Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A virtual Christmas card from us to you...

open to...

Finally, I got all of the printed versions in the mail yesterday. I still have a few hand delivers that are awaiting a tray of cookies to go with. This card idea came to me after finding yet another vintage Scrabble game (favorite) at a holiday flea market. At home, as I stared at and moved around those gorgeous wooden letters, I saw XMAS. When I discovered that I could fit MERRY XMAS on the wood rack, I completely geeked out and went at it with full force. Using a Photoshop trick or two, I turned our family into scrabble tiles adding a point value to correspond to ages. (okay one age is slightly questionable...I wanted to see who was paying attention ; )

With several design projects happily at the printer, cards mailed and presents wrapped, I've officially put myself on vacation. My hubbie and I purchased a rug pad for my office rug, installed badly needed new blinds and completed little odd ball fixes around the house that have been crying out for attention for many, many months. Projects that give me tremendous JOY now that they are done. Me and my little cooks are planning to heat up the kitchen with cookies and a feast for Thursday. We have family coming into town for Christmas day and several days after so we're looking forward to entertaining and enjoying our time together.

I'm taking some time away from here, but I'll be back after the new year. 'Til then happy, safe and cozy holidays to you along with lots of PEACE, HOPE, LOVE and JOY.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Eye candy

I managed to hold myself back and only produce six varieties this year...that being from top left, peppermint crunch, bear claws, caramel swirl pretzel rods, toffee bars, monogrammed chocolate D's and chocolate covered Oreos. yummmmm...

These little chocolates were new for me this year. I was at the counter, ready to purchase all of my candy making supplies, when I spotted the monogram candy molds. I'm a sucker (catch that candy pun?!) for type so the D mold quickly found itself in my cart. The helpful candy lady, sensing my enthusiasm about the prospect of making initial chocolates, pointed out the little foil wrappers in aisle three. She explained how to wrap the hardened chocolate and then lightly rub the front of the candy to make the D show through the foil. How cool is that?

Dare I say, I got a bit carried away? Although easy enough to make, wrapping all of these little guys took some time. I caught my hubby rolling his eyes once or twice at my idea of "scaled back" candy making. Worth it in the end, the red foil D's were the perfect bits of sparkle to pull the whole candy box presentation together.

Here's a peek into one of the final boxes for friends, family and teachers. Next week cookies. Let's wait until January to talk about the gym.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mixing it up

These days things are definitely mixed up around here with the normal design/illustration work, family life and a roaring-down-the-highway holiday fast approaching. Is Christmas really only two weeks away?! I remember as a kid when that seemed like forever. Now I'd give anything to sneak a few more present wrapping, candy making, cookie baking, card addressing, gift crafting days in between now and then. In the midst of the holiday happenings, I have five pieces in this show including the one on the above flyer over the words "Opening Night".

Here's another piece in the Mixed show. For my latest series, I've been adding my spin to old fashioned sayings the first being "If the Shoe Fits" and now "All of Your Eggs". I've always thought there was a lot of wisdom connected with the eggs in a basket phrase on so many different levels. Whether it be about finances or compartmentalizing one's self. Both are stifling and even downright risky. If all energy is concentrated in a single area what happens if that one area doesn't hatch? The egg out of the basket is the one that is hatching wings and will soon be flying. It's about mixing it up—mediawise and otherwise.

Note: "All of Your Eggs" will be available as a print in my Etsy store later today.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The one

Every year, we go through the routine. They all look rather similar, but that never stops us. We have to spend ridiculous amounts of time searching for the one.

