Freebies, Spring, Gardening and Art

Today is the second day of spring.  It’s Equinox, the mid-point between straight up summer and winter, so, this is the opposite of the Fall equinox, celebrated by honoring the Pagan goddess, Ostara, She is known as the ‘rising sun’ and marks the turn of the seasons towards spring, birth and re-birth.  It is from Ostara, also called the goddess of the dawn, that we get the name, Easter.
Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals. Germanic people look up at the goddess from the realm below.
I always think of the first day of spring as being on March 22.  My youngest child was born on that day.  Interestingly, when I went into the hospital to have her, there was snow on the ground.  When we left the hospital, there were crocuses and tulips pushing their way up through the remaining snow.  So, my daughter’s birth has symbolized spring to me ever since.  LOL

One of my online friends, Stella, has started a new Yahoo group, “Wildwood Planet”, from her blog of the same name.  Stella was involved in the scrapbooking community with her shop, Cottage Scrapbooks.  Last year, the site crashed, but, it was at a time when Stella was making a move from Australia to Canada.  In a way, I gather, it was rather a blessing in disguise.  Leaving the scrapbooking pretty much behind her, she has struck out doing what her heart has longed for her to do since childhood.  She is becoming involved in mother nature in every way possible.  Stella works, or did, with plants, she keeps a safe place for birds to come rest and feed, so she can snap their photos, and she is writing, all on her land in New Brunswick, Canada.  She was meant to live in the country!  Now, Stella has become involved with some local nature conservation groups and the Yahoo group.   From what I can tell, she is happier than ever!  
For the group, Wildwood Planet, in addition to some fascinating blog posts, Stella sends out ‘reminders’ to water our plants, to hug a plant, even a little spiritual blessings for all living things.  Birds, butterflies, plants and flowers rank waaaay up there.  We acknowledged our dear ‘mother’ – earth.  This is my cup of tea.  I place most of my spirituality in the living earth.  That’s all I will say, though.  LOL  Politics and religion discussions are two big no-nos in my book.
In her endless zeal, Stella wanted us to keep a journal and write about our plants and plans, garden designs, problems, thoughts, etc.  I am just getting around to doing so, myself.  I had to confess to her the other day that the extent of my plant care all winter long was trying not to forget to water my African violet.  LOL  
I do have a garden, but, for reasons that I highlighted in my last kit, “Sunny Morning”, it isn’t great.  Kids and pets, plus the construction crew when I had my house worked on, have all beat down any plant worth keeping.  Since my youngest daughter has come to live here with her two small children, too, the yard is currently landscaped with a pool, a trampoline, a 4-wheeler and various sundry bicycles.  That, to me, is what a garden/yard is for, though – a place for the family to play.  We’ve had many a cook-out and party in our back garden.
I learned a long time ago to only attempt to grow extremely durable, or hardy, plants for the outside garden.  As it is, the philodendron family works great for this.  You see a lot of the heart-shaped leafed vine in flower arrangements with a plant.  This plant is very hardy.  I had been given a ceramic container with a flower, or two, and several smaller greenery plants for a hospital stay.  After the flowers died, I put the container in the flower bed around a maple tree in my back yard.  I pretty much forgot it and let ‘mother nature’ take it from there.  And, that, she did.  The next time I noticed, the philodendron vine had climbed right out of that container and was running nilly-willy all through the flower bed.  It was beautiful!  Even our Florida winters didn’t kill it completely.  If we have a freeze, it will die back, but, it comes out again in the spring.
When I was first striking out on my own, getting a place with a friend and moving out of my parent’s house, I was on a tight budget, obviously.  Everyone, new to living out on their own for the first time, must be cautious of their budget.  At that time, I was discovering my love for plants.  I just didn’t have the money to purchase any.  I read books and scanned page after page of a ‘houseplant encyclopedia’, until I was quite good at identifying plants and naming them. 
I also payed attention to the various forms of propagation, since, on my budget, the best way to add to my garden was to pinch off a cutting from a plant I saw while out and about.  LOL  I’d clip off a cutting, wrap it in a damp paper towel, if possible, and, upon arriving home, I’d place it in water until I could get to it.  Often, the sprig would root in the water I placed it in and I could transplant it into dirt in a pot after that.  I learned that plants, when ‘interrupted’, go through a period of shock.  The best thing for it is to leave the sprig or any plant alone that has been replanted or trimmed back, even.  Give it a day, or so, to recover, then water and whatever you would normally do.
