Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tiny visits to the garden

Some mornings, I get the pleasure of seeing the world through much smaller eyes. I normally have a few visitors who inspect and use my flowers (and porch) as their own little oasis. (One day I'll get a photo of that little black and blue salamander!) I take photos whenever I can to remember these occasions. They are reminders to slow down and appreciate the little things before they are gone.

Sitting on top of the world
May I help you?
I have my eye on you!
I thought no one would see me here.
Don't make me use this thing!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mums the word

After two gloomy, rainy days, we were blessed with a bright, sunny and reasonably cool day in the Carolinas. I can't tell you how happy I was to see the sun today! I bought two large mums yesterday at the grocery store and wanted to "play in the dirt", but I couldn't because of the weather.
Well, today turned out beautiful and I took full advantage of it.

After removing bottom of the root ball.
I'm gonna take a moment to give what seems like simple advice... 
Repot your plants after purchase!
Most store-bought plants are grown in large batches and never get the proper care they deserve. It's up to you, once they are purchased, to take care of them and keep them alive. I understand if you are only using them for seasonal decoration and plan to trash them once you are through.  

ACTUALLY, no I don't!! 
You could always pass them along to someone else who would be glad to take them off your hands.

After "surgery".
This poor mum (left) was so root bound, there was hardly any dirt in the container. I placed the plant on a step - allowing the flowers/blooms to hang over the side of the porch. Next, I removed the bottom of the root ball and pulled the excess roots from around the edges. I also pulled the clumps from around the top of the root ball (under the leaves). I then pressed down on the root ball, loosening the clump (almost as if I was kneading bread). Next, I literally stabbed it with my garden trowel to create air pockets. (Like a baked potato)

*No, this will not hurt the plant or stunt its growth! If the plant has lasted this long in such adverse conditions - giving it some much needed air is not going to hurt.*

When placing it into a new pot (or the old one), make sure to fill the dirt back even with the top of the plant. This is what the plant was accustomed to before and it should remain that way if at all possible.
This whole process only took about 10-15 minutes. I think it's worth the time invested. Not only are you ensuring your plant lasts longer and blooms better, but you are also making it more stable (with a new heavier pot) against rain and wind. No more chasing your plants across the yard! I also suggest using a moisture control dirt as fill dirt. It will greatly reduce the chance of over and under watering your plants.

Until next time - Happy Gardening or at least repotting! It only takes a few new plants to revive a porch or yard for the season.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cure for the Monday Blues

As most people will agree, Mondays can be hard to deal with. It's back to the grind of school, work and errand running that often consumes our lives. This one in particular was hard to deal with. I didn't get a good night's sleep and it was a gloomy, rainy morning. 
Fall is fast approaching in the South and it teases us on occasion. My favorite things about this time of year are football, all the pumpkin-flavored items that appear in stores and enjoying a good chili or soup to warm the bones. I decided since the weather was gloomy and the air was a bit chillier today - it was the perfect time to make chili and a fresh pan of cornbread.
I went with an old favorite from Better Homes and Gardens, Spicy White Chili. It has a bit of spice and is not the tradition chili you normally think of. Just a way to mix things up and shake off the Monday blues.

Spicy White Chili
Makes: 8 to 10 servings
Start to Finish: 50 mins
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 4 1/2 ounce can diced green chiles
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3  15 ounce can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2  14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 5 cups cubed cooked turkey or chicken
  • 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers, shredded

1. In a Dutch oven cook onions and garlic in hot oil over medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring often, until tender. Stir in green chiles, chili powder, oregano, and cayenne pepper; cook for 1 minute. Mash one can of the beans. Add all beans and broth to ingredients in Dutch oven. Bring to simmering. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the turkey; cook about 10 minutes, until heated. Stir in cheese until melted.

Enjoy the recipe and I'll share another one soon that includes chorizo sausage instead of beef. 
It's also a good choice when you want chili, but you want to change things up.

Until next time - Happy Monday and find something that warms your soul and share it with everyone you love.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Indie Saturday

The entrance to this year's Indie Craft Parade.
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook (or frequent my blog), you know I am a big supporter of the arts. I believe art is a vehicle for growth in education and in the community. There's no finer example than a handmade crafts fair. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Indie Craft Parade in Greenville. This was Indie's third year at the Huguenot Mill location. As with any reoccurring events, the organizers/vendors find new and exciting ways to display their wares and organize the event. Some great improvements were made with the new location of the free photo booth, provided by Oh Snap!. Also, the volunteer staff helped with the crowding issue by counting heads and letting in a few people at a time. I had the pleasure of seeing vendors from previous years who added new items to their inventory. And let's not forget the brave souls who ventured out for their first show in Greenville. 
Here's a quick overview of the vendors I saw with a link to their shops and websites. Enjoy!

