Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pretty Pics: Dreaming of Spring...

I write this from my bed, propped up on pillows, laptop uncomfortably perched on a pillow on my lap. Bundled in blankets, pajamas still on & it's almost noon. I have a cold. Yuck. Icky-sicky. I can't wait for it to run its course, and I can't wait for some warmer weather!

The holidays have been fun, but I'm kinda over them. As friends make party-hopping plans for New Year's Eve, all I want to do is cuddle up on the couch & watch old movies.

I took this photo in late August of last year at one of our favorite nurseries, The Great Outdoors. I'm ready to pay them another visit for inspiration & get back out in our garden! We have exciting plans for an outdoor room on the back patio...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Hand-carved Steckpyramide & Other Christmas Delights

Patrick's mom, Helga, has recently passed down many of the traditional German Christmas decorations that Patrick grew up with to us, including this beautiful steckpyramide. If you've never seen one of these in person, it's really pretty because once the candles heat up, the whole pyramid starts spinning on its own. There are fan blades at the top which you can see more clearly in the photo of our whole bar below.

All of the little figures are hand-carved and in their original boxes from the workshop she bought them at in Germany. Helga bought these sometime in the late 60s, we think. She had recently wed Patrick's dad & moved from her home of Juegesheim in central Germany to Houston, Texas - can you imagine the culture shock?!

For some reason, that little tree stump is my favorite - it's just so darn cute!

Here's a wider shot showing our makeshift mantelpiece, since we don't have a fire place in this house (click for larger view). I think the bar makes a pretty good substitute, although I do miss cuddling up by the fire on cold evenings. We've got our quirky, mismatched snowman stockings hanging from it, lights draped all around, and some silver & blue paper chains I made many years ago when we got our first live Christmas tree for the apartment we were living in in Seattle & were a little short on decorations! The tree took up the whole living room, but it was beautiful. ahh, memories... There's also a little ceramic Christmas tree, complete with working lights, that my mom made for us. I love it; seems like all the ladies in my family had these when I was growing up, so it's a lovely bit of nostalgia for me.

We've also got a humongous bowl of tasty pecans from my parents' tree. yum! and yes, that is a lobster cracker not a nut cracker, but it works just the same!

We've got a little collection of decorative nutcrackers, too, also courtesy of Helga. The one in front with his majestic red coat & fluffy beard is my favorite, but he's a mass-produced item from a German department store. The one behind him with the brown hat is a handmade, one-of-a-kind nutcracker, so he's a really special one.

Here's our new ornament for 2009 - an awesome glittery, aqua blue(!) reindeer, purchased on clearance for about $2. Gotta love that! It's a little tradition of ours to pick out one new ornament for our tree together every year - but just one. So we have to pick carefully (and I'm always partial to glittery reindeer). Many of the other ornaments are hand-me-downs from friends & family, so we have an eclectic assortment of old & new. They're all in various shades of blue & silver though, which I think looks absolutely gorgeous on our white tree, which was also a major clearance deal. It's a floor model we got for about $20 at Home Depot one year the day after Christmas, right after deciding that live trees were too hard on our sinuses and we needed to go with fake trees from then on - very serendipitous! We weren't even shopping for a tree, but how could we pass up that deal?

Hope you've enjoyed a peek at our home all decked out for the season. Happy Holidays & the very merriest 2010 to you & yours!

Monday, December 21, 2009

4 days 'til Christmas! {plus identity issues}

I hope you're relishing this beautiful time of year and spending time with those you love. I'm definitely enjoying a deliberately slower pace of life this week. The WonderCraft is now {mostly} on hiatus until the new year, so I've been able to spend more time with P (my hubs), going to movies, trying new restaurants and strolling through shops looking for gifts and then wrapping them with love (I love wrapping gifts!). Wanted to share a couple of online joys with you today...

First up, how unbelievably cute is that little gingerbread house perched on a mug?! I first saw it on Craftzine, where I go for my daily dose of crafty goodness. Head over to not martha for more cute pics & the full tutorial.

And secondly, The UK Times Online has just published their list of 50 of the world's best design blogs. A few blogs that I read almost daily were awarded this honor, well-deserved. I've spent this morning checking out the others on the list and adding several to my ever-growing left sidebar here. I encourage you to check them out for some serious eye-candy & inspiration!

The blogs on the list, such as pia jane bijkerk, really inspire me to re-think Crafty Mishmash... which puts me in a bit of a funk. I feel like what I'm doing here is at odds with my true style and design aesthetic, and I'm always trying to fine tune things for a more harmonious blend of my playful, whimsical Snuggle Herd work and "the real me" which is still playful & whimsical, but more romantic/dreamy/retro/sophisticated (I think). Seems like I've been struggling with this disconnect throughout my entire art/design/craft career, with my work always coming out with a more clunky, childlike look than I would like.

