Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bullet Journaling

Bullet journals and planners are all the rage these days.  Just walk into any office supply, big box, or craft store and you are sure to find a journal or planner display somewhere. Of course, most people already know what a planner is, but I wanted to introduce those of you who aren't "in the know" to the bullet journal.  I recently found out about them while searching Pinterest for creative lettering ideas and the more I found out about them, the more excited I became (as you can tell from my Pinterest Board here).

One of my favorite things in the world is organizing things.  Ever since I can remember, I have had a fascination with Rubbermaid.  If I had been smart when I was 20, I would've bought stock in the company!  And planners are my fav, too!  I am a visual person, so I need things laid out for me in black and white.  I am also intensly passionate about stationery and school supplies...(it might have been one of the reasons why I went into teaching LOL).  The creative side of me is exploding lately, too. So the totally awesome thing about bullet journaling is that it combines ALL of these passions at once and soothes my inner Type A personality.

We live in an age where technology dominates our lives.  We have our iphones, tablets, fitbits, laptops, HDTV, smart homes, apps here, remotes there.  We are completely inundated with beeps and dings all around us.  Our lives are fast-paced and to some extent (especially when compared to generations before us), chaotic. With every day that passes, though, we learn about new features and apps on our smartphones to help us stay organized.  And they're great!  I use many of my apps to organize my life.  For instance, I couldn't live without my calendar and my notepad, or my many programmed alarms to give me reminders about places I need to be (don't forget to be home in time to get the kids off the bus), things I need to do (paperwork, paperwork, paperwork), and people I need to call (8 bazillion appointments to schedule this week).

At some point, though, remembering to look at my apps (and/or not just absent-mindedly clicking off the reminders) becomes challenging in the day-to-day hustle and bustle. It's kind of ridiculous, actually, that I have all of these strategies in place to help me remember something, but then I don't even pay attention to the reminder so that I can remember! And don't even get me started on the challenges of scheduling appointments on the phone while my calendar is...on the phone!  It can be tricky and awkward at times to have the doctor's office hold while I pull the phone away from my ear to check my calendar...and god forbid the appointment doesn't work and I have to check again! Aaargh!

So if you're like me and like to be organized, have a visual display of your life, and JUST NEED EVERYTHING IN ONE PLACE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, then a bullet journal may appeal to you, too!

Essentially what it is, in it's most basic form, is a blank journal, where you can record your life using bulleted lists, an index, a key, and calendars.  Hence the name, bullet journal.  Beyond that, the sky's the limit! It is all up to you how much time and effort you wish to put into it.  You can make it creative and beautiful, or plain and simple.  You can write down your plans for the day or week, or you can do that and make honest-to-goodness real bucket lists.  You can use it as a journal where you write your hopes and dreams, log special events in your life, and work on your inner-self. There are so many things you can write about and track in your life...should you choose to.  That's the beauty of it.  It is completely up to you how detailed it is.  And it will all be in ONE LOCATION!

There is a certain way that you set up your journal initially that helps you keep it all organized.  The person who created this idea and system is Ryder Carroll.  You can find out more about him and the bullet journal system here.  But, if you take a few minutes (it's seriously only 4) to watch this video, you will understand the bullet journal a little better.

Isn't that amazing?! I mean, it's so simple, yet incredibly helpful! Or does it seem confusing to you?  That video shows the most basic setup...and it starts to make more sense as you begin to use it.  But basically, you use the Index to keep track of what content you have on each page, which is also a great tool for finding information that you may need again later on, after you're long past that page in your journal.  Plus, having an Index let's you add bullet journal pages about ANYTHING on your next blank page...it doesn't have to be in a specific order because you just index it.

But wait! There's more! (Sorry, just having a '90s flashback of infomercials there). While it is fabulous to have all of the things you need to take care of in one journal, I also really like the Collections.  That's where you can have a lot of fun.  This part of the bullet journal or BuJo, as it is often called, is the creative part!  You can make visually attractive lists of things like books you'd like to read, movies you'd like to watch, family birthdays (so you don't forget), your health goals and the plan you have to achieve them, places you'd like to visit, playgrounds to bring the kids to...the possibilities are endless!

