Category Archives: life in general

Blessed Be the Bunnies…

If you follow my blog you probably know that hubby and I have two pet rabbits.  We adopted Cypress and Pinto from a shelter back in 2010, and have been enjoying their wascally wabbit antics since then.  They’re definitely a big part of our little family.  Happily, we had a unique (to me) opportunity to show our love for them in a new way this past weekend.  They were blessed in honor of the Feast of Saint Francis! :]

Pinto

Pinto, peeking out of the pet carrier to see what’s going on…

Apparently Catholic churches often invite people to have their pet blessed by the church in honor of Saint Francis on or around October 4th – his feast day.  Saint Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment, and it sounds like he was a wonderful man.  A non-Catholic, I learned a good amount about him during the little service they had before the blessing of the animals.  And though hubby was raised Catholic this whole idea of bringing your pets to church for a blessing was new to him.

Hubby

Hubby and the bunnies before the event started…

We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but it was such a lovely experience.  The priest, Father Thomas, was very friendly, funny, kind and patient, and all the critters there were so cute!  As expected, there were many dogs.  We also saw some birds, turtles, fish (beta), a little lizard/dragon, and several turtles.  We didn’t see any cats, and we were the only ones who brought bunnies.

Cypress and Pinto were a big hit.  :] They received their holy water sprinkles without a fuss while secured in their pet carrier.  After the little service and history about St. Francis, who sounds like he was a very humble, loving and caring person, we had a little “parade” – which was a walk up to the front of the church for a group photo and then back.

BlessedBunnies

Hubby holding Cypress, Father Thomas, me holding Pinto

After the official part of the event was over we asked the priest to take a picture with the four of us.  We hadn’t taken the bunnies out of their carrier until then, because I was worried that they’d be too afraid or that there would be a mishap of some sort.  However, by that time many families had left and it seemed safe, so we took them out and held them. And yes, I brought along a few of my vintage doilies to lay on the open pet carrier in keeping with the church/altar look.  I’m cuckoo – I know.  :]

Melody

Getting ready to head back home with our precious cargo…

It was a funny, sweet, and fun event, and I’m very glad we went.  I love our bun buns, and want the best for them.  Blessings for the bunnies are always welcome…

Warm regards,
Melody
aka Mama Bunny

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Pumpkin Crumble Cake

pumpkin_cake2

Greetings, dear readers!  In honor of Autumn, and the commencement of the “all things pumpkin” season, I’m sharing a recipe for a pumpkin cake today.  No, this is not a cake in the traditional sense of the word – it’s kind of a mixture of a pumpkin pie and a crumble topping.  However, it’s yummy no matter what it’s called.

I found this recipe on livelaughrowe.com, and it’s called Pumpkin Dump Cake on Ms. Rowe’s site. However, that name didn’t sound super appetizing to me, so I’ve renamed this treat Pumpkin Crumble Cake.  It’s easy to make and is scrumptious, and is a great way to embrace the fall season.

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Pumpkin Crumble Cake
*

Ingredients

29 oz. can pumpkin
1 cup sugar
12 oz. can evaporated milk
3 eggs
4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup melted butter (next time I make this I’m going to try it with 1 cup instead)

 Instructions

1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, evaporated milk, eggs, pumpkin pie spice and salt
2. Beat well and pour into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan
3. Sprinkle cake mix over top, followed by the pecans
4. Pour melted butter over top
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes

Notes

Per livelaughrowe.com: Keep a close eye, burns easily or cover with foil after 30 minutes.
I followed her advice and covered the pan with foil after 30 minutes.  I baked the cake for 50 minutes total.

