#MyTownProud: The Small Town Artist That Inspired Me the Most

This content is sponsored by the Monsanto Fund’s America’s Farmers Community Outreach programs, but views and thoughts are my own.

What makes you #MyTownProud? Before I moved to New England and found my small town, I got inspiration from where I'm from, and how it has helped my art. #ad

I admit that there was a period of time in my early 20’s in which I thought I wanted to live in NYC.

Now, I can’t believe I ever sought that life because I’m a country girl through and through, and I’ve been that way probably my whole life. It’s true that I lived in San Francisco for a short spell in the mid-2000’s, but that was a chance of a lifetime and an experiment. It didn’t last long, and soon I gave up living in a MIDDLE apartment in Golden Gate Park – sandwiched between, below, and above some loud neighbors – and traded it in for a New England town without its own stoplight.

This is where I find peace, and this is where my words and my art are the most inspired. It’s no surprise to me that I wound up living in a clearing in the woods on four acres, because I get it all from my mom! As a kid, we lived on top of a mountain and surrounded by cornfields. I always thought we had the best of everything. We had the dimension and the beauty of the elevation, but we were also on a place filled with crops and wildlife. My mom’s dream was always to own horses, and once she reached that dream, her dream was to own her own horse FARM, and she fulfilled that dream when I was an adult.

I’ve loved seeing it unfold.

My mom is an artist/art teacher, and her father was an artist too. As a writer and a photographer, I certainly relate to so many parts of her – her humor and quirks, the way she translates her hopes and dreams into visual creations, and the way she is at one with nature. We are both small town women, probably more so than anyone else in our family. I’m proud to be from a small town, and to have been inspired to be an artist – like my mom and my grandfather. Their art is in galleries.

Before I was born, my mom was an art teacher in the public schools. After she gave birth to my sister and then me, she had the foresight and inspiration to start an art school right out of her home. When we moved in with my dad and new siblings after she got re-married, my dad helped her create an even bigger art school in our new house. The business was and still is called Art Magic, and its existence is the only life I’ve ever known. When we moved to Blairstown, NJ about 15 years ago, my parents set down their small town roots and let them spread. They own a horse farm, and my mom is a curator/exhibitor at the town’s local art gallery on Main Street. You can’t go for a walk down Main Street without seeing a familiar face.

I used to joke that it was straight out of a movie, or a western. I’m #MyTownProud to be a part of this life.

My mom makes dioramas/dreamscapes. They involve a lengthy process that begins with her original pen and ink drawings. Then, her drawings are photographically reproduced and reduced in size. She takes the new drawings and dry mounts them to boards. Then she cuts them out and layers on colors with translucent films. The final product is a three-dimensional box – a juxtaposition of cultures, worlds, and images – intended to portray time as the past, present, and future as one event.

What I love is how receptive the town is to her art. She’s found a niche in a wonderful community.

Not long after we moved to Blairstown, the small town had an Arts & Local Business Night. All of the local businesses opened their doors and served food and drinks. It was warm and welcoming, and VERY country. I loved seeing residents ride horses down the street and then “park them” to go out to dinner. That’s when I knew we had found “home.” A forever home.

And THESE are the people you’ll find in small towns – full of love, warmth, inspiration, and complexity. Their stories have layers, and it’s so rewarding to find out how they came to do what they do, and how they came to live where they live.

What makes you #MyTownProud? Before I moved to New England and found my small town, I got inspiration from where I'm from, and how it has helped my art. #ad

I’m so proud to be from a small town, and to live in this rural setting I enjoy every day now. What I love is that The Monsanto Fund celebrates these amazing communities, and helps to make them even more vibrant for future generations through America’s Farmers Community Outreach. These America’s Farmers programs, sponsored by The Monsanto Fund, help put the farmer in the center of the story. In America’s rural communities, farmers not only provide food and fuel, but they are pivotal characters in their communities. They often serve as the backbone of the areas in which they live – like here. Through the Grow Communities, Grow Rural Education and Grow Ag Leaders programs, The Monsanto Fund celebrates the accomplishments throughout communities with grants to help them continue to grow and thrive. A new campaign sponsored by the programs called My Town will continue this celebration of the people, places and stories that make small towns great.