Every year, five different perspectives of "perfect tree" wander around the tree farm or in this year's case the tree lot. We take our time debating which tree deserves a shot at being our Christmas tree. The height, prickle factor, branch sturdiness, shape, price (hello recession), bare spots, trunk posture and overall 'look' are all factors that go into this monumental decision. Does it matter that much? After the decorations, don't they all kind of look...well...the same?

maybe. However it just wouldn't be Christmas without the evergreen ritual and getting to finally say, "That's our tree." And if we're all still speaking after the annual outing, even better.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Future architects

My three kids woke up this morning expecting chocolate coins and oranges in their shoes in honor of St. Nick Day. Instead, St. Nick chose to bring each a gingerbread house kit of their very own. That Nick is a smart guy. Besides being a great time filler, one house kit per kid means no fighting over the icing bag or how many gummy this or gummy thats the other one has.

It was a perfect winterish day for a project like this with the first real snow of the season going on outside. It was the kind of day that begs for hot chocolate and gingerbread decorating. And while I'm not a big fan of store bought baked goods, a gingerbread house is the exception to my rule. It is wonderful to be able to get to the constructing and the decorating with everything you need in one kid-friendly kit. Besides gingerbread houses are more crafting than baking in my opinion.

After the three decorated their houses, I chose to mix them in with our ceramic Christmas village. I think the edible variety look right at home. Unfortunately I can't guarantee that they'll make it through the season. Hansel and Gretel have already been caught in the act.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cheesecakes roasting...

One of my very favorite December things to do is to bake the special treats that get saved for holidays. My mom introduced us to these super easy, kid-baker-friendly (very important), six ingredient, mini homemade cheesecakes that not only taste good, but look festively impressive. They're a big hit around here especially at Christmas and Valentines, and like I said, a cinch to make. Here's how.

First, line mini muffin tins with paper (candy size) baking cups.

Next place one mini vanilla wafer in each baking cup rounded side facing up. The mini wafers will serve as your cheesecake crust. Note: Make sure you get the mini kind. Regular size wafers won't fit.

Then, beat 2-8 oz. packages of softened cream cheese until fluffy. Add 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 2/3 cup of white sugar. Beat until smooth and thoroughly combined. Fill each mini baking cup 2/3 full with cream cheese mixture...approximately 1 tablespoon in each cup.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until set. Cool on wire rack for at least 30 minutes.

Finally, top with cherry pie filling when cool. Refrigerate for several hours and serve. Now how easy was that?!

A special shot out to Cool Mom Picks for featuring my Frustration Pencil Kits on their site today! Frustrationpencilwise, as of tonight, I am down to red, pink and the special holiday kits. I'll try to add more to the shop in time for Christmas, but I can't guarantee. If you're interested in having a kit for the little cheesecakes on your list you might want to head over there and grab one (or two). Thanks so much for your support of my newest venture. And if I haven't said it lately, thank you for your comments too! I love reading what you have to say.

12/4 update: Red kits are now sold out.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

So that's how

Here's my latest theory. Helium is involved. Lots of helium.
What do you think? ; )

Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday Frustrations

Happy day after Thanksgiving a.k.a. Black Friday to all! There is plenty of holiday shopping silliness going on today which begs me to reveal holiday frustrations. Nah...no ranting or raving kind of frustrations here. Just a friendly reminder to keep a sense of humor, remember the reason for the season and know that everything will be okay if 16 varieties of candy don't get made this year (do you hear me self??...it will be okay! ; )

Here's one way we're keeping our stress levels in check. I incorporated some holiday in our frustration pencil crafting. My kids are having soooo much fun with these pencils. They've been crafting pencils of their own and pencils to give to special teachers for Christmas. I also made a bunch of kits to give to several of the younger set on our list this year.

I've included easy-to-follow-illustrated instructions with this kit. The kit will make 4 Merry Mops (that's the red fur pencil with candy cane arms and a long green felt scarf) and 2 Radical Reindeer. Merry Mops have white fur on the inside and red fur on the outside for a tie dyed kind of pencil. The deer feature pipe cleaner antlers and a little bell around their necks. You can purchase a kit over at my Etsy shop if you're interested. These kits take me a bit more time to assemble so there will be a very limited number available over the next couple of weeks. Got to keep that holiday stress in check.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Check this out

If you've been hanging around here at all you may recognize the lunch survey on page 42 of the December/January edition of Family Fun. I posted my idea here first, and now have been honored to have it included this month in one of my very favorite mags. You can go to Family Fun to download a copy or since you're here scroll over to the right in my "Printables" section. Click on lunch survey to read about the inspiration and then click on the survey itself to print. Try it out on your kiddos. It's a great way to hear more about their day at school. Plus they'll love it. promise.

