Category Archives: Articles

How to Live a Simple Life

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Overwhelmed

I don’t know about you, but my life has become very complicated. Since Covid, my life revolves around taking care of my semi-disabled husband. I don’t go anywhere, except his doctor and physical therapy appointments, and quick trips to the grocery or hardware store.

I blame technology. Or it may be that I’ve just gotten too old.

To avoid having to navigate the grocery store, I’ve been ordering my purchases online and then picking them up. (Although my husband misses the supermarket. He makes me take him there for weekly outings.)

We both have been ordering things we need on Amazon, although Greg usually needs my help with anything involving the computer.

Is it just me, or is anything having to do with healthcare complicated now? Making a doctor appointment often involves being on hold for half an hour. And then you have to go to a patient portal to fill out paperwork. And my day is constantly interrupted by automated messages asking me to confirm appointments. And trying to get a refill of a prescription is a nightmare. Everything is automated, with lots of unnecessary steps being repeated over and over. Somehow, the prescriptions never make it from my doctor’s office to the pharmacy on the first try. And the prescriptions aren’t ready when they’re promised. Arrgghh!

I’ve been trying to figure out how to simplify my life. What does a simple life look like? How do I get there?

Meditation

This is what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Pray every day, every hour, every minute.
  2. Don’t ever get sick.
  3. Laugh.
  4. Drink lots of water.
  5. Eat lots of vegetables.
  6. Walk a mile every day. While you’re walking, notice things that are beautiful. Smile at the people who are walking dogs or accompanying children or working in their yards.
  7. Stay single. (Oops. Too late for me. Maybe for you too.)
  8. Don’t have kids. (Oops. Also too late.)
  9. Be selective about who you give your phone number and/or email to.
  10. If you live in a small town, consider staying there for the rest of your life.
  11. Stay away from social media. (Yeah, big talk for a blogging lady.)
  12. Don’t acquire lots of stuff.
  13. Give away your stuff. Keep only those things you use and/or love. When your living area gets cluttered, give away more stuff.
  14. If you can’t get by on public transportation, buy a really good used car, if you can find one. Not a flashy or expensive car. By good, I mean a reliable car that will get you from point A to point B. Not red. One or two years old, with as low mileage as you can find (under 15,000, if possible) and keep up with maintenance. Then drive it for about 200,000 miles or 15 years, whichever comes first.
  15. Find two or three people whom you really like, people who are smarter and kinder than you. Cultivate them as friends. Keep in touch with them. Get together often. Learn as much as you can from them. Every few years, add one more person like that to your circle.
  16. Despite point #7, it does really help to have someone you love. Maybe pick someone from point #15 to marry.

That’s the best I can come up with.

Now it’s your turn, creative people. What did I miss? What are your best strategies for simplifying your life? Share in the comments below.

More Wonderful Quilting Blogs and Sites

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More Wonderful Quilting Blogs and Sites

Way back in 2018 I posted a list of my 12 favorite quilting sites. I still stand by my choices. Some have not been active lately, but you can still find lots of awesome articles and quilt photos on them.

But, four years later, I’ve come across at least eight other blogs and websites that I love just as much. Have you seen these?

  • Quilting Is My Therapy. Angela Walters believes even you can do free motion quilting. In fact, she has designed multiple challenges and produced many video tutorials to help you become the quilter of your dreams.
  • All People Quilt is the website of American Patchwork and Quilting magazine. You can sign up for their email newsletter, which contains links to hundreds of quilt patterns, most of which are free.
  • Frances Quilts. I’ve posted about Frances Arnold in the past, and if you follow my Creative Juice feature on Fridays, you’ve seen much of Frances’ work over the last few years. She has also created free quilting challenges and quilt patterns.
  • Quilty Folk. Audrey always has a bunch of quilts in-progress. I love seeing them at different stages, and I am always blown away by the finishes.
  • Crazy Quilter on a Bike. As you can tell from the name of this chock full o’ beautiful quilts blog, Elaine, the author, is also whimsical.
  • From My Carolina Home. Carole is a girl after my own heart. She not only quilts, but she loves other creative pastimes as well.
  • Chopin—A Passionate Quilter From Texas. Nanette makes lots of beautiful quilts.
  • Quilting Daily. I’ve just signed up to follow this website, and I haven’t fully explored it yet. Much of the content requires a subscription, but there is a lot to see.

