Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christmas Tree Topper FOUND!

If you're like me, you're probably fed up with the selection of Christmas tree toppers that seem to be available these days. Personally, plastic faced angels dressed in chiffon that look like negligees are not my idea of a tree topper, or terrible painted wood faces, or anything that is mounted on one of those spring thingies that fit over the (hopefully) one branch at the top that has to be perfectly straight, but never is, and then when you put it up there, it inevitably tilts no matter what you do. Ugh so frustrating.

No, I want cute. I want adorable. I want homemade. I don't want "Made in China" on a gold sticker stuck to the back. I want something that is warm and welcoming. Something that says "yes, we are having a Hallmark Christmas!"

Well, I know I'm tooting my own horn here..but..I've been making tree toppers for several years now and people love them! Probably cause they DON'T have the same issues or wear chiffon nighties! Nope, mine are darn cute! They drape easily over the top of your tree no matter how many branches you do or don't have. And truly, they are adorable!

So...if you've been looking around and can't find a topper you just love, or want something new, come on over to my shop and take a peek. I can also custom make you something as well. Want more rustic? Check! Lodge look? Check! Shorter, taller, wider, etc? Check! Just ask, and I'm more than happy to work with you.

Here's a few pics:
Snowman Angel Topper
Look at that face!
Custom order (yes I can!)
Cuff at the bottom (gift card?)
Snowman with top hat and twig arms
 



Over a gourmet food jar for a quick gift!
 
Happy Holidays everyone!!!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Secret Santa for a Special Friend

Besides trying to get my By Way of Salem orders out from my Etsy store this holiday season, I've also been working on a secret Santa project for a special friend of mine.


Funny, cause I don't know her all that well really, though we've known each other probably for 12 years. I mean we've not had lunch out together or really gone on any outings together, haven't talked on the phone, and I actually haven't seen her in many years. I think the last time I saw her was out on a trail, riding our horses, up in Enumclaw, WA, up on Mud Mountain. She was with a group of friends and I was with my friend, Jennifer. We all knew each other from a stable we used to board at a couple years prior. We keep in touch through Facebook and Messenger, going back and forth, and supporting one another through life's daily ups and downs. We all need friends like that!

My friend, Deb is a special woman. We're "sisters" in many ways I think. She has a gypsy spirit, loves horses and art, has gone through some tough, tough times and doesn't seem to falter, just plows right through. We both share things in common too; a love of mountains, skiing, being outdoors, animals, a good haircut, and of course horses. This woman just has SPIRIT! So you see, it doesn't matter that I haven't actually been around here in a long time, we're together in spirit.

So my project for her, is a soft sculpture wall hanging of her horse Leo. I've been working on it in between my other stuff, picking it up, working a little, going back, stitching some more, getting new ideas, and just building on them bit by bit. I'm finished now.

Leo is a gorgeous Gypsy Vanner horse. They are amazing! Feathers on their feet, long flowing manes and forelocks. Hers is white and black, and large like a draft. Here's a pic of one to give you an idea of their beauty!

Deb admires and encourages me in my art and has been a long time supporter of my creativity since my first By Way of Salem Facebook post I think, and I truly appreciate that. She's wanted me to make her something, and so I did, but it's a surprise. Shhhh! I'll be mailing Leo off on Monday. I can't wait till she gets it!

Deb moved from Washington state to Colorado, then to California, and now lives in Oregon. Gotta love a gypsy girl! Last year, she broke her back while riding Leo. It wasn't his fault, just one of those freak accidents. She's recuperating and no doubt will ride again. See, the girl's got spirit!!

Ok, the project:

I drew out a pattern for my quirky character on paper and traced it out on pre-washed, unbleached muslin.

Once he was cut out and ready for stitching, I had to think about what I wanted to do; make him a scary, Halloween-ish type horse like my Monster dolls, or just make him fun. I went for fun this time. 
I always keep a good stash of buttons

Lots of messy fun!
I painted him as accurate as I could with spots of black and left the white portion unpainted and natural.
Deb and Leo
Then I added buttons for eyes, stitched a nostril and painted it pink-ish, and added lots of "feathers" of different fabrics and materials for the forelock, mane, and tail. I used frayed muslin, various ribbons, strings of pearls, lace, ribbons and different favorite fabrics that I thought would fit Debbie. Things like jean fabric with sunflowers for her love of the outdoors and fancy trims for the bling she loves to adorn her horses with.