And the creativity doesn't stop there. To begin with, you start by choosing a beautiful journal or planner, and then you add your own creative elements along the way.  You can sketch or draw (even simple icons like hearts and stars for those of you like me who cannot draw), write with fancy lettering, use colored markers, pens and pencils, and/or add stickers, stamps, you name it!  The DIY ideas are plentiful out there on the internet...(shameless plug...don't forget to check out my Pinterest board for some ideas), and the factory-made embellishments can be found in many different brick and mortar stores and web stores. Personally, I am using a little bit of both the DIY and factory-made embellishments. Yikes!  It's all just soooo exciting!!!! Here are a few of the items I use to embellish my bullet journal:

Well, that's it in a nutshell.  I hope you found it as intriguing as I did.  In my next post, I will be discussing more about how I am using the bullet journal system to meet my family's and my needs.  So click the link to follow my blog if you don't want to miss out! And don't forget to leave your comments or questions below...(tell me if you think this system is something you're interested in)!  Thanks for following!

Excitedly yours,
Marathon Momma

Thursday, March 23, 2017

To Draw, Or Not To Draw?

Adults are...coloring?!?  Yes, they are! In fact, they're heading to craft stores for adult coloring books in droves!  If you haven't yet seen any articles or posts about this in your own social media newsfeeds, there is growing research that indicates that drawing and coloring can be as peaceful and relaxing as meditation can be for adults. Having read all the hype, I decided, what the heck? Why not try it out? So, although I am not typically one known for jumping on the bandwagon, I decided to purchase an adult coloring book to aid me in my quest for relaxation. 

This is the one I bought, which I got at Joann Fabrics, but you can get it on Amazon, too, right here:

When I first took out my new coloring book to experience this so-called "meditative" coloring, I was very excited! I got out my special Zig Memory System artist's markers that I have for paper crafting and my good ol' colored pencils. 

I wasn't sure which one I would prefer to use, but I thought I'd give them both a try. Within the first few minutes of coloring, it was completely evident to me which medium I would prefer:  the colored pencils. This was because I didn't like the way the markers felt on the paper. And I also didn't like how the paper pilled up beneath the marker's brush after repetitive strokes, much like a wool sweater does (until you finally shave it with a sweater shaver).  Too, I wasn't crazy about being able to see the brush strokes within the design I was coloring.

Feeling a bit dismayed with the results the markers were giving me, I opted to start a new page using my colored pencils.  My colored pencils are just your average, run-of-the-mill colored pencils...you know, the ones you can buy at Walmart for twenty-five cents during the back-to-school sales at the end of the summer. I liked the feel of the colored pencil on the paper much better.  It glided easier and created a smoother look to my design.

Once I began working on my new page, I quickly realized that the design I had chosen was incredibly detailed...which, to me, felt overwhelming at times. I also realized that when you are working on a detailed design, you can choose to hone in on as much or as little of the details as you wish. I found that the more I colored, the more I wanted to find ways in which I could "chunk" the designs to make it simpler to color. Of course, the OCD part of me still continued to pay close attention to the minutiae. The solution I found to feeling this sense of being overwhelmed:  my next coloring page would be far less detailed! That will be my strategy for now...until I can find the peace and relaxation I am seeking. Once I discover my happy place, I will be able to choose some of the more intricate designs again.

The other snafu I ran into...quite frequently, might I add...was lack of peace and quiet! With 3 children, two dogs, and three cats, (plus a husband), there is very little of that around...EVER! Hence the quest for peace in the first place! If it wasn't the kids fighting (or avoiding bedtime with their pleas for a drink, a snack, or a trip to the moon, etc.), then it was inevitable that the dog would be chasing the cats around the house like her last meal had been two weeks ago! It's been INSANE trying to find that one moment of solitude to actually relax during the coloring. Hmmm...I have no solution for this problem...as of yet!  Perhaps just waiting until the kids are all grown and out of the house?!? 

Kids, dogs, cats, husbands, and any random farm animals aside, there were actually a few moments where I did enjoy the coloring!  And although it wasn't always relaxing, I did manage to complete my first page! 

Right before I actually bought a real coloring book, I had found a couple of iPhone and iPad apps that let you color a design in electronically. One of the apps, "Adult Coloring Book," by Groom Lake Development, lets you listen to relaxing music or nature sounds while you "color".  I really like the designs on this app a lot, and there are more to choose from in the free part of the app than the Recolor app.  The other app, "Recolor," by Sumoing, lets you choose which medium you wish for your final product to appear like you used when coloring it in. Here are the designs I colored:

 This mandala was colored and left "Plain" in the section that allows you to choose the medium.

