Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving blessings and #foodthanks

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As we all sit down to our respective Thanksgiving Dinners tomorrow, I wanted to give personal #foodthanks for several items:

1. Thank you to all the farmers that work 24/7/365. Farming isn't a job, it's a lifestyle. You make many sacrifices to make sure others can have food to eat.

2. Thank you to all those who choose to work in a place to allow me to get this food. Whether you're a trucker, grocer, or processor, thank you for helping to bring food to my table.

3. Thank you to the charities and organizations that make sure people around the world can avoid hunger.

4. Thank you to the people who teach others how to use food to their advantage by improving their health and well being.

5. Thank you for those that choose to make preparing food your profession, especially when you're one of my favorite eateries.

6. Thank you for those involved to help me get some of my favorite can't live without foods: any dairy product, coffee, chocolate, wine, fresh herbs, garlic, ripe tomatoes, and a really good filet.

7. Thanks to those who are producing technology to help provide food security for those around the world.

8. Thank you to wineries and Food Network television (and magazine!) for helping me to appreciate the art of food. (Everything involving the 'art of food' has quickly become one of my favorite ways to spend time with my family.)

9. Thank you to those who lose sleep over keeping our food supply safe.

10. Thank you to the local farmers who sell at farmers' markets. Those relationships are such a wonderful things to have.

What are you giving #foodthanks for today?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday's agriculture website - #foodthanks

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#foodthanksFood doesn’t just happen. It takes an incredible number of caring, thoughtful, hard-working individuals to provide the food for the meals we enjoy every day. From farmer to processor to truck driver to chef to retailer, millions work hard to provide our food.

Those people deserve our thanks, especially during the Thanksgiving holiday. Please remember to give #foodthanks this week on your blog, facebook pages, and twitter, especially on Wednesday, November 23. (Learn more at the official Foodthanks website.)

I want to take the opportunity to personally thank each and every person for helping to provide the food myself and my family will consume for our Thanksgiving meal. I know there are a lot of hands involved and my thanks go to every one of you. Thank you for providing a safe, affordable, nutritious product. I am also proud of the small role I play in helping to bring food to the table of many families. It makes me proud to say that I help farmers take care of their animals so they can feed people.

Regardless of who produced your food or how it got to you, I hope we can agree that they all deserve our thanks. As you sit down for your Thanksgiving meal this week, please remember to give #foodthanks.

P.S. For those of you on twitter, #foodthanks is the hashtag to express your gratitude there as well.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getting cow art ready for holiday sales

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Believe it or not, we've been gearing up for the holidays since the beginning of October. Everything from making sure we have enough cow art inventory to designing the postcards mailing out to customers today. Here's a few random pictures from the office today showing what's going on:

Our postcard mailing is going to the post office today.  (Thanks to hubby for taking it there for me.)  We send out our postcards bulk mail, so we have to address and organize them before they go.

You can't be ready to ship anything out without having plenty of shipping containers.  Our items go out in either padded envelopes or cardboard boxes of some kind.  (We also try to recycle and reuse boxes when possible.)

When shipments go out from the Cow Art and More office, we send them with a package tracking number. Customers can easily track their packages through the appropriate website (USPS, UPS or FedEx)  (By the way, we don't send them smudged either -- but I didn't want to violate anyone's privacy by sharing package shipping information.)

And yes, we do have print catalogs!  It's an abbreviated version of our online catalog and generally only includes our best sellers.  If you have online access, going to the Cow Art and More website is still the way to go, but for those with dial up internet or no internet at all (gasp!), we are happy to mail a catalog.

What are you doing to get ready for the holidays?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to paint your own collage papers

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Want to give a try at making your own mixed media collages but have questions? This guest blog post by cow art collage artist Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson discusses some of her strategies and techniques when it comes to making a one-of-a-kind collage.

Why Paint Your Own Collage Papers?

In the beginning, I used art store purchased papers in my collage work. I found the most richly colored, textured, patterned papers in the art store and I collected and coveted them on every trip I took. On a trip to New York City I must have spent over $100 on sheets of luxuriously colored papers at the store Kate’s Paper.

