Friday, August 30, 2013

Faithful Fridays: Age and Wisdom

"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness."
{Proverbs 16:31}

August is always a special month for me.  It's my birthday month, but for most of my life it also meant the start of a new school year.  Perhaps unsurprisingly then, August always brings up for me issues of aging and wisdom.

I can't recall ever being truly afraid of getting older.  On the contrary, getting older has always excited me.  Maybe it's the effect of nearly always being the youngest in my classroom or friend group, the last to reach legal milestones, but each birthday-each new age I was able to proclaim made me proud.  Actually, as I age into adulthood, I find myself somewhat relieved to have another year of experience under my belt.

Up until the past few years, the path for me has been pretty clear- keep plodding through school to get to college, to get to grad school, to get a career.... but with the poor economy and unexpected life events- my plan has dissolved into a world of unending possibilities. Therefore, I find myself often asking, who am I called to be and how do I become her?  I am seeking out the narrow path, trying to discern the desires of my heart and to align it with the heart of Christ, but it's hard.  There's a seemingly endless array of character flaws to overcome and disciplines to learn.  It can be overwhelming and perhaps discouraging to realize I will always fall short of the mark of perfection, but it's also freeing and helps me to remember my dependence on God.

Embracing imperfection, surrendering brokenness and releasing expectation is where an outright mess become a beautiful one, where mistakes become happy accidents- those endearing and inspiring quirks that make a person relatable.  I find myself planted in a rich community wanting to absorb all the wisdom of the ages, wanting desperately for people to speak into my life and tell me just how they got through this phase of life.  

I find myself increasingly aware of the value of the Christian community and the importance of each member of the congregation.  As difficult as it is to address the diverse needs of the congregation- women/men, children/adults, married/single, parents/childless, youth/aged, and on and on, I regret the segregation this seems to have necessitated.  I don't want to ignorantly blaze my own path when there exists such a wealth of resources to guide me.  Though I may presently be childless, I need children in the congregation as a reminder to come to God as a child- unguarded and uninhibited in my requests, without guile, and eager to learn.  Likewise I need to see the succession of the ages, guide posts of mature and maturing Christians.  They are models of Christian marriages, parents, friendships, retirees, not to mention the various vocations.

It's great to have peers to commiserate, to look at one another and say-"no you're not crazy this is tough," but we also need the older generations to turn around and cheer us on and maybe even to pull us along a bit.  Moreover, we need the younger generations to kick us in the pants such that as they catch at our heels we are inspired to leap forward as they simultaneously remind us of precious lessons learned.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Opening an Etsy Shop: As told by GIFs

When people say things like, "You're so talented." My first reaction is like:
And then I'm all:
If they ask me about buying a piece and I have to come up with a cost I'm like:
So I would imagine opening an etsy shop:
But if anyone else suggested it I was all:
Trying to open the shop on my own and was like:
When my husband first mentioned things like "business plan," I was all:

But then he said I could doodle while we discussed the business plan and I was like:
You know me so well!
But after a few discussions my progress was still just:
Cause I can't find a large flatbed scanner to get good pictures of my work, so I get all:
Hitting road blocks was just like:
The day I finally sat down and opened my shop, my husband and I were like:
But then he said I shouldn't buy more art supplies until I sold some art and I was all:
Wiig WTF?
So now when there's a sale on art supplies I actually needed, I'm like:
When it's only friends and family favorite my shop, I'm like:
But when someone I don't know favorites one of my items, I'm like:
When I check my shop stats and I see that even one person has viewed my shop or items,
in my head I'm still like:

But the next day I check and there are no views, I'm like:
One day my husband joined etsy just to favorite my shop, I was like:
I Love You
And I'm blessed to have people in my life to support me like:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Birthday PieCaken

A while back I discovered the piecaken idea and knew that it was destined for my husband, an adventurous spirit and dessert connoisseur.  For those of you unfamiliar with the idea, it's been described as the TurDuckEn of desserts, a pie within a cake.  