In giving my cuttings a few days of recovery, I tended to forget them.  This is when I learned they can root in the water.  What I found was that the plants fared much better if I just left them alone!  Obviously, I couldn’t do this with every species, but, for the durable plants I have discovered, this works wonderfully!  I have a pretty fair success rate with my garden, other than the pets and children.  I think one of the reasons for this is my relationship with nature.  I ‘feel’ the vibrations of life in the greenery.  Anyone can, once you learn to listen to it.  
Plants feel.  Haven’t you ever seen an image of a tree, or an actual tree, that has grown around a foreign object, like a wire?  It recognized the wire as a foreign body and it rejected it.  This ‘antibiotic’ action is evident by the large bulge of a scar around the spot where the wire is grown into the tree.  There used to be a lot of belief that talking to your plants was good for them.  Actually, it is, but, not because they can understand.  What happens is that we breathe out carbon dioxide and that is what plants thrive on.  So, getting close to a plant and talking to it/breathing on it is good for the plant.  LOL
I could write on and on about plants.  Best if I leave any actual directions to the volumes of plant care books and websites.  I only wish to write and celebrate what the living plant means to me.   I did a layout in honor of Ostara.  I used an image of Demeter, though.  Demeter is considered the ‘Mother Earth’ goddess.  That’s why I used her image in this layout.  Apparently, Demeter is more a goddess of the harvest, rather than the spring.  I suppose it doesn’t hurt to celebrate ‘mother’, but, I want to be sure to give credit to Ostara for her role as the goddess of the dawn and light, the rising sun, in the spiritual sense.
From Jacob Grimm @ Wikipedia:
Ostara, Eástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the Christian’s God.”
Here, then, is my erroneous(ha-ha) layout:
This layout was made using the template from the Magickal Scraps Template Challenge in the forum.  It’s yet another of the cool challenges Snowy puts on.  I love those folks!  LOL
So, in my adventures around the web, I came upon an art form that I particularly like.  I love digital scrapbooking design, dearly.  I’ll never stop making kits and/or elements, if only to scrap my own photos.  But, my true love is art, expression through the visual art mediums.  Expression is the key word, here.  I express my fears, joys, whatever in my art. It has always been therapeutic for me.   With scrapbooking, few recognize, or appreciate, the ‘art’ behind the kit.  It doesn’t matter that they don’t, but, because of this, I try to tailor my art towards a scrap theme, rather than my expressionism.  By doing this, though, I’m cutting myself short of doing my art of expression.  I’m just concerned that the average person won’t understand my art.  But, I also recognize that I do my art for me, not others.  Hmmmm…  Such turmoil!  I want to please everyone, but, I want to do my thing, too.  So, I decided I will do both.
I basically got started in scrapbooking to learn Photoshop.  I found that I adored the scrapping community when I got involved in it.  That will never change.  But, in the art form I am interested in, I can continue to provide goodies for people, while expressing myself.  First off, I don’t have to give away everything I make.  Secondly, I can give away the components that I used, myself, in my own art!  I’m referring to digital ephemera collage design to express my feelings.  I plan to put it into an online gallery.  If you are familiar with collage sheets, they are a layout of the elements one is planning to use in a design or artwork.  There are a gazillion websites devoted to this art form, with ‘collage sheets’ being quite popular.  Some sheets have a collection of related elements, while others have a series of the same item in different colors.
Below, are two examples of what I am writing about.  The first is a set of ‘snails’ that I ‘colored’ in Photoshop.  I put them together in a file for downloading.  They can be used in any layout or in a piece of art.  The second is a couple of backgrounds.  I made these, originally, as resource offerings to this new group I joined, “Digital Whisper”.  They do the most amazing art there!  The folks are super creative and all bring something original to the group and often share it.  There is ATC art, contest entries, art for art’s sake, it’s all there.  The company that I keep there is phenomenal.  They are all talented in their own right.  They do have weekly challenges, which are a bit different, but, that is what makes them intriguing.  If you think this might be ‘your cup of tea’, have a visit.  You’ll be welcomed with open arms.
Anyway, here are my freebie offerings:
(Individual .png files.  Click on image to go to MediaFire for download.)

and
(right click to open in new window and copy for full size-2400x2400px)

If you would like the backgrounds in a larger size, I have them both in 3600x3600px.  They are stored in MediaFire, too, HERE.

One last thing.  While I was playing with the ‘linguini’ above, LOL, I made this “grass”.  It could be used for an Easter layout, if wanted.  Help yourself.  All of this is CU, no credit.
(The “grass” is 3600×3600.  Right-click to open in a new window, then right-click and save.)