Hawks & Doves uses feed bags, grass seeds bags and vintage materials to make pillows and home decor items. Riproost creates custom pieces from recycled materials, like these boxes 
(each contains a handwritten note telling where the material came from).

Third Girl Studio
 Art made from odds and ends (like the old spatula used as a fish fin). Truly unique and quirky!

Jeannette Zeis Ceramics
Art with a function. These pieces are beautifully made and fully customizable. 
Have a piece made for a wedding or birthday with dates and names added. A must see!

 Wall hooks, animal magnets, home decor, storage jars and more - all with a touch of whimsy.

Crave is a one-stop shop for ceramics. Seasonal items as well - cute ghosts that light up for Halloween and beautiful pears you could place on the Christmas tree. 
My personal favorite are the tiny house plant stakes. And don't forget jewelry!

Stitched in Color
Canvas art, aprons, bags, etc - all made from beautiful color swatches of fabric.

Illyria Pottery
A vendor who never ceases to amaze me with their level of craft and beautiful displays. 
You can wear, eat/drink out of, plant something in or display their items.

So She Sew
Clothing made from recycled fabric. Coozies made from plastic bags with awesome sayings like - 
I gotted you a beer...but then I drankted it.

Once Again Sam
A favorite from last year for their "felted curiosities", this year OAS showed a wide variety of earrings and leather cuffs. They even made a pair in honor of Indie Craft!

Finkelstein's Center
Hand-sewn toys with the cutest faces and characterisitics. (Above: sticks and acorns)

Concrete Lace
Handcrafted paper goods - wedding invitations, calligraphy, gift tags (shown above). 
I loved this beautiful print of what is available seasonally in the garden. 

Useful Books
 Handmade eco-friendly travel journals, guest books, photo albums, art journals, writing journals, blank books and sketchbooks for every occasion.

A Darling Day
A Darling Day specializes in wedding day photography and vintage rentals. 
But I fell in love with the printed tea towels!

There were tons of other vendors with beautifully made items. I purchased the cutest camera stamp from The Small Object before I left. The shop makes rubber stamps from the owner's fun doodles and paints heirloom worthy wooden figurines.  

I suggest going to the Indie participants list and click on a few of the ones I didn't mention here. You can choose from the following catergories: 2D and 3D Fine Art, Fiber Art, Paper Goods, To Wear and Everything Else. All of these vendors are very hard working individuals with incredible talents. So, get out and support these local artisans in your area. Or drop by their shops online and get a start on your Christmas list.

Until next time - Happy Browsing and most importantly...let me know what you think.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Finally...back to art!

Your eyes DO NOT deceive you! I AM posting on my blog after months of being gone. I'm happy to report, I have survived a 3/4 month-long home renovation project and am now getting back to the thing I love most - ART!
For those that don't know...I swap mail art with a few ladies I have met along the way. Mostly through the Sketchbook Project and Twitter.  If you are not familiar with a mail art swap, it is an exchange of at least one handmade art piece and a collection of other items. As time goes on, you get to know the other person's interests, etc and it becomes WAY more personal. Kind of like an inside joke between friends (except with art).
Anika Starmer contacted me recently asking if I was still interested in one of her pieces and a mail art swap. My immediate reaction was HELL YEAH! (and then I politely sent her an email back expressing my interest and provided my address). Above is the lovely package she sent me.
I was a little anxious about what I should send back. I have tremendous respect for her work ethic and art in general. I decided to let my imagination run wild (and my mediums) and see what the end result was. A few "happy accidents" happened along the way.

I added Elmer's glue in a pattern on the page and painted around/over it with other mediums. Apparently, the glue wasn't dry and I smeared it. While trying to rub the mess away, the glue peeled back. I was able to remove the glue and leave a "resist" of what was underneath.
I also found a page where I "played" with a potato stamp. I added a rubbing of a pair of glasses and wrote the definition of Vision (the act or power of sensing with the eyes) off to the side. It seemed fitting since Anika wears glasses and she has the "vision" of an artist.

Anika seemed pleased with her return package and I am glad to have such a talented friend to swap mail art with!

My equally talented and VERY patient friend, Saylor Made, has been waiting on a return package from me for quite a while. It goes without saying I wanted it to be special. I included a couple of magazine pages with map/sailor/nautical-inspired items on them, confetti butterflies made from a map, a paper boat gift tag, a blue flower card with a reminder on the back and an origami rain coat to weather life's storms with. I put all of these items into an envelop made from a Burt's Bees gift bag and attached a natural button with velcro on the back. Jeannine seemed very impressed with the envelop and extremely happy with her package. I hope it was well worth the wait I put her through.

