I made a short video for a contest describing my experience in the "Creating Collections for Home Decor" class. That class was FAB! I got soooo much work done in 5 weeks. The deadlines are intense, and it really pushed me to do my best work.
Read more about the course here from Make Art That Sells. It's taught by art agent Lilla Rogers and creative director Margo Tantau.
The video includes my first animation/gif...I've been wanting to learn to do this for a long time.
I present...Poodles & Pasta!
I've been taking a course through art agent Lilla Rogers. The first assignment focuses on fabric design. We were supposed to create a kitchen fabric with a pasta and vintage Pyrex them. I ran with it and added poodles. Because of COURSE poodles go with those other things.
Here are my coordinating fabrics:
I don't know how she manages to keep it so spotless with little twin daughters-count me impressed. Look at those cuties!
She's an artist, so of course it's filled with great pieces. So much light and art. What else do you need?
Maybe throw in Captain the dog for good measure.
Did you have a good Christmas? This one was particularly nice for our family. My girls are at a great age to really enjoy the holiday.
Oh, my sweet, sweet daughters. See that green dress? My mom crocheted that for me when I was little. I wore it on my first day of kindergarten with cowboy boots.
They're bundled up for school, so excited for Christmas break to begin. So many holiday parties, then finally home!
This was Piper's first year to really help with ornaments.
This has to be one of the best days of the year. Violet is really good at decorating. I'm glad she likes to help!
Adam puts his train from when he was a little boy around the base of the tree. The girls set up the snow village this year...they did a good job!
I love those German Christmas pyramids. We add extra candles around the base so it zooms around fast.
Nom! Our traditional Christmas breakfast....salmon and bagels with fruit and mimosas (for grownups)
Then one foggy Christmas Eve...
We have an owl! I get so excited when an owl moves into one of our boxes. I always have my fingers crossed for an owl. One year, a rude duck moved in. What was he thinking??? I don't even know how that duck squeezed itself into the box. It seemed way too small for him.
The soft hooting of an owl mixed with wind blowing through the leaves sounds like home.
The girls worked on gingerbread houses for HOURS.
The gingerbread houses were a big hit. We'll definitely do this again next year.
Making sausage! It's such a chore, but Adam is good at it. The pork is from wild hogs from our place. I like them with extra garlic and jalapenos.
Pigs 'n blankets....homemade beef & wild hog sausage and homemade yeast dough.
We make them every year. Next year we may try making mustard, too.
Adam thought one of the pigs in blankets looked like a baby Ewok.
I don't know what Adam was doing, but this is our celebratory Swiss cheese! We get a little wheel of it every year to eat on Christmas Day.
Cat jammies! We always get matching pajamas for Christmas.
Stringing popcorn and cranberries. I gave my youngest daughter a real needle and she only stuck herself once.
We also used apple jacks to make garlands.
They both ate a bunch of the cranberries. So tart.
It's our Nature Tree! We decorate a small tree for the animals. We even made a star out of toast for the top. By the next morning, almost everything had been eaten.
Our friend Marcia sent us this pretty hand embroidered tablecloth. It's so intricate...it must have taken weeks to make, if not months.
Paintings wrapped up and ready to go to their new homes for Christmas. It's so satisfying to paint for people....I feel like an elf!
Our Girl Scouts troop won 3rd place in our local Christmas parade. We had a Night Before Christmas theme. It was brrrrrr cold-thank goodness we all wore warm jammies. I like any event where the costume is pajamas.
Not really reindeer in the meadow, but we like to pretend. Now I need to put away the last few decorations. I'll think I have everything done, then I find some random Santa or tiny tree. Does that happen to you, to0?
I'm now offering custom portraits here in my Etsy shop.
I can do pets, couples, whole families...whatever you want. These are great holiday gifts, but people like art all year long.
Consider a portrait for a wedding, anniversary, birthday, adoption, save-the-date card, retirement, holiday cards, invitations, and more! You can choose your outfits and details, or I can choose for you.
For the family above, I included some of their hobbies. Clem is into Wing Chun martial arts, Charlotte bakes and decorates cakes, and they enjoy spoiling their dog Moto. In the background, I also painted some of their favorite vacation spots, like Paris, Venice, and La Jolla Cliffs.
I can also create a separate image narrating your personal occasion or story.
You can tell he's totally posing for the camera.
Halloween's blowing in, and it finally feels like autumn is here! Which, in Texas, means that it's finally in the 80s.
We have butterflies all around the pumpkins, and it's finally getting cool enough to open the windows at night. Is there anything better than a soft breeze and the sound of crickets, coyotes, and owls while you sleep?
I'm spending a lot of time in the studio painting and drawing for a children's book illustration class. The Halloween Room is one of my favorite places in October. All those stripes make me happy.
When I start for the day, I'll go in, look up where all the stripes meet, and turn in a circle. It makes me dizzy, and that always makes me giggle a little. Sometimes I'll give the butterly/owl/bat mobile a gentle push and watch it sway. It's like the little creatures are saying hello and swishing some nice ideas towards my brain with their wings.
I usually decorate slowly for seasons...a thing here or there every few days.
Take something down, put something else up. It's a slow progression...kind of a quiet meditation on the seasons.
Trucks show up to pick up load after load of hay. The trees are starting to turn, but it's slow and subtle. I watch the leaves like a hawk, so I notice. It's not the fireworks you get in New England, but I'll take it.
I let the girls choose our costumes. We're the "Amazing Irrgang Bat Circus". They even have a little circus routine where they fly through the hoop and everything! Those kids.
I made that orange pillow last year and still get a little thrill when I see all those orange ruffles. It was the first time I'd tried singe-hemming...you can see how I did it here in this video.
Some recent gnoshing...mussels with garlic, autumn beans over farro, and butternut squash soup with chives and sour cream.
The city of Canton is home to First Monday Trade Days. They are the self-proclaimed "Largest Flea Market in America".
I don't know if that's true or not, but it's pretty dang huge. This isn't even half of it.
Good early omen...I parked under this tree with a teeny owl hole.
I go almost every year. Sometimes I go twice if I'm feeling sparky.
Blooming trees at the entrance.
Huge metal buildings everywhere filled with fine antiques, clothes, furniture, food, junk, whatever. You want it? They've got it.
I want All The Things! I finally started bringing one of those rolling carts with me. It makes your life a lot easier.
