Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Missing Your Mojo? Here are 5 “Keeper Ideas” for Kick-Starting Your Creativity . . .

Missing your mojo?  Here are 5 “keeper ideas” for kick-starting your creativity . . . (or at least they helped resuscitate mine :-)
  1. Explore another artistic avenue
I recently took a class from the Brave Girl Club http://bravegirlsclub.com/ called Soul Restoration – Life changing & so healing & INSPIRATIONAL.  Awesome is all I can say! 
One of the many wonderful things about the class is all of the cool art technique videos that are included.  (You can also find some of them on Youtube so check them out.)  One of my favorite new techniques is draw with hot glue and then paint over it. 
Here is an example:

I also tried some new stamping techniques to make these embellishments

2.       Listen to music that feeds your soul and makes you happy!  Some of my recent favorites . . .

Always Enough by Casting Crowns

Lest you think that I’m a spiritual giant . . . thanks to my tween daughter and her younger sisters my list also includes Taylor Swift &
Disney songs like Mulan’s I’ll Make a Man Out of You

3.       Check out some layout sketch books or on line.  (Check out my friend Janet’s sketches on Kitchen Keepsakes here is June’s http://www.freewebs.com/kitchenkeepsake/apps/forums/topics/show/4998414-june-sketch-challenge )

Here is a layout of my daughter opening gifts at her birthday party that I completed thanks to a sketch.  I love that the sketch helped me to capture all of her many facial expressions!

4.       Dig out some photos of an event that has sentimental value for you.  Thanks to a sketch and inspiration provided by the photos, I finished this LO highlighting some costumes that I made last year for my girls.

If the coloring is off on the photos change them to black and white like I did with this LO.

5.       Dig through your stash and get out those special embellishments that you’ve been saving "for something special".  

Here are some embellishments that I LOVE from the pages above: 

Isn't the little origami bird the cutest!

 I was really intimidated by the idea of trying to scrap the mystery scavenger hunt from my daughter's Nancy Drew birthday party The Case of China Town and the Missing Jewels, but these adorable Asian stickers & the chop sticks got me through :-)  (Check out my mom, Nancy, that dressed up as Nancy Drew in the bottom right hand corner . . . she is an awesome Nana :-)

Sugary candy and pumpkins made this simple LO sparkle :-)

I have been holding on to this bamboo bangle for years knowing that it would make the perfect embellishment for the right page.  I originally envisioned it as a frame but I like the way that I finally used it on this recipe page for Hawaiian Chicken Salad.

Mental black holes that suck our creativity sometimes find the best of us, but hopefully these simple hints will help you get back on track.  Above all, feed your soul with things that you find beautiful and nurse yourself liberally with chocolate and good coffee (like the vanilla/hazelnut blend that my friend brought me back from Hawaii :-)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Alice In Wonderland Scones & they're Gluten Free!

As promised I am continuing the series on the Gluten Free tea party items.  I am happy to report that I successfully converted one of my favorite pre-GF recipes for scones & they tasted just as good at the original version.  HOWEVER, I am also so excited to share the following LO for you that I just completed to feature the recipe.  The following LO was created for the April Sketch challenge over at Kitchen Keepsakes  http://www.freewebs.com/kitchenkeepsake/.  Janet created the awesome sketch.  You can check out her wonderful blog at http://stellaruby.typepad.com/never_knowing_where_ill_b/ .  I also have to give credit to Amy Bender from Moonsplash Designs for the creative inspiration.  She has an incredible alter “Alice” project on her blog that you MUST check out! http://moonsplashdesigns.blogspot.com/2011/03/labor-of-love.html
So, without further ado . . . here is my layout:
I am never very good at listing the items that I used in my LOs but since I just returned from the CK convention yesterday I do know the names of most of the supplies J
Red Paper by K & Company, Rusty Pickle: Primitive Hearts, Letters by Graphic 45 Domestic Goddess, Stickers by EK Disney & Adorn It Timeless.

