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Archive for the ‘Just Fun’ Category

Friday night marked the end of an extremely hectic and  stressful work week. How do you know it was stressful?

I just kept throwing the mail in a pile, unopened. I checked for bills and anything of a personal nature – other than that, it would have to wait.

The two small bags of goodies I’d purchased at the annual Tinicum Arts Festival were still sitting in the exact same place they were when I brought them home last Sunday afternoon.

But perhaps most amazing – and a sure sign of excessive busyness – I had ice cream in the freezer from last week’s shopping and forgot all about it! Now that’s really just kind of sad. I mean, how does that even happen?

But let’s go back to Tinicum. The Tinicum Arts Festival is an annual event in PA just on the other side of the river and south about 10 miles or so. The 2 day fair hosts many crafters, artisans, and artists all of whose work is excellent quality. I try and go every year, if not to buy, then just to browse and chat with fellow artists.

This very talented potter has been coming for several years now and I remember her from last year. Above is a sample of her horsehair work, a vase. All her work is just lovely, and truly are pieces of art.

I went to the festival with a few things in mind that I hoped I might find. One, a pair of pierced earrings with silver and black. I have plenty of earrings that I am very fond of and wear often, but when I am wearing black, I really have nothing to go along. This vendor had a great selection of beautifully crafted jewelry using crystals plus a good assortment of earrings at very reasonable prices. I chose this sweet pair of mermaids sitting on a black sphere. And checked off one of the things I was looking for.

I also wanted to find something relatively inexpensive as a surprise for my brother and sister-in-law’s anniversary. I don’t traditionally buy them anything for this occasion, but I felt like sending along something small and unexpected – something that would put a smile on their face.

This petite earthenware plaque was one of many available, all of which had short phrases and quotes on them. Some I might have liked for myself, but didn’t think they would be too crazy about. But how cute is this one? Not to mention perfect for an anniversary. Check!

Now we come to possibly the biggest challenge. One of the first vendors we came upon was a maker of hand-crafted soaps and other toiletries. One of the things I’d had in mind for the anniversary couple was a nice handmade soap. She had so many scents! As with all handcrafted soaps at events such as these, they’re made with high quality oils and other pure ingredients, and are so much more wonderful than the usual array of soaps we come across.

The seller offered a slight discount for three bars, so I bought three – almond, orange coconut, and black raspberry vanilla. Talk about fabulous. The challenge I mentioned? Will I actually be able to part with one or maybe be a little selfish and keep them all for myself? You didn’t hear it, but I just let out a huge sigh there. Of course, I’ll send them one – they’ll love it. But which one?

 

The black raspberry vanilla was just too heavenly and truly smells like its name. Just look at that delicious swirl!

The Arts Festival really seems to grow every year with more and different vendors and craftspeople than before. A new Bonsai fellow was there with his perfectly manicured living pieces of art and was a delight to chat with, plus many others – makers of pottery and homemade foods, painters,  photographers, stained glass artisans – it’s just always a wonderful event. And at the end of this very busy week, I can finally enjoy all “the little things” I was so lucky to find. Not just my purchases, but a beautiful day, time well-spent with a friend, and the enjoyment of having been around so much creativity.

We need little things – it’s good to be happy.

 

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If your life is anything like mine, it’s hard to find time to do some of the special things we love. Among them for me, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, is baking. Today I had changed my plans and decided to make some muffins. From scratch, of course. Chocolate chip muffins.

I searched through my collected recipes, but did not find one for chocolate chip muffins. Everything but. So I turned to my good friend Betty Crocker. No matter how many cookbooks I have or how often I’ll search out a recipe online, I will never be without a Betty Crocker or Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. Why? Because it always has so much basic cooking and baking information as well as a variety of recipes both easy and complicated to make. Forgot how long to poach an egg? How many tablespoons of butter are in 1/3 cup? How many cups of chopped nuts you’ll get from a 1 lb. bag? And although these things can always be found online, the internet can be a big time suck and have me looking at all kinds of things I don’t need to be looking at. Just give me the facts, Betty, and I’m good.

