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.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Make Your Own Storage

I had to share a great and unbelievably easy recipe my family has really been enjoying this summer.  It all started with our basil.  The first picture shows our lovely basil, so far surviving the Japanese beetles so much better this year than last. I love how this picture captures the wild corners of my mother-in-law's garden.  The running cypress climbs through, with astilbe and black-eyed susans framing up the basil.  The second picture is of a boxwood basil- so cute and tasty!  I created a recipe that takes ten minutes (less if you're a fast chopper, alas I am not!) and won't heat up your kitchen!

        * You will need a package of pre-made Naan bread.  We discovered this at our local Walmart about a year ago and it has become a true staple.
        *  Start by laying the bread on a piece of foil and putting butter on the top.  Then pat a little olive oil onto the bread, using a paper towel.
       * Next, chop up any fresh herbs (or dried) you have available.  I used about a tablespoon and a half of fresh rosemary, about one tablespoon of fresh thyme, about a tablespoon of basil, and a tiny bit of oregano (ours is really spicy!).
       * Next I sprinkled Parmesan cheese in both it's shredded and powdered forms on the bread.  You can alter this to taste.
       *  I then put a little more olive oil on top, by patting with the paper towel again.  I did this step out of order once by accident and decided I like a little olive oil on top even better than only on the bread.
       * You can also add a layer of fresh tomatoes and a little bit more cheese if you wish.  I made one grown-up bread and one kid one today.
      * Then you place the whole thing, foil and all, in your toaster oven.  Time will vary, it takes about four minutes in mine.  Since the bread is already cooked you basically only have to melt the cheese and butter.  Take it out, slice and serve!  I usually cut mine in half and make triangle pieces in a pizza fashion.

This bread has a wonderful flavor and couldn't be easier!  Do you have any Naan favorites?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday: Luxury Spa at Home

Sometimes everyone has one of those weeks.  I don't know if it's having a daughter that makes them more moody, swinging with whatever chemicals are rushing through their systems...whatever it is sometimes it's tooo much!  We wrestled with some sort of stomach bug that rolled through the family for a couple of weeks- that was fun.  After that seemed to leave we've been dealing with some sort of emotional growing pains that left my little unable to go to sleep at night and all of us very testy all day.  It seemed like the word "hello" could have bad intentions for three whole days!  Just when I thought it would be like this 'for the duration' as Granddaddy used to say-  it ended with an idea.  My daughter suggested yesterday afternoon that we have a spa. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me- we love this fun indoor activity!  We always make it fancy, using fabric fat quarters and sequin ribbons to decorate our tables (actually hat boxes).  We then arrange all of our fingernail polish, lotion, perfumes and other hair/ nail items on the tables.  Then we take turns being the customer.  I started yesterday as the salon owner.  I gave a massage, manicure and pedicure.  I think the my daughter's favorite part is the massage.  I slowly rub lotion into her feet, legs, arms and hands.  She is always relaxed and so much calmer when it's over.  I always think about how much human touch does for each and every one of us.  That the act of focusing so much energy and love into her little body makes her feel treasured and secure in a way few other things can.  After our glamorous spa and all through today she has been back to her lovely self.  We all need a bit of pampering every now and then to pull us back to happy living!!

I just had to share this- truly one of my best yard sale purchases ever!  I got this from a military wife who bought it somewhere in Europe.  I wasn't sure about it, but my little one had to have it!  It's some sort of stone- heavy and sturdy.  We put dollar store perfume in it (which is good considering how much she uses!!) and it has become part of our daily lives.  It's part of every game of princess, spa or fashion designer.  It's used before we go anywhere and just because.  All for $1.50 (including perfume). Nice!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday's Studio Update

I have done it!  I have found a focus!  Okay, okay I found nothing.  I was still floundering around trying to settle on one project at a time as of yesterday.  After a long talk with my best friend/husband, in which he made many profound observations about my approach to making things and many suggestions about an art driven business, and managed to not hurt my feelings even once...we came up with this plan.  So I will be focusing on this lovely hooded scarf for the next little while.  I made this gray version a few months ago- as I hope you would guess from the clothing.  No way I could have taken this picture today!!  I will be making it in several colors.  I'm working on black today and have red, green and blue in the wings.  I love this pattern.  I found it in Inside Crochet, a British crochet magazine.  It's ridiculously expensive here in the States, this one was a present from the aforementioned wonderful husband.  I alter the pattern a bit (because I want to use a different yarn with a different thickness) and a different size hook.  It's fun to keep up with the adjustments.  It's more fun to translate the patterns as I'm going!  British patterns are written differently.  I don't know if it's because I'm an Anglophile, or it's a coincidence, but the UK way of writing patterns makes so much more sense to me!!  It's actually harder to go back to the American way.  The hooded scarf is fun to work up and looks so romantic and Gothic to me!  Hope you enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Home Made Deodorant

