Mamabluebird

Creativity and Learning Something New

I have always had a hard time understanding when someone mentions that they are not creative or not crafty. Perhaps because I have always been creative and being crafty or learning new things is something I’ve always enjoyed. Whatever you believe religiously, you were created or evolved into being. How could you not believe that you possess creativity? You embody it, as does the entire Earth, you’ve only to use it for it to flourish.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about cultivating creativity. I believe it still applies and is helpful today. Creativity is a skill. Unless you are born a savant it will take time and practice to learn something new. Scrapbooking, photography, knitting, DIY projects or carpentry, all take time and effort to learn, but can be oh so enjoyable even while doing it badly.

Over the years I’ve noticed three stages to creativity and learning something new. The first stage is where you are copying someone else and the result is not so amazing- a necessary first step. Stage two is where you may still be copying others, but you are improving and perhaps you add your own twist and begin exploring other avenues and trying new things on your own. The third stage is where the magic happens. During the third stage you begin original works. You’ve learned the skills needed, you’ve figured out what you like and don’t like and you’ve come upon an idea that no one or not many people are doing or doing well. When you begin this stage you have confidence and are willing to take risks. You’ve put in the time and effort and are seeing the fruits of your labor.

When I began this blog I was just beginning stage two. I wondered if I would ever create something original or if I would continue to always put twists on someone else’s great idea. There is a place for that; seconding someone else’s great idea is beneficial to many, but I yearned to create something completely my own. I’m starting to see that with my wreaths. I love making them and can take pride that they are completely me.

Handlettering

Playing with watercolors

Handlettering? Stage one. Totally, not great, copying or just plain doing it badly, but guess what? I’m enjoying the process. I hope to do an ecourse soon and continue to do the #52handlettered Instagram challenge. It’s fun to learn something new. I really like watercolors and dabbling with different brushes and pens. I usually end up making little doodles after practicing and playing with how the colors go together. It’s child’s play, but it’s so enjoyable. Best of all it’s simple to set up and clean up and the kids join me sometimes too. What are you learning lately? How are you stretching your creative wings?


A Mala Update

I am loving the mala I made! Henry loves it too and when he sees it hanging on my holder he likes to yank on it! Yeah… It got a little messed up and the hemp cord wasn’t my favorite, I’m sad to say. I did a little research, aka googling and decided to restring it.

Mala

This time around I ordered some silk string, mostly to see what all the fuss was about. I actually really liked the silk string. It is twisted, smooth and strong. I watched some really bad videos on how to make a mala, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon this video whose intent is to teach you how to make a tassel, that I got inspired.

Mala

I threaded it so the string would tie at the bottom of the necklace. I tied a knot and then strung it through the large stone and began my tassel. From what I’ve read the tassel represents enlightenment. If you want to really get technical, my green tassel represents compassion and undefined love. Sounds good to me. :)

Me and my mala


Kitchen Paint

The kitchen before was this lovely shade of macaroni and cheese. It went well with the wood and the previous tenant’s love of all things orange. We also love orange, but blue is better. ;o)
Kitchen Mac n cheese

Kitchen Mac n cheese

Kitchen Mac n cheese

Kitchen Mac n cheese(Notice our paint swatches?)

We chose Martha Stewart’s Tidewater and color matched it to Lowe’s Valspar Paint + Primer. Let me tell you, we only needed one coat with this paint and it was glorious!
Tidewater Kitchen

Tidewater We have a landline because my hubby is on-call every few weeks and the service out here is horrible. I forgot how ugly a cordless phone is and as soon as we figure out what we’re doing on that wall my hope is to make it blend or disappear.

Tidewater Kitchen

Tidewater

Tidewater KitchenWe love it! It makes the house feel like ours and a little more cozy. :o)


From Scratch

For years I have been making pot roast and meatloaf using a Mccormick packet. Those two recipes seemed a mystery to me and they were both delicious, so why mess with a good (easy) thing? Have you ever looked at the back of the Slow Cookers Savory Pot Roast packet? The first two main ingredients are corn starch and salt. A few ingredients later you start getting to the spices, but there are only a few and the rest are additives. Yuck! I thought I was making comfort food, but what we usually ended up with was an upset stomach.

One night I braved pot roast without a packet and guess what? It turned out delicious! I wanted to share with you the recipes I’ve found that taste great and don’t add anything to your pot but flavor. Stop using packets!

pot roast

The first recipe is Pot Roast. We don’t make this too often, but when chuck roast goes on sale, this is what I usually make. Here are a few choices of what meat to use for pot roast. I always seem to need confirmation that chuck is the one while standing in the meat section. I didn’t follow this recipe exactly, it’s rare that I do, but I wanted to put mine in the crockpot and I didn’t have beef broth.

A couple of things to remember and my modifications:
Generously salt and pepper the meat. This is very important. You’re most likely using a think chunk of meat and it might seem like too much, but you are seasoning an entire meal with that salt and pepper and the crock pot mellows out seasonings.

