In Case of Fire

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“Riches do not consist in the possessions of treasures, but in the use made of them.”  -Napoleon Bonaparte

My friend and I often discuss: “What would you grab first if your house was on fire?” We both have favorite pictures worth saving, and of course, my wedding ring is at the top of the list.  She has a memory book that is very important to her, and everyone in her family knows where it is and that they must “GRAB IT BEFORE ESCAPING!”  Then we say, “Well, if there’s more time, then I would probably try to save…”  I know that ultimately these things are just possessions, and in the end it’s not things that matter.  Some people (other people) can be so free of things.  Their houses are sparse and sleek.  Well, that’s not me because, dang it, I like things!  I gain pleasure from pretty pieces of pottery and lovely books.  My heart sings when someone makes me a gift, or I find pretty vintage figurines or pieces of art at the thrift store.  I seriously hope I never have a fire, but the good news is that most of the items I own, while probably irreplaceable, didn’t cost very much money. One “thing” that would definitely be hard to save in a hurry, but means an awful lot to me, is my collection of Mary Engelbreit Home Companion magazines.

indexYears and years ago, still in the phase of my life where I moved from apartment to apartment, I started subscribing to the magazine. It was such a thrill to find it in my mailbox – like a special gift. I would wait until I had a good long time to sit down and savor it from cover to cover.  Well known for her colorful and light-hearted artwork, Mary lent her special touch to each beautiful issue.  Each one was bursting with art and pictures of rooms and homes like the one I wanted to create.  These people had collections, and books, and art and things!  I pored over the pictures admiring the eclectic and whimsical decorating styles.  I used sticky-notes to mark my favorite ideas, because I wouldn’t think of tearing out pages like I did with all of my other magazines.
 MEpicThen I decided to get online and try to find copies of all of the issues I didn’t own – the ones from the first few years of publication.  It was like a treasure hunt, and it took me awhile, but I eventually completed my collection.  Finding a copy of the first issue was especially hard, but I felt like I had won a marathon (obviously I don’t run) when I won the auction on Ebay.

img010Once I had them all, I lined up all of my Mary Engelbreit Home Companion magazines on my shelf in chronological order and marveled in the completeness of it.  Then something awful happened.  No, my house didn’t actually start on fire.  To my dismay, the publishers decided to quit publishing the magazine, and for awhile, I mourned the loss of my special quarterly visitor in the mail.  Yet, as each season rolls around, I pull the magazines out and look them over once again.  Around Thanksgiving, I gather all of the Christmas issues and have a mini-vacation going over them again.  In the coldness of January, I find warmth in snuggling up with all of the issues filled with Valentine’s Day loveliness.  In fact, I just took out the summer issues to enjoy, which gave me the inspiration for this post. It’s a little ritual that gives me comfort.  (The fall issues, with all of their Halloween pictures are always my favorite!)
mlulm1Vx4xDKDy10ImZ8l6gI have gotten many an idea, and created some of my most special artistic creations, with inspiration from these pages.  I realize that Mary Engelbreit has moved on from publishing her magazine.  Undoubtedly, the ones I have are such a special treasure. In case of fire, I will do my best to save them from the flames.  However, Mary, if you read this, just let me say, if you decide to start rolling the Home Companion off the presses again, I will be one of the first subscribers, and it will be my mission to write something for its pages.Of course, you can see what Mary is creating now on her lovely website.  I stop by from time-to-time to see her latest art work, and I always love it!

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Book Review: “I Just Like to Make Things” by Lilla Rogers

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As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life. ~John Lubbock

lillarogersbookDo you find your bliss in the process of creating? For some, our little crafty corners serve as a way to unwind from the daily grind, but for others, the dream of turning their art into a career remains constant. Either way, this practical new book by successful artists agent, LIlla Rogers, provides advice that will help aspiring artists focus their creativity and find the courage to pursue their passion. Rogers shares invaluable insight into focusing one’s style, finding the best outlet for specific talents, and ultimately working with an agent to earn an income. She also encourages readers to complete a series of exercises that help identify one’s own unique talents and style. From the samples of artists’ work, to the photo collages, the entire book is eye-candy! So, jump in, read the inspiring interviews by some of your favorite artists, complete the activities; and be delighted by the fresh new direction your artwork takes. (Oh, and don’t forget to send her a thank-you note when you receive your first contract!)

