Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's the Great Pumpkin!

As October approaches and the weather in the north turns cooler, classic images of autumn reflect the tones of red, yellow and brown found in the natural landscape. Colorful swirls of falling leaves, bushels of crisp apples, and especially cheerful, orange pumpkins come to mind when we think about fall. The pumpkin is a member of the Cucurbitaceae or cucurbit family of plants, which also includes squashes, cucumbers, gourds, and melons. According to the University of Illinois Extension website, "The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for 'large melon' which is 'pepon.' 'Pepon' was nasalized by the French into 'pompon.' The English changed 'pompon' to 'Pumpion.' Shakespeare referred to the 'pumpion' in his Merry Wives of Windsor. American colonists changed 'pumpion' into 'pumpkin'."

Although the origin of the pumpkin is not exactly known, it is generally believed to have originated in the Americas. Seeds of pumpkin-like plants were found in Mexican archaeological sites dating between 7000 and 5500 B.C.. These early pumpkins were not the typical round, orange types we commonly see today; they were a crooked-neck variety and were grown with beans and sunflowers along river banks. After corn (maize) began to be cultivated, Native Americans learned that pumpkins and other squashes grew very well in the same plot as corn and beans in what is referred to as "The Three Sisters" tradition. "Corn serves as the natural trellis for the beans to grow on. The beans roots set nitrogen in the soil to nourish the corn. The bean vines help to stabilize the corn stalks on windy days. The squash plants shelter the shallow roots of the corn and shade the ground to discourage weeds and preserve moisture. Truly a symbiotic relationship." (All About Pumpkins,

Besides classic orange, pumpkins come in a surprising array of colors including varying shades of green, red, and white. There is even a "blue" type often referred to as the Australian Blue Pumpkin, which looks like a Turban squash. (Pumpkin Nook, Pumpkins are grown all over the world now. It is one of the most popular crops grown in the United States, with over 1.5 billion pounds produced each year. (Wikipedia,

by Maddy & Me Designs

Fall Pumpkins Nightlight
by Designs by Christine

Since it stored well and had many uses, the pumpkin was an important food source for early cultures in the Americas. The flesh was roasted, baked, parched, boiled and dried. The blossoms and seeds were also edible. Flour was made from dried, ground pumpkin. The dehydrated, hard shells could be used as bowls and storage containers, and strips of dried pumpkin flesh could be woven into mats. Native Americans introduced the pumpkin to the Pilgrims who created the ancestor of the pumpkin pie, sans crust: "The Pilgrims cut the top off of a pumpkin, scooped the seeds out, and filled the cavity with cream, honey, eggs and spices. They placed the top back on and carefully buried it in the hot ashes of a cooking fire. When finished cooking, they lifted this blackened item from the earth with no pastry shell whatsoever. They scooped the contents out along with the cooked flesh of the shell like a custard." (All About Pumpkins, The Pilgrims also fermented persimmons, hops, maple sugar and pumpkin to make a beer.

Of course, what would Halloween be without the pumpkin Jack-o'-lantern? The tradition of carving vegetables for lanterns originated in Britain and Ireland, and immigrants in the Americas soon found the hollowed pumpkin made an excellent lantern. However, it wasn't until the mid 19th century that the term Jack-o-lantern came into widespread use, and the carved pumpkin became associated with Halloween. Prior to that time, the pumpkin was a symbol of harvest time and abundance. Even today, many fall festivals include pumpkin-themed events, like contests to determine the biggest locally-grown pumpkin, and pumpkin-chucking tournaments, during which creative catapult contraptions are used to see who can fling a pumpkin the farthest.