– I didn’t have beef broth or red wine and subbed chicken broth and it turned out delicious. If chicken broth worked, I bet the other ingredients make it even tastier.

– Don’t cut your carrots and celery too small or they’ll waste away in the crockpot, but no more than two inches or they won’t cook through.

– It’s more work than a packet, but totally worth it and you’ll be able to say, “I made this from scratch”. :)

The second recipe is meatloaf. This packet doesn’t seem as bad, but it still has a lot of extra additives. We don’t make meatloaf very often either, but when I do I buy a pound of ground beef and a pound or less of ground turkey. I like it better than pork which is what I used to use because Publix had it divided and ready to go. (Sigh, Publix) When you think about it, using the meatloaf packet doesn’t really save you much time because you still need the milk, eggs and breadcrumbs.

I used this recipe for the meatloaf seasoning. I omitted ketchup and used:

– two eggs

– 1/2 cup milk

– I chopped two slices of bread in the food processor to make breadcrumbs and used about a cup

For the seasoning I added 1 tbsp of Mrs Dash Table Blend (I feel like that’s kind of cheating, although it is a blend of spices that will just go to waste in my cabinet like celery seed and marjoram, but really adds good flavor to the recipe.) Mix it up! Put it in a pan, I use a 9×9 casserole dish, in loaf form and pour an 8 oz can of tomato sauce on top. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.

sloppy joes

One more recipe I began making from scratch was sloppy joes. I was never really a fan of sloppy joes sauce from a can until I started making the sauce myself and it is so easy! I use this recipe and use garlic while I cook the meat instead of garlic powder, but that’s the only thing I do differently. It’s just ketchup, mustard and brown sugar! Manwich, for example, has way more than those three ingredients in it and I bet this simple recipe is way tastier.

Once I started using spices instead of packets our tummyaches went away and the kids seem to like the recipes more. We don’t need all of that sugar to mask the additives and the best thing about using your own ingredients is you control that as well. You can use organic chicken broth, ketchup, and milk if you’d like, but even if you aren’t into organics I’m pretty sure you aren’t adding Xantham Gum and Maltodextrin to your recipes. Please let me know if you try these recipes and how you like them! Do you have any recipes you used to use a packet for and switched to spices instead?


Winter Knitting

I almost always knit something for someone for Christmas. Sometimes more than one someone and rarely for me (what’s up with that?). I made two hats this year, one for my aunt and another for Jason.

Oak Trail Hat

Her hat is the Oak Trail hat from Botanical Knits by Alana Dakos. This hat was quite the adventure. You knit the brim straight and then pick up stitches to knit in the round and finish off the adorable oak leaf. There was a lot of youtubing going on while I figured out some special stitches, but it was worth it and I think my aunt liked it. I used Cascade 220 superwash in Jet, one skein.

All in the Family hat
I’m wearing Jason’s hat. His head is bigger than mine, so I’m a bit lost in it, but it is oh so cozy! The pattern is the All in the Family Earflap Hat found on Ravelry. You can also find it here. It was a fast and easy knit once I learned the Provisional Cast-on. He did not want a pompom on top or the i-cords, so I bound off after purling one last time at the end of the flaps. Jason loves it, so I’m happy. I used Manos Maxima Ultrafine Merino Wool in Tigerlily, one skein. It’s kettle dyed which is my favorite.

I promised the kids I’d knit them one too, we’ll see if that happens before summer. :)


Mala for Meditation

Mala

I have been thoroughly enjoying taking yoga classes on a weekly basis. When I started in January, I could barely breathe. My breath was shallow and corpse pose, the last pose in any class, where you lie there and try to relax for 5-10 minutes was difficult. I was all over the place in my mind at first, but with the help of a great teacher and having to do it consistently each week I got to where it became second nature. I wanted more; more meditation, more mantra work. At that point, I stumbled upon a post by Whoorl on Malas and Meditation. It’s a really great video with a lot of interesting information and links to more in-depth knowledge. Here is a link to a lot of the same info sans video.

Mala PreparationI decided to make my own mala. I would love to blow $100+ on an amazing Tibetan-made mala, but it just ain’t in the budget right now and truly, I haven’t fallen in love with any I’ve found. I made my way to Michael’s and perused the beads during a 50% off sale and made my choices. I chose Tiger Eye for clear thinking and insight, simple white beads that mean nothing in the gemstone world, but remind me to breathe and be pure in my thoughts and my guru bead is Fire Agate and has many emotional benefits. I also chose hemp for my cording because I wanted a stiffer cord rather than silk which is traditional. I laid out my beads on a jewelry bead board (that got a little squished in the move) and did some math to see how many beads I wanted between the white spacer beads.

