Setting Up Your Home to Reduce Stress – reblog

These are unprecedented times, causing everyone to rethink their lives, to deal with stressors that come with monumental change. For those who are suffering the trauma of lack of income (rather than someone who is working from home), some ideas listed are probably not feasible, but the main consideration of change within the home to help cope with physical and emotional pressure is a good one as we all attempt to adapt. Exercise, relaxation, connecting with the outdoors, adjusting to the needs of a family spending much more time at home and a place (if applicable) to work from inside the house all resonate.

Follow the Firefly and Run, Rabbit, Run! by Bernard Carvalho (Book Island Books)

Found this fabulous blogger, Picture Books Blogger, reviewing (what else?) picture books. As I am a fan of deeply illustrated books without words, I checked out the reviews under “Wordless Wonders” and discovered this book, among others. I hope to be buying it shortly–for me (my kids are all grown, you see, but I’m a sucker for well-crafted children’s books)!

picture books blogger

10923300_10152961120625446_966095189953267695_nHere is a book which you can read from front to back AND from back to front, we kid you not!

We love it when we find something we’ve never seen before, or that is quite different from the norm and this ticks all of our boxes and the some.

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Originally published in 2013 by Portuguese author/illustrator Bernardo Carvalho, this original concept is executed beautifully and contains two very different stories of which you, are the author.

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Follow the Firefly‘ and ‘Run, Rabbit, Run‘ are wordless stories which play out within the confines of the same tome, but each possessing their own unique story lines and fabulous twists.

Upon your first reading of the book, you are not necessarily aware of the second story making an appearance on the same spreads, until you reach what would normally be the end of the book and you are presented with the next story on…

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Hearts-a-Poppin’

What does it say about me that my favorite is the outhouse???

Which one is yours?

10 Favorite Holiday Movies I’d Watch Any Time of the Year

This may seem a little late in the season, but as the title says–I’d watch them any time of the year. Does anyone care? Probably not. But I would highly recommend all of them. Here goes, and not necessarily in this particular order (and please remember, this is only my personal opinion, so no need to get testy if you don’t agree…):

  1. The Holiday (Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Rufus Sewell) – If you watch this on a dvd and are feeling a little down, be sure to play the scene in the tent made from sheets over and over again to snap you out of it.
  2. A Christmas Carol (Dr. Who Christmas special, with Matt Smith as The Doctor) – unique take and strangely uplifting.
  3. The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe (another Dr. Who Christmas special with Matt Smith–are we detecting a pattern, here?) – splendid story and the last scene brings on the humany wumany happy tears.
  4. A Charlie Brown Christmas – even after all these years, I still cry a bit when Linus describes what Christmas means and again later, as the children sing at the very end of the cartoon. I think it’s all of 24 minutes long, so that crams quite a lot of emotional boo-hooing into a short period (happy tears, though).
  5. The Man Who Invented Christmas (Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce) – If you’re a fan of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, you’ll enjoy the film depicting the events leading up to his creation of this wonderful tale.
  6. The Santa Clause – the first one only. Not so much a fan of the second and third, although the scene in the gymnasium in the second movie always gets me.
  7. A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott (need I say more?)
  8. A Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart (again, need I say more?)
  9. Angela’s Christmas – touching, cute, heartwarming.
  10. And, well, any of the Harry Potter movies. Not Christmas movies, per se, but I do love the scenes of holiday magic. Honestly, I enjoy the entirety of each movie, but we’re sticking with Christmas for now.

If you have other favorites you’d like to add to this list, please feel free to post a comment! If I haven’t already seen them, I’ll happily keep them in mind for this year.

Why Go It Alone?

This is a blog I did for the website of the writers group I belong to (Pocono Lehigh Writers Group) and I decided to re-post it here since, again, I am way behind on my blogging…

Humans are social by nature…or at least that’s what I’ve always heard. Writers, however, spend much of their time working in their own private spaces, in their own heads, plugging along at a solitary pursuit. No meeting co-workers at the coffee machine or water cooler. No after-hours get-together–probably because their hours of work can vary so drastically depending on life commitments, when the muse comes to call, or that pesky day job. This existence can often lead to anxiety, writer’s block and plain old loneliness. Meeting with a group of people who understand and who share the same love of the written word can be inspiring and uplifting and often leads to elevation of the craft itself. I found what I needed with a particular group of ladies (sisters of the soul, perhaps?) who are now known as the Pocono Lehigh Writers Group. We are, in essence, a family, bound by similar goals, the ability to share thoughts and advice and knowledge, and a friendship that is both earthbound and transcendent.

So here are my ten reasons why writers should flock together, even if it’s only once a month:

1. Social interaction

2. Idea exchange

3. Goal setting

4. Plotting assistance

5. Subtle or mind-blowing inspiration

6. Fresh eyes

7. Learning

8. Expanding your craft

9. News shared with someone who understands how very hard it was for you to get there

10. And, ultimately, lasting friendships

Christmas Lighting – Don’t I Wish?

Here are some wonderful ways to light up your home for the holidays. Once again, I have borrowed a blog from another source and re-posted it here–just in time for holiday decorating. I must say, my favorite is the tree house! Enjoy and be inspired.