I looked up Betty’s basic muffins, and they seemed a little too basic to me. Soooo … I went online to a place where I’ve had great muffin success in the past – Mr. Breakfast. And right there on the home page was #1 of their Top 20 Favorite Recipes – chocolate chip muffins. OK, I’m in!  I read glowing reviews and then compared them to Betty’s version; Mr. B’s are sweeter and more fattening to be sure – butter instead of traditional oil, and a bit more sugar. I’m still in.

The bottom line here is that baking these muffins made me happy. It’s time well-spent – a small gift I can give to myself. It’s something we don’t do for ourselves nearly often enough, sometimes even when we do have the time. Between all the things that really must  be taken care of and all the ways we can lose our time to distractions (and here, I repeat, the internet), what about the things that fulfill us? Whether that be writing, art, music, gardening, baking, crafting, restoring furniture, reading a good book … what about spending a little extra quality time with loved ones/pets … whatever it is, why not give it to ourselves?

Speaking for myself, it doesn’t really take much to make me happy, a trait that I am enormously grateful for. My guess is there’s probably a whole lot of little things that make you happy, too. Be kind to yourself; allow yourself to be happy, and enjoy those little things.

p.s. The muffins? Maybe a bit more chocolate chips than I need. I had already cut down from 12 to 9 oz. Ghirardelli’s Dark Chocolate Mini Chips (what I had on hand), but 6 oz. would certainly be enough. Other than that? Mouthwateringly delicious and worth every second making them. Yum!

 

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… is today, February 13th. Not every year, for it falls on the same day as Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, whatever you want to call it. It’s the day before Lent. And while giving up something for Lent is not a tradition I partake in, I do like the idea of Mardi Gras.

 

And breakfast for dinner? Really, how far wrong can you go? `Nuff said!

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The Winter Olympics are here, and I’m a fan! Make no mistake, I am not a sporty person, but I greatly admire and appreciate the athletes that compete and achieve in sports. I also only watch the Winter Olympics for a fairly ridiculous reason. They do stuff that in my wildest dreams, I could never do.

See this? Wayyyy too high in the air. Not happening!

And this? Downhill racing. Do you know how fast these people are going?? In a car maybe … out there all by myself? Never!

And then this … I am a highly coordinated person, but the grace combined with athleticism of figure skating? Not that coordinated! Or brave.

So the Winter Olympics are filled with challenge after challenge that I can only vaguely imagine, and they get me cheering on each competitor, whether in the snow or on the ice.

Now does this mean that I don’t appreciate the accomplishments of the Summer Olympics competitors? Not at all. They are all amazing athletes, too, but here’s that ridiculous reason I mentioned earlier. I can imagine myself doing – or have participated in – those sports. Of course, not on their  level of achievement, but … I can swim; (well, I can’t high dive); I can run; even the gymnastics – I was a cheerleader (yes, that still surprises me, too) for years and have the battle scars to prove it.

I could never be – or could have been – anywhere near as phenomenally accomplished as those in the Summer Olympics, but if I’m going to park myself in front of a TV for a couple weeks, well … I want to trip the light fantastic.

Let the games begin!

 

 

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It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without something a little sweet, right? How about an adorable pied Frenchie who’s discovered some just-frosted sugar cookies? (And is about to do something very naughty!) That’s sweet x 2!

Order these sweet French Bulldog Valentine’s Day cards on my website or in my just-opened Etsy shop and put a smile on the faces of the special someone(s) in your life.

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Some guilty part of me feels that I should be writing something patriotic as it’s the anniversary of our wonderful country – Happy Birthday, America! – but alas, I finally have a bit of time to write and I have some other rambling thoughts. Like about the nectar of the gods.

Coffee. And how it’s made.

Not everyone feels that a cup of joe is the nectar of the gods, but as far as I’m concerned, you can keep your wine, beer, aged scotch, tea and (heaven forbid) soda. I’ll take coffee.

