A Week of Writing Prompts – Week 4

(Daily writing prompts are posted Monday through Friday at 7am on Facebook. This is the weekly roundup with a few excerpts from my personal journal. The goal is to write for at least 10 minutes without stopping, regardless of what ends up on the paper. Feel free to share writing in the comment section. Write on!)

Note: I can’t believe it’s already been 4 weeks already! I’m trying to find a way to get these emailed each week but for right now they’ll just be sent on Fridays with the weekly letter and posted here. And still daily on Facebook. Would love to read some of what you are writing. Feel free to copy and paste in the comment section.

Prompt 16: Today’s writing prompt is from my friend poet Maya Stein’s book: Writing Prompts for Ordinary People (90-Days). Pick one of the three prompts listed:


From my journal:
“I used to buy this saltwater taffy at the Hammock shops when I was younger. They looked like mini-watermelons or had the image of a strawberry on them depending on the flavor. The images went all the way through the piece of taffy meaning if you bit into them they cross section still had the same perfect image on it. They must have been made in the same way as those sliced FIMO clay necklaces that were also so popular at the time. To make them long strips of color were laid along side each other and into a raw-spaghetti-type cylinder. They were stretched out until the roll was 1/10 the size and sliced into cross sections like a cucumber to reveal the design.”


Prompt 17: Write about the photo below. Describe everything you see: angles, colors, shapes, etc. Find new descriptive words that might not obvious. 

A note about this prompt: Sometimes I push myself to describe things in a photo and I save the descriptions for later use. I file them away in Scriveners under headings like: seasons, houses, people. That way when I am struggling to describe something I always have a trove of them to pull from.


From my journal:
”The door was left wide open as if someone left in a hurry. The shuffle-worn floor planks sagged in the middle and the entire room seemed to bulge outward as if an invisible force pushed against them. A reverse shadow was on the wall where maybe a piece of furniture once sat. Brittle paint followed the grain of the wood. I could write out a poem on the ruled paper of the decade-stained walls.”


Prompt 18: Nursery Rhyme.
From my journal:
Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I. I loved that nursery rhyme growing up. I knew so many. The woman who lived in the shoe, the man that ate no fat, the boy that broke his crown, the pig who went to market. I’m slacking in the parent-child nursery rhyme category, I’m not sure that Sienna knows even 50% of what I used to.


Prompt 19: Collect information today in your journal in list form: quotes, overhead conversations, news headlines, song titles etc.

From my journal:
“Do you know what the adversary is?”
“I was president of the 4-H club.”
Exercise. Ex Er Cise. Eggs are sides. For bacon. Bacon. 


Prompt 20: Who was your best friend at age 5? Age 10? Age 15? Age 20?  (More ideas with a similar prompt at Day 28 of the Lil Journal Project)
Natalie at age 5. Alison and Kerry at age 10. I remember so much about Kerry’s house. We watched Back to the Future when it first came out on VHS. We always played in the woodsy circle across from her house. She had a Rock Tumbler and I wanted one so bad. I still do! Her mother’s house had this awesome loft above the living room with a ladder going up to it.


More posts on writing here:

More on the Lil Journal Project here:

The Lil Journal Project via lilblueboo.com

Michaels Makers Summit: Classes You’ll Drool Over

So last weekend I got to kick off the year by meeting all of my fellow Michaels Makers from all over at the Michaels Makers Summit. I’ve worked as a Michaels Maker for almost four years now and I love the challenge of coming up with ideas in mediums that I might not be familiar with…or even thinking outside the box with those I am very familiar with. A few things I’ve made over the years for Michaels (click here to see them all):


Last weekend Michaels brought all the Michaels Makers to Santa Rosa and we all took four amazing classes (weaving, watercolor, paper flowers and image transfer) – all taught by Michaels education partner, Creativebug. The awesome news for you is that each of the classes are available online for FREE on Michaels.com until 8/22 (you can re-create one or all of our summit projects)! I shared the classes last week on the blog but I wanted to re-share them because you have to try them out while they are FREE.  Even if you don’t want to make anything at least watch them for the artistic quality. So. well. done.

