Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Loss and Daffodils

(Image from Natalie Creates)

When we first moved to our new rental back in 2011, I was feeling very sad. Gary had lost his job one year prior and still hadn't found a new one. We were one year into a slippery slope of calamity and our downward slide continues. When we moved to Pacific in October 2011, I needed to do something to feel like myself. I decided to plant daffodils in the front flowerbeds. It would be months before I would be able to see them bloom but it gave me something to look forward to. I loved my daffodils so much. It made me happy every year to see them bloom again.

This past Spring, our landlord at Pacific asked us to leave. We were forced to move right in the middle of Noodle's 8th birthday and my 40th birthday. Not exactly how I had pictured celebrating these milestones. After two months of frantic searching, we ended up in a smaller house paying $600 more rent per month. But at least we managed to find something and stay in Petaluma. We packed up our belongings in boxes and decided to leave all the many plants we had lovingly planted.  I left my Fourth of July rosebush that was a gift from Gary and the fruit trees I had nursed back to health after the landlord had allowed them to be choked by ivy and (most heartbreaking) my beloved daffodils.

I thought the worst was over once we had settled in but I had no idea how vindictive my ex-landlord was going to be. Last week, we went to Small Claims Court. It felt dirty and uncomfortable and I hated having to do it. But that money meant a great deal to us. We received the judgment yesterday and it was a disappointment. We were only awarded about 1/4 of our claim. The hardest pill to swallow is that our landlord is charging the new tenant (who moved in exactly one month after we left) about $600-$700 more rent per month than we paid. He is not hurting for money. But I learned hard lessons and I won't make the same mistakes again.

In the past, I started watching the flower beds in the front yard around this time of year. When I saw my daffodils begin to pop up, I knew Spring was on the way. I wish so much I had dug up my daffodil bulbs before we left. I had thought at the time it would be a nice gift to the place we called home for 3.5 years to leave them. Now it just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. 

I saw the photo above on Natalie's blog today. Natalie has become a source of inspiration for me recently. She gives me a glimpse into the kind of home and lifestyle that I hope to build for myself someday. I don't know when it will happen. Some days I despair that it never will. I have to have hope that it will. And when it does, I hope there will be daffodils.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Life Book 2016

A few years ago, I did the Life Book course. I loved the combination of mixed media art lessons combined with self-help. It challenged me to really think about my life and to be creative on a regular basis.  This year, I decided to try again.

My creative life has dried up over the past few years.  I think about how I used to make things all the time when my son was young. I sewed and painted and knitted and did all sorts of things. Then, my creativity dried up along with my joy. Over the past five years, fear and anxiety have taken over my life and squashed my happiness. This year, I am going to try and take it back.

As you all know, we moved to a new rental house last Spring. I lost my workroom. Now, I have some of my art supplies on a baker's rack in the kitchen/dining room. Much of my supplies are still packed up in the garage. I am already behind on Life Book because I am still trying to find my materials. It is frustrating and I have come close to throwing in the towel. This weekend, I finally gathered enough materials to attempt the first creative warmup.

Work in progress:

Bacchus was fascinated and got right in the middle of my work. He ended up with paint on his nose.

I tried to pick a phrase that would be meaningful for this new year and this new venture. I thought about how I have let worry take over my life. Another Life Booker posted a variation on this quotation and I thought it would be perfect:

While this isn't my best work, it's a start. I am going to try to "exchange worry for wonder" this year. I need to get my happy back.

If you'd like to join me in Life Book, you can register here any time. All the videos are available the whole year so you are never behind.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2016 Word(s) of the Year

I have been participating in picking a Word of the Year since 2011.

In 2011, I chose "remember."
In 2012, I chose "breathe."
In 2013, I chose "believe."
In 2014, I chose "thrive."
In 2015, I did not choose a word. I looked at the new year with fear and loathing.

It's time to renew this practice.

This year, I decided on two words which I think will go hand in hand.

The first word is "simplify."

Oddly enough, I had already decided on this word when I discovered the The Bloggess chose it as well.