Quilters, now it’s your turn. Do you like a quilting blog or website that is not on either of my lists? Or do you blog about quilting? Leave a link in the comments below.

TED Talks About Writing

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TED Talks About Writing

In my day-to-day life, my enthusiasm for writing occasionally wanes. I need a pep talk to help me keep working. When I had a regular critique group, our weekly sessions served that purpose well. But for a number of reasons, I don’t have one now, and I have to look elsewhere for encouragement. What about you? Do you ever long for someone to infuse you with writing inspiration?

Lucky for us 21st century writers, we have YouTube and TED talks. Here are some excellent ones for writers.

Julia Friedman on keeping a journal:

Chandler Bolt on how and why to write your book’s first draft this weekend:

Anna Brekken on being more creative in your writing:

Freya Wright Brough on extreme writing:

Ann Morgan on why stories matter:

Tom McRae on 7 Truths of [Song]writing:

Jacqueline Woodson on reading slowly:

7th Blog Birthday

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ARHtistic License turned seven years old yesterday. I can hardly believe that much time has passed. It still feels new to me in some ways. (And in other ways, it feels like forever!)

As of this writing, my follower base is 1334, up about 11% from this time last year. I know I shouldn’t care, but my blog’s growth has slowed, and that makes me sad.

Blogging is a crazy-making pursuit. It never fails to astonish me what draws people to my blog. For example, in the past week, a quote I posted for Memorial Day 2018 got over 300 views. Why? I can only guess that hundreds of people suddenly had the urge to Google “JFK quotes.” The year I first published it, it got 22 views. In 2020 it got 1. Crazy-making. And it’s earned a total of 5 likes.

More statistics from 2022 so far. . .

Most viewed ARHtistic License posts in 2022 so far (all of these were published in prior years):

  1. The previously mentioned Monday Morning Wisdom #156
  2. 10 Best Zentangle Sites on the Web
  3. Jan van Eyck’s The Crucifixion and The Last Judgment: Painted by a Committee (This is my most-viewed post of all time, with over 2600 views since it was first published in October 2016.)
  4. How to Practice the Piano: Doh! Dohnányi
  5. Hawaiian Quilting with Pat Gorelangton
  6. Video of the Week #247: Ben Pratt Sings River
  7. A guest post, 6 Creative Ways to Name Your Fictional Characters, by Andre Cruz
  8. Z is for Zentangle
  9. Hummingbird Habitat
  10. Video of the Week #310: Mariposa del aire by Federico Garcia Lorca, read by Andy Garcia

Most viewed ARHtistic License posts published in 2022 so far:

  1. My Daughter’s Wedding (Yeah, this is my favorite post of the year.)
  2. M is for Moldova: I’d Rather Be Dancing Moldovan Folk Dances
  3. NaPoWriMo Day 29
  4. I’d Rather Be Dancing Kurdish Folk Dances
  5. NaPoWriMo Day 11
  6. NaPoWriMo Day 10 (I gave this poem to my husband on his birthday.)
  7. Wordless Wednesday: Braggin’ On Our Orange Tree (Sigh. We don’t have nearly as many baby oranges for next season. That’s what I get for bragging.)
  8. NaPoWriMo Day 28
  9. Creative Juice #285
  10. Creative Juice #286

About once a month I post an “I’d Rather Be Dancing” article, featuring folk dance videos from different parts of the world. The “NaPoWriMo” posts are poems for National Poetry Writing Month (April), but my favorite offering didn’t make the top ten. “Creative Juice” is a weekly feature (every Friday) of 12 curated articles from all over the web that I just happen to find fascinating.

Most liked ARHtistic License posts published in 2022 so far:

  1. Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day: Impatiens
  2. Flower of the Day: Bower Vine
  3. NaPoWriMo Day 29
  4. Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day: Purple Velvet Morning Glories
  5. Wordless Wednesday: Braggin’ on Our Orange Tree
  6. NaPoWriMo Day 11
  7. Creative Juice #276
  8. Wordless Wednesday: Cactus Garden
  9. Wordless Wednesday: Avocet and Stilt
  10. Creative Juice #277

I’m really surprised that they isn’t more overlap; only two posts appear on both lists. “Wordless Wednesday” and “Flower of the Day” are two photography challenges that I like to participate in.

