimsical Snow People!

I started the 2018 New Year with a concerted effort to focus on my second ETSY shop (www.etsy.com/shop/SuzanneUrbanArt). Many vague issues kept me from completing half finished art and starting new work. But a visit to two talented friends (Carla: http://www.redbee.com/  and Robin:http://www.robinhrose.com/ to share and receive feedback was just the adrenaline I needed to walk into my studio and stay put. Due to a blizzard that's pounding us here in Connecticut, I created two snow people. I've always loved the snowman icon seen in so many sketches, paintings and other forms on ETSY, seeing how illustrators interpret such a simple design yet make it their own fascinates me. I especially love the style of early German spun cotton ornaments with their grinning characters and find myself adding toothy grins onto my own character art. Both of these snow people are available for purchase, and the clothespin figure is already listed here;
SuzanneUrbanArt

Thank you for looking! Stay warm folks!

Love,

Suzanne

Monday, November 27, 2017

Funny Stocking Stuffers! What's New in my ETSY Shop!

Two months have whizzed by without my posting a THING here. My part time Garden/weeding job lasted longer than I thought when one last job came rolling in. Then I stupidly signed up for an online challenge and immediately flunked seeing it through. I suck at challenges and have finally learned they don't fit my temperament, and they take valuable time away from my own creative work.

Keeping it simple, I wanted to share two new fridge magnets I added to my SmirkingGoddess Etsy shop. These are part of my dishwasher clean/dirty line of magnets that are popular stocking stuffers along with my other funny fridge magnets.

First, for all ye believers, the unicorn magnet:
To purchase: funnyunicornmagnet
And living in Connecticut I know there are many horse owners, so I added this to my line:
To purchase:funnyhorsemagnet
I hope you all will visit my shop, and support my one woman owned business. Each purchase is rewarded with a coupon that arrives with your purchase. Happy Holiday! Love Suzanne


Friday, September 15, 2017

Why Laying the Bones of your Garden is so Key

As I view the gardens of friends and customer's who hired me to weed for them, I realize even seasoned gardeners make mistakes. The mistakes are those mentioned in my previous post, of planting an invasive species in too small an area, or just planting it to begin with; the first two years look terrific, then the stuff is wandering into your lawn and swallowing up the space of other plants.

What I Wish I Did First…

For the new homeowner faced with a first time yard, or maybe a second time homeowner facing a bigger yard than before, the urge to fill the area with color is strong. Having a third of an acre for the first time in my life, I gave into the urge.  I over-spent and made mistakes. I wish I laid out the "bones" of my yard first instead of running to nurseries and purchasing colorful shrubs, flowers and herbs.

What Do I Mean by "Bones"

By "bones' I mean investing in border evergreens to offer us more privacy and to block the view of neighboring businesses as well as muffle their sound, plus it would establish boundaries with a neighbor who's junker car was actually parked on our land. We thought this area was his, until the town put markers in and we realized it's time to trim and mow the area ourselves.

 When You Can Forego a Privacy Screen

Establishing boundaries with evergreen trees, or decorative fence, ornamental grass etc. is essential and greatly improves one's property value. However, we're also so lucky to have a really nice neighbor bordering our other side, the landlord graciously allowed me to put in an area garden where he chopped down blighted trees, and his tenant and tenant's girlfriend graciously supplied me with some free plants to add to my layout. If you have such a neighbor like us, one can waive the privacy screen for an area garden.

 A Privacy Screen Could've Helped Them…

 There's a house in our neighborhood, a gorgeous Victorian that's been on the market for too long, the price has dropped three times, and yet homes all around town in the same price range are selling like hotcakes. The owners have a gorgeous zen-like garden they painstakingly doted over. But the gorgeous layout didn't include planting trees to block a parking lot and neighboring business that borders their backyard, nor did they mask their dumping ground of tossed broken branches they piled up by the adjacent business's chain link fence. We've watched potential buyers wander to the back to stare at the unfortunate view, and this has gotta be a deal breaker.

Laying Down the Bones of the Yard Gives You Clarity 

Had we lined our yard boundaries with some Green Emerald Arborvitae, It would've been easier for me to visually map out some area gardens, as the yard wouldn't look like an overwhelming expansive blank canvass in desperate need to fill up with beautiful flora. Case in point, I tried to create a "berm" last year, it flattened out on me. I wanted a raised zen-like Hosta and ornamental grass garden.  So I plowed ahead despite the non-berm happenstance, and planted a variety of Hostas and ornamental grass. The plan failed, I was so anxious to fill an area, that I didn't think things through, the Hostas didn't take to the area although they do well in other parts of our yard.  So all that labor and expense was wasted and I pulled the plants. Now it's a bald patch of mulch, putting up bordering trees or an attractive fence panel–would've  looked pretty and blocked the view of the neighbor's garage, thus no need to urgently fill the area with "stuff".