Serving Suggestions
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Okay, so I know the photo below looks a bit like stuffing, but it’s actually the Pumpkin Crumble Cake. Given that the pumpkin part on the bottom stays pretty soft, I figured that being able to plate a nice, tidy, clean-edged piece for a photo wasn’t going to happen.  So, I made a happy mound of pumkin-y, cakey, nutty goodness on the plate, and snapped away.  This is a great way to mix the flavors an textures anyway, and wouldn’t a bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream be spectacular on the top?  I think so, too.  :]

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Happy Autumn, and Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

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DIY Patio Railing Planters Part 2 – Herb Pots

garden3
Greetings, dear readers!  I hope this blog post finds you well and happy.  Today I’m sharing the next installation in our DIY patio garden efforts.  In case you missed part one, this is what the patio looked like with the one row of larger planters (below).

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Once we’d gotten the main, large planters in (shared in this post here) hubby figured out a way to add another row of pots for me – smaller ones that I could put herbs in.  Woo hoo!  Again, the constraints were that nothing could be permanently attached to the building, he had to use simple tools on the patio, and couldn’t make much noise.

Materials

One 2″ x 4″ x 8″ board
Fourteen 6″ diameter plastic pots
Galvanized bolts, washers, and nuts (1 bolt, two washers, and one nut per pot)
Two L brackets
Screws
Electric drill

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Our patio is laid out in such a way that there was enough room to lay the new wooden board for the herbs inside the railing and have it supported on the sides by the building/patio walls.  (See far right of the photo above, and the photo below)  Hubby simply laid the board across and made the setup more secure by attaching L brackets to each end of the 2 x 4 – on the inside of the patio.  We wanted to make sure nothing would fall down since the bunnies spend time out on the patio during the day – weather permitting.

bracket

Next, he drilled holes in the wooden board – one hole for each of the fourteen plastic pots that would fit across the board.  You can measure for exact spacing if you’d like, but I believe he chose the “lay the pots out on the board and then trace around them with a pencil” method.

driled_hole

Next hubby drilled a hole in the bottom center of each plastic pot and attached the hardware that would help attach them to the board.  He put the bolt in from the center of the pot going down out of the bottom, so the bolt would stick out of the bottom and slide into the pre-drilled holes.  This allows the pots to be rearranged, which is super helpful.  The hardware was layered this way: bolt, washer, plastic pot, washer, nut.  Once all the hardware was attached to the pots they were inserted into the board – ready to be filled with soil and plants, and easy to rearrange.

pot

garden4

So, now we have three larger rectangle planters, two pots on either side of those planters (barley visible in the photo below), and fourteen small pots in front.  I hung my often-used tools within arms reach.  My trowel and misting water bottle hang on either end of the row of herbs.  I just used some metal hooks that screwed right into the wood.

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I also added some decorative elements – fun!  I found some galvanized disk ornaments at Michaels and added flowers and a butterfly that I cut out with my Sizzix Big Shot and steel rule dies.  The die cut shapes can be changed out quickly and easily if I decide I want to change the look and feel.  I may change them seasonally – will have to see.

flower

And though I know what all I have in my little garden, and where everything is located, I made some simple garden markers from bamboo skewers and washi tape.  I may opt for something hardier and more elaborate in the coming weeks and months, but this super simple version is working well for now.

My plants are in varying stages right now.  Some plants were mini plants that were purchased on little flats at the nursery, and some were started from seed.  Some things I’m growing do better when started earlier or later (to avoid the heat), so this is all just experimental at this point.  I’m thrilled anything is alive given the heat we’ve had lately – it’s been in the high 80s or 90s since we got the garden going in early July.  I’ve been watering frequently, and am pleased that the residents of the garden are hanging in there.

The cilantro plants bolted soon after we got them, and sent up flowers.  Many gardeners would get rid of the plants and start new cilantro plants at this point, but since it’s my first time growing cilantro I opted to let them flower so they can go to seed.  Cilantro plants produce coriander seeds, which can be used as an herb in cooking.  It’s pretty cool that the one plant can be used in two different culinary ways. :]

coriander

Flowering cilantro against an overcast August sky…

These nasturtium plants were started from seed.  I love nasturtium plants and flowers, and though they’re pretty they’re also edible!  I’ll likely add some young leaves and flowers to our plates as the plants continue to grow and fill in.  I’ll feed some to the bunnies as well.  I’m happy that thus far our wee little garden is both pleasing to the eye and completely edible.

nasturtium

Please leave a comment if you’d like to recommend any veggies or herbs that might do well in our little patio planters.  I’m probably going to replace our cilantro and parsley with lettuce plants as soon as the lettuce seedlings I’m growing are a bit bigger, and am open to a few other tweaks here and there.