Talk about being transported to another world…this is where the Summit took place:
michaels makers
Michaels took such great care of us. I’m not used to having a car pick me up at the airport! The man was holding a sign for me…I almost fainted. And then I’m sure I talked his ear off the entire time: How many kids do you have? Where do you live? how long have you been driving people? Then he handed me a packed lunch that Michaels had provided for the road trip and: a packed lunch? really? that’s the nicest thing ever!  He must have thought I was one of the Beverly Hillbillies.  think I’m from the middle of nowhere.

The first night we ate at this place called the Long Meadow Ranch Farmstead and I took pictures of everything because I love their focus on responsible farming. Funny coincidence: I really want to be a responsible farmer!



The next day we started out really early and headed up into the hills to the estate that I posted as the first photo. Michaels had transformed it into a creative haven where we took those four incredible classes:

Watercolor taught by artist Yao Cheng (@yaochengdesign):


(I did this…and so can you!)

Image transfer with Courtney Cerruti (@ccerruti):

image transfer

Paper flowers by paper flower artist Livia Cetti (@thegreenvase):

paper flowers

Weaving taught by Annabel Wrigley (@littlepincushionstudio):


Here I am after all the classes ended…still weaving. You can’t stop me mid-project…ever.


The best part of the whole weekend was getting to visit with some old blogging friends though. There are a few I’ve known since 2009 (Ashley at Make It and Love It) and others I’ve gotten to know along the way at other conferences and social media. This is the second time I’ve shared a hotel room with my pal Delia (of Delia Creates)…so fun. I’ve made some really great friends over the years…they are all so talented:


We had a chance the last morning to listen to EVP of Marketing Steve Carlotti and ask questions. I’m excited about where Michaels is heading. I’m a very loyal customer:


So just in case you haven’t met all 50 of this year’s Makers, check out each of our blogs and bios here!


Follow along throughout the year and feel free to create projects with us by sharing on Instagram using #MadeWithMichaels.


Click here for the link or the image below to view the four videos over on the Michaels Makers blog. A big thank you to Michaels and Creativebug for making them available! Enjoy!


You can also visit the other Makers’ blogs below by visiting their recaps too:




I stumbled upon the movie Tracks a while back and had no idea what I was getting into…but it was one of those movies that just sets my heart beating at the richness of life. I ordered the book that the movie was based on right after I watched it:


Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson 

“Enduring sweltering heat, fending off poisonous snakes and lecherous men, chasing her camels when they get skittish and nursing them when they are injured, Davidson emerges as an extraordinarily courageous heroine driven by a love of Australia’s landscape, an empathy for its indigenous people, and a willingness to cast away the trappings of her former identity. Tracks is the compelling, candid story of her odyssey of discovery and transformation.”


I remember the National Geographic cover Robyn was on, even though I was only a year old when it was printed (May 1978):

Robyn Davidson Tracks Nat Geo May 1978


(See more photos from the Nat Geo Photographer Rick Smolan from the original trip here.)

When there is no one to remind you what society’s rules are, and there is nothing to keep you linked to that society, you had better be prepared for some startling changes. -Robyn Davidson

I remember it because I think my mother had every Nat Geo ever printed and sometimes if we kids needed something to do she would have us put them all in order by year to organize them. As I sorted I would set aside certain ones to read over and over. The other covers I distinctly remember reading over and over when I was a child were:


1. Jane Goodall (Dec 1965)
2. King Tut (Mar 1977)
3. Pompeii (May 1984)
4. Titanic (Dec 1985)
5. The Ndebele (Feb 1986)
6. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (Jan 1990)

Sometimes I feel a little sad that Boo will miss that experience and I’m tempted to go out and find a huge collection to bring home. I traveled the entire world through those magazines.

Which covers do you remember?


State of the Art: Painting on Maps


Michaels is celebrating their Big Brand Sale starting this Sunday and as part of that they asked me to make a project using my favorite art brand. I picked a brand that I’ve used for as long as I can remember and one that I’ve carried into the most wide variety of projects: Liquitex.