Now for the recipe:
Gluten Free Scones

2 c GF flour mix
¼ c sugar or Splenda
¼ t salt
½ c firm butter, cut in 8 pieces
1/3 to ½ c butter milk
½ c dried cranberries, raisins or fresh berries
2 t grated orange peel
1 ½ t cream of tartar
¾ t baking soda
1 T GF binder

Mix dry ingredients & cut in butter with pastry blender until mix looks like fine crumbs.  Stir in buttermilk so dough leaves sides of bowl.  Stir in fruit of choice.  Drop about 1/3 c of dough 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 10 to 15 min until light brown.

May substitute raisins or fresh blueberries for cranberries & cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice & vanilla (w/raisins) or lemon peel (w/blueberries) for orange peel.
If you want to make these with regular flour use 2 cups of flour instead of the gluten free flour mix & eliminate the gluten free binder.  Either way, they are excellent!

Need a good Gluten Free Flour Mix?  Here is the one that I used for this recipe:

Gluten Free Flour Mix
2 c white rice flour
2/3 c potato starch
1/3 c tapioca flour
1 T gluten free binder

Mix & store in airtight container for up to 1 year.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I love black and while photography, especially when it is of scenery and/or kids.  Viewing the image in black and white somehow makes time stand still and the vividness of the moment is caught at its fullest.  The moment has passed but the memory and the emotion remain.
One of my favorite tricks for creating black and white “memory moments” is to pair photos with quotes or verses.  I am by no means a digital expert but I like the way that my images turn out & here is how I do it:
1.       Using Microsoft Digital Image Starter (download it for free here: http://download.cnet.com/Microsoft-Digital-Image-Starter-Edition-2006/3000-12511_4-10508408.html ) open the image. 
2.       Resave your image so that you preserve the original.
3.       On the left side of the screen under the “effects” menu you can select to change your photo to black and white.

4.       Crop your photo utilizing the “Crop canvas” tool in the “format” menu.
               5.    Finally, add a white edge by selecting the “soft” tool under the “edges” menu.
               6.    Under the “add something” menu you can choose to add text or even another photo to create a collage.  

Here are some fun examples for inspiration:

Both images were taken on a hike one fall afternoon.  All three of the girls piled into the tree and so I had to take a photo.  Later they were having so much fun walking like the "Wizard of Oz" and the "Monkey's" that they didn't notice that I took the photo.

Crop at the Kitchen!

Kitchen Keepsake is cookbooking at its finest! Come and find your creative culinary muse!

The designers have cooked up some fun challenges, games, and prizes!

All challenges will be posted on Friday, April 29th and will be due on May 4th.

We hope you'll join us in the kitchen and get those creative juices flowing!


Please join me and the other cooks in the Kitchen for this fabulous crop!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Food, Family & Foolin' Fun!

So to celebrate April Fool’s day I created the following challenge on Kitchen Keepsakes http://www.freewebs.com/kitchenkeepsake/
Scrap one of your family’s foolhardy food foils, and check out my family’s funny story below!
So what is a funny food story from your family? I know you have one . . .:-)

Extraordinary Message of the Day

Just received this incredibly powerful & encouraging word today via the Brave Girl’s Club daily messages & I had to share.  Check out this INCREDIBLE site (and sign up for the daily messages yourself if you’d like) at www.bravegirlsclub.com
Dear Extraordinary Girl,

You can do amazing things with the simplest things. You can have so little and be so happy. You can take small amounts of time and perform life-changing acts.

Is it time to simplify? Is it time to pare down your life to the handful of things that mean the most to you and let the rest go so that you can give the very best of yourself to the very best thing, instead of being spread in a too-thin layer all over the place?

Your heart knows when it's time, and you will have the strength to do it. And best of all, you will see enormous changes happen in your life when you let the unimportant things go and embrace the things that quiety sustain you and bring you joy.

