Posts Tagged ‘nature’

the practice of gratitude

while we can choose to include expressions of gratitude in our every day lives, this time of year reminds us to give thanks for all of the blessings we’ve harvested. acknowledging gratitude on a daily basis can help us all to feel more balanced, joyful, and peaceful. it can also aid us attracting the energy of abundance into our lives.

often, in the busy-ness of thanksgiving, the true meaning of the holiday can get lost somewhere between parades of oversized floats and the cranberry sauce. here are a few reminders for expressing gratitude during this season, and carrying it into your every day life.

  • gratitude journal: keep a simple book beside your bed where you can jot down three things you are thankful for at the end of each day. (or begin each day with gratitude instead.)
  • gratitude blessing at mealtime: before eating dinner on thanksgiving night (or every night, like we do in my house) encourage each family member to share at least one thing they are thankful for from their day.
  • gratitude garland: this is a sweet art project N and i made last year (inspired by the artful parent) that uses the beautiful natural materials the earth provides for us. go on a nature walk and collect vibrant fallen leaves. ask each person to write one thing they are thankful for on each leaf (using glittery pens or markers) and string them together by poking wire through them or hot gluing their stems to a lovely ribbon.

  • thankfulness jar: start by decorating a jar (a simple ribbon holding an autumn leaf against the jar can be a nice touch) or finding a container you love. count your blessings all month long by writing them on little notes each day and placing them in the jar. spend some time around the thanksgiving table reading the notes of thanks aloud to each other. (from tip junkie)

photo from tip junkie

  • gratitude mobile: collect leaves, acorns, pinecones, and string them across a stick or from an embroidery hoop along with lovely papers where you and your children write down the things for which you are thankful. (from rhythm of the home)

photo from rhythm of the home

  • expressing thanks: send a handwritten letter or make a phone call to a person for whom you are thankful, expressing the gratitude you feel for them. it will surely brighten their day, and in turn, yours.

i’ll leave you with a quote i enjoy about gratitude by thornton wilder: “we can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

i’m a grateful for you all, my wonderful readers and blogging community. thank you.


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treasure pendants

a few evenings ago, we noticed a little bag of silver pendants in our art cabinet that we had yet to use — and i have my friend, rachelle of tinkerlab, to thank for passing them along to us! so, thank you, tinkerfriend, for these great blank “canvases” of the jewelry variety! they provided N and i with some enjoyment, as we decided how we wanted to design our pendants.

N wanted to make a “nature one” and a “beady one.” so we gathered some pebbles and shells from random buckets of beach treasures that are still in our backyard.

then N rooted through my seed bead collection and found some colors she liked.

she arranged the seed beads in the circular metal pendant, and put a white shell in the center of the square one with some pebbles and a few random neutral beads around it.

once she had them arranged how she wanted them, i squirted dimensional magic onto each, and let it dry for 3 hours. after it dried and encrusted all of these jewels to keep them in place, N wore her new beautiful mandala necklace!

and she decided we should give the “nature one” to rachelle and her little artist, N, as a thank you gift.


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acorn cap jewels

we are definitely feeling the fall spirit over here! where we live, the leaves are slow to change, but now that it’s november, we are seeing more reds, oranges, and yellows brightening up the landscape. N and i went for a little leaf-hunting walk around the neighborhood the other day, and found a bounty of beauty!

what would you make with these fiery treasures?

also, we recently had a great time creating acorn cap jewels and blogged about them over on kiwi crate. go check out our process… it’s super easy. you can turn this:

into this:

happy fall!!!

now, what to make with those gorgeous leaves…???