She makes really cool bear heads and busts and holiday decorations at She's Off Her Rocker.
This was Sweetie, and she was floppy. I get a kick out of cowpokes and little dogs.
I now have the itch to build enormous metal sculptures. I wish I'd stood in the photo for size, but I only came up to the seagull's chest. It was HUGE! I'm guessing it was in front of a restaurant, maybe? And check out that Chinese dragon costume.
I saw this giant lemon being pulled behind a truck a few years ago. The girls were beside themselves with excitement. They just didn't understand why a ginormous lemon was on the road. This guys was a TALKER! I asked if I could take his photo and he told me..."Sure, hon-but you'd best be careful. I'm wanted in three states."
You know you want this.
Megan...this would be perfect in your place! It's big..about 2 feet across.
Aren't these cool? I like kinetic sculptures.
Barbie Bel Aire convertible!!!
A pile of goldalicious faux-Egyptian jewelry. I plan to re-attach them into one ginormous, noisy necklace. Little silly plastic dogs in gumball machine bubbles for the girls, and a nice vintage ballet costume design book with color prints for framing.
An anchor necklace and a set of sleigh bells. They have glass marbles inside instead of metal, which makes for the softest, most delightful "tinkle". I have a set for the house but wanted bells for the studio door, too
I wanted to find a way to get myself to drink more healthy teas. So THIS fancy business will hopefully motivate me to fill it with pretty herbal drinks. You can put a tealight in the bottom to keep it warm.
A card game called "Woodland Snap". They're adorable and I love all things woodland/forest.
Adam said, "Is that a statue of a guy beating his dog with a gun???"
No. It's not.
My husband's inability to understand public sculpture never fails to amuse me. I think he does it to tease me.
Bye bye, Canton. See you next year!
Day 20-I started making a collection of my favorite children's lullabies. When I'm done, I'm going to burn a CD for my girls.
What were your favorite lullabies as a child? Would you share them with me? I'm trying to put together a CD collection for my girls, and wondered what you guys grew up hearing. They seem to be really regional-even the lyrics are different for friends who lived in different parts of the country. I'd love to hear what your family sang to you!
Here's a sweet one:
I mentioned this friends on Facebook, but wanted to tell you guys, too. Piper's favorite song is "Jolene" by Dolly Parton (she calls her Dolly Barbie), but she totally gets the lyrics wrong. "Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Joleeeeeen...I tell you please don't take my macaroni."
Make it in May, Day 21-I made more mermaid baskets for teacher gifts. We have the best teachers at Wesley Pdo N Prek...we'll miss you guys this summer!
And I made chocolate shells. I'm usually happy with milk/dark chocolates, but I find it harder to melt the white chocolates consistently. I mixed in some fresh strawberries to give them a pinkish shell color. I thought they were fun on brown sugar...looks sort of like sand.
Day 22-Not much today, but I straightened up the fairies hanging above the reading nook. This is the view if you're lying on your back looking up. I hung them from clear filament and they'd gotten tangled up a little. It was rainy...we were lazy...it was nice.
Day 23-We made a day of it in the studio. Piper learned to make "tracks" with her toys in Playdoh, also playing with my Pee Wee Herman doll with the super sped-up voice box (that's not creepy or anything!). It cracks me up when she calls it Daddy Doll.
Violet learned to parry a little more efficiently in her fencing lesson with Adam.
I made breakfast for dinner, and I hope we won't be "making" a trip to the storm cellar tonight since a front is blowing in and the sky is kind of green. I'm also working on a decoupage suitcase, and I'm starting by clipping images from a vintage children's book.
Day 27-I made a start on my mailings to people I admire. This is the project where I'm asking people for advice on happiness and creativity in their forties.
Day 28-I'm taking a look at the grisaille technique again. That's where you do an underpainting in neutrals (usually black & white), then you paint the colored layers in with translucent glazes. I made a stab at learning how to do it a few years back, but never entirely finished my painting. I'm not crazy about the photos I worked from, but it was more of an exercise in technique than anything. I don't do a lot of self-portraits, but I use myself since it's hard to find models out here. I'm glad I tried it, but I'm not entirely pleased with it. It's okay in details, but the overall painting is a little stiff.
Day 30-It was just me and the girls for the past 3 days, so we made it a "Woodland Weekend". Violet loves to pretend we're deer from the forest...she calls me "Mother Deer" and she is my young fawn, Honeysuckle. Piper is, as Violet says, "A plump rabbit we bring around with us."
They wanted me to have "Mother Deer's Restaurant", and we decorated the table with forest stuff and had waffles with berries. We pretend the field mice are in charge of picking berries early in the morning, and the fairies bring the whipped cream.
Day 31-I made Mermaid Accessories!
Make it in May, Day #1-I wrote a quick song on xylophone to get started.
I'm a big fan of Mister Rogers, and I wrote a song that sounded like something cheerful you might hear in Trolley Land.
Day 3- Honeysuckle smells GREAT! I wear this in the spring and summer. Well, I switch perfumes a lot, but this stays in the rotation.
Day 6-Over forty ladies, many of you are on my list! Share them pearls of wisdom, yee haw!
Day #7-We made soap "scrimshaw" carvings with my daughter's group in kindergarten. We carved the soap with toothpicks, then ground up burned wood to make charcoal dust, then smushed it in the carved areas. Mine above, Violet's below-I love Mama Daughter projects!
Day 8-It may be too small by the time fall rolls around, but I'm glad to be close to done. And that yarn makes me look forward to autumn.
Day 11-I made another storytime video to add to my YouTube series. This is Piper's favorite story lately.
Day 12-We made photos at Violet's school's Spring Fling.
They had an open house and set up photo booths outside every class. Great job, LOISD teachers!
Make it in May, Day 16...I finished the poster for my daughter's kindergarten class. It's not perfect because I'm far from a Photoshop expert, but I did the best I could.
Then I cropped all the photos in Photoshop and stacked them together, Brady Bunch-style.
Day 17-Violet and I made cards and small treat bags for her kindergarten's end-of-the-year picnic.
Day 18-I wrote a song to sing and play on harp to accompany Edward Lear's poem "The Owl and the Pussycat". (I'll record it one of these days and share it.) I visited my daughter's kindergarten, and their lovely teacher turned the pages of Jan Brett's book while I played. I came at snack time, so I made blueberry muffins and brought clementines. It was fun to sing some songs, and teach the kids a few that they could sing along with. They're such a happy group!