They do this with the help of local farmers.

Why are you #MyTownProud? Share your own why on social media with the #MyTownProud hashtag! Connect with America’s Farmers on their website, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and share your stories in those places!

Are you an artist? Can you think of a particular artist you love in your town?

5 Smart Ways to Save Time on Running Errands

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DotComDIY #CollectiveBias

Did you know that you could save time when running errands? I just learned these five time-saving  tips, and who doesn't love shopping online? #ad #DotComDIY

See the thing is, even with two kids now in full-time school, I thought I’d have more time!

Even with the extra 20 minutes in the morning we have now that I don’t have to do two school drop-offs by a certain time, well, I use that extra time to sleep or read! As one should. And even with both kids in school for six hours, it never quite amounts to six hours of straight work. I always explain it to Cassidy, who is often gone from 7:00am – 6:00pm, that it would be like me asking him to do 10-11 hours of work in only half the time. By the time I get home and eat breakfast, I have maybe an hour of two before my next meeting. Then there’s more solid work but I’m constantly interrupted all day long.

If might be the mailman or a delivery truck. It’s often our contractors or a repairman. Sometimes it’s one of my pets, or even a bear in the yard! You can’t make this stuff up! I also need time to eat lunch, do personal writing and photo editing, take snack and sun breaks, and take the dog for a much-needed walk at the park. That leaves very little time for work, and even less time for much-needed errands. With the holiday season fast approaching, I get overwhelmed by how much I have to get done with a limited amount of time during the weekdays. Weekends can be even worse because I do fall photo shoots.

And that’s all season long!

That’s why I’m so excited to dig in and tell you my five favorite ways to save time when running errands. I find that being more efficient and time/cost-effective me allows me more time, not only to work, but to actually enjoy myself too!

1 – Utilize shopping online. What I found out recently was, that among other things, you can buy motor oil online at Walmart.com. More specifically, Pennzoil products are available on Walmart.com. Even MORE specifically, that’s where I get my Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic motor oil. Luckily for me, and for all of us, Walmart has made significant improvements in their online shopping experiences lately and I am seeing it! You have three awesome pickup options: 1. Delivery. 2. In-store pickup. 3. Curbside pickup. I chose in-store pickup and it couldn’t have been easier. I’ll show you how:

And then this:

All in a few clicks of a mouse!

Easiest process ever!

And that’s it! For Curb-side assistance, you provide your name and the time you’ll pick up the item, and a Walmart employee brings it to you. That’s why Walmart.com is one-stop shopping, for EVERYTHING! Pennzoil products help clean out sludge that lesser oils leave behind. It’s designed for complete protection and allows you to drive an extra 550 miles per year vs. a dirty engine. I use Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic. Why? The PurePlus® Technology keeps pistons up to 30% cleaner than required by the toughest industry standard and keeps my engine cleaner than any leading synthetic oil.

Right now, receive $10 in Ticketmaster Ticket Cash with your purchase! Just purchase any two qualifying Pennzoil Motor Oil products (in-store or online) and then upload your receipt. All entrants will also be entered into a sweepstakes to win tickets to a Guns N’ Roses concert as part of their “Not In This Lifetime” tour! More info about the sweepstakes available here.

And here are four other smart ways to save time when running errands:

2 – Delegate. This can be your most important task of the day! Spread that love! I sometimes bend over backwards to pick up milk and bread, but Cassidy passes a grocery store EVERY DAY on his way home from work. Silly me!

3 – Use your time management muscles for planning. I think of it like a fun puzzle. How can I consolidate errands? What’s the easiest route? What place can be left for last, or another time? I use an app on my phone for shortcuts too.

4 – Utilize block scheduling. Did you ever do that at school? Consider using one day a week, or two half days to do ALL the errands at once. No exception, except emergencies. And start with the errands that takes the longest.

5 – Visualize everything you need done by the end of the day. To be fair, I use that tip most with work but then I started adding errands and other day-to-day stuff in the mix, like exercise and eating right. Goals are goals!

Don’t forget to get your car serviced at Walmart!

What’s your favorite errand? Be sure to connect with Pennzoil on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube!

Enjoy your new free time!