I have been searching high and low for the best homemade deodorant for several months.  My reasons are many.  More and more research is showing links between traditional chemical deodorants and health problems, especially in women.  There have been ties with deodorant and Altzheimer's, and the problems with women involve how closely the chemicals are applied to the lymph nodes near the breasts.  I thought I would go for something else in order to lessen my chances for as much bad stuff as I possibly can!  I have tried several commercial types, from sticks like Tom's to crystal and salt sticks.  No luck.  I've tried just going with baby powder or cornstarch as many of our grandparents did.  This worked better, but I had to apply them several times a day.  Yeah- who as time for that?  So I have been looking at recipes online again and suddenly remembered I had made an unbelievably great find a couple of years ago at a library sale.  I picked up a copy of  Natural Beauty at Home by Janice Cox.  Did it have a deodorant recipe?  No.  It had many!!  Woo Hoo!  I tried the cream style deodorant.  It's made with 1/4 cup of shortening (I know, but it's not as weird once it's all together), 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 teaspoon baking soda.  I added 1 teaspoon of lavender soaked in witch hazel for my scent.  The next time I do this I will probably try a stronger scent- mine doesn't really smell like anything.  I liked the witch hazel for antiseptic reasons.  So far, on the hottest two days of the summer this deodorant has really worked!!  I only applied a tiny amount in the morning, as I normally would, and life is good!  I will give you another verdict in a week or so, but for now I say two thumbs up- or two arms up?!?  Hah!  That was bad!

Some of my lovely lavender plants pre-bloom.  I can't take any pictures outside right now because the lens will not stop fogging up!  Oh well! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fun with Pictures

I had some fun with a couple of photos for this week's nature post.  The top shot is of some garlic chives that I used a polarizing effect.  The other is of a lovely hand blown vase on a shelf in my kitchen.  I can't say I made some normal things beautiful- because everything was truly beautiful to begin with.  I spent a lot of time indoors today and I'm not ashamed to admit it!  I have a friend from Indiana who told me she's a reverse weather person.  She explained that she goes out in the winter, but when this hot weather rolls around she becomes a shut-in, tied to the A.C.!  I feel her this week!  Although I truly don't mind the heat, the pressure/humidity combo this week is wrecking my sinuses, so here are some things I love about the great indoors:

* Watching twin fawns wander through the front yard once alone and once, hours later, with their mama.  We decided the mama urged her babies to distract us while she ate the flowers on the other side of the house!  We talked to them through the open window and enjoyed getting to see them up close!  We could even tell that one had a black nose and one had a gray one.  We loved that they were both so beautiful and so individual.

*  Setting up an indoor ice skating rink to practice our figure eights.  We used an iced blue satin sheet spread out in the living room.  Then we put on our slipperiest socks and had a ball!!

* Taking advantage of our library's free shows during the summer.  We saw a fantastic magician.  He was so funny!  The jokes hit the parents and the tricks wowed us all- who could ask for more?

* Cuddling up for a little movie and snack time with a homemade popcorn mix.

I hope you had as much fun today indoors or outdoors!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Shelves Part Two

The shelves I showed on the previous post were my daughter's.  After completing my set, I found that putting fabric on the inside first works better than wrapping the outside first.  When you do the inside first you can create a smoother edge as you fold the outer fabric to the inside. You could make a case for wrapping the inner fabric around the outside in order to keep edges off the inside.  That way you wouldn't have to worry about them catching on books or whatever else you want to put inside.  I think the wrap to the inside looks great and seems secure.  I used one long piece to cover around the inside sides and back of each shelf.  I used an individual square for the top inside and the very bottom of the shelves.  I wrapped a piece from the top of the middle shelf around the edge and to the bottom of the middle shelf.

In the last picture I laid the striped fabric on the side in order to hold it up.  Then I trimmed the now dry inner fabric, pulled it to the outside and glued it down first.  I didn't wait for it to dry and instead glued the striped fabric right over top, pulling it taught.  In the following picture you can see the two versions of the shelves.  The set in the rear is drying and I will trim the interior purple fabric to just before the pink edge.  The striped one I trimmed with pinking shears at about two inches over for the sides.  Then I pulled them in and glued the edges to the interior.

Finished Products!  I love mine and my daughter's looks great to!!  As of tonight they are full of books and fabric!