I need to rid my life of clutter and stuff. Not only physical items but emotional and mental clutter as well. It's time to decide what really matters and get rid of the rest.

Along with that I chose the word "happiness."

The last time I felt truly happy unfettered by fear and anxiety was in 2010. That was when my husband lost his job and we started a downward spiral that continues today.

While my problems continue, I must remember that I can control my reaction to those problems. I cannot let these challenges steal my happiness. Life is short. It's time to get my happiness back.

Friday, December 11, 2015

DIY Rebel Alliance Tshirts

I made something!!!

It is so much harder now for me to do anything creative. We are in a smaller house and my only work space is the dining table where we eat. So I can't leave any projects out!

We have three birthday parties this month. Money is always very tight so I tried to think of something I could make as a present. All three boys like "Star Wars" and I thought it might be fun to make something "Star Wars" related since the new movie is coming out.  Recently, I saw a man walking down the street with a Rebel Alliance tshirt on. I loved the graphic quality of the image and felt confident I could make something using the Freezer Paper Stencil technique.

There are freezer paper stencil tutorials all over the internet so I won't go into too much detail.

Freezer Paper
Rebel Alliance image (there are lots on the internet)
Fabric paint (I used Tulip's Matte True Red)
Black tshirt
Foam brush

First, I searched for an image of the Rebel Alliance symbol and printed out an enlarged version.

I then laid a piece of freezer paper over the image and traced it with a pencil. I cut the image out of the freezer paper to make a stencil.  Once you have your stencil, you will need to place it on your tshirt with the shiny side down. Use a hot iron over the paper to get it to stick to the shirt. Make sure all the cut edges have a nice seal.

Time to paint!

I placed a paper shopping bag inside each shirt to prevent paint from soaking through. You will probably get some bleeding and you don't want it to soak through to the back of shirt. You want a nice sharp edge to your image so I prefer to dab the paint on with a foam brush. It is much better to dab paint on from above than smooth it on within the stencil. You don't want any paint to get under the edges of the stencil.

I don't like the black to show through so I did a first pass when the paintbrush and let it dry. Then, I went back over a second time. Once the paint has fully dried (don't rush this!), carefully remove the stencil. When you are peeling, bits of the freezer paper can sometimes get left behind. I pulled some off with tweezers. The rest will eventually come off in the wash.

I think the shirts look pretty cool! Hopefully, the boys will like them!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Feeling Lots of Feelings

I know I haven't checked in in awhile. My life is at a very strange point.  When we moved in May, I lost my office so I am now down to a baker's rack in the kitchen. My only space to create is the dining table. Since the dining table is our only eating space, I can't leave any projects out. I have felt completely uninspired for a long time.

I look at photographs of all the things I used to make and it makes me sad. When Noodlebug was little, I sewed him handmade clothes and costumes and knitted him things and made him toys. Somehow I even found time to create mixed media canvases and other projects. Now, I don't do anything creative. It is as if the stress of life and constant financial worry has drained all the creativity and drive out of me.

I did mange to pull together some Halloween costumes. This year, our little family went as some of the Feelings from "Inside Out."  Meet Sadness, Anger, and Fear.

I'm not sure how to get my creative mojo back. I'm feeling a bit lost right now.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I Am Changing

I have felt for awhile now that I am on the edge a big change in my life. It wasn't just the fact that I turned 40 in May. Many of my peers spent the time leading up to their 40th birthdays getting fit and losing weight. As much as I would have liked to focus on that, I spent the time leading up to my birthday losing my home and starting over yet again. This latest move has forced me to re-evaluate many aspects of my life. I spent the Summer getting rid of a lot of stuff. I'm almost done cleaning out. This is not a konmari approach but more something driven out of fear and necessity. If we have to suddenly move again, I need to limit how much we have to pack and move. This blog has been idle because I haven't been creating anything.  Instead, I have been dismantling things. I have yet to open all the boxes from my old workroom and make tough decisions about getting rid of craft and art materials. It has been so long since I have sat down to create anything at all. I used to paint. I used to collage. I used to sew.  What happened to that person?

