Friday Featured Favorites: Plein and Original

I’vebeen looking forward to featuring this shop, because it has some beautiful, wonderful art! The name of this shop is OriginalOnly by Suren. I love birds and the picture on the right caught my eye.

There’s a lot of nature on this shop: flowers, sea creatures, owls, insects, elephants and cats. It’s not always easy to capture such creatures, but the art Suren has done here, using oils for more perspective and dramatic looks, as well as watercolors, looks alive.

On his biography on the shop, Suren mentioned that he did Plein Air painting. I asked him about this, and he mentioned that he painted things how he felt they appeared, either larger or smaller, brighter or darker, and paints whatever is around him. He also mentioned something I found very interesting; that if he moves somewhere new, it takes him several months to get used to the colors and feels of the place, which is certainly good to keep in mind for artists.

I’ve noticed that people tend to pick their professions from a very early age, as is the case with this wonderful artist. He started painting at 3 and couldn’t stop, finding inspiration with artists like Monet and Pissaro, early 20th Century artists.

Suren has also illustrated several Armenian children’s books (which I would be very interested to see) and his work has appeared on several American TV shows.

You can see more of Suren’s art on his official website here, or look around on this website, both of which looks like a lot of fun.

On Suren’s Etsy shop he specifies that he can do custom orders, which gives wide possibilities, as well as all the paintings being original.

I invite everyone to take a look at Suren’s Etsy shop here. I had a fun time looking around while I worked on this post, so I think you will too.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!



Thankfulness Thursdays: A Perspective of Gratitude

Gratitude is important. Just being grateful for what you have changes everything about how you see the world – even if you aren’t wealthy, your car is falling to pieces, your family is weird, your job is lousy (or you don’t have one). Truly appreciating what you have – family, transportation, job, a bit of money in your pocket – is so much happier than always focusing on the lack or irritation. Finding the joy and beauty in your own backyard, in fact, makes your life better and more enjoyable. And, incidentally, gives you the practice to find the joy and beauty in the moon, for instance, if you should happen to go there.

I know all of this from experience. The past year and a half have been really hard for the three of us; dealing with unemployment, and then a job that’s far from perfect, trying to start businesses, worrying about why life seems stuck at the moment. But I have found that there are so many things to be thankful for even in the hardest moments. Safety and shelter and family love. Blossoming friendships and loyal canine companionship. Creativity (too much sometimes!) and the opportunity to exercise it. I could go on. I’ve learned a lot about how necessary, and de-stressing, gratitude can be.

So it seemed like a good thing to highlight things we’re thankful for every Thursday until Thanksgiving. What better way to mark the holiday, after all?

There are so many blessings in our lives that I think I’ll get the easy ones out of the way first. A bit like someone who just won an Oscar, but heartfelt and less gushy.

  • An awesome, supportive, and,  yeah, weird family.
  • The opportunity to try turning our crafting skills into a career.
  • Amazing friends who are inspiring, helpful, critical in a good way, and willing to try out our insane ideas.
  • Place (which aren’t places) like Etsy and NaNoWriMo and WordPress, full of creative people, and people with the kind of skills and organization to put it all together.
  • And you, dear reader! Of course!

The Lord has really blessed us! Even with the strange, difficult stuff.

Honestly, at the moment I don’t really feel like being grateful. It’s been a tough and unproductive day in the middle of a hectic few weeks. But I know how much I have been blessed with, and I need to take a moment to stop demanding more and simply be thankful for what I have.

How about you? Is there anything that you’re not sure if you really like that’s also a blessing? What strange thing are you grateful for?


Bad Habits (and Good Aspirations!)

A picture of an autumn path in the mountains. Not bad, but not as sharp as I want
One thing I wanted to do was fix my camera’s ISO problem, and my PC’s refusal to save photo edits. Here’s a picture of an autumn path in the mountains. Not bad, but not as sharp as I want.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I outlined my “autumn ambitions,” so it’s probably time for an update! I kept it simple there, because you probably don’t want to read my strange and exhaustive to-do lists (which often say things like “make FK&C CD” or “sourdough” or “lunch/hunting”); the four things I mentioned actually cover about 50 small tasks that usually overwhelm me if I think about them too much.

But since all of that was stuff which I REALLY NEED to do, I’ve been busy tackling it in the last weeks. Of course, I’m not as far along as I want to be. There’s still a lot that I need to do. But that’s another post for another day! Actually, I’ve done several major things, utilizing the system of rewards and incentives that I outlined, and feel a sense of accomplishment that should carry me on into the next big effort.