It’s not the caffeine, it’s the flavor. I like good quality coffee, and I like making it the same way I’ve been making it since I first began brewing my own – with a Chemex coffee pot. Years ago, long before Keurig and the vast array of coffee makers that electronically brew your coffee on a timer, there were some simple coffee makers, drip coffee pots, and a few other options. At the time, Consumer Reports evaluated all the means of making coffee and ranked the Chemex number one for flavor with the French press right behind.

With special filters manufactured by Chemex, all bitterness is removed from the coffee as you pour boiling water over the measured grounds. People have commented on how good this coffee is which I credit to the Chemex method. (OK, and the fact that I’m willing to spend a bit more on well-crafted and sustainably-sourced coffee.)

But here’s what’s funny. Like so many other things in life, this method is now having a revival! Having once fallen out of favor except with its many devotees, and having been (unintentionally) kicked to the curb by Keurig, this method of brewing can now be found in restaurants all over, and it’s known as “pour-over” coffee. Uh-huh. Rewind! Welcome to my world, guys. Live long enough – and I’m not that old – and you will see everything come around again from platform shoes to tie-dye shirts to troll dolls.

But in this case, it’s a real benefit to those of us for whom our cuppa joe will always be the nectar of the gods. Cheers!

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Everyone likes to share a little sweetness with someone special at Valentine’s Day. How about sending this adorable Frenchie Valentine?

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Check out those just-frosted cookies  – this cute pied Frenchie is. And they’re not just hearts for Valentine’s Day. Why, yes, there are some cookies with rather familiar big ears! And you know what that means. That these blank notecards are not just for Valentine’s Day but for whenever baking cookies is a good time! Yup. ANYtime!

I’ve drawn these new Frenchie notecards in my usual style, but somewhere in between a sketch and a finely detailed colored pencil drawing, all on a nice, recycled matte paper. Blank inside so you can write to your heart’s content and never be out of season.

We all know how digital everything has become nowadays, but I’d like you to take a moment and remember the last time you opened your mailbox and found inside a real, 3-dimensional card from someone in your life. Put a big smile on your face, didn’t it? I know that’s what happens to me. So go old-school and send some smiles to the wonderful people in your life. Better yet, send those smiles with my adorable (if I say so myself) French Bulldog notecards.

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I live in a small town bordered on one side by the Delaware River and surrounded by beautiful countryside. The advantages of a small town are many, especially at Halloween where we welcome a goodly amount of always well-costumed trick-or-treaters, (even the parents dress up.) I took my camera out with me on a walk the other day and snapped a few of the houses. Here’s your digression for the day …

Who doesn’t love a skeleton on a swing?

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These people have a small front yard, but there are always creepy things to look for, hands coming out of the ground, and such. The next 3 photos are of that house.

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Some places are very busy with more than any kid could possibly grasp while running from house to house, yet still suitably scary in the dark …

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Others are more low key. Note the skeleton Dachshund by the stairs.

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The shriveled pumpkin is a nice subtle touch …

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And my favorite, and their only Halloween decoration. Why is this so attractive to me? Because it inspires a story. Who is she? (Or is it a he?) Why is she haunting their garden? Does she stay there all the time? I’m hoping the people have put a soft white LED light beneath her to help her glow eerily, but I haven’t been by after dark yet.

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Happy Halloween!

 

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There’s a great little animated video making the rounds among “animal people.” Yes, it’s partially about that adorable puppy you see below, but I would be misleading you if I told you it was really only about the puppy. It’s much more than that. It’s about the difference an animal – or person – can make in another’s life. In this short video, wait for the twist. Well worth a bare 4 minutes of your life.

It says that Disney offered this student a job after seeing the animation. I just say thank you, Jacob Frey.

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There are just times in all our blog-posting lives that other demands pull us far off in some other direction. This is one of those times for me and I am just trying to keep up with them, while still noticing how long ago it was I last posted. Okay, so here’s something on the light and fluffy (and delicious) side.