The last five years have been tough. Our lives completely changed when my husband lost his job.  Although we are both employed now, we are not making the money we did back then. Our new rental costs us $600 more than the old one.  Almost all my paycheck goes to cover rent and we usually run out of money by mid-month. We are trying desperately to dig out of the debt accrued while my husband didn't have a job. We'll get there.  It is just a painful process in the meantime. I am working towards the goal of owning a home again. That is my sole focus right now.

As we work through these difficult times, I am starting to think about who I really am right now. I find myself attracted to surprising things and people. I am drawing inspiration like never before from Instagram. I am feeling called to start a Bible journaling practice to re-focus my faith journey. I am changing my style and how I look. I am trying to figure out ways to get healthy while working full-time and taking care of two households. Things are happening.

I decided to join Brave Girl University to re-take some of the Brave Girls Club classes that meant so much to me several years ago. I think I need to spend some time figuring out who I am and what I really want. I feel myself withdrawing from a lot of things that used to give me joy and turning away from the company of others.  It is as if I am building a cocoon and isolating myself to start the painful process of becoming someone else.

I am not sure what is going to happen but recently I have been turning to Rainer Maria Rilke who meant so much to me in my college years:

"How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
     So you mustn't be frightened...if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. "

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Brave Girl University

A few years ago, I was looking for inspiration and guidance. I knew I was experiencing a lot of change in my life and I needed a way to gather my thoughts about everything that was happening. My friend directed me to Brave Girls Club. I loved it because their classes combined some really great self-help guidance along with creative instruction. Best of both worlds!  Over the years, I have taken several of their classes.  I feel like my life is changing yet again and it may be time to retake some of my favorite BGC classes like Soul Restoration and Life Restoration. When I went to investigate signing up, I discovered that the wonderful people at Brave Girls Club were embarking on a new adventure!

Starting TODAY, Brave Girl University is launching!  For a $25 per month subscription, you get access to online courses by over 80 different teachers!  And many of my favorites! I can't wait to take classes from Junelle Jacobsen, Mindy Lacefield, Stephanie Ackerman, Tamara Laporte, Jeanne Oliver, and so many more! I love online classes because I can do them whenever I find a spare moment. And I love knowing that as long as I am a subscriber, I will have access to these classes. No deadlines!

I can't wait to see what this new adventure is like!  Maybe I will actually get a moment to create something. It has been awhile and I think my soul needs it.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Why I Love Evy's Tree

(This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own and 
I received no compensation in any form for this post.)

In January 2012, like many others, I was closely following Ashley Hackshaw's cancer journey. Ashley is such a creative spirit and I had received so much inspiration from her blog. I prayed for her and marveled at her strength in the face of such extreme adversity. It is a testament to Ashley's impact on the blogging world that so many bloggers and shop owners came together to create a special auction that would benefit Ashley and her family.  Leading the charge was Amy Miraflor of Evy's Tree.

I had never heard of Evy's Tree before but was immediately charmed by Amy's embellished hoodies. I loved that she had developed this cottage industry out of her home. I didn't win one of Amy's hoodies but I did become a customer.

(Vintage Brilla)
In 2013, Amy decided to grow her business and launched a manufactured line. It was about this time that I FINALLY realized that Evy's Tree was in my own backyard!!! I kept buying hoodies and anxiously awaited the day when Evy's Tree would expand enough to open a storefront in Sonoma County.  That finally happened during the last year.

So, why do I love these hoodies so much?  I am a plus-size girl. It can be very very hard to feel good in anything when you are plus-size. Every time I admire clothing on FB or IG, I will invariably discover that it does not come in my size. I can't even do Stitch Fix which so many of my friends are crazy about. My size isn't available. So, when I find something that makes me feel good when I wear it, it's a BIG DEAL!  I love that Evy's Tree offers XS through 2X. (or 0/2 through 20/22).  Another problem that many women have with online and catalog orders is that it is hard to know how something will fit if you aren't the size of the model wearing the clothes. Evy's Tree is so great about having all their lovely employees model their hoodies. Fans of ET tend to have their favorite "fit model" that they always look for on FB and IG.  (I love Nicole and Harmony)  Seeing these hoodies on women of all shapes and sizes is not only inspiring but very helpful in ordering!