What happened next was sad, but true. Most art store papers fade! These papers are possibly colored with dye and not pure pigment (the color that is the base of all fine art paints and pastels). Dye fades over time, depending on its exposure to sunlight. It will break your heart to see a collage fading right in front of you, little by little, as the years go by. At first you might not even notice it, until you look back at a photo of the work on a note card or on your website, and all of a sudden you realize that your original just does not look as vibrant as it used to.
To combat this dilemma, I started painting my own papers. I use Golden Artist Colors Fluid Acrylic paints, they are lightfast (resistant to fading) professional paints. Painting my own papers offered me a whole new world of possibilities of color, a perfect paper palette.

Papers for Painting

These acid-free Oriental papers are strong and absorbent. They are made in the centuries-old Japanese tradition. They are white and natural tones which make an excellent base for creating your own brilliantly colored collage papers. All are available at
  • Hosho — Hosho is a traditional kozo (mulberry fiber) paper that doesn’t shrink or tear easily, making it ideal for woodblock or line printing. Hosho paper is sized.
  • Kozo — Kozo rice paper is highly absorbent, making it ideal for calligraphy and watercolor painting. Kozo paper is not sized.
  • Unryu — Unryu rice paper has been used for centuries in Japan for creating Shoji screens and is extremely strong, thanks to molded-in fibers. It’s excellent for calligraphy, sumi-e, watercolors. Unryu paper is not sized.
  • Ricer Paper Sheets — Hanshi Japanese rice paper for brush writing or calligraphy is mouldmade in the centuries-old Japanese tradition makes excellent base for fluid acrylics, available in sheets if you prefer, versus a roll.
  • Assorted Japanese Sheets — You may purchase a 10-sheet assortment of fine Japanese papers from This assortment includes two full sheets of Chiri (sized), Okawara (sized), Unryu (not sized), Kitakata (sized), and Mulberry (not sized). A nice way to experiment and find which papers work best for you.
  • Thai Unryu — Long, swirling strands of kozo provide contrast and texture in these traditional style unryu papers. Lightweight and translucent, choose from a range of natural tones, perfect for painting your own colors, textures, and patterns.

Techniques for Painting Papers

Every couple of months I pull out the paints, a large sheet of plexiglass, paint brushes, and I make myself a batch of custom colored collage papers. My friend and fellow collage artist Jo suggested that I try fluid acrylics, since they retain their intensity when watered down. I said to her, “Jo, are they REALLY better? Because they are REALLY expensive.” Well she said “YES” and I took her advice, guess what?


You can dilute fluid acrylics, spatter, splash, blot into them, and they stay very intense in their color. It’s usually quite warm in Florida, with a mild breeze, this is perfect weather for letting the papers dry on the grass outside the studio, if need be you can also let the papers dry indoors on plastic trash bags. There is a table in my studio covered with a large sheet of plexiglass for monoprinting. I learned the hard way that if you let the paper dry directly on the plexi, it sticks. Transfering the painted papers to trash bags allows them to be easily peeled off when dry. This process can also create some interesting effects from the crinkle pattern of the bag.
Beyond just tinting collage papers with fluid acrylics, I have developed some interesting techniques. To achieve texture and variety of colors, I spatter, dry brush, and monoprint.
I start with Japanese Washi paper (white rice paper, very absorbent) and natural tone art store papers. The art store paper offers textures and a variety of thickness. I also often buy art papers with some printing on them (and or glitter in them) that will show through the fluid acrylic applicationthis offers nice effect. I also paint my kids’ old workbook pages, as well as old book pages from used book stores, maps, old check registers, addressed envelopes, anything I can imagine would make good collage material.


The sheets of paper shown here are an example of the blotting technique. This is white Washi paper purchased on a roll. I tear off a sheet and keep it on hand to “blot” the excess drips and globs of paint from the plexiglass between painting other sheets! Let nothing go to waste. I can also enhance the blotting feeling of this paper by spattering some paint directly on to the plexiglass and then blotting the Washi into it. Not only does this technique clean your work surface by absorbing all the leftover paint, it also makes for some wonderful collage paper when you get the color combinations right!