There are so many ways to use Liquitex products because they are intermixable and colors match across ranges allowing you to layer tube color, paint markers, spray paint and ink, or work wet onto wet with mediums.


The project I came up with was to create these cute little paintings using old maps, a fun way to recycle old maps you might find while cleaning out the car or your National Geographic magazines. You can stencil whatever you want on the canvas: a state outline, words, wedding dates:


On any scale:


Besides old maps and a canvas to start I used Liquitex Acrylic Gesso and Liquitex Matte Medium:

Using Liquitex for map paintings and collage

I used a few old maps, but the stamps were an old piece of scrapbook paper I had laying around:


Step 1: Cut a piece of map to the size of the canvas being used.


Step 2: Put a generous coat of Liquitex Matte Medium onto the canvas using a paint brush. The medium works like glue and because it’s archival quality won’t disintegrate and yellow over the years. It also creates a nice matte quality if you are gluing something with a glossy finish.


Step 3: Press the map onto the canvas and try to smooth out as many air bubbles as possible. A credit card is the perfect sized tool for this.

Using Liquitex to create collage

Step 4: I created a template for my design using Powerpoint but you can do this in Photoshop or just freehand your design. I placed chalk transfer paper underneath the template and outlined onto the canvas.

How to transfer an image to canvas

Step 5: This was another design for another canvas.


Step 6: Once I had my outline I used a brush to fill in outside the lines with the Gesso. Gesso is used as a primer but is great for white-out because of its opaque quality. Without Gesso you would probably have to paint multiple coats:


On the other canvas:

Using Liquitex Gesso

Didn’t they turn out cute?

DIY  Stenciled map painting

Save those tattered Road Atlas’s for quick little gift ideas:


You can also use the same technique using paper, magazines etc!



It was so fun helping Michaels celebrate their Big Brand Sale, which launches next week, and getting to create a project using product from a brand that I love!

Check out all of the Liquitex products in store or on Michaels.com – and great news! Liquitex is on sale for the next 2 weeks! Just check out the Big Brand Sale landing page for more details.


Click below for more fun art tutorials for gifts or home decor (or here for direct link):



How to Grow Succulents from Leaf Cuttings

Propogating Succulents How to grow  succulents from leaf cuttings

My new favorite hobby is growing something out of almost nothing: growing new little succulent plants from succulent leaves and cuttings:

How to grow succulents in soil and water

We grow them in trays with regular potting soil. Some sites recommend pricier mixes but my local nursery recommends just regular old starter soil…they grow all their own varieties of succulents and they said “fancy dirt” won’t make any bit of difference:


We start the soil pretty damp to keep it all packed down nice:


When a succulent plant is getting too big or has a large offshoot I will carefully pull off the leaves in a gentle twisting motion to make sure I get the entire piece from the stem of the plant:

growing succulents from cuttings

Spreading all the pieces out on a board I let them sit for 2 to 3 days in indirect sunlight so that the ends can dry out. This will keep them from rotting when you set them back in the soil:

growing succulents in containers

Key step: Don’t let your dog eat them.


Once the ends have dried out or calloused over we just place them on the soil:

growing succulents from leaves

If they are a small top cutting with more than one leaf we just stick it straight down into the soil:


You can mix up the technique to see what you have the most success with but depending on the kind of succulent sometimes when I just stick the leaf down into the soil I get better results:


Set the trays out in the sun and mist the soil with water every few days. Remember that succulents prefer an arid environment so if you water them too much they will begin to rot. If it’s too cold bring the succulents inside and set them in front of a window. You might need to move them into indirect sun if you see the leaves starting to scorch. But I’ve found that when I tend to ignore them for a while they thrive! Sometimes they’ll grow at different rats as you can see from the three plants below that were planted at the exact same time:


It’s so exciting to see “baby” succulents appear from the cutting! One day you’ll look closely and an entirely new plant has just popped up through the soil:

To transplant these you can carefully clip off the original leaf cutting and replant the new succulent:


Some of the smaller leafy cuttings will just start to grow and grow. I usually snip off the top a few leaves down for a new plant and then use the rest of the leaves to start new plants as well:


And so many varieties:


All of my cuttings were trimmed from this beautiful succulent wreath and from this one wreath I’ve created hundreds of baby succulents!


