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Hmmm, to what am I referring? It can’t be the laundry detergent or the homemade crackers, since I’ve already reported on that. It is, of course, coffee. In fact, to the wonderful coffee shops in the area, “I thank you”. Now here is why:

It was a couple weeks ago, after making the laundry detergent, and feeling my clothes were once again freshly washed, that I felt I could venture out in public. I agreed to meet with a potential business partner (art related) and while waiting, I decided to clean out my handbag. Women can get a little carried away with the things they stuff in their bags and then…well…carry away. I had post-it notes, coupons, pens, brochures, CDs, and gift cards. Nearly everything came out to file later but, the gift cards I decided to get to know a little better.

I had two Starbucks™ cards. I called the 800 number and after a minute or so, was informed that between the two cards I had enough money for a whole cup of coffee! Whoo Hoo!

I then called the local coffee shop to ask about that card. Although the card had been discontinued, the owner reinstated the amount lost and even doubled the amount to help me out. He had been following my story and thought it was very inspiring and a good lesson for us all. I think he missed seeing me around the place as well. Yay, I will be a lot more alert this month!

During my quest, I also learned that Chick-Fil-A never refuses an expired coupon. I had been purchasing those calendars for several years but never used the monthly coupons. Really Chick-Fil-A? Will you take a year 2009 coupon? I may have to try that.

Last week a friend invited me over for a glass of wine. This led to having dinner with her at another neighbors house. The discussion of my “Dollar a Day Challenge” came up and the  went through her pantry offering me some of the things she and her daughter would probably not eat.
“Do you like rice,” she asked.

“Yes, I’m totally out of it,” I replied.

“Good, you can have this, it takes 30 minutes to cook and I’m not going to mess with that!”

“How about couscous?”… “How about peanut butter granola bars?” “How about this, How about that…” she continued.

It wasn’t until she asked about the sticks of butter that I really exclaimed “Yes! I need butter!!!”.

We all laughed as I tried to explain my reaction. “I love popcorn as a snack. I have a whole tub of popcorn kernels but no butter.” “What’s the fun of popcorn without butter?”
Before the night was done, I had a better grasp of why everyone should set aside a time to look at what is in their pantry, their immediate environment, their lives. There is no better time than now to really reflect on what is really necessary.

The neighbor had taken me to the garage where shelf upon shelf was loaded with cereal boxes, boxed dinners, canned goods, you name it. She pulled down some coffee packets and handed them to me.

“Do you like coffee? I have a Keurig machine and will never use these.”

“Thank you,” I said as I walked back to my car with yet another idea.

This time it’s budget oriented! But that will affect many other areas of my life as well. (Pretty guaranteed prediction)

Like many people, I woke this morning, the first day of the new year with a sense of reflection. While I will not dwell on any negative from the last, I can find plenty of room for improvement. Or more appropriately, I realize certain areas of my life need a little revision in one way or another. For instance trimming my budget, and spending more time in my studio would be my biggest goals.

In trying to improve both of these areas of my life, I have come up with a unique Ninety One Days challenge. For the next ninety-one days, through March 31, I will budget only $1 per day toward food, entertainment, and other misc things. Sound impossible?

I think it may be difficult, but not impossible.

Rules: outstanding bills, utilities, mortgage and gas for my vehicle will be paid from my regular income. I will begin this challenge with ninety-one $1 bills. If the dollar is not spent in one day, it can roll over to the next day. Also, any gift cards, certificates or other may be used as money exchange for goods or services and not be counted toward the $1 per day allotment.

Now, before you judge, I did not go shopping and stock the shelves and fridge. Nor do I have a supply of gift cards. In fact, I think I have a couple coffee cards, a few restaurant Groupons and a $50 prepaid Visa, which is good because I think I will need toothpaste before long.

I’ll keep you posted.

Dusty Suitcase


Lauri Arntsen and Robin Hendricks, longtime artist friends, are genuinely intrigued by creative challenges. Robin, manager of the Wake Forest Farmers Market and self-proclaimed “Foodie”, grew up on a farm and enjoys doing hands-on construction work in addition to working as a fine artist with a particular interest in sculpting with concrete/hypertufa. This is in contrast to Lauri, growing up in rural northern Wisconsin but spending much of her adult life in North Carolina, works around the clock as an arts advocate as well as a sales and marketing representative for a nationally recognized fine art gallery. Lauri would not argue that she too, may be a “Foodie” as she also likes to try new foods and will eat just about anything. The two artists recently participated in a local chili cook-off for the first time and took third place beating out former ribbon winners and state-wide competitors!

