One for the Road

Okay, I'm off for my weekend, but wanted to leave you with one parting "funny". Have you seen the commercial for the "snuggie" blanket on TV? The whole time it's on I make fun of it and say funny things about what the actors are doing while wearing the blanket. I hate it and love it at the same time.

Well, it seems I have a kindred spirit in YouTube land, because this guy just read my mind and recorded it for all to see. These are EXACTLY the things I say when watching this commercial. Brilliant! Go Steelers!


Snow Day!

Oh, don't you just remember the feeling? The joy, the freedom! A whole Wednesday with NO SCHOOL, no spelling pre-test, lot's of cartoons, junk food, sleeping in! It's a child's nirvana. And that is exactly what happened this week around here. So, let's relive my three boys' snow day...

We started out the morning with lounging in bed and watching lots of TV then leisurely strolled downstairs for homemade waffles. These are usually reserved for the weekends, what a great day!

Then they constructed a maze out of yarn that encompassed the entire downstairs and up the stairs. Kind of dangerous, it didn't stay up for long, but the fun is in the constructing anyway.

Then out to play in the ice and snow to marvel at glass trees and shovel sidewalks

Then some time spent in the pillow fort (it's the last day and being disassembled as we speak) reading books, The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle. Middle son mentioned a movie they watched about Eric Carle's method of illustration involving tissue paper and paint and a bridge activity was born. You can try this at home.
Introducing my son, The Artist:
Begin by tracing the cricket from a page in the book with a marker (use a thicker paper to protect the page from bleed through)

Place a sheet of tissue paper over the tracing and trace it again with the marker to provide an outline

Using watered down tempera or acrylic paints, fill in the outline using many different colors, letting them bleed into each other. For example, this cricket has several shades of green, but then also has spots of purple and blue and black. The sun also has many shades of yellow and orange. They can't mess it up!

Set the first piece of paper aside to dry, then using another sheet of the same size, begin to paint splotches of greens and yellows using the same technique for the grass. Fill the bottom 1/3 of the paper.

After both sheets of tissue paper have dried, mod podge (decoupage) the "grass" painting to a stiff piece of cardboard. Then, decoupage the "cricket" painting on top of the grass painting. The grass will show through the thin paper and give the illusion that your cricket is sitting among the grasses. For a kid's project, it has great color and depth. Trim the edges after it dries. See?

This is a great bridge activity to reading and makes a whole afternoon out of one book. I think we might make a collection of paintings to go with each of Eric Carle's books!

Check These Kids OUT!

Your kids spend their days watching Sponge Bob and playing Wii like mine? Check out these local kids (ages 11-13) and their band the Pop Rocks getting the Steeler Nation pumped for the Superbowl!!!

And look at this! Even in space...it's Steeler Country!

Good luck this weekend to the Pittsburgh Steelers!


Look Out, Cake Attack!

I have a rare disease, it's called "cakeitis" and it hits randomly. The first symptom is a feeling of unease followed by lots of agitation and finally ends with a full blown cake attack! At these moments, I...must...have...cake...

It hit last night around 7:30 and I began scurrying around the kitchen gathering ingredients (a well stocked pantry is a must in these cases). My husband had just helped me clean up after dinner and looked at me and said "WHAT are you doing???" to which I replied "Cake attack". He nodded and cleared out. It's really not such a bad deal for him, after all.

I browsed my books a bit and settled on this Yellow Cake recipe from Cook's Illustrated. If you have an opportunity to purchase these cookbooks, you will not be disappointed. I have a collection of about 6 of them and they are my go-to cookbooks. NOTHING you make will ever turn out less than perfect. I speak the truth.

Rich and Tender Yellow Cake
Cook's Illustrated, The Best Recipes Cookbook

4 large eggs, room temp.
1/2 cup whole milk, room temp.
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces each

Preheat 350 degrees, grease two 9 inch pans and cover bottoms with parchment.

Mix eggs, milk, and vanilla in small bowl. Measure out 1 cup and set aside.

In mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low 30 sec. With mixer running, add butter one piece at a time. Mix until it begins to clump together and looks sandy and pebbly.

Add the 1 cup of milk/egg mixture on lowest speed and mix until incorporated, 10 sec.

Increase speed to med-hi and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 min. Then add remaining milk/egg mixture in a slow steady stream. Beat about 15 seconds longer.

Divide batter into pans and bake until golden brown 20-25 minutes.

Frost with your fave frosting and EAT!!! Make sure you follow through with a cake breakfast the next morning. This is medicinal, after all.

You know this trick, right? Place strips of parchment or foil under the edges of your cake before you frost to catch the mess. Then slip them out and you have a neat cake plate with no frosting smears. In the words of Martha, "it's a good thing"


When is the Last Time You Cried During a TV Commercial?

Now, I know I'm an emotional kind of girl... but I have to say, I can't recall a TV commercial ever bringing me to tears. You know, the plight of Whopper Jr. has always rolled off my back and the baby bear wiping his butt on Northern Toilet Tissue has been shrugged off. But this new commercial from Gerber had me standing in front of the TV with a quivering lip! Oh, they're good...I don't even have babies anymore, but I think I just put Good Start Formula on my shopping list.

If you are a parent and you haven't seen this Gerber commercial, it's a must. It'll get ya, I promise! (You have to click the link, I couldn't find any codes to embed this one.)

Here are some lovely items for your own baby...let's shop!

Katy Crochet's Shop has these lovely, organic cloths for baby:

Lucky Monkey's Shop has the perfect bowl for baby's cereal:

and these hand stamped baby spoons can be found in The Vintage Pearl's Shop

Bottle covers from Peanut Tree

finally, Oh Ruthie has this baby bottle cozy that is as sweet as can be!


Valentine's Day at Hope Studios

Though 90% of my business is custom, I like to have a few hand made, ready to ship items on hand for the last minute shopper when holidays roll around. This year, I gathered great inspiration from my contestants in my blog giveaway (there is still time to enter!!) The quotes they suggested were beautiful and inspirational. I couldn't resist painting some of them for this "holiday of love".

This 20x20 Memory Frame, in parchment, is my top seller of all time. I paint this frame at least once a week. The quote by A. A. Milne (the author of Winnie The Pooh), is lovely and I still feel a catch in my throat when I read it. "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."

I am a huge keeper of sentimental things. Last year's sweater gets tossed without a backward glance, but I have all of the cards my husband has ever given me along with other keepsakes such as movie ticket stubs, air plane tickets, notes... I think this Memory Box honors all of the special mementos we all save.

My Whimsy-girl came up with this one and it's a quote I've always loved but never painted before. In fact, the song inspired by the quote was one of our wedding songs as we started our lives together. It is such a profound request..."Grow old along with me". So beautiful painted on this 16x16 Memory Frame.

This 12x12 inch memory plaque was also inspired by a contest entry by Chris at Evidence of an Artistic Life. I love that it's short and sweet and to the point. Perfect for the person that makes you complete.

My frames are all hand painted. I do not use vinyl stickers or stencils.

These items can be purchased directly from me (jsneill@zoominternet.net) or through my Etsy shop. There is still time to place a custom order for Valentine's Day