GIMP software

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I have been trying to cut my computer time down to no more than 3 hours total a day. Partly to save my back and eyes and partly to increase my real-world productivity.

You know - stuff like washing dishes, feeding children and sweeping up gobs of shed dog fur. I can announce some success in this area. My children aren't looking quite so gaunt anymore, There are 5 clean cups in the cupboard and there is only enough dog hair on the living room floor to make two whole new puppies. Last week, there was enough for ten puppies.

The down side to this is that I haven't had as much time for my blog as I would like because I have been learning how to use GIMP - the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a free image creation and manipulation software with a ton of powerful tools. I'm discovering that amazing things can be done with it. I used to covet my own full version of JASC's Paint Shop Pro, but GIMP has saved me from having to spend hundreds of dollars on software Yay!

The main reason I've been learning how to use it is so that I can produce my own banners, promotional "stickers" and avatars for my Etsy stores. But Molly, Bryan & I all want to learn to use it to enhance our hiking photos to make greeting cards and prints to enjoy at home. In the photo at the top of the post, taken by Molly Bryn on a recent hike at Harper's Falls, I added a black border and some lens flare to Molly's image of tree trunks and deepened some of the color and contrast. It was a lovely photo to begin with and now I think it is really nifty. I think this software will help me overcome some of the frustrations I have with digital cameras. I simply cannot get my digital camera to do the same things that my old, manual 35 mm used to do and I can't seem to find a replacement or reasonable repair for my old camera. I really miss it and lament the fact that I never had an opportunity to run my own darkroom. I must admit that playing with photo re-touching software is almost as much fun as playing in the darkroom. Fewer chemicals, too.




I've managed to make some preliminary banners - the images I used for my banners are from (GoblinsMarket) an Arthur Rackham art and fonts package that I got from the Scriptorium at Fontcraft and (LunasBaublebilities) fairytale images from Sur le Lune's website.




I'm sure my banners will get more interesting as I learn how to use the logo extension - in the meantime, let me know what you think of them!

marbled papers photos

4:46 PM Edit This 4 Comments »


Just so I know I haven't dropped off the face of the blogging world entirely - I'm stopping in to post some photos of some of the best marbled paper prints I got from the last batch of marbling. I've been very busy but haven't felt really productive lately. I guess Potty training toddlers, whiplash induced vertigo (thanks to the potty training toddler) and trips to the ER (this time for a 14 year old's scratched cornea) can slow one down a bit!

Here are photos - Enjoy. Off to a fun birthday party in the woods!

Inner Tube vs. BoobTube

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We have been enjoying the most glorious (and sticky) summer weather that we have had since I came back from Tucson over a decade ago (read almost 2 decades ago!) It has been hot for several days starting with blue skies and then increasing haziness this afternoon. We have also been enjoying a visit from Alexandria Elliot, a dear young old friend of the family. She is a few years older than MB and graduated this year. My first mixed media textile art piece was created in an attempt (successful) to save her beloved blankie from the rag bag, so I owe Allie a debt of creative gratitude.

Anyway, yesterday it was hot and Alexandria's only real request during her visit was to eat Stewart's ice cream and spend some time in the river so we picked up some inner tubes from Aunt Di's and headed to the twin bridges on Rt 11 to do some tubing. The St. Regis River between Rt 11 and Brasher is very mellow and with the recent rainfall bringing the river level back up, tubing was a perfect Family Home Evening activity with little Maxx. It was his first big water adventure and he really enjoyed it - until he fell off his tube the first time! He kept wanting to remove his life vest because it was squishing his little face up but he was sure glad he had it on every time he fell out. He also learned that one should not splash one's sister unless one can handle retaliatory splashing. He can now say "Don't dish it out if you can't take it back" and knows what it means - an important concept for 4 year old brothers to learn.

The water was as warm as a bath but felt soooo good after a day of stickiness. It was wonderful to lie back and drift peacefully past forests and meadows, admiring the incredibly blue sky and the rocky bottom illuminated through water. A large section of this run is lined with meadows that have been allowed to overgrow in the past couple of decades and you can admire large oak and maple trees overhanging the river bank with young birch trees growing in thick stands behind them. The variety of greens that such a scene affords on a breezy early evening was particularly pleasing. I wish that my digital camera was water resistant, words cannot describe how lovely the light was and how beautiful the trees were.

Another pleasant surprise was a species of tree along the river that I have had no previous experience with. We encountered these trees near the end of the run, overhanging the banks in a slow spot. They have largeish, oblong leaves and at any other time, we would not have paid them any particular attention. Yesterday, however, the were blossomed and their scent was beyond beautiful. The ends of the branches had large clumps of dangling beigeish/ivory blossoms with a very subtle, sweet scent. Their scent was almost like that of grape blossoms and for a while I was looking for grape vines along the river until I caught sight of the blossom clumps hanging from one tree. Anyone have any idea what it was?

The whole run took about an hour and a half and we were sufficiently cool and hungry when we got out. We finished up the evening with s'mores and some sleepy singing up at the Harmon house with Aunt Lue and the cousins. (Sorry about the noisy truck, Uncle Dick!) All in all it was a wonderful night.

Tonight, on the other hand is a bit pathetic. It is hotter and stickier than yesterday and Maxx had his immunizations this morning. Tonight he is sickly and feverish and sitting in front of the BoobTube, sucking up all the Disney movies he can fit in before bedtime. The poor babe. I'm very glad that we no longer have to worry about Polio and Pertussis, but he and I would trade in this miserable experience for floating down the river in an inner tube in a heartbeat!

