Hope Studios This Week

Some photos of the frame orders I've completed this week. I've worked on some new color combos and a custom family plaque. If you'd like to order your own custom frame or special project, you can visit my shop here or you can email me directly at jsneill@zoominternet.net.

20x20 inch Memory frames: $95 + shipping
12x12 inch Memory Plaque: $30 + shipping
11x20 Family Name Plaque: $40 + shipping.

Have a spooky Halloween!


Pumpkin Carving, Pumpkin Seeds, and Some Scary Kids!

It was finally time to carve the pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns! We cut and sawed and scooped and scraped those things within an inch of their lives and stood back to admire our hard work. It's our tradition to turn off every light in the house to view them for the first time all lit up and pose for pictures. Scary, right?

Next, my own little creepy boys decided to get in on the action.

Finally, to cap off the night, we always roast the pumpkin seeds for a "bed night snack" as my kids would say. Have you ever tried it? Let's go!


Pat dry

Drizzle with olive oil and kosher salt and mix. Pop them into the oven at 250 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours - turning every 30 minutes


Happy Halloween!


Easy Fall Decorating Project

I stumbled upon an idea for fall leaf paper cutting online today and it brought me back to the days of paper dolls.

I decided to recycle the ends of the dustcover paper I use for the back of my frames...ahhhh, recycling!

I found a maple leaf out in my yard and cut a long strip of paper the same width, then folded it accordion style until I ended up with a 3x3 inch square. I used brown craft paper, but think outside the box with wrapping paper, parchment paper, paper grocery bags, or even pull some out of your printer.

I arranged the leaf so that part of the leaf extended beyond the borders of the paper on two opposite folded sides.

Trace the leaf then cut, being careful not to cut through the fold (see arrows). It's more interesting to angle it slightly rather than tracing it straight up and down.

Pull apart your leaves and you've made a garland! I draped mine over my mantle. Happy Fall!

Want more fall decor ideas? Hop on over to the Nester's Fall Nesting Party!


New at Hope Studios, Family Tree

Your own custom Family Tree antiqued, distressed and hand painted by Hope Studios. Add your family name across the bottom or a short quote ( what about " All because two people fell in love..."). Customize the colors and the names and you've got a family heirloom to be passed down for generations.

Leaf names can be added as your family grows and dangle by a tiny brad that's nearly invisible. Available for $70 (includes 10 leaves) additional leaves can be purchased for $2. Shop here or email me at jsneill@zoominternet.net


Where do you draw inspiration? How do you capture it?

For years I've kept a notebook full of things I found inspiring, but often forgot I had it or only pulled it out to add something new. I want to be inspired unexpectedly, to look at those things everyday, to pull from it something different each time.

I wasn't aware of it, but I noticed I have "inspiration" boards all around my home now. I tack up anything I find beautiful, thought provoking, memory making. I come upon them at different times of the day and see something new or feel something new many times each day; and, man, is that INSPIRING!

To make my boards I use cork trivets with fabric hot glued on top Or for my favorite, I used wine corks I've collected, and deep picture frames. Sometimes they are called shadowbox frames or maybe just deep enough to accommodate an extra thick matte.

Remove the glass and insert the back into the frame. Use this as the base to glue your corks.

Hot Glue works fine for this, but you could use any kind of adhesive. Turn the corks so the label shows, it will add inspiration and interest, and change the direction from vertical to horizontal in a pattern for texture. The last corks can be easily trimmed to fit with scissors or a blade.

Rehang your cork board and tack anything you love, magazine pictures, photos, seed packets, recipes, event tickets and be inspired!


Rose Cupcakes!

I have had this Pampered Chef silicone flower shaped cupcake pan in my cupboard for about a year and have never used it. I decided last week's girly craft and coffee day was the perfect opportunity to dust it off and fire it up.

Using a yellow cake batter, I made these beautiful cupcakes that popped out of the pan like a dream. I drizzled a lime infused simple syrup on top when they were still hot from the oven and mixed up a confectioner's sugar lime glaze to finish them before serving.

The simple syrup is just that...SIMPLE! Use it to make all of your cakes and cupcakes moist and delicious!

Simple Syrup
Mix equal parts sugar and water and boil on the stove top until slightly thickened. I added some lime juice and peel to infuse the lime flavor, but you could try vanilla extract (or a vanilla bean!), almond extract, or your favorite flavoring.

This versatile recipe can also be kept on hand to sweeten iced tea or cocktails.


Hope Studios This Week

The winner this week is an old standby, and is my most popular frame: "If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you." -A. A. Milne in classic Parchment. I made 4 of that exact frame this week for 4 different customers! I never get tired of that quote and I still feel a catch in my throat when I read it. Have a great weekend!

Hope Studios Heartsongs Memory Frames can be purchased for $95 + shipping by contacting me at jsneill@zoominternet.net or visiting my online shop.


