"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud." ~ Emile Zola

31 August 2011

Quote of the Week: The Longest Journey

"The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart."

~Julien Green

24 August 2011

Zucchini Squashed, Tomato Hope- Garden Updates

Updates on my gardening hopes and dreams: Sometimes they fall hard.

~Zucchini squashed! I recently attempted to hand-pollinate zucchini blossoms after weeks and weeks of flowers with no veggies. My squash plant is now dead. I discovered it collapsed into a sad, droopy heap one morning. :(

~Tomato hope! The heirloom tomato plant that had grown super skinny and tall and was losing branches had a turn for the better! I noticed that the bottom of the plant began growing new branches a few weeks ago. I decided to give the top part of the plant a specified time to see if it would do the same. When it didn't, I sacrificed the few tomatoes growing there and lopped the whole, long, skinny part of the plant off at the base. The new branches are healthy and full and sprouting lots of blossoms (see photo below, tomato plant closest to camera)! We ended up letting the tomatoes ripen that were growing at the top of the plant before I pruned it, and they were delish! Hoping for more to come! :D

Our second tomato plant (toward back of picture below) has loads of fruit, and after our most recent fertilizing they look bigger and plumper than ever. Our first from this plant were also delicious!

~Green stuff! Our green beans and most of our herbs have continued to produce!

~New crops planted! The seedlings of our very first fall crops are growing: broccoli, spinach, lettuce & dill and cilantro. A hard downpour and hail damaged some of our spinach, but we still have some. The herbs have their first "true" leaves, and I thinned the lettuce and broccoli some just yesterday.

23 August 2011

Quote of the Week: The Miracle of Earth

"People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle."

~Thich Nhat Hanh

22 August 2011

Inspiration- Sewing & Thrifting Adventures to Follow

Three of my favorite things are creating, recycling/upcycling, and thrifting, so I get very excited about inspiring people who share their adventures doing these things on the Web. Here are two such people:

New Dress a Day (formerly 365 Dresses)

Follow thrifty fashionista, Marisa, as she takes used articles of clothing and recreates them into adorable, current fashion. This is the second year for her project, which began in 2009 as 365 Dresses (a project of revamping old 365 dresses that cost no more than $1 into stylish cuteness). She is spending another year shopping strictly flea markets and garage sales for wardrobe additions (not just dresses), all on a budget of $1 a day. It's so fun and inspiring to watch he journey! 365 days. 365 items of clothing. 365 dollars. This year, lots of Marisa's projects involve redoing garments people have sent her. And she actually shares the steps and how-tos of every project! :) I love looking through the before and after pictures!

All Thrifty States
Tag along with Jenna on a road trip through the United States as she seeks to learn about America's communities through what they used to own. "Part journalism, part photography, part cultural study, part art documentary project," Jenna is making a statement against consumerism and for thrifty, vintage, secondhand fashion while she explores our nation's thrift stores. Love this!

21 August 2011

Morning Walk, Forest Encounters

Hiked into Frick twice in the past week- I've been craving physical activity and sweating along with woodland peace. :) The Black-eyed Susans are everywhere, water is flowing, big and little butterflies are dancing together in whirls, tiny frogs are hopping. Didn't hear or see many birds, but the forest silence and gentle, rushing streams were blissful.

On one hike I took the trail along Nine Mile Run , something I rarely do because I get so sad about the garbage that builds up there. At one point last summer I was taking a bag there with me on hikes so I could carry some trash. When more and more kept appearing, I got discouraged and just quit walking there. I'm not sure if it's a monetary issue, a lack of volunteers or organization, or simply that the onslaught of garbage is too much for regular maintenance to take care of. The stream is unhealthy, which the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association says is typical of an urban stream. After all of the finances, time, and energy invested in restoring the aquatic ecosystem and the wildlife there (it really is remarkable to see the changes!), though, the stream continues to struggle with a human-caused blight. :( Looking into ways to help more. Until then, focusing on the beautiful along Nine Mile Run and in Frick Park!

Met a sweet little frog on my hike today! I asked if I could take her picture, and she said I could as long as I didn't reveal her true identity. I promised not to.

17 August 2011

Quote of the Week: Live Out Loud

"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud."