The photo above, found in pia jane bijkerk's kids' gift guide, of the darling little girl is from Mette, an Etsy shop based in Vancouver. I love the styling of their photos! I want to move toward this type of look in my photography for my Snuggle Herd products. Adorable children modeling the clothes definitely changes the mood and tone of the pics. They look classic, timeless and so sweet! Obviously my clothing designs are not quite the same, but I think I could come up with something along these lines that works for my designs. If I can find some kids to model for me, and talk P into doing a whole slew of new photos, of course.

And so I may be tweaking Crafty Mishmash a lot in the coming days, so bear with me. It's just that I often look at my blog and think, "this isn't really me." Know what I'm sayin'???

Friday, December 18, 2009

Introducing Betsy Bunny

Tah-dah! It's still December & I've already got a product for Spring! So excited about this - I'm actually ahead of the seasons for once! Earlier this week I decided to schedule a block of time every Wednesday to work on a new product idea for The Snuggle Herd. I have sooo many ideas in my sketchbook just waiting to come to life that I really want to get moving on, but I never seem to progress beyond the initial sketch or idea. I'm so proud of myself that I stuck with my goal & actually made something new this week!

So how did I manage to accomplish this in the middle of what is perhaps the busiest week of the year, you ask? Simple: My internet has been down for 2 days. It's been really frustrating because I usually spend most of my mornings sending & replying to emails, reading my favorite blogs, skimming Facebook & scheduling things on my beloved Google calendar - and of course, checking back in on all 4 throughout the day. So it has been quite difficult to deal with this technical blip, but it has allowed me to be way more productive than usual, seeing as how I usually spend my mornings sending & replying to emails, reading my favorite blogs, skimming Facebook... you get the idea.

Here's my original sketch. The applique turned out a little differently, with the nose/mouth area much smaller in relation to the head than it is in the sketch. I can't decide which I like better - the smaller nose, mouth & teeth of the embroidered design, or the larger face that takes up more of the head, as it is in my sketch.

What do you think? Please let me know in the comments; I'd love to ge
t some feedback!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DIY Shimmery, Snowy Candles

Look at these beautiful candles! You wouldn't believe how simple they are to make: Take some pillar candles & coat them with Mod Podge, then roll them in a tray of epsom salts. That's it! Isn't that a nifty trick? Emily shared this super-crafty how-to on her blog, Remodeling This Life.

I found the link over on another lovely blog, The Inspired Room, where Melissa shared her own beautifully simple idea for epsom salt "snow" in a jar. Wow! So easy and so festive, yet not Christmas-y. I like that you could decorate with these candles throughout the entire winter. Thanks for the great ideas, ladies!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Craftastic New Blog: Make + Meaning

I am utterly blown away by this new community blog called Make + Meaning, which I've just read about over on another fave blog, CraftyPod. Make & Meaning is the brainchild of CraftyPod founder, Diane Gilleland (pictured, right), and Paul Overton (below right), the dude behind Dude Craft.

From the About page: We believe in making, and we love the fact that the internet allows makers to meet and geek out together, regardless of geography. There are many, many websites that celebrate making in all its forms. We created Make & Meaning to celebrate all the ways making enhances our lives, and all the things it causes us to think about.

It's a fabulous portal of interesting articles about making and blogging about making. I have only had a chance to read 3 articles so far, but I can tell I'm going to be spending a LOT of time on this site! The articles I've read have been very thought-provoking, spot-on observations about the internal struggles and daily interactions of crafty types like me (us?).

For instance, Dudecraft's article titled, Free: A Case Study, expounds on the positive aspects of sharing your crafty content for free, as opposed to safe-guarding it out of fear that others will steal and profit from your hard-won lessons and techniques, something I ponder often.

Another great read, Lots of People Are Not Like Us, really hit home for me. The author, Pip from meet me at mike's (pictured, left), discusses how those of us fully engaged in the online crafting community tend to forget that many other folks we encounter "IRL" are not makers, bloggers, or even readers of blogs. Even fellow crafters are often unaware of the wondrous resources available for makers on the interwebs, and those of us who are can/should be ambassadors, spreading the word about all the creative tutorials, inspiring websites, handmade marketplaces and more that are available online.

