Winter Interest

January 19, 2011

Two years ago I set out to make some changes.  I decided I wanted to write a column.  I didn’t have a solid idea as to what I wanted to write, as you may have noticed I have a lot of different interests.  But nonetheless, I took steps to make it happen.

My first column went to press just before Christmas 2010.  It’s not in a big newspaper, certainly not a household name, but it’s a start.

I’m grateful that someone was willing to take a chance on me. To give me an opportunity for a by-line, to give me a chance to learn the lingo, and the processes of the business.

It feels really good.

I finally realized a goal.

For many years I felt like I was just spinning my wheels.  I finally got some traction.

So here it is, my first official printed column.  This is my un-edited version.  There is a link on the right side of my page to the Zenity Weekly.  It is a kicky little paper headquartered in Duluth, MN.  It’s off-beat and a fun read.

I am now officially,  “The Accidental Gardener”, in-print and on-line.

Winter Interest

As much as I enjoy spring, more specifically, late spring when I can finally get to the garden center and pick out the early bloomers to adorn the front of my house; I love my winter planters for much the same reason.

As the pansies and mums poop out after a good hard freeze or two, I’m usually left with a half a dozen dead planters and window boxes.  Being that winter feels like it lasts so much longer then summer, I have to do something about these unsightly pots, specifically the window boxes. There’s nothing worse for a gardener then staring at a bunch of empty planers (or dead flowers) all winter. And if your window boxes are anything like mine, they have discolored the house behind them, so it’s not like you can take them down for the season.

I say decorate them!

Since pine is one of the few green things in the winter, it is an obvious choice for the planters.  Your local garden center or home improvement store, perhaps even the Boy Scouts, will usually start to stock Spruce tops in early November.  Here’s what you need for some spectacular containers…

-Spruce tops – they typically come in a bundle of approximately 10 tops per. One bundle is plenty to do a couple of 12” pots or 30” window planters. Cost is roughly $20/bundle.

Now spruce tops alone are ok, but a bit boring.  So we need to add other natural materials to add visual interest. Some of my favorite materials include, White Pine Boughs, Boxwood, Dogwood Branches, Rose Hips, Chinese Lanterns, Holly, Eucalyptus, Winterberry Branches, Corkscrew Willow, most anything really. You may be able to find many of these items in your very own yard, and a little winter trim doesn’t hurt your bushes a bit.  If you don’t have any of these in your yard, you might want to add these to your landscape.  They’ll do double-duty for you all year long.

Before you start filling your containers, first you must prep your pots.  Keeping the dirt from the summer’s plants is just fine, but pull out the dead stuff and try to get most of the roots out if you can.  Once you get your soil cleaned out, you can add a little more dirt if need be.

Here’s an important tip:

Don’t wait until the pots have frozen, plan ahead, get out there before it gets consistently cold.  That way your soil is loose and you can get your greens deep enough into the soil.  If the soil is already frozen bring your pots indoors for a few days and the dirt will thaw enough to work with.

Start by adding your spruce tips.  Usually you get a variety of sizes of branches in your bundle. Some are longer and more well formed like a tree top, some might have a curve to them or be a little bare on one side or the other, so you may need to work with the natural growth pattern of the branches.

In a round or square pot, use one of the more perfectly formed branches as your center. Add about 3-5 smaller branches around it.  Use ones that arch to the left on the left of center and vice-versa.  Hide any barren sides toward center, but first trim off any areas that may be dead.   Do yourself a favor and wear some tough gardening gloves, the kind with the rubber palms or even leather.  It’s inevitable, you’re going to get stuck with the pine. Once you have your branches in place, water them in.  Give them a good long drink.  And continue to water them at least once a week until the soil freezes.  Once frozen, the branches will stay green usually until at least March.

Now is the fun part.  I like to change up my pots a little for the holidays so I may add some fall leaves, Chinese Lanterns, gourds or small pumpkins to my pots for Thanksgiving and then remove these and add berry stems, holly, ribbons or even ornaments for Christmas.