Outdoor Winter Containers

I’m so behind on blogging, but I did see this wonderful article and figured I’d post it here. I can’t claim any of these ideas as my own, though, dang it. They’re beautiful and none of them look all that difficult to achieve. Happy holidays, folks!

Wreath-Making 101, Part 2 – It All Comes Together

It seems we’ve taken a while to get here, but I believe we’re ready to begin.  Remember, there really is no exact or right way to do this.  Every wreath I’ve made looks nothing like any of the others. They are all different. It is the nature of nature. The main thing is this: secure your greens and flowers and what-have-you, because it gets windy out there in the winter air. Otherwise, what you think is beautiful is beautiful.

  1. Cover your work surface (table, floor, counter) with newspaper to protect it. If your wreath or greens happen to be damp, put a plastic garbage bag beneath the paper to keep wooden surfaces dry.
  2. Place your wreath on top of the newspaper and study it. Wreaths might have spots that are not as thickly packed with evergreen branches.  Don’t worry, they will be when you’re finished. It helps to be aware of them when you lay out your extra greens in a dry run.
  3. Cut your greens to the size needed. With arborvitae, I cut the fronds back to the main branch. I trim boxwood branches to a length of about ten inches. I cut the smaller branches of long-needle pine back to the main branch. Holly I usually cut to a length of roughly seven inches. (I also like to add leafless twigs that are thin, whippy and pliant. I dry brush these with white paint after I’ve put them on the wreath.)
  4. Take your greens, starting with those with the most volume such as the arborvitae, cedar, long-needle pine, and tuck the cut ends into place around the wreath. When you do this, lift a bit of the evergreen from the wreath and slide the greens beneath. This way they look like an original part of the wreath itself and not an afterthought. Move them around until you like the way they look. Some may stick above the circle of the wreath, some may poke down a bit toward the open center, but most will follow the circle of the wreath itself.  You will be removing these one by one as you fasten them permanently to the wreath structure.

If you like what you see, it’s time to fasten these extra greens in place. This can be done one of two ways.

  • Florist wire:  Cut a length of florist wire (either with your pruner or sturdy scissors) about nine inches long.  Fold it in two and place the first of the greens you have removed for placement into the crook of the fold with approximately two inches of the branch at one side of the crook and the remainder of the greens at the other. Twist the florist wire tightly around the branch, like a twisty-tie on a loaf of bread. Work the wire ends down between the bound branches of the wreath as you slide your greens back into place. Twist the ends of the wire together tightly behind the wreath, tucking the pointy ends back into the greens and safely away. Continue this process until all your larger greens are secured in place. Or:
  • Hot-Glue: If your wreath is going to be hanging in a fairly sheltered area, use your hot-glue gun to secure the larger greens in place. Follow the directions for your hot-glue gun if you are not familiar with its use. Once your glue is heated, liberally coat the end of the branch of greens you wish to secure, lift the wreath evergreen out of the way, and shove the greens into place. Make sure you do this quickly, before the glue cools.  Continue until all larger greens are in place. Be careful. That glue is exactly what the name implies: HOT. (I’ve learned that from experience, believe me.)

Pine cones:

I like to stick to the rule of three, but really, you can load as many pine cones as you wish onto your wreath. When I do them, I usually place three pine cones evenly spaced apart around the wreath, or six pines cones placed two together and evenly spaced around the wreath, or I group three together in one place. This is my preference and does not need to be yours, by any means.

To attach the pine cones, you can wrap the ends in florist wire and attach them to the wreath in a similar fashion as you did the greens, or you can use hot glue. Pine cones are not heavy, so hot glue works very well on them. Even if I use florist wire, I sometimes use a dab of hot glue to get them to lay closer to the wreath. Make sure you’ve tucked them in a bit among the greens rather than totally on top of them.

Seed heads and dried flowers:

Finish up with your dried flowers, seed heads, grasses and seeded weed.  Decide where you want them to go and trim the stems for the best fit into the greens. Secure with hot-glue.  I like to put these small embellishments close to the pine cones, but the choice is yours for your wreath.  If you’ve added the narrow, pliant twigs, this is the time to lightly brush white acrylic craft paint over them. You can dab some paint onto the edges of the pine cone seeds, as well. I do not use florist wire on the seed heads and dried flowers, as the stems are brittle and to wrap the wire close enough to secure the stems to the wreath often breaks them.

I like to make my wreaths with natural elements, but I often add red berry picks purchased at a nearby craft store. You can also put in jingle bells or ornaments. Items such as bells or glass balls are best attached by string to the sturdiest branches of your wreath.

For hanging purposes, decide what side is the top of your wreath and secure a piece of ribbon, twine or florist wire to the back of the wreath at that point. This can be wrapped around the wire frame, or, if inaccessible due to the tightness of the evergreen branches, your hanging material can be slipped around a sturdy evergreen branch at the back of the wreath and secured.

Last, but not least of course, add a bow. I don’t always.  I let the wreath decide whether it needs that final adornment or if it’s fully dressed without. Just look at your wreath with an open mind and it will let you know.