My incentive! Haven’t seen the movie (and don’t want to), but the music is wonderful. I purchased it in the morning, with a strict no-listening proviso, and got a lot done that day. Interesting…

In the last couple of (really busy!) learned a lot about myself and what I need to do to keep moving forward:

  • I have formed way too many bad habits (like procrastination).
  • Don’t plan a lot for a week that I know is going to be crazy. Too much just adds to my stress, and guilt when I don’t get to it.
  • I work best when I have the house to myself.
  • I have to take “me” time – or it will take me!
  • A solid incentive, which is just out of reach, does help.
  • As my own boss, it’s ok to set goals. So a little bit of stress in trying to reach the goals is fine.
  • But it’s a bad boss that yells at an employee who has fallen behind.
  • Sometimes, it takes setting so many goals that I panic to make me get work done.
  • This is a bad habit.
  • Maybe do small jobs as they come up.
  • Letting such little things pile up is another bad habit.
  • That thing I’ve been putting off because it’s difficult or intimidating? Just do it. It’s not that bad!
  • Overcoming my issues with all this will be a long-term process – so many bad habits are involved!
  • So I can’t give up after only a couple of weeks of hard work.
With the help of my awesome tech guy (who doubles as my dad) and other friends, I can now edit! Here's the same pic with probably too many filters and tweaks. Success!
With the help of my awesome tech guy (who doubles as my dad) and Alexandra, a photographer friend, I can now edit! Here’s the same pic with probably too many filters and tweaks. Success!

This week is looking like another crazy-busy one, so I’ll try to keep all of this in mind as I tackle it. Big projects are coming up, so we’ll update. And probably stress, freak out, and panic. Some habits are hard to break!


Saturday Random Recipes: Candy-Like Cookies

Introducing a new semi-regular weekly feature!

We’ve always wanted to include recipes and talk of food and ingredients in our blog. So on Saturdays as often as possible we are going to start putting out some of our favorite recipes.

This, alas, was our very last candy-like cookie. We forgot to take pictures of our most recent batch before there was only one left. It's like that with these treats!
This, alas, was our very last candy-like cookie. We forgot to take pictures of our most recent batch before there was only one left. It’s like that with these treats!

First, something that we try not to make too often because it tastes way too good:

Candy-Like Cookies

(Aka No-Bake Cookies)

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix the butter, cocoa, milk and sugar in a large sauce pan and cook over medium heat until the syrup starts to simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute (unless, like us, you’re high altitude: at 5000 feet, cook 2 minutes).

Turn off (or remove from) heat and add the vanilla extract – which is amusing (you’ll see what I mean!). Stir in the peanut butter and oatmeal. At this point, the consistency should be thick and gloppy. But it smells delicious, so try not to taste because the high sugar content makes it hot enough to burn.

Deposit in teaspoonfuls on wax paper. Let cool completely. Depending on the humidity, these may take several hours to set up. During this time, again, try not to eat too many. They won’t burn your mouth, but it does kind of defeat the purpose if half are gone in the first 30 seconds.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Alterations and substitutions:

  • Soymilk works. But this last time, we used cashew milk and were very pleased with the results!
  • Replace peanut butter with almond or other nut butter.
  • Replace half the sugar with brown. We haven’t experimented much with other sweeteners.
  • Coconut oil does not work. Something about the interaction of sugar and butter works a bit of magic and makes the cookies set up.
  • Depending on your taste in chocolate, decrease to 1/4 cup or increase to 1/2.

These would make great Halloween treats, and are reliable gluten-free snacks.


Friday Featured Favorites: Vintage on Etsy

Who knew owls were popular before the last decade or so?! (OK, actually I think I remember someone mentioning they used to be popular). Well, this little owl on the right is vintage from the 1980s (I keep forgetting ‘vintage’ doesn’t mean 1800s or so)

Today, we are featuring the owl. I mean, it’s an owl! There are probably blogs dedicated wholly to the nocturnal beasties!

Actually, I can’t feature the owl exclusively, because I wouldn’t be letting you into a really fun and wonderful shop with a lot of wonderful things. That would just be sad.

Today we’re featuring KLizVintage on Etsy, where you can find things like ornate mirror trays, a cocktail shaker, figurines of various kinds, necklaces and lots more.

It’s such a pleasure to look around at what she has on her shop. I always liked to look at books that might have pictures of interesting things that people ones to used, or utensils that used to be nice looking or things that you didn’t know were around for as long as they have been. (for example, while I was doing Bing searches, I looked up early safety pins. Very interesting!) Anyway, getting back to what I was saying, it’s a pleasure to look around at Kate’ shop on Etsy because of all the beautiful vintage things there are to find.