It may not look like the most glamorous life, but it is one filled with joy, peace, and harmony; one where laughter is a welcome and frequent companion; one where worries are few, where long meaningful conversations are many; one that is waiting for you when you are ready to take the steps to get there.

Simplify today, one little thing at a time. You can do it.

"A little bird told me" - your Daily Truth from The Brave Girls Club - www.bravegirlsclub.com

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gluten Free Quiche

As promised I am continuing my highlight of recipes to host a gluten free tea party.  Today I will share the incredible, oh-so-yummy recipe for gluten free pie crusts & quiche.
The crust takes some work because the recipe utilizes several mixes BUT it is well worth it.  The following recipes come from Gluten Free baking with the Culinary Institute of America  by Richard J Coppedge Jr. – This book is AMAZING & I recommend to everyone that is beginning the process of going GF.
Pie Crust
This crust is INCREDIBLE! It has a slightly different consistency than bakery crusts (strange to say but it is a tad bit tougher) – but it tastes like a crust from Marie Calendar’s or something.  No kidding!  Even my gluten eating guests liked the crust better than the traditional version.
12 T Butter, cold
2/3 c Flour Blend #2
¾ c Flour Blend #4
2/3 c Flour Blend # 5
2/3 c Water, cold
Cut butter into small chunks & blend into flour mixtures with a pastry blender or two knives.  Add water & combine until smooth.  Refrigerate unwrapped for 1 hr.  Roll out, place into pie pan, dock with a fork & bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 min.
1 Gluten Free Pie Crust
¾ c meat of choice
2/3 c shredded cheese of choice
2/3 c chopped veggies of choice
4 eggs
½ c milk
½ c heavy cream
Mix ingredients with a whisk & pour into baked crust.  Bake 30 to 35 min at 350 degrees.

Flour Mixes

Flour Blend # 2 (contains a little protein & fiber from brown rice)
1 ¾ c white rice flour
1 ¼ c brown rice flour
¾ c potato starch
1 c tapioca starch
Makes a total of 4 ¾ c

Flour Blend #4 (this is a stronger mix & is higher in protein)
1 ½ c white rice flour
1 ¾ c Tapioca starch
2 ¼ c Soy Flour
Makes a total of 5 ½ c

Flour Blend #5 (very strong, high in protein)
1 ¾ c white rice flour
1 ¼ c Tapioca Starch
1 ¾ Soy flour
½ c Whey powder
Makes a total of 5 ¼ c
Here is a LO featuring this recipe.  I created it for Janet’s monthly sketch challenge on Kitchen Keepsakes http://kitchenkeepsake.webs.com/ .

Friday, March 11, 2011

Two of my favorite photos

I took these photos of my husband and youngest daughter a few years ago.  As I looked through the lens of my camera I felt that I had captured something special.  I have paired them with some of my favorite verses.  

Since you are precious & honored in my sight, and because I love you, Isaiah 43

Over Labor Day weekend one year our family visited a water park in Virginia Beach.  Nadia did not yet know how to swim, but as she held on to Eric’s hand she confidently plowed through the water ready to take on any challenge.    Her confidence may have been boosted a bit too much & she selected a kid’s slide that was still a little big for her.  She came down quickly and didn’t have time to get her feet under her before she hit the water.  She plunged into the water and started to sink, but before she could take her first breath of water her papa reached into after her and lifted her into his arms.
  I love this photo.  I love how you can see the water droplets that are still falling off of Nadia’s face.  I also use it as a reminder of our Heavenly Father’s Love.  Understanding His love is something that I have struggled with the last several years.  I fail to understand the “whys” behind events and the reason why God chooses to intervene during some difficult events and why at times He chooses not to.  That is an answer that still evades me, but somehow, looking at this photo that displays a beautiful image of an imperfect father’s love helps me to trust a little more in a love that I still do not understand.