Now it’s your turn. Have you seen all these popular articles yet? Why not visit one or two, or all?

I’m still dreaming of 2000+ followers. If you’re not a follower of ARHtistic License yet, please sign up in the sidebar to your right, and you’ll get an email every time a new article is posted.

I hope that whenever you read something that resonates with you, on my blog or any other that gives you the option, please click the “like” button. And if you think someone else will like it, please share the link on social media. That would be a great blogiversary present to me.

If there is something related to the arts and the creative process that you would like to see on ARHtistic License, let me know in the comments below.

The Lost Art of Handwriting

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Handwriting
Photo by Aaron Burden.

When I was a little girl, we all looked forward to second grade, because starting in January, we would begin the rite of passage known as “writing in cursive,” those elegant, flowing, sophisticated letters that we couldn’t yet even interpret. I attended a Catholic elementary school in the 1960s, and penmanship was a very important subject. We learned the Palmer method. From third grade on, we would be allowed to write with pens instead of pencils, but not ball-point pens; only fountain pens could be used.

Sadly, our earliest handwriting lessons were warmup exercises, such as practicing slanty lines and loops. It took so long to get to writing actual letters, and longer still to connecting them together into words. When we finally learned enough to write our own names, though, we were so proud. Especially me, though my achievement came later than others’, hindered by the length of my name: Andrea Rannertshauser.

Until high school, all of our assignments were handwritten in the required Palmer script. Heaven forbid we should get sloppy when tired; that would necessitate a rewrite. Our teachers had very high standards for us. Our handwriting had to be legible.

In high school we would learn how to type; from then on our assignments would be done on typewriter. I was never a good typist and had to employ correction tape to disguise my mistakes. Often I needed to retype papers that had too many corrections. This was 20 odd years before personal computers would become commonplace. I wrote my Master’s project on a manual typewriter.

And when we did research in the library, there were no photocopiers. If you wanted to copy information from a reference book, you had to do it by hand, preferably on index cards.

No computers or cell phones meant no email or texts; long distance phone calls were very expensive, so people wrote letters by hand (or typed them) and mailed them. The recipient would get it in a week’s time, and maybe in another week, you’d receive a reply. We oldsters had to be very patient when we were young.

Today, cursive is not taught in most elementary schools. The world is a different place at a different pace, with technology advancing so rapidly the educational system struggles to keep up. Something as archaic as handwriting had to make way for time in the computer lab starting in kindergarten. While children learn to print, by first grade they’re already starting to do assignments on computer. They don’t have as much practice with handwriting. When I was still teaching general elementary music, I sometimes could not decipher my 5th and 6th graders’ handwriting. They didn’t make their letters and numbers with care.

Back in the day, writing was taught at the same time as reading. You learned to recognize letters as you learned to write them. We couldn’t read cursive until we understood how the letters connected. That happened as we learned to write.

Students who don’t write cursive have difficulty reading it. That means soon there will be few people who know how to read historical documents made before printing was widespread—documents like the Declaration of Independence in its original, handwritten form. We’re losing two skills, handwriting and the reading of handwritten works.

Whenever I have to sign a document, people always comment that I have beautiful handwriting. Ironically, in school I got Cs in penmanship. But I always say, “Thank you. The nuns made sure I had good penmanship.” Their lessons stuck.

Organizing Your Art Supplies

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Organizing Your Art Supplies

I know it’s around here someplace. . .

Hi there! Reader Tiffany Arp-Daleo is a multi-media artist, and in reply to my post of last week, “Ask Me Anything,” she wrote, “I’m always looking for organizing ideas, especially in my studio. I have so many supplies for so many projects and it’s always chaotic!” I had to laugh, because it’s something I struggle with also, but I promised I’d research any arts/creativity topic my readers have interest in.

Don’t you just hate it when you’re working on a project (or have a great idea you want to start on) and you can’t find an essential tool? Often it’s a case of having so much stuff that you can’t locate what you need. Have you ever made an emergency trip to the art store to buy a certain paint or pen, and then, weeks later, find you have multiples of that item? Organization is an important element in making best use of your creative time, energy, and resources.