Day 19-We made supply boxes for some of the victims of the tornado in Van, Texas. It felt disrespectful to take photos while we were there, so I'll share some images of the destruction and clean-up effort I found on Van Texas Tornado Recovery. The community still needs aid and volunteers.
Day 21-Didn't make much, but it was my daughter's kindergarten graduation, then she got out of school all day and we had a Mama-Daughter Day. It was Date Night, so Adam and I are picking blackberries on our country road. I could eat ALL the blackberries...blackberry ice cream, blackberry cobbler, blackberry port, blackberry jam, blackberry smoothies, blackberry EVERYTHING!
I'll share the rest the rest soon!
Nothin' says lovin' like the Jurassic period.
I made a whole batch of "Dinosaurs in Love" for Violet's Valentine's Day party.
I'm coordinating a party with all 4 kindergarten classes together...wish me luck! I've been really fortunate-this is one volunteering group of parents. They all sign up to help and seem happy to be there...yay!
Violet's class will make card holders out of big food canisters, so they'll look kind of like this. Oh boy...Valentine cards! I loved making a shoe box for mail when I was in school. I could barely sleep the night before, wondering what kind of cards I'd get. I always picked out the nicest card for the cute guy in our class, and I tried to make my friends' cards extra special. I'd bring them home and spend hours looking at every single one. Did you get all silly over Valentine's Day, too? Tell me I'm not alone.
That tiny ring was hard to make. So. Many. Glue. Burns.
Didn't we all grow up thinking that noodle slurping scene from Lady and the Tramp was soooo romantic? The spaghetti is embroidery thread and the sauce is nail polish.
T-Rex looks so happy to be getting his cards, doesn't he?
Dino Prom! He has a bow tie to match her hair bow. He's presenting a corsage to her. Adam didn't get it. My husband said he's NEVER in his life bought a corsage for a girl. Pssst...I'll let you pin one on me any day.
"Bye, Honey-have a nice day!"
I like long term, real life, husband/wife/family love best of all! There's no place I'd rather be than with Adam and my girls.
Baby Triceratops even has on a diaper, but you can't see it in this photo.
Gettin' pretty. I think she's going to need a lot of work.
Hot glue is our friend. Seriously...is there anything hot glue can't do?
Getting hungry yet?
"I'm so glad you called!"
Here's old Aunt Jane Austengosaurus penning her love poems. I made the pencil out of a toothpick and used a printer to reduce real Valentines and envelopes to teeny tiny scale.
Holding hands. Aaaaaw.
"I'd kiss me," thinks Velociraptor.
Adam came up with the tail hole. Thanks, honey.
I don't know if you can see it, but I wrote "Max Raptor" on the lipstick. Like "Max Factor"...get it? GET IT PEOPLE???? I think I've inhaled too much hot glue. Can you even do that?
I hope you and the hug-and-smooch-worthy people in your life have a fabulous Valentine's Day!
Did I ever show you guys this?
I think I asked you to guess what all this junk was going to magically transform into to.
Yay for recycling! It wasn't perfect, but we only have 30 minutes to set up everything for their parties, from decorations to food. So....simple and quick is necessary.
I think they had fun. Man it gets crazy with 12 classes in a cafeteria, add parents and it's extra noisy.
I also made some "snow globes" with salt, upside down salad bowls, mini trees, and cake toppers. These are shamefully blurry.
I get a little verklempt when holidays are over, do you?
Have you ever seen those crazy parades in Austria around Christmas where people dressed like Krampus walk down the streets scaring kids? Terrifying!
According to National Geographic:
"Krampus was created as a counterpart to kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets. Krampus, in contrast, would swat "wicked" children and take them away to his lair."
Anyhoo-I'm raising children who like to be stuffed in a sack. They think it's fun! Like I've said before, go ahead and send me money for a therapy fund if you want to. They'll probably need it.
VIolet squeals, "Daddy, daddy-wrap me up in the sack and run!"
What a good father you are, Adam.
And there they go! Notice how not cold Christmas is in Texas?
He ran off to the woods and dumped her. Good times.
Piper rolled herself up in her blanket, all ready to go. "My turn next, Daddy." She waited so patiently.
What am I going to do with these two?
We're not Swedish or Catholic (although I probably should have been), but we celebrate St. Lucia Day on December 13th. The Swedes choose a girl from each home/village to be that year's St. Lucy. In a home setting, it's the oldest daughter still living at home. She wears a crown of real or fake candles, and leads a procession through the darkened house, symbolically bringing light back in the dark of winter. The real St. Lucy was a martyr who met an unfortunate death. Some versions say her eyes were plucked out-eeeek! We skip over that part and go straight for the cookies.
All the kids wear white clothes and red sashes, and the younger siblings are "star girls". Or boys. They serve their parents special pepparkakor cakes and coffee, which are like spicy gingerbread cookies. In our house, the girls sing Santa Lucia while I play harp. This year, Violet sang while Piper did a dance. If you contact me privately, I'll share the video if you want to see it.
Look who snatched that crown the second her sister wasn't looking!
This was the first year we chopped down trees we planted. This is the tree in the studio. I've never had a tall tree before-it seemed like a fun luxury. I had to use a ladder to decorate it.
I decorated it with dolls riding in different sleds and carriages and things. It was our "girl tree".
If I decided anyone was dressed inappropriately, I made them "snow suits" out of quilt batting. There. Doesn't he look better now?
The dolls taking a ride around the base of the tree.
This one sings When You Wish Upon A Star.
I had an old carousel horse/riding toy I finally painted. I couldn't decide between gold and silver. The gold paint gave me better coverage, so gold won.
My Fiesta Room.
More Fiesta Room. Can't get enough Fiesta Room.
The studio is my happy place.
Our friend Magic Mouse (he lives in the wall behind the red door) sent us a gift. He said he was working in New York and found this mouse replica he thought we'd like. It plays a bunch of different Christmas carols and sings. We discovered Magic Mouse is an antiques dealer, so he travels a lot for work.
Little bits of green.
I have four David Delamare Fairy Processional prints...one for spring, summer, autumn, and winter. This is the winter version. I look forward to switching them out every time the seasons change.