I hope you have a wonderful week, dear readers.  Until next time…

Warm regards,
Melody

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DIY Patio Railing Planters

patio_garden14A

Confession: I’ve had a platonic crush on gardens for some time now.  I love nature, and longed for space to grow things – including veggies.  However, given that I’ve lived in apartments virtually all my life, and that we have our bunnies on our patio during the day, growing veggies wasn’t in the cards.

All that changed with our recent move, though.  We moved in June and I was determined to have SOME sort of garden, even if it was small.  And though I wasn’t able to do a raised bed Square Foot Garden like I’d hoped, we do have a container garden growing on our tiny patio – thanks to my handy hubby.

Hubby made our Patio Railing Planters over the 4th of July weekend, and I snapped some pictures along the way so I could share them with you.  His task wasn’t an easy one, given that we can’t nail or drill into any part of the stucco patio, and had to have everything up off the ground to at least waist height because of the bunnies.  Oh, AND he had to do his work on the patio with limited tools and not disturb the neighbors.  No small feat! (Securing the planters to the building somehow was essential – we don’t want them to fall down from the third floor and hurt anyone below)

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Before:  The patio is 7 feet by 6.5 feet, beige stucco, and had all the charm of a prison.  Awesome, right?! ;]

patio_garden2

The railing is 7″ deep, which meant that the numerous railing planter boxes on the market wouldn’t work for us.  Phooey!

Hubby came up with a great solution though.  Here are some basic instructions and some photos to give you an idea of how the patio railing planters were assembled.

patio_garden3

Materials

3 plastic planter boxes (10″ deep x 10″ high x 24″ wide)
Galvanized bolts, washers & nuts (using galvanized hardware helps fight off rust)
Metal L brackets, that were sprayed to match the building’s paint color
One 4″ x 6′ x 3/4″ piece of wood
Rust-oleum spray paint

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The hardware, wood, and paint…

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Hubby started by putting the wood up on the railing, and marking the spots where the L brackets would be attached.  He alternated – one on the inside, one outside, one inside, one outside.  This first step was part of securing the board onto the patio railing.

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 Next, those marked holes were drilled…

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 Each hole got a bolt, two washers, and a nut.  The “sandwich”/order went bolt, washer, board, washer, nut.

patio_garden9

patio_garden8

The bolts were put in from the bottom, so the ends stuck up.  The L brackets were then removed and spray painted…

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Drainage holes were drilled into the bottoms of the planters, and holes were drilled into the boards for the bolts.  This part of the process was to secure the planters to the board, which was already braced/secured onto the railing. 

patio_garden11

When securing the planters to the board, we followed a similar pattern: bolt, washer, wooden board, planter box, washer, nut.  Each planter box is attached at each of its two ends…

patio_garden12

This shows all three empty boxes secured to the board.  

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You can see that the L brackets have been spray painted, and the brackets hold the board securely onto the railing. 

patio_garden14A

Our first little plants included rosemary, parsley, mint, lettuce, kale, and cilantro.  I’ve since moved some plants around and added others, but this gives you an idea of what it looked like with some edibles in the planter boxes.  Big thanks to my hubby for figuring out how to overcome our limitations and get our mini garden growing!