Happy Reading and Happy Creating!

(This book review originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas magazine.  Check out my other book reviews and some beautiful crafts here.)

Happiness is a Warm Blanket

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“Happiness is a warm blanket.”  –Charlie Brown

I haven’t posted many projects in the past few months since I have been focusing on finishing this throw that I started last fall.  I wanted to make something special for my God-daughter when she graduated from high school, so I found out what colors she likes the most and started  making squares –LOTS of squares!  You can find the free pattern download for the Pokey Dots Throw at the Red Heart site.

blanketInstead of using three different colors in each circle as the pattern suggests, I liked the look of the solid colored circles.  (Plus, it’s easier not to have to switch colors so often!) I used Red Heart Colors:  Shocking Pink, Medium Purple, Tea Leaf, Coral, Aruba Sea, Turqua, and Grey Heather.   I also used a size “I” hook.  The border includes:  three rows of single crochet in gray around the squares, followed by one row of each color, and finally three more rows of gray.

blanket2Isn’t it cheerful? I know it will brighten up her college dorm room this fall!I hope she loves it as much as I loved making it for her!

Happy Memorial Day and Happy Crocheting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Us Spring Chickens (and ducks)!

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“Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.”   – Frank Lloyd Wright

I have a lot of fun Easter decorations, but this year got away from me, so I just put out a few spring things.  These little cuties are my favorite.  I love their simple monochromatic style and soft, vintage colors. I usually pick them up at thrift stores for under a dollar, and I keep an eye out for them whenever I am poking around the shops.

IMG_3705 Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

 

I’m in Love!

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“All you need is love…”  –The Beatles

In recognition of Valentine’s Day, the diamond company, Brilliant Earth, recently contacted select bloggers inspiring us to form our own unique expression of love to share with others.  Brilliant Earth is a company committed to providing ethically sourced diamond wedding and engagement rings.  I can’t think of any more important piece of jewelry in my life than my wedding ring. Is it a conflict free diamond?  I don’t actually know  where it came from, as it was given to me as a family heirloom once belonging to my husband’s grandmother.  That is my favorite kind of jewelry actually, pieces with a story – handed down and passed along.  It’s the ultimate form of being green, don’t you think?

Without a doubt, I have lots of jewelry pieces tucked away.  Many are sentimental for the memory attached to it or the person from whom it was given. I’ve been gathering hearts for a few years now with the intention of making something special for Valentine’s Day, and this seemed like the perfect time to create a collage full of my “memory jewels.”  I see a heart from Grandma’s pin, and a lone earring, given to me by my best friend in the first grade (the other one long since lost). I see  pendants from necklaces I once wore (and some given to me by a former beau or two.)  It’s a story of the many people whom I have loved – and I love it!

lovefinalx

How do you say “Love?”

Baby, It’s Cold!

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“You can’t get too much winter in the winter.” –Robert Frost

Well, like much of the country this winter, Montana has finally had its turn at frigid cold temperatures.  Last week was especially freezing, and most of the kids at school were crossing their fingers for a school closure.  No such luck.  After all, it’s winter, and it’s Montana.  “Bundle up, and buck up!” is the attitude of most.  When it get so cold that your nostrils freeze, and the dogs poke their noses outside and retreat, I always think of my sweet Grandma.  “Baby, it’s cold outside!” she would always say.

baby2I wanted to do a little winter decorating to cheer things up after taking down the holiday decorations. My inspiration, as well as the free chalkboard printable, came from Barb at The Everyday Home blog. Many thanks to her for her inspirational post as well as her cheerful artwork! A thrift store frame brings it all together.

Here’s to spending time in the crisp Montana outdoors and snuggling up by the  fireplace afterward.  It truly is the best of both worlds, isn’t it?

Happy Crafting and Happy Winter!