I can't believe this was a year ago. Last year, I took Violet to see The Nutcracker. Someone was teasing me about dressing all of us in matching outfits. What are you talking about, Amy? I would never...oh, wait. I look like an overstuffed polar bear, but it was cozy. It looks like Violet is throwing gang signs. I figure I'll only have one or two more years of Mommy & Me outfits before my children say NO.
Violet was so itty bitty. Why are my babies growing up?
Waaaah! Christmas is over for another year. I'd better get busy enjoying January. I feel like it's always half over before I'll allow myself to realize it's a new year.
I like to decorate every last nook and cranny. Here's the Arabian Nights room. I hid a "surprise" nativity under the bed for the girls to find.
I found some tiny Morroccan lantern lights at Big Lots.
You have to get down on your tummy to look at it. That's half the fun. Unless you're old like me and everything makes creaking noises. When did I start making creaking noises???
What's that? Is it a procession of camels? In case you wondered, the wires are "travel limiters". Thanks, Adam-you're a genius. That way, when my children play on the bed, it can only swing so far before it stops. I didn't want them playing monkey and knocking a hole in my walls.
There it is! That's a super bright manger. Someone shield baby Jesus's eyes, please.
Those camels have tiny things carved inside them. Their backs are hollowed out, and there are intricate little whittlings inside. I'd show you one, but I had enough trouble crawling under there and setting the whole thing up as it is.
Shhhh. He's sleeping.
Charlotte, thanks again for this tapestry. It couldn't be much more perfect for this room. I love how sneaky and tempestuous everyone looks. Do you think they stole her? I think they stole her. So un-p.c. these days.
Blurriness plagued me in 2014. But I shall decorate everything anyway.
One last peek. Good night!
I thought I'd try to post some holiday photos before it got too far away from Christmas.
Piper and I visited Violet's school-isn't that a nice tree?
Violet's piece for Art Night, made of tissue paper. They did a segment on the work of Eric Carle, author of The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar.
We went to the Twelve Days of Christmas display at the Dallas Arboretum. They had twelve giant glass gazebos depicting scenes from the song. These are totally out of order, but here are the twelve drummers drumming.
We're being silly in front of the ten lords a'leaping.
The displays were in order at the gardens, by the way. Just out of order here.
Eleven pipers piping. I love kilts. And bagpipes. There was bagpipe music, of course.
Isn't that partridge lovely? Like a Klimt painting.
Each gazebo even had a corresponding weather vane. Here is the tippy top of three French hens display.
The eight maids a milking were so funny. The cows' tails even swished.
Violet, being glamorous.
Nine ladies dancing. They all rotated around that circular track. The dresses were so detailed-a costume lover's dream!
The seven swans a'swimming were my favorite.
Squeal! That TIARA!!!
So many details...like this bunny peeking out from under a tree.
The five golden rings-they all rotated, too.
Violet dashing off through the crepe myrtle allee.
She's loved those spitting frogs since she was a baby.
All right...more holiday photos coming soon.
Fa la la. I'm tired of decorating now.
I love it up to a point, then I think...I'm going to have to take all of this DOWN soon! I like it when Thanksgiving is earlier, then we have another week to enjoy the holiday stuff.
Notice anyone's first school photo?
I finally cleaned off the top of the piano, just to add more stuff back.
We cut down our own trees this year! It was fun to choose one from the baby trees we've nurtured for five years now.
Thanks again to Stacy for our weirdo portrait, Leonard. May he watch over our festivities for years to come.
Adam has been scary lately. Okay, not scary exactly, but getting even bigger. I didn't think that was possible. He's still winning lots of trophies and such. He's obsessed with this arm wrestling, I tell you.
I'm not sure where this is going, but I'm suspicious. I see Mooskies, Christmas weasel, squirrel baby, and twist ties.
Are you guys knee-deep in holiday stuff? I feel behind this year.
Not like anyone cares about my Halloween shenanigans halfway through November, but I'm going to get these dang photos posted so it's not hanging over my head.
Beautiful Medusa descending the stairs. In the reading nook underneath, there are oodles of fairies and butterflies floating overhead. The girls love to nap and dream in there. More photos soon.
I really like this deep purple variety of morning glories...they're called "Grandpa Ott".
See the pretty purplish candy cane pucker they make when they close?
Bowling for Barbie. Or Bratz. Those dolls aren't good for much else. It's satisfying to knock them over with a bowling ball.
Good old fashioned "bite the apple on a string".
That game is harder than it looks.
After years of starting seedlings, I finally got a moonflower to bloom.
The spinner board is covered with vintage beauties in costumes. This is from a game I made called "Halloween Hullabaloo".
It's hard to explain this when people aren't playing, but you stand on either side of the pumpkins facing your partner. You have a butterfly net, and toss 3 rubber bats to each other, trying to catch them.
My sloppy scoreboard. Let's see, we played all sorts of stuff...darts, tic tac toe, mini golf, bowling, archery, vile vials, bat catch, ring toss, costume contest (my friend Laura the well-loved-doll won!), Halloween pictionary, movie guessing game, spider sumo wrestling (don't ask), broom races, and the rest is a blur.
My pogo stick. What? You don't have a Halloween pogo stick? Why not?
Hear all the ladypeople cackling?
I'm going to eat that pie pumpkin soon. Mmmmmmm.
See all the paper bags on the table? Those were my Tricks or Treats. Throughout the evening, everyone got one trick and one treat. If you were good, you got things like pumpkin scented lotion, or a small painting. If not, well then.....a rock, a broken calculator, or a scorpion in a jar for you!
I set up a not-so-ambitious mini golf game.
I'll have to put more thought into that next year.
But hey...can I get points for the empty pumpkin can buried in the ground for the hole?
The Arabian Nights room, waiting for guests. We finally hung all those lanterns! More photos of that later, too.
Food. Because hey...it tastes good.
Adam was a love to grill chicken and shrimp and veggies and whip up margaritas.
We made rice bowls with black beans and a bunch of veggies. And a sage-y pumpkin sausage soup that I could eat every day if someone else made it.
"Vile Vials" game...I filled a dozen beakers with a variety of smells, and you had to guess what was in them. This one was hard, apparently! The best score was 6 out of 12, by our resident soap maker, so she's used to sniffing stuff. I had things like wintergreen, patchouli, lavender....I should have used vinegar, nail polish remover, motor oil, and nasty stuff. Maybe next year.