The sweet and aromatic scent of pumpkin pie stirs feelings of comfort and home-cooking, and memories of family gatherings, like Thanksgiving. The bright orange fruit makes an excellent addition to quick breads and muffins, but it can also make delightful, creamy winter soups. While the most common way to use pumpkin in cooking is to buy canned puree, you might want to try preparing your pumpkin mash from scratch. The website All About Pumpkins has instructions for cutting and cooking a fresh pumpkin, as well as recipes for enjoying this versatile winter squash. And don't forget to save and roast your pumpkin seeds! Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds are tasty sources of many vitamins and trace minerals. The purported health benefits of eating pumpkin seeds range from lowering cholesterol to having anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.

Whether you decide to eat your pumpkin or just enjoy it as part of nature's beautiful fall decor, be sure to experience the many-faceted pumpkin this season.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Some Wood, Some Rings

"Sally, come right in," I said as I opened the door at the sound of the bell. "How are you doing?" I asked.

"Positively great!" grinned Sally. "I'm always great when we get to look at all the things your Bbest friends are making!" she exclaimed.

"Well, you won't be disappointed," I replied. "Let's get some strawberry lemonade, pull our chairs up to the computer, and window shop away!" I said.

"Mmmmm," sighed Sally. "This is yummy. Makes me feel as if it is still summer," she said.

"I expect we will still have some hot days this fall," I replied. "But, let me show you something that's really 'hot'," I exclaimed. "Do you remember I said my cousin was coming up from Florida, and we were having a cousin get to gether at one of our cousin's houses?"

"Yes," said Sally. "Did he get here?" she asked.

"Oh, it was a wonderful time," I answered. "Our cousin made such delicious food. There were 8 of us, plus our two grandchildren that I'm taking care of during the day. Boy, did they have fun exploring a new place!!" I laughed. "But, one of the big surprises is that my cousin, Ted, brought us all a really special gift. He is a woodworker just like his Dad, by the way. Would you believe I still have a cutting board that my Uncle made for us as a wedding gift? It is 49 years old and counting!" I smiled.

"Tell me more about what Ted brought to each of you," continued Sally.

"I'll do better than," I said. "Let me show you."

"Aren't these just gorgeous?" I sighed. "And each one he brought was different. His wife gave us all a number, and put it in a bowl, and then my two little kiddies took turns drawing out a number. Guess who was first!" I giggled. "So, I picked my favorite. It is so beautiful, I can't begin to tell you. He is so talented, and how generous of him to give us each one of these fabulous cutting boards," I said.

"Well, what's that have to do with your Bbest friends?" asked Sally

"Well," I replied. "Nothing, really, except it made me want to see which ones make things out of wood," I said. "Look what I found!"

New England

Sherman, TX

Peabody, MA

Minneapolis, MN

"Those are beautiful!" Sally said. "I love looking at what they make," she continued

"We will look at some more in a minute," I said, "But first I want to tell you about my ring. When my sister and I were in high school, we each went to the local jewelry store on the town square and bought a birthstone ring for each other, and we didn't know we were going to do it. Hers was a blue rectangle with small white stones (we liked to pretend they were diamonds, of course!) and mine was a purple stone, made exactly the same way. Well, I put my ring on when she gave it to me and have worn it ever since. It is about 52 years old now. And, my sister did the same, until one day when here children were small, her ring went missing. She looked everywhere but couldn't find it. So, I went back downtown and got her another one, identical to the first because those rings were really special to us."

"Go on," said Sally.

"Well, about a year later, she calls me up and says, 'Guess what?'" I said, "What?" She said, "You'll never guess where I found my the clothespin bag!" said exclaimed.

"So because she had two rings, she gave one to her daughter," I continued. "And the years went by, and we still had our rings. Then a couple of weeks ago, I was working at the computer at my Mom's house, and my ring was slipping around and bothering me, so I took it off and laid it on the computer desk. At one point I remember moving it from one side of the desk to the other. I worked very late that night, probably another 14 hour day and was pretty tired when I left. About half way home I noticed I wasn't wearing it. So when I got home I called my Mom and asked her if she would look in the room she uses as an office. She did, even getting down on the floor with a flashlight and a magnet, to see if it had fallen under the desk."