I also love how the company is supportive of families. They seem to take care of their employees. When I visit the showroom, I am always impressed with how kind everyone is. Every employee that walks through introduces himself or herself to me and makes me feel welcome. That is pretty darn special!

The hoodies are pricey. They are considered a luxury brand with lots of wonderful little details. I can't always buy them when they come out. But I watch for sales like a hawk! The team releases 2-4 hoodies per month. The brand has quite the cult following that has even inspired FB groups like "Evy's Tree Styling, Resale, Chat."

Here are some of my favorite Evy's Tree moments.  I am 5'7" and wear a size 16.

(Ashley Stripe in XL)

(Blush Diana in XL)

(Sea Glass Reece in XL...although I will be sizing up to 1X if I get another one of these)

(Josie Tunic in Vintage Grey in XL)

(Here I am in the ET Showroom wearing the new Lisa Golden in Large)
(Cognac Brilla in 1X)
(Addyson--unbelted--in XL)

(Christie in Mauve in size 2X--Slightly too big but definitely size up unless you want it super-fitted)

(Side view of Christie--a size 1X would have been perfect)

(Sienna Ashley in size XL worn with Grace and Lace extender)

The hoodies allow me to be comfortable and casual while also being slightly more dressy and put together.  Plus, they layer so nicely!!!

Recently, Evy's Tree realized the need for a rewards program. If only I had had that two years ago!  This referral link will get you 10% off your first purchase. From time to time, I will post photos of me wearing new releases just because I like to drop by the showroom!

It is always great to be able to support a wonderful company filled with wonderful people!

For the most up to date info on Evy's tree, follow them on Instagram @evystreeofficial or on Facebook.  If you live in Sonoma County, I HIGHLY recommend you follow @evystreeshowroom.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Inspiration from Hymns

(Beautiful Piece from Take the Cannoli)
I haven't done anything creative in awhile.  I just got a few materials to start Bible Journaling recently but have not had a moment to sit down and begin.

I have been thinking a lot about hymns lately. I grew up in Texas and spent a lot of time in my grandparents' Baptist church in Waco. My grandmother would often walk around the house humming hymns and they make up a great deal of the soundtrack of my youth.

A few of my favorites:

"Blessed Assurance"
"Just a Closer Walk with Thee"
"The Old Rugged Cross"
"What a Friend We Have in Jesus"
"I'll Fly Away"
"O Christ the Same"
"How Great Thou Art"
"Softly and Tenderly (Jesus is Calling)"

Have you ever noticed how many classic hymns address trouble and strife?

Many of my favorite childhood hymns are not in my current Lutheran hymnal but I am making an effort to collect them into a list. I would like to do something creative with these hymns. I'm going to keep on collecting hymns on this post and then I to put some of the lyrics into a new piece.

Do you have any favorites?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

CBC Guide to Disneyland: Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of my series about Disneyland!

Plan on getting to the park at least a half hour before it opens.  It can take many families awhile to get out the door in the morning so you can get in a lot of rides if you go early. Cast members will let the crowds into Main Street first before the rest of the park opens. One the rest of the park opens, plan your strategy. If you have more than one adult and it looks like the park will be crowded, send one adult to a Fast Pass ride to grab passes for later and then meet up with the rest of the family at your first ride of the day. Expect long lines at rides like Peter Pan. 

Fast Passes are so great for busy rides! They are an absolute MUST for Radiator Springs Racers. If you are going to California Adventure, be there before it opens and head to the left hand side of rope drop.  Once they drop the rope, head directly to the Radiator Spring Fast Pass machines. They WILL run out of passes so get this out of the way first.

Although Disney does a brilliant job with lines, plan on bringing a small activity to keep the kids busy while waiting. My son had a small "Cars" tractor that kept him completely occupied. My friend's little one had a small lunchbox-sized container with little plastic figures. Although there are lockers with charging stations throughout the park, we decided to conserve energy on our phones and did not let the kids use them. Charging stations are often full and we wanted to keep our phones charged up in order to check the wait times at different rides.