Mala Prep

I ended up with this combination:

3 White
24 Tiger Eye
1 White
4 Tiger Eye
1 White
20 Tiger Eye
2 White
20 Tiger Eye
1 White
4 Tiger Eye
1 White
24 Tiger Eye
3 White

Mala StringIt didn’t take me long to string them and I made a few corrections along the way that led me to my final pattern of 108 beads plus the guru bead making 109. I tied the guru bead on separately using the hemp cording. I contemplated using a wire loop combination, but wanted to keep it similar to the rest of the necklace. I love it!

Mala


Making Wreaths

wreath

wreath

Wreath

Here’s a sneak peek at what I’ve been working on lately. I hope to have my etsy shop up and running soon and I have a few more wreath ideas in the works. Each one takes time to make and I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but I really enjoy making them.


Dining Room Wall Update

Gallery Wall

I left my frame on the wall for a while. I loved the simplicity of it and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do yet, so I waited. I began pinning gallery walls on Pinterest and accumulating ideas. Winter was forever long around here, so when Spring finally came I was ready to see color. I made a Spring wreath or two and hung one up in my frame and knew it was time for a change.

Gallery Wall

I bought The Nester’s book and with the preorder came a print of her quote, “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”. The book is awesome. I highly recommend it and plan to review it soon. I had my wreath, the printout and a cute mirror with a black ribbon holder, so I began a search for some color.

I was cleaning up my desk and noticed an art page that Nora had done this year that I planned to keep. It’s one of those first art creations where you put paint in the middle of the paper and fold it. She loves those! She made it a bug after it was folded. The colors were great, so I decided to use it. The horizontal print is the artwork my son, Noah, had selected for the county student art show. It’s so creative and has a beautiful blue flower in the upper right-hand corner. The last piece was a small bottle made into a vase that could be hung on the wall. I found it at an antique shop downtown.

I love how it turned out!

Gallery Wall

Spring Wreath

Wall Vase

Gallery Wall


Abstract Canvas Art

Supplies

I wanted something that would incorporate all of the colors in our bedroom. I have seem a few of these DIY abstract paintings and I thought I would give it a try. I got a cheap canvas at Michael’s, some paint and a brush and got to it.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

I started with each color and ended with the black. It was a little too…crisp for me. The black was reminiscent of bars, so I just continued to play with it, blending them more and more.

Lorelei

While I painted Lorelei sat next to me making her own abstract art.

Wall Art

I left it alone for a day or two thinking about adding a quote or something. I guess I’m not that into abstract art. ;o) I finally decided on Jason’s and my “logo”. While we were first dating, I would often do a cute D <3 J on paper, deliriously in love. lol One night out at dinner, I drew it on top of a styrofoam to-go box and Jason added arrows around it. Thus our logo was born. (We're business nerdy like that, apparently.)

Heart

I thought the heart was too dark, so I added swirls of metallic and blue.

Flower

I love to incorporate different textures, so I also added a few paper flowers and birds. I love how it turned out! Not abstract, but definitive and a lovely reminder that I love him and he loves me. <3


Homemade Pop Tarts and Cheesy Jalapeño Crackers

Homemade Toaster Pastries and Cheesy Jalapeno Crackers

My hubby has been eating pop tarts at work….like on the daily. He also has been munching on some jalapeño and cheddar crackers that leave his breath smelling strange, so much that I don’t want to kiss him even if he brushes his teeth! I’ve been wanting to try making crackers for a while, so this issue urged me to get on it, for the sake of our love life. ;o)

I remember seeing a recipe for toaster pastries on 100 Days of Real Food and while hunting it down, I also found a super easy cracker recipe to try! Yay!

Rolling out the dough

Toaster Pastries

I followed the recipe exactly and they turned out well. Whole wheat takes a beat to get used to, but they are more filling and definitely healthier than regular pop tarts. You might as well eat a Little Debbie snack cake for breakfast. I tried strawberry and blackberry fruit spread; we definitely like the strawberry best. Here is a great article on sugar that easily explains why it isn’t good to eat a lot of it (if you’re interested in that sorta thing).

Henry Balancing

This little guy was practicing balance by climbing on and off this box for about ten minutes while I made these. He’s so proud! Lol

Mixing the dough

Jalapeno crackers

The next morning I tried the cracker recipe. The hardest part was shredding the cheese because I broke my food processor a while back and had to shred by hand. (My least favorite activity in the kitchen.) The cracker dough was so easy to slice! I was worried it would be like slicing sugar cookies, but the task went quickly and easily.

Note: Both recipes call for using a dough blade in a food processor. I don’t have one, so I used my food processor in the beginning and then used my stand mixer to finish mixing it into a dough ball. Worked beautifully. :o)

The crackers are made with whole wheat and again, take some getting used to, but are so worth it! They have a deep cheesy, jalapeño flavor. More of an adult cracker, but Lorelei liked them too! They don’t have a bite like most processed crackers and they smell delicious! Jason didn’t love them, but I am gonna keep trying cracker recipes. There are so many to try!

Soulemama Cracker Love
Smitten Kitchen Homemade Wheat Thins
25 Healthy Cracker Recipes

Have you made any of these? Please share any favorites!