With spring comes thoughts of a fresh new beginning to warm weather or to whatever else you may think of.  Flora and Fauna are meant to co-exist on this planet.  As we have the brains, it is up to us to take care of our earthly treasures.  Enjoy the outdoors.  Take plenty of photos and leave only your footprints when you are done.  No matter what faith you follow, we all can benefit from the bounties of which are there for the taking, with a little care in return.

With that, I bow my head to you,

Namaste!

Su

SU CheshireCat

My Back Pages

So, what do you think of Blogger allowing up to 10 pages you can add to your blog?  There is a tutorial that explains how to, if you are interested, HERE.  I was thinking that it would be a good way to show off all my resources.  I could use the blinkies I have for so many of my friends and acquaintences.  Then, I could list some sources, with brief notations and links.  I could add those that folks send me, too.  Divided into sections by interest or style, it could be quite a resource.
So, at the top of my blog page, there is a ‘menu bar’, with “Home” and “Resources”.  These are the two pages I have, for now.  Click on “Resources’ as I already have some in there.
Thanks for your interest.  I’ll have a more comprehensive list up and at ’em in no time.  That’s one thing I’m good about collecting and storing things.  LOL
Thanks for your interest!
Hugs,
Su

SU CheshireCat

Freebie and Pixel ‘Removal’ Extraction

Greetings, cats and kittens!  LOL  Today I bring more goodies.  
The first one is in the form of a tip.  I am one who is constantly adapting web images into my art or as an element in a scrap kit.  The art of ‘extraction’ is just that – an art.  Some things are easy.  A dark-colored ball on a stark-white background, for instance, can be extracted in several ways, each serving it’s purpose.  But, there are some images which are difficult.  Anything with alot of little spaces, like between leaves on a tree, that allow the background to still show through, is a bear!  It is virtually impossible to go in and delete, or clean up, the background in all of the tiny little spaces.  
Ever on the lookout for a better method, I even downloaded a filter that does this for you in Photoshop.  It works pretty good.  But, in my opinion, still lacking.  Sometimes I wish I could just go in a remove every pixel of the background color.  Well, guess what?!  I found a way to do this!
In today’s class, “6-Month Photoshop Course”, at CreativeTechs.com, one of the things covered was using the ‘Save for Web & Devices’ feature, under the ‘File’ menu, in Photoshop.  (I use CS3.  Hopefully, this is the same for many of the currently popular versions.)  By going in to this feature, you are able to remove selected colors from an image with such ease, my jaw dropped.
I’m using a black and white image with scrollwork, normally very hard to extract.
 In Photoshop:  Click on ‘File’.  Click on ‘Save for Web & Devices’.   For this image, or any image, there are two setting to look for, ‘PNG-8’ and ‘GIF’.  Both of them allow for ‘Transparency’ to be used.  I’ve circled in purple where this choice is located.  I used ‘GIF’, but, chose between the two to decide which you like best.  You can reduce the number of colors down to a lesser number with the selector next to this (cirlced in red).  Fiddle around with the features and see what you like.
If you look further down the panel, you see the actual color palette for the image.  At the bottom of the color palette is a button, ‘Maps selected colors to transparency’.  Highlight the color you want to remove, or make transparent (top circle), then, click on the featured button.(bottom circle).
This is what I get with just the white removed.
And, if you noticed the ‘color palette’ window, the whites that I clicked appear like this.  This means they are transparent.
When you are satisfied, click ‘Save’.  When I click ‘Done’, it just takes me back to my un-edited image.  Once saved, obviously, you have to open it back up to work on it further, but, there ya go!  Yet, one more way, to do an extraction in Photoshop.
 (I used color behind it for the transparency to show.)
One word of note.  When you re-open your image you will find the colors were saved as ‘Indexed’.  If you try to do anything with the image you’ll get that obnoxious noise.  LOL  All you have to do is go to ‘Image’>’Mode’, and click on ‘RGB Color’.  Easy as that! 
If you managed to sit through all that, then, you deserve a little sunshine in your life.  LOL  Introducing, my newest endeavor, “Sunny Morning”.  This was made for the Magickal Scraps March Color Challenge in their forum.  When I saw the color palette, I naturally went with a garden theme.  Then, as I collected and came up with various ideas, I thought about how hard it is to grow anything in my garden.  It’s hard enough to figure out location to plant things so that they get the correct amount of sun.  It’s even harder trying to get the feeding and watering down.  Plants definitely get put through their paces with me.  LOL   But, the biggest threat that I know of to any plant is other living things, like kids and pests.  Children playing, pets doing their thing, and all the multitude of pests that can affect plants, brought me to my idea for this kit.  I hope you enjoy all the ‘dangers’ of the garden.  
(Click on each of the images to go to MediaFire for download)
That’s it for now.  I hope to see you soon!
Su