I am not a very big pie fan, and frankly- a lot of the piecaken combinations sounded fairly disgusting to me.  Peach pie in chocolate cake, I don't think so.  But, since August is birthday month for me and my husband, I decided now was as good a time as any to try my hand at making this intriguing treat.

While I considered trying a chocolaty confection, my research warned that chocolate cakes and fruit filled pies could be overly sweet combinations.  Ultimately, I decided on a blueberry pie in yellow cake with cream cheese frosting.

Now ladies and gentlemen, I think piecaken is a daunting task of its own right, so I opted not to complicate that by making my own pie and cake batter from scratch. So yes, this is one of those "mostly homemade" things.

I used:
6" store bought blueberry pie
Yellow cake mix
Cream cheese frosting (homestyle)

I substituted milk for water and butter for oil (twice the amount of REAL butter than the box mix directions required-about 10tbs), then added an extra egg.  Pinterest told me this would make a richer cake that tastes more like bakery cakes.  It was correct.

After greasing my deepest round pan and lightly flowering, I poured a layer of cake batter down, about 1/2 to 1 inch. {I would get a deeper pan and make a thicker layer for the future}

Next, free the pie from the pie tin/packaging.  Flip it over {another benefit to having a storebought pie} and place the pie in the center of the pan, top down on the layer of cake batter.

Pour more cake batter on top of the pie and around the sides until tin is about 3/4 full.  {you will have left over batter}.

Follow baking directions as indicated on the back of the cake mix.

For my oven, I had to go a little longer than "normal" because this minor catastrophe occurred:

This is what the cake looked like at the shorter end of the estimated cooking time.

Then with a few more minutes to the longer end of the estimated cooking time it was a little more brown and the toothpick test seemed to be working.  

I was anxious not to burn the cake or overcook the pie within, but I should've known I was in trouble looking at the lighter color at the center of the cake.

To my horror, when I tried to flip the piecaken onto a serving dish to finish cooling/prepare for icing, >>SPLAT!<< went the top portion that covered the bottom of the pie.

Not knowing what else to do, I scooped it back into position and stuck it on the top rack of the oven for another couple of minutes until it seemed to solidify.

By the end the cake was pretty brown around the edges and I was afraid I'd burned it, but I forged ahead.

Luckily, being thrifty I didn't want to waste the cute pie tin that came with the cake and I had greased it up and baked a small 6" cake for back up in case the piecake was a failure.

After letting the piecaken cool to the point that I could handle the pan, I flipped it upside down onto a serving tray. {Thanks wedding guests!}  Then I freed the mini cake and put a layer of icing on the widest end (top) and flipped it upside down on top of the center of the piecaken.  Then I iced the rest of it using most of the can of frosting.

Amateur sketch- Piecaken Spaceship
For all my artistic talents, I have certainly come to realize that frosting and cake decorations are not my medium.  I declined to take a picture of the finished product because it looked like a dilapidated spaceship.

Thankfully, looks can be deceiving.  Though not the most beautiful cake, it was definitely delicious and something worth trying again... but with more people around so that the incredibly tempting leftovers are less abundant.

Dismantled Piecaken: Yellow cake surrounding blueberry pie center, iced with cream cheese frosting
Ultimately, I think it was a job well done.  Mission low-key, first wedded birthday was a success, if it took a little reigning myself in.  I'm thankful to have a husband that appreciates, of all things, the little services rendered.  I think it was as much a present to clean the house and make a cake as it was to give him gifts.

But of course I didn't stop there...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Faithful Friday: Not Lost

Let me tell you, not having a dish washing machine leaves plenty of time to do dishes.  On one such day as today I used the opportunity to listen to my bible app.  Here's what struck me right off the bat, first chapter of Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 1:8 {NIV}
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD. {emphasis mine}
But you gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you.  Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them.  And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land-against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land.  They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the LORD, to deliver you. {Again emphasis mine}

I AM WITH YOU.  This wonderous promise is repeated several times throughout the old and new testament.  Repeatedly, from Abram onward, God tells us not to be afraid because He is with us.   It strikes me as I read this promise in the context of verse 1:19 that God is recognizing that while there is genuine cause for alarm, real and present circumstances, He will guide and comfort us through it. 