And while we're on the topic of surveys to check, here's another post from last year that is once again perfect for the season. I created these Thankful coloring place mats for the kids at our Thanksgiving table.The idea was to start the wheels turning about all the big and little things to be thankful for and why we celebrate this holiday. Poor Thanksgiving sure gets overlooked what with Christmas decorations hitting the stores before Halloween. You can click on Thankful coloring sheet link in my "Printables" section to the right. Then click on the image itself (private use only please) for your Thanksgiving festivities.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My opinion regarding shoes

This might just be my opinion, but I totally believe it as truth. I have to. Okay blog friends, here's a reveal. I have big feet. Size 10, sometimes 11. I would be the perfect size 10 1/2, but for some reason the shoe people don't make such a size for American feet. Why do all the other shoe sizes get a 1/2?? I'm guessing they figure once you hit the world of size 10s it really doesn't matter anymore. Hope is lost. Good luck sister.

These days I'm okay with my big and archless feet...really I am. Growing up, I listened to my mom say over and over in response to my complaints..."well at least you have feet." Amen. My point is when I stumble upon the rare discovery of a size 10ish shoe that not only fits, but is comfy and somewhat attractive those shoes are mine. End of discussion. No questions asked. Footwear purchases justified. BTW what time does DSW close?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We interrupt this blog for a special unpaid message plugging handmade..

The only thing making the unseasonable cold, snow and rain that has hit my part of the world a wee bit tolerable is the package I received in the mail over the weekend. I ordered a handmade scarf (with the cutest matching flower pin) from a fabulous Etsy store... cosy up your closet.

Etsy (if you're not familiar) is a handmade marketplace i.e. treasure trove of incredibly talented sellers who are making beautiful items with an attention to detail that you can only find when you buy handmade. Just look at how that box arrived on my doorstep. Beautifully packaged, a handwritten note (is there really such a thing?!) and even a little surprise gift that I didn't order, but have already pinned to a coat with a big smile at the seller's thoughtfulness.

When determining where to spend your holiday green, I'm suggesting peeking around over at Etsy and also considering other handmade outlets. From what I'm reading in the paper, the big guy that rhymes with Dull-Mart is doing okay. And trust me he will never, ever package up your purchase with this much love. Now back to your regular programming.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

IF: Pretend

I created this piece for Illustration Friday's topic of the week: pretend. My first thoughts drifted to the pretend pink, dress-up world of princesses and ballerinas where my three year old currently lives. Then I went back to the dreams I recall having as a child many centering around the ability to grow wings and fly. The piece became more nostalgic than I had originally intended, but that's the great thing about the IF challenge. Every once in awhile it takes you to places that you could only imagine.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Our take on "those" dolls

Lately, my 9-year-old and I have been loving those eclectic little stuffed dolls that seem to be everywhere. Regardless of what you call them, they are fun creatures to make since there is no right or wrong. Awkward shapes, uneven stitches, and mismatch-ness make for all the better and at the same time sum up my sewing ability. The other plus is that they are a great way to use fabric scraps, lonely buttons and leftover pieces of trim.