Feel free to leave any of your own tips in the comments!


Upcycling a Window from a Door

There’s one window in the old depot that we’ve had trouble finding a match for without having one made. We were going to patch something together eventually but then over the weekend our friend Marty texted Brett a picture of a door that was being thrown out. Lightbulb! By late afternoon Brett had picked it up and cut out the window to reuse for the depot. Installed on hinges it can swing open for a cross breeze. It worked out perfectly:

Fixing up the train depot: upcycling a window out of a door

When I was growing up the farmer who boarded my horses re-used everything. Everything. I remember a few of the gates to some of the pastures were old vintage metal bed frames with metal wire holding the hinges on. Old horseshoes were used for hooks, and sometimes hinges as well. So many of Mr. Rea’s re-use ideas that I used to laugh at are now on Pinterest as “rustic decor.” I think Mr. Rea would be proud of this upcycling, and if he were alive today he could have cared less about Pinterest:


(More on the old train depot here.)

Fontana Dam, The Fugitive and the Whole Famn Damily

We went to Fontana Dam today. It’s only about 40 minutes from Bryson City. The big plan was to checkout the Fontana visitor center, eat a picnic lunch, and play cards by the lake (Boo’s request). So that’s what we did:

Fontana Lake from Fontana Dam Picnic Area

It’s an easy drive and a scenic one. Here is one of the overlooks on Highway 28. It doesn’t look real in the photo and it doesn’t look real in person either!

Fontana Lake on the way to Fontana Dam

The first thing we noticed when we drove up to Fontana was it must have been “Inspector Appreciation Day” because there were all these official looking guys in hard hats and reflective green vests. They didn’t keep us from walking and driving across though.

Fontana Dam Inspections

Fact: Fontana Dam is the tallest dam in the Eastern United States.

Fontana Dam in the Great Smoky Mountains

It also has a rich, fascinating history. The information center at the dam has a bunch of binders full of old photos in it dating back to the 1930’s (you kind of have to look for them on the counter). The Fontana Dam was built during WWII to control flooding in the area and to power Alcoa’s aluminum production. ENTIRE towns were displaced i.e. submerged when the dammed water level rose. (And of course there is the whole “Road to Nowhere” story you’ll want to check out about the lost cemeteries.)

Fontana Dam War Poster

Source: US National Archives

The scary part of the dam (besides all the cracks, which I’m sure the inspectors are taking care of) are the huge spillways that could swallow up school buses like bon-bons:


When we drove down to the bottom of the dam Boo said:

Let’s get out of here. I have a bad feeling about this.

I guess that’s normal when you are looking at a concrete wall holding back over 630 million cubic meters of water.

(There’s an app for that: TVA Water Info. You can see water releases and operating information for dams in the area.)

Just a random tidbit: If you drive across the dam and look towards the visitor center you can spot a little metal track running up from the powerhouse into the trees. That track used to be an incline tram to take visitors into the dam’s inner workings. They stopped all that after 9/11/01.

If you want to read more I recommend this book:

Fontana: A Pocket History of Appalachiafontana
by Lance Holland

The fascinating history of the Fontana Dam and surrounding area.  I love that it includes photos and diagrams. The undertaking of the TVA to build this dam and resulting lake is pretty incredible, and there is the devastating part of the North Shore families who were cut off from their homes when the lake waters rose (hence the “Road to Nowhere).


Ok quick movie quote trivia:

“Alright, listen up, people. Our fugitive has been on the run for ninety minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground barring injuries is 4 miles-per-hour. That gives us a radius of six miles. What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up at fifteen miles. Your fugitive’s name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him.”

