Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Caramel Spiced Pumpkin Latte

One thing I love about the onset of October is the all-of-a-sudden-everything-pumpkin craze. To decorate. To eat. To drink.

I find that most people, when it comes to pumpkin-flavored food and drink, lie in one of two camps: 

Yum. or Yuck. 

I happen to love most all pumpkin things...and I do happen to like the phenomenon known as Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I have found that at my three local Starbucks locations, it's difficult to get a consistent drink...mainly seasonal beverages. I was elated to find that the Starbucks located in my grocery store has a manager who makes The. Best. PSL I have ever ordered. 

But...I also like to be conscious of spending, and so I began a search for a way to make them at home. There are a bunch of recipes out there...some are too pumpkiny...some are just gross...I began to get discouraged. I finally saw one (and now I can't remember which site it was from...I'll update when I find it) and knew it had to be The One. 

And it was.

With temperatures finally reminiscent of what the beginning of fall should look like, I made some of the syrup today...and then got the crazy idea to add another favorite fall flavor to make a latte: caramel.

Here's what I did:

Caramel Spiced Pumpkin Latte

1-2 Tbsp pumpkin spice syrup (recipe below)
1/4 cup hot brewed caramel-flavored coffee (I used The Fresh Market's Caramel Macchiato)
1/2 cup milk
pumpkin pie spice, for garnish

1. In a frother, (I have this one) pour 1/2 cup milk and heat for about 1 minute. Watch carefully to keep from boiling. Once heated, froth the milk until it doubles in volume.
2. In your favorite coffee mug, pour pumpkin spice syrup. I used close to 2 Tbsp. Pour coffee over syrup and fill the mug with the frothed milk. Stir gently.
3. Dust foam with pumpkin pie spice and enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Syrup
yields about 2 cups

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3-5 cinnamon sticks 
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3 - 3 1/2 Tbsp. pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

1. In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved.  Add cinnamon sticks and remaining spices. Cook for 5 minutes; stir occasionally. Do not let mixture boil. 
2. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
3. Using a fine sieve, strain all the syrup over a 4-cup measuring cup. Rinse the sieve. Place a funnel over storage bottle/container. Place sieve over the funnel and carefully pour the syrup through the sieve once more, taking care not to spill or splatter.
4. Store in refrigerator. 

I thought it would be fun to dress up my syrup.

I found this 16 oz. bottle with pour spout at my grocery store for a couple dollars.

To make the label, I took a small tag distressed with walnut ink (purchased years ago). 

I added a strip of Basic Grey's orange dotted vellum tape (similar here) around the bottom of the tag and stamped a pumpkin in the center with a brown Staz-on ink

To attach and finish the tag, I wrapped a piece of twine around the neck of the bottle twice, placed both ends of the twine through the tag and tied a bow.

This would a lovely gift...I'd use a 1/2 to 1 cup bottle to get more gifts out of each batch of syrup. Add a cute mug and bag of coffee beans with a recipe in a basket and you have a fabulous hostess or "just because" gift!

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This is Day 23 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Some days

I saw this on Lisa Leonard's instagram feed a week or so ago, and the image and her caption really resonated with me.

Sometimes, I am too intent on perfection that it keeps me from working on anything.

Sometimes, I am too worried about what others might think.

But there are some days when I know that I just NEED to create.

It may be a new may be a crafty project with the may be finally venturing into a new medium that I've been hesitating to start.

Just create something.

Often, in trying something new, I allow myself the freedom to make some mistakes and get messy. That's how we learn, right?

It always surprises me that in the discipline of actively creating something--anything--I find inspiration for where my talents lie...and I find myself refreshed.

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This is Day 21 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Nathanael is Eight

Oh, my little man. Eight years old.

You are a joy. I love watching you grow up and seeing your curiosity and creativity change and grow as you do.

I love your tender heart...your courage and determination...your sharp mind. I love how you like

It is so fun and challenging and sweet to be your are a blessing to me, Nathanael.

Happy Birthday...I love you to the moon and all the stars and planets and back, times infinity.

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This is Day 20 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Creativity Boosts

As a homeschooling mom of three little ones, my creative time is limited.  I love to try new things...and challenge myself in new pursuits, but the time involved in learning something new hands-on is often time that I don't have.

In the past few years, I have found online courses in a variety of subjects to be a great way to learn and enjoy new crafts, skills, and hobbies. While some courses have a definite timeline for instructor involvement, many enable you to work at your own pace (a huge perk for a full schedule) and allow extended access to the course materials.

Here are a few courses that are beginning soon that I've had experience with in recent years!