Collaborative projects are nothing new to either artist. As the Mystery Build project became known, the choice to work together was never in question. In fact, they have asked themselves before, “Why don’t more artists collaborate on projects? We hear of collaboration between musicians, chefs, builders, etc…Why not more visual artists?”

Lauri and Robin have learned so much through this project. Spending days at a time, even several overnights in a row, we learned who is more sociable in the mornings and who needs a little more time. We realized that while careful deliberation is necessary, too much analyzing is just too much. There were times we needed to just dive right in and other times we needed to just sit back and watch a movie instead.  Mistakes became welcome paths to a new solution and the little goals were never lost throughout this project. We had a vision to strive for right to the very end.


Title: Dusty Suitcase
Song: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Artist: Lucinda Williams

The making of Dusty Suitcase:

After much deliberation and interpretations, we settled on using the box to create the suitcase which carries Lucinda’s memories of life at the age of twelve. Our research was telling us that her father packed the three children, Lucinda being the oldest, into the car. Taking only a dusty suitcase and a set of car keys, they were headed to Jackson where they presumably had family or friends on which they could rely for a while. As the family left their house in Macon and traveled past the cotton fields, telephone wire and trees, she reminisces about her childhood.

Note: It is important to point out that paint is our liquid of choice and is used throughout the piece. A set of ten colors in .33 oz/bottle was used to total just over 3.30 oz total. The only other liquid used was a water concoction (to be explained later) that evaporated in the sun. Construction of our project progressed from the outside in.

Suitcase: We began creating the suitcase first. Turning the original box inside out and carefully stripping the white paper for later use, we glued the box edges, holding it tight overnight with clothes pins. The box was painted a rough, darker color to enhance the vintage detail and add to its age. Drafting tape was laid in strips and haphazardly painted to create the seams of the suitcase while the white paper was more carefully painted to mimic the stickers and other memorabilia. All the metal clasps, hinges and nails were handcrafted from the wire and/or metal materials provided in the box. The handle of the suitcase was formed with Air Putty and the corner protectors are made of tin foil held in place with glue and metal crafted nails. Finally, the flour was dusted over the top and edges of our suitcase for the final touch.

Diorama: As we open the suitcase, Lucinda’s life is told in a pictorial manner that makes one smile despite its darker undertones. One can’t help but peer into her life as your eye is drawn toward the little farmhouse in the background. Made of wood panels and adding dimension with putty, the childhood home stands out in the dusk amidst the paper and corrugated cardboard foliage that might otherwise swallow her sanctuary. The wooden dowels and thread create an undeniable perspective as we catch a glimpse of the Georgia state bird perched high on the telephone wires.

Landscape: The canvas is probably the biggest player here. In our attempts to stretch and soften the substrate, we drove over it with our own car wheels, rubbed it along rough tree bark, threw it in the dryer, and took sandpaper to it. The paint was added to mark the road and fields and cuts were made to make room for added terrain later. Jute string was threaded into the canvas, glued in place, and cut to create the cotton rows. With a little separation of the fibers and the careful placement of a tiny portion of the cotton balls, our end result was a manicured cotton field. The canvas was glued in place atop blocks of wood, soap, and shreds of paper to give some variation in topography. The visuals of breakfasts on the farm are literally interpreted in the air putty creation of dining wear including coffee pot and cup, plates of breakfast items and of course, the silverware crafted from the wire. The tiny forks, radio, PBR cans and livestock are all poignant reminders of Lucinda’s passing of time.

Car: The car was the original idea that went through the most changes. From the very beginning, we wanted to make the car move. However, three weeks later we had not come up with the perfect solution for automation, and so it was time to dig in with another idea. It turns out our idea was just a simplified version of the others. With two dowels anchored within wooden blocks sloping downward into a piece of soap, the car could slide down the “ramp”. The car itself was built with wooden panels and putty to give some girth, while the car wheels were carved from the popsicle sticks and painted. A half round wooden ball was placed under the car hovering just a hair below the lowest point of the wheels. This would allow the car to slide along easier as the wheels hover above the shredded soap shaving that had become the gravel. With the canvas hiding the workings below, the movement needed to be helped manually. A length of fishing line was attached to the wire underpinning of the car and attached to a metal junkyard piece that blends into the road debris. As you pull the metal piece, the viewer will animate the Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.


* The smell of coffee looms from the canvas landscape as one gets even more intimate with the Dusty Suitcase. This was created by brushing the canvas with a strong espresso liquid and baking it in the hot North Carolina sunshine. It was tested on regular artists canvas first and we learned that the smell strengthened and held the scent very well. Other experiments included bacon grease and egg yolks but these were disregarded.

