As you may already know, I have been selling my photography at the local farmers’ market for about a year now. I don’t go every weekend (especially in the summer when it’s boating time!) but in the fall I have been going more and more consistently, and I have even had several repeat customers! I gotta tell ya, it feels pretty darn good.
Anyway, I had been collecting driftwood for a while and then I stole borrowed my dad’s nail gun. I finally made the driftwood star for my guest room that I had been wanting to make.
The thing is, everyone that saw it said “Oh my God! You should sell those!” So I brought one to the farmers’ market. And it sold instantly. I made another one. It sold too. Every time I brought one to the market it sold. I couldn’t believe how quickly they went. Everyone said, “this is such a unique idea!”
Then one weekend before Thanksgiving an older married couple came up, looked at my star I had for sale, and asked if I make brands. Now, for those of you not familiar with what I mean by brands, I mean cattle brands. Some people design their own for fun, but others still have registered cattle brands that they use to brand their cattle (yes, it’s still a thing). Anyway, so he asked if I could make his brand, the M – (read as M Bar).
So when I made it and sent him this picture of it, he said, “great, now can you make 4 others?” He sent me a picture of the 4 other brands, which were all different, and to be Christmas presents for his kids back in North Dakota.
I worked on these brands for a while, but my work schedule got crazy busy, and then I ran out of small pieces of driftwood. So Hubby and I used that as an excuse to take our new little Runaway Camper out on her maiden voyage to the beach! We camped on the beach and filled half of the truck bed with driftwood.
I was able to finished the brands and get them to the new owner in time to ship them to North Dakota for Christmas. I also made some crosses, and one is a Christmas present for a friend of ours who moved far, far away (to Oklahoma City).
The blue background wood is the same wood from the table that I made (and seen below). I wanted to make sure to use the wood for this gift, because the friend it is for is also familiar with the story of how I came about getting this reclaimed wood, and she would appreciate it (hopefully!) I’ve made a couple other crosses, but since this one was my favorite, at had to be the one I was giving as a gift 🙂 So here are the finished brands! I hope his kids are happy to get them, because I think they turned out pretty neat!
I’ve been making stars like crazy, but the brands really took a toll on my small pieces, so I need to go out and harvest again soon. Luckily it’s been a really warm winter so going down to the beach in December won’t be a big deal!
Hubby and I usually use Thanksgiving as an “us” holiday. We either get together with friends or go out on our own. This year we decided to go camping in Big Bend National Park. This is where both of us did our thesis research, and basically where we lived for 6 years, so we miss it terribly. Last year around the same time, we went to Alpine, Texas for Art Walk and there was a terrible ice storm. There was a thick layer of ice on everything, and it was snowing.
Normally I like snow and don’t mind ice too much, but all of our friends who still live in the area stayed indoors where it was nice and toasty, so we didn’t get to see a lot of people. And we had planned on going to BBNP for a day, but the roads were closed because of the ice.
So what was there to do? Go to the coffee shop to drink coffee, and go to the bar to drink beer.
It was a great weekend, but not at all what we had planned.
Fast forward about 6 months, and I was getting pretty bad “city claustrophobia”. Every time I see a new building go up it makes me want to go back out to Far West Texas and never leave. So Hubby and I planned a camping trip for Thanksgiving Weekend in BBNP, in order for me to keep my sanity a little longer. Thanksgiving is the busiest weekend that the park has because the weather is usually fantastic (cold at night but nice during the day) and it’s a 4-day weekend for must of America. Of course, weather can also be terrible, like the year before. We basically had a 50-50 shot, so it was worth taking. And we won the weather jackpot. 40 degrees at night and 70 degrees during the day, with crystal clear skies. It was perfect. We managed to get a back country camp site on Pine Canyon Road and no one else was around. It was perfect. There were a few other campers further down the road, but far enough away that we couldn’t see or hear them. Solitude. Ahhh….
My main goal for the trip was to try out my astro-photography skills that I had acquired recently (with practice and YouTube) and I had a great time and some awesome success, if I do say so myself!