Cara made the doll above with very little help from me. We were inspired to go at it after reading this article which helps with the basics for those of you with limited sewing skills like us. I think any type of fabric would work just fine although Cara and I opted for softer varieties. We're dreaming up some holiday versions as we strive for more handmade gifts this season. Ideas are welcome!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The dish on pumpkin bread

I've been craving this every since the calender said "Fall" and the leaves turned autumn colors. How can you let the season pass without a loaf or two of pumpkin bread? (and it's even kind of good for you)

PUMPKIN BREAD (courtesy of Ms. Betty Crocker)
1-16 oz. can of pumpkin
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I sub nutmeg...not a clove fan)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts, if desired
1/2 cup raisins, if desired (I leave these out...not a raisin fan either)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans. Mix pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into pans. Bake 50-60 minutes or until wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Then wink at Betty, put her cookbook away and add...

a generous slathering of cream cheese icing sprinkled with cinnamon.

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of milk

Mix ingredients together and apply generously to tops of pumpkin bread. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Slice and enjoy.

dish note: same favorite thrift store as the trunk find. I scored a box of Louisville Stoneware (16 plates, mugs, bowls) for $45. I can hardly sit here and type as I think what treasures they could have today...

Friday, November 7, 2008

IF: Wise

"From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow. "
—Aeschylus or that Greek poet much wiser than I

I love this quote and often remember it when I have an idea that seems small, silly, trite or not much of anything. As I've experienced, many seeds fall by the wayside. But every once in awhile, there are a few seeds that with the right combination of water, sun and timing, take root.

Wisdom is having the courage to throw your seeds to the wind. Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Everything seems a little brighter out after the election results. The leaves remind that moving forward into a different season brings change. Change whether those vibrant colors are red, gold, and orange or red, white and blue. Differences aside. We're in this together. Yes we can.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote today...

The big election is finally here and I am soooo thankful. I am tired of e-mails filling my box often containing derogatory messages or half truths about a certain candidate. The nasty TV ads that cut one opponent down in order to build the other up truly bother me. I trust that we will vote out of a very core place in our hearts based on our existential world views. Whether we agree or disagree on the right party to get us out of our current mess, freedom has allowed that we as a nation choose. We owe it to our little ones to get out there and exercise our right. And I really have to believe that whomever is elected will do their best to set America back on track. It's important that we vote today, but just as important that we unite tomorrow. They are counting on us.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Hope all you ghosts and goblins have a very spooky, trick-or-treat-filled Halloween. My three pumpkins are VERY excited to hit the streets tonight and gather obscene amounts of candy.

This witch is holding on tight to the candy we'll also be passing out.

After our three collect and eat way more than Mom and Dad would approve of in one sitting, we've got a party or two to attend.
Be safe and have fun!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The van gets a trunk

Yesterday after dropping my youngest at preschool, my van shifted into auto pilot and took me right to my favorite thrift store. It tends to do this every few weeks or so. I try to act relatively cool at my thrift haunts, but I could feel my mouth making a big WOW when I saw this.

An absolutely gorgeous antique trunk. The best part (besides the price) had to be the shipping labels all over the back and sides. Remember when people shipped their trunks i.e. railroad travel and all of that?? Me neither, but I've seen it on TV. The incredible weathered colors and markings made by time on this gem are simply amazing (and if I could figure out how to make my pix larger than "large" on my blog I'd blow these babies up so you could see even better.)

I love the bits left of the broken handle. Not that an intact handle wouldn't have been nice. It was quite a trick both lugging this awkward, huge thing up to the register and getting it out and into my van.

And then there's the hardware...

Here's a closeup of the inside lined with ghosts from the past.
I want to put this awkward 50lb+ trunk on my scanner and scan every inch. However photos will have to do. Wouldn't the above make a great background/starting point for a collage?
(I left the pix big here so if you click and print you can do just that.)

I know this isn't the best use or place for my Tuesday find, but for now it'll sit here as a printer stand. I'd love the trunk for a coffee table, but I can see my three dears picking at the barely-still-intact mailing labels and therefore causing a mother to yell...LOUD.

The other best part...the price. I even shocked my husband who is used to my bargain hunting prowess. I purchased this trunk for a mere $4.00 (USD). Kid you not. That's why it's just silly to ignore your vehicle when it wants to take a quick jaunt to the thrift store.