Like some of the sweeter things in life? Enjoy a little celebration every now and then? Well, here’s your chance to pair them up.

Frenchie-BananaSplit4Blog2Because I design/create calendars for some of my clients, I also research holidays that apply to their businesses. I had reason to visit a particular site today to read more about “National I Love Horses Day” (July 15th) and what did I find? A veritable cornucopia of food celebration days!

So just in case you needed some justification to celebrate … or eat … here are some holidays through the end of August:

August 20th – National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day
August 21st – National Spumoni Day
August 22nd – National Pecan Torte Day
August 23rd – National Sponge Cake Day
August 24th – National Waffle Day
August 25th – National Banana Split Day
August 26th – National Cherry Popsicle Day
August 27th – National Pots de Creme Day
August 28th – National Cherry Turnovers Day
August 29th – National Chop Suey Day
August 30th – National Trail Mix Day
August 31st – Maybe you should think about getting out of the kitchen and walking off some of those calories … day (I made that up.)

Who’d imagine, right? Should you want more you can visit the holiday listing website. And if you like my cutie little Frenchie banana split, you can order her in a blank notecard along with three other Frenchie Sundae pups

Like I said – light, fluffy and delicious. I’m sure my brain will return soon.

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As they say in the movie … put your hands in the air like you just do not care!

That’s what I’m sayin’! Put your hands up high, over your head. Open up those fingers and swing your arms to the left and to the right. Swing your hips to the left and the right! And put a smile on your face whether you feel like it or not. Feel better?

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If you actually did that, you do feel better, and I’ll tell you why. You can change your mood by changing what your body is doing. It’s true. There’s a body of evidence that tells us that we can change how we feel by doing a few very simple things. For example, it’s almost impossible to stay feeling angry when you put your hands over your head like you see in this drawing, titled Happy Bogles. Wave them back and forth; you’ll be surprised at how you feel.

Or, if you’re feeling sad or angry, go to the mirror and give yourself your best, happiest smile. Keep smiling and you’ll feel a change. Of course, one of the simplest things to do to change a mood is dance. Do you feel like dancing when you’re feeling out of sorts? Of course not, and that’s exactly why you do it anyway. And put up those hands and see what happens.

Now who are those wonderful happy bogles and what’s a bogle anyway? Happy Bogles is by John D. Batten, a British painter and illustrator, (1860 – 1932), who among his numerous works, illustrated English and other countries’ fairy tales, mostly around the turn of the century. This particular illustration, which I have loved for such a long time, accompanied The Golden Ball.

What is unique about this particular illustration is that it portrays bogles as happy. Bogles are folkloric creatures of Northumbrian and Scottish origin who play a part in any number of folk and fairy tales; however, they are not known for being happy creatures. Rather they are mischievous and enjoy making life difficult for humans, albeit not particularly harmful. But in this illustration they are joyful. (Hmmm – perhaps they just accomplished something to bother some unsuspecting person.)

Whenever I look at this drawing, I feel happy. Let it inspire you, too, and put those hands in the air with a big smile. See? It’s working!

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Do you appreciate kids’ art? You have the opportunity to tell them so by voting for them in this year’s Doodle 4 Google competition.

Each year Google holds an art contest, encouraging kids from kindergarten to 12th grade, broken down into 5 age/grade categories, to submit artwork which would be suitable for the Google header, such as their event header featured above. There was a theme for the children to draw to, and that was “What makes me … me”, and all kinds of materials were acceptable. Google has winnowed the entries down to 53 U.S. state and territory winners and now you can vote for a finalist. You can check out all the details in Google’s How It Works section.

They’re looking for 5 National Finalists, one of whom will have their artwork featured on Google’s Home page. And that one Finalist will receive a $30,000 college scholarship, a $50,000 educational grant for their school, and the list goes on.

But the best part – for me, anyway – is checking out the amazing talent of the kids who created artwork around the Google lettering we’re all so familiar with. If you just want to go straight to the artwork — vote here!

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