Saturday, March 22, 2014

First Signs of Spring in the Blue Ridge 2014

This winter is really starting to feel like it will never end.  We've had a few nice days in between the snow, ice and polar vortex cold and i took advantage of them and went out looking for signs of spring.

Coltsfood is always one of the first wildflowers to come up.  It lines the sides of road in the spring along with dandelions, chicory, and touch-me-nots. These two little blossoms were just beginning to open. Once they fully open they are often mistaken for dandelions.

Spotting the first butterfly of spring is always a beautiful moment! This little Eastern comma seemed as curious of me as i was of her.  i was following her, but the way she kept circling around i think she may have been following me.

She would stop just a few feet away, and open and close her wings.  She sat perfectly until i got my picture and then she disappeared into the woods.

Catnip is coming up all over the garden! i've already transferred a couple into pot (yes, i actually got to play in the dirt!) and i'll have to dig the rest before the garden gets tilled. Catnip makes the most fabulous tea. It's in the mint family and is a natural sedative.

One of the biggest sign that spring is coming! My hens have started laying again! Most of my hens,are new and were not laying yet last summer.  None of my birds laid over the winter, so we've been waiting for the new birds to begin laying.  In just the last couple weeks they have begun to lay regularly. 

So this isn't really a sign of spring, it is more a sign that winter isn't done quite yet.  It's a black swallowtail chrysalis.  We raised the little black swallowtail caterpillar in our carrot bed, and watched it transform into this chrysalis. It has spent the winter snug inside, and is waiting for the perfect spring day to emerge. Hopefully we'll get to witness it, and i'll share a picture on my next signs of spring post. 

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.  ~Anne Bradstreet

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Elsa's Door Paper Craft Tutorial (Frozen Inspired)

My daughter asked me to make her door look like Elsa's from the movie Frozen.  i did a quick google search and found this picture. My first thought, sure we can do it! Looks easy enough...ha ha. Not sure what i was thinking, it was actually a huge pain. :) 

 i didn't want to paint her door because her interests change from week to week, so i figured we could create something with construction paper which we already had at home.   Took me forever just to draw up the templates, but since i put all that time into making them i thought i'd share them in case anyone else is crazy enough to do this. :)  

This my template for the star design.   You may want to increase the scale on this if it doesn't print big enough.  When you arrange the pieces, you'll put them a little closer together.  The image should be around 6" tall.  i didn't include the diamond that is at the top and bottom of the star, but i'm sure you can figure it out. It's basically just a 2" square.  You need two of the stars for the pattern.  You can either use this as a template and cut your star out of construction paper, or use adobe to color this one in and print your pages in color. 

So i drew this free-form (obviously). ha ha.  This is my interpretation of the design on the door. (don't laugh!) It looks much better when it's cut out of construction paper:)  Once i outlined it in pen it got a little messy.  You can print this up right on the construction paper, then cut along the lines.  You can easily clean it up a bit, straighten crooked lines etc as you cut it out.  You need to print 4 of these for the design on Elsa's door. We created our door in dark and light blue.  You can use green or teal, what ever you have or whatever you think looks best. 

i think if you click the images you should be able to print them full size, but blogger is always changing things so i'm not positive. If you can't get them to print from the blog, let me know and i can email you the full size templates.

This should be about 3" tall, so again you may have to adjust the size. These are for the side borders of the door.  We didn't cover the entire door, so i only used 6 for each side of the door. You can do any many as you like.


Again, this isn't perfect. i didn't measure anything, i just grabbed a ruler and drew it out. So it's not quite even, but it's a good template to get you started. If you need it even, i'm sure you can straighten it up a bit after it's been printed. We cut these out of the blue construction paper and added strips of blue paper to connect them.

After cutting out all the pieces we used a glue stick to glue them onto white paper and then used two sided tape to stick the white paper to the door. i didn't quite get everything lined up correctly, but my daughter loved it anyway and that's really all that matters.  

We put this together before the movie was out and i could only find one little picture online. As i was putting this together i found this picture, which better shows the door.  If we wanted to do it correctly, there should be 4 of these full panels. Two at the top of the door and 2 at the bottom, and then the borders goes all the way down both sides.  i just did the two and put them right in the middle of the door. It's good enough for us. :)  i have a feeling once my daughter watches the movie a few times, i'll be adding the missing panels. lol. 

i also hung snowflakes in her doorway to add to the 'frozen theme'. You can check our snowflakes tutorial here.  My daughter loves her 'Frozen' room. 