Gluten Free Tea Party - Vol 1

This week I hosted a tea party to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  It was the first tea party that I’ve hosted since having to go gluten free & so I was anxious to adapt my favorite recipes and see how they turned out.  I am very happy to report that everything turned out beautifully and I will be sharing the recipes with you in the next several posts.
Today I will be sharing a very easy, and incredibly decadent, recipe for truffles.  I highlighted the original recipe in a layout I designed for a recent challenge on Kitchen Keepsakes web site http://www.freewebs.com/kitchenkeepsake/ .  The challenge was to incorporate a banner into your layout & I must thank Kristie http://www.lotstoscrap.blogspot.com/  for the push to try something new.  It was very fun to take the challenge and push myself to utilize a shape for the banner rather than the traditional ribbon and triangles.  It was also a good way to clean out some of my stash of old letters and embellishments.  I just jazzed them up a bit with Michael’s version of stickles glitter glue and diamond glaze.
Here is the recipe
Easy OREO Truffles

1 (16 oz) package OREO Cookies
1 (8 oz) package Cream Cheese, softened
16 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Crush 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in food processor; reserve for later use. Crush cookies in the processor. Add cream cheese & blend well. Chill the dough for about 15 min & form into 1 in balls. Chill in the freezer 10 min. Dip the balls into melted chocolate & roll in crumbs or coconut. Place on waxed paper. Refrigerate until firm, & refrigerate leftovers.
For variation try lemon, orange or strawberry flavored cookies & dip in colored chocolate. Jam or liquid flavoring can be added to enhance flavor.

I’ve tried several adaptations of this recipe.  For a gluten free version I used a package of gluten free chocolate sandwich cookies.  Since those packages are smaller I didn’t waste any cookies for crumbs but rather rolled them in coconut.  My family liked them so much I had to remind them that they had their own gluten filled version J
For the tea party I wanted something to blend into the brighter spring d├ęcor & so I made lemon, orange and strawberry cream truffles.  ALL of them were a big hit!  The recipe is simple enough to make multiple batches . . . ready to try some?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day Photo Idea

I got this idea a few years ago from a scapbook magazine & I thought that I would pass it along.  Even though these photos are several years old they are some of my favorites!

Wearing bright red lipstick carefully kiss your kids on the cheeks & forehead.  Make sure to re-apply lipstick after 2 kisses so that the color is fresh & grab your camera quickly before they start smudging!

This is also a fun idea for a sleeping baby.  Change the photos to black & white . . . and/or leave the kiss marks red.

Have fun & share your creative efforts!

Can you tell my oldest is a ham?  They are actually looking up toward their Papa (melt your heart!)

And just because it is a cute photo - she had just learned to wink & had to show off :-)

I was looking for the perfect treat for our Girl Scout Valentine’s Day party & I took some advice from my new friend, Tawnna from
www.bakemeacakesupply.com & decided to make heart-shaped whoopie pies. This was new territory for me, so I looked up a recipe & forged ahead. The pies tasted great (I cheated & ate one even though it isn’t gluten free) but I learned the hard way that this is NOT one of the recipes that can handle substitutions. I exchanged margarine for butter & used low fat cream cheese & the filling was WAY TOO soft. Even after adding an additional box of powdered sugar (so much for being healthier) it was still so soft that I had to store the pies in the fridge or the frosting melted into a blob. So learn from my mistake J I think I may try again for St Patrick’s day . . . in search of a shamrock cookie cutter!Whoopie Pies Pie Ingredients:
  • 1 boxed cake mix (I used both strawberry and red velvet)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup oil
Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (don’t substitute margarine – you won’t like the results!)
  • 1 1/3 cups Marshmallow Fluff
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened (don’t sub low fat – again, it isn’t pretty!)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • Theme sprinkles
  • Chocolate Hearts
Heart-shaped cookie cutter.
  • Preheat oven to 400 & line cookie sheet with parchment paper (I just re-discovered this stuff & forget why I stopped using it! The pies just came out beautifully with it.)
  • In mixing bowl beat all ingredients on medium low speed until well combined. Drop spoonfuls onto cookie sheets, 2 inches apart. (I used an ice cream scoop so the pies were larger & uniform in size & shape.)
  • Bake 8-10 minutes, until puffed and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • While the pies are still warm cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Cool on rack.
  • In mixing bowl, add butter, marshmallow, powdered sugar, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt & beat until smooth.
  • Once pies are cool, top half of them with 2T of filling, top with an additional pie & roll in sprinkles. Finally, top with a small dab of filling & the chocolate heart.
  • Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

