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.

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Yes, my last post was January 16th and I was in a conundrum about my Packers’ loss in the NFL Playoffs. I have since relieved myself of that mild depression and have been on an upswing since.

My fridge and pantry are getting more and more bare but my life is being revitalized in a way I never imagined. I learned to make the best tortillas, wheat crackers, and laundry detergent all from scratch! Last night I threw an improv Mardi Gras party and made candied popcorn using Karo syrup, sugar and some almonds and pecans I had in the freezer. It was awesome!

When I first started this ninety-one day challenge, my goal was to spend no more than a dollar per day for 91 days, allowing each dollar to rollover if not spent. I was a few weeks into it without spending a dollar, and realized I wanted to finish out the month. Then I went a few days longer and then wanted to get halfway through the challenge without spending a dollar. I made it that far and, finally on Feb 20th, I broke down and made a trip to the grocery store. I just had to.

The gift card came in handy and I spent a total of $14 plus some change to get all the ingredients to make laundry detergent. I had about 3 loads of clothes to wash and the media reports about bed bugs was beginning to haunt me. I had a choice: Spend the money left on the card to buy the ingredients for the detergent or buy new sheets and undies and clothes.

I chose the former and am all the more proud.

Until next time….

My sincere apologies. I am not in a blogging mood, given my recent Packers loss in the NFL playoffs. So instead, I will continue to catch up on laundry, yardwork, taking down xmas decor, etc.

I have just two more weeks in this month. I have already gone two weeks without spending a single cent. I think I’ll push the not spending a cent to the very end (of January, that is). Then it’s back to just $1 per day.

LA

Yes, its been a challenge. However, it’s been a total of nine days now and I have not spent a single cent. That is correct, not a penny nor a dime nor a dollar. So, tomorrow I wake up and will put another dollar in my pocket as I head out the door.

How am I able to do this, you ask? Mooching off others, some say and still others say by being creative. I must proudly admit it is more the latter of the two. Let me tell you how:

Warmth: I fully intended to line my windows with a weatherproofing film to try to save energy cost this year.  Given that that would cost around $50 for the largest, most important areas, I need to do something different. To the fabric stash I went. I found old fabric shower curtains, window curtains and other fabrics to line the windows instead. Looks fine from outside and funky from inside.  How creative 🙂

Everyday items: I have a full tube of toothpaste that should get me through at least 2 months, about 8 rolls of TP, and am running very low on the female hygiene products that are needed about every 28 days. Not sure how, but I’ll make it all work. everything is working out so far. My dishwashing soap is in good shape but it is the laundry detergent that I am low on. A friend gave me just enough for a load or two and I have since found a great resource online for making your own soaps. That will be my next step, I guess.

Food: The pantry is full of canned soups, rice, beans, etc, which will be used sparingly while I focus my efforts on using those fresh veggies and fruits and dairy. I need to choose wisely so to not  allow them to wither, rot or otherwise let me know they are not in this for the long run. For instance, I had a bag of shredded broccoli and 2 tortilla wraps that really needed to be used up soon, if not before. So, a little ingenius thought and a monkey wrenched headache later, I came up with this concoction:

Something Something Burritos

Ingredients:
Two Tortilla Wraps
Turkey Burger, Garlic, Onion – saute until brown and cooked through. Place in large bowl.
Oil, shredded broccoli, carrots, celery – saute until slightly brown – add to bowl along with meat.
Stir fry seasoning, spices, shredded cheese – stir into mix.
– spoon mixture into tortillas and wrap in burrito fashion, like this:

Simply place your meat filling like so...

Then, fry in pan until golden brown and voila! Bon Appetite!

Way yummy!

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

Prelude:

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.

FINAL NOTES:

* 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. 🙂

So, if we just said we are two collaborative artists, well into our adult life and acting like giddy little school children, it would be a severe understatement! As professional artists, we have been immersed in a project we had no idea would culminate and resurrect into such a spiral of good fortune and positive well-being.

Over the weeks, we have gotten to know one anothers strengths and weaknesses more than ever. Sleepless nights and overnighters, improv dinners and malnourishing snacks tested our sanity. Quick trips into the civilized world is all that kept us from completely losing sight of our destiny. Less than two days ago, on the verge of exhaustion at times but feeling the pressure of deadlines and the sheer happiness of having fun, we worked six hours straight to create the one last finishing touch.

Now, finally, we finished our Mystery Build project to our liking and it was just two hours away from what we thought would be our very last test. Could we possibly get this one last finishing touch added on? It would take some real talent to pull this one off. If we even had a chance we’d have to get on the road within two hours. Neither of us had showered, eaten or even slept much in the last 24 hours. I needed to go to the bank, shower, take care of my dog, water my plants, touch base with my daughter, etc. It seemed like days since I was at home.

But off I went, on a mission. My partner in crime was also on a mission. Together we had one more thing to accomplish that evening.

More than six hours later, and two days after that, we just keep on rolling…

WE NEED YOUR VOTES!!!

Robin Hendricks and Lauri Arntsen here! We will be posting our entry on Sunday, July 31st. Please view our entry and others at www.MysteryBuild.net . Vote for us for Peoples Choice Award beginning August 1st through the 14th. Check this site often as we update you as to the progress of this event. I’m telling you… you will not be disappointed!

* Everyone is allowed one vote/person/day

Thank you from Lauri and Robin!