 After this next mandala was colored, I choose the "Shadow" medium, which, as you can see, makes the design look as if it is more 3-dimensional with a shadow added to it.

In this one, after I colored it, I choose the "Shiny" medium.  I think it makes it look like plastic!  What do you think?

Pretty neat, huh? I definitely enjoyed coloring electronically. It allows you to make mistakes and then correct them, just like the "undo" button in Microsoft programs.  I also enjoyed tapping to color a whole section in.  It was wicked easy and less fatiguing on my hands than traditional coloring! All-in-all, I feel like the electronic coloring book definitely has a place and a purpose in this new wave of adult...errrrrr...entertainment. 

After these coloring experiences, I was in a local scrapbooking store and came across books that teach you how to draw what the books referred to as "Zentangles". This is a type of drawing I have been doing since high school...but I never knew it was an actual "thing"! Now, mind you, mine have always been slightly different and have not followed "their" prescribed patterns and rules. But it was so exciting to see that I had been drawing "something real"! I could not wait to find out more information and begin drawing these "doodles" in a more formal manner (aka...not just on the side of my papers, but perhaps in a real drawing journal!?!?). As soon as I could, I began searching for more information online about Zentangle.

Having found several websites and tons of pictures, I couldn't wait to begin! So on my next adventure outside of the house, I actually did purchase a real drawing journal and real, adult's colored pencils!!! My first coloring experience with the new pencils was amazing...far more enjoyable and surprising than I seriously could have imagined! It really is incredible the difference quality materials can make!

Here are the pencils I purchased:

And here is the page I colored with the new pencils:

The new colored pencils were much smoother and the lead felt softer. In contrast, the old colored pencils I had been using kept breaking every time I would touch them to my paper...even if I wasn't pressing that hard. And whenever I would sharpen them, they would just break right apart. I was getting really frustrated with them, so the difference with the new colored pencils was huge! The new pencils seemed to just glide over my paper...and the colors were beautiful!

Okay, I got off on a wee little tangent there...so, back to the Zentangle style of drawing. Now that I had a real sketchpad I was ready to begin my visual journal.  I chose to use two different Sharpies. An extra fine tip and a fine tip. I like the contrast between the sizes as I'm drawing. 

Here is the sketch journal I chose:

And here are my Sharpies:

When I first sat down to draw, I started with a little tiny square on my page and started doodling different designs inside of it, but then I wanted to expand my design. So, I started working outside of the box. I was trying to challenge myself to use different types of doodles than I've ever used before, and at times my imagination was stalled. I had to find different ideas. So i did what any self-respecting, up-and-coming artist would do: I went online! I looked at the Zentangle method again and people's pictures of their own artwork for ideas.

Once I had a couple of designs that I could doodle, it started to flow a lot easier for me. I really enjoyed the Zentangle-esque style of drawing! It was so much fun! Once I was finished with my first page, I couldn't wait to start my next! 

Here is my first page, in all it's glory (haha):

For my next page, I once again looked up some ideas online and then let my imagination flow. Here is what I came up with:

Although I like this new design, I felt it was a bit "chunky" looking. 

So, for my next design, I had wanted to do something with a lot of fine detail. I went online again and found a beautiful piece of artwork that someone else had drawn and I decided to use that as my springboard. I didn't want to replicate it, but I wanted to use it to spark my creativity. Here is what I drew:

I love how it came out! I was a little bit frustrated at times by a few of my details and how they didn't turn out the way I originally thought they would, but when I take a look at the whole piece of work, I am quite satisfied. One of the things that I found out about the Zentangle method is that you are supposed to accept everything that you draw. So, if you think something you've drawn is a mistake, instead of dwelling on it being a mistake, you're supposed to turn it into part of your design. I had to do that several times! But, I was able to figure out a pattern or doodle for each "error"...even though at first I was a little frustrated with myself. 

In any case, this is my favorite piece of work so far, and I can't wait to draw another one! I just haven't had any time in the past week. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you've enjoyed this post! Hopefully I've even inspired you to try coloring or drawing!! Feel free to share your experiences below, and don't forget to follow my blog if you like what you've read so far! 