See what I mean?! This is great stuff. Thank you, Paul, Diane, Pip & all of the other talented contributors for bringing us this wonderful blog! Do yourself a favor and check Make + Meaning out - you will be instantly drawn in. Adding it to the Crafty Mishmash sidebar & my Google Reader now...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unique & Practical Winter Gift Ideas

Wonderful holiday gift guides abound online, so instead of making my own gift guide, I just wanted to highlight a few inspiring gift ideas I've seen on the web lately. Any of these would be gifts I'd love to receive (hint, hint!) because they are all about making the cold days of winter more comfy-cozy. I've also put links to a few of the coolest gift guides I've found at the end of this post. Enjoy!

The Woodland Draft Buster from Betz White is so cute! You can find the pattern in her book, Sewing Green. The book itself would make a lovely gift for someone crafty, but if you have the time, why not buy the book as a gift to yourself & whip some draft dodgers up for your loved ones? Helping them stay warm & cozy this winter would be a wonderful gift.

This next project is totally tempting me, because my skin gets horribly dry during the winter. I'm sure you have someone on your list who also suffers this winter affliction, so how about making them an indulgent brown sugar scrub?

Find the incredibly simple instructions on Craftzine and get to it! This is one that children will love making, too. Mix it up, put it in a jar & use fabric scraps & ribbon to pretty it up - so easy!

Lastly, a fashionable & functional classic: a pretty scarf. This scarf has a twist though: it's made from an old sweater (yay, upcycling!) & gathered using a long ribbon (clever!), so that it has a very ruffly look. How pretty is this? and it looks like it would keep your neck nice and warm (very important for short-haired girls like me)! This project is another one from the amazing folks at Craftzine. Check out the Sew a Ruffled Scarf post for a detailed how-to. Don't be scared; it actually seems very simple to make as long as you have basic sewing skills.

Wouldn't any of these make a fantastic, thoughtful gift? Sure wish I had started on them earlier... maybe I'll be able to make some gifts for Christmas 2010, if I start now! Oh well, if you're in a time crunch like me, you can still find tons of fabulous gifts online by checking out the gift guides below. Or better yet, shop at your local craft shows & support handmade! If you're in Austin, come out & see me at Cherrywood Art Fair this weekend!

Great Holiday Gift Guide Roundup 09:
- under $50 gift guide from design*sponge {they have many gift guides to browse; see their full list}
- Slow Holiday gift guide from Treehugger
- and of course, there's a plethora of gift guides on Etsy!

Happy shopping &/or making! Please leave links to your fave gift guides or DIY gift ideas in the comments!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Crafty, Upcycled Wreaths

Here are some fabulous ideas from Alpha Mom for creating unique holiday wreaths from materials you probably already have around the house. I saw these in the Craft daily digest, my fave e-newsletter chronicling the online crafting universe. I'm sure I won't have time to make any of these this month, as I am so busy, busy, but I hope you will try them!

Alpha Mom has written a very detailed post with great pics & how-tos for wreaths made of recycled items like toilet paper tubes and plastic lids, even one using painted ping pong balls!

My favorite wreath, a most surprisingly elegant one, is made from a plastic milk jug! Be sure to check out Alpha Mom's post for the full tutorial on each type of wreath.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holiday Fun!

Last night we put up our Christmas tree, hung the stockings & strung the lights around the house. It's looking quite festive! I always love decorating the house for Christmas, and I needed to get it done because it's going to be a busy, busy holiday season for me this year.

To start, I'll be out at the Lights of Love 5k with the other WonderCraft gals this Friday. It's a fundraising event for The Ronald McDonald House. We'll be making felt snowmen ornaments with the kiddos as part of our outreach program. Come by & see our Airstream, Stella, with the adorable handmade boutique we've just set up!

The very next day we'll be out at EtsyAustin's Craft Riot! If you're local, you'll want to come out to this fabulous holiday bazaar! It lasts the whole weekend, and in addition to all of the lovely, handmade items you'll find there that will make unique gifts for everyone on your list, you'll also enjoy wine tastings & photos with Santa! Head over to EtsyAustin's blog to "Meet Your Makers" (including yours truly)! We WonderCrafters will be there with Stella, with each of our own handmade items & nifty WonderCraft DIY kits inside, as well as the photo booth.

Then, the handmade holiday fun continues the following weekend at the Cherrywood Art Fair. Stella will be there as well, and we'll be selling all of our own handmade items & WonderCraft DIY kits again. Cherrywood is an amazing shopping paradise for those who love unique, handmade items & one-of-a-kind art - over 80 vendors! Here's a peek at a few. Plus lots of great live music, kids' activities, artist demos & a huge silent auction (bid on my Lion Family collage!). Over at The WonderCraft corner, we'll be demonstrating lots of cool upcycled gift-wrapping techniques throughout the weekend. Come on by!

Hope to see you out & about this month! Happy Holidaze to you & yours!

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