Simply Beautiful.

Every day we are faced with the choice- how can I make life better today? What can I say, do, make, give or be to make my life and the lives of others better. Here I want to focus on the positives of life in each day, in each moment. By choosing how we answer those questions in a positive way, we make the world a better place for every single one.

I am trying a new format starting today. I will be posting Studio project and shop updates on Mondays. Each Wednesday I will post a "World Wednesday" update with things found in nature, or other nature related topics. On Fridays I will post a tip or project I suggest. Hopefully it will be a fun and exciting change!

All images and texts are copyrighted, please contact me for permission to use anything you see here.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

How to Make a Decision Plan 3

Sometimes you are faced with a decision and you have to respond immediately.  You do not have the luxury of slipping gently into the grey by choosing both.  You do not have the time to put out some pathways and wait for fate to do her thing.  Sometimes it's all or nothing.  When this happens trust your gut reaction.  You primary instinct is almost always correct.  There's a scientific explanation for it.  A part of your brain used to digest information quickly and act simply takes over, and it's a great thing it does.  If you are being chased by an angry bull, say, through the streets of Madrid (not that I'm in favor of the running of the bulls, this is merely included as a life threatening situation)  you do not have the time to think, Which of these fine eateries would be best foe my exit from his street?  Are my shoes up to this dubious task?  Am I wearing any leather products which could possibly further enrage my charging enemy?  Nope- thankfully your body just runs and does whatever else it needs to do to get you out.  Similarly, if you are faced with a less life threatening situation like whether or not to lie to your child about the hideous spider you just killed because it was crawling up inside her nightgown (her very nightgown!!) like it had every right to be there doing spidery things, then follow your gut.  My gut said LIE!  Lie to her for she is the most compassionate of all creatures.  She will not watch the bad guys get hurt in shows!  Even when they hurt themselves it still bothers her.  I know this, I know that she will not tolerate any violence of harm to another creature.  But what do I do?  When she calls me on it I try to explain the truth.  No she didn't hear the door open because this guy didn't make it outside.  While she didn't witness the execution, se had basically caught me putting the the Tissue of Doom in the trash.  She knew.  "What really happened Mommy?"  With the truth out I was suddenly horrible.  The situation was only remedied minutes later when Daddy (wise to the whole thing) checked and found the spider had miraculously "gotten up and run away."  After promising to always throw them outside from now on, I was reclaimed into my own family.  All of this drama because I did not follow my gut.  Always follow your gut.  My brain was busy weighing the moral consequences of lying to my child (she can't handle the truth!)  and my heart was wanting her to know that I was Mama- Slayer of All Things Bad in her world.  My gut knew the right thing to do all along.

If you do not care for spiders please do not look below!  I don not really like them, but I took this picture of a garden spider or Writing spider last summer from a very safe distance!  She was not in my bed so she may go about her business!


Friday, April 29, 2011

How to Decide

Today was a day for decisions, just as they all are.  Mine weren't all monumental- in fact none of them involved life threatening events.  Maybe they were all life changing though. Who knows these things? As they apparently say in every other country but America....which is why we find so many other countries so much more charming than our own.  They are willing to give up the control of knowledge of the future.  I know it's not a completely American sentiment, but it does seem like we are always in a rush to know, to control, to win, WIN, WIN. Sometimes it's okay to not win, to not rush, to just wait. It's okay not to know.  Almost nobody does.  If you really think about it everyone is struggling every day to make the decisions that fill their time and make their lives.  Here are two of the decisions I faced today- one light and easy and one not so much...
First decision- sweater or flip flops?  Both!  Decision Making Plan # !When you have a decision and it's possible to go both ways a little to test the waters- go for it and see which feels more right.  I want warm weather- today my Virginia home simply didn't bring it.  I worked with it and the sum total of a warm body and sunny toes felt great.