For one of the Feb challenges on Kitchen Keepsakes http://kitchenkeepsake.webs.com/ I created the layout above.  The challenge was to include red, pink, chocolate & hearts. Recently, I have been very inspired by my Grandma Kemper's cookbook that I inherited.  The cookbook is partially handwritten & so in honor of Grandma Rosemond I wanted to include her original recipe even though I was adapting it to make it chocolate.  I photographed the original recipe & edited it to include the chocolate adaptation & to note the sentimental value of the source.

  As always, I adapted the recipe substituting a gluten free chocolate cake mix for the yellow one, low fat cream cheese & margarine.  Even with these healthier substitutes these cookies are AMAZING!  You can't eat just one. . . These little bite-sized cookies disappear 3 or 4 at a time!

Lay Out Ingredients
Glitter Paper - Paper by Spectrums Cool by My Mind's Eye
Paper Doily - Close to My Heart
Felt pieces - New House - Fleece Baby Cream
Vintage Keyholes by Melissa Francess (I LOVE these!)
Martha Stewart's Punch Around The Page boarder punch
Pearl Rhinestone Stickers by Recollections
Lace by Decorative Trim
Random heart, flourish & chipboard title from my stash (sorry they are so old I don't know where they came from :-)

The Power of Beauty

What do you do when you are angry and disappointed with God, and who do you turn to? I say when because if you have been in a relationship with Him for very long there has probably been a time when you felt like He let you down. I am not talking about mild disappointment, but gut wrenching anguish. Waves of grief and anger. Confusion, questions that result when circumstances and facts don’t add up to answers that reflect the character of God as you understand, and believe He should be. The wilderness experiences that come when the Caring Heavenly Father, or Loving Bridegroom, seem distance at best, or worse yet, a cruel joke at your expense. The feelings of betrayal that come when you have prayed the prayer of faith, waited on the Lord and praised Him in the storm only to be drenched and whipped by the gale forces of life's hurricane. What do you do during these moments when the One that has comforted you in the past seems distant and silent, when the Healing Miracle Worker seems to be too busy to hear your painful, pitiful cries?

The choices that stand before you at this moment may seem daunting. Based upon the specific nature of your personal crisis there may be so many options that you feel lost amidst the chaos, or you may feel like you have been knocked into a dark pit with no possible avenues of escape. However your physical circumstances resolve, you understand that the most critical need during this dark night of the soul, is your soul itself. Where is your Savior? The One that has promised to never leave you nor forsake you, and while you need to find physical direction for your daily comings and goings, your spiritual direction is still spinning like a compass that has lost its true north. Where in these moments can your mind rest, can your emotions find safe harbor and your soul safeguard against shriveling despair?