I do not recommend using a natural fall leaf in your pots.  Once they die they will crumble and fall apart, so I cheat a little and use a silk fall leaf from a craft store.  You can pick up a few stems with multiple leaves for under a few dollars.  I add these at the very top of the soil, being careful not to go in too deep.  One year, during a particularly rainy, then cold fall, the soil froze solid and I had fall leaves until January when we got a quick thaw.  Maybe you’re ok with that, but it bugged me to death, so now I pay a bit more attention to the depth.

Add a couple leaf branches in between the spruce tips.  Three is plenty. Now add some twigs.  Red dogwood is a personal favorite of mine.  Cut several branches about 6-10” longer then the spruce and some a little shorter. Fill in the empty areaswith at least 3 if not 5 branches. You want them to arch outward.

Be free to experiment and play. Adding at least 3-5 different elements will create a lot of visual interest.  I also love to add eucalyptus for the fragrance and berry branches for color.  Winterberries are a favorite for the birds.  By adding these, you help keep food available for our feathered friends and it’s fun to have the birds visit.  What I learned in the past, and wholeheartedly recommend, is DO NOT use fake berry branches.  Firstly, they are harmful to the birds.  And the birds will think they are food. Secondly, during the winter they tend to fall apart and you may end up with a bunch of ratty looking styrofoam balls in your planters, frozen solid, so your stuck with them until a thaw.

You can add holiday decorations in December and then remove them in January to keep a cleaner look to your planters until spring.  Take advantage of any January thaws to freshen up your planters with a fresh batch of white pine or more berries to carry you through to spring.

You’ll be amazed how creating interesting winter containers keeps a fresh look to an otherwise dreary winter season.

Out of the ash comes new growth…

October 25, 2010

Two years ago I decided to make some changes to my life.  I’d been in a major rut and was really hating what I did for a living.  After getting notice that I was going to be receiving a major pay cut along with my hours at work being slashed I went into panic mode.
It was in that state of panic that I decided I needed to follow my heart and do something that I love.  The idea of being a Columnist hit home.  So I set out to try to make some changes in my world, all the while the idea of writing circulating in my head. 

I started a blog, which gave me practice and held me accountable.  I took several writing classes.  I sent out letters and examples of my work to a dozen or so small publications.   I knew it was a long shot.  But I kept at it.  Last winter I gave my blog a big re-vamp, and as of this fall, I went back to night school to get a certification in graphic design.  
Today I feel like a different person then I was two years ago.  For a person who has struggled with the reality of having to work at a job that I don’t love, all the while wanting to follow my heart and do something that I do love, this was a great conundrum. 

Every writer that I’ve talked to in the last two years has pointed out that they write for the love of writing, not for the pay.  Dreams can come at a price.

Today I was given the opportunity to write a Column for a small publication.

I have realized a dream that I’ve had for quite some time.   I have been given a chance to write about something I love…professionally.  I will get exposure and a by-line.  Today is a great day. 

Out of my ashes of despair I have grown.

Have You Ever Seen a Moonset?

October 23, 2010

“Have you ever seen a Moonset?”
My husband whispered
quietly in my ear.

“What’s that”, I asked as I opened my eyes and reached
to draw him near.

“It’s something special we should share,
come watch with me my love.

You’ll see the darkness fade away and the heavens rise above.”

The moon was full, white as snow, and sat low in the western skies.

It gently dipped beyond the trees as the sun was on the rise.
It was as if the world awakened; the birds and insects filled with song.
The sky was scarlet and oh so bright, the quiet moon now had gone.
Now and then when the moon is full, I wake early hoping to see—
The fading moon and glorious sunrise the Moonset once brought to me.

Original Poem CCH 2001

Her Souls Dream

September 7, 2010

Inside she’s crying,

her face shows no tears–

She’s lost in the world,

alone with her fears.

In the night comes a vision

of a love she will find-

With it comes happiness and laughter

and finally peace of mind.

She sees a candle flicker,

lit softly by the fireplace glow-

It warms the midnight air

as the thunder thrashes so.

Heated blues on CD

create a mood of mystique-

As two lovers move together,

two souls finally meet.

Their bodies form a rhythm

and their hearts begin to pound-

Their feelings are strong and passionate,

for love’s been finally found.

But in the early morning light

she slowly comes to see-

That this vision of love is empty,

it is only but a dream.

Her heart aches now with sadness;

this time she quietly cries.

Alone her soul is barren;

alone she slowly dies.

Back to School

August 23, 2010

Today was my first day back to college.  I’m wondering wholeheartedly, what the hell took me so long?

I have sort of a weird educational background.  I went off to UWEC at 17 because my best friend at the time asked me to go with her.  Luckily enough I had the grades.  I got in, it was fun no doubt.  It was freedom for sure.  Problem was I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  All I knew at that point was that I was excited to be out on my own.  I didn’t stay there for a multitude of reasons, it just wasn’t a good fit.

The next year I went to the local college.  Again, no idea what I wanted to do. Just took the basics.  A year and a half later I decided to go to tech school, get a degree in Administrative Functions.  It was a comprehensive program.  I learned a lot.  But I still hadn’t learned what I wanted to do with my life.  After graduating I immediately landed a job in Advertising.  For the first time I felt like I was where I was destined to be.  A decade later I wasn’t so sure.

In high school I was equally literate and artistic.  They gave me absolutely no clue as to how to develop either skill.  Advertising seemed to be a good mix of both.  In my 30’s I became domesticated. Buying a home, being a wife.  Suddenly I remembered what I had really wanted to be…an interior designer.  But at that point, going back to school didn’t really even seem like an option.  Interior design ended up being more of a hobby.

Another decade gone by and my heart aches to do something that I love for a living. I’ve liked my job for the most part but it was never a passion.  All I hear about these days is “following your dreams, living your passions…”

What about reality?

What about finding a career that is sure to keep you employed? Something that pays enough to cover the bills and hopefully more.  Would Interior Design do that?  Not so sure.

All I know is that if I don’t make some changes to do something that I love I will burn out really soon.  Some days I’m already charred.

So I turn to my love of art again.  Back to school, this time for graphic design. Realistically I probably won’t end up with a Bachelors in Art.  As much as I’d love to put that on my resume’ I’m hoping potential employers will look beyond the all mighty degree and see the other lesson’s life has taught me.

Even if I don’t have a Bachelors…I do have an education.

Rock On Girlfriends

August 4, 2010

I’ve had my core group of girlfriends since high school.  And over the years we have had many girlfriend weekends.  In our younger days we’d go camping, to a cabin, spend weekends at some one’s apartment or go to softball tournaments and bars. We were young and crazy with no real commitments or time constraints.

In our 30’s we kind of lost touch with each other.  Everone was settling down, raising families and establishing roots. And unfortunately, the girlfriend weekends bacame farther and further between.

Now that we are all in our 40’s there seems to be a resurgence in interest for getting together with the girls.  the kids are growing up and more self-sufficient, and us girls, as mother’s, are realizing that we need to take some time for ourselves again– for sanity sake.

Just after our 20th class reunion we really started to connect again.  And during one lovely dinner with a few of the girls, a new tag line for our group was derived. Now mind you, conversation goes anywhere and everywhere when you are with a bunch of women.  From love and sex to careers and politics.  And one night during a particularly feisty conversation my one hilarious girlfriend, in an effort to break the tension, exclaims “well, rock on with your bad self then”.  We all stopped talking,  looked at her and started to laugh.

 became our mantra.  And of course, with me being in the promotional business, I knew I had to make a tee shirt to commemorate that moment.

The girls loved the shirts!  We all proudly wore them that first weekend and we’ve kept that mantra going all this time.  As rock loving girls of the 80’s it fits us. It reminds us that we still have a party side, a side that is not a Mom or a wife.  A side that doesn’t have a 9-5 job or a mortgage and bills to pay. It reminds us that even though the years have changed our faces, inside we are still young, effervescent and cool.

So readers, what is your mantra?

If  you are interested in purchasing these shirts or other designs, please send me an email with your email address and I will send you the details.  You can see past posts in Girlfriend section for other design examples.

Uncle Jakes BBQ

July 9, 2010

Uncle Jake’s was a family recipe.  We wanted it to have an antique’ look and actually feature Uncle Jake.  My customer wanted a simple design that would appeal to the masses.

Both the seasoning mix and BBQ sauce were a big hit sold at county fairs, art fairs and local specialty stores.

Girlfriend Tee Shirts

July 2, 2010

"Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History"

Going on a girlfriend get-away?

Having a reunion or special party?

Need a fun gift for a 40th Birthday?

Outfit yourselves in matching tee shirts!  It’s a great way to commemorate a special Girlfriend gathering!

Custom screenprinted designs in bright shimmery silver ink. Black 100% cotton tee comes in relaxed or fitted (shown) cut.  Sizes from XS-XXL.

Other shirt and ink colors available.

The more you order, the lower the price!

Just one of many designs



Choose one of my stock designs or let me design something custom just for you.

For further information send me a comment with your email address.

Collateral Design

June 21, 2010

Collateral Materials


I designed a series of collateral materials for a customer last summer.  As a new gun manufacturer in the business they needed everything from logo design, business cards,letterhead, brochures, sell sheets, web banners, even a rubber stamp.

They were using the “shield” as it had a personal family tie.  I developed the rest of the materials keeping a
consistent style and feel.

Loving What You Do

June 20, 2010

A friend of mine suggested that I blog about my old Advertising days. Oh, the stories I could tell…

But honestly, it’s been a decade since I worked there and I’m not sure I remember any real specific stories. But what I do remember is having a job that I loved. There’s a feeling way down deep in my gut that flickers every time I think about it.

I started there right after school. It was the first job posting I read, my first interview, I got the job. It was a great job! I loved it. My goal at that time was not to work in Advertising, no I went to business school, I started as the secretary when I was 21. But Advertising has a way of sucking you into it. It was a great place to work. Creative people are really fun to be around. They usually have really good senses of humor, they are artistic, they were all young and full of ideas and antics. I soon realized that this is where I was destined to be.

The agency was small when I first joined, about 25 people. The owners were great, they treated me like family, my Uncle bosses. I learned so much those first few years, I was like a sponge just sucking up all the information I could get. I learned how to use the stat camera, run films and plates, hell I even learned to use the drill in the print shop. It was a blast. The owners were so great at letting you spread your wings and learn what you wanted. I wasn’t an artist, but I learned to do page layouts and keyline and began to really develop my artistic skills. When the advent of the macs came into play I learned to use the graphics programs. At times I wrote and edited copy for brochures and flyers, I got to take part in photoshoots and video shoots. They were really willing to let me try pretty much anything I showed interest in. I couldn’t have been any luckier to land a first job like that one.

I will never forget the feeling of really loving my job. Looking forward to going to work every day, not minding if I had to work late, going in on Sundays…it was all good. I was growing and changing, I was excited and challenged. I felt is if I had the world at my feet and there were endless opportunities in front of me. What a wonderful feeling.

These days I’m not feeling that way too much. I mean my current job is OK, there are parts of it I really like. But I so miss the camaraderie of my advertising friends, the laughs, the excitement. I’m not sure that I will ever find another group like that one. Those first few years we really had a great bunch of people there. The agency grew fast and by the time I left it was up to 65 employees. Some of the dynamics changed. The bosses were spread pretty thin, things were more serious.  But I know the heart of the place never changed, their core values are still in tact. I still hold fondly the memories of those creative folks; the bosses who let me spread my wings, the people who mentored me and taught me everything I know about Advertising today. I will always hold them in high esteem. And every job I shall ever hold will always be compared to that one.

Next Page »

  • All my life I've waited for things to be right in the universe before I could really start living my life. If only I had the perfect job, the perfect home, was the perfect weight or had the perfect partner... then my life could begin.

    What I've realized now is that these challenges I faced were not obstacles holding me back, they were the steps in the journey that is my LIFE.

    Life has it's ups and downs, heartaches and joys. We need to appreciate each day, and do our best with what we have been given.

    It's not the destination, it's the Journey.

  • Chains of Harmony

  • Image Map