* The autograph on the outside of the suitcase is Lucinda’s own. Unbeknownst to us when we chose our song, Lucinda Williams was on tour at the NC Museum of Art on July 27th. We got our tickets and brought our project (which we finished that afternoon) hoping to get to meet her. Even before the concert began, we tried to make connections. After the concert, we asked a few more people but, on the verge of annoying some, we decided to unveil the suitcase and set it beside us. The next person we spoke to got a glimpse of the project and said, “Hang on. Stay here”. A few more people, a quick shuffle into the Tour Bus, and we were in heaven!

We met the entire band, Lucinda’s husband and managers. We laughed, cried, hugged and shared childhood stories of growing up in rural America. Twenty minutes later, we were on our way with her autograph added to our project and a huge accolade from Lucinda herself. She absolutely loved our Dusty Suitcase, took down our email address and is interested in following the project!


Thank you to everyone who votes for us. 🙂

I’d venture to say there is a true meaning of life although most of us spend our lives trying to figure out what it is. Or maybe we are so wrapped up in our daily lives that we forget what life is really about.

The recent upheaval that seems to be overcoming this world has shaken me. Just as I begin to do my part to help raise funds for Japan after the Tsunami, my own home state is hit with its own devastating tornados and weather related storms. Friends narrowly escaped with their lives and are left without power for, what may be, weeks. Photographs of the flattened homes, businesses and other structures that keep us safe for much of our days are disturbing at best. The media reports of the lives lost instantly despite peoples intelligent moves toward safety make my heart ache.

As I look at the pictures, hear the stories, see the destruction, I am reminded that life may be short. I am at conflict with myself on who to help, what to do, where to go, etc. One thing I know for certain is that I was lucky this time.

But, no matter how short life may be, I try to remember, I just might need the hand of my enemy. While I try to be fair to everyone, I’m certain there are some that do not treat me the same way. I always wonder why people feel the need to expend so much negative energy toward others. My mother and grandmother always said “do unto others as you would want done unto you”. I have lived by that saying and my daughter will as well.

Not sure there is a true meaning to life, but mom certainly had the simplest form of advice by which to live.

While I was going to wait until tomorrow to post next, I thought I’d go ahead ahead and do it now. Especially since the look is a bit different and viewers may be wondering if this really is the ninety-one days they are accustomed to.

Let me just say that I am coming back to my original intent in creating this blog. Yes, this blog came from a somewhat dark time in my life that produced new growth and a mastery of optimism. However, now as move past that and readjust to a world of true creativity, I look toward the edgier corners of my reality. Life is not always pretty and so why should I pretend it to be so? I can certainly appreciate the beauty of color and sparkle and shine, but I also have an admiration for the free spirited, looseness of a more natural formation.

I am one who loves the look of brushed steel next to rough hewn cedar, stone alongside glass, and silver entwined with gold jewelry. I want to hear a dueling set between a rap artist and an a cappella group. Listening to the blues with a nice glass of wine, or drinking a PBR at an art gallery opening. Pair me up with a nice pair of jeans and a $5 t-shirt and I’m good to go to that gallery opening or just about anywhere.

So, in looking at a fresh, new look for my blog, I am going with something a little more edgy to reference my attitude for this next ninety-one days. Not to be lazy by any means, just not uptight in any way. In fact, this time my focus is to maintain what I’ve learned to be right and leave behind what I know to be wrong.

As my Ninety-one Day Challenge comes to a close, I realize it is time for me to decide my next challenge. Since weighing in at 139 last week Friday, I have another 4 lbs to shed to reach my goal this time. But, losing weight is not my only goal.

My life does not revolve around my physical appearance. People don’t seem to treat me any differently based on my weight. To tell you the truth, my well being has more to do with how I feel on the inside.

This last week I wanted so bad to erase the indulgence of good foods I had the week before. I did not totally fall off the wagon, but it was enough that I just felt “wrong”. After a week of indulgence, I worked out every day and watched what I was eating. A low calorie diet combined with high intensity workouts and a few outside stresses, made me feel better about my well being but I was emotionally and physically drained. A day of rest and and I bounced back and am now feeling better than ever.

Add to that a weekend of top rate arts and entertainment and then a day of meditation, seed sharing and a bonfire with friends and I am back to where I need to be. The full moon helped to guide my spiritual journey and this ninety-one days is about to come full circle!

Gas prices, health of a loved one, job status and now my weight. Now WAIT!!!
Just one minute!!!