I spray painted some tall candle holders black to make "pumpkin stands". I need to repaint those red drums. I just dread using industrial paint stripper to get the stuff off. It smells terrible, and will take your skin off if you're not careful.
Boy, that was fun. Sniff! Only three hundred and forty eight more days until next Halloween.
A few photos from my Halloween party. My friends do Bunco or GGN (Girly Game Night) once a month. I hosted in October, and decided to throw a Halloween Carnival!
Crows on scissor tree.
Skeletons saying hello above the door.
I vant you to turn on the light.
I was a pinata.
The main studio.
I made a vintage style game....Feed the Cat!
The squeaky rats to toss through the cat's mouth.
No surface left un-falled.
Poor shivering Mooskies.
My flowers finally bloomed just before my party---whew.
I made the garlands. I'll put up a tutorial soon.
I love being outside this time of year.
I even painted the watering can.
Pennants blowing in the breeze.
A "training broom".
My Fiesta Room, full of sewing and gift wrapping stuff.
A peek into the Halloween Room.
We had great weather-I'm so relieved.
Pumpkin vines creeping all the way up to the porch.
Time for the guests to arrive!
Ready for some Halloween overload?
I'm a little behind this year, but I'd rather be doing than blogging most of the time. Especially if it involves my kiddos.
Violet wanted us to be a family of deer, so they are fawns and I'm Mother Deer. One of Violet's favorite games is to pretend I'm a mother deer and she's my fawn. Her name is Honeysuckle, I'm Mother Deer, and we live in the woods. OR...she's Violet, and I'm the deer who doesn't understand the ways of people. Like...I'll ask why she doesn't eat grass, or I always forgot the word for "shoes", or I get confused about light switches. She thinks that's hilarious.
Violet has been friends with Brylee since they were two. I'm so happy they're in the same kindergarten class! Also-Piper's photo bombing cracks me up.
I'm glad I got to be her class room mother this year. I made our carnival game..."Feed the Cat". We had the kids throw those rubber squeaky rats through the cat's mouth. We had a bunch of great parent volunteers from the class-thanks, other parents! This is the lovely and very involved Shawna, mom of another sweet girl in Violet's class.
I am such a fan of carnival games. Good ones, bad ones, hokey ones-I love 'em all!
Spinner games are fun! I want to make one for myself.
This is a bit blurry, but I wanted to show the back of their costumes. I love the little white spots. I just painted them on with craft paint. I made the ears with felt. I took old Santa hats and dismantled them...the band became the cuffs and the ball on top became their tails.
I dressed up, too, but we only have one shot of us together. I was making a ridiculous face and having a major costume malfunction. But darn it---I had on antlers! Getting sugared up kids to be still is nearly impossible, isn't it?
I like the sound Plinko makes.
Violet and her friend Lily Rose...such cute flower names!
There were a bunch of Elsas!!!
Our friend Marcia made a lovely version for Violet. She was so happy she held out the "prissy hand".
Violet had trepidations about the "Nose Picker Game".
"What was that?" She was horrified when green silly string "snot" sprayed out on her hand. "I do not ever want to play that game again."
The bouncy house made things better.
Bouncy fawns. Poor Piper can't stay upright very long in the bounce house.
Violet kept lunging. I have no idea why. Maybe she thought she was getting on all fours like a deer? She'd just suddenly bust out into a lunge all night.
Did you guys go to a carnival? We're about to watch Charlie Brown-it's not Halloween without it!
Do you have a favorite Halloween special? Le snort. Like they even have "specials" anymore. You have to be fairly *cough* mature to even know what a "special" is.
To me, it's not Halloween with It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
This is the Paul Lynde Halloween Special.
I'm not sure who this Paul Lynde is, but he is something else. He has that heavily made up, frantic, slightly fruity and smarmy air that men who hosted these things only seemed to have in the seventies. It features Margaret Hamilton in her only reprisal of the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz. And Betty White, KISS, and Danny & Marie Osmond.
Anyone else addicted to Pinterest? I thought so.
(Thanks to the Bad Joke Eel from Quickmeme.com)
I'm putting together some links to my autumn and Halloween-themed Pinterest boards here. Grab a pumpkin spice latte or some apple cider, and sit down for some serious pinning!
(Click on the titles to go to the Pinterest Board.)
I get a surge of MustOrganizeEverything before school starts, do you? I doubt I could keep this going, but this lady fascinates me. Her name is Linda Koopersmith and she has a plan for how to fold ANYTHING. She has lots of ideas about organizing, too.
Thanks, Closet Lady.
Check out more of her tutorials here on YouTube.
Some gifts from the woods...giant leaves. This one's from a sassafras tree. The leaves are used in Cajun cooking to make file powder. That's made by drying the leaves, then grinding them. It's also a key ingredient in sarsaparilla and some root beers. The verdict is out on how harmful the plant is, so we leave it alone.
Here's another poisonous (but pretty) plant out in our woods-silverleaf nightshade. All parts of it are toxic, but the highest concentration is found in the berries. It's a member of the potato family.
I'm awfully enamoured of these wee mushrooms that spring up after a good rain. These are in our Oak Grove, leading up to the spot where we said our vows. I think of them as a carpet of love mushrooms. Like fairies spent all night conjuring them in our special place. Because, obviously, fairies have nothing better to do.
It's so been humid and hot I feel like these ice sculptures by Nele Azevedo. Aren't they curious? It would be surreal to be on your way to work, walking up your everyday stairs, to see these guys. I know she meant them as a statement about global warming, but I think they're just plain old fun.
I've had this idea in my head for a long time...a hummingbird feeder chandelier. I couldn't find exactly what I wanted, so I decided to make one myself.
...a bunch of "stuff" from a thrift store.
I wired it all together, spray painted it, added a bunch of dollar store jewels, then stuck on small hummingbird feeders.
Voila! Now I just have to figure out where to hang it.
Our apples are ready! The girls helped us pick them this year. At least the ones on the lowest branches.
A quick video of Mooskies' hiding spot under the pear tree.
I made an apple crumble. Mmmm...I love crumbles. If you swap out brown sugar for white, the sides cook up into a nice caramel candy gooey crunchiness on the sides.
