Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Resolutions!

I love a new year. It's a fresh start, a time to reflect on the past, look forward to the future, state wishes, set goals, and grow a little. 

I've had good luck sticking to resolutions in the past and I think it's because I try to set realistic expectations based on changes I truly want to make. And not huge changes; just a few shifts in habits.

And so 2014's resolutions are:

1. Get back in shape. Now, I love myself and I don't think I look half bad. However, in 2011-12 I was in good shape and felt great. Now that I've felt the difference, carrying even a little extra weight almost feels like being sick. I feel sluggish, tired, rolling over at night is weird--I don't enjoy it. I want to be able to keep up with Luke once he starts running around in a year or two. I care about myself. I'm worth the effort. And if any further reason is needed, I did 9 squats yesterday and threw my back out. So, yeah. Time to get back into shape.

2. Never talk about it. In fact, I plan to deny I did anything to get back into shape. I can't stand reading about eating, so I promise not to inflict it upon you. Plus, a friend said recently "If I talk about something, it satisfies the need to actually do it." I know I'm guilty of that too. You don't have to hear about a bagel I resisted and I don't have to pretend to resist a bagel only to later shame-stuff it into my mouth in my car WHERE INSTAGRAM CANNOT FIND ME. We all win.

3. Go to bed the same day I wake up (preferably by 11pm). This doesn't sound like a hard one, until you know I haven't regularly gone to sleep before 1-2 am since I was 12. I don't want to do it anymore. Good night, Neverland. Peter Pan finally needs a bedtime.

4. No soda or sugar at home on weekdays. I consume so much sugar it's breathtaking. And by breathtaking, I mean I struggle with stairs. My heart is just one of those chocolate oranges. This is going to help with sleep and getting-back-into-you-know-what. (Not that I did anything to get back into you know what).

5. Be more mindful of the present, live in each moment. My thoughts are typically here, there, and everywhere. I get a lot done, but I sometimes worry I miss out on what's in front of me.

Some goals for 2014: I plan to try and self publish a book, (even if it's just my alphabet animals) apply to sell at Urban Uprising, and finish a couple of projects I've had simmering on the back burner.

2013 was a year of extremes. From extreme joy over Luke's birth, to extreme uncertainty (and yes, sometimes fear) over Ryan's search for employment after the NCSoft offices closed suddenly without warning.

I've experienced some of the happiest days of my life in 2013. Giving birth to Luke and caring for him each day has been a beautiful, exciting, deeply fulfilling experience. I can't equate it to anything else, it is entirely its own adventure. He is a great baby, and we are deeply blessed to have him in our lives.

At the same time, the black cloud of "what happens next", which unfurls over the horizon when a home loses its steady income, has loomed large. Ryan has been able to freelance and work contracts, and I'm proud to say we've made every mortgage payment. Still, it has been a harder year than we expected when we waited to have a baby until we were "financially secure, with health insurance". It's the one thing we played safe, for Luke's sake, and as you can see the Universe was swift in its punishment.

And yet, Luke has made even the bleakest days feel like Christmas, and so I feel guilty complaining even a little. We had a year of incredible ups and downs, but today on December 31st I can look back at a year truly and fully lived, richly experienced with dark nights and bright mornings and true happiness despite any worries.

As I said earlier this year, when Luke's hospital bills began rolling in:

"We waited to have a baby until we had good health coverage. We waited to buy a house until Ryan got promoted. And then one day, without notice, Ryan's entire office just closes.

So, don't plan stuff out folks. You just can't pretend you can predict tomorrow. You can line up everything perfectly, be in the best circumstances, and it doesn't matter--in a good way. Because if you're in bad circumstances, with everything stacked against you, it equally doesn't matter. You can't predict tomorrow, and tomorrow it can all change.

What will happen, happens. Live life, make the best of it, and don't make love decisions like marriage, children, or being happy on cold factors like money. Money can be swept away at a moment's notice; love endures."

What happens next is still a little uncertain, however some contract work has made life a bit easier for the moment. It's my hope some of that uncertainty can be resolved in 2014 (preferably early in 2014).