Kids ages 7 and up can ride on their own.  The rides with the strictest height limits are California Screamin' and Tower of Terror.  My 7-year-old was able to do all the rides this year. 

Do not miss the evening parades and fireworks!!!  Each part of Disneyland has something special. Disneyland has its evening parade and Fantasmic! show as well as fireworks.  California Adventure has the Pixar Parade and World of Color.  We have found the Pixar Parade to be less crowded than the Disneyland parade.  

We always indulge in a World of Color dining package that gets you preferred viewing for World of Color.  There are various packages but we typically get the Carthay Circle package.  It is a fixed price dinner.  At the end of dinner, you get Fast Passes for the preferred viewing area.  It is still standing room so prepare accordingly.  There is now also a Fantasmic! dining package but we have yet to try that one.

When it gets hot and crowded, take the time to explore the many other entertainment options in the park. Although we haven't seen it yet, the Aladdin show is supposed to be amazing!

Stop by City Hall when you first enter the park and ask for a button.  They have all kinds such as a Birthday button, an "I'm Celebrating!" button, First Time Visitor buttons and more.  They are free and make a great souvenir.  When they write your name on the birthday button, cast members will tell you Happy Birthday all day long!

You can always buy Disney themed t-shirts and other merchandise in advance to save money but there are some things you will only find in the parks. My one souvenir from this last trip was the Disneyland "I am Here" Starbucks mug because you can't get it anywhere else.  I also happen to believe that every visitor needs a pair of mouse ears.

Even though it can be pricey, make sure and take advantage of the various Disney photographers throughout the parks. After they take your photo, they will give you a Photopass card. You can reuse this same card every time you get your photo taken.

If you have a Star Wars fan, do not miss the Jedi Training Academy!  My son loves it!!!  Try to hit the very first show if you can. Go early and make sure your kids sit in front. If they are wearing Star Wars apparel, it can help them get chosen. And enthusiasm goes a long way! If your child get picked, they will participate in the show and get a special certificate at the end.

One of my son's favorite souvenirs this year was his Autopia driver's license. After riding the ride, you will exit past the booths where you can get this card made. I think it costs about $5.  He carries it in his wallet all the time!

Little girls will most likely want a makeover at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique.  They have a knight package as well. VERY PRICEY. But it may be an important one-time experience for your child.  ($60-$195)

My family also loves pin trading.  You can get a starter package in the park or at the Disney Stores.  They usually come with a lanyard and a few pins.  My son loves to trade pins!  It has been good for his self-confidence. We only trade with Cast Members.  Trades are one-for-one and cast members will not turn down your child.  Just watch for cast members wearing pins.  Some people buy giant lots of pins through eBay and other discount outlets to save money. I do not recommend this because the pins are almost always fake. Invest in a few inexpensive ones and let your kids trade for ones they really want.

I bought my son an autograph book from the Disney Store for our first trip. Any book will do.  He loved getting autographs from all his favorite Disney characters and it has been a special souvenir for him.

Although this isn't technically a souvenir, don't miss rubbing Aladdin's Magic Lamp in the Bazaar shop in Adventureland across from the Jungle Cruise. And have your video camera ready! For 50 cents, my son got his fortune told with great theatrics!

In California Adventure, grab a newspaper on Buena Vista Street.  They are free and make a fun souvenir. If you need a break for your kids to run around, head over to Grizzly Peak for the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.  Kids figure out a variety of challenges in order to earn their Wilderness Explorer Badge. It feels like being in a really fun park right in the middle of Disneyland!  Kids can run around and climb and do zip lines.  A great hidden treasure.

There is so much to do and see at Disneyland!!! Make sure to take in all the little details around the park.  Do not force yourself to try and ride as many rides as you can.  You will all be miserable.  Take your time. Don't stress.  Focus on the rides with the shortest lines and the ones you absolutely must do because your kids love the characters.  Don't worry about the rest.  Have a great time.  Because it really is one of the happiest places on Earth!