A Totally Pumpkin Afternoon

My girl gang got together again this week for our usual coffee, cake, and craft and the theme was pumpkins. Joy Beadworks got us started with a gold leaf pumpkin project that yielded really rich results. It was easy as pie!
Simply apply gold leaf adhesive (we all agreed that Mod Podge would probably work just as well) over the surface of your faux pumpkin and begin to lay sheets of gold/silver/copper leaf (found in your local craft store) on top. Pat down the sheets into the adhesive then lightly brush over the entire thing with a soft bristle brush. This will brush off all the extra pieces sticking up all over the surface and smooth the whole thing nicely. Apply a clear coat and you're finished!

Next, we worked on some fabulous fabric pumpkins, courtesy of Whimsy:
Cut out a square of fabric about 24 inches square, one friend patchworked all her scraps into one piece, it looked fab. Place a roll of toilet paper in the center of the fabric. Crush plastic grocery bags and place them around the roll like this

Now, begin to tuck the ends of the fabric into the hole in the center of the toilet paper roll like this (I like to do all my corners first then fuss with the rest)

Push a knotty old stick into the center and garnish with some silk leaves and you're all set!

The fruits of our labor

Have a great weekend!


I am...

I found this survey on Whimsy Girl's blog and couldn't resist filling out the list for myself.

I am: a mom
I think: it’s time to get off the computer
I know: my boys love me
I have: three sons!
I wish: my family lived closer
I hate: second hand smoke, cleaning the house, orange veggies
I miss: my boys when they were babies
I fear: drowning, I can’t even watch a movie about a ship sinking!
I hear: Sponge Bob…always Sponge Bob
I smell: Tide, since I’m doing laundry…always doing laundry
I crave: cake
I search: for inspiration
I wonder: who is reading this
I regret: that I never had a daughter
I love: roller coasters!
I ache: after kick boxing
I am not: a great housekeeper
I believe: that every thing happens for a reason
I dance: “like no one is watching” that’s the only way to live!
I sing: most of the day, in the car, in the house, in kick boxing…
I cry: easily
I fight: for anyone that is being taken advantage of
I win: contests a lot, I’m very lucky
I lose: everything, because (as my husband says) I “never put things back where they belong”
I never: want to look back and wonder “what if”
I always: have music playing
I confuse: my kids names all the time, I usually have to try at least twice to get it right
I listen: to my kids play together, I sneak up!
I can usually be found: painting, on my computer, driving from one sport to the next
I am scared: when my husband is away over night
I need: a cleaning lady, but I can’t trust anyone in my house
I am happy about: my life, my business, my kids, my family
I imagine: what it would be like living at the beach


Post Baby Growing Pains...What I Want to be When I Grow Up

My youngest child is in school now and in preparation I've been rediscoving myself slowly over the past few years. Have you gone through this stage in your own life? I think it's likely to happen after any big change...and the catalyst for me was my growing boys.

I can remember when I was in the thick of it with my babies and I needed something to wear to a party. I looked through my closet and everything was either maternity or pre-maternity and hopelessly out of style. I went to "the mall" and almost had a breakdown as I looked around hopelessly. I remember stopping for a minute and realizing that my problem was that I didn't know what I liked anymore! I had lost myself to this creature called "Mommy". I had transformed into a sweatpants wearing, spit up wiping, diaper changing Mommy who didn't even know if she liked that dress without the sales person telling her she liked it!

I'd say that was the beginning of a transformation and a long journey back to "me". I had to learn to be "Mom" and "Honey" and still be "Jen". "What do I want to be when I grow up?" Was a nagging question, but first I had to figure out "Do I like those shoes?"

I tried to learn to focus more on me while curbing the guilt that comes along with that. I subscribed to fashion magazines alongside my Family Fun, I gave myself permission to try new things, I got a few small jobs (none of which panned out, but they all gave me boost of some sort), I enrolled in school, I gave myself permission to drop out of school when it wasn't working, and I forged some new friendships that weren't dependent on my kids. None of these things helped me improve my house cleaning skills, but some things need to slide.

All of this lead me to my true passion...Art. My love for the creative started way back when I was choosing my college major (you can't get a job in Art! Be sensible and choose Psychology! Um, yeah, you can't get a job there either) Each of these baby steps helped give me the courage to finally try to make something of this "hobby". The reward has been confidence, passion, and a love for the job I do every day. I can try out my hairbrained schemes and admit when I fail. I can be "Mom" and "Honey" and "Jen" and "Artist" all at once.

I really saw how far I've come last weekend when introduced to someone new at a party. She asked me if I worked, and I answered "I work from my home, I'm a mom and an artist" It was the first time I'd said it out loud and I liked how it sounded. I feel like I'm getting closer to the "What do I want to be when I grow up?" answer...finally.

Dear Girl in the Coral Workout Outfit,

First of all, let me commend you for coming to kickboxing today. It is intimidating to join a new class, especially in the middle of an established routine. You arrived in your new head-to-toe coral outfit and gave it your best.

Your arms and legs flopped around and sometimes you looked like your head wasn't aware of what your body was doing...but you hung in!!! You bounced and flopped in your crazy way for a whole hour- you looked like you might keel over a few times, but you never gave up! You stuck right next to the instructor-student beside you and proudly did your herky-jerky thang through the whole class. I'm proud of you and wish I could have told you, but instead I will print it here to boost anyone else who wants to try something new.

Really, it's not as scary as we make it out to be; if Coral Workout Girl can do it, so can you.


New Memory Box Design

I've finished a new Memory Box for another little boy adopted from Taiwan! I chose a font that resembled Chinese writing and flanked the photo area with the Chinese symbol for "son" on one side and his name "Kai" on the other side.

To order your own custom Memory Box ($40 + shipping) for your own keepsakes (baby, wedding, etc...) contact me at jsneill@zoominternet.net or check out my Etsy shop.

Do You Shutterfly?

I have to say, I learned how to make a photo book on Shutterfly last winter and have been addicted ever since. I started with a Christmas gift for my mother in law and included photos of all the grandchildren with captions. She cried and I was hooked!

Next, I made one for my boys after returning home from Disney last spring. I felt like that trip was so momentous it warranted something over the top (like Disney). I put more time and thought into this one and created a story book. It began with the title of "The ______ Boys Adventure in the Land of Disney" and each page told a story of their adventures in strange new lands. We read it together like a bedtime book. They love that it's a real book about them and laugh at the photos and remember that great trip.

After the big 70th birthday party last week, I decided it's time for another. I chose to put large pictures on the pages and tried to arrange it artfully (they help you with that with a built in page arranger!). I used the photo editor (included on the site!) to transform each picture into a timeless sepia tone and chose heartfelt quotes I've collected over the past year.

I chose a hardback cover with a photo and could even print the title on the spine! It's about as professional a book as I've ever seen and it's so personal. I really love it and wanted to share with you since they are 30% off right now. Click here to begin your own book.


The Hunt is On!

We climbed onto the dusty wagon for our annual hayride to the pumpkin patch, and I realized there is a running banter between my husband and I concerning the boys. I started to feel deja vu as it went down just the same as last year...

Don't push your brother, move over and give him room! Hurry, everyone get together for a picture, come on just one picture! We're not leaving until I get a picture and everyone will be staring at you! Smile...smile...SMILE!!! Now, move over, don't push your brother. Can you read the sign??? It SAYS no throwing the straw, just like every year. Hey, did you hear me? I just told your brother no throwing straw!
Ooooh, look at the scary scarecrow, guys! Well, I think it's scary. Wait until the tractor stops, wait til the tractor stops, WAIT! Okay, go ahead. Look for a pumpkin. You know what ... let's get a picture near this pile of pumpkins here. Come here, come here, COME HERE and get a picture! Only one, now smile...look at me and smile...SMILE or we're not getting back on the wagon and everyone will stare at you! Okay, good. No, it was only one picture, wait I need another one, you're eyes were closed. Good.

If you can't lift it, you can't buy it! No, that's too big - it will cost a fortune! No, if you can't carry it to the wagon you can't get it, no I'm not carrying your pumpkin. Get a smaller one! Oh, okay, Daddy said he'd carry it.

Now get back onto the wagon, get one the wagon before it leaves, HURRY UP! Now, move to the middle. I know you want the edge but it's full, just move in, move in, move in...oh, thank you sir...sorry. Ooooh, look at the scary scarecrow! Well, I think it's scary!

Wait until the tractor stops, wait, WAIT! Okay, go ahead and walk around the back of the wagon. Walk around the back, the BACK! Wait, did he go to the front when I just said the back??? He's trapped now, go get your brother, HURRY! Okay, get in line to pay, where's your brother? Where's your brother? He went to find YOU!

It's going to cost HOW MUCH??? Honey, do you have any money?


Bird's Nest Home Decor

I love to collect fallen bird's nests. I am fascinated by the intricate things a small bird can accomplish with two feet and a beak. Usually, I fill the outside windowsills of my house with the nests, tucking them into the corners here and there. As I find feathers or shells I add them to the nests, it's an ever-evolving collection.
I was thumbing through an issue of Good Housekeeping last month and noticed a bird's nest display on someones kitchen counter and knew this was the solution to my display dilemma, a way for me to bring the outside in. I tried to duplicate the idea here.
Gather your supplies:

An apothecary jar
Bird's nests (please don't remove these from trees, I only take those that have blown down in the wind)
Feathers, broken shells
Twisty branches in the shape of a "Y" to support the nests.

Place the largest nest in the bottom of the jar and arrange a few unusual feathers or your shells inside

Next, place several branches above and around the nest and arrange them to cradle a smaller nest

Rest your smaller nest in the crook of the branch

It looks like a tiny tree under glass. You can add to it as you find treasures, but avoid cluttering it up. The simplicity of the branches and nests are beautiful alone.

Your Skin Fix, December Edition