And that’s it. Thanks for stopping by. I hope your wreath-making goes wonderfully well this holiday season. Send a message to let me know.

Wreath Making 101, Part 1 and Wreath Making 101, Part 2 are the copyrighted product of Robin Maderich and are part of an upcoming book on Christmas crafts.

Wreath-Making 101, Part 1 – Gathering Your Material

It may seem a bit early for this type of blog, but honestly, Christmas will be upon us sooner than we can blink. In addition, you will need to start gathering some of the materials for your wreath now with the onset of Autumn.

I don’t purport to be an expert at wreath-making, but I have been making them (and selling them) for more than fifteen years. In the beginning, I drove about forty-five minutes to an auction where I bid on greens which, if won, I would then load onto the tarp-covered back seat of my car, drive them home and unload them outside my studio (as they are best kept in the cold).  To make the wreaths, I cut each bough to size, laid them out on the metal ring, clamped them all into place, after which I decorated each one with further greens, dried flowers, pine cones, etc.

Now, however, I start with plain wreaths purchased at various local nurseries, saving time and back-breaking work. I would suggest you do the same, although you certainly don’t have to—still, that is where I am beginning my instructions: with the “blank” pre-made wreath.

List of Things to Gather before Starting (material, tools)

  1. Wreath, of course;
  2. Hand pruner (or, in lieu thereof, an old steak knife you don’t plan to use at your dinner table or for any other reasonable task again);
  3. Green florist wire and (or) hot-glue gun and glue sticks;
  4. Dried flowers (I often use Queen Anne’s Lace, cut while fresh and hung upside down to dry), seed heads, dried grasses, and various weeds gathered after Autumn sets in;
  5. Pine cones;
  6. Greens, such as arborvitae, holly, cedar, boxwood, long-needle pine;
  7. White and gold acrylic craft paint and a cheap paint brush;
  8. Ribbon and other decoration;
  9. Newspaper, if you plan to work indoors.

Always make sure the wreath you buy is fresh, ensuring that it will last through the season and beyond. Quite often, the wreath I make on Thanksgiving weekend still hangs on my door in March. To check for freshness, pinch the needles between thumb and forefinger. They should feel slightly moist if not sticky and leave a residue of scent on your skin. Also, the color should be bright.  If the needles feel dry, fall off at the touch, have started to pale or, worse, are brown, move on until you find the right wreath for you. Before you begin shopping for your wreath, make sure you have already prepared your embellishments.

Queen Anne’s Lace has a creamy hue when dried

Queen Anne’s Lace:  This wildflower grows just about everywhere here in the Northeast, blooming in late June/early July and can still be found blooming into the Fall.  Cut the flowers several weeks after blooming, with about a seven-inch stem attached. Wrap a rubber band around the stems and hang the bunches upside down in a dry place until wreath-making time.  The white blossoms turn a lovely color.

Black-eyed Susan seed heads with their painted crown of white have a dramatic appeal.

Seed heads/weeds: The gathering of these items takes place in Autumn, when everything has naturally died back. I have an abundance of Rudbeckia (common name: Black- or Brown-Eyed Susan) growing in my yard. The goldfinches and other birds love the seeds, so I leave about two-thirds of the seed heads in place for them. I also shake the cut heads out before bringing inside, to permit lose seeds to fall back to the earth where the plants have been growing. Leave about seven inches of stem attached to the heads.

Once inside, I place them all in a tall container (usually a glass) in preparation of painting them.  The same goes for various other seeded specimens I find. If they stay together well and are attractive, I’ll cut some for my wreaths and set them aside for painting as well.  I do not paint the seeded grasses. The delicate fronds would be weighted down.

You don’t need to saturate the seed head with paint. Just dab it on so that it looks like snow.
While walking outside in search of plant matter, I caught sight of these lovely, burst seed pods. A touch of gold paint gave them this handsome look.

If you are giving the wreath to someone, make sure you shake loose seeds from every plant you gather.  You wouldn’t want something you find perfectly acceptable on your property deciding to set up residence with your neighbor.

If you have access to arborvitae, you can clip from the underside at the bottom of the tree/bush to avoid defacing the shape of the plant. Cut back to the second joint. You will trim each clipping for your wreath. If you don’t have access, you can usually purchase at your local nursery.
I purchased these greens at a craft fair – boxwood, winterberry, holly, long-needle pine.
You may be lucky enough to find pine cones in your yard, a gracious neighbor’s yard, or a park. If not, you can purchase pine cones at a nursery or your local craft store. If from a craft store, be forewarned, they are often highly scented with fragrance.

Next: It All Comes Together. Check back on Thursday for Wreath-Making 101, Part 2!

Wreath Making 101, Part 1 and Wreath Making 101, Part 2 are the copyrighted product of Robin Maderich and will be part of an upcoming book on Christmas crafts.

Fall Container Gardens (re-blog)

I have the various containers, now all I have to do is replant them with some of these fabulous fall flowers and greens. I removed all the dead summer plants (my garden and planters didn’t fare too well this year) and will replace them with something like these. I can feel my face converting to a smile already.