We also made time to do a hike on the Pine Canyon Trail, and head into Terlingua for some culture…
For those of you who have never been to Terlingua, never heard of Terlingua, or couldn’t imagine how people could live in the desolate and harsh desert floor, you need to see it at least once. Terlingua was once a booming town, known for mining quicksilver, also known as Mercury. Unfortunately they no longer needed Mercury (and they discovered that it makes you go crazy) so the mines closed up and the town became a ghost town. Now the Terlingua Ghost Town is a tourist attraction, and people have begun moving back into the formerly vacant buildings. The cemetery is still in use today, but has graves from the 1800s as well.
The people of Terlingua are interesting. The desert provides inspiration for artists and solitude for outlaws, and Terlingua is the crossroads for these people. Basically, if you want to be left to your own devises, this is where you move.
After hanging out and listening to the locals play guitar for a little while, we headed back into the park to drive some back roads to Santa Elena Canyon and then back up to the Chisos Basin to do some more star photos. On our drive, we spotted a rattlesnake in the road.
He had been hit by a car (you can see the blood on his head and on the road), but he was still alive. So Hubby got a long pole out of the truck bed, I directed traffic (ok, one car, but they still almost hit the snake!), and Hubby got the snake off the road.
Snakes don’t have to eat very often so hopefully he can heal up and get better before he starves. We tried our best at least! He was clearly not very happy with us, but it was for his own good.
It was a wonderfully successful camping trip and photography trip, and as badly as I wanted to stay and never come back to civilization, I just wasn’t ready to become a permanent desert rat. That just means that we will probably have to make the trek out to BBNP again very, very soon.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. Ok, maybe not EVERYTHING. I don’t think that you’re entire life is already planned out or anything, but I believe that there is such thing as Karma and Fate. And I can prove it to you.
We had an interesting weekend. First of all, Hubby and I spent Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market in Sugar Land and it was a great day! The weather was perfect and people were there to spend money! I made some really good sales, and hopefully made some good contacts for future orders for photography. REMEMBER FOLKS, CHRISTMAS IS COMING, AND PHOTOS MAKE GREAT GIFTS! Ok, plug is over…
Anyway, Dad-In-Law came by the market and asked us to go see a movie with him. We had planned on going to the gym and then going to Brazos Bend State Park to do a little birding and photographing, but he REALLY wanted to go to the movie. So we figured we would just do the other things we had planned on Sunday. No big deal, right?
Then we spoke with some friends, Joey and Rachel, who said that they wanted to go with us to Brazos Bend. Rachel loves birds and wants to learn more about them, so we loaded up and headed to the park on Sunday afternoon. We went to the first lake in the park, closest to the park entrance. I don’t typically go to this lake for that exact reason. It seems that the people who care more about actually being in nature go deeper into the park, and the people who don’t really want to be there stop at the first lake, walk around real quick, and then leave. And are annoying the whole time they are there.
For example, as soon as we got to the lake we were trying to watch the birds and the bullfrogs when a family walked by. They had a Spanish radio station playing a soccer game. Loudly. If the game was so important to them that they had to listen to it, why on Earth were they walking in the park?? But I digress…
We continued to walk and saw a man attempting to fish in the pond.
It seemed like a terrible idea because there were three alligators nearby, and they were very interested in the movement of his bobber as he reeled it in and cast it out. (Not exactly sure what he was planning on doing if he actually caught a fish, because it was probably going to end up being an alligator’s meal instead of his). As we were taking photos of the alligators we saw 4 girls, young high schoolers probably, that had a bring green string with bacon tied to the end, and they were tossing it over and over into the water. At first we overheard them say that they were crab fishing. Our thoughts were, “good luck, girls. First, this is fresh water….Second, if there were any crabs they would probably be getting eaten by the alligators…” While we were taking pictures, one of the girls asked if we mind if they throw the string, since we were taking photos of the alligators. I said no. Then she said, “If it makes you feel any better, it’s biodegradable string.” All I said in response was, “as long as it doesn’t stay in the water, I don’t care.” It was a strange interaction, but I wrote it off as just that.