Doesn't this look good? Fresh apple ice cream from Parsley Sage Sweet. (recipe here)
Tomatoes and turnips. I didn't grow them, but someone did.
We found a toad! There are dozens of teeny frogs and toads around the house and studio this summer. They make the best croaking noises. Do you guys have more frogs than usual? Our friend has a huge crop of tarantulas. Glad we missed that.
I went a little crazy with a Pinterest board: Memories from 1970s-80s. I drank a lot of Crystal Light out of that pitcher.
Wow. I did not miss that show. Did you guys watch "Little House on the Prairie"?
Mexican dresses. Maybe it's because I grew up in Texas, but every person I know had one of these.
What do YOU associate with being a kid?
I love rainy days.
It was so dark we ate breakfast by candlelight.
The light stays weak and watery all day, streaming through the plants. I still have some chocolate mint and lavender going strong. I've killed the dill and the parsley's almost gone, though.
Pitter pattering on the roof is such a comforting sound. I just want to curl up and nap and read books. So we did.
I got sunburned on Saturday, and snow on Sunday. Texas weather!
We're home for a snow day today, how about you?
Violet begged and begged to go outside. She got all bundled up, then stayed out all of five minutes. She and Piper wanted to stick their hands out the door and touch the snow.
Piper loves to sneak up next to me and stick her hand inside my shirt with her cold little hands. It makes me shriek, which she thinks is funny.
Saturday was in the eighties. I had on shorts, for the love of Pete. Sorry honey-the photo doesn't do you justice-but I wanted to show you how warm it was. Violet kept saying, "My back is hot."
In case you were wondering, Adam was teaching Violet how to survey. Or at least do the part where she holds the measuring stick. I'm sure that thing has a more official sounding name.
Notice the owl hat and the owl in the background? Violet pretended to be "Owla" all day.
Eighty-two degrees Saturday, fifteen degrees Sunday. Plus sleet and snow.
Poor snow cactus.
Back inside for cocoa by the fire.
We spent a bit of time talking about Flora & Ulysses today. (It won this year's Newberry Medal.) We've been reading a bit every day and finished it last night. We kind of hated for it to end.
What a fun, silly book! Squirrel gets sucked into a vacuum, gets turned into a super hero, hijinks ensue.
Here's a yummy recipe for crockpot oatmeal from Mavis. I call it porridge. Because...hmm, well-I guess because it sounds more like something out of a fairy tale. Something bears would eat.
We had ours with walnuts, dried cherries, and lotsa butter and brown sugar.
The problem is...I don't want to clean that pot. I coated the crock pot with butter last night, but it still left a crusty mess around the edges. Bleh. Don't wanna.
If you live north of, say-Oklahoma, you probably roll your eyes every time some Texan posts snow photos. But to us...this is lots of snow. It seems like an event.
Clyde is going to get petted a lot today. Whether he likes it or not.
Piper and Mooskies are buddies.
She's putting bracelets on his nose.
See the silly doll? One of Piper's favorite toys is a beaver piggy bank named Meep.
Chilly evening, warm food:
Crock pot chicken thighs, mushroom thyme soup over rice, mexicorn
Homemade chicken noodle soup, crackers cheese and pickles. That's such a "little kid lunch", huh? I always loved Campbell's Chicken 'N Stars soup...did any of you eat that growing up?
Look what we found at the studio! One day, we were just minding our business when we noticed this beautiful little red door had appeared in the loft.
At first, we just had this little open area in the wall. We hoped that some magical creature might want to move in. Boy did we get lucky, huh?
Violet went upstairs one day and yelled "Mama! Come quick-there's a little door in the wall." I said, "You're so silly." She screamed-"NO! I'm SERIOUS! I'm not pretending. I'm not playing make believer. There is a DOOR in the WALL."
We think a "Magic Mouse" might have moved in. We're not sure why we think that exactly, it just seemed like a strong possibility.
We thought we should introduce ourselves.
We wanted to introduce ourselves. We're the Irrgang family-Daddy (Adam), Mama (Laura), Violet (5), and Piper (1 1/2).
We live in the house next door, but we'll be spending a lot of time in this studio.
Are you a mouse? We weren't sure. We really like your red door.
Let us know if you need anything. We hope we don't make too much noise or disturb you.
We'd all really like to be friends with you.
Goodbye! The Irrgangs
P.S. Is this the best way to contact you?
Daddy helped Violet deliver the envelope.
Violet was very very very excited.
We had to remind her to be quiet so we wouldn't scare our new friend away.
We've decided not to try to open the door. After all, we wouldn't like it if some stranger opened our front door.
Do you think whoever or whatever it is will write us back? We sure hope so.
There's more snow, so we're snuggling down hard.
Cinnamon and clementine oatmeal for breakfast. And pot after pot of coffee.
Piper just wanted to get bundled up and eat snacks on the porch.
We made snow ice cream! Here's a recipe from Five Wooden Spoons Blog. I made a smaller batch, and used heavy cream.
Poor Piper...the snow on the porch didn't taste as good as the snow ice cream.
Hey, art people-do you ever forget you painted something? I do. I found this when I was unpacking studio boxes. I thought it would be good on the mantle for February...like a box of Valentine chocolates.
Back inside. More cocoa.
Blurry blurry...but sometimes I don't want to ruin the whole experience by spending a lot of time trying to get the photo just right. It's hard to work camera buttons with gloves on. I think I drive my family nuts with the camera, anyway.
I put together a collection of snowy illustrations over here at The Rhinetone Bookmark.
Here's a Pinterest board I made:
Here are photos of the rest of the studio.
In the Halloween Room, we have a "love window" between my studio and Adam's shop. Yes, we're annoying. We set it up so that we can see each other all the way into the big white room. It's nice to be working on something and be able to wave at each other or open the window to chat.
I tell you, painting that ceiling was something else.
This is the door leading into the Arabian Nights room. I designed the shape and Adam made it. I love it! It makes me so happy to walk through that Moroccan arch.
It's hard to tell, but I did a different floor color in the Halloween room. It's more of a rusty coca-cola color and the other rooms are more greyish.
The hole in the wall is for a speaker. They're in now, and painted the same shade of indigo so they blend in.
In the above photo, I hadn't painted the duct yet, but it's done below.