Since these pictures were taken we’ve added another board that holds a row of plastic pots (mostly herbs). I’ll share those a little later on, along with photos of how things are progressing.  In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into our fledgling garden.  I also hope you’re enjoying your summer!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Graham Cracker Toffee Bars Recipe

Toffee_Bars

Holy moly, these are good!  I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and had to give it a try.  I’m so glad I did.  Not only are these bars totally scrumptious, they’re quick and easy to make as well.  I love that combination in recipes.  :]

So far I’ve only made them with pecans, as called for in the recipe, but I’ll be making them with almonds next time.  And hmm, I wonder how they’d taste with some coconut in the mix – yummy, I’m sure!

Graham Cracker Toffee Bars Recipe
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Ingredients

  • Graham crackers (24 squares)
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans
  • optional 1 teaspoon of vanilla (I forgot to put this in – will have to try it next time)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet, then lay down the graham crackers so they cover the entire cookie sheet. I used a 16″ x 12″ baking sheet and was able to fit four graham cracker squares across on each row.
  3. Melt butter using medium high heat. Add the brown sugar.
  4. Stir brown sugar into butter until melted. Bring to slight rolling boil.
  5. Cook and stir for two minutes. Add the chopped pecans.
  6. Pour mixture over graham crackers.
  7. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  8. Cut while still warm.

Toffee_Bars2

This is what the pan of bars looked like when they were pulled from the oven – nice and bubbly.

If you give this recipe a try I hope you find it as easy and delicious as I did. Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

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This and That: Spring ’14 Edition

spring_flower
Greetings, dear readers!  I hope this post finds you well and happy.  How are things in your neck of the woods?  Today’s post is a small collection of odds and ends – some news, and links to things that I’ve been wrapped up in lately.  Here goes…

Art Supply Drive: Big thanks to the six wonderful souls who’ve donated to the art supply drive that I’m wrapping up.  I really appreciate you!  I’ll be able to teach art journaling to one class of 4th graders next school year.  Thank you for your generosity and kindness.  :]  If you intend to donate but forgot, and would still like to, you may do so quickly, easily, and securely HERE.

Spring Cleaning Fever: Have you ever heard of 40 Bags in 40 Days?  It’s a challenge that folks take part in to pare down their belongings and reduce clutter, by “filling up” 40 bags with belongings in 40 days.  I decided to participate by going through and purging in 40 different “spots” here at home.  Spots included the clothes closet, dresser drawers, bookshelves, the garage, my art supply storage, etc.  I was aggressive with what I decided to get rid of, and probably cleared out about three small truckloads of items – most were donated.  It feels great to have passed along things we’re not using so that someone else can benefit from them.  And it will be less for us to move, too!

Minimalism & Tiny Houses: Along with the purge came some research into minimalism, Tiny Houses, and full-time RV living.  I’m not sure we’ll ever get all the way to any of those things, but the idea of simplifying and reducing overhead in order to spend more time enjoying life sounds really good, so we’re taking baby steps in that direction.

This Girl Needs a Garden: I’ve been longing for a garden for the longest time – but apartment living makes that a challenge.  Enter Square Foot Gardening, which was brought into being by Mel Bartholomew.  I recently purchased his book, and am hoping that our next apartment home has a patio that will accommodate some raised bed planters (with both space and the sunlight needed) so I can give this gardening method a try.  Here are the rings I’d like to grow in my first 16 or so “squares”: carrots, parsley, cilantro, kale, lettuce, red bell peppers, chile peppers, onions, garlic, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, spinach, zucchini, arugala, and strawberries.  Have any of you tried Square Foot Gardening?  How did it go?

A Crafty & Cool Conference:  I recently attended Craftcation in Ventura, CA.  Craftcation is a conference for creative folks and small business owners – it combines business classes and hands-on classes for crafters and foodies.  I had a wonderful time and learned so much!  I took several classes, including a class for Etsy sellers and hands-on classes on image transfers and reverse appliqué.  The teacher of my image transfers class has a fab book out if you’d like to check it out – Playing with Image Transfers by Courtney Cerruti.