My daughter was so proud of her decorative choice I had to include it.  She decorated her finished shelves with glitter glue and this butterfly family of sticker jewels on the top.  Her she's explaining who the Mommy is and who's going after which flower.  Great project start to finish!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Project: Handmade Storage

I started a great project today that covers everything you could ask for in a project.  It's fun, when you are done you have some great storage and your child can help!  You start with cardboard boxes.  If you have a few the same size you can recycle (bonus!).  I do not have two or more of anything in my house- well anything not wearable at least, so I had to work with purchased ones.  I used 12'' square packing boxes from Walmart at $0.64 a piece.  Not too shabby!  I wavered on making a stack of three or a side by side of four.  When we got into it though, my daughter was insistent on what she thought the finished project should be.  She had her hopes set on something shiny, pink, and covered in glitter.  That really didn't fit my color scheme ( I know, I'm so lame!), so I decided to go for one unit for each of us. 

We started out with the boxes and assembled them.  I started with duct tape, but quickly switched to packing tape because it just holds better.

Once Each box was made I put one on top of the other to check for placement.  I moved them around until I was comfortable with the look.  Next I put a fair amount of glue on the top (i.e. one outer side) of the box. Once the other box (without glue)  is put on top the basic shelf unit is done.  The glued surfaces together create the middle shelf.

After the top box is out on, I used packing tape to reinforce each side and the shelf.  You want to put these on in strips vertically.  If you put them across horizontally and cover the whole seam with tape you will have problems with the glue and fabric later.  The glue won't really stick to the tape.  This isn't a problem if there is
enough fabric around the tape for the glue to hold. In order to figure out how much fabric you will need you can lay the shelves on the fabric as you would to wrap a present.  Pull the fabric up and leave at least two inches of over hang to the inside.  I folded the fabric in half both ways and marked a pencil point in the middle to help me find the center.  You can move the fabric a fair amount, but it's nice to have a general idea.


After measuring the fabric, flip the shelves upside down so the backs of both were up and ready for glue.  I did this project on a tile floor for easy cleanup.  I would not suggest doing it on a rug.  You will most likely have some contact with a sticky fabric surface so choose wisely!  If you don't have tile a large garbage bag will work too!

Pull the fabric across the back to pull out any wrinkle.  Do each long side in the same manner, by turning the side up t the top.  Always rub the fabric and pull the fabric from the glued surface out toward the non glued side.  When you get ready to do the top and bottom, cut the short side so that it overhangs by a couple of inches.  Use the fabric fro the long back side to create the top.  Glue down the side fabric pieces, then spread glue on the fabric flaps and the rest of the top.

Stay tuned!!  This post was so huge I'm going to post the insides and final products this weekend!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

World Wednesday: Survive and Thrive In the Heat

I have been spending a fair amount of time outside lately and loving just about every minute of it.  There are plenty of people who complain in the summer when it's hot and wish away for Fall.  I used to be one too. In Virginia , summers are mighty.  The heat is so different than desert heat.  I've spent time in the desert in the summer.  I will grant it feels like stepping onto the door of an open oven.  The heat is dry though, and as your sweat instantly evaporates it feels cooling.  Here, the damp heat feels more like rolling around in a boiling pot, it enters every pore.  I just soak it up now though, storing it away to remember on those winter days when Mother Nature is recuperating and the bleak sky has only pale rays to give.  My mind was changed by my husband's business.  He is a landscaper.  You just can't look someone in the eye and complain about your hot day spent playing with your child outside for an hour or two when that person has spent the day performing grueling labor in worse conditions!  The year he began I stopped being so negative about the heat.  I gotta say it's been great.  I look around more now, focusing on the jungle that is Virginia in the summer.  The woods are a beautiful combination of dark browns and vibrant greens against intense blue backgrounds.  Flowers grow everywhere, twisting themselves into and around every single inch of ground and fence, and pushing up toward the sun.  I want to be a vessel, maybe one of those ancient olive oil jars, just filling myself with all of the energy and joy I feel vibrating around me whenever I'm outside.   