Artistically yours,

Marathon Momma


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Pico Picasso

Have you had the opportunity to go to one of those painting studios where you can sip wine, have a snack, and bring out your inner-Picasso through a guided lesson?  Just recently, I was fortunate to be able to go for the first time, and let me tell you, it is amazing!  I know, I know, I'm a little behind the curve here.  But even if you have absolutely no talent whatsoever, the instructor takes you step-by-step through the painting and you produce something that is visually attractive.  Besides that, what could be more fun than a night out with friends, sipping wine, listening to music?  I love trying new things and places and it is a fabulous way to "flip the script," do something different and memorable. We took my friend there to celebrate her birthday. We had a blast! Here is my painting:

So since that evening, I have been inspired to paint once again.  I used to dabble a little in painting (back before having kids), but it was mostly folk art types of things for the craft business I had.  I painted snowmen, watermelons, pumpkins...that kind of stuff.  But I hadn't ever really painted much on a canvas.  And now, I'm obsessed!  LOL...not really, because how much time does a mom of 3 plus 4 fur babies really have to be obsessed with anything? Amiright?

But I have found a ton of ideas on Pinterest...here is my board if you'd like to see them.  I took a couple of the ideas and melded them together to come up with this:

I painted that one Friday evening when I was home by myself with the kiddles.  I put music on, gave each child something to paint, and we spent the evening relaxing together.  It was really something special.  Miracle Man painted the birdhouse he got for Christmas, and Chub-Chub painted on a small, flat canvas that had previously been painted on.  I gave my daughter a large canvas and she designed and painted this:

So this got me to thinking...why couldn't a child paint a nice painting with guided instruction, just like I experienced at the painting studio?  I know that some of the studios do offer family events on occasion, but I thought it would be a great idea to have Little Miss and her friends paint together on a sleepover.  Well, we had the sleeopover, but Little Miss didn't want to paint.  She wanted to just hang with her friends.  Of course, she is a tween now, so I get it.  I remember those days of girly talk and gossip!

Anyway, my next opportunity to try a guided lesson came yesterday when I was watching my friend's twin 4.5 year olds! I found an idea on Pinterest, saved it to my Paint Projects For Kids board, and gave it a go!  Since Easter is coming soon, we were painting Easter Bunnies.  Our inspiration came from here.

Here is how I managed to get two 4 year olds to paint kind of like that:

First, I covered the table with one of those plastic tablecloths from the dollar store that you use for parties.  Next, we put on smocks...I found two apron-style ones at the dollar store, too.  But I also use old shirts with my kids.

I have been saving up all of those little trays that microwaveable meals come in because they come in handy for painting and setting out materials for other projects.  So I took those out and I put a little bit of acrylic paint in a tray for each of the boys, set out a cup of water in an old cup designated for painting, and I walked them through the painting step-by-step. 

First, we painted the background and let it dry (I put my ceiling fan on to speed it up a bit).  While we were painting, I showed them how to hold the paintbrushes and load them with the right amount of paint. As we moved through the steps during the day, I used a new tray for each color so that the paint wouldn't mix into another color. I also used different paint brushes for the same reason. 

Once the background was dry, we painted the white part of the bunny heads and ears. Since the boys are so young and painting freehand is a bit more challenging for their tiny hands, I lightly drew an outline in pencil of the bunnies to give the boys a guide.  They did pretty well staying in the lines overall, but I did have to show them how to use strokes, rather than making circles with their brushes. I also took out my fan brush and showed them how to make the bunnies look furry by going all around the edges with it. 

Then, after the bunny heads were dry, we used spouncers to make the polka dots. We had to give those two coats each, which we did while the polka dots were still wet.  Once we finished spouncing with all of the different colors, we let the canvas dry again.  Later, we came back and added the pink noses and the insides of the ears.  Finally, we added the whiskers, eyes, and mouths with the black paint.  If we had had a little more time, I probably would've had the boys use black sharpies for those parts, but since our canvases still had wet paint on them in different parts and time was of the essence at this point, we just went for it with the black paint! 

The boys had a great time and I think they did a wonderful job!  And the best part was that they were so proud of their work! 

And here is my take on the bunny painting:

What do you think? Would you try to do something like this with your kids or grandkids? Post a comment or question below!

Feeling a little like Picasso,
Marathon Momma

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