That monologue was the best. The movie debuted in 1993! Good grief I’m getting old. Yes, The Fugitive. And guess what? Not far from Fontana is the Cheoah Dam, also known as the THE FUGITIVE DAM!  The same one that Harrison Ford made his escape via in the movie. If you look closely there aren’t any tunnels for Harrison Ford to jump out of. The tunnel scenes were filmed elsewhere, but all the other scenes were filmed right at this little dam in the middle of the rural North Carolina mountains:

Cheoah Dam also The Fugitive Dam

A few miles before you get to Cheoah there is this huge powerhouse with enormous pipelines going up the mountain side. These pipelines come all the way from the Lake Santeetlah Dam (not easy to photograph)….you actually drive under them again if you follow NC 28/US 129 back to Bryson City via Robbinsville/Stecoah. This never made sense to me until I drove it today and realized that Lake Santeetlah is much higher than Cheoah:

“Water travels from the Santeetlah reservoir through an intake in the dam and passes through a five-mile steel pipeline to the powerhouse. This pipeline is both above- and below-ground, and extends through various mountains and ridges via five separate tunnels and six elevated pipelines. The above-ground sections ofthe pipeline are 11 feet in diameter, and rest on steel support beams and concrete abutments.” –National Register of Historic Places

Okay so the pipeline is 11 feet in diameter. Told you it was enormous.

P.S. One LAST little interesting thing I must tell you about. It has to do with The Fugitive. The train wreck scene was actually filmed in Dillsboro, right outside of Bryson City. It was a REAL train wreck. They wrecked a REAL train. And then left a real WRECKED train:

The Fugitive Train Wreck Dillsboro NC

Photo by Vicky Somma Flickr Creative Commons Copyright
The Fugitive Train Wreck Dillsboro NCPhoto by Vicky Somma Flickr Creative Commons Copyright

It’s not easy to see though except by river, otherwise you have to venture onto private property and I feel the need to post this now: Trespassing is a crime where someone else enters or stays on the property without consent or permission. 

P.P.S. So I’ve added this post to my “Smokies” page. Click the image below for more stuff around the Smoky Mountains and Bryson City.


P.P.P.S. I might be available for guided tours if you are willing to pay my ridiculously unreasonable hourly rate…still being calculated.

A Week of Writing Prompts – Week 3

(Daily writing prompts are posted Monday through Friday at 7am on Facebook. This is the weekly roundup with a few excerpts from my personal journal. The goal is to write for at least 10 minutes without stopping, regardless of what ends up on the paper. Feel free to share writing in the comment section. Write on!)

Prompt 11: Pick one word from the list and write to wherever it takes you:


From my journal:
“Betty Botta bought some butter but the butter was bitter? I’ve never once had bitter butter. I’ve never once put bitter butter in my batter. Total fiction.”


Prompt 12: Find an old portrait of a stranger or family member. (A Google search of “CDV Portrait” will pull up hundreds of old portraits.) Take a moment to study the photo you found. If you hit an imaginary “play” button on the photo what could you imagine the person saying to you? 

From my journal:
“The girl in the photo: I have to hold this pose for so long my lips begin to twitch. You know about that don’t you? Your lips twitch too when you are smiling. Then you start to sweat and wonder if anyone notices. Can you see the pressure of sadness weighing down my eyelids? “


Prompt 13: Lunchbox.

From my journal:
“I always wanted Koolaid in my thermos for lunch and I was always jealous of the kids that did have it. I think my first lunchbox was either Carebears or maybe even Rainbow Brite. Funny that all those lunch boxes are collectors items now. Mine’s probably in a trash dump somewhere or it’s been melted down for scrap.”


Prompt 14: Read this quote and then write about it:

“There are your fog people & your sun people.” –from Still Mostly True, Brian Andreas

From my journal:
“Maybe fog people are suspended in air like little water droplets. Maybe sun people are just energy and plasma. That’s all I know about that so here’s what happened on the plane…”


Prompt 15: Degrees of separation.

From my journal:
“He asked me how my day was going and then asked me where I was from. He was from Jordan, the middle east. And there was the guy that helped me on the train, he was from Mexico. His entire family is still there. What was the degree of separation between those two before they moved here? Maybe 8? And now they are probably at about a 3 in this big city. Do trees have an average degree of separation? A sycamore tree can product 10,000 of those little helicopter seeds in one year and the float through the air and down streams. That must calculate into something.”