SU CheshireCat

 “Tis trying to be a pretty day, here in Florida.  There’s a soft breeze blowing, bringing in some much-needed warmth to my drafty old house.  I’m still bundled up in my housecoat and a lap blanket.  LOL  My bones are cold!  Everywhere I look there are ads, articles and posts by folks just like me who are practically begging for Spring.  The scrapbook goodies coming out are all about the spring and Easter, which is spring.  Maybe, if enough of us will it real hard, the weather and the seasons will change to our liking.  LOL   Wouldn’t that be nice?  
Having said that about warm weather, I want to take you back to Christmas.  Wait!  Don’t leave!  LOL  I found some adorable holiday sparkly clip-art that I want to show you.  The name “Hawksmont Universe” may be familiar to you, already, particularly if you are a big PS brush fan.  Her brushes are the standard by which all other brushes should abide.  She also has a Hawksmont on DeviantArt website where you can see her art work and download some brushes.  It was on the main website where I found the images I wanted to show you.  Here is just one of the darling little gems to get you started:
The link is built in to the image – just click on the title.  Make sure you note that there are several posts with these graphics in them.  Clicking on “Free Graphics” under ‘Categories” in the sidebar, should take you to all of them.  One other thing – the brushes are free for commercial use with no attribution necessary.  Yay!  They carry Gimp brushes, too.

One can sure find some real jewels out there for websites.  My ‘cup of tea’ while surfing the net is design resources or just about anything Photoshop.  Over the past couple of years, I have visited a gazillion websites offering a plethora of goodies for download, some free, others, not so much.  Some have too many ‘restrictions’ for use while, still others want you to take them and no credit whatsoever is necessary.  I totally understand both sides of that coin, so, I will refrain from commenting further.  Some of the websites were so-so, while others were the ‘find of a lifetime’.  LOL

When I find something that I love, I want to share it.  That is part of my motive behind posting about certain websites, here and there.  The other part of it is that I think positive, supportive, commenting is rewarding.  I wrote on this in a previous post, but, here, I speak of rewards to one’s spirit.  If you believe in the “3-Fold Law”, it is basically ‘ya reap what ya sow’.

SU CheshireCat

Freebie, Friends, Family, Florida and Fae!

 Ah!  A beautiful, sunny Saturday morning going on.  I love mornings, the sunlight, birds chirping and the promise of a new day, full of wonder and joy of living.  When the children were small, we camped almost every weekend at the Matansas Inlet over by the beach.  We could drive down to the inlet and park, giving us a small, waterfront “property” for the weekend.  A quick walk across dunes, highway A1A, and more dunes and we would be at ‘Rock Beach’.  We gave the beach that name.  I don’t know what it is, really, except that it is also the beach for Marineland.  In the surf there are these enormous rocks that have worn down over the eons.  You can walk from rock to rock and never touch water.  But, the holes and tunnels in the rocks, made by water, allow for a uber-cool water show.
Here is a long view of the beach, southward
 
Another, northward
A rock that is worn
A close-up of the “coquina” rock the beach is made from

It’s really cool to stand on top of one of the mammoth rocks and watch the sun come up.  When camping, we either got up early or just stayed up.  Before dawn we would all make the short jaunt over to the rocky beach.  Each one of us picked a rock of our own and climbed on top.  There, complements of yours truly, “freespirited Su”, the family and their friends would get a narrative about how this is a “brand new day” that has “never been lived” before.  And, how, we have choices as to how we could live each day.  Et cetera!  LOL
Anyway, I had fond memories!  LOL 
I have not exactly kept it a secret that I had to go back on some of the meds I used to take.  I had gone off them, anti-depressants, for well over a year.  I felt the need to go back on them after the holidays and it is difficult getting through all the side-effects.  I feel like my body is humming, or vibrating.  Since this is annoying and it makes it difficult to try to type anything, I have put off much of my online correspondence and involvement.  A lot of folks, like me, try to go it alone after they start feeling better.  This isn’t advisable.  Don’t ever try it without consulting your physician first!  
During this ‘down’ time, I have been working on organising my pc files.  HA!  Now, that I have situated myself in the design community, I see how I should have set up my files.  LOL  That is a slow process, weeding out things I can’t use, deleting duplicates, etc.
But, that isn’t all I have been doing.  Last month at the Chat at Magickal Scraps, I was invited and agreed to join in on May’s Daily Download creation.  Each designer is assigned a month, picks the theme and color palette, and they each create part of the overall kit.  I am so nervous that what I make will not stand-up to the caliber of art the other ladies have been doing.   I’m not going to tip it off, here, but, look for May’s Daily Download.  I’ll also keep ya posted as to when and everything.  (tease-tease!)
Next, a wonderful lady I have the honor of knowing, here, online, Jodiann  Cates, from Weblog Jodiann, commented on my list of ‘things about me no one knows’ in a blog award/chain-letter from last year.  I posted that I had hair down to my ‘buns’.  She said she’d like to see that.  So, so many months later, with camera in hand, hand stretched out as far as it possibly can be, I attempted to take some snapshots.  Please, bear with me!  LOL  Have you ever tried to take a self-photo?  I figured in front of my big mirror would be good, since there is a lot of light and I can ‘see’ the image before I snap it.  That was totally confusing to me!  I kept forgetting where to look, the mirror, the camera lens?  (Did I mention that I can’t chew gum and walk at the same time?)  LOL  A good time was had by all!  So, I decided not to edit these photos.  Here they are in a little gif-show.