There have been much larger decisions looming for a while now.  Will we be moving soon?  Work, income, schooling; the questions usually pile up in my head, whirling nonstop.  Almost every single time for the last year or two when I have gotten to go to the river with my family the questions grow to a fever pitch.  Something about the fresh air not only sets my creativity loose, but has me looking for creative solutions to all life's problems as well.  Today there was only silence.  It was welcome.  Decision Making Plan #2: Just wait for fate.  We put a lot of things in motion, now is the time to focus on each day and just wait for what fate brings our way. I'm sure all of my questions will be answered it ways I hadn't imagined.

Tomorrow's Post: Decision Making Part 3: Decide on the Fly!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's Coming...

There are many exciting new developments at home and abroad... if by abroad you mean in the far away world of the Internet, which I do. On the homefront first: this week we have decided to suspend Spring in all her glory and push headlong into Summer.  Hot, hot, hot! I can't complain really- I love the sun and the warmth.  Most of all I love the chance to widen our places to play.  For some reason this spring has brought a new tradition.  We are really enjoying "fancy dress" pic-nics.  We dress up in lovely dresses and head for lunch or afternoon tea (aka snacks) out among the wilds.  We can do this until the bugs get too insane, so we're living it up.  Incidentally, May flies did not get the memo that they are, in fact, due in May.  Not April Bucko's.  May.  Sigh.

Of course when it gets too gnatty we can come in for a little art therapy.  Painting nature when the real things too rough does help!

On the business side of life I am excited to say I will be coming out with more products very shortly. I'm adding cute pillows, rugs, purses, bags, patterns, and the cutest little crocheted sheep to the items currently for sale. I will post more pictures as soon as I can. Unfortunately my camera must have heard my mutterings about its fuzziness in a few shots I was trying to capture. The very next time I picked it up one of the interior lenses came unglued. I have no duct tape that can fix that bad boy. Hopefully I will remedy it somehow shortly.

The bear is stuffed with dried lavender- so he smells lovely too!

Monday, April 18, 2011

How to decorate a cake

My daughter dreams big.  She plays big, laughs big, cries big- why should planning the perfect birthday cake be any different?  When I innocently asked to plan her cake last year, we ended up with a giant three layer cake.  That would be three sheet cake layers! Appropriate for feeding about a hundred guests, last year's cake fed the eight us us just fine, with leftovers to feed co-workers, friends and family for a loooong time. 
   This year I thought would be simpler.  Ha!  We had fun designing a cake just like the one in Disney's Surprise For A Princess book. Except ours was pink and white instead of blue and pink.  This was a four layer cake (!!) (I know- so not an improvement from last year- but the layers were smaller). It honestly looked like a lovely wedding cake.  It gave me great confidence in my scant cake decorating skills and the allowing the big birthday girl to help with it all was awesome!  Here are some things that worked well for us.

Start with a mix! For this giant cake I used two boxes of yellow cake mix.  his time I used Pillsbury brand, but I have also had success with anything Martha White or Duncan Hines makes. I prefer to crack and add all the eggs at once so I don't forget how many I put in.  Laugh if you like but it has happened many, many times!  Runny cake is just gross!

Think outside the box- or, er, circle- for your pans.  Creating this cake of many layers required the usual 9'' layer and 8''  layer round pans.  Then we ended up using a large round casserole dish and a very small oven-safe pan that came with a play kitchen set.  A ramekin or single cupcake size would have worked as funny.

A cookie sheet (with no sides) wrapped in foil provided a great cake plate for this giant.  Last year I  flipped a cookie sheet (with sides) upside down and wrapped it with wrapping paper taped to the non showing side.  (I was going to write bottom- but that's now the top of my platter.  SO now I've made it more confusing!)  Then I put strips of wax paper under the edges of the cake.  This way when the decorating is done you can gently pull these out and no icing messes will be left on your platter.  I think it would be easier to remove these before you do the last icing on the very bottom edge of you cake.  It was my experience that the icing pulled out a bit in a very scary way, but ended up looking fine.  I would love to hear opinions from people with more experience here!