~Emile Zola

Just added this to my blog under the banner! I love this quote. Personally, I aspire to live a lot louder. It's a work in progress.

16 August 2011

Projects I'd love to Make: Awesome Ways to Salvage Earthy and Thrifty Finds

Sharing more amazing projects I would love to try my hand at! These three DIY ventures involve making found and thrifted objects into fantastic treasures!

15 August 2011

Drink the Wild Air: Zipline Adventure Through the Trees!

"Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air..."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

For my birthday this year, we went on a trip to New River Gorge in West Virginia. Led by guides from their Tree Tops Canopy Tour, we traversed through the forest over tall tress and rushing waters along an elaborate and incredible system of ziplines and rope bridges! The environmentally-conscious zip line tour is a combination of short, steep hikes and ten ziplines, five skybridges, and one rappel. It was my first zipline adventure, and it was a-ma-zing!

A thought I remember having while flying through the forest sky was that the experience was far too thrilling and inexpressibly cool for my body to be so calm and my brain to be so orderly! A deep sense of peace and connection to life kept my heart strangely calm even as it and my spirit were dancing and laughing and screaming with joy. It was this strange combination of wanting to take all of it in and let it make an impression, breathless delight, and complete, logical serenity.

The question my friends and family asked me most about the trip is, "Were you scared?" Surprisingly (well, not to me), I was not! I was a bit nervous, but I found that volunteering to be the very first one to zip left no time for nervousness. haha! My only complaint, which isn't really a complaint so much as a desire for more, is that everything happened so quickly that there was barely a moment to let all of that EXPERIENCING absorb into your memory, experience, and system before it was over!

New River Gorge
also has an *upgraded* version of the Treetops Canopy Tour called the Gravity Zip Line Tour. Can't wait to sign up!

Check out my photos taken from the zip line platforms, as well as a video of T zipping and someone zipping across a line below the platform we were on (they were on a zip line slightly ahead of us on the course). Awesomeness!

14 August 2011

Fantastic Street Art in Berlin

Check out this video of some fun, terrific street art in Berlin, Germany. Artist IEPE directed crew to take 132 gallons (500 liters) of colorful, water-based, environmentally-friendly paint and dump it onto public roads in the middle of traffic, creating a rainbow in motion! Sorta looks like a daytime version of those videos and photos of cars driving at night, and leaving trails of light from headlights behind. Love this!

13 August 2011

I Am Mother Nature- Garden Update

At least I had fun pretending to be when I hand pollinated a flower for the very first time! :)

After investigating the possible reasons behind having loads of zucchini flowers but no zucchini, we realized that the very few bees we have seen this year may mean our blooms have not been getting pollinated. I decided I had to become a pollinator. I studied pictures of male and female zucchini flowers and read about how to transfer pollen via Q-tip and waited through several mornings watching for open flowers. Yesterday morning I peeked out to see a big, fat blossom smiling at the sunshine. I grabbed a Q-tip & ran to the garden in my cat PJs. :)

The open flower was a male, but there were no other blooms open. I carefully peeled open some flowers that were ending their life cycle but hadn't fallen off the plant yet. All males. Then I found one that hadn't opened at all yet! I carefully peeled away the flower petals from the top and peered inside- a female! I gently swabbed the male flower with a Q-tip until it was pollen-coated, and inserted it into the unopened female bud and swirled it around to transfer the pollen. MOTHER NATURE! :D Just out there watering a few minutes ago, and there are some new buds ready to open tomorrow. You can bet I will be out there with swabs in hand in the morning! :)

My pollen-coated cotton swab post-transfer. :)

More Updates:

~Our green beans and most of our herbs have continued to give us yummy, fresh things to eat. Our lettuce suffered in the recent heat wave and hasn't given us much. We cut it way back and are hoping for good stuff soon.

~Tomato plants: One of our heirloom tomato plants is still struggling. An entire branch died, leaving the two tiny tomatoes that were growing on it in peril. We picked them and will harvest the seeds for next year. There are still two tomatoes growing on it, and it looks as though the plant may be able to sustain these to maturity! Our other plant seems to have stabilized- yay! There are lots of baby tomatoes and some blossoms, and we had our very first little heirloom pink tomato in a grilled cheeze! Delish! After more reading about the bolting plants, we are thinking that perhaps we don't have quite enough light for the garden after all.

~Golden raspberry. I found out that plants don't fruit until the second year. Berries next summer! :)

~Our rogue pumpkin plant died! Suddenly and completely! :{

~Planted new seeds! We decided to go for our very first fall harvest, and after some cleanup, pruning, weeding, and transplanting made room for broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and dill & cilantro. YAY!

More later!

12 August 2011

DIY: Tea Dye Fabric for An Antique Look

On my DIY project list has been trying out tea dyeing on some white clothing I have. I love the look of aged fabrics and laces, and tested out tea dyeing a few weeks ago on a few bits of vintage lace. As I didn't have much tea, the concentration of the liquid wasn't strong enough to tint the laces much. So I purchased a mega amount of tea bags to prepare to dye the sweater, top, and dress I had set aside for the project. After some research online about dyeing with tea, I came up with a plan. Here's what happened!

How to Tea Dye


1) Tea only works when dyeing natural fabrics like cotton, silk, and some wools. It does NOT work on synthetic fabrics like polyester.

2) Dyeing with tea will give your clothing/materials a beautiful brownish-reddish color that you control by how long you leave them in the tea solution. Tea dye does NOT result in creamy or beige tones, so if you are looking for this, it's best to find a clothing dye in the color you desire. Tea dye does not always result in a completely even color result. A clothing dye is best used to achieve this.

3) It's very difficult to impossible to replicate colors using different batches of tea dye. If you need to create large amounts of matching fabric or need two pieces of clothing to match exactly, make enough tea with one batch to dye everything.


1) Before starting dye preparation, soak garments or materials to be dyed in cool water. Damp fabric takes the dye much more evenly and richly. Keep items in water until ready to dye.

4) Create your dye. For every yard of fabric, use 4 cups of water and 8 tea bags (loose tea is a no-no).

Any brand of basic black tea will work, even the generic. I purchased plain black Tetley tea bags in a huge box of 100 bags.

It is best to use a stainless steel or glass container to create your dye in, such as a large pot or large, heavy glass bowl. I know someone who uses their laundry or kitchen sink, too. Just be cautious about staining. ;) I used a large soup pot, which I both boiled my water in and dyed in. Two of the three garments I stained fit well at one time.

Calculate the number of tea bags you will use, and remove the paper tags from the strings each. Bring water to boil, remove from heat, pour water into container you will be using, and add tea bags (sans tags).

Steep your tea for at least five minutes, or longer if you wish to have a deeper color result. I steeped the tea in this project for 10 minutes. When desired richness of tea solution is reached, use a slotted spoon to remove all bags. Depending on the quality of your bags and how easily they tear, it may be okay to squeeze the liquid from the tea bags upon removal. I used my hands for this, which was dumb and difficult cause the bags were super hot! lol Another large spoon will work better, I think.

5) Dye. Once your tea is free of bags, remove your garments to be dyed from the water they are soaking in. Squeeze well, removing as much excess water as possible so as not to dilute your tea. Place garments in hot tea and stir.

If your desired color result is a more even, smooth tone, add clothes to the tea as loosely as possible. Stir and swish in the tea at regular intervals while soaking. If you are looking for a more uneven, mottled, or tie-dye result, you may want to leave clothes a little more tightly bundled when you add them to the tea and stir or agitate minimally, if at all.

Soaking time is totally dependent on your desired color intensity. A 30-minute dye time seems to result in a softer, more subtle color. I left mine in the tea for just over an hour for a darker, richer tone. NOTE: The color of your garment will be lighter after drying, so you might want to dye to a slightly darker tone than you desire ultimately.

Keep in mind that different fabrics and textures will take the color differently. I dyed a 100% cotton crochet sweater that ended up a more subtle version of the deeper peachy color that the 100% cotton jersey-ish knit top turned. Both were dyed together and for the same length of time.

7) Check color. Once you are happy with the color you see on your fabrics, remove clothing from tea (preferably close to a sink, and don't dump tea down the drain yet!) and rinse in cool water until water runs mostly clear. A lot of tea will rinse away, but there should be sufficient color left in the fabric. If your color appears lighter than you'd hoped, squeeze as much liquid out of your garment(s) as you can, and drop into dye for a longer soak. Depending on how long your tea sat after boiling, it may be necessary to reheat to at least steaming before dyeing again.

MY RESULTS? A unique, beautiful peachy-tan-rusty color that I just love! See more photos at the bottom of the article. :)

***WARNING: One thing I failed to find in my research into tea dyeing fabrics is that perspiration in clothing turns darker than the rest of the garment when dyed! Ack! Maybe that would seem common sense, but having no dyeing experience, it never occurred to me! :P I dyed a white cotton dress with almost imperceptible perspiration stains under the arms, and though the body of the dress turned out lovely, the under arm area turned 3 times as dark! Looks like I will need to dye with a clothing dye that is much darker. LOL

6) Post-dye. So, do you love the results of your tea dyeing? :) If so, there are a couple of things you can do to set the color. Take your pick.

*Toss in the dryer. I dried the knit top and crocheted sweater right after dyeing, using a medium setting for knits with good result. If you're worried about leaving in the dryer for too long, try drying for just 10 minutes on a lower setting (i.e., not "high"). Finish by pressing with a hot iron.

*Wash items on a gentle cycle in cold water. I did this with one dress, and the color maintained and set beautifully. Let air dry (my choice to both preserve clothing and use less energy) or tumble dry on low.

* Upon removing clothing from dye, drop into a mixture of water and vinegar. Use 1/2 c vinegar for every cup of water. Allow to soak for 15 minutes, then rinse well. I was a bit leary of having clothes that smelled like vinegar, so I did not try this method.

If you are not happy with the results, as the tea may be dyed out with some type of bleach. Just keep in mind that older fabrics and laces may be too fragile to withstand bleaching and repeated washing.

11 August 2011

My Painting is in a Buddhist Journal!

A few weeks ago, I received a convo via Etsy from asking for permission to use one of my painting images on the cover of a Buddhist journal!

A representative from the Society Of Mountains and Rivers Zen Institute in New Zealand had stumbled across one of my bird paintings online, and wanted to know if I would mind if they used it for the cover of their journal. Of course I sad yes!

Manawa, The New Zealand Zen Journal ended up opting for another image for their cover due to a "bleed" issue, but I was still thrilled and honored to learn that they still wanted to use my painting for an inside page. Yay!

I received a copy of the beautiful, zen-filled journal in the mail today! Have a look! :)

Thanks so much to Geoff Moore (who so kindly contacted me) and the Society of Mountains and Rivers for the extraordinary honor!

09 August 2011

Quote of the Week: Companion With Earth

"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life."

~Rachel Carson

06 August 2011

Confetti Couscous Salad (vegan)- Vibrant, Fresh, Super Easy

Been making this recipe from Vegetarian Times for years, and it's a favorite because of its alive, bright flavors. I'd forgotten about it for a while, until the recent heat wave and a need for some easy & nutritious whole foods made me start digging for some dishes that are low-cook, low-kitchen-time, and low cost. This is very similar in ingredients to the Easy Burrito recipe I posted last week, but with a little less cooking!

Use fresh peppers and herbs from the garden or farmer's market! I used a fresh-picked Habanero pepper, which is one of the hottest peppers on the Scoville Heat Scale, and my fingertips burned for hours, literally! We made vegan chocolate chip cookies for dessert after this- try this awesome recipe (I prefer to use another egg substitute- Ener-G Egg Replacer- in place of the applesauce. A bit too cakey otherwise)!

Confetti Couscous
from Vegetarian Times Issue: June 1, 2000, p.60

Ingredient List

6 servings

1/2 cup diced yellow bell pepper (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 to 4 Tbs. fresh lime juice (2 limes)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper (optional)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup uncooked couscous
15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained, or 1 3/4 cups cooked black beans
1 cup cooked fresh (about 2 ears) or thawed frozen corn
1/2 cup diced red onion


NOTE: Because of my dislike of most raw veggies, I actually saute the peppers for a few minutes before adding to the salad.

In medium saucepan, combine salt, cumin and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add couscous, stir and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with fork. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff again.

Add beans, corn, onion, bell peppers if using, cilantro and jalapeno. Stir in oil and enough lime juice to give salad a puckery edge. Serve warm or at room temperature.

05 August 2011

This Year's Garden- Good Eats & Challenges

Gardening continues to be one of my true loves, and like love the garden yields joys and challenges in equal opportunity. :)

My sweet little niece stopped by to labor in the garden for a while with me. :) She's a dirt-y girl after my own heart.

JOYS: Our harvest so far

~Abundant mint and sage bunches, shared happily with neighbors
~LETTUCE- we love fresh salads, and so do our Budgies
~Fresh Herbs (pronounced with the "h" in honor of global friends- heehee):

*fresh dill and basil and mints make our green salads spicy and vibrant

*crushed basil and oregano sprinkled on our pizza after the oven add pizzazz

*chives sprinkled into pasta salads and potato salad make both savory and delish

*peppermint and spearmint make wonderful tea and lemonade

~Green beans- T likes them raw, I prefer them lightly steamed. :)

CHALLENGES: This year's conundrums

~Tomato plants that are shooting skyward instead of bushing out. I guess we didn't prune as we should have early on, given the huge growth spurts that happened with the loads of rain and humidity. Lots of re-staking to keep up. There may also be an issue of not enough sunlight, but our neighbors' tomoatoes last year in the same area did well. Looks like one plant is struggling a little more and may not make it. :(

~Lots of blossoms, but no fruit on the zucchini. There have been so many big, beautiful blossoms that I was sure we would be eating loads of delish zucchini. For some reason, though, we haven't had a single fruit! All flowers, nothing growing in their place. :/ I have no idea why.

~Figuring out the golden raspberry. So far it's not doing much as far as growth, and I've never grown berries.

~Nibbling on some of our leaves and herbs by pests, especially the basil and sage. I haven't been able to find the little culprits like in years past, but I keep hand-inspecting.
Today I noticed that whole leaves of the basil were eaten.

~Fickle herbs. Our cilantro plant and dill bolted after two weeks. :( This is my first dill (I love it), but I have yet to have success in keeping cilantro all summer. I just recently read it prefers to be sown directly in the garden soil, so I will try that over replanting seedlings. Rosemary is stunted, so we are uprooting from the garden and putting it in its own pot so it can stay dryer.

PLANS: Fall Planting

Reading up on some ways to make a garden more efficient reminded me that it's time to plant now for fall crops! Just got beautiful organic seeds in the mail from Homegrown Healthy on Etsy: broccoli, spinach, more lettuce, and herbs (can't hurt to give those another go, right?). I may just grow the herbs in pots so I can bring them indoors for winter.

Stay tuned for updates. :)

03 August 2011

Projects I'd LOVE to Make- Gorgeous, Eco-friendly, and Garden-Inspired

I came across these two amazing, earthy-green projects via the Craftzine.com blog. I'd love to make both! :) Already raved about these elsewhere, but loved them so much, here I am doing it again!

02 August 2011

Quote of the Week: I was Made for Another World

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.

~C.S. Lewis

01 August 2011

DIY: Vintage Fabrics & Trim Tote

Inspired by my ever-growing stash of vintage and antique fabric, trim, and buttons, a love for shabby chic, and a recent Etsy search for a newhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif bag, I took an old tote and made it new (for me) and fun!

I started with a plain cotton tote silk-screened on one side that we used for grocery shopping. I scavenged through my fabric pile and came across a piece of green and cream vintage toile with a lovely country scene (thanks to a purchase from the incredible Red Stripe Vintage on Etsy). I hand-stitched it over the side of the tote with the silk-screened image and added bits of lace and fabric scraps. Some antique buttons and stitched in green thread around some of the images on the toile were nhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifext. Lastly, sewed a pocket on the inside!http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Here's the result!

I am not a sewer in that I have no machine and I don't have much skill, whether using machine or hand. Using an old tote not only solved having to make an entire bag from scratch, but recycled an old bag and made the project even more eco-friendly. My messy hand sewing skills worked perfectly with the shabby chic style. I have been making a LOT of jokes about my sewing- it's probably getting old. ;)

I used my bag the other day for the first time, and got some interest from people wanting their own. Please get in touch if you want to send me an old tote- I'd be happy to do a custom project for you!

And here are some other DIY fabric projects I've come across that I would love to do with a machine (a friend promised to give me an extra) and practice! They are just too sweet not to share! :)

Vintage House Dress to Summer Smock

Summer Skirt & Market Bags

One-Hour Skirt