How about you, do you get excited for a new year? Are you happy to bid 2013 farewell or sad to see it go? Does 2014 feel like a good number to anyone else? I hope you all have a fabulous, safe New Year's Eve and a happy new year! Here's to new beginnings!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Glitter Houses

Last year I fell in love with little paper Christmas houses. You know the ones. I had big dreams of folding and gluing together my own tiny sparkling metropolis, to lay on cloud puff cotton spreads with brush trees dotting the artificial landscape. There was only one problem.

I was terrible at making them. Just awful. 15 minutes in and everything in reach was covered in glue and I had little doors stuck all over my big dumb hands. OH, DESPAIR. Throw in the fact that I was 6 months pregnant, and you had the perfect recipe for an afternoon curled into a (large) ball on the couch with a good cry.


This year I was determined not to let those little houses defeat me again. I was ready to overcome, I was prepared to endure--because I planned to cheat.

Back in October, I saw a great idea on Pinterest (naturally). Someone had taken dollar store Christmas village houses, spray painted them black, covered them in cobwebs, and viola, awesomeness. I thought to myself, "I wonder if anyone--" and by then I had typed a Christmas search for "dollar store glitter houses" and YUP. Someone had. In fact, several people had. Check out their tutorials first, if you like their houses better! (I won't be offended, this is the Internet and damn gurl, those houses are super cute!)

So this year, I armed myself with a bunch of $1 ceramic houses from the dollar store, some paint, and a whole lot of glitter. This is what I made:

Glitter village!

A snow monster looms in the distance....

Someday, I'll even write something on that tiny chalk sign.

I bought many little houses (okay, too many little houses) and definitely bit off way more than I could chew. Still, I forged ahead. At least there was no paper folding involved.

(If you DO want to try the paper ones, there's a great tutorial on Martha Stewart.com)

LORD BLESS THIS MESS. Please excuse my work table, and
see if you can pick out the tiny houses from the wreckage.

I started with a dollar store house.

Woof. This one got dressed in the dark.

And I painted it white, using two coats of paint. As I painted, I sprinkled white glitter here and there. I did this with each step that follows! Keep that white glitter handy! I used Martha Stewart's, because the bottles were made for clumsy idiots like me with fingers like hammers.

Two thin coats allow details to come through, without
making it too chunky. This is the first coat of paint on the red glitter house.

Next, I painted each of the roofs and shingle-type details with glitter paint. And sprinkled more white glitter, to make everything look "frosty".

(Okay, if I'm being honest, first I tried to paint them and dump glitter on the wet paint but that turned into a sparkletastrophe. I'm still covered in glitter. So are the cats, Ryan, Luke, and everything we own. So, we made a trip to the craft store and got some glitter paints. You can skip that step, and just start off with the glitter paints. Trust me).

I like to think about the tiny people who live in these houses
and what their little itty bitty lives are like.

I continued to coat the rooftops with glitter paint, and this step took the longest. Each house has 5-6 coats because: glitter paint. During spare moments I would pick up a house and add another layer. I left them on my work table with the paints and brushes ready for me whenever I had a chance to sneak in some painting. (Every surface in my studio is covered in a project mid-completion these days... That's how I've continued to get anything done, I pretty much devote 10 minutes here or there until Luke's nap times and bed time). This step took 3-4 days.

My sister would live in this house, if she were an inch and a half tall.

Eventually I faced the realization: Gurl, are you crazy? You're never going to finish all these houses this year. And so I picked 3, two houses and the church, and concentrated on them. I set the rest aside, glittered and ready for Christmases to come. Maybe I can finish 1-2 a year.

Honing in on a few....

I added a few light layers of paint here and there for some simple details. The trick is a LIGHT layer of paint. Water it down a wee bit, and the pigment will pool into the crevices and do most of the work for you.


Then I went back in with more white paint to touch up little spots I had messed up on. And that was it!