It’s a lot of fun to find vintage things on Etsy. It’s one of the things I love about it, that you can find a place for this unique niche, and I was curious to know how this shop came about.

Apparently, she inherited some jewelry clothes from her grandmother that she found interesting. She decided to share some of the things with people, and found Etsy to be the best place for it. Since then her business has taken off.

Besides Kate’s shop we’re featuring, KLizVintage, she also has a shop called ShopMam, with necklaces and skirts, also vintage and beautiful.

You can also find Kate Gilson on Twitter and Pinterest, as well as Instagram.

I took a look at the reviews and, once again, they were great. One of them said the shoes they bought were just what they were looking for.

Finally, here’s a link to her shop on Etsy. Take a look! I think you’ll enjoy it

Have a great weekend, everyone! Watch scary movies, go through a corn maze and finish a couple bags (well, that’s my weekend, anyway)




Corsets and Converses

Hurray! I finally, finally get around to the 17th of our list of “25 ideas for new bloggers!”: “Interview another blogger or friend.”

Lexi – who loves Mexican folk dance. (I wish I had a skirt that did that…)

I could think of no better person to interview than Lexi, who is conveniently both a blogger and a friend – and also has a successful Etsy shop, thereby being the perfect fit for our blog’s subject! As if all this isn’t enough, she’s also an interesting person full of unexpected twists, fond of random hobbies, with an extensive mug collection and a obsession with bonnets, and liable to leap at your car window with all the suddenness of a zombie in a horror movie.

Lexi’s Favorites: Animals: dogs (especially miniature poodles). Undomesticated animals: frogs, penguins, llamas, goats, tarsiers, owls. Insect: Bees, preying mantises.

Alexandria Marie (this is her Mexican name, part of the culture of her close-knit and crazy family, to be pronounced “Ale-hand-ria Marie”) is outgoing and never shy – a great embarrassment to her sister Emily. She works at a theater (National Dance Institute) in the costume department, though that is only among her many activities.

Lexi’s Favorites: Colors: Coral, cream, sage green, burnt orange. Foods: French onion soup. Dessert: (Long pause…) Menchies sorbet, especially honeydew and carrot-orange. Flavors: mango, lemon, lime, orange, mint, basil.

Clothes and costumes are an important part of Lexi’s existence. She has been involved with Civil

A thrilling moment at the reenactment (the lack of cavalry was due to a regrettable absence of that contingent of the reenactors)
A thrilling moment at the reenactment (the lack of cavalry was due to a regrettable absence of that contingent of the reenactors)

War reenactment ever since Emily (who would never consider participating herself) saw a flier for the Battle of Valverde near the university where she was studying engineering. They both loved learning about history and historical costumes, which their mom-teacher enthusiastically encouraged. So Lexi eagerly “made a historically inaccurate costume” and attended.

That was five years ago. The rest, of course, is history.

Lexi, Hannah, Sarah, and I. Alas, you cannot see much of Lexi's gown, which is detailed and hooped! (And Hannah will not be blown away by a stray cannonball. I promise.)
Lexi, Hannah, Sarah, and I. Alas, you cannot see much of Lexi’s gown, which is detailed and hooped! (And Hannah will not be blown away by a stray cannonball. I promise.)

Lexi has studied the Civil War in depth since then, and now teaches a class on it at the Homeschool Co-op which she attended. She’s an authority (loosely speaking) on the Battle of Valverde (ask her about Sibley sometime; his tent, at least, is jolly).

Lexi’s costume-making is even grander. She has two closets, one for costumes and a clothes rack for her every-day wardrobe. She’s made 25-30 costumes, some just for practice.

Lexi Favorites: Eras: Regency, Civil War.

Lexi got started by sewing doll clothes. She was “told by a friend that she could totally sew full-size costumes, with all the intricacy she put into doll clothes.”

Lexi Fun Fact: Enjoys sewing, reading, blogging, teaching, dancing.

It was the doll clothes that got her into Etsy. Her family set up her Etsy account for her one SALE-5 Piece Regency Ensemble for 18inch DollsChristmas a few years ago, to help her clear away some of the things she had made (though wasn’t ready to put stuff up – it’s hard to let things go sometimes!). But she was successful, and started selling things in her first year. Doll clothes, of course; although she has since slowly expanded to full-size costumes and vintage.