For a monoprint, I create a pattern with the brush and fluid or full-body acrylics, painted directly onto the plexiglass surface. Then, I press the paper into the paint and pull a print. This process is very good for showing brush texture and interesting patterns.
You can monoprint first on white paper, let that dry, and paint over it with watered down fluid acrylic so that the monoprint shows through. Alternately, you can paint the paper a solid shade first, let it dry, and then monoprint a complimentary color in heavy body or fluid acrylic.
Experimentation is the name of the game. Using colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel, or analogous colors, look pleasing together because they are closely related. Orange, yellow-orange, and yellow are an example of analogous colors. Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh is an example of a painting that utilizes this type of color palette.

Dry Brushing

At left is a nice example of the dry brush technique. First, I took this sheet of art paper and dry brushed dark green onto it with a dry brush dipped very lightly in fluid acrylics, I zipped the brush lightly across the sheet without much pressure. The nature of this paper is very absorbent, so the ink sinks right in and does not spread much.

Next, after letting the paper dry in the sun for about 10 minutes, I took the paper back into the studio and mixed up some lime green (an analogous color on the color wheel) with much water so that it was very translucent. I quickly and completely brushed this color over the top of the dark green dry brushing, to cover all of this heavy art paper.
The effect is a nice green toned paper with much texture that would be very good for grass or tree leaves.


Take this outside, I learned the hard way what a mess it is if you don’t! You may use a toothbrush and run your thumb across it for a more fine spatter, or shake a large brush full of diluted fluid acrylics for a bold spatter. If you work “wet in wet” (spray down your paper first with a water mist bottle) spatter droplets of diluted paint onto wet paper, they will bleed and spread nicely. If you work dry, you will get a totally different effect, spots with defined edges.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How to keep sterling silver jewelry free of tarnish

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In the process of designing, constructing and selling sterling silver jewelry to customers, I am often asked how to keep the jewelry clean and free of tarnish. Here are a few of my recommendations along with customer mistakes (and how to fix them!).

1. The first thing you need to know is that "tarnish happens" when it comes to jewelry. Even gold jewelry, after many years, will eventually tarnish. Tarnish is caused by the reaction of the copper, in the sterling silver or gold, to humidity and elements. Even perfumes, lotions, hair care products and sweat will accelerate tarnish on jewelry.

The remedy: Try to make sure all your "body products" (hairspray, lotions, etc.) are dry before putting on your jewelry. After you are done wearing your jewelry, wipe it clean and dry with a soft cloth (I prefer plush cotton or flannel) before storing it.

2. Leave jewelry sitting out, exposed to the air most of the time, tarnish becomes inevitable.

The remedy: Store jewelry in a place that is cool, dark and not exposed to air. Other jewelers advocate placing jewelry in a ziploc bag for storage. You must make sure your jewelry is absolutely dry and the bag is free of air when doing this. Otherwise, you create a "rainforest" in the bag and it will tarnish in a matter of days! If you want to do this, I would recommend wrapping the piece in a soft cloth first, then place in a ziploc bag. Squeeze all the air out of the bag before closing. For those that like having their jewelry in a box where you can easily see it, place a piece of chalk in the box. The chalk will absorb the moisture. Be sure to replace the chalk monthly.

3. My jewelry is tarnished. What is the best way to clean it?

The remedy: Always opt first for a polishing cloth to remove tarnish from your jewelry. I sell and recommend the Sunshine polishing cloths, but have also had good luck with Haggerty's silversmith polish sprayed on a soft cloth. (Do not spray this product directly on the piece.) Sometimes I will use the tarnish removing dip to clean a piece, but ONLY if the piece is metal only (no stones) and if there is no "patina" on the piece. (Patina is the intentional oxidation of the piece to highlight details.) These dips mush be used with care as they are removing the outer layer of metal on a piece (like the cloths) and can act very quickly!

4. I use a tarnish removing dip cleaner for my silver and now it tarnishes so much faster. Why is it doing this?

The remedy: While the liquid dips that remove tarnish will do so, they leave a sulfur residue that makes the jewelry react with the air and tarnish more quickly than before. If you are going to use the silver dip, the jewelry must be rinsed for a minimum of 15 minutes under running water to remove all the sulfur residue.