Quick version: paint a dollar store house white, paint the rooftops
with different colors of glitter paint, add any details you want, and
liberal sprinklings of white glitter.

These were fun, and I'm glad I didn't kill myself trying to finish them all. I've found that balancing caring for Luke, working on paintings, and all the crafty things I like to do is mostly about pacing myself and being honest when a project is just too much. These three houses were really fun to make, because I set the other eight or so aside for another time. And now I get to add to the village every year, which I'm psyched about!

December is in full swing! All of my print orders have shipped (thank you SO much, everyone who ordered from me this season!) and my shop is officially on vacation until the day after Christmas. Packages have been arriving daily from our loved ones living on the east coast. There was a light snow two nights ago. The tree is up and Lupin has perfected climbing to the top through the middle and throwing only the most expensive and especially fragile ornaments across the living room.

We've been wrapping presents, watching Christmas specials, and baking cookies.

Like Nana's Santa cookies!

These are not really DIY, they're more "learn from someone who made them for 20+ years, take 3-4 years to get them right, and even then there's a lot of room for improvement next Christmas." I hope to have these right by the time Luke is 5 or 6. In the meantime, I'm really proud of how they came out this year, and I take some honor in carrying on their tradition. They're a bit of an undertaking, and I really enjoy the process involved in baking them. It's probably that I get to paint on cookies.


My father sent us a new camera for Christmas, and in free moments Ryan and I have been re-teaching ourselves some of the basics of actual, real deal photography. We've both used cameras quite a bit, but neither of us have ever photographed babies--and obviously, 90% of what we want to photograph is Luke! Between reading manuals, watching YouTube tutorials, and of course snapping shot after shot, we're having a lot of fun learning together.

Almost this much fun.

Finally, Puck has fur and a face and is not just a shadow in a collar.

Brace yourselves: the other 10% are artsy shots of cats. 

I think we all like to have quick, fun projects and involved, challenging projects. This December has been a mix!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Society6 sale, Chalkboard prints, and some Christmas pictures!

Man, I am just slamming you with savings! Every time you think you're safe, you lock eyes with me from across a crowded room and WHAM I shoulder check you straight through a pane glass window of savings. You go home, and you think you're alone, but when you turn out the lights I burst out of your closet in a blaze of discounted prices and incoherent ancient languages! Finally you settle in to relax with some television, but when you least expect it the screen cuts to static and I crawl out of the tv to ruin your furniture, while whispering into the recesses of your heart "Seven days... Of unbelievable deals at low, low prices...."

Okay, it's three days, now until December 8th. I've got another sale to tell you about, Society6 is offering free shipping and $5 off my designs if you use this link RIGHT HERE. Only that one will work to give you the deal, it's the super secret special speakeasy one.

This sale is through their site. It's a great chance to pick up any larger prints, totes, phone cases, etc of mine that you may have been wanting. I like Society6. Sales aside, I like them because they're where I buy artist prints when I look for artwork outside of Etsy. And I really like them because they just began offering kid's tee shirts and baby onesies...

...And you know I'm going to design the bejeezus out of those. When I get the chance.

The custom portraits have been a great success, thank you so much! I have done two runs of three at a time, and sold out each time. Thank you, thank you. I was even a little sneaky and accepted a fourth commission this last round and learned the valuable lesson that three really is a magic number. I was able to complete all of the commissions on time, but it was a little more intense than I could keep up every couple of weeks. So for now, I'm going to continue to stick to 1-3 at a time. With a baby to care for, time is tight as it is.

I'm batting around the idea of offering a second kind of portrait in the shop, but I'm not entirely sure. I have been doing these Chalkboard style portraits lately:

NOBODY PANIC. Faillace is my married name.

Picture it....

I had to include Mordecai.

This have just been one of those "playing around" projects I do from time to time, but people have liked them (especially the Golden Girls one) and it got me thinking about possibly offering family/couple/friends ones in the shop for $35. I'm not sure yet, as obviously they're a pretty big ink commitment.