And Finally Getting Around to IT

So six years in, we're finally budgeting to take down the scraggly trees–all of 'em belong to us– lining our yard's border.  I've stared at these ugly bushes for too long, one shrub is dead, and two are invasive, deciduous shrubs and I'm tired of raking leaves, how I wish we took care of this from the get-go, but I just had to HAVE those flowers first. Lesson learned.





Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Gardening Mistakes 101 What this Artist has Learned


When we purchased our antique home six years ago  in northern Connecticut, the third of an acre yard was pretty much a blank slate to fill. There were some pockets of impacted Day Lillies and Russian Iris and English Ivy that were a bear to dig up, but otherwise, it was a huge space begging for color, texture, and butterfly/bee friendly plants. I couldn't wait to order plants.

So I ordered plants online and went happily shopping at local nurseries. Unfortunately, I made a lot of mistakes because I didn't know what I was doing. I paid for expensive shrubs that didn't survive a cold Connecticut winter, I planted Hostas that overtook an area garden, though I gave away most of the invasive Day Lillies and Russian Iris, I transplanted some only to wish I gave them away too. I also fell in love with plants that just don't go with our circa 1600 home nor the cottage garden theme of my area gardens, now I'm digging up the ethereal, even alien-looking Sea Holly that riveted my attention at Walmart a year ago. I also made the mistake of believing online descriptions and found the two Dappled Willows I planted would grow to be much BIGGER than promised, and I planted them too close together.


I also purchased the wrong mulch. Our first year here, due to a day job in another county, I had limited time to garden, so choices were made in haste. How I wished I did my google research. We bought two raised garden boxes, I filled with dirt, plunked in plants and finished off with black mulch. A week later our new neighbor told me not to grow vegetables in dyed mulch, as the dye leeches into the food. I also noticed, the plants just didn't do well, not only was the mulch dyed, it had chunks of lumber among bark that sucks nutrients away from plants, the shredded hardwood bark natural mulch is what one should use. Unfortunately, I ended up cleaning out all the old mulch and dirt, and starting over again. And I planted Hostas and Daffodils under an oak tree only to realize the tree sucked away most of the moisture and so they withered up. Angelina Sedum can grow around the tree and I just finished plunking in more to fill in at the base.



So now six years into gardening, with three years working out of my home now, I have more time to schedule gardening. I joined the Windsor Garden Club one year and found gardeners are generous with information and also with swapping plants, and I have some friends who graciously gave me freebies. I exercise more patience and control, just because I'm drawn to a beautiful plant, it doesn't mean it will work in my yard, so I don't buy it. I don't hastily transplant either, I allow ideas to sift down for awhile, this came after transplanting a Rose of Sharon five or six times.

Due to my hard work, that resulted in some pretty area gardens, I've picked up a sideline business of weeding gardens of local residents who need help. In the past few jobs I've completed where I endured a bout of poison ivy so bad I looked like Porky the Pig, and a bee sting that left me feeling groggy; I've learned, the mistakes a newbie gardener makes are always the same. Below is my list of DO NOT DO'S that novices make and then their pretty area garden becomes a wretched mess too overwhelming to deal with.

Suzanne's 12-Step Gardening Do NOT Do's!

1. Find out what the flowers are that seasoned gardeners hate. This list usually includes Day Lillies, fine for filling in a large area, BAD for area gardens. They over-naturalize and roots/bulbs get impacted, pulling these up are like pulling up thick blocks of cement. I also remembered how members of my local Garden Club groaned when someone mentioned Russian Iris, they get out of hand, FAST.

2. Stick with stand alone perennials, I think some novice gardeners buy invasive plants thinking it will grow fast, fill up space and Voila! instant garden. Instead the invasive shit takes over, in this case the Chameleon Plant groundcover that one customer planted, it totally destroyed her garden, and yellow jackets loved the stuff, this is how I got stung, wretched stuff. She bought other invasive plants and I dug them up tossed away and recommended she replace with Coneflower, Stonecrop, nice plants that are sturdy and don't take over and are drought tolerant.