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday's Work Out

In my work life I have been plotting, planning, and prioritizing this week.  I have so many different directions I feel strongly about.  Between sewing, crochet and jewelry, my head is a little spinny.  I'm trying to come up with a way to choose projects for the long term, but it's difficult!  I'm the type of person who enjoys working on five projects each day and accomplishing a little at each.  This is fun, but not always effective!  I'll figure it out hopefully!!  I'm newly inspired by one of Amy Butler's books.  I love her color combinations and the sense of joy in each of her pieces.  I'm devouring the book after receiving it one day ago and it's already affecting my future plans.  What now? Hats? Slip covers? Pillows?  No, no, I promise no more pillows!  You already have to excavate the couch just for a comfy place to sit.  Ugh!  But the joys of fabric are calling!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Solar Energy

Usually on Fridays I have been doing a project tip or idea for something I think you would love to try.  Today is a little different.  I had a strange day.  For some reason I still can't put my finger on it just did not go smoothly.  The past several days have gone well enough.  When I wake up in the morning, I usually have a sense of direction for my day, what I want to accomplish, things to do with my daughter, places to go, or at least just a vague concept of how the day will flow.  Today I had no direction.  So many things are piled on my mind right now that it seems my brain decided to give up today.  Instead of prioritizing I shut down, jettisoning everything in favor of a vague feeling of discontent that only grew as the day wore on.  I got snappy.  I kept asking myself, "Why am I acting this way?"  Apparently I wasn't on speaking terms with myself today either so I'm still not sure what was going on.  Finally, in the afternoon, I turned to my girl and asked her if she wanted to go outside.  It had stopped raining and the sun shone, okay, blasted down.  I noticed the outdoors had the same effect on me it does every time, but I seem to forget it every time.  Solar energy isn't just an awesome solution for our vehicles and machines!  The sun pushed its way into every pore of  me, filling me with the energy and hope I had been missing all day.  Looking at the flowers brought a smile and a realization that everything is fine and will always be fine.  Mother Nature is a lovely reminder every time I choose to go out.  I came back in a hotter, happier person. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday World View: Blackberries

The joys of blackberries!!  This is the only blackberry I have any contact with, and I think it would be fine with me if it stayed that way!  The last time I went in to replace my phone it was becuase it had slipped out of my pocket and into a toilet.  I didn't know how to rescue phones yet.  After my phone was soaked by ocean water last fall I put it in a bag of rice for 24 hours and it recovered fully.  Truly!  It was a little clickety for a couple more days but the function continued to improve until it was completely back.  So, when I went in to get that later-to-be-ocean-fodder phone, the clerk took one look at the old phone and said, "I take it you don't need much from your phone?"  Yeah.  No I don't!  I don't yet own anything that flips open or has a screen I can touch.  I like things a little less overwhelming.  I might convert someday... Right now I'm enjoying touching everything in the garden instead.  The blackberries are coming in, the string beans are lovely and the cosmos are in full swing.  My little one loves to pick seeds from the cosmos and the morning glories (as if they need help! :-P ), and then sprinkle them all around.  It's truly wonderful to be a part of the cycle of life.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Red Flower Power

New shirt I will list tomorrow.  I'm starting a new adventure on Etsy.  Hopefully all will go well!  I also have several crochet projects in the mix.  I'll keep you posted and I hope you had a great hliday weekend!  I've been booted off the internet seven times thanks to the storms providing their own fireworks here!  Here's hoping this makes it!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday's Tip: Yard Sale Pillow Case Magic

There are two plain and simple facts about me.  Okay- many truths could be told, but for today's blog there are two crucial facts.  I love, love, LOVE a bargain and I truly, deeply fear fabric commitment.  Because of the first fact I am pulled into some wonderful yard sales, and I slowly drive by some others.  I went to a fall festival/fundraiser last year at a local church.  There were about fifteen booths of folks just selling their home treasures.  One lovely woman had been renovating her house and was selling all sorts of Ralph Lauren and Laura Ashley things.  I bought an awesome tablecloth for a quarter, a shower curtain for a dollar (which was quickly stolen by my daughter for her playhouse and has never seen the light of a bathroom.  Oh well!  I also bought a few pillow cases from her.  I think they were a quarter each.  Normally I skip on pillow cases because of the ewww factor of having something someone else has slept, and possibly drooled on.  Sorry for that image!!  I couldn't pass up these designer ones which had been in a guest room and just looked new.  I brought them home and washed them in hot water three times.  Maybe excessive, but now I felt comfortable and drool free!  In walks our second fact: my fear of fabric commitment.  As a result I have done nothing with these cases for months.  I just can't commit to a project when a week later I might want something else!  The solution: just fold it baby!  I had a boring brown couch pillow just asking to be covered.  I put the pillow down into the bottom of the the case as far as it would go.  Then I wrapped one side of the left over case over the top and down between the pillow and the case on the other side.  I used a flat hand to to even out the excess, now inside against the pillow.  Then I pulled the outside layer of case fabric until I had an even flat line at the top.  That easy!  The fabric stays put really well and It looks great!  Now, if and when I want to commit to something else, I can just take it off.  Looks great and it was truly cheap and easy to do!