Hope you enjoy these templates and are able to print them up correctly. i figure you can look at the images to see how to arrange the pieces.  Have fun with it! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Newman's Own Organics Review and Giveaway!!

 Last year, right about this time i won a blog giveaway for a product of choice from Newman's Own Organics. i picked the Espresso Dark Chocolate bar, which i totally intended to hid from my family and not share at all. tee hee.  The owner of the blog that i had won on had found my blog through my contest entry and read the post about our house fire.  She then shared our story with the folks at Newman's Own Organic.

i received a very kind letter from the folks at Newman's and a generous offer to send snacks for the entire family, rather than just the normal giveaway prize, because they were saddened by our story. i admit i was quite blown away that a large and well known company like Newman's Own Organics would take the time to write a personal email and show such kindness.

Newman's Own Organics was established as a division of Newman's Own in 1993, and became a separate company in late 2001. The sale of Newman's Own Organics products generates money for the Newman's Own Foundation to give away. Since 1982 Paul Newman and the Newman's Own Foundation have donated more than $350 million dollars to educational and charitable organizations worldwide. What an amazing company! 

i was recently back in touch with Newman's Own Organics and was given the opportunity to review some of their fantastic products and host a giveaway for my readers!

When we received the box...WOW! We were sent an amazing selection to sample.  Many folks are unaware of the variety that Newman's Own organic offers. We were sent an assortment of pretzels, dried fruits, cookies, licorice, chocolates and mints. i was pretty amazed by the selection. My family spent a couple weeks sampling the different products and tried to narrow it  down to our top 4 favorites. It was difficult, they are all delicious!  i had everyone in the family choose their favorite.

i admit it was really hard picking a favorite! i chose the Hermits as my favorite because they are a bit unusual. They are soft, spicy, chewy molasses and raisins cookies. They are quite addictive and are made with real ingredients!

     “Hermits were a family favorite when I was growing up,” say Nell Newman, co-founder and president of the company. “Our recipe, which is based on one we used to make at home, is filled with our delicious organic raisins and sweetened with organic molasses. These spicy, chewy cookies are said to have originated in Colonial New England. One theory is that hermits were named for their long keeping qualities—better when hidden away like a hermit for several days. I doubt if these will last long enough to hide.”

Kenan's favorite is the Espresso Dark Chocolate bar. It's smooth, creamy and made with organic ingredients and grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms. The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal guarantees that the cocoa in our Signature Series was grown on farms that meet comprehensive standards for sustainable farming, protecting soil, waterways and wildlife habitat as well as the rights and welfare of workers, their families and communities.  The Espresso Dark chocolate is definitely one of my favorites too, and all the products in their chocolate line are fantastic. 

My boy chose the original Newman O's as his favorite pick.  These creme filled cookies are perfect for dunking in milk!  You can check out the ingredients here. These come in several delicious flavors like mint, peanut butter, chocolate creme, ginger and they even have a wheat free variety!  My boy loved the original, but i really loved the chocolate creme and was pleasantly surprised by the ginger creme! i didn't get a chance to sample the peanut butter, but i think they would be a favorite and i'm now on the look out for them. You really can't go wrong with any of these, they are so good!

My girl chose the sour strawberry licorice. She definitely has the biggest sweet tooth in the family. She loved all of the licorice flavors, except the black licorice (does anyone actually like black licorice?). The sour flavors are definitely her favorite, although she said they are really not very sour, just very sweet and delicious!  The licorice are made with organic ingredients, and most of the flavors contain elderberry extract and fruit juice concentrate. 

All of Newman’s Own® Organics’ products meet all the requirements of the USDA’s National Organic Program. Ingredients have been grown on farms that have not used artificial fertilizers or pesticides for three years or more. The farms and processors have also met the USDA’s organic standards.

You can check the store locator to find out where you can purchase Newman's Own Organics.

One lucky winner is going to receive  my four favorite products from Newman's Own Organics including the Hermits, Newman O's, Espresso Dark chocolate bar and a pack of sour licorice. 