That’s all for now.  I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Warm regards,
Melody

*Please note: The links above are just for your reference – they won’t generate income for me.  :]

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Haiku: Winter Tree

winter-tree

Though branches are bare
there’s such beauty to be seen.
I love life’s details…

I hope you’re enjoying the season, dear readers.  And if you happen to live in an area that’s been walloped by ice, cold and snow this winter, hang in there!  Spring is just around the corner…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Blog Post Flashback: Heart’s Desire

Hi there!  Today I’m revisiting a post I first shared a few years ago.  I love this project, and thought I’d share it again since the main “ingredient” in this project is a heart-shaped candy box.  With Valentine’s Day coming up, you may be gifted with a candy box – or may choose to treat yourself!  In either case you’ll have something great to do with the empty box, whether it’s heart shaped, square, or rectangular.  Not only is this Heart’s Desire Box fun to make, but it’s also a great goal setting exercise.  Oh, and I’m doing a mini happy dance because since I first shared this project I accomplished one of the goals I set. I published my book – woo hoo!

Enjoy…  :]

chocolatebox_before

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Melody the Magpie?
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In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a bit of a scavenger.  Whether I’m up-cycling metal food cans or using cardboard packaging to make mobilesI’ve always got an eye out for cast-offs that can be used in a new way.  I enjoy making something wonderful from something simple.  Today’s “something wonderful” is essentially a box to hold your hopes and dreams – your goals.  How does that relate to chocolate box transformation?  Please read on…

Confession

I’m a sucker for heart-shaped Valentine’s chocolate boxes.  Bubble gum pink, lace, and silk roses aren’t in my usual rotation, but something gets me when it comes to those heart-shaped candy boxes.  Whether the box is a relatively plain gold or red, or is fully decked out with saccharine Valentine’s trim, I love them all.  Today’s project is how to turn one of these heart-shaped boxes into something that you can treasure – and put to good use – all year round.  So, if you (or a friend) are gifted with a heart-shaped box this year, don’t throw it away when it’s empty! (You can do this same project with a rectangular or square shaped box as well.)  Oh, and hopefully you can save the box’s liner, too.  It makes a great template!

box_with_pages

A Look Inside Your Heart…
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This project is called My Heart’s Desire because the outer box is intended to hold visual representations of your hopes, dreams, and goals.  Whether you gather small 3-D objects that represent what you hope to bring to fruition, or create paper “pages” that you embellish – like I have – I suggest you identify 5 to 10 things you’d like to work on in your life and include them in your box.  Here’s how I made my pages, including the materials I used.

Materials

Watercolor paper
Gesso
Paintbrushes
Glue Stick
Liquid Acrylic Inks or paint
Rubber Stamps
Black Ink Pad
Sticker & Seed Packet
Alphabet Stamps
Metallic Gel Pen
Rhinestones
Pen
Decorative Paper
Scissors
Walnut Ink
Double-Stick Tape
Heart Shaped Candy Box (you can actually use any shape you’d like)

How to Visually “Spell Out” Your Heart’s Desire
* *

1. Cut out one “page” for each of your heart’s desires.  Make your page by tracing the liner of your candy box, or by tracing the bottom of the box lid and then cutting just inside those lines.  If you’d like, you can add color to your page at this stage.  I brushed a mixture of acrylic inks and walnut ink onto watercolor paper. Alternately, you can use colored card stock instead.

liner_template

page_before_color

2. Note one desire on each “page”. (I chose “garden”, “travel”, “art program”, “nourish”, “get book published” and “run” and stamped the words on with alphabet stamps) It’s best to be as specific as possible when it comes to verbalizing goals though, so include as many details as you can.  You can write on the back of your pages, too.

book_page

3. Add to these “pages” by drawing, painting, stamping, collaging, or otherwise embellishing your “pages”.  I’ve listed the materials I used, but you can use whatever materials or methods you’re partial to – there’s no wrong way to do it.  The pages can be a simple or as elaborate as you’d like them to be.

six_pages

page_detail

Decorating Your Box’s Exterior
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There are a million ways you can decorate your box, if you choose to change it at all.  Whether you keep the box’s original look, or customize it to make it more “you”, is entirely up to you.