For YOU, Jo-jo!

Moi Hair Gif sm

I had to get the ‘length’ of my hair in two photos.  Can you tell I am amusing myself quite nicely?  LOL
Notice the little pendant I am wearing?  My son’s oldest step-son, Chad, gave it to me for Valentine’s Day.  Isn’t it cool?  He said he saw it and knew it was for me.  He couldn’t have done better.  I thought it was neat that he remembered me on V-day.  It’ says “Peace on Earth” and, in addition to the cut-out of the peace sign, there is a tiny little gold peace sign on the chain, too.  It’s real special!

In other family-related news, Kaleb is “monitor-free”!  The little guy doesn’t need to wear it all the time.  It’s nice to be able to pick him up without grabbing the monitor’s carrying case, too.  He’s also starting to develop his personality.  I kept him the other day so his mommy could go to the dentist.  He would watch me with a look of amusement, when I spoke to him.  He smiles and wriggles over it.  LOL  It’s cute!  I didn’t hover over him with the camera like the last time I watched him.  But, I do have this recent image.

 
Kaleb & Elliot
 Elliot thinks he is still ‘daddy’s’ number one boy.  Ha-ha!  Kaleb will teach him just who’s number one!  
I would like to take this time to thank a really wonderful lady for an award, Kyra, from “With a Russian-Dutch Heart.

What makes it so special to me is, one, my utmost admiration for Kyra’s own art, and, two, the company I was in.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Minky Sulin, yet, at least, go visit her website, The Continent of Sulina.  Minky, and friends, have a project going to raise funds for charitable causes, one, in particular, The Starchildren Project.  Their pet project is in ‘Sulina’, a place to be safe and free, especially for children.  Her website, plus some other supporting sites of hers, are the most magickal places to visit.  Minky does images with the fae, fairies, angels, etc., along with affirmations and poetry.  They are phenominal!  Each image is enlarge-able so it can be viewed clearly.  They are all free for use, with few, if any, stipulations.  Minky’s Sulina and the Starchildren Project, bring warmth and love to an otherwise cold and impersonal internet.  Here is an image she took from a previous post of mine of Kaleb.  It was when we were all worried about Kaleb’s irregular heartbeat.  Isn’t this special?

When you visit Sulina, be sure to consider helping these amazing folks, and the fae, of course!  Without them, Sulina would have never been realised.  You will be forever rewarded! 
Even though I have been busy as a bee with creating, I don’t really have too much completed, yet.  I will, soon, though.  In the meantime, unable to finish up several of the challenges from last month at Magickal Scraps, I pulled what I had together and submitted the following goodies.

For the Brush Challenge, we took a brush, in this case it was various floral shapes from “KaiPrincess” at DeviantArt.
 (Click images to go to MediaFire for download)


Antique Rose Page Set

The next one, the Shapes Challenge, was to used “Paper Shapes” from “Gojol23”, also at DeviantArt.

I made some ‘notes’ pages.

Notice my new “label”.  Notice I used it on one, but, not the other?  LOL  I can’t help it.  Actually, I was testing you all to see if you are still with me or of you’ve died of boredom.  LOL

After very little prodding, I found I could shorten my URL by purchasing a ‘domain name’ from Blogger.  Ten(10) bucks for the year!  Did that.  Now, my URL is

http://www.suruha-freespirit.com

If you still use the old link, with the “blogspot” in it, you will be directed to the new one, so, do not worry.  Thank you.

I will take leave, now, but,  I will be back.  As lengthy as this is, I still have more stuff to write about.

Hugses,

Su

(See the gif I made for my siggy?  I made that with my PS CS3.  Next, I will work on a blinkie.)

SU CheshireCat