• Gas prices go up about forty or so cents over the weekend,

• A great friend goes to intensive care after battling complications of Lyme Disease for better than 2 years,

• Jobs, mostly volunteer work, have my head spinning all night long and waking with what seems like a migraine the size of Africa (no, Texas has nothing on this),

• And I seem to have put on 2 pounds since a week or so ago! Ugh!

Forget it. I just needed to rant for a second and now that that’s done and out of my system, I think I’ll go focus my thoughts elsewhere. Then as the rain pours from above during tonight’s storms, I’ll sleep as soundly as possible and tomorrow will be yet another day. A better day…

So, I’m going for a Lifestyle Change here, and one thing is certain – “My Creativity Will Never Die!”.

I say this now because over the last week or so I have come to realize that not everyone has the creative gene in their body. And some do not have the gumption to stick out their neck and do something different. Well, all talents and skills aside, I do have the ability to rattle off unique ideas and see what will transpire.

I encourage everyone to “think outside the box” when it comes to life. Be it running your own business, raising a family, or investing in a Lifestyle Change. Give yourself a set amount of time (ninety-one days) and set a new goal for yourself. Reach for the stars. If you only get to the moon, it is still new territory and you just might learn a few things about yourself!

My Lifestyle Change is sponsored by and being monitored through professional staff at:
Forever Fitness in Wakefield –
24 hour access facility costs less than $1 per day
Village Pharmacy in Wake Forest –
3 month Take Charge nutrition program costs less than $4 per balanced meal replacement shake

Well, OK. I’m not a star, but I do feel I could dance a pretty good jig right about now!

I’ve been on a certain “high” since the Packers won the Super Bowl on Sunday and since then, my workouts have been fun and challenging all at the same time. Knowing everything I ate or drink during the game, I’ve been a little worried to get my chart reading today. So, this morning I went to the gym and stepped up my game a little. Pushing myself to my limits even caught the eye of a fellow fitness buff!

After the circuit, my time was to be on the elliptical for 20 minutes with my heart rate above 150. Just as I began to get bored, ESPN announced Brett Favre was being considered for Dancing With The Stars! I nearly fell off the machine I was laughing so hard! Not because I don’t think he could do it, but more because I just can’t believe he would do it!

Listen, after my daughter finished high school and moved out of the house, I vowed there would be “NO MORE DRAMA”. And, for the most part, my life has been drama free, so I’m not sure I can handle the media circus that this match up would have.

So, Hollywood, I ask, what about me? I am so much more fit than I was just a month ago! I have erased a years worth of stress from my life, and am feeling more confident than ever!

Today my over fat body fat percentage dropped to just 27% from 36% on January 1st. And my weight has dropped another 1.2 pounds from last week. An overall weight loss while at the same time gaining weight in lean muscle mass. Now I think I could do dancing, prancing or just about anything! But, then again, I’m a little shy at times and am always thinking someone could be watching. Hmmmmmmm…

Now that I think about it, it’s probably better to let anyone else, Favre, Fabio or even Frankenstein, take to the stage!

Mulberry Smoothie

Mulberry Smoothie - Just 240 calories

I stepped on the scale last week and weighed in at 141.8 pounds. That is another .4 pounds less than the previous week and nearly 10 pounds less than when I started on January 1st. What thrilled me most is that I felt stronger and more confident overall. My blood pressure has dropped tremendously, my outlook in life is brighter and more clear, and I choose healthier foods now just because they appeal to me more. But then there came the Super Bowl…

My nutrition program had been staying on track under the guidance of pharmacist Art Minton at Village Pharmacy in Wake Forest. Having a nutritional shake for less than $4 per meal, I felt full throughout the day then enjoy a balanced, healthy dinner. It’s been going great, as I relish my meals in the quiet of my own home and know that I fully deserve every last bite. But, the real test was the Super Bowl…

I told Art not to worry as my eyes will be fixated on the tube but he none-the-less reminded me of the salad, veggies, fruit I could eat beforehand to curb my hunger later. I’m really sorry but I know darn well I will sneak a handful of Doritos before the game ends! Its just my thing. I never have them at home and so I can usually justify a handful at parties – Which just might explain why I love parties!

Really, we can skip all the chips, sweets and other dripping, gooey, crunchy things and just opt for more veggies and fruit. Hmmm, nothing like a strawberry washed down with a beer, right? Hey, you never know!

All things aside, I knew this years game would be a good one. Well, I was wrong. It was a great one! Full of excitement, friendly shouting matches, and lots of snacks and drinks. As a creative professional, I love the commercials and everything about the game. So, whether I indulged or not, I enjoyed every minute of it while surrounded by friends. And that, in itself, is as satisfying as having my cake and eating it too!

Now, one more time, WAY TO GO PACKERS!!!