We didn’t think much more of them and continued to take photos of the alligators, and moved further on down the trail around the lake. Then Rachel saw him. A small alligator, only about 2.5 feet long, sitting at the surface of the water. We would have walked right past him if Rachel hadn’t seen him, but then she saw something else. The alligator looked to be tangled in the same green string that the girls had been using. At first I was angry and disappointed. But then we saw the truth. See, the green string was camouflaged with the green vegetation, which is why we didn’t see it at first. Once we had our search image set for the string, we could see that the little alligator had swallowed their bait and had the string in his mouth. When the girls realized that they had in fact CAUGHT A FREAKING ALLIGATOR they tied off the end of the string to some vegetation, preventing the alligator from getting away.
By this point I was livid. Hubby was livid. Even little Rachel and Joey were livid. WHO DOES THAT?! Who just baits in an alligator and then ties it off so it can’t go anywhere? They poor guy was trying so hard to get away. He was pulling with all his strength but it just wasn’t enough. I called the BBSP phone number and reported it to the park police. As we waited for the police to show up the girls walked by, as if nothing happened.
So we had a little chat.
Hubby: “Did y’all catch an alligator?”
Hubby: “Really? Because it looks like you did.”
Girls: “No, we didn’t catch him. We lured him in.”
Me: “So, you did catch him…”
Girls: “No, we lured him in. We didn’t bring him in.”
Me: “You still caught an alligator.”
At this point they continued to walk away, so I yelled, “You know it’s illegal to hunt alligators in the state park, right?!”
Girls: “We don’t kill things.”
Me: “You could have killed him! You don’t know!”
Wow….we don’t kill things. I was so angry I was literally shaking. As we waited for the park police to show up a volunteer came by on her bicycle. We told her what happened and pointed at the girls who were still in view further down the trail. She said she was going to have a “chat” with them. Then park police showed up a few minutes later. We told him the same story and he assured us that the Nature Center people would take care of the alligator and he was going to try to find the girls.
We felt a lot better then. It was in the hands of the police. We did our good deed. We continued to walk and take pictures of the beautiful swamp.
Hubby though, was not yet satisfied. He went on ahead, concerned that the girls weren’t going to get caught by the officer. Hubby knew that if we didn’t know how it was going to end, we were going to be thinking about it for a long time. He got to the truck and didn’t see them in the parking lot. “Damn,” he thought. They had gotten away.
We were disappointed when we got to the truck, but the sun was going down so we headed out of the park to go home. And then we saw it. Glorious day! The officer had found the girls and was busy writing them tickets! We pulled over into the parking area and waited. I snuck a picture of “the leader” standing next to the officer’s truck. She was embarrassed and angry, and when she saw me she shot daggers at me. Man, if looks could kill…
We waited there until the car load of miscreants left, and then we go out of our truck and thanked the officer over and over again for his good work. He told us that they have a date with the judge, and Hubby gave him his business card in case they needed our account of what happened. I have never wanted to get subpoenaed more in my life. I would gladly tell a judge what these terrible people were doing. The officer then assured us that he was going to take care of the alligator now, but he wanted to make sure the catch them first.
A giant weight was lifted off of our shoulders when we saw the officer’s flashing blue lights, with the girl standing next to his truck. Although we will never understand what could have possibly been going through their heads when they decided to do this, I can (almost) assure you that they will never do it again.
We were meant to go to the park on Sunday. And we were meant to go to that lake instead of one deeper into the park. We were meant to help that little alligator. Everything happens for a reason.
I have great friends, but I also have FRIENDS. Like from the TV show. Pretty cool, I know. And they tried to do this in the show and it didn’t really work, but in real life it certainly does. Joey and Rachel live behind me. Jealous much?
Contrary to the episode where Rachel is terrified of a pigeon that flies inter her apartment, my Rachel loves birds. She has bird feeders in the back yard and a beautiful bird bath for them too. So when I saw this idea (also from Pinterest) I changed it a bit to fit her style more.
Rachel and Joey also have three cats (not a chick and a duck) so although I loved the idea of this project, I changed it to fake candles so that their house doesn’t burn down. Cats are somewhat evil, and they have a cat that likes to drink out of our glass, so I thought it would have been asking for trouble with real ones.
All I did was decide on a design and cut out the bird. Then put blue painters tape on the jars and trace out the bird on each one.
Now, of course you can do this with any size jars, really. I had one jelly jar that I saved but that was the only one I had, so I bought a mason jar to complete this.
After tracing the design onto the blue painters tape I cut out the design with an exacto knife and removed the rest of the tape.