This will serve as our media/guest room. We're hanging a bed from the ceiling from chains so it swings. I have tons of lanterns I'm hanging from the ceiling, too. I want it to look like an Arabian lantern shop.
Okay...out of the little rooms and back to the stairs. I'm thinking of putting a small couch under the stairs to make a reading nook for the girls. And me, too. I love to snuggle up in a little place and read.
Up and up and up.
I stained the risers by hand. I tried to get them about the same shade as the floor.
Here's the loft. I'm going to use it for a small gallery and as my office. I finally got the floor right. Did I tell you I had bubbles and a haze in my top coat? I had to sand off half of the floor and start over. Drat. It turned out how I wanted, though.
This was my Grandpa's organ. Aren't the gothic arches pretty?
The view looking towards the stairs.
Looking down into the main studio area.
That's it! Now I have to finish moving in and kill all the spiders and scorpions. Let the creating commence!
Welcome! Come on in and have a studio tour.
I meant to share this earlier, but you know...holidays, illness, small children, life.
We celebrated the studio's "official birthday" around Thanksgiving. Happy birthday, studio. Clink!
What should I call it? The Rhinestone Armadillo Studio? I frequently refer to it as LaLaLand. (Some of my friends call me LaLa.)
It was nighttime when Adam drove in the final nail, but I woke Violet up so she could come enjoy the studio party, too.
I scooted a table and chairs in for a little celebration.
Adam and I popped some champagne and nibbled tasty tidbits.
Violet described caviar as "salty blackberries".
Every light lights. Every window opens. Every switch switches. Finally.
Here's what you see when you walk in the front door.
See my cute little wood burning stove?
This is looking back at the front door.
My sink. And lotsa windows.
My owl box!
This is where I'll keep most of my sewing and craft supplies. It's super colorful. I haven't decided on a name yet. The Catholic Kitsch Room? The Fiesta Room? Maybe just "Mexico".
We bought cheapo wood and I distressed it a bit and stained it. The walls are very loud. Bubble gum pink, acid yellow, fire engine red, and aqua.
Next is the Halloween Room. That door leads into Adam's shop.
This is looking through the Halloween Room into the Bright Room Full of All My Things. See the little square window? That's a secret. I'll tell you about it later. Maybe.
More in Part Two.
Well, it's over for another year, isn't it? I feel a bit dazed...do you guys? I am still sick, and all I can think about it trying to get well again. Sorry to be whiny, but dang-I don't think I've ever been sick for this long in my whole life.
Here are my little loves peeking through the doggie door. Mooskies is so tiny we just installed a cat door.
Violet "helpfully" lifts the flap and yells, "Mama-Piper's crying!"
Poor Piper. She's at that age where separation anxiety has kicked in. If I leave to take out the trash, get wood for the fire, unload groceries...whatever, she cries. If I run to the bathroom, she cries and shoves her chubby little arm under the door, sobbing, "Mama..mama..mama!". If I go into another room to put away laundry, she cries. If I go outside to sign for a UPS package, she wails.
It's sort of flattering. Sort of.
And poor baby is teething. She is usually so happy...it's heartbreaking to see those tears. If I rub her gums where the teeth are breaking through, it seems to help. She toddles up, grabs my hand, and tries to push my hand into her mouth so I'll rub her teeth. Isn't that the most pathetic thing?
I wish she would chew on those teething toys, frozen rags, etc., but she doesn't seem interesting in anything I give her. We have some organic teething tablets that seem to help a little, but she seems miserable.
It's the time of year we make and repair our birdhouses. Actually, Adam does it all, and I follow him with a chart and a camera. We check the state of every box, clean out old nests, spiders, wasps, whatever was in there, add new hay, then document it all for the tax folks.
I like the Princess Leia angels on top. See their cinnamon bun hairstyles?
Around and around and around they go.
Tasty pots of food on the stove. You can never go wrong with a classic cassoulet and fresh bread. In the cassoulet, I never use duck fat. Who has duck fat lying around? Not us. I skip all the duck ingredients, actually. I'm just not a fan of duck...so greasy. I substitute bacon grease instead.
Wait...I just complained about duck greasiness and then said I use bacon grease. Okay, I'm a cooking hypocrite, but you'll just have to forgive me.
I'll miss that little tower watching over our meals. The girls watch it, Piper pointing happily and said, "Hyeh!" and Violet just smiling and smiling.
Food tastes better in the winter, doesn't it? There's something so comforting about being inside on a cold day and eating something yummy. Candles make it even better.
The winter foxes have moved into the pink dollhouse for the holidays.
Adam and I like to make them kiss. We're going to irritate the heck out of our kids when they're old enough to be embarrassed by us, aren't we?
Violet requested "coppers and cream" for breakfast. It took me a while to figure that one out.
She meant bagels with cream cheese and capers. Coppers...see? Yes, well. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out stuff like that. We like bagels with smoked salmon, capers, red onion, and cream cheese. I guess we know Violet's favorite part of that equation now.
And here's a very boring video of my baby Piper. Because I can't help myself. I know it's just another baby smearing chalk and crayons around, but she's my baby. So that automatically makes her the shiniest, most happy-making thing in the world. To me, at least. Is there anything better than holding a baby on your lap and sniffing her head? No, I didn't think so.
Okay...here are the rest of our Thanksgiving photos. Most of these were taken by Eric's girlfriend-so thanks, Lin!
Eric and Lin. She has the best smile.
They flew into Dallas and spent a morning at Thanksgiving Square.
That was the week of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assasination, so I was afraid Dallas would be packed. They said it wasn't too bad, though.
On the way back to our place, Adam took Eric and Lin to The Bass Pro Shop. Even if that's not your kind of place, I'd encourage you to stop by if you ever get the chance. That place is amazing! This is the top of a 3 story aquarium filled with local fish.
Adam and Eric made home-ground burgers made of brisket and bacon. Mmmm....bacon.
They also made a bunch of bratwurst. It looks so gross in the casings, but it's yummy after it's off the grill.
Check out his spelunking lamp for night grilling. Such a Boy Scout, that one.
I was busy with food stuff, so I didn't get a great turkey photo. It's not invisible...we had one, I swear. Adam smoked it. It went on his grandmother's platter.
Pecan and pumpkin pie with chocolate leaves and acorns. I used Adam's Russian grandmother's recipe for pumpkin pie that uses a cup of bourbon.