Speaking of portraits, tis the Season, and we have a bunch! Ryan and I decided to take some simple family portraits for our Christmas cards this year. Our current preferred method is to set up our camera, turn on an auto click, and take about 90-150 pictures in 2-3 minutes. Then we look for the few good ones, and viola, we've done our part to murder photography!

(Disclaimer: I joke, I joke. A few years apprenticing under my father and then working as a portrait photographer in schools, theaters etc taught me some quick and dirty tricks about snapping a moment or two. Or 90-150. My motto became "shoot until you hit something". It's a phrase my Aunt Lizzie often uses meaning "Don't give up, keep trying, always keep trying". It's fabulous for photography and for life).

Our family.

Our family if we were a set of Russian nesting dolls.

Luke and my old friend, "Ho Ho."

We've taken so many "nice" portraits the past few days,
but this outtake is my favorite because it's Luke's current "SO HAPPY" face.

He mostly makes it when he sees the cats.

He really likes the cats.
(Puck's like "Nope. Nope, nope, nope.")


These aren't the only portraits we've been taking! We recently were fortunate enough to be able to visit RI, and Luke finally got to meet the rest of his family!

Nana and Luke! (My Mom).

Grandpa Dunn and Luke! (My Dad).

Grandpa Faillace and Luke! (Ryan's Dad).

Nana found a bear!

Great Nana Dee Dee and Luke!
(My grandmother, who, if you read this blog
you know all about how awesome she is :) This is her, folks!)

Four generations of my family.

Great Grandma Pauline and Luke! (Ryan's grandmother).

Four generations of Ryan's family.

Aunt Joanie and Luke!

I hope the holidays are going great for everyone! My friend Amy who creates beautiful acrylic paintings on a 1 inch x 1 inch scale (no, seriously, they're incredible) is finally offering her artwork to the world! Next time I post, I hope to share some of it with you, along with a few questions and answers with her about how the heck she does what she does! Tune in, they are gorgeous. You will not believe how many details she can fit into a 1 inch x 1 inch space!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Holiday Etsy Sale!

I'm having an Etsy sale in my shop! Enter the coupon code "Silverbells2013" at check out and save 10% on your order. You can find my Etsy shop by clicking HERE.

This year's holiday deadlines for ordering from the shop are:

International............. December 1st
Canada................... December 6th
US...........................December 13th

If orders are placed before those dates, they will most likely arrive by December 25th. Orders placed after these date may be later. These are more guidelines than deadlines, since it all comes down to the post office and they could be slower or faster depending on their deliveries. While I have not had a holiday order get lost or held up yet, I still try to advise on the side of caution. Give yourself plenty of time!

I'll be closing up the shop on December 20th to take a few days to celebrate Luke's first Christmas with us. Hopefully I will be posting here again before then, but I wanted to let any last minute (really last minute) shoppers know just in case!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Alphabet prints, chugging along again!

I created more letters in my "Alphabet Animals" series! Here are the letters I've completed so far:

Alligator in an apron baking apple pie.

Bear in boots and a bandana with a ball.

Crazy cat in a cape.

Deer in a dress with a doll.

Elephant in earmuffs, holding an envelope.

Giraffe wearing glasses and green galoshes.

GURL YOU FORGOT F! No, I didn't, I'm just skipping around a bit!

Raccoon with roses on a rock surrounded by raspberries.

Tiger in a tutu.

And up on deck in the sketch book:

Fox in a fez wearing flip flops.

Hen in a helmet.

Since I last posted these, I stopped hand drawing the letters and began laying them out in "Times New Roman", a favorite classic font. (And one of my "good luck" fonts, because I am a crazy person). Immediately, I felt much better about the prints. Freehand typography is only my thing if it can be a little sloppy, and I wanted these letters very crisp and clean.

Other letters and animals you can look forward to, (subject to change, possibly, since second guessing can sometimes be an artist's best friend):

Iguana eating ice cream.
Jack Rabbit in a jacket
Kangaroo flying a kite.
Llama eating a lollipop.
Mole with a monocle.
Narwhal in a nightcap.
Otter playing an oboe.
Penguin at a piano.