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interview & giveaway with lisa of 5 orange potatoes

i am so honored to have the opportunity to interview the amazing lisa whitesell, of the awesome 5 orange potatoes blog! her nature-loving, creative blog has been one of my favorite sources of earthy, artsy ideas. lisa was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her life, work, and inspiration AND to give away one of her adorable owl pillows to one of my lucky readers!!! enjoy her story below and enter for your chance to win at the bottom of this post.

lisa & her creations at her 5 orange potatoes "craftin' outlaws" booth

jen:  your 5 orange potatoes blog has long been a source of inspiration for me. i am so very drawn to the way you incorporate the spirit of the earth in each of your creations — from herbal remedies to nature art activities to upcycling sweaters into the most amazing plush creatures. can you tell us a bit about what most inspires you and the work you so beautifully offer to the world?

lisa: I’m just your basic natural earthy girl that loves the Earth and prefers natural to artificial- from the food we eat, the medicines we use, the art supplies we use, and the clothing we wear.  I have Appalachia roots and my granny is always comparing me to my great grandmother and the way she lived her life. I’m sure I was a peasant witchy woman in another life, a bit of a recluse, with a large herb garden making concoctions for the village people and what ails them -OR- maybe it’s because I was born on the very first Earth Day (April 22, 1970)! I can’t pinpoint what exactly drives me, it’s just something in me, seems to run in my veins!

lisa's acorn jewelry

jen:  you and i are kindred spirits in experimenting with medicinal herbs. i especially adore all of your posts on lavender, dandelions, and those honey herbal coughdrops! (the soothing gremlin softie is one of my favorite ideas of yours, as it blends your offerings of herbal remedies with your talent for creating such fun characters.) how did you first begin your love of herbology? can you share with us some of your favorite resources for learning about herbs and teaching your children about their healing properties?

lisa: Being raised in the country, with parents that always sent my sisters and me outside, and working in nature, with youth camps, really sparked my love of nature and herbology. My first taste of chicory coffee made from fresh chicory roots and a fresh salad made from wild edibles, sent me over the roof, really connected me to the wonderful bounty that Nature provides. Forget the man-made and artificial junk! Hildegard of Bingen, Juliette De Bairacli Levy, Rosemary Gladstar, Michael Tierra, Maud Grieve, and Jeanne Rose are some of my favorite go to herbalists. These amazing herbalists have fantastic books that make up a large part of my herbal library.

lisa's jewelweed poison ivy remedy

jen:  my daughter is blessed to have a couple of your creations. her winking fox, who is now called nuki, has brought so much joy into our home. i admire how you use thrifted sweaters and vintage fabrics to create them, in true earth-loving fashion. each of your plush creatures has such personality – the ones created from the upcycled sweaters are my absolute favorite! how does the idea for the animals’ patterns and images come to you?

lisa: My girls’ drawings are what inspired me when I first started making plush, but now I simply look at an animal’s eyes and the inspiration will be there or not. The actual critter has to inspire me before I can create it, this makes it hard when a customer asks me to create an animal I haven’t made before. For example, I’ve been struggling with a turtle design for the past year, I would LOVE to make one, but the design just isn’t there yet!

an inspirational drawing from lisa's daughter

prim and proper

jen:  it seems that your way of creating has gracefully piqued your daughters’ curiosity about nature and art. it is so wonderful to see them concocting potions and sewing on your blog. can you offer any words of wisdom to us about your philosophy on how to inspire children to connect with the earth and to create with their hands?

lisa: That’s simple, if they see you doing it and making it part of everyday, they will follow. Get outside everyday with your child and explore together, not only will you influence them but they will see and point out things you’ve never seen before! I really believe that experiencing nature with a child is the best way to learn and discover.

exploring nature with children

jen:  what are you most passionate about creating about RIGHT NOW?

lisa: Our basement flooded last Spring and all of our holiday ornaments got ruined, so we will be working hard on creating new decorations for this holiday season.

lovely applesauce ornaments

jen:  i’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve been asked, but i’ve been curious: where did the name 5 orange potatoes come from?

lisa: I get this question all the time! I asked my girls to throw out some names, Araina (5yo at the time) said “5 orange potatoes,” I loved the corky sound to it and kept it. It really works for us too, being vegetarians we eat a lot of sweet potatoes and I have red hair that looks a little orange in the sun. I shared this story with a man at a recent show and he laughed because his 6yo nephew named his goldfish “Roastbeef,” you really can’t beat the creative power of a young mind!