By all means let the birthday kid help!  This part was a bit hard for me at first to be honest.  I wanted it to be perfect for her & that meant not sloppy edges.  But- we had a blast and she did much better than I would have thought.  Kids are really great for the crumb layer- very correctable.  Letting them use a smaller knife is helpful too.  My daughter used the knife that came with a play set.  Flat sides are all that's necessary.

The finished cake!  It's very difficult to see the great results we had because of my current camera limitations.  I would love to, and hope to create a few posts just on cake decorating techniques.  For now I will say just experimenting with the tips on a piece of wax paper can really help you figure out what they can do.  For this cake I did everything I needed to do with each tip.  I started by using a star tip to create the flowers around each layer's edge top.  Then I added the bottom and top layer ribboning along the edging by using the star tip ad wiggling it back and forth in place. To make the hanging bands you see on the top and bottom tiers, I simply used a leaf tip, started on one star and pulled out and away from the cake to create the drape effect.  Then I touched the tip to the cake again at the other end to fasten it down.  I did stop and put all of the icing (including the applicator) in the refrigerator.  Colder icing is more firm, helping it to hold it's shape.

My cake decorating also turned into party entertainment for some of the earliest guests!  I decided to see that as a bonus- not a lack of scheduling skills!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

To Dye For

I decided to try an experiment in dyeing today.  Not dying, before anyone gets concerned.  I have used many random things to dye or at least mark up fabric in the past.  Okay yes, some of them were accidents, but some were really cool accidents!!  Once, long ago, I dyed a pattern with mustard which I then heat set in the microwave.  last summer my daughter and I painted a yard sale shower curtain with baby blue food coloring.  It was a lovely Ralph Lauren fabric, floral splattered curtain.  On its own, it was just a little too shocking. Plus, I have always loved the combination of strawberry red and baby blue.  I wish I had taken more pictures of that project- it was lots of fun!  Back to the present- I bought a pair of Capri pant at Old Navy last year, when their branch in my town was closing.  I paid a quarter for these pants- yep- a quarter. Now if you don't know me very well the deal of these pants made them well worth buying in my eyes.  Never mind that they were a ridiculous color (if you can imagine Pepto Bismol pink after surviving a nuclear reaction you would come close to the glowing might of this pink), or that capri pants aren't usually my favorite cut, I bought them.  Everything can be fixed with a little putty and paint.  Or in this case a dye job and some sort of mega hem/ contrasting fabric legnthener thingy still to be determined.  So I decided to attempt the food color dye again.  I figured this would be the most kid-friendly dye I could use.  While we were at it we also tried a few other fabric swatched in the mix. My daughter invented her own round of experiments. 

What we learned follows:

Food coloring is unbelievably fun to mess with.  Watching it swirl in the bowl is Zen-like.  The first picture on this blog is a result of my daughter just swirling and "inventing" new colors in glasses.  Seriously- are there any other art/craft projects this cheap or easy to clean up after? 

Food color dye works better on some fabrics than others.  None of these fabrics took any color at all until we put them in the microwave and cooked them for a minute in the dye.  Even after that the heavier upholstery weight fabrics barely held the dye.  The jersey fabric held better.  I also threw the fabrics in the dryer to try to heat set them even more.

No matter how cheap something is, it may not always be worth your time.  In another bargain craze I bought yards of the striped fabric you can see in the upper right.  It was only 50 cents a yard!!!  Come on!!! While I still will use it for lining stuff, it does seem to have the power to induce seizures, severe vomiting and other strong reactions (please consult your doctor before viewing this fabric if you are pregnant or have a heart condition) if you dare to view it while it or you are moving.  I assumed dyeing it would lessen the contrast & help it.  It refused to dye!!  Ah well, on to plan B.  Permanent markers?  Tea?  Random food stains?

As for the pants who started this whole mess, that will remain for another post!