"Isn't your Mom getting up there in years?" asked Sally.

"Oh, yes, she just celebrated her 92nd birthday. But since she had her hip replacement, she is doing very well again. She must be to go crawling around on the floor looking for my ring," I said

"Well, a week went by, and I was up there working again, and I looked everywhere and still couldn't find it. I was pretty said about the whole thing because the ring was very special to me. By then I had called my sister and told her how much I had enjoyed wearing that ring for 52 years, but that it was lost. She was sad for me, too."

"You are making me sad, too!" cried Sally.

"Oh, don't be," I said. "You will never believe what happened. There is a chair in our bedroom where I often lay my clothes when I take them off. One morning about a week later, I happened to look under the chair and saw something lying there! It was my ring! I guess I had put it in my jeans pocket instead of back on my finger, and it had fallen out when I used my chair as a closet! I was so excited I had to call my sister and my mom right away and let them both know I had found my ring."

"I am so happy for you, too," said Sally. "Sisters are special, and the gifts they give each other are often special, too, especially the rings you gave each other. I am so glad you found it!" she said excitedly.

"Well, guess what else," I said. "Finding my ring made me want to see which of my Boomer friends are into ringy things, too! Let's take a look!"

needle nabber ring made by


East Lansing, MI

a sterling wrapped jasper ring


Felted napkin ring

Urbandale, IA

Native American key chains

Omaha, NB

"Breathtaking, as always," remarked Sally. "Let's look at some more," she said.

"Yes, let's," I answered. "And we did."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Water, water everywhere…

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink ;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot : O Christ !
That ever this should be !
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night ;
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.

And some in dreams assuréd were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so ;
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root ;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
Had I from old and young !
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

These are words from the poem of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  This is a description of when the Ancient Mariner was stuck in the middle of the ocean where the only water available was salt water which was undrinkable and how the Albatross, first welcomed, is now viewed with fear of bad luck attributed to the Ancient Mariner by his shipmates.  Well, you have to blame someone, don’t you?


Water does play such an important part in all our lives and that of animals and plants.  In fact, it is a source of life. Water is something we should cherish, value, and respect; for without it, we would be no more.

But also, it is a source of emotion whether it is peace, turmoil, turbulence, fear, happiness or joy and soothing.

Perfect examples of this are portrayed by some of our very talented BBESTers.

Across the Bay by HeronKate is a provocative scene allowing the viewer to dream whilst looking across the Bay at sunset - a misty haze - light reflected in the water - time for a glass of wine!


The Great Northwest Mountain Landscape by The Creators Palette

‘I love living in the Northwest. I love the green. I love the rain. I love the trees and the hills and the great volcanic mountains!’  What else can I add?


Neighourhood Girl Series – Sprinkler Fun by SixSisters

Childhood memories of joy in this, a series of aceo's called Neighborhood Girl. It is based on the artist’s memories of growing up in the city.  Remember those crazy, hot days?image 

Waves mousepads by Scottie Acres
Unable to reach the ocean then why not try this for ‘surfing’?
Dreaming of a vacation at the beach? Wish you could be there? Use this fabric covered mousepad to take you there, and, you won’t even get wet!



Here is something from the water in the form of a fresh water pearl necklace by Anna’s Jewelry

So pretty and delicate!


For nature’s drama, take a look at The Gorge by Yankee Girl, a print of a picture taken in the Watkins Glen State Park which is known as the Grand Canyon of the east. Towering cliffs and still water make for a very dramatic scene.


A peaceful scene for reflection from this Pond Reflection by Beth Peardon Prods.  This was taken in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.