More posts on writing here:

More on the Lil Journal Project here:

The Lil Journal Project via lilblueboo.com

Weaving, Watercolor, Paper and Transfers

I posted photos on Instagram over the weekend about my trip and I plan to do a longer post but I had so many questions on the classes that I wanted to go ahead and post where you can start watching them. They are free until August 22nd so get moving!

I always love learning something new. This weekend I learned weaving, watercolor, image transfers and paper flowers.

My watercolor project:


My weaving project: (all materials are from Michaels except for the peg loom we used in class which you can find here, the free class shows you how to make your own loom using nails)


Click here for the link or the image below to view the four videos over on the Michaels Makers blog.



A big thank you to Michaels and Creativebug for making them available! Enjoy!

A few lil blue boo tutorials too below (if image link doesn’t work click here):

journal DIY


Pinhole Photography: Developing the Darkroom Photo

It’s been a while since I talked about Pinhole Photography! This post covers how to develop pinhole photos using the black and white photo paper. (You can find the entire series here.)

Boo’s photos that she’s taken with a pinhole camera are some of my favorite ever. They almost remind me of Sally Mann’s work.

Pinhole self-portrait:


A photo Boo took of her horses:


There are two posts that led up to this post:

1. Building a Wide-Angle Pinhole Camera


A DIY Coffee Can Pinhole Camera (Wide Angle) via lilblueboo.com #pinhole #diy #tutorial #photography


2. How to Load and Take a Photo with the Pinhole Camera



So once the photo paper has been exposed how do you develop it?  Here’s an overview of darkroom supplies needed(click image to download the printable version):

Printable Basic Dark Room Supply List (Pinhole Camera Series) via lilblueboo.com  #pinhole #pinholephotography #photography #exposure #darkroom


Darkroom supplies you can find them at the below links. You’ll be able to use them over and over again (except for the photo paper):

Supply & Source Links: (all of the dark room materials and film paper will run you about $85.00)

A bathroom or laundry room without light
A small desk lamp

Foma Fomaspeed Variant III VC RC Paper 5×7/25 Sheets

Dark Room Supplies:
11W Red Safelight Bulb
Three 5×7″ Developing Trays
Stop Bath
Filter Funnel
Print Tongs
Datatainers for Storing Chemicals


At this stage you’ve carefully loaded the black and white photo paper into the pinhole camera and opened the shutter to expose the paper. The most important thing here is to WAIT until you are back in your dark room set-up to remove the paper. If you open up your camera and remove the paper without using the safelight in a dark room you will ruin the photo!

This is our easy setup in a hall bathroom:


This works great because the materials easily pack up into a box for storage and we can bring them back out again when needed:


The most important part of the setup is that there’s no light coming through into the room. This is why we use a safelight. (I also put towels around the bottom of the door where light leaked in.) I just replaced the bulb in a desk lamp with the 11W Red Safelight Bulb:


And then basically we have three trays:


And three kinds of chemicals: Developer, Stop Bath and Fixer


And three containers for the mixing chemicals (ratios for mixing will be on each bag of chemicals):


Once all your chemicals are mixed you’ll put a small amount in each tray, enough to cover the photo paper when it’s dipped down into the solution. Keep the trays in the following order:



Close the door to the dark room.

Carefully remove the photo paper from the pinhole camera and dip it down into the first tray. And follow the following directions:


While the lights are out you might as well reload the pinhole camera for another round of photos! Once the paper has gone through the fixer in tray #3 you can turn on the light to rinse under warm water. Boo getting ready to transfer her photo to the sink for rinsing:



This is what the photos will look like at this point. They are still in their negative form:


There is a whole process for creating the final print where you take the negative and put it together with another piece of photo paper and expose it. I will cover it at some point but for now I am going to show you the digital process for creating the final print. I scan the negative into a photo editing program like Adobe Photoshop Elements or iPhoto and then invert the image:


A sample photo with their negative:



Hope all of that is straight forward enough. Let me know if you have any questions.

P.S. I created this handy little guide sheet to help with the development stage. Click here to download the PDF or click the image below:




The whole series is indexed here: