Finding the Perfect Balance!

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Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.                 -Robert Fulghum

I wanted to whip-up a little birthday gift for my friend, and this is the perfect quick and easy handmade present!  I don’t know if it’s a by-product of being a former English teacher, a librarian, and of course, a lover of books, but I adore any project that uses letters and words. So, I’ve been collecting board games from the thrift store and using the pieces to make Scrabble tile message boards for the special people in my life.  Today, I met my dear friend for a birthday breakfast, and wanted to reminder her to cut-back, just say “no”, and quite simply make more time for herself!  (Good advice, wouldn’t you say?)  Just take a Scrabble tile holder and a little glue (I use E-6000) and admire your “instant message.”  Once you start, you will be thinking of all the important words you want to share!

Book Review: “Decorate” by Holly Becker and Joanna Copestick

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“Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love brought together under one roof.”  Nate Berkus

Rooms That Tell a Story:

I have always been captivated by design books. Just like going on home tours, or glancing in an open window while driving by, reading books like Decorate lets me peer, if only briefly, into the world, and stories, of others.  Pick up this amazing new book and find yourself transported into some of the most visually interesting and inspiring rooms you have seen in a long while.  Decorate is a visual feast of the kinds of rooms we want to live-in today. The author, Holly Becker, is the creator of the enormously popular design website Decor8.  Gone are the matchy-match furniture groupings from the local furniture store.  Gone are the impersonal, super-modern, sterile rooms that represent “status”.  This book brings to our attention the inspirational designs of those who recognize our need to tell a story with our homes.

Here are  my “Take-Away’s” from the book:

Take-Away #1:  First of all, I love that the rooms look specifically “undecorated” and more amassed over time with meaningful objects.  I am in awe of the current trend toward purposeful mixing of patterns and layering textures.  In one room, a pastel floral watercolor painting hangs next to a mount of deer antlers; which is  flanked by a geometrically patterned, Victorian-inspired sofa; all of which is accompanied by a modern, clean-lined coffee table.  The message is:  There really are no rules!  A quote from the book that communicates this idea:  “Enjoy the hunt—it’s worth waiting for something special… and you’re bound to find other bits along the way.” – Emily Chalmers (inside cover)

Take Away #2:  How liberating it is that you can mix all of the following in a very beautiful and visually interesting room: architectural salvage, flea-market finds, family heirlooms, your daughter’s crayola drawing, high-end pieces mixed with thrift store finds…All of which embrace the patina of objects that have had a story.  “Decorating is an extension of your personal style.  Finding your decorating style depends on knowing what you love at a gut level.” –Carrie McCarthy, author

Take Away #3: From reading this book, I have determined that my style leans toward “Flea Market Style”  I absolutely swoon for things like clocks taken from warehouses, industrial metal shelving units, collections of vases and old advertising signs.  Love, love, love this section of the book!  I also identify with the section: “Eclectic Style.”   It is amazing to me that modern decorating will let you pair your parents’ cast-off lounge chairs (recovered, of course) from 1970 with a funky bohemian wall hanging and your grandmother’s needlepoint pillows.  Toss in some bright shiny metallic vases and anything else you have collected over the years and suddenly you have a room that sparks conversation!  This kind of decorating lets you tell a story and honor your past as well as your present.  Thank you, Holly Becker, for showing us that we can fill our rooms with affordable, sentimental items and that we don’t have to go to an expensive furniture store and buy an entire room at once!

Take Away #4:  If you’re reading this, perhaps you know I’m a huge fan of books.  For reading, for decorating, for crafts…. for everything.  Decorate is filled with pictures of rooms in many different styles, but something I notice is that most of the rooms contain BOOKS. On tables, piled high, stuffed on shelves… The message is clear, books are the staple that completes a room’s story!   On page 97,  I am inspired by the picture of books…. the combination of colors and the mood it inspires. It says,  “Vintage books with distinctive dust jackets are delightful objects in their own right, whether used for reading, displaying, or as sosurces of inspiration for decorating.”  I couldn’t agree more!

Without a doubt, I have been coveting this book since I got to hear Holly’s keynote at The Creative Connection Event in St. Paul. Her presentation was my favorite of the weekend, and when I returned from Minnesota, I blogged about my favorite quotes of the weekend; one of which was from Holly (You can check out this post here.)  All of her books were sold-out, so I was very disappointed that I couldn’t get a signed copy.  However,  at the end of the weekend, I had the opportunity to meet Holly, and she couldn’t have been more lovely and down-to-earth… just like her book!

My First Article….Thank You Mary Jane!

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There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes.  ~William Makepeace Thackeray

In addition to reading and crafting, I particularly enjoy writing.  In earning my college degrees, I’ve written more research papers than I can even count.  However, lately I’ve had the urge to “flex” my writing skills and try some new genres.  I was thrilled when the editors at Mary Jane’s Farm asked me to write an article for their January/February issue.  I had the opportunity to interview an accomplished quilter, Jennifer Rodriguez, of All Things Belle.  My article tells her story and encourages readers to try their hand at paper-piece quilting.  I hope you will check out her blog as well as her Etsy store and perhaps try one of her quilt cards.  They are a miniature work of art and a little package love that anyone would be honored to receive. The magazine is a lovely mix of organic and green living ideas, crafting, recipes and personal essays.  I didn’t realize that the magazine had hit stores until I saw it on the rack at the grocery store this evening. ( I absolutely adore the cover! Isn’t it gorgeous?)  I can’t describe how thrilling it was to see my article in print, and I hope it is the first of many more writing opportunities to come.

If you’re visiting my blog today as a result of seeing my article in Mary Jane’s Farm, I hope you’ll come back to get a sneak peek of the latest books I’m reading, as well as my latest crafty endeavors.

2012 Resolutions: Keep it Simple!

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Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  — Leonardo DaVinci

I’ve thought and thought about what to focus on in 2012, and with much thought and contemplation, I’ve decided to keep it simple.  If you’re reading this, you either love to read, or you’re crafty (probably both), so I wish for you both of these joyous things in 2012.

Brilliantly Brilliant Dottie Angel!

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“Never doubt your instincts in a thrift store.”  -Dottie Angel

Yes, I’m still talking about the Creative Connection Event.  (It may never end, so hopefully you’re okay with it!) While I was there,  I had the amazing opportunity to meet with the publisher of Uppercase Magazine Janine Vangool for my Pitch Slam.  Her company published the book I want to tell you about….. Dottie Angel: the Peachy Crafty World of Tif Fussell.

I absolutely must borrow from Tif’s super-fun vocabulary to tell you that this book is, “peach, fabby, and brilliantly brilliant!”  I had been saving this treasure since I got home from TCC.  It was perched on top of a pile waiting for a really quiet, special moment when I could settle in for an extended amount of uninterrupted time.  When you hold this book in your hands, you will understand that trying to read it while commuting, or perhaps cramming in a few pages at the doctor’s office, just won’t do this sweet little volume justice.  This book has so many special touches, it feels as if it were handmade just for me.  It wasn’t just rolled off the presses and put in a box.  No,  I’m not going to give away the surprises.  You’ll just have to order one for yourself from Uppercase.  I could go on and on about why I love this book, but most of all, I love that when I read it, I feel like I’m sitting in the Airstream with “Dottie” (Tif)  on a lovingly weathered chair, covered with hand crocheted doilies, drinking a cup of tea,  in a beautifully chipped cup from the thrift store, and gazing at some of her handmade treasures.  When I read the description of the book, I must say, she had me at “thrift store.”  I confess — I’m a complete thrift store junkie!  Tif and I have exactly the same passions:  crocheted covered vintage hangers, ceramic animal figurines and granny squares!  We both have “crafting epiphanies” and an appreciation for anything with “granny chic!” She is “utmost kind” in sharing ideas for fun little treasures to make, and she tells you about her special little world where tools have names and bunnies wear capes.  “Thank you kindly,” Tif, for the crafty ideas, the walks down memory lane, and for letting me into the perfectly blissful world of my new best friend, Dottie Angel!

The Creative Connection: Quotable Quotes

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“I just want to be on the adventure of my life.”                                                       Kelly Rae Roberts (at TCC 2011)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I attended the Creative Connection Event in St. Paul, Minnesota, last week, and had the most unbelievably rejuvenating time.  It was a love-fest of crafty, creative women supporting each other,

Look at all of the fun stuff I had to try to fit into my suitcase!

and of course, connecting!  I had so much fun touching base with many of the women that I had met last year such as….. Nicole McConville from Sterling Publishing.  Check out her re-cap and amazing photos here.

I made two new friends the first night, April from Catching Fireflies and Michelle from Allen Designs, who let me tag along on a quick tour of some of the fun shops in St. Paul. They were so sweet that they bought me dinner and didn’t make me feel like a total shmuck for forgetting my wallet at the hotel.

I took a few hands-on classes, but my favorite was with Megan from Princess Lasertron.  We made these super-cute felt ribbons.  In fact, her post about TCC here includes pictures of me and some of the super cool ladies I met there.  Just looking at it makes me wish next year were here already! I was so inspired by all of the keynotes, but especially by the wise words and insight of Holly Becker from Decor8 who was so down-to-earth, likeable, and funny.  She’s the kind of person you wish you could go to coffee with and become BFF’s!

One thing I found myself doing throughout the weekend is jotting down all of the profound, witty, memorable quotes coming from the attendees, speakers, panelists, etc.  Here are some of my favorites…. If they don’t make you want to attend TCC next year, I don’t know what will!

1.  A representative from Sterling Publishing, one of the few males at the conference, (sorry…. didn’t get your name) said in reference to books….. “They are like bright, shiny objects… The physical book is here to stay.”  (Amen, brother!!)

2.  Jo Packham said about TCC, “It’s a place where we go from strangers to BFF’s in three and a half minutes.”  (So true, Jo, so true!)

3.  Christina Ferrare said, “Listen to the voice in your head speaking to you.”  (Lump in the throat moment for me.)

4.  Holly Becker wisely said, “If you’re saying ‘yes’ to something you really love, it’s the right ‘yes’.”

5.  Jo Packham said, “If you haven’t made a friend, made a deal, gotten a new idea…. shame on you!”  (This made me laugh outloud, but I couldn’t agree more.  You have to take advantage of the environment of TCC, otherwise, what’s the point?)

6.  “There really is room for all of us.”  Kelly Rae Roberts (Hearing this gave me a little lift.  It made me feel not so much like a little fish in the ocean.)

7. Karen Walrond from chookoloonks said, “When you realize that your difference is your superpower– it really is magical.”

8.  “Sometimes you just need to get quiet and get simple.”  Leigh Standley from Curly Girl Design. (I’m working on it, Leigh!)

9.  The super-sweet Janine Vangool from a really cool magazine called Uppercase said, “Everyone here is really happy. It’s nice to come to an event where everybody is happy. Being creative makes us happy, but it’s difficult and hard work. But it’s also difficult and hard work to be happy.”

10.  Melody Ross from Brave Girls’ Club said, “Decide what kind of life you want to have, and build your business around that.”  (That rings true to me.  If we go about it the opposite way, we may find that suddenly we don’t have the life we want!)

Okay, here’s the funny stuff…..

11.  I think one of the event coordinators was overwhelmed and overworked when she jokingly said, “If anyone has any drugs…. I’ll take them.”

12.  Princess Lasertron (aka Megan Hunt) said, slightly tongue in cheek, “I’m trying really hard to make my daughter goth, but my mother just wants her to be preppy.” (This cracked me up! Have you seen Megan?  She’s a sweet as apple pie!)

13.  One of the panelists, a successful artist said, “I think people would be surprised at how little I shower.”  (The lack of time to shower became a joke of the day.  Perhaps Jo should solicit sponsorship from a soap or shampoo company next year!!!!!)

Well, I could go on and on.  I had such a great time at TCC, and I hope to bottle up some of the good vibes to get me through until next year.  Thanks Jo for your hard work and hospitality!

“Creative is a Verb” by Patti Digh: Book Review

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“Listen to tiny fishies….” Patty Digh

If you’re like me, and you’ve been obsessing lately about how you want to spend more time being “creative,” but you are stuck trying to figure out what that really means for you, this is your guide.  This book truly is a guide for unleashing the creativity you possess, but have repressed.  I’m sure that each person will focus on different chapters and messages in the book, and each person is going to take something different from it, but that is the beauty of it. Patti Digh has given us a gift in this book – permission to not have to follow any rules, or complete any set schedule, on the way to a more creatively fulfilling life.  The exercises are meant to inspire and motivate, but not to make people feel inadequate or frustrated. It encourages us to live our whole lives artistically, not just while were painting, singing or writing.  Without a doubt, this gorgeous little manual gives us power, choice, and some really fun stories to enjoy and think about.  Not to mention, the graphics are exquisite.  The photographs, drawings and quotes make this book a work of art in itself.

A story that particularly stands out to me is one where the author describes a dream that her young daughter had while she was away on business.  The daughter tells her mommy that she had a dream that she was a little fish in a big ocean, and couldn’t find her mommy.  This story was a wake-up call to Patti.  She realized that she need to listen to her heart and follow a new path, and it took her daughter’s dream to send her this message.  So, she tells us, “Listen to tiny fishies.”  It’s her way of encouraging us to listen to the messages life is trying to tell us – the messages that beg to be listened to.  The exercises that follow this story were particularly profound to me personally.  Maybe you will gain something from what they are trying to tell you, too.

My Sheldon Rose

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“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.”         — Ernest Hemingway

I was poking around in one of my favorite consignment/antique shops in Bigfork, MT, when I saw……THIS.  My Sheldon Rose.  It’s huge, it’s amazing, it weighs a ton, and I had to have it.  This is a large piece of art made of typography letters arranged in this cool shape. IMG-0658

I chatted with the seller, and she said that she was selling it for her aunt, who was elderly, but had purchased it with her husband when they were young and living in Seattle.  Apparently it was a gallery purchase, and she was always particularly fond of it, but now had to downsize to move.   I found some auctions sites who have a few of his other pieces for sale.  They’re quite pricy, so I’m thinking that I got a fair deal on my piece.  If anyone knows anything about this artist, please fill me in.  Whatever the case, I get happy every time I look at this above my couch.  It’s full of letters, my favorite thing, because letters make words, and words make stories, and what could be better than that?!

Everyday Creativity

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“Creativity is the ability to look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary.” –Dewitt Jones

Well, it’s back to school time, and one of the themes my school is adopting this year is one based on creativity!  Of course this is right up my alley!  Our principal showed us a short film narrated by National Geographic photographer and motivational speaker, Dewitt Jones.  I found this film to be incredibly inspiring and motivating.  I tried to see if it was available for online viewing, but it looks as if it has to be purchased.  However, there are a couple videos by him that I found on You Tube.  If you can take a look at his films especially “Everyday Creativity” and “Celebrate What’s Right With the World,” you will find a fresh, new way of approaching your creativity each day.  One of the quotes that stood out to me was:  “Creativity is the ability to look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary.” – Dewitt Jones

I also loved his comments on the idea that creativity is simply “falling in love with the world.”  Wow!

I am inspired to infuse more creativity into my job as a teacher, as well as my every day interactions with others. Making a cute necklace, or crocheting a hat is obvious creativity, but how nice is it that we can enhance each day with a creative spark.