sewing with children

and now for the giveaway… [CLOSED]

lisa is generous enough to offer one of her amazingly adorable owl pillows, hand sewn with love from vintage fabrics or upcycled sweaters, to one of my readers! that could be YOU!

to enter for your chance to win:

  • first click here, which will open a new browser window where you will visit the 5 orange potatoes etsy shop to peruse the beautiful wares. choose which owl pillow is your favorite (that you’d like to win!) and come back here and let me know in the comments which owl you’d choose. *make sure your valid email address is attached to your entry so i can contact you if you win.*

you need to do the above entry to be entered, and for THREE MORE chances to win, you can do the following and leave an additional comment (read: entry into drawing) for each of these actions:

  • like 5 orange potatoes on facebook
  • follow 5 orange potatoes on twitter
  • share a link to this blog post giveaway on your facebook page, your twitter account, and/or on your blog.

i will choose a winner using a random number generator this thursday night (november 10) at 9pm pacific/midnight eastern.


and now for my unsolicited PSA: while you are on lisa’s 5 orange potatoes etsy shop, keep in mind that the holidays are fast approaching, and these make for amazing gifts for special people in your life. if you’d like to support artists and the idea of a handmade holiday (as opposed to store-bought, mass-produced goods,) please consider shopping on sites like etsy, at your local holiday faires, and, of course, making your own holiday gifts this year (and every year!) occupy the holidays! 🙂

*all images courtesy of 5 orange potatoes.


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white ink rocks

this is just a quick little (momma art) entry about what has become a bit of an obsession of mine in the past year and a half… painting with white ink on smooth, dark stones.

stones i painted in july 2010

i first fell in love with this idea when i saw them on genine’s art blog a long while back – if you have not yet visited this amazing blog, check it out! sooo inspiring! although little rock paintings are not a new idea and they’re all over the internet. i figured i’d share them with you here regardless. mostly because i love creating them — even though it’s intricate work, i find it very relaxing and soothing. i love to look at the stones and let them inform me, by their shape, color, and texture, what sort of image might live on them.

i like to use white acrylic ink and a script liner brush when i paint mine. recently, i purchased some different inks in sepia, gray, and turquoise, so i’ll experiment with those on rocks soon. (N and i have already played with inks on red clay pottery.) for some reason, N has yet to paint with the inks on rocks with me, but i imagine she’ll join me soon.

these make for easy and personal gifts for birthdays, thank yous, hostess tokens, etc. and it gives me something fun to do with all of the lovely stones i can’t stop picking up along the pacific coastline.




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boo (hoo hoo) pumpkins

admittedly, i got all jazzed about pinterest painted pumpkins this year. i mean, have you seen the options?! it’s intense out there. martha is quaking in her fryes with the sheer amount of pumpkin talent run amok on the interwebs. and lemme tell ya, i am NO  threat to ms. stewart in any way, shape, or form. let’s talk total craft fail right now (and a quasi-recovery?) here are some of the pinterest gems that piqued my pumpkin passion.

you know i don’t use the words “craft” or “fail” much at all, (for totally different reasons) but this is a complete craft fail (do i have to put a hashtag in front of that term? eww, lingo.) and instead of ___fail, i’d rather just call it an art-gone-wrong moment. (but yes, #craftfail!) i was inspired to make some painter’s tape resist pumpkins (like bottom left pic above) and three pumpkins with B O O stenciled onto them. i figured they’d be all beautiful and i’d title the blog “smashing pumpkins” and everything. i bought these super inexpensive beauties at a produce stand.

taped and stickered them where i wanted them to remain orange.

i grabbed some matte spray paint, and went to town.

(the only thing that was cool here was the caravaggesque lighting of these photos, and that was an accident)

after the paint dried, i peeled off the tape and stickers… um, and MOST OF THE SPRAY PAINT! (grrr)

for the B O O pumpkins, i thought i’d use these cool vinyl letter stickers i bought at michael’s, but large stickers do not stick in any sort of flat way to a rounded pumpkin surface, so i knew they would not produce a clean line when painted around. so i thought (sure, just for like two seconds) and grabbed some rubber cement and painted the letters B O O onto the pumpkins instead.

i figured the rubber cement would roll right off after they were painted and show the letters i had carefully designed by hand. perhaps this would have worked (???) if i had NOT USED SPRAY PAINT!

so i dropped this agenda altogether. i purchased three white pumpkins. i stuck the vinyl letters onto them as best i could. i traced around the letters with a pencil. i painted inside my pencil lines with sepia acrylic ink.

and it worked out well enough for this year.

pumpkins drying against sliding glass door - fun effect

and now onto designing the rest of the mantel…



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michaelmas candles

this fall we got to learn about the michaelmas festival at waldorf school. it happens close to the autumn equinox and marks the beginning of the receding light. the parenting passageway has a great post all about it here, so i’ll leave the describing up to carrie because she does it so well, but in keeping with our woodworking theme this week (check out the giveaway – winners will be drawn tomorrow!) i’d love to share what N made at her school’s michaelmas festival.

on this special day, all of the children wore autumnal colors of red, orange, and yellow to school. there were many autumnal activities and presentations. N’s kindergarten class worked on sanding pieces of wood and drilling holes into them as candle holders. N was so proud to show me hers after school that day.she wanted to create her own candle to put into her new holder, so we got out our beeswax.

she had a hard time deciding between red and purple wax (her favorite colors,) but loooved examining the honeycomb shapes on it. eventually, she settled on red, and we cut an 8″ x 8″ piece of wax. N put the wick alongside one edge of it and simply rolled it up with even pressure across.

…as even as she could.

she pushed the candle down into the hole in her candleholder, and was psyched that it fit. (we totally didn’t pre-measure any of this, so i was glad, too.) that night we lit it for dinner, and N was “in looooove” with the candle.

before snuffing out the candle (and cutely whispering “thank you candle for your light”) N said (and sang) her meal blessing song from her kindergarten class:

good morning, dear sunshine.
looking through our window fine,
the birds are all waking,
they are music making.
they brought with them through the silence of the night.
dear god, our loving thanks so bright.

[now singing]
earth who gives to us this food.
sun who makes it ripe and good.
dear sun, dear earth
our loving thanks to you we give.
[talking again]
we ask god’s blessing on our mealtime,
and peace upon the earth.



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interview & giveaway: earnest efforts woodworking

you may remember my gushing about an artist couple N and i met at a local art festival – they’re rick and heather from earnest efforts natural woodworking, and they make the most amaaaazing art out of trees: beautiful boxes and magical spirit shakers that will make you swooooon!

N checking out the earnest efforts booth at the kings mountain arts fair last month

i’ve scored an interview with the artists and they’re giving away a spirit shaker and a rattle to my readers (one winner for each) so read on to learn more about the art of wood and enter for a chance to win a lovely handmade piece!

my interview with heather of earnest efforts

jen: can you tell us a bit about how and when you came to find the gift of your woodworking craft?

Heather: Earnie Efforts (aka Rick) has been selling his woodworking wares at the Eugene, Oregon Saturday Market (the longest-running outdoor, handcrafted marketplace in the US) since the 1980’s. I, Ellie Efforts (aka Heather), joined the Market in 1994 with my fiber arts. In 1998 we got to know one another, fell in love, and married in 1999. Earnie was an apprentice cabinet maker to his grandfather and continued working in wood to supplement his family’s income. I tell people that I not only married him out of love, but the fact that he had a woodshop – I had wanted to work in wood since I was little.

"Earnie & I in our booth at the Saturday Market"

jen: i notice that each of your pieces clearly has resonance with the spirit of the wood from which it was created. how do your natural materials inform your work?

Heather: If you could crawl inside Earnie’s head and see the world through his eyes, you would know that he doesn’t see driftwood on the beach… he sees boxes. Each piece of wood has it’s own personality, story and destiny. We don’t just see wood or trees; we see life on many levels. I think we forget that wood is still living long after it has fallen to the earth and will continue to live on long after that box we made is discarded and goes back to the earth. This is also why it is so important to us that we maintain the integrity of the wood with a natural beeswax finish. We want you to be able to feel the warmth of the wood, not a plastic coating so often used in “preserving” wood and we want the wood to return to the earth clean.

"Earnie cutting up driftwood on the Coquille River - note the top left piece of wood has been chewed by a beaver"

"River Alder Box - chewed by a beaver"

jen: my daugher and i just love making music with the spirit shakers and rattles we’ve purchased from you! can you tell us a bit about how they are created (like, what’s inside?) and why you call them spirit shakers?

Heather: The spirit shakers are very special to us on many levels. Earnie & I scavengers and hoarders (in a good way) – we don’t waste anything. When he cuts the boxes, the heart of a box becomes another box, a rattle, or a spirit shaker – until all that remains is kindling for our house wood stove. I’m going to leave the spirit making a little bit of a mystery for you, but inside are copper BBs. We call them spirit shakers because we have witnessed that the essence of the living tree continues to live in on in the wood and within us as we touch, make music, and meditate with the wood.

(these are our earnest efforts rattles & spirit shaker - isn't that purple one AMAZING?! no dyes or paints - that's the natural color of the wood!)

jen: how can parents and teachers help inspire children to begin working with wood as an art material?

Heather: Taking children to meet artists at art festivals is a wonderful way to introduce children to art in all of it’s forms. When children can touch, smell, feel and see artwork with an artist they can ask questions and process in a way unavailable in books or online. We meet children at every festival who are interested in woodworking and we encourage their parents to seek out woodworking classes at community colleges or art centers since so many schools are closing their woodshops.

"Earnie cutting a box on our 1953 Boice Crane bandsaw"

jen: is there anything else you’d like to add?

Heather: Take care, be good & kind, and don’t forget to laugh. 🙂


Oregon-Myrtlewood Spirit Shaker & Maple Baby Rattle/Teether

earnest efforts is so kind to offer one spirit shaker (left in photo above) and one rattle (right in photo above to two readers who enter the drawing. the rattles are beeswax coated and completely safe for babies to chew on. heather says, “these are representational photos – they are not the actual rattle & spirit shakers we are giving away, as we will chose beauties with lovely sound for the winners.” oooooh, and they’re all so lovely!

i will use a random number generator to choose TWO winners (one for each) this thursday evening, october 20, at 9PM pacific/12midnight eastern.

how to enter: comment on this blog entry and let us know your favorite type of tree AND the age(s) of your child(ren) — incase you are a winner, the child’s age is how i will know whether you should receive the baby-safe rattle or the spirit shaker. please be sure your correct email address is associated with your entry so that i can contact you if you’re a winner. (comment link is up there on the left, under the date of this post. i’ve gotta move this at some point…)

two winners were chosen! thanks to all who entered!

please do yourself a favor and check out earnest efforts’ awesome etsy shop to view and purchase more of their wares. (think: holiday shopping!) and be sure to “like” earnest efforts on facebook.

good luck, woodchucks!


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acorn cap candles

autumn just might be my favorite season for nature-inspired art-making! i’ve been wanting to make teeny acorn cap candles for a long while, and it’s so easy i’m not sure why we’ve not gotten around to them before now.

as for supplies: we scored a little bag of 10 short candle wicks from N’s waldorf school store (my new favorite art supply and toy store!) for just $1. i already had some wax around the house from the last time we made candles, and we’ve got acorn caps stored up over here like nobody’s business. we even added in a few shells from our summer OBX trip, just to mix it up.

N and i picked through the acorn caps to find ones that would lay relatively flat, or ones that would lay flat after we picked off the stem. if you can’t find ones that are flat enough on top (candle bottom) that’s okay — one fun way to display these are as floating candles in a pretty bowl with lovely autumn leaves!

the N put the wicks into each cap and shell…

…while i melted the wax in our double boiler.

good thing i had everything on top of wax paper on my counter because pouring the melted wax into such tiny nature containers was tricky — but made us smile 🙂

now we’ve got a sweet collection of tiny candles for our autumn nature table and to gift to friends. (and i’m gonna go grab some more $1 packs of wicks this week at kindergarten pick up time!)


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autumnal equinox

happy fall, y’all! (ooo, my quasi-southern roots are showing.) today is the first day of autumn, even though the sf bay area seems to just be getting the summer started. regardless, in my body and spirit, it feels like it’s time to bust out the chet baker and a scarf. to celebrate the season, i gifted my little one with a basket of autumn goodies today…

among the treasures was a strand of mala beads i strung just for her. i’ve always intended to make N one of her own (as she covets mine) and i was inspired by this one i saw on little. lovely. i just used 108 (in the buddhist tradition) blonde wooden beads i had on hand and some stretchy cord.

after they were strung, i looped embroidery thread around my fingers, snipped it at one end, then laid it over the cord. i tied another piece of thread around that to keep it in place. this made for a cute tassel.


i also included two wonderful autumn books in N’s fall basket — i just love both of these seasonal series. one is autumn, an alphabet acrostic by steven schnur and the other is by the light of the harvest moon by harriet ziefert. we have the other seasons from both authors, but somehow didn’t yet have these autumn treasures.


additionally, i found a sweet little melissa & doug wooden kazoo, some pomegranates (N’s favorite fruit – she takes after her momma!) and one a replica of one of my childhood memories… a weather telling owl kinda like this one! when i was a kid, i had a ceramic owl exactly like this on my windowsill. he has little clear salt-sized crystals on his head that change color to tell the weather (or so i thought when i was a kid???) when one of these owls came up randomly on my etsy homepage this summer, my heard did a little flip flop of recognition, and i knew i had to buy it!

another fun thing about today is that we got to use the autumn side of our handmade placemats – ah, refreshing change! i can’t wait to have some fun with fall art projects now…

first day of autumn breakfast

happy autumn to all! did your family do anything special to celebrate autumn’s arrival?


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sparkly shell ornaments

autumn is upon us next week… tis the season of harvesting the fruits of our labor. when we’re lucky, summer “labor” looks like a long walk on the beach. if you’ve got a lot of beach booty laying around, this could be a simple fun one for you and your littles.

our summer vacation to carova, north carolina, left us with plenty of beautiful shells with natural holes in them. perfect for jewelry, garland, and ornaments!

we set a few larger shells and some ribbon scraps aside with the intention of creating keepsakes for 12 of our family members (5 households) who shared this trip together.

first, i wrote “carova 2011” on the inside of each shell with a sharpie.

then N got to work painting the shells with one of my favorite glimmery paint additives called “make it shimmer.”

this paint gives such a lovely mostly-silver, somewhat-pearly glisten to anything it touches. N applied it directly to our shells, but as a paint additive, it is meant to be mixed into plain paint to heighten it to shimmery loveliness.

once the shells were dry, we added colorful ribbon scraps from our stash.

while this project has roots in summer, it extends through the winter holidays. we are excited to give these to our family to display on their christmas trees or in their homes whenever they’d like.

it’s a fun memento from a sweet summer vacation. (surprise family – these will be coming your way before the holiday season! 🙂 )



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pinch pots

as a kid, i loved making useful little pots and dishes, and i figured my little one would, too! i got some amaco self hardening clay from michael’s for the occasion. i really love the earthy red/adobe color, though it comes in white and gray, too.

we each took a little chunk of the clay for ourselves and began to roll it into a ball.

little hands and earth

when we rolled it on the table, a fun side-effect was the marks it made on our paper below, so we played with that for a while. process. process.

pinch pots begin to take shape by first pressing one’s thumb into the center of the sphere.

next, i showed N how to use equal pressure with her thumb and forefinger to pinch her way slowly around the sphere, until a bowl-like shape formed.

she took great care to smooth the cracks and crumbles with her finger by “petting” the clay.

the pot in the foreground is one that i made alongside N, to model the technique, so as not to put my fingerprints on her piece. i feel like clay is like that – it takes the shape intended by its sculptor, and the fingerprints on it are part of the artist’s mark.

N was so proud of her pot after smoothing it out.

and now we just wait patiently for them to dry… up on a high shelf where our cats won’t lick them.


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