5. Someone told me to use toothpaste and/or baking soda to clean my jewelry. Is this okay?

The remedy: Using either of these is only okay only IF the sterling silver has a matte finish. If the jewelry has a shiny, mirror polish to it, these abrasives will remove the tarnish but will also scratch that shiny finish. Should this happen, they only way to remedy the situation is to have a professional properly polish the piece again, assuming the damage isn't too great.

6. What about ultrasonic jewelry cleaning?

The remedy: This is only an option for pure metal jewelry (no stones) or jewelry with stones hard enough to withstand ultrasonic cleaning. Stones such as coral, turquoise, tanzanite, and others are not ultrasonic cleanable. When in doubt, please consult the designer of the piece or a jewelry repair expert.

Learn more about caring for art and jewelry on the Cow Art and More art resources page.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

You put your arm where???

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*This is a repost of the original blog entry from May 2010. It was too good not to share again.*

Sometimes you have to be mental to do this job

I love being a cattle veterinarian, I really do. But sometimes explaining some of what I do to non-agricultural people makes them ask , "You like doing that?" (referring to the long, hot, dirty, and eventually stinky days I endure.) Case in point, in order for me to diagnose a cow pregnant, I have to do a rectal exam. That involves sticking my hand and most of my arm up her rectum to feel her uterus to look for a baby. Invariably, I get some strange looks as people try to assess my mental status and guess whether or not my fingernails are clean. I suppose when you take that procedure out of context, it does make you wonder why someone would want to spend eight years of school and tens of thousands of dollars to learn how to do this. In the end, I don't mind telling you that I enjoy being a little mental (in a good way) to want to get up and do that on a daily basis. I tell you all this to get to the point of this blog post.

I get lots of correspondence from different companies about their products. They range from pharmaceuticals, feed additives, vaccines, etc. Sometimes companies send me actual samples of their products. One of the latest products I received almost made me giddy.

I got a armpit length glove sample from the Neogen Corporation. This just isn't any glove to use in rectal exams. This is a new to the market "PolyPetite" glove just for women. Woo-hoo! So just what makes this glove so special?

I will quote a few lines from their sales letter: "The sleeve was developed to fit the needs of the growing number of women involved in the veterinary care of large animals. The new sleeve is cut slimmer, especially through the wrist and hand area. Women shouldn't have to use sleeves designed for men, and give up the comfort and feel of a sleeve that fits."

Wow! And it's "girly-girl" pink. The cows will love that.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday's art article - Cow Parade Austin

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In case you haven't heard, painted cows have invaded Austin, Texas! From July through October of this year, 74 painted cows were on the streets of Austin as a part of the Cow Parade Austin exhibit. The event culminates next weekend with a live auction of the cows with special guest emcee, The Tonight Show host, Jay Leno. Proceeds of the auction will benefit a local children's charity.

Can't make the auction and missed the cows live? No worries! Pictures of the Cow Parade Austin cows can be viewed online, along with creating artist information.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Giving Thanks for your favorite charity

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Thanksgiving is the annual U.S. holiday that allows us to stop and give thanks for the blessings in our lives. Cow Art and More is no different. We are thankful to have the opportunity to showcase the best in agricultural art (and the best customers I might add). The stories you share with us about how our art has brought so much joy to your life are truly a treasure. This month, we would like to say THANK YOU by helping three different charities (and here's where we need your help).

Cow Art and More will give a silver jewelry charm each to three worthy charities to include in their fundraising activities. We know that many groups have yearly auctions and/or raffles and work very hard to find donations for these events. We want to help.

  1. Please send an email to with a brief description of your group and what you will do with the charm.
  2. Explain what the donation proceeds will help you do and include a picture if you can. The responses will be included on our Facebook fan page.
  3. The three winners will be announced Thanksgiving Day. (By the way, you can encourage your friends to comment on our Facebook page to help plead your cause!)

Thank YOU for the opportunity and we look forward to helping others this month.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cow jewelry on Cow Art and More

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Many thanks to our summer intern Valentina Escobar-Gonzalez for using her creative talents to create a video about the silver cow jewelry on Cow Art and More. It's beautiful! (and of course I had to share -- enjoy!)

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