To enter, just fill in the Rafflecopter form below.  This giveaway will end on  3/31/14. Open to the US only. The winner will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to reply. 

A huge Thank you to Newman's Own Organics for sponsoring this giveaway and offering this fantastic prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: i was sent a box of Newman's Own Organic products to review. This review is 100% my opinion. i was not compensated in any other way for this product review.

Monday, March 17, 2014

#Creativeeveryday Weekly Roundup #4

i haven't been doing a very good job of documenting my daily creativity. i've been working on a lot different projects that are time consuming and despite putting in a couple hours a day, there isn't always a lot daily of progress to show.

One of my biggest struggle right now is having visions for the pieces, and not having the right materials to finish them. So i end up putting things aside until i can get the items needed to finish the pieces.  This morning i ordered Amethyst rounds, so i'll be able to finish this necklace once they come in.

i had been waiting for these fresh water pearls to arrive so i could embellish this pendant. This necklace is going to be gorgeous, but i still have a lot of beading to do on the actual necklace portion. The beading technique that i use takes about an hour an inch, and i still have another 12 inches or so to go before it is finished. 

i lost all of my hand drawn beaded patterns in the fire, and the lost most of my archived work images that were stored on the computer.  i was recently able to retrieve some large images of my past work from a myspace business page that i had completely forgotten about.  From those images i was able to recreate my mermaid pattern. It was a long process of coloring dots on a grid paper, but i was able to do it and actually improve my original pattern. 

i had so much fun working on the mermaid, that i decided to make more.  These little mermaids are only about 1 1/2" long, but they take 2-3 hours to complete.

i've slowly started making them into necklaces, but i'm already finding myself lacking the correct color pearls, glass beads, clasps etc.  i need to put in another bead order, but i need to sell something before i can do's a catch 22. ;)  Trying to support my bead habit is truly a problem. tee hee.

This my newest doll. She isn't quite finished yet, or maybe i just don't want to sell her. i'm not sure, but i do seem to hold on to these dolls a while and make very little effort to actually put them for sale. i keep having to remind myself that i can more. She just really turned out lovely, don't you think?

This is my batch of dolls that i need to finish up. i'm hoping to post them for sale this week..probably Friday. We'll see though. ;)   So that's what i've been up to the last couple weeks.  

i'm already starting to feel overwhelmed by all the things i have to finish and new projects to start. i spent the weekend trying to organize my craft supplies, after finding a bakers rack to use as a craft station. i'm behind on posts again, but will have a new giveaway posted soon and a tutorial for making Elsa's door (Frozen).  

i have the kids home again today, because of the weather. So we'll see how much actually gets accomplished. We have plans to make rainbow cake or cupcakes for St. Patty's day. 

Any of my readers participating in #creativeeveryday?  What have you have you been working on?

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.
-Greg Anderson

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Patchwork Bird House Craft Tutorial

We love to make milk carton bird houses. We usually paint them, but i wanted something different to do with them. When i was a kid i remember making patchwork flower pots. We used terracotta pots, coated them in glue and covered them in scraps of fabric.  i thought we could use a similar technique for our birdhouse. 

All you need for this project is a clean/empty milk/juice carton.  Scrap fabric cut into squares or rectangles. i used pinking shears to give them a zig zag edge but you don't have to. You also need Mod Podge and a paint or foam brush.   You might also want to have some newspaper or a table cover to protect your work surface. 

First thing we did was mark where we wanted our bird house opening. We wanted a bluebird house, so i followed the measurements for a standard blue bird house the best we could. The entrance hole needs to be between 1 1/2" and 1 9/16" across and it should be 6"-10" from the bottom.  You can really make your entrance hole and size/place on the carton any where you want if you don't care what type of birds nest in it. 
After drawing on where we wanted the hole, i used a pair scissors to puncture the center, and then carefully cut around the hole. Older kids can probably do this step themselves, but if you have younger kids you'll want to do it for them.

Next dip your brush in the mod podge and apply a liberal coat of mod podge to one side of carton. Then arrange your fabric squares on the carton.  You will have to continuously add mod podge to get them to stick well, and coat them in mod podge as you are adding the patches. Straigten them out as you go, and get rid of any bubbles under the fabric.  Don't worry it will dry clear!! Once they are stuck where you want them, coat the entire side in mod podge again. Do the same thing for all four side. You'll have to stand up the carton to avoid the wet sides from sticking to the newspaper/table.  