 

One Resolution

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“Happiness is a place between too little and too much.” –Finnish Proverb

I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions.  I’ve never had much luck with them, and it seems that all of them are centered around doing more, or less, of something.  More exercise, more vegetables, more fun time, less sugar, less television, less stress… Sound familiar?  My favorite resolution each year is simply to focus on “Balance.”  Some weeks are better than others, but when I focus on trying to include a little of “this”, and a little of “that,” in my life things just seem to feel right.  Too much of anything just messes with my equilibrium.  So, I made a little reminder of my focus for 2014.

balanceHappy New Year and Best Wishes for balanced 2014!

New Year…New Calendar

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Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year? –-from RENT by Jonathan Larson

One of my favorite things about the new year is putting up a fresh, new calendar.  My favorite calendar for the past few years is without a doubt the Curly Girl calendar.  I treat myself to a large one for my home office, a small one for work, and a couple to give as gifts! Leigh Standley is a talented artist, and she makes me look forward to turning the page of my calendar each month.  (Sometimes I even turn the page a day early just to peek!) I love their whimsy, their wisdom, and their their inspiration. The problem is that they are so lovely that I can’t bear to discard them at the end of the year.  So, I decided to come up with a way to enjoy my favorite calendar pages all throughout the year!timthumb.phpFirst, I measured the picture pages from an old calendar. I used  a smaller calendar, and they measure 7″X 7″.  This isn’t a very standard size, so I couldn’t find any frames at any major retail stores.  I did find some online, but they were $15-$20 each, and of course, there’s always shipping.  So, I did what I always do…. I went to the thrift store.  I found an old Pier One picture that was in great condition, and the price was right.  I took it apart, spray painted it (this one was green), and I had a great piece of art for under $5.00!

BEFORE:

IMG_3569AFTER:IMG_3580Now, I can switch out my favorite Curly Girl calendar pages when the mood strikes.  What a great way to usher in a new month – and new year!

Happy New Year, and Happy Crafting!

Pugcasso

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“The pug is living proof that God has a sense of humor.” ~Margo Kaufman

One rainy day a few years ago, I found myself wandering around a great little quilt shop in Bigofork, Montana just a few miles up the road… Bigfork Bay Cotton Company.  I love to make handmade gifts, and I found the perfect applique kit to make for my dear friend who is the proud owner of a sweet pug named Gus.  The kit was for “Pugcasso,” a bold, sassy pup!  However, there was only one problem, the kit was for a white pug, and Gus is a very black pug!  The nice ladies at Bigfork Bay helped me find some coordinating dark colors to substitute for the whites in the kit. The kit sat and sat.  It moved from one house to another.  Finally, the day had come to get it done! perrito_2_

So, I attempted my first project using fusible applique.  It really was so much fun, but I’ll admit, I struggled with the color substitution process.  I questioned each choice and in many instances tried a number of combinations of the blacks and grays to make it just right. I didn’t want Gus to become so dark that the individual features were lost. (I always seem to find a way to make a project just a little extra complicated.  Oh well!)  I also added some edging colors to make it fit inside a thrift-store frame that I spray painted black.  Here’s my version of the original “Pugcasso”  It is simply called “Gus!”  I wrapped him up as a Christmas gift, and was so proud to present it to his owner this year.  Isn’t he handsome?

pugThis project was a lot of work, and I learned a lot about applique in-general.  I will probably take a break for now, but I can see myself taking another drive up to Bigfork on a rainy day next spring, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I come home with another kit.  (The process of creating art with fabric is a little addictive.)  This time, however, I think I will stick with the original colors just to make things a little easier!

Happy New Year and Happy Quilting!

Oh Christmas Tree….

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“The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!”
-Charles N. Barnard

Inspired by all of the wonderful book trees on Pinterest, we decided to try our own at school this year.  We think it turned out wonderfully!  (Yes, that’s a taxidermy wolf in the background– a donation to our school whose mascot is the Wolfpack.)

May your Christmas holiday be filled with hours of uninterrupted reading time and LOTS of good books!

IMG_0401Merry Christmas and Happy Reading!