(P and O are so tough for me, and may have multiple options, because I love owls and peacocks so much). (And I hope the otter and penguin jam together, because that would be adorable. Maybe they can start a band with the owl and the peacock, called "Otter and the Birds").

Quokka cuddling with a quilt. Have seen a quokka? I'M OBSESSED.
Sloth in a sweater wearing sneakers.
Umbrellabird with an ukulele. (And possibly an umbrella BUT IS THAT TOO MUCH UMBRELLA? ELLA? ELLA?)
Vampire bat with a Valentine.
Walrus in a wig. 
Xoloitzcuintli playing a xylophone OR GETTING AN X-RAY AMIRITE?
Yak with a yo-yo.
Zebra in a zoot suit.

These have been a lot of fun. I'm hoping to possibly explore the world of self publishing with these prints, but if you're a publisher and would like to work with me and do it for me, that's great too. Even better, in fact. Since I've been told before that alphabet books are not popular for publishing (I mean, I get it, why would it be in a publisher's best interest to teach the next generation to read? WAIT--) I feel like striking out on my own with these might be my best option. Like Yukon Cornelius, in search of silver and gold....

I'm 90% sure this is what I would look like if I were a dude.

Either that's a great metaphor, or I'm really excited for Christmas this year.... GREAT METAPHOR, I KNOW RIGHT? NAILED IT.


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Luke's First Halloween!

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays! When I was still pregnant with Luke last Halloween, I got the idea for the costumes we wore this year.

Little Shop of Horrors

Seymour, Audrey, and Audrey II from 'Little Shop of Horrors'

Ryan and I have many horror movie favorites (MANY), but 'Little Shop of Horrors' just seemed immediately perfect. I wanted a monster that could be cute for a baby, and a costume that would be soft and comfortable for a six month old to wear. Needless to say, that cut a lot of options out.

John Carpenter's 'The Thing', for instance....

However, Audrey II starts off as a baby. And a really cute baby at that....

The little scamp.

It would make sense for the plant-monster to be small and adorable. And since Audrey II spends most of its time on screen with a couple, our costumes were a cinch! We brought out Ryan's fake glasses--

You know the ones.

And cut the sleeves off one of my sweaters. (Actually, you know the one, it's in the picture above too). I did my hair in a half beehive and slapped some extra make up, and our costumes were done! For Luke's, I took a green sleeper and then sewed a bonnet with cloth teeth, a collar of cotton leaves colored with non toxic markers, and a soft "flower pot" for him to sit in, with his little legs poking out as roots.


Of course, there were a few other Halloween spirited outfits during October....

Old Timey Skeleton

Adorable Pumpkin

And Captain Hook and the Croc, during Nightmarathon

However, it was the Little Shop of Horrors costume that kicked off Nightmarathon and made it out to our Mommy group outing and trick or treating at Ryan's office. Two weeks ago a friend saw our costume and suggested we enter it in George Takei's Halloween costume contest, and today it turned out we were one of the 12 finalists! Cool right? I think so! My Mom is a life long Trekkie, and I was taken to Star Trek conventions as a child (no, seriously), so it was pretty exciting to find out we were chosen!

Some screen shots of the excitement.

My Dad set a tradition of winning Halloween contests when I was a child, and it made me really happy that Luke is one Halloween in and he is already walking (okay, almost crawling) in his grandfather's footsteps.

Halloween 2013

I love these guys.

Can you believe Luke is already six months old? Where has this year gone?! He has eased into a pretty strong nap time schedule, and I have been drawing/painting more the past two months. If I'm being honest, I still feel a little rusty. Sketches take me a wee bit longer, and I'm erasing more than I have in years. However, the lines are coming back to the page, and I've been steadily finishing commissions. Thank you, folks who ordered my custom portraits last month! They were a blast to create, and if I get permission I will try and share them here in the future.

Here's to six awesome months!

UPDATE: Luke won for "Best Children's Costume!" Thank you so much, everyone who voted for us!