The last thing that you need during these times are Christianity’s pat answers, and yet that is what seems to be most prevalent. The God won’t give you anything you can’t handle or He will work this for your good. God has BIG shoulders, you can yell at Him, He can take it. Comments that somehow sound and feel revolting and false. Being called to be the Salt of the Earth doesn’t mean throwing salt in the wound, however that is exactly what these phrases do when they are carelessly and casually tossed at someone that is hurting. The truth is, that these spiritual promises sound empty and may lead to only more despair unless they are first preceded by loving action that helps to bear our burdens. They only add to our humiliation and feelings of spiritual inadequacy and failure, unless they are lived out in front of us by a life that speaks I have been there & I will sit with you in this darkness, for as long as it takes. I will be the physical body of Christ for you during this season, so that you do not feel alone. I will not judge, or advise, or fix, or tell you how you should have done things differently, but I will be here, and I will whisper to your heart the things that it is struggling to remember amidst the death of dreams and hopes that it is experiencing. Until you find Hope again, I will tell you that you are loved, that you are not alone or forgotten, that you matter and that this pain and confusion will not last forever. There will be victory again. There will be joy again – hold on, don’t give up. You can, empowered with strength beyond yourself, do this.
 Sometimes God allows these faithful brothers and sisters to be physically present in our lives, but in some seasons we are physically alone. The physical and emotional isolation is more than our souls, that were created for community, can support. To whom can you turn? Who will whisper, or scream if necessary, to your heart during these times?

During times of pain there is something powerful about the creative arts that dives deep into the core of our being, that shifts into the empty places that mere words in traditional sentence form can rarely fit. It squeaks into crevasse that alone might be small and unnoticeable yet their countless number aligned to form huge fault lines. The examples that support this fact are numerous, but one that comes from my personal experience was encountered when I battled a series of severe allergic reactions of unknown origins. I had never been one to suffer from skin allergies yet over a several month time frame the attacks intensified until it climaxed one night and I ended up in the ER with 90% of my body covered in hives. The physical itching, burning and pain drove me mad. My mind was assailed to the point that despite being in a crowded room of strangers I rocked and shook in the fetal position like a crazed lunatic. The torture was beyond anything I have ever experienced. I felt as if I had been tossed into the dark pit of hell and that demons attacked in waves clawing every inch of my body. I was beyond the point of being able to pray or even ask God for help, the only anchor that staked me in any realm of sanity was music. In the middle of the ER, while I was rocking and clawing my skin to shreds I had on my ipod and I was listening to praise music. As long as I whispered and meditated upon the words my mind was anchored. With the help of the music I entered God’s throne room of praise and I found refuge amidst the anguish. When the music stopped and I had to interact with nurses and doctors the physical assailment was more than I could stand and I had to dive again into the strong tower of His presence, dismissing what was physically before me and choosing to meditate only upon the spiritual. To make it through my nightmare I had to ignore everyone around me discarding their opinion of my character or mental state, and cling to the hand of my helpmate. The person of Praise was my companion and it walked me through the dark valley that night. I was beyond the point where through prayer I could even dictate or request to God my desires for Him to fix the outcome. By closing my eyes to what was before me, and meditating solely upon praising God for who He is, and not what He was, or was not, doing for me at that moment, I clung to the life raft that was before me, and together, my sweet, faithful companion Praise and I made it through.

If today you find yourself within the confines of a nightmare that appears to have no end let me not be the one that burns you by throwing Christian salt in your wounded heart. From across this page, let me be the one to climb down into your dark hole with you, to sit with you and help you discover a small treasure in your mine, a diamond that is not for the jeweler, but the setting within your soul. Together, lets find the song, the poem, the image, whatever creative form provides nourishment to your soul, and behold it and the One that inspired its beauty. Cling to it and meditate solely upon its message. Avert your eyes from the darkness and despair of your surroundings and cast them only upon the small light until the larger Light is reflected. His presence is your only Hope, your only Strong Tower during this battle. Do not worry about when this night will end. Do not fret about how to fix your circumstances or how your deliverance may, or may not, come. Cast your cares, toss them as far as your mind will allow. Disregard what others may think, and with the help of your artful companion, keep your eyes only on the One and let Him figure it out. Equipped with the beauty that speaks to your soul, array yourself in the garment of praise. Throw off the heavy spirit of despair. Without it you can take the next step that is in front of you and watch as the "things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace" (Lemmel, 1922).
Isaiah 61:3
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
Lemmel, H. (1922) Turn your eyes upon Jesus.