We live in a society that values comfort, ease, going along to get along.  We often say things like, "if it's meant to be, it'll be," but what we frequently mean is: if it's meant to be it will be easy.  While I believe that there are times when we are trying too hard to force our will or speed God's will along, I protest against the idea of God's will falling into place without any effort on our part as instruments to reveal His glory.

As God's children we will face storms and trials that will be painful.  We'll hit bumps in the road and stalls in our journey.  Sometimes those storms and trials come from the enemy trying to derail us; sometimes it's God shaking things up, moving us along or slowing us down, but all the while reminding us of our dependence on Him.  God doesn't deny these unfavorable circumstances; instead He offers us an opportunities to draw nearer to Him.

While we shouldn't recklessly seek difficulty and launch ourselves unprepared into battles we're not meant to fight, let us not give up simply because the going gets tough.  Maybe your path is increasingly strenuous because God's plans require you to strengthen new muscles in a season of growth. Or maybe God is inviting you to slow down so you can see His provision, His alternatives.

They say if you're lost- stay put.  Dear ones, as God's children we may get confused but we  are never lost; He is with us and He has the directions. God promises to be with us, to deliver us as we abide in Him.  Slow down, but do not give up.  Calm your frantic mind and surrender to the One who knew you before He formed you in your mother's womb.  Ask Him to guide you through this season of difficulty, to give you the words to speak and to set your feet on the proper path.

Be blessed and a blessing.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hump Day Huzzah!

In honor my sister-in-law's favorite puns, "Oh the Huge Manatee," I made this lil' fella last month.  Visit my etsy shop if you'd like to give this manatee a forever home.  5x7" watercolor and colored pencil on watercolor paper.

It's been very fun and sweet to have my family visit my shop and discover what I've been up to, or see final products of the drawings I start while we're together.  I suspect the majority of my shop views are my mom's, sister's, or my wonderful in-laws (aunt, mother, sister).  It's a blessing to be surrounded by such wonderful women... now keep telling your friends!

Much love,

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mission Accomplished: Etsy Shop Now Open

{That little nugget is me!}
After months {if not a lifetime} of preparation, I'm pleased to announce that my etsy shop is now {finally} open!

I've had so many fears and questions I've used to excuse myself from opening the shop, but I've finally listed and priced my art and opened my shop on Etsy.  It's only small mixed media {watercolor & colored pencil} illustrations for now.  I'll be adding more over the coming weeks of course, but we felt that 12 was sufficient to list for now.

The smaller works were listed first because I was able to scan them myself.  I felt the scanning process provided the best, most accurate representation of the works as photographs may skew the image colors and have a tendency to blur or over correct textures within the works themselves.  Some day soon I'll find an affordable scanner or photographer to take proper images of my paintings and begin listing those.

I believe if you buy a print you should have something that looks like a piece of art, not a picture of a piece of art. Prints should capture the essence of the original work, and for my process that includes brush strokes or indentations from the pressure of pencil on paper.  Therefore, I've felt prior attempts to photograph my art would, if translated to "prints," rob the potential buyer of the richness of movement and texture in the original work.

In addition to making prints from the digital files, I'm considering the possibility other products like calendars, notecards, etc. as I expand my product line in the future.

I am indebted to my husband for his patience, encouragement and support in helping me turn this vague dream into a reality, even as I dragged my feet much of the way.  It's quite a blessing to have him as a partner, and beginning this project has amplified my appreciation for his entrepreneurial mind and his business education.

My family and friends have been so encouraging and inspiring and I am so thankful for them.  These sweet people bless me me with ideas, supplies, and considerable encouragement in words, blog comments, offers, and even patiently sitting with me as I paint and draw.

Finally, thank you, Dear Reader, whether anonymous supporter, curious onlooker, family, or friend.  This online community has been immensely helpful, allowing me to post art and musings and document my journey.  Revealing my goals and art helped to hold me accountable thus far and I value your feedback so much.

I invite you to please visit my shop, where you can see and now purchase more of these works and perhaps add a little whimsy to your world. or