I am so thankful for... my wonderful husband and two little girls.
And this year...this studio. I hope I can make some happy-inspiring things in here. More photos coming soon. I promise. Buuuuttt.....Adam's driving home from the airport with guests right this very minute. So I need to finish up here and do all those last minute "company's coming" things.
...my quirky, reliable, handsome husband Adam. I couldn't ask for a better match. I've been so lucky in love. Thank you for being such a great husband.
...and my sweet, sweet baby...oh, Piper. I want to eat you.
I couldn't have gotten any luckier with this family. What did I do to deserve you?
And last but not least...
I'm thankful for all of you guys!
Thanks for being part of my life. Even though most of us have never met in person, I'm continually blown away by your generosity and friendliness. The internet lets us find our own tribe, you know? Thanks for being part of my days, even if it's from a computer screen. I wish more of you were close enough to come over and have coffee. I don't know where I'd put all of you, but we'd figure something out.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Know why I'm doing the happy dance?
(I'll give you guys a studio tour next week. I'm off to The Nutcracker with Violet.)
What little things are you guys falling in love with lately?
Aunt Stephanie has an October birthday, so I made a doll that looks like her. Or as close as I could make it.
we love you, Aunt Stephanie! We're so glad you're in our family.
P.S. If you're in our family and I haven't made a doll out of you, I love you, too. I just haven't made a doll version of you. Yet.
Happy happy, joy joy. Five dollar thrift store orange silk chair. Yes.
Isn't that a great color?
Pumpkin smoothies using Pioneer Woman's recipe. So good. So autumny.
I'm having some trouble with the studio floor. I think I told you guys, but I've decided to do a decorative acid stain on the concrete. I spend almost all my free time working on the studio these days.
We put down construction paper before the drywall texture went on, and it was secured with masking tape. Painter's tape wouldn't stick, and just laying the paper on the floor didn't work since there are multiple ladders, scaffolds, and tools being lugged across the space every day.
The best thing we could find was to lay rags soaked in mineral spirits on the residue, let it sit about 10 minutes, then scrape at all of that with a putty knife. Then, I scrubbed it with a sudsy mixture of dish soap and water. Theeennnn, I mopped all of that with TSP.
In the meantime, everything is piled in mind-numbing heaps in Adam's shop.
I realize this is not a horrible problem to have, but it's still making me a little batty. I feel like I've been living out of boxes for years now. It will be done soon. It WILL. And I'm very, very grateful to have a studio at all. I just want it to be done NOW.
Growing up, I always thought I wanted an exciting, glamorous, rock star lifestyle. I'd dream of being an adult and envision myself flying off to Rome for dinner, drinking champagne every night, wearing ball gowns, and dancing until dawn. I never factored in how much my wants would change. (And that everything costs money. ) If you'd told 15-year-old-me I'd be happiest standing in the kitchen making bread while my daughter colors and my baby sings, I'd have laughed at you.
Now, I like those days best...the ones where nothing monumental happens, but you're happy.
by Barbara Crooker
This was a day when nothing happened,
the children went off to school
without a murmur, remembering
their books, lunches, gloves.
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor.
And lunch blended into naptime,
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards,
one of those jobs that never gets done,
then sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea,
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch's little scraps.
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow,
preened and flashed his jeweled head.
Now a chicken roasts in the pan,
and the children return,
the murmur of their stories dappling the air.
I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb.
We listen together for your wheels on the drive.
Grace before bread.
And at the table, actual conversation,
no bickering or pokes.
And then, the drift into homework.
The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa's ridges and hills.
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss,
tasting of coffee and cream.
The chicken's diminished to skin & skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the hard knuckle of the year,
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
into the winter night.
More hay. Hay in hair. Hay in diapers. Hay everywhere.
We had our hay baled by Farmer Jonathan (thanks!) on a week no rain was in the forecast. Two random thunderstorms popped up on two separate evenings, so we frantically loaded up hay bales until 10:00-11:00 both nights. It DID rain the second night, so I'm glad we got it all in.
They start to mold almost immediately after getting wet. Also, there's a freaky thing that happens...wet bales can catch on fire. Isn't that crazy? You can drive by wet bales after a few rainy days and see them smoking.
Also, if hay molds, it gets dusty and that dust can hurt a horse's respiratory tract.
(If you can't see above, here is a very boring little video of what we do. It usually goes much faster than this.)
I drive the truck or pull the trailer with a small tractor and Adam throws the bales on. Repeat. And repeat and repeat. It's hot, dusty work. Violet had a great time, though.
When the trailer got full, it was hard for the tractor to pull it, and it ended up doing wheelies. I didn't let the clutch out slowly enough, and the tractor would rear up on two wheels like a horse. Some were tiny, but once, it popped up and I was driving it on two wheels and screaming and hanging on for dear life. I didn't know if it would fall all the way backwards or not, and I was afraid to jump off in case it fell in my direction.
Oh, and did I mention I can't really drive a standard? I know HOW, but it just never works very well for me.
Adam's friend Jesse was helping us load, and he was able to pull the front of the tractor down. I know it's just everyday stuff to most farmers, but I thought it was scary.
Sometimes I ride on the back with Violet. Man, I sound like such a hick.
To make a long story short (too late, huh?) it's really important to keep your bales out of the rain. Oh...and if anyone in our area needs hay, we've got some.
Oooh...check out this 19th century French carved walnut panel with Owl and Bat. It's starting on eBay at $4,200-way out of my price range.
I couldn't find the contractor shoes with spikes that strap on over you own shoes. You're not supposed to walk on the floor when the acid stain is down, or regular shoes can leave footprints. So, I picked up some Goodwill track cleats, since the little spikes don't leave ugly shoe prints on the floor. Golf spikes will work, too. Some people wear booties, but I've read on forums that those can still leave an impression.
Here's what it looked like after I scraped all the muck off and mopped it three times.
-top third = Black Walnut (80% stain, 20% water)
-left middle third = Desert Amber (80/20)
-right middle third = Ginger Root (80/20)
-lower third = Black Walnut (50% stain, 50% water)
In the middle circle, we sprayed water heavily, thinking it would give us an idea of what it would look like to further dilute the stain.
The final colors will be darker. The directions said that wetting the concrete will give us a good idea of the final appearance.
What do YOU think? Do you have a color preference?