Lexi Favorites: Etsy Shops: Thyme2Dream, RenditionsDesigns, VictoriasRibbons.

I’ll talk more about Lexi’s Etsy shop, oldfashiondolls, on a later Friday Featured Favorites post. Her designs are fun and creative, and as a seller she is truly inspirational!

Lexi’s Favorites: Accessory: infinity scarf. Piece of Jewelry: long owl necklace.

Lexi is also a blogger. Her current, awesomely-titled, blog is “Times and Seasons of a Beautiful Life,” which she has had since she was 16. It started as a doll blog, morphed to dolls and sewing, and now is a doll-sewing-lifestyle blog. Though I haven’t been following it for very long, it’s lovely and worth a look! She blogs at least once a month, and is careful to always include photography (including at least one picture of her good-natured dog Olaf). “Every post,” she says, “has a picture and a quote, because that makes it interesting.” She loves the way blogging connects you with likeminded people, who you can’t always meet locally.

Lexi Fun Fact: Loves photography. Her camera, which she got new on Craigslist in July of 2014, is a Canon Rebel T3I.

Like all of us crafters, Lexi is always exploring new fields: some recent additions include wreath-making, baking, and cross-stitch. She finds inspiration on YouTube and Pinterest. Music to sew by is important, and some of Lexi’s choices (eclectic of course!) include mariachi, Celtic, Christian sermons and radio (like KLove), and Frank Sinatra.

Lexi’s Favorites: Movie: “Enchanted.” Adaptation of a Jane Austen Novel: “Sense and Sensibility” (1996), “Persuasion” (2007).

At this point in the conversation, the TARDIS materialized in the courtyard behind us. Before we had a chance to get over our shock, the (10th) Doctor stepped out and invited Lexi to come with him – anywhere, anytime at all. Without a second thought, she jumped up and went off with him – to Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865. Unexpectedly, she didn’t change out of her modern 2015 clothes, for she wanted to see the people’s stares, and even had the Converse shoes to match the Doctor’s! Once they arrived, she saved President Lincoln from assassination, and gave him a pair of red Converses and a baseball cap with the TARDIS on it. This changed history, of course, but it was all for the better.

On her way back home, they wound up accidentally in the future. By that time, Lexi had put on polka dot tights, oxfords, a mustard yellow short skirt, a white collared blouse, coral lipstick and sparkly nail polish and owl earrings. “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra still blasted from the TARDIS console speakers as she stepped out into yet another wild adventure.


Friday Featured Favorites: Apples and Gingham

Okay, due to the day getting a bit crazy, I have about an hour and a half before it’s actually Saturday to talk about a very fun shop. So hopefully I will do it complete justice, which is extremely unlikely, so you’ll just have to check it out for yourself.

Today my favorite shop is Apples and Gingham. And by the way, I thought I would try coming up with clever titles for these posts, something to do with the shop, but I thought the shop name itself was so wonderful and fun, I couldn’t think of anything else.

There are pillows, mug cozies, even a t-shirt scarf, and keepers. I took a look at the keepers (pictured above) to find out what they are, and I love the idea! You can use these to keep a collection of things together, like diapers with wipes, a set of napkins (I think that might be something we’d use it for) a few books, as pictured, maybe a sewing project (again, I might use it for that!). And you can a request a custom order, which is something I’m always impressed and pleased with.

One of the things the shop owner, Kam, specializes in is re-purposing, which is also something I’m impressed with. My creativity doesn’t tend toward re-purposing, but I’m hoping to explore it a bit more.

It’s inspiring to see what Kam has done with re-purposing, especially for people new-to-it-and-thinking-of-trying-it-out, because the result looks absolutely wonderful.

I asked her what she looks for in her re-purposing projects and she mentioned that she might go there looking for something specific, like turning men’s shirt into a pillow, or a bag of t-shirts into a scarf. She especially tries to use items that might not be used, such as company shirts, jeans and school teams.

Like me, Kam finds a lot of inspiration in denim things. It’s such a convenient, nice fabric (and 60″ wide!) I’ve only just discovered how much I like denim. We’re getting low in our stash and I’m a bit worried. Still, there is that box of old jeans. Hmmm…..

Last week I took a look at the reviews, so I decided to brave it again. (I tend to avoid reviews anywhere because I’m afraid they’ll be bad) The reviews for Apples and Gingham were great, mentioning great shipping and satisfaction with the item bought.

Here is a link to this charming Etsy shop. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Have a great weekend everyone! By my time we’ll be there in about 10 minutes!