Then just roll up some newspaper and stuff it into the jar. This does two things: keeps spray paint from getting into the inside of the jar, and gives you a handle for holding onto the jar while you paint it.
So therefore, by default you know the next step is to spray paint the jars. Then remove the blue painters tape and you have some perfect designs on the glass!
The finishing touches were white border paint around the edge of the birds and twine wrapped around the top with a pretty little bow. I love how they turned out, and I hope Rachel did too (I wasn’t there when she opened it)!
I made a few gifts for friends of mine for Christmas, and I really tried to put a lot of thought into what they would like. Like Trixie with JD I knew that my friends Dr. and Mr. Smerek would love this:
I did get this idea off of Pinterest, but only the general idea. I used the wood that was reclaimed from an old patio that I used for another project that you will see soon!
This was a really easy project. I used the same technique for the lettering as I did for my Rustic Sign DIY and added a black shadow on the lettering to make it pop out against the blue background. I also used some twine for the hanger, and I used some steel brackets to connect the boards together. I did have some issues with connecting the boards together because the wood was so old that it was sort of bending and not looking at all like a finished product. I also tried to get some of those wood bracket things like these:
because I was low on tiny screws, so I was trying to not use any. THESE DID NOT WORK. The super old wood was too hard to hammer them into the wood, and they ended up just bending and looking horrible. So I ended up getting some long steel bars that were made for this exact thing, and lo and behold! It worked, and ended up looking great!
When I gave it to Dr. Smerek for Christmas, she loved it, and even hung it on their mantle just in time for their family Christmas. And when they decide to have their 6 kids, I left room for each name or birthday, or whatever they want 🙂
I made these things as Christmas presents for a few of my friends, and I have to say, I’m pretty proud at how they turned out. And they aren’t Christmasy, so they can be made any time of year.
First I will start with the Pet Portrait.
Now, I’m not a painter. I try to be. I pretend to be.
But I’m not.
So believe me when I tell you, this was one of the easiest projects I have done, and guess what? I DIDN’T GET THE IDEA OFF OF PINTEREST! I know, right? I’m sure this idea is ON Pinterest, but I didn’t see it there. It just came to me. Like an epiphany. I’m sure it will never happen again, so I’m enjoying this craft project for all it’s worth.
So to start from the beginning, I have this friend named Trixie. And she moved far, far away, and I miss her terribly. And she has this dog. His name is JD. He is Trixie’s pride and joy.
So when I saw this picture on her FB page I knew I had to do something with it. My epiphany was to print it out in black and white and paint him onto a square canvas with fake snow popping off the canvas. Being a black dog and VERY photogenic made this project easy. I didn’t have to worry about hair pattern or shading or any kind. Easy Peasy.
So, if you want to paint a lovely Pet Portrait like this, here is what you do:
1. Print out a black and white picture about the size of the painting you want to make, and make sure that you are confident in recreating the image. If you get discouraged by the complexity of the painting you will either never finish it, or never start it to begin with.
1.5 Make your husband go out of town so you can watch Princess Bride while you work on this and other presents, and he’s not in the way.
2. Cut out the outline of the dog and trace around it onto the canvas or other medium you selected.
3. Suck up your fear of screwing up, and start painting, keeping the original photo close by for reference.
4. Allow the paint to dry before you go crazy with glue. This part is usually pretty hard for me. I’m always trying to rush the drying process so I can just get it done.
5. Now, this Christmas present was a little Christmasy, but that’s really only because the picture was taken in the snow. I tried to make it a little more cheerful by adding “Let It Snow” all along the edge of the canvas, thinking that it needed a little extra something. I hated it. But it was too late. So how did I fix it? I covered it in glitter! That way it’s much less obvious that my painting/handwriting skills are terrible, and it’s still quite festive.
I couldn’t find my teeny tiny paintbrushes when I was doing this project, so those probably would have helped and I wouldn’t have ended up hating the edge, but it’s fine.
Also, I would have sworn that there was a “fake snow” product out there for crafting.
You know, something like THIS?
But for some reason, I couldn’t find it anywhere. So I had to improvise. Instead I bought glitter. Glitter that I will probably never use for another project again, and it was a container of like 2 pounds, but it was cheap and it got the job done.