Continue to add patches. You may have to cut a few curved pieces to fit around the hole or just arrange your patches so that they don't cover the hole. It is fine if your patches overlap. 

 We overlapped patches along the endges to cover the corners. Continue adding patches and covering in mod podge until the entire carton is covered. 

Then apply another liberal coat of mod podge and then let it dry for a few hours. 

Once your birdhouse is finished, you can hang it outside by attaching a rope or wire through the top of the carton. You could easily make this a bird feeder instead of a bird house, by making the opening much larger and farther down on the carton. This is a great way to recycle your milk/juice cartons and  use up small fabric scraps. It's a super-fun craft to do with kids of all ages (just a little supervision required).  Mod podge is non toxic and water soluble, so it is safe and it cleans up easy. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Rainbow Window Star Giveaway!

i'm giving away a Rainbow Window Star over on my Facebook page.  You can visit this link and enter under the picture. To enter you have to like my page, share the post and comment!  The giveaway is ending this weekend, and if i can get 100 shares, i'll giveaway a second star and a matching rainbow bendy doll.

If you are not on facebook, don't worry i will post a giveaway on the blog for one very soon.

i am also offering the Rainbow Window Stars for sale now. i never really thought about selling them, but had several people inquire after i posted the giveaway.

 So they are available for $12 shipped first class (US) or two for $20. 

After browsing etsy to see what the average price is of a Rainbow Star, i was a bit surprised to see folks selling the kite paper hearts, butterflies and dragonflies i created free tutorials for a few years ago. i designed them and created the tutorials so that folks could make their own, it never occurred to me that i should be selling them too!
Silly me. So, now i'm offering them for sale as well.  The hearts are sold in a set of 4 for $12 shipped first class (US). i can do them in red, pink or white.

Butterflies and dragonflies are 2 for $12 or 4 for $20 shipped first class (US). Lotus flowers are $12 each shipped first class (US) . 

Tutorials for all these can be found in the right hand column. If you'd rather purchase the premade stars/butterflies etc.  just leave me a message here, use the contact form or swing over to my facebook page to see what i have for sale. i can do custom colors on the butterflies and dragonflies, as long as i have the colors available.  
Don't forget to enter the giveaway on the FB page, also i have a giveaway for a custom Family Birthday Sign here, and i have a couple others in the works! 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Life Expressions Feature and Giveaway!

With us beginning the year in a new home and having to start over, it gives us the opportunity to be much more mindful about the items we chose to purchase and bring into our home. We are choosing to make a lot more of our purchases locally and from small businesses and handcrafters. This blog is a great place for me to feature and introduce you to some wonderful SAHM artists and crafters.

The first business i'd like to feature is Life Expressions by Shawna, a home decor business that is run by my SIL.

Shawna is am a stay at home mother of 5 (youngest not pictured). She loves to create special, original signs and sayings for people.  All of her signs can be personalized and customized. You pick the saying, color of board, color of lettering and the size that you would like the sign to be and she works her magic and creates something beautiful for you.

Shawna orders the lettering for each sign and then buys the wood, cuts it, sands it, paints it and applies the lettering by hand.

All of the signs are on real wood so they all have that uniqueness that wood grain and knots add.

You can check out Shawna's Facebook page, and by 'liking' it you are automatically entered to win a free sign! You can also look around at some of the items that have already been created, the different styles and the color options that are available. Shawna creates signs for every season, and occasion!

She is located in West Michigan, and takes custom orders for her signs.  You can also find her set up at local craft shows, and you can even book your own "Make and take" party if you live in the area!

i love the different block sets. She has several seasonal themed block sets that really capture the season.  She offers a variety of different styles, shapes and colors. Almost everything can be customized! You can view many different examples of her work here.

i also really love the family signs. She has some with the child's name and birthday, some with the family name and many that have wonderful quotes or sayings about family.  There is a really a huge variety to choose from and the design possibilities are endless!

Shawna has generously offered one of my readers a family Birthday Sign with 50 shapes for names, hooks or ribbons to hang the names.  

Please enter on the rafflecopter form below. You might have to wait for it to load.a Rafflecopter giveaway Make sure and read terms and conditions, this giveaway is open to US only.