Well, it's good to be back on the blog and to be making art again. Until next time - Happy Labor Day and send some one you care about something in the mail...I promise, it will make their day!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Handmade from the heart

Nothing makes me as happy as giving a homemade card. I get to be creative while adding all the little things I know the person loves and adores in one package.
I recently made a birthday card for my friend's husband. He loves elephants, so I found a cute version online (Thanks, Indie Craft Parade). I started with an old book page, painted it in the color of my choosing, then traced off the elephant with a Sharpie. Next, I cut it out.
One of my favorite products is Strathmore's Creative Cards. You can draw, stamp, paint, etc on them. They are the equivalent to blank cards, but for artists. I used the fluorescent white with a deckle edge. After I painted the background, I applied the cut-out elephant with glue and added in the finishing touches - like the tail and white tusk. I placed an elephant on both sides and filled the inside with quotes that reminded me of him.

Then, I gifted the same family with a Valentine's Day package. I used one of the Strathmore envelops (as mentioned above), traced off a quirky heart and colored it in with Prismacolor colored pencils. I blended them with an alcohol blender pen, creating an almost velvety texture. I painted an old book page with white/silver paint and black ink. I applied part of the page to the flap of the envelop. Then, I tore strips of the page to make stripes going behind the heart. (The same stripes appear on the opposite side under the flap when closed).
I filled the envelop with:
A bookmark, a set of 12 card stock calendar cards, a fold-out heart that reads verb on one side/love on the other (because love is a verb), a tiny envelop made from a heart and filled with hearts, and a personal message written inside of homemade card.
The best part...I left it in their mailbox when visiting one evening. A little surprise in the mail always brightens a person's day.

I also took "scrap" painted pages from previous projects and combined them to make 2 fabulous hearts - one for my daughter, one for my mom. I traced out the hearts on a sheet of card stock. Next, I glued down the page pieces (careful not to put the same colors next to each other), making sure to overlap the edge of the heart outline. After the whole area was covered, I turned the card stock over and cut out the heart. (The outline shows through when held up to the light.)
I placed my daughter's heart inside of a Valentine's Day card and my mom's heart was included in a homemade envelop with a necklace.

I started out by gifting my mail art buddies Christmas cards for the holidays. I hope I can continue to make these cards for my family and friends this year. They bring so much joy!

Until next time - Remember love is a verb! It requires your attention and actions to keep it alive!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cheers for the year in beer!

As you all know...if you read my blog (or know me personally), we enjoy a good beer in my household. And I don't mean Budweiser, Miller, Coors Light or any of that weak stuff!
I mean imports, micro brews and beer that's been "crafted". Companies that put as much thought into their packages and names as they do their taste.

Recently, I found the newest (Spring) release by Newcastle in the grocery store.  It's called Founders' Ale. It's a very refreshing, "milder" version of the original. If you enjoy a pale ale or belgian white (such as Blue Moon, Shock Top) this is the beer for you. I tend to like a beer I can add a slice of orange or lemon to, and this is it.

This is one of four different beers they have. You can see the rest on my previous blog entry entitled - Newcastle Werewolf!

Here is a list of the recent Winter and Spring releases by various beer companies:

Blue Moon Brewing Company
The Brewmaster's Spring Sampler: Belgian Style Pale Ale, Belgian White (original), 
Spring Blonde Wheat Ale and a limited Spring release - Valencia Amber Ale.

Sierra Nevada
Sierra Nevada's spring release is called Ruthless Rye. The winter release was called Celebration Ale. 
I am very happy to report that Sierra Nevada recently chose North Carolina for the site of its newest distribution plant. For those of you 21 and older, here's the news release straight from the company. 
If not, here's the release from the local paper:

Magic Hat Brewing Company
 Magic Hat Brewing Company seems to have the most fun "entertaining" its beer drinkers. 
From the packaging, to the bottle (under the cap), to the website - these guys know how to party.
 This Winterland Variety 12-pack includes: #9, Encore, Howl and Ravell (3 of each).

New Belgium Brewing Company
New Belgium Brewing Company is always coming up with a different brew. 
Their Lips of Faith collection covers something for every beer taste. 
Also, check out the other brews, such as Dig Pale Ale - it's the newest brew for Spring, ya dig?

Before I go, I couldn't leave you without mentioning art. I spotted these two beauties at a specialty beer and wine store in the area. 
One of my favorite artist and all-around inspirations, Frida Kahlo, is featured on the box of this Mexican beer, Bohemia. I have no idea what it tastes like...but I HAVE to buy a six pack! It's a keeper!
I was not familiar with Adrien Brouwer before seeing this beer (More info). But I loved the "story" on the bottle and had to take a pic.

Well, I hope this post was more than enough to wet your palate and spur your creativity while buying beer. Experiment and try something new. You might even find your favorite in the least likely place.

Until next time, Happy Drinking...and as always, be safe and drink responsibly!