Last year, I came across Jeanne Oliver's Creatively Made Home course. The content was beautiful, instructive, inspiring, and original. 

So it was quite easy to decide to join in for her newest class (which begins today!) I am SO excited about this year's Creatively Made Home: Home for the Holidays! The course includes over 30 videos from each of 9 instructors, focusing on cooking, decorating, and gift-giving, PDF supply lists and instructions for each project, a digital recipe book, and much more. The course content is accessible for two years. If you'd like to sign up, just click here!

Back in 2009, I took an online photography course from Karen Russell (who I had previously taken a scrapbooking class with while we lived in Texas). I loved her approach to photography...self-taught, Karen values capturing the everyday moments of her family. 

Taking this course gave me confidence to actually leave my automatic camera settings behind and really helped to train my eye to best capture the moment. While this course is pricey, the value far exceeds the cost. 

Karen has three courses slated for 2014...registration for the first course begins today (10/15) at 9 am Pacific Time. Her classes tend to sell out SO fast so don't miss out. She also has auditing options which are less expensive. You can learn more about Snapshots of a Good Life here.

My favorite source for scrapbooking related online courses is Studio Calico. They teach one course a month, and have included courses that teach stamping, photography, letterpress, mini-albums, and a variety of technique courses for scrapbooking. Classes (which vary in price from month to month) often will include a class kit or downloadable images...and access to past classes is always granted.

You can register up to a month in advance for a class; currently registration is open for "Lifted" with Lisa Truesdell. I recently took the Letterpress class and really look forward to taking time this fall to practice this technique more!

I hope that you might try an online course...and if you have any favorites to share, please do so in the comments!

Just a note...the past week was spent out of town, and while I had a number of posts ready to share, time did not allow for working at the computer. Instead, I spent LOTS of time with extended family and my children as we celebrated two of their birthdays...and that was what we needed. Sometimes, living a creative life requires spending time AWAY from the internet! I plan to post-date those blog posts I had planned for last week this week as time please continue reading!

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This is Day 15 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Madeleine is six

There are many times a day when I find it hard to believe that this blond-haired, blue-eyed girl is no longer that plump, kissy-cheeked baby girl.

She is six. She is sweet and spicy and her world sparkles.

She wants to believe in fairies and twirls on her toes when no one (and everyone) is looking.

She loves animals and gardening and playing pretend outside with her sister and friends.

She is reading everything she sees.

She loves to snuggle, especially first thing in the morning.

She likes popsicles and raw green beans and steak but is quite vocal of her distaste for brussels sprouts.

She is six.

And she is still my baby.

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This is Day 12 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Hadleigh is Ten

This little girl.

It seems like just yesterday that she made me a Mommy...and yet, it's so hard to imagine our life without her bright blue eyes, adorable freckles, and sweet smile. Her energy and zest and contagious laughter. A decade of blessing.

She is a treasure to us...a most precious gift. What a privilege to mother her, to love her, to teach her.

Happy Birthday Hadleigh...I love you with all of my heart.

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This is Day 8 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Celebration Wreath

There's nothing like a celebration to get my creativity in high gear.

And with three birthdays within twelve days, October has plenty of celebrations in our family.

I love this balloon wreath I made a few years ago, after seeing several different styles of them. I decided to make one that would work for any celebration (boy or girl). I made sure that in addition to a mix of colors, there were plenty of pink, blue, and purple balloons, as those are the favorite colors of our kiddos.

This is really a simple project; it's perfect for working on with a movie in the background! All you'll need is:

a straw wreath, covered in plastic
several packs of greening pins
assortment of regular-sized balloons (you'll need a lot, depending on the size wreath form and the fullness desired.)
The process is pretty simple!

1.Take a greening pin.
2. Place the center of balloon (around the base of the rounded part under the crimped edge of the pin.
3. Position the pin on the wreath and press until the balloon and pin are tight against the wreath form.
4. Continue to pin balloons until the wreath reaches desired fullness. I did not put balloons on the back of my wreath, but you definitely could!
5. Hang on a wreath hanger or ribbon.

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This is Day 7 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sunday Reflection

"Are you allowing your own expectations to hinder you from freely expressing yourself? Is your idea of the right way keeping you from your best way? Are you too distracted to show up? Are you living like a programmer instead of a poet?"

Each Sunday during this series, I'll share a quote to reflect on.

This week's quote is from Emily Freeman's newest book, A Million Little Ways. This paragraph got my attention today. And I'm thinking about how this applies to many facets of my life.

I am so excited about this book...and about getting to meet Emily next month at her At the Barn event!

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This is Day 6 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

For the weekend...

Just a quick post, as I'm preparing for the beginning of what we call "Birthday month"...three birthdays in 12 days! I thought I'd share a few favorite blogs I enjoy for crafty inspiration!

Emily at Jones Design Company is a great source for home decor DIY and craft tutorials galore! I love her flower tutorials, as they are a perfect addition to so many projects...for the home, to add to a bag or a gift!

Elise Blaha has a very different style than I do...but her projects never fail to inspire me. Whether making a quilt (which I have yet to do!) or embarking on a long-term project like 40 Loaves, I come away from her site with so many ideas! She just launched a new online quilting course that I'm interested in learning more about...and may be just the right way for me to learn something like that right now!

I love "Whatever," Meg Duerksen's colorful blog! I love the idea of her crafternoons with her children...and I dream of one day being able to go to craft weekend: a weekend full of crafty projects, thrifting, and delicious food in her beautiful "Craft House!"

I'd love to know some of your favorite creative blogs...share them in the comments!

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This is Day 5 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Write

It always bothered me that in high school, there were countless additional math and science and history classes offered...but not English classes. There were the four required years (variety of levels, of course), newspaper, and yearbook. But nothing extra for those who loved to read and to write.

One of my very favorite teachers and I created two independent study English courses for me to take my senior year, under her guidance. The first was a literature to film appreciation course (I remember studying Pride and Prejudice, The Joy Luck Club, Like Water for Chocolate and one or two others.) and the second, creative writing. I could not wait to begin the creative writing class.

I developed a short story...wrote a number of poems...attempted a play...but was quite surprised when she encouraged me to also keep a journal. I had been writing in diaries and journals for years...but didn't see that as a form of creative expression. I imagine I kept that journal reluctantly.

How little I knew then that memoir-style writing...recording the moments of my simple life...would be the one form of writing I would keep at the longest and enjoy the most.

It would be one that I would practice in the quiet moments of naptime and one that would bring me to laughter and to tears. A style of writing that would recall to mind those very halls I walked and the girl I was then.

I'm so thankful for Mrs. Gooch. Thankful that she knew. And that she encouraged a seventeen year old girl to pursue the dream to write.

Today, I'm joining in 5 minute can read more about it and join in here! I'm not sure if I'll continue the other Fridays this month, but today's five minute topic seemed to fit this month perfectly!

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This is Day 4 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Crafty craft sticks

One thing I'm working on as a homeschooling mom of three (and lover of crafty ventures) is crafting more with my kiddos. It's easy to get caught up in the educational demands of the morning...and then the household demands later...and before you know it, I've said no to craft projects (that involve me) for weeks.

This is one of the reasons I decided on this 31 Days topic!

So yesterday, we made craft stick paper dolls, thanks to a great project idea found here, via Pinterest.

One thing I love about crafts is that there's a little less pressure involved. I have children who just might take after me when it comes to art classes...and their desire for perfection sometimes paralyzes them from even starting a project. 

Don't get me wrong. They will color for ages independently...but any formally led art project in the past has been difficult for at least one (if not two) of my kiddos.

This project overcame a hurdle for my oldest. When she saw the example from the blog of what these dolls COULD look like, she wanted me to draw the faces and the shoes for her. I did but insisted that she do everything else. (I pick my battles.) 

So I'm sure you can imagine my delight when she showed me this morning that she had done a new one completely by herself. That doll on the left? All Hadleigh. Baby steps...but they're important ones for her.

Wooden Dolls & Playspaces

So here's what you need:

craft sticks, we used the tongue-depressor size...popsicle sized would be cute too.
a variety of washi tape
black permanent markers and pens (a variety of sizes)
colored pens (some permanent, some non-permanent)
file folders
construction paper, 12"x18"

Putting these together is really easy...
1. Draw a face at the top of the craft stick.
2. Wrap washi tape around sticks.
3. Draw in details.


I love Nathanael's superheroes. Most of the Avengers, Loki, Batman, and Superman. I loved how he worked with the washi colors I had. I think the Hulk might be my favorite. But I like how he was thinking about Superman's cape.

Madeleine went straight to work...and at the end asked me to make two faces. I love all her details, especially eyelashes.

We also made some simple playspaces for the dolls.

1. I took standard-sized colored file folders, and using gluesticks, added a large piece of white construction paper to the inside. Glue one side at a time, and carefully work in the center, so that the paper doesn't  get wrinkled from being too tight or too loose at the fold. Trim excess paper.
2. Let the kids decorate the inside (and outside).

She taped a doll on the front so people would know what's inside. I'm dying over how she put her formal monogram on the front!