I'll post some summertime rive photos soon. Fort Jackson park has been particularly gorgeous this summer with a full river instead of an almost dry bed, lush grass instead of shriveled brown fringe and trees that seem to have finally recovered from the ice storm ten years ago. It is high time for a late afternoon photo outing over there!

The Wonders and Dangers of PayPal

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This is a cautionary post to all who both buy and sell online using PayPal to transfer their money back and forth from other buyers and sellers.

PayPal is a wonderful thing. You open up an Etsy store, place your beautiful things on their website and people come, admire and send you some PayPal money to ship those things to them. All is happy. Then you start looking around at everyone else's beautiful things, admire them and send other people your hard earned PayPal money in exchange for their beautiful hand crafted things.

What a wonderful exchange system! We play with imaginary money and send and receive real things with it.

The thing I have to remember is that I also need play the alchemist and take some of this imaginary money and turn it into real gold from time to time by depositing it into my bank account and using it for things like buying groceries or paying the bills. It really is like magic and it is fun, but I do need to learn some restraint when I'm exploring the wonderful world of Etsy.

Take a look at my Etsy Favorites link in my sidebar and you will see what I mean. There are so many talented people making wonderful things!

In Which I Marble Paper and Make a Mess of My Kitchen

12:49 PM Posted In Edit This 1 Comment »
Yikes! What is becoming of my summer?

It has been very busy around here with getting GoblinsMarket up and running, feeding my kids, finishing the homeschool year (ya, right!) and trying not to neglect my creative instincts completely. I'm learning a lot about how to manage an online store, how to mail orders quickly, how to manage money online, how to price items, etc... It is good for me but I wake up feeling like I have to hit the ground running and fall into bed late at night aware that there are about 500 things that I didn't get done while I was running.

I'm hoping that I can make lots of money to afford a quicker computer - this one is wonderful and our connection is speedy but the machine itself is old (about 7 years) and is a bit pokey plus the monitor is too small (old, square, energy sucker model) to read a lot of the new webpages.

But you don't want to hear all that. You want to hear about my paper marbling adventures yesterday. What a great day it was - even though I had to throw a bit of a hissy fit about not being able to find and clothespins for half an hour in the morning. Marbling paper is fun and simple but it does take some practice to get good results and there are some practical safety considerations. When I say good results, I mean paper that has a smoothly marbled surface with no white spots from bubbles, gaps in the application or streaking from uneven placement.

Here's what I know:

First, you need a size - or a liquid that you can float your paint on. There are many options available but I use Methylcellulose. Methylcellulose is a very fine powdery substance that is commonly used as a food additive for stuff like ice cream or other things that need to stay gooey. It is safe to eat in ice cream but it is not safe to inhale.

Let me say that again.

It is NOT safe to inhale. this stuff could clog up your sinuses and cause you to suffocate. Wear a Mask when you work with the dry powder! It is also listed as an explosive because if you open your bag near a flame and some of it puffs out, it can ignite like a little explosion. Scary. No candles!

To create the size, you gently and gradually stir one ounce of Methylcellulose into a tray containing one gallon of cold water. Then you add 1 tsp of non-sudsing, clear household ammonia and wait 20 minutes. After 20 minutes are up, stir the size gently again and it is ready to use. I use a shallow dishpan. I know that I would have better results with a wider, shallower tray and would be able to do larger sheets of paper, but I haven't felt like making that investment yet.

The next thing you will need is paper ready to be marbled. To prepare your paper, you need to mix 1 Tablespoon alum with 1 cup cold water and brush it onto one side only of several sheets of paper and let it dry. I place a little "B" on the non-alum side (or Back) of the paper so that I will know which side to marble. When the paper is dry, iron it flat to avoid wrinkles and bubbles in your marbling. i get both my alum and my Methylcellolose from ProChemical & Dye.

Now you need paint that will float and disperse on your paper. I have had tolerably acceptable results with plain old craft paint watered down to the consistency of cream. Liquitex soft body acrylics also work fairly well if watered down. Different colors will yield different results and you will quickly discover which ones will work and which don't work as well. Yesterday I used chroma airbrush colors. The interference colors were amazing! They dispersed well and left the paper all shimmery . Very cool.

The last thing you will need are some combs. You can buy expensive, fancy combs or you can make our own by taping toothpicks at regular intervals between two pieces of cardstock. These work just fine and are quick and inexpensive to replace when they get gunky. You want to make at least one comb that is almost as wide as your tray so you can make rake in one single, smooth motion along the entire length of your size and you will want some that are shorter so that you can wobble the comb back and forth to create ripples.

You'll also want some newspaper, a trash can, strings or laundry line to hang the finished paper on, clothespins, a bucket of clear water or a nearby sink with a sprayer and some time to get messy. Some Van Morrison helps, too.

Now you are ready to experiment! Here's the procedure - sprinkle little bits of your paint onto the surface of the size, let the colors spread, rake them back and forth or swirl them with a single toothpick or, if you like the blobby globule look (which I do) you can just use it as is. Once you are happy with your paint, Lay your paper carefully on the surface of the size, alum side down and lift it off again. Rinse the excess goo from the paper and hang it to dry. You will get better at placing the paper after you have made several attempts. My experience is that even with the most dismal prints, there is always enough good marbling to make a bookmark or a small note card. There are great instructions and some historical information to be found on The Ancient Art of Marbling website

Once your paper is dry, iron it again and it is ready to use.
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