I have art supplies in cups, drawers, and cubbies, in and on my desk and bookshelves and dresser and in my closet. They just go wherever I can shove them.

It’s frustrating. My husband and I live in the same house where we raised our five children, and now that it’s just the two of us, we no longer have enough space. I know what the problem is—Greg needs to get rid of his accumulated stuff. (My stuff couldn’t possibly be the problem. Could it?)

So how do I get a handle on this?

I spent a couple of days online reading articles about general organization and organizing art supplies in particular. Here’s what I learned:

 “A collection should be curated.” In other words, everything you keep in your home should have purpose and/or value. Either you love it, or you use it. If it doesn’t fit either of those categories, it’s just clutter. Step one in organizing is:

Declutter. Get out all your art supplies and lay them out. Ruthlessly throw away anything that is unusable, such as pencil stubs, dried up paints and glue and erasers, pens and markers that no longer write, scissors that won’t cut, pencil sharpeners that don’t work anymore. Recycle old, wrinkly paper and plastic containers with a recycle symbol on them. Those supplies that are in great condition but you don’t really use (when was the last time you stenciled or bedazzled?) can be donated to a local school or an organization that teaches art or provides art therapy to children, the homeless, or veterans. (I once asked my daughter who teaches high school calculus if she had any use for stickers. The answer: a resounding yes. Her students still love getting them on their papers.)

Sort your supplies into categories. Large categories. Brushes here. Paints there. Pencils. Markers. Pens. Paper. You can subdivide the watercolors from the acrylics and the colored pencils from the mechanical pencils later.

Decide where all this stuff in going to go. Ideally, it should be in one general area. Your closet? Your desk? Your bookshelves? Your dresser? A file cabinet? Visualize what you want your space to look like. Do you want things hidden from sight, or out where you can see them? Maybe the larger things will go on a shelving unit in the closet and the small items in containers on your work table. “Organize for the available space, not for the stuff.” If you only have a drawer, organize for that drawer. (You may have to divest yourself of some more stuff. Consider it an investment in your sanity.)

Gather containers. You could spend a fortune getting matching bins, but really, using what you already have is easier on the environment as well as your pocketbook. You can use large, medium, and small boxes, baskets, jars, mugs, magazine files (great for upright storing of those pads of different papers), and/or cutlery trays. If you truly don’t have what you need, you can find a great selection to choose from at your local dollar store. (Extra points for skipping the designer container store.)

Put your supplies into containers, one category per container. Then put the container where it will live. Rule of thumb: start by putting your largest category into the largest (or most reasonably sized) container that will fit into your available space. Once that’s out of the way, you’ll be able to figure out your next steps.

Enjoy your newly organized workspace. Now that you know where everything is, you can concentrate on creating. Ahhhh!

Click this link to see some storage systems for art supplies.

If you’re a visual learner, you may enjoy these excellent organizational videos:

Now that I have a good idea how to proceed to organize my art supplies, I’m looking forward to this task getting done.

I’d Rather be Dancing Dutch Folk Dances

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The Netherlands (Holland) is known for windmills, wooden shoes, tulips, Rembrandt, and Delft tiles and porcelain. The Dutch also have a long history of folk dancing.

Baonopstekker is a dance we do at Phoenix International Folk Dancers, though we end the sequence a little differently. Instead of dropping hands and turning in place, we keep holding hands in the large circle and do eight quick sidesteps in line of direction before starting the sequence over again. We call it the pancake dance, because of the flattening of the circle that occurs during bars 9-12. But the lyrics of the song have to do with the bean harvest.

De Horlepiep is the Dutch version of the Sailors’ Hornpipe:

Gort Met Stroop means “grits with syrup.” Very cute dance:

Mazurka voor een Mus means “mazurka for a sparrow.” Kudos on the film editing:

Ronde has courtly 16th century styling:

Te Haerlem in den Houte means “in the woods of Haerlem.” The music is from the 17th century:

Zigeunerpolka means “gypsy polka.” The music is very familiar to me. My German parents may have had this on vinyl (or even shellac). It may have originated in northern Germany, but was also danced in the Netherlands.

