Apr 292011

I’ve been a stranger to my Web site during the last 3 weeks, not because I wanted to stay away, but because I’ve been tied up with projects, one of which took my husband and me to Wisconsin to paint a basement.

Tale of a tornado

Right after Iowa’s state tournament for Destination ImagiNation®, the program for which John and I volunteer, I found myself e-mailing Global Finals-bound Team Managers with support information and uploading related documents to the state Web site, run by Students for a Creative Iowa. I learned by e-mail about the plight of one of Iowa’s teams, which is advancing to the Global Finals competition being held at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville on May 25-28. This team is from Mapleton, the town that was hit hard by a wedge tornado on April 9th, the evening of the state tournament. The team, which consists of four high schoolers, performed at the Destination ImagiNation tournament, then left early to participate in a school play. Five minutes into the performance, the town’s tornado sirens howled, sending everyone to shelter in the locker room beneath the stage. Others hid in the school’s boiler room, hoping for the best. When it was all over, 60 percent of Mapleton, a small rural town of 1,200 in northwest Iowa, was flattened.

When our state Board heard this news, we knew that the Mapleton team that had qualified to advance to Global Finals would face a special challenge in raising the $5,000-plus needed for its journey, which includes room and board, transportation of team members, chaperones and props, hotel stays, team T-shirts and trading pins. After some discussion, we decided to award a special distribution of $500 to the team from the Kitch-Eilerts Memorial Scholarship Fund, established in part to honor the memory of an Iowa Destination ImagiNation participant who was killed when a tornado swept through his Boy Scout camp in 2008. Two Ames, Iowa teams, also advancing to Global Finals, decided to make trading pin mats for the Mapleton students, and offered to split the earnings from busing restaurant tables with the team. A local Mapleton farmer who wanted to show his appreciation for students who had cleared his fields of metal debris from the tornado came up with a $600 donation. In short, many folks who weren’t exactly affluent themselves dug deeply into their pockets to help the Mapleton students.

As I write this post, I do not know whether the students will reach their fundraising goal by the payment deadline, but if you are interested in helping them do so, you can follow the instructions I posted in Globals-bound team comes home to tornado. You might say that this was my completed challenge for Week 15 of the 52 Weeks Challenge.

The paint job that wouldn’t end

The next week (Week 16 of the 52 Weeks Challenge) my husband and I spent in Wisconsin, painting my father’s basement. His house, which is up for sale to support his care costs, had developed structural issues over the 40-plus years in which he lived there, shifting 2-1/2 to 4 inches off the basement foundation. Two corners of the basement wall collapsed, and there were holes in the cinder blocks wide enough in which you could shove your arm. The drain tiles failed a water test, and the sump pump had to be replaced. Needless to say, all of this spelled out water issues in a big way. The basement needed work before the house would sell. Fortunately, our realtor helped us locate a contractor who was willing to take on this job, which involved digging an eight-foot-deep trench on all sides of the house, straightening the walls and shoring them up with supports, replacing the drain tiles and installing not one but two sump pumps, rebuilding parts of the basement wall, replacing four glass block windows, and gutting the interior of the basement. The contractor completed the work this month, leaving behind a straightened, repaired foundation, but also a basement with ugly gray-and-green patched walls that looked like something out of a horror story. Over the course of five days, John and I used up 7-1/2 gallons of primer to paint the entire basement, including 65 (I counted them!) floor-to-ceiling support beams. I do not think I want to see a paint brush, paint pad or roller brush for a while.

Before painting


After painting

Coming home to ants

As you might imagine, when we returned to Iowa we were bone tired but glad to be home. The temperatures had warmed up and there was just enough rain so that everyone’s lawns had greened up. Unfortunately, these are perfect conditions for ants to hatch. Imagine my horror when I walked into my paper studio and found ants swarming all over the desk, wall and window frame—likely the entry point for the little critters. Fortunately, half a dozen ant traps and two days later, we took care of the problem. Meanwhile, I stayed out of the paper studio and took my crochet hooks and yarn into the family room to be productive. You can see below the headwarmer and scarflette I completed for Week 17 of the 52 Weeks Challenge while keeping the ants at bay. Somehow I don’t find nearly as cute as I did before picnic cloths decorated with ant trail borders!

Crochet Head Warmer in Lavender, Fuchsia & Purple

Lavender & Fuchsia Crochet Scarflette


© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Mar 122011

Welcome to the newest participants of the 52 Weeks Challenge who joined us this 10th week of the activity.

Abigail Gutting, who is an artist by day and an art teacher by night, when she works with children and teens, learns something new every day. “A painting takes me on a journey from start to finish,” writes Abi in her new blog, The Power of an Image. “That journey is never the same and with each new effort; there is something new to be gained and understood.” As a child, Abi worked alongside her artist mother in her studio, and in her teens and early 20s, she worked with her veterinarian father in the American West, which inspires much of her painting today. In Two Cowboys and a Bronc below, you can feel the sweat and dust of the cowboys as they chase a saddle bronc.  “My goal is to tell a story that lingers in the mind of the viewer and to grow as an artist with each new painting,” says Abi of her work, which she sells in her Etsy shop, Abi Gutting Fine Arts.

Two Cowboys and a Bronc, by Abigail Gutting

Karina Wetzel introduces us to her love of crafts through a fabric flower tutorial in her blog, Karina’s Challenge. Karina, who lives in Utah, is a relatively new mother who somehow finds time to sell vinyl art lettering, handmade home decor crafts and onesies in her Etsy shop, Crafts by Karina. I especially enjoy her whimsical wall decals, such as the one shown below.

Vinyl Wall Art Decal - Faith and Trust, and a little bit of Pixie Dust, by Karina Wetzel

So, what did I get done this 10th week of the Challenge? During a week when I felt overrun by paperwork I’m shuffling on my father’s behalf, I finished this earflap hat and matching scarflette.

Crochet Earflap Hat & Scarflette, by JN Originals

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission.

Feb 202011

Magic and whimsy meet at Faerie Garden Fancies, the shop of Diana Bukowski. Diana, who is February’s Featured EtsyBlogger, is an artist and teacher. Although she does not limit herself to these items, she enjoys working with paper, paint, glitter, glue, scissors, polymer clay, pencils, watercolors, and her camera and computer.  Like many artists, she finds it is a balancing act to “reconcile my passions with making a living.”

Diana’s sense of humor, as well as her understanding of the appeal of story, are evident in her art. Most recently, she blogs about Melusinia, a mermaid-and-treasure chest sculpture that is available for sale in her Etsy shop. (Click on photo to see the listing.) “Melusinia came into being more than a year and a half ago,” writes Diana, “destined for warmer climes, but after a brief vacation in the south, she decided to return to the cooler waters of Lake Ontario. However, this winter has been the last straw for her. She has packed her favorite box with memories and dreams and is requesting a new location; she doesn’t care where. (I suspect a merman is involved in her decision, but she won’t confirm or deny the allegations.)”

Magical Mermaid Art Doll and Treasure Box

Melusinia’s world is likely surrounded by other items you will find in Diana’s shop, which you can see below. Visit Faerie Garden Fancies today.


Faerie Garden Fancies

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artist and may not be used without permission.