Here are a few décor ideas:

  • Paint your box
  • Decoupage your box
  • Cover your box with duct tape
  • Use some of the same materials you used on the “pages” to decorate the box’s exterior (which is what I did)

I opted to cover the red foil look of my box with a few coats of white gesso.  Next, I used some of the decorative metallic paper on the cover.  I stamped “My Heart’s Desire” on the box’s liner, stamped three flowers in the upper right, and glued a layer of tissue paper over the top to soften the text.  I accented the edge of the liner heart with metallic rub-ons and glued three rhinestones in the flower centers in the upper right of the heart.  Finally, I attached the letter-stamped liner piece to the box’s lid with a strong double-stick tape.

box_with_pages2

box_detail

Hurray!  It’s Done!  NOW What?
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The purpose of this box is threefold.  One, to identify what you really want in life and to spell it out in a tangible way.  Two, to have fun creating that tangible, visual representation of what you want.  Three, to regularly refer back to the contents of your box to remind yourself of your goals and to verify you’re taking steps, however small they may be, towards those goals.  So keep this creation within arm’s reach, and let it be your guide…

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments, dear readers.  I’m always happy to hear from you!

Warm regards,
Melody

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News for the New Year

Happy 2014, dear readers!  I’m here to share some news today, and hope you’ll read through to the end.

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Thank You

I’d like to thank those who offered their condolences on my December 10th blog post or emailed me.  I appreciate your kind words, and appreciate you reaching out with comfort…

I’m Trying Something New

One of my goals for for 2014 is to focus more on self-care.  To that end, I’m going to give yoga a serious try.  I think it will be beneficial both physically and mentally, and since a new yoga studio just opened about a block away from home I have no reason not to give it a whirl.  Do any of you do yoga?  Do you have any tips or suggestions for a newbie?

I Checked Something BIG Off My List!

As many of you know, I volunteer-teach art journaling to at-risk children.  I’d been wanting to create some videos with supplemental art lessons for the kids for a while now.  The goal?  To offer art instruction beyond the Introduction to Art Journaling I teach during my initial visit.  (Ideally I’d visit each classroom weekly or monthly, but since I work full-time that’s not an option)

I recently worked with Bad Bunny Studios to bring these videos to life.  We finished production on the videos in late November, and the editing process was just wrapped.  Next up is the printing of the labels and DVD duplication.  Hurray!  Though I’m not one that loves being on camera, I’m thrilled that these videos have come to fruition.  This is a big step forward for the program, since the children will now receive more instruction and these lessons can be used each year.  I offer big thanks to Bad Bunny Studios – I appreciate your time and efforts!  :]

Quick & Easy Donations

Speaking of my art journaling program, I’m also pleased to share that making donations is now super quick and easy!  I’ve signed on with GoFundMe, a site that offers an easy and secure way to donate to great causes.  Please take a peek at my fundraising page here.  All funds received go directly to providing art supplies to at-risk kids, so please consider starting 2014 off with some good karma by making a donation.

Art Heals

It’s no secret that art is a therapeutic tool for me and for many others in this crazy world.  I often turn to art journaling to help me through tough times, but other creative endeavors work too.  My medium of choice in the last few weeks has been assemblage.  I’ve created four assemblages thus far, and anticipate making more in the coming weeks. I’ll be sharing these first works here on my blog, and may offer some of them for sale in my Etsy shop, so please keep an eye out.

What do you do when trying to work through something challenging, dear readers?  Make art?  Run?  Drink wine?  Journal?  Please share, if you’re so inclined.  Until next time….

Warm regards,
Melody

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A Little Time Away…

fallen-leaves

I’ll be taking a little time away from my blog, dear readers.  My father passed away on Saturday, so I’ll be taking time to grieve, process, and heal.  I hope to return to blogging as we begin the new year.

In the meantime, I’m wishing each of you the Happiest of Holidays and a wonderful New Year.

Warm regards,
Melody

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