Bellendans (bells dance) is done to the tune of Jingle Bells. I wish I’d known this dance when I was teaching music in the elementary school. This would have been a good activity for the last day before Winter Break.

Ask Me Anything

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Ask Me Anything

When I started ARHtistic License, I had one goal: to encourage and inspire people to create. I hoped to do that by giving you permission to experiment with your art, providing practical advice, and connecting artists in all genres.

I still think that’s a great goal, but I worry that I’m not doing that as effectively as I hope. So I invite you to ask me anything at all about the arts or the creative process. If I don’t know the answer, I’m willing to do some research. I want to provide content that you will find interesting and engaging, so I’m asking for your input. What would you specifically like to see more of? What media and genres are you most interested in?

Would you like to learn more about Victorian architecture, or yurts? Would you like to take better vacation pictures, or selfies? Would you like to paint rocks, or portraits?

Would you like to learn how to make kites? How to organize your sewing supplies? How to write a book proposal? How to write a song?

What are your creative dreams? Do you hope to win an Oscar for best actor? Be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Enter a quilt show? Become a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

How can I help you achieve your goals and dreams? Let me know.

Now it’s your turn. I challenge you to ask me at least one question about the arts or the creative process. Or suggest a topic for a future blog post on ARHtistic License. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Confessions of a Writing Contest Junkie

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Confessions of a Writing Contest Junkie

I’ve been entering writing contests for decades. Once, I even placed third runner-up in a Novel First Chapter contest—the highest level that had no prize attached to it.

I really want to win a contest.

You know those short pieces you write, the poems, short stories, and essays? It’s so hard to get them published in a top forum, or even a respected one. And really, only the very top markets pay well.

But contests! There are contests where the prize for a single poem is $2000 or more. Now, that’s a nice payday!

But most of the contests require an entrance fee of anywhere from $5 to $30. You can’t just go entering contests willy-nilly; you’d go broke, unless you’re truly amazing.

Also, most contests don’t want pieces that have been published elsewhere, even on your own personal blog. I post a lot of my poems on my blog.

elements of fiction
Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

One neat thing about literary magazine contests is, some of them will give you a year’s subscription if you enter. That’s a great deal, because they often cost $20-30, and you get a much better feel from the hard copy magazine than you do when you look at prize-wining pieces or issues online. I’ve been able to eliminate some journals from my contest list because they’re filled with stories and essays that don’t appeal to me; I’ve also been able to narrow my list to publications that feel like home.

I currently have 3 groups of poems, a picture book, a short story, and a poetry chapbook entered in different contests. Every time my work is not selected, I look it over, do a little rewriting, and send it out again. I’m on many organizations’ email lists, so I’m always learning about new contests, but my favorite source is Poets & Writers magazine. Actually, their contest database is on their website, but I like how in the physical magazine there’s a section in the back with upcoming contest deadlines. I check the requirements and the prizes and strategize what I can send to the best contests.

I still haven’t won a contest, but I feel like I’m getting closer. When I read a winning piece and it has a similar feel to mine, I’m hopeful that maybe the next one. . .

Now it’s your turn. Do you ever enter writing contests? Have you ever won one? What are the pros and cons of contests? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Z is for Zirconium

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640px-Zirconium_crystal_bar_and_1cm3_cube
Zirconium

Today is my 26th post for the 2022 A to Z Blogging Challenge. My goal was to stick to my theme, the arts and the creative process, but it’s hard to think of something arts- or creativity-related that starts with Z. So please forgive me for writing about an element instead.

Zirconium is a chemical element. Its symbol is Zr, and its atomic number is 40. Its primary source is the mineral zircon, from which it is named. Zirconium is a silvery metal that resembles titanium.

Zircon is a zirconium silicate mineral with the chemical composition of ZrSiO4. It’s fairly common, being a minor constituent of all three types of rocks, igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. It’s also a popular gemstone, the birthstone for December. It occurs in different colors and is sometimes used as a cheaper alternative to diamonds, which it equals in sparkle.

Cubic Zirconia, however, also a lower-priced substitute for diamonds, is not a naturally occurring mineral, but synthetic. It’s the cubic crystalline form of zirconium dioxide (ZrO2).

Cubic Zirconia
Cubic Zirconia. Photo by Gregory Phillips. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.