One thing Deb always had was beautiful, bling-y tack and I wanted to incorporate that on this Leo as well.  For his "bridle", I added turquoise glass beads of different sizes, and "silver conchos" were silver spacer beads. I stitched a brass cross (cause we all need blessings!), and bling to the headstall as well.
 

On his body, I added stamped ink words onto layers of fabric and hand stitched them on, then frayed muslin around his feet for his "feathers". Finally, I stitched a couple of loops on the backside for hanging. Or not. She could put him on her bed as a decorative pillow too.
 
 
Finished!
I really hope this captures the spirit of Leo, and it makes her smile!
 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving! Save a Turkey!

Gobble gobble! Happy Thanksgiving 2016 everyone! I hope you all have a wondrous day with family and friends. A Hallmark kind of day.

This year we'll be eating something a little different at our house. No turkey, ham or roast beef this year. Nope. This year, I'm considering all my animal friends. Yes, I know I've heard all the arguments. I don't care. It's a personal choice and of course we're all free to eat whatever we want. I'm choosing meat-free this year.

My choice is something that I discovered while on a tour of an animal sanctuary in Washington state; Pasado's Safe Haven. An amazing place..  While on the tour, there were several food stations set up and each one had something different and delicious. What I didn't know till the tour was over, was that each item was vegan. Hmmm..pretty tasty!

So this year I'm choosing a Celebration Roast from Field Roast. It's a delicious blend of whole grains, and I believe this one has hazelnuts and cranberries. Festive for the holiday season. Served with mashed potatoes and green beans, it's a delicious alternative to meat. You can buy Field Roast products at the better grocery stores, and of course places like Whole Foods. Maybe something to try for your own holidays sometime?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Holiday Season in Salt Lake City, Utah

When I lived in Utah, one of the things that made the biggest impression on me, aside from the beauty of the area, was Utah at Christmas. I'd never seen such gorgeous displays of Christmas lights. It was like the whole city was bathed in warmth and holiday cheer! So when I think of Christmas, I always think about Utah.

Temple Square lies at the center of Salt Lake City. The church is a true spectacle. The trees surrounding the temple are lit with thousands of lights and the temple itself is illuminated in full glory.

Around the city, beautiful homes are festooned with holiday displays, like something out of a Hallmark movie.

Cheers to you this holiday season!


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Garmisch Christmas Market

If you've been following me and my blog for any length of time, you've come to know that besides being an artist, I love to ski. It's my passion and has been my passion since the first time I failed miserably on skis back in about 1981'ish. Falling repeatedly down the mountain, I said to myself happily, "THIS is my sport!"

Since then, I've skied in many places and recently I've come across a new area (new to me), that I'm interested in going to since I love Switzerland so much, especially the Jungfrau region. Garmisch, Germany!

Garmisch is a small town in Bavaria in southern Germany. It borders Austria and is home to Germany's highest mountain, Zugspitze, at over 10,000 ft.  There are a lot of similarities to Switzerland with rolling green mountains, trails, and chalet-type homes cozied in between.

Garmisch also hosts the annual Christmas Market which is a must-attend! The Alpine music, festively decorated booths, handicrafts, culinary specialities of the region, as well as the Lüftlmalereien (traditional painted house façades that are popular in this region) can be enjoyed in the magnificent glow of Christmas lights. Yule-tide spirit abounds from November 26 to December 23, 2016 filling hearts of the young and old with holiday cheer. I hope to make this an annual trip every Christmas!

Aside from the beauty of the village, there's the amazing local crafts of old world craftsman that really attracts the artist in me. While in Switzerland, I purchased a few wooden carvings of old thyme Santa's and a St. Bernard mountain rescue dog. You don't see that type of craftsmanship much these days.



Friday, September 30, 2016

Beautiful Pies for Fall

As I was reading my emails this morning, one from Pottery Barn popped up and of course I have to look and get inspired by all their gorgeous furnishings and accessories. I didn't realize that Williams-Sonoma is one of their family of stores and also another of my favorites, so I had to click on the link to go see all the latest Fall goodies!

I LOVE cooking stores, even though I don't cook that much, I'm always "planning" to. A weakness of mine is bakeware. All sorts, from tarte pans to bundt cake pans, cookie cutters, cookie stampers, rolling pins, you name it. My favorite though is all the Fall inspired pans. They are so ornate and beautiful! This year, there is pumpkin and acorn cakelet pans and a wondrous assortment of pie crust cutters. Don't we all need Fall piecrust cutters? 

OMG Gorgeous! Look at the detail!
Well I came across the recipe section which had some gorgeous pies and I want to share one of the recipes with you. So get out that "Ruffled" pie dish you've been dying to use and let's start rolling some dough!
First some words on making a pie crust:
ALWAYS use very cold water and very cold butter
and DON'T handle the dough too much. This makes for a very tough, un-flakey crust and you don't want that.
Basic Dough Recipe:
Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbs. very cold water

Directions:

To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together.

To make the dough in a stand mixer, fit the mixer with the flat beater, and stir together the flour, sugar and salt in the mixer bowl. Add the butter and toss with a fork to coat with the flour mixture. Mix on medium-low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix on low speed just until the dough pulls together.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk. (Although many dough recipes call for chilling the dough at this point, this dough should be rolled out immediately for the best results.) Lightly flour the work surface, then flatten the disk with 6 to 8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out into a round at least 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. Makes enough dough for one 9-inch single-crust pie or one 10-inch galette.

To make a double-crust pie: Double the recipe, cut the dough in half and pat each half into a round, flat disk. Roll out one disk into a 12-inch round as directed and line the pan or dish. Press any scraps trimmed from the first round into the bottom of the second disk. Roll out the second dough disk into a round at least 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick and refrigerate until ready to use.



We're going to be making an Apple-Ginger Cranberry pie. Looked delicious and perfect for the crisp Fall weather!

Ingredients:

  • 2 rolled-out rounds of the basic pie dough recipe, each about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick, chilled
  • 4 lb. Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced or Granny Smith if you prefer a bit more tart (I do)
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 egg plus 1 tsp. water, lightly beaten
  • Vanilla ice cream for serving
Directions:
Remove 1 dough round from the refrigerator. Transfer to a 9-inch deep-dish pie dish and gently press into the dish. Trim the edges flush with the rim. Reroll the dough scraps and cut out shapes using decorative pie cutters. Refrigerate the pie shell and cutouts for 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

In a large bowl, toss together the apples, cranberries, crystallized ginger, the 3/4 cup sugar, the salt, the 3 Tbs. flour and the lemon juice.

Let the pie shell, cutouts and the remaining dough round stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Pour the apple filling into the pie shell and place the dough round over the filling. Trim the edges flush with the rim and press the top and bottom crusts together. Brush the underside of the cutouts with egg wash and arrange them on the pie. Brush the entire top crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 1 hour, covering the edges with foil if they begin to brown too quickly. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour before serving.

To serve, cut the pie into slices and top with vanilla ice cream. Serves 8.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Almost Fall Decor

I love the "Welcome" on the black door. Stunning!
One more day and it'll be officially Fall! I wish someone would tell the weather that. Here in TN it's still in the 90's. Much too hot for this girl to get into the full Fall spirit yet but I'm trying.

This past weekend I bought some mums and planted them in my old rusted out wheelbarrow and added a sign and a pumpkin. It looks very festive despite the fact that it still feels pretty much like summer. 
Loving this!
Here are a few more cute ideas for your porch and yard that I've gathered from around the web and Pinterest (my fave site for awesome ideas!). I hope these inspire some of you as well, no matter what the weather.  Happy Fall!







Wednesday, September 7, 2016

If it's Almost Fall, There Must be Pumpkin Spice!

Have you tried the new Pumpkin Spice Oreos that have just hit the grocery store shelves? If not, you must! Truly, these are delish, at least in this cookie girls opinion.

Normally I don't eat Oreos as I think they're a little too sweet and have been trying not to eat much sugar these days, but I had to try one to get into the spirit of things. Unlike the Candy Corn flavor (ugh gross), these don't taste artificial.

So the cookie itself, I'd say is more of a hard biscuit. If you've had the Golden Oreos, the cookie part is sweeter and softer than the original chocolate Oreo. This pumpkin spice cookie is more like the original, more crunchy. And they taste spicy. Like a really good spice cake.

The center filling is sort of a burnt orange color. Very Fall-esque.
The overall flavor, and don't separate the layers now, is really, really good. This cookie gives them an "A" rating!

Bring on the Pumpkin Spice!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hurry Fall!

There's just a slight feel of Fall in the air here in middle Tennessee, at least for the past couple days. The temperature has dropped and humidity has gone away, with just a slight breeze and crispness in the air. I can't wait for Summer to be over and Fall to be here!

The other day at our local grocery store, we picked up this big clay pumpkin to put on the porch and start my decorating. The back has an opening for a candle or lights. I'm going to put orange and white lights in, but I won't light till the first official night of Fall. I know it's early  to start decorating but I don't care, I live for Fall and Halloween!
I can smell a pumpkin spice latte now! The house filled with scents of cinnamon and cloves...hurry Fall!