Another image on which to ponder! Sunset 2 by Colours and Textures.  This beautiful water colour was inspired by visits to the English coast particularly Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

imageOn reflection, please excuse the pun, the images I have chosen to demonstrate a) the effect of water on the soul and b) the extra-ordinary talent of this BBEST team do actually show a very calming effect that water can have upon us.  There are many guises from the peaceful to the opposite extreme of turbulent.  Whichever suits your mood there is an amazing pull to water which helps heal our inner moments.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tribute to our BBEST Leaders Part 3

Today I present our final tribute to our BBEST Leaders. This post is devoted to Joan, aka Sixsisters. I will use her given name and her etsy name interchangeably, as to me those two names are inseparable.

Though our tribute to Six is the last of the three, it is in no way the least, for Joan is a special lady. When I think of Six, I think of a quiet, dignified, wise lady with a wonderful sense of humor, a tremendous heart and a true giving nature. For example, when she started her watercolor drawings of her fairies, most of the ones that she made were special fairies for BBEST team members. Joan has given in many other ways too – in her tireless service as co-leader of BBEST, as a listener and empathizer in the forum and chat, and a contributor to the art world. These are but a few examples of Joan's giving nature.

Six inspires us all in many ways. One BBEST friend said that Joan's ability to handle multiple shops inspired her and helped her to believe that it was possible to do! Because of the inspiration, this person has opened up not just one or two, but multiple shops.

Six graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a BFA in education, and taught art for a time, but found teaching very frustrating. However, she is still a teacher at heart today, sharing with others her knowledge and love of art.

Her art reflects her love of nature and animals. Joan’s watercolors of nature are characterized by the vibrant colors she uses in her palette .



Arctic Hare
Her watercolors of birds are wonderful and full of life. Each little bird looks like he or she is about to sing and fly.

Garnet Pitta
When looking at Joan’s work, the eye is drawn to the painting and is held as if the viewer is under a spell. Her work is enchanting. One of my favorite is “Dreaming Klimt,” which is her homage to the artist, Gustav Klimt.

Dreaming Klimt
Joan's fantasy art has an ethereal quality, as in the Dream series, her fairies, and Plum Princess. there is a wealth of expression in the faces, and one wonders what they are thinking.

Dreams of the Heart

Plum Princess

There is a childlike quality to a large portion of Joan's art, demonstrated in her Neighborhood Girl Series. She says of the individual paintings in the NG series, “This is one in a series of aceo’s called Neighborhood Girl. It is based on my memories of growing up in the city. The image of the little girl is a combination of all the girls in my family. There are six of us. I hope you enjoy your childhood memories too.” The paintings are charming, and have enormous appeal to the viewer, as they depict scenes from childhood that we all have experienced.

One of the NG images that comes to mind is a heart-rending one, in which NG is having her hair cut. It brings back memories of “Mother knows best, and you will have your hair cut whether you like it or not!” Her face shows the trauma that many of us felt at some time or other in our early lives.

BBEST friends may not know this, but Joan has a twin.

NG for real!
She is also mother to two beautiful daughters and has an adorable grandson.

Joan may seem quiet and reserved, but she definitely has a fun side. When you talk to Six in person, you can see that little spark in her eye, a wonderful sense humor that is just below the surface and about to bubble up. Chauncey recalls when Six invited her last year to volunteer with her at the National Fairy Convention in Philadelphia. At first she didn’t think it was something that would appeal to her, but knew that any time spent with Six is always fun, so she agreed. Chauncey said that they had a blast, a day filled with laughs, funny sights, and it was pure entertainment.

Joan writes regularly at Within the blog is her “Thursday Artist Quotes” in which she highlights great artists. She writes about the background of various artists, their art and notable contributions to the art world, and she highlights interesting quotes belonging to a particular artist which provides insight into that artist’s personality. This is unique in that it normally is not part of an artist’s bio in the traditional sense. Reading her blog feels as if one is taking a special, personalized tour of an art museum. The Artist Quotes is a wonderful series of articles and paintings, beautifully presented, and thoughtfully prepared, and it reflects Joan’s deep love of art and her desire to share that love with others.