3. If you insist on buying something invasive, PUT IT IN A PLANTER, NOT IN THE GROUND, you will thank me over and over for this warning. And practice sheet mulching! Lay down huge sheets of wet newspaper-(I also use cardboard and plastic bags too, better than that cheesy weed blocker fabric), the worms love it, then cover with mulch, great weed blocker and if some weeds do poke through, they're so easy to pull out! I used newspapers in hope of blocking any roots of invasive plants I overlooked in said customer's garden.

4. Don't plant flimsy stuff, I know some gardeners who like tall flowers that gently wave in the summer breeze, this is fine, but after a rainfall will flowers flop over and lie forlornly on the ground like fainting goats? Why plant something that can't withstand a little rain, or will need the assistance of an ugly stake?

5. Dirt should be brown not flowers. I'm not a fan of ferns that turn brown. Nothing is uglier than dried up flora. If your ferns are more brown, or anything that you plant dries up and turns ugly on you, yank them out and plant a drought tolerant perennial in it's place.

6. Stick with what works, rinse and repeat. Hydrangeas, Coneflowers, Stonecrop, Corabells, Hyssop, Hosta (The blue leaf variety has thicker leaves slugs can't chew through) do well in my yard, so I use them a lot, no need to show off how many different kinds of plants I can successfully grow, stick with what works. Keep your garden-scape design simple, don't get lured by colorful catalog pictures to buy all kinds of stuff. Also, Hydrangeas have a very long blooming season, I select plants that offer me color for as long as possible, after all I did the grunt work to get them into the ground, I want to be entertained for as long as possible.

7. If you don't know where to transplant or plant it, do what I do, create a space to harbor these plants until a plan forms in your mind. I have an area behind our barn, with pots where I stick the plants until I can figure out a place for them.

8. Don't plant ornamental grass that re-seeds to the point they take over, this too was a mistake a customer of mine made, I ended up digging the whole lot as again, a second area garden was overtaken with this stuff, to the point I discovered a lovely hidden rose bush. Another customer had non-bearing raspberry plants that I yanked out to find a gorgeous Japanese painted fern hiding underneath.


9. Check for what plants are considered an invasive species in your state. I have two in our yard and plan to replace them as budget permits, the Multiflora Rose a wild rose, and a huge, beautiful Burning Bush. People told me to pull up the Rose bush and burn it, I can't do this, I plan to give it to a beekeeper friend as the flowers smell wonderful. The Burning Bush? It will be hard to let go.

10. Check Craigslist for people who sell plants in your area. I discovered Helayna, a lovely Ukrainian lady in my own town who sells organically grown plants from her own area gardens. In fact, I'm now sending my customers to her. Her prices are very, very reasonable.

11. It's easy to want to plunk in colorful plants right away, but save some money for the bones of your yard, if you need privacy trees to screen a neighbor's driveway, or to cut traffic noise, be sure to budget for some in the beginning. I wish I had.


12. Consider rockscaping to break up the monotony of mulch, rocks also keep bugs from entering your house if you have them by your foundation, the rocks are too hot in summertime for bugs to rest on. And definitely check out my Pinterest Board for more Cool and Exciting Gardening Ideas!

So there you have it! My tips to avoid huge pitfalls in your outdoor flora wonderland. Hopefully this post will also save you some money and trouble. Happy Gardening!













Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Introducing My Vintage Funny Santa Blocks, New in My ETSY Shop

We moved into an antique home circa 1664-yeah that old, in the oldest settlement in Connecticut, the town of Windsor in 2011. The former owners lived here for many decades, they very kindly left some antique collectibles in the basement and attic for us, interesting stuff, not too much, not too little.

What we didn't need we sold or continue to put up in my husband's ETSY shop RetroUrban, a portion of the sales of all vintage and antique items sold there go to our Vintage Hi-Fi Museum at 485 New Park Avenue in West Hartford, Connecticut. We do have so much to add to this shop, and that is our goal this year.

One of the treasures left us were piles of vintage children's wood play blocks, I found four of the same size painted them, distressed them more and added my own humorous signs to each one. I love re-purposing these found gifts that were left to us as we continue to conserve our wonderful historic home the Deacon John Moore House.

My Santa sign blocks are now available and would make a fun, witty addition for your holiday decor, herewith the link to purchase, take a gander over to see all the new items I'm adding this Fall. THINK HOLIDAY FUNNY GIFTS: SmirkingGoddess:.https://www.etsy.com/shop/SmirkingGoddess?ref=shop_sugg