And here's the inside of Madeleine's. Table (with flowers) and chairs on one side, bedrooms and bathroom on the other.

This is one of those times where I really wanted to make suggestions and help...but ultimately let them create their own imaginary doll worlds.

They spent several hours creating and lots of time playing!

Project: success!

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This is Day 3 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Real Art. (part 2)

In college, my roommate, Shannon Ho, would invite me to tag along with her to the art building at Baylor. She was a photography major, and I loved the glimpse into her world. 

The darkroom, where magic occurs. The loft studios for senior painting majors. The drawing classrooms with their models. A still life, waiting to be captured. Lithography stones, ready for ink. What a field trip, to see works in progress and artists at their craft.

One day, she was finishing some projects in the ceramic studio and asked if I'd like to throw something on the wheel. I'd never done that before and was excitedly nervous. She introduced me to her professor, gave me some clay and pointers, and I made a small vessel/vase/thing. But the process of bringing a lump of clay to life...I loved that. Another trip to the studio for glazing. And then one day, at the end of the semester, Shannon brought it home.

I loved how the piece had turned out, especially the glaze. A matte blue mostly, with some deep shiny drips of midnight, speckled with rust. Texture and color that had been worked out of a lump of earth. It's not perfect; it leans a bit to one side.

I remember regretting two spots, evidence of my fingers during the glazing. Shannon smiled at me and told me that a potter sometimes leaves them intentionally, the touch of the artist's hands.

I loved Shannon's gift for artistry in so many different mediums. Loved getting to soak in art through her gifts and explanations of techniques.  Loved that she wanted to include her friends and encourage them to try something new and beautiful...even if they didn't have natural talent in those areas.

And I saw that those who create art were--are--more than just painters and sculptors and sketch artists. Writing is art. Cooking is art. Playing an instrument. Setting a beautiful table. Gardening. Creating beauty around you.

And you know what? I found a freedom to enjoy various forms of artistic expression and make something beautiful even if it's not perfect.

My paintings of flowers and sunsets will never impress the world like a Monet...but I'm not afraid to try to paint them anymore. I have found that while I recognize my natural talents, I enjoy trying new things. Sometimes, trying something new is just the thing I need to get my creative juices flowing in what I do well.

Being creative brings beauty to my life, my little world...and my children think I just might be the best artist in the world. For a few more years, at least.

I'm excited to share with you over the next month some creative projects from our little world...I hope you'll join me!
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This is Day 2 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

"Real" Art? (part 1)

As a child, I have distinct memories of my late elementary art and music classes. If you had asked me, I never would have suggested that I was an artist. In art classes, I liked the "crafty" projects. Winter snow scenes using bleach and q-tips. A very childish introduction to quilling, as we made three dimensional snowflakes, dusted with glass glitter, one of my favorite projects.

But bring out a drawing or painting project with a measurable objective in sight? No thanks. Those did not come easily for me. They were not my natural talents, and I lacked the learned skills of those crafts that would encourage confidence.

There was one "real art" medium that I loved, as I think most children and students do. Clay. I remember waiting all. year. long. for the few weeks where we would get to mold and sculpt and learn about the firing process. I can still see the wire my teacher used as she sliced the clay. I remember the damp feel of the cool grey mound. I can hear her voice, reminding us to use the "peench" method (her pronunciation of pinch.)

I remember our project in 5th grade. We were to create a bust (mine would only be a head). I carefully worked on it. Selected a light blue glaze for the eyes and espresso for the hair. I scratched KS-5R on the base, so that it would belong to me.

It might be one of the ugliest things I've ever made. {grin} But I kept it. (And if I can find it, I'll change out that picture above and share it here!)

The next year, in middle school, we would all have to choose between art or music. I liked to sing, had a decent voice...and to be honest, was still pretty nervous about that drawing and painting I chose to pursue chorus. That fifth grade art class was my last formal art class in an educational setting.

During those middle school years, my love for writing increased. A poem about a squirrel was published in a junior anthology. I was encouraged by my English teachers and kept on writing. Notebooks, plastered with Hello Kitty and other Sanrio characters, were filled with story after story, poem upon poem. I had a variety of journals that I wrote in, each with a designated purpose. 

In high school, I created two independent study writing courses with a favorite and inspiring English teacher. In college, I took additional writing classes that were extra time and extra tuition...but worth every bit of the creative challenge.

I shared my hopes of one day being a writer...

...and may have secretly hoped that I already was.

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This is Day 1 of 31 Days: Crafting a Creative Life. You can find an archive of all the posts from this series here. Thanks for joining me this month!


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