At one time, her enchanting fairies were part of her etsy shop, Fairyfrond, but Six found that they were better suited to a different venue, 1000Markets. The link to her fairies is there on her blogspot. There are an amazing number of different fairies, reflecting Six's wonderful imagination. Each fairy tells a story. Many BBEST friends have received their own fairy from Joan, based on their name, and each describes a unique personality.

Joan's shop banner reads, “Sixsisters -- Art with a fingerprint.” I am very sure that her fingerprint will endure for a very, very long time, long after we are all history.

Thank you, Joan, for your quiet leadership, your support, your friendship and your giving. We love you!


Contributors to this blog were Chauncey, Pat and Judy Nolan.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Accessorizing your blog with 15 easy options

Many of us like to blog, and most of us enjoy accessorizing our blogs in much the same way we do our homes. Just as we do with our wall decor or furnishings, we modify blog elements, add new ones or subtract old ones. "Elements," in blog-speak, refers to buttons, blinkies, grab boxes, link lists, slide shows, repeating images (such as dividers for posts or side bars), and many other changes to the blog template. If you have no coding background (as I do not), you may be a little fearful of making HTML (hyper text mark-up language) changes to your blog. Fortunately, this is not an issue if you have basic Web navigation skills, and you can copy and paste.

While I happen to use the Blogger platform for my blogs, much of what I describe in this post applies to other forums such as TypePad, WordPress or even the blog page of your Web site. Better yet, it's relatively easy to make changes to your blog's basic appearance. Although incorporating all of the changes described below will result in a cluttered appearance, as well as a page that takes longer to load, you'll want to check out the following 15 easy options for accessorizing your blog.

  1. Using the "Share Slide Show" feature of Flickr, Rose of Big Island Rose Designs shares the pages she produced while participating in the Visual Journals Workshop. This slide show appears on her blog, The Rose Journal. To use this feature, click on a set you have created. Then, select the Slideshow icon. At any time while the slide show is playing, you can click on the Share link, then copy the "Grab the embed HTML code" and paste it into your blog. In Blogger, you can add this code to your post while you write it; just select the Edit HTML tab. If you're adding it to a side bar, go to your template's Layout, and add an HTML widget where you can paste the code.

  2. Kimberly from the Etsy shop, The Wild Hare, uses the Lijit Search feature on her blog, The Wild Hare. What is unique about this widget is that it searches not only through Kimberly's blog content, but also through her social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and through related content in her blog links. A world map shows where her readers live, as well as the locations of recent visitors.

  3. Carol of Yankeegirl's Watercolors uses a custom blinkie purchased from The Cutest Blog on the Block on her blog, Yankeegirl's Watercolors and Photography. The blinkie installs as a widget, and costs $15. The Cutest Blog on the Block is one of my personal favorite sites for free blog accessories and easy-to-follow instructions on how to personalize your Web site, but the custom options are wonderful as well.

  4. An important bit of HTML code to add to any blog where you have copyright concerns is the Creative Commons License. Melanie of The Creators Palette has added this license to her blog of the same name. There are several different versions to choose, so read through the options that fit your situation, and answer the questions that the Web site asks. Your answers determine the license that is automatically generated for you.

  5. A fun feature to add to your blog is the Playlist that Beth of Beth Peardon Productions has added to her blog. When you sign up for an account, a playlist is already waiting for you, but you can create new or different playlists of your own very easily, or transfer songs from one playlist to another. Although you cannot actually upload music to this site, you can provide Web links to songs from a site that hosts them. Note that if the artist (or legal agent for the artist) has not authorized the music to be made freely available on the Internet, then your Web link will not be accepted. The Playlist feature works by generating embedded HTML code for your blog.

  6. Liv of The Filigree Garden uses a Flickr Badge on her blog to show photos of her creations. If you have multiple Etsy (or non-Etsy) shops, this is a good way to consolidate photos for them. You have two options for badges; you can create a Flash version or an HTML version. Both versions update automatically as you add photos to your Flickr site, but the Flash version rotates highlighted photos in a collage, while the HTML version is static and provides a vertical strip of photos.