When Trixie received it in the mail (and she was not expecting it) she was so excited! She loved the painting of JD and I hope it will last a long time.
But the saving grace for the entire trip was that I was in Canada. You know what else is in Canada?
I swear, they are the nicest people you will ever meet.
They go out of their way to make you feel welcome and comfortable. It’s quite refreshing.
After my terrible first day, things started looking up.
My baggage showed up in the middle of the night…
And even though I had asked them to, the front desk people didn’t call me at 1 am to tell me it was here. And you know what? I’m glad they made that decision – what was I going to do with that information at 1 am? Run down and get my bag? No, I would have said ok, great. I’ll pick it up in the morning. So why call and wake me up about it? Better to just let me sleep and figure it out later. They are so nice.
I found out that my rental car wasn’t going to be ready until 10 am. I notified the people I was in town to see, and instead of waiting around all day for me to show up, they offered to pick me up at my hotel and take me to the property. Nice warm truck being driven by someone who knew where they were going? I’m in.
And when I was done for the day, he dropped me off at the rental car place. And this was my rental car…
They said that because I was so nice and patient with them since they had run out of cars the day before, they were only charging me for an economy car, but gave me an All Wheel Drive Kia Sorrento.
And a free GPS Rental.
See! When you are nice, nice things happen!
However, I didn’t have time to go see the polar bears.
It was an hour drive and they close early in the winter, so instead I drove to nearby Hersey Lake and took some photos, adding 4 new species to my bird list in the meantime!
And I also got to see something completely new and foreign to me…
First time in my life I had seen a lake frozen solid. It kind of scared me, I’m not going to lie. I was sure if I ventured too close to the edge I would fall through, even though those are snow-mobile tracks going across the middle of it!
I met up with John again in the hotel bar that evening. The hotel staff were all having their staff Christmas Party, so it was me and him watching hockey in the bar and showing each other pictures of our dogs.
I had told him the night before after he so kindly paid for my dinner, that I would pay him back the next night. I’m sure he thought I had forgotten, but I always try to keep my word so I made sure to meet up with him again. Since the hotel staff were having their Christmas party and the restaurant was closed, we went to The Restaurant (I’m not making that up).
It was a dive restaurant (my favorite!) that was attached to a gas station.
I told John that I had to have the traditional Canadian dish of french fried and gravy, what the Canadians call Poutine. He said that The Restaurant was the best place in town for that, so that’s where I wanted him to take me.
We didn’t realize that they were close to closing when we walked in, but we ordered our Poutine (Quebec style, with cheese curds) and a couple sodas and sat and talked for a good while. There aren’t many people that I can just sit and talk to as if I have known them for years, so it was nice to be able to do that after I had had such a crappy trip.
After dinner the waitress came and got our plates with her purse in her hand, ready to go. We didn’t even notice that she was waiting on us! We got out as fast as we could and apologized over and over for making her wait. I paid for dinner like I told him I would, and then he asked if I had ever been to Tim Horton’s.
We ordered our coffee (decaf since it was like 9 pm by this time) and John had me pick out a Christmas ornament. He refused to let me pay for the coffee and ornament, saying, “it’s Christmas!”
Then he gave me a “toonie” which is the Canadian $2 coin, because he wanted to make sure I had actually seen a Polar Bear on my trip.
Again, we sat and talked like old friends, and enjoyed our coffee. He talked about once when he thought his eye was about to pop out of his head and I talked about when both my eardrums blew out in grad school. Then we discussed the differences of healthcare in Canada and in The US. It was great. John said that he had been trying really hard to NOT say “ahe?” the whole time (he apparently wasn’t doing a very good job of it because it was like every sentence) because “it’s so typically Canadian,” but all I did was laugh and say something along the lines of “I think it’s fine – you are Canadian afterall….”
The second day of my three day trip was spectacular.
John was a welcome new friend, and I hope we keep in touch.
Everyone else I met was so nice and made me wish I lived in Canada, simply because everyone in the country is automatically your friend.
However, seeing as how this was the temperature the entire time I was there…
These are my silly travel stories where I use humor and sarcasm to explain other cultures and world events. I use this forum to be a voice for the Little Guy. Little Guys have tiny, squeaky voices and no one wants to hear them anyway.