  7. Instead of the Flickr Slideshow sharing option described in #1 above, Myfanwy of Sassa Lynne at Etsy uses Slide on her blog, Dye-a-Lot. If you visit Slide to sign up for an account, you will be able to upload photos from various social networking sites (such as MySpace or Facebook), photo sharing sites (such as Flickr or Photobucket), or from a Web site or your computer. Then, you can change the order of the photos, add in a slide transition style, select a theme and background, and add music or a video. This tool is very flexible. Click on the photo below to see how it works.

  8. Because of the free Feedjit widget, Joon of joonbeam always knows from what parts of the world her blog visitors hail. The tracking tool is a live traffic feed that shows in real time the origin of visitors. Both the city and "sending" Web address are revealed. There is also a professional version available, for which you pay a monthly fee.

  9. Kym of kimbuktu includes a Sellit widget on her Web site that is a combination show-and-buy tool. Sellit, which is free of charge, connects consumers directly to the seller. The tool uses a flip photo feature that the buyer controls. When the potential buyer clicks on "Info" or "Buy now," he or she is taken directly to that item in your Etsy shop. It doesn't get easier than that! This tool can also be used on social networking sites.

  10. In her blog, Mystic Mooma Makes Things, Rose of Rosegardenfae shares with us her love of reading through the goodreads widget. You add books that you have read, that you're currently reading, and books that you'd like to read. These show up in the widget window. Fellow members can view each other's ratings, reviews and book lists. According to the site, you can "join a discussion group, start a book club, contact an author, and even post your own writing."

  11. You will always know what time it is in the blog of Joan of Sixsisters. The ClockLink widget she employs lets you know what time it is in Joan's neck of the woods. To make things fun, you can choose a clock from a fairly large Clock Gallery. Click on the photo below to visit the gallery.

  12. If you're hoping to draw foreign visitors to your blog, you'll need the Mini Site Translator used by Pat of On a Whimsey's Art in the Wax. Just visit her blog, Pat's Encaustics - Art in the Wax, click on a flag from a different nation, and you'll see how it works. Since I have relatives in Germany, I know this is a tool they'll find handy.

  13. Kary of The Knotty Sheep features a cute Twitter My Site widget on her blog that really caught my eye. The widget is available in a variety of colors and styles, and broadcasts a friendly tone. To follow Kary on Twitter, just click on the image below.

  14. Most of us use PayPal for payment in our Etsy shops, but did you know that you can embed HTML code on your blog or Web site to accept payment in the same manner? Marion of artmixter not only sells her books and CDs in her Etsy shop, but also on her blog, Artmixter's Emporium. To learn how this works, just click on the Buy Now image below. (It will take you to a PayPal information window, not the checkout process.)

  15. If you're in the habit of saving Web posts that you read, an easy way to create a PDF document that accomodates that goal is to download the Print Friendly bookmarklet, as I have done for my non-Etsy related blog, cre8iowa Instant Challenge Library. Take a look at the bottom of each post, and you'll see the Print Friendly icon (printer/PDF images). When you click on the icon, the tool "cleans" up the Web post so that it's ready for printing, or you can save it as a PDF document on your computer. The software is not perfect, I have learned, since images aren't always in the right place. However, if you use PDF editing software, this is easy to fix; I use PDF Converter (by Nuance). If you use Blogger, go to your Edit HTML window and click on Expand Widgets. Then, search for <div class='post-footer>, and paste the Print Friendly HTML code into place on the next line. Preview it to make sure everything is all right, save your changes, and you're good to go! Watch the video below to understand how Print Friendly works.

Thanks to all of the above BBEST sellers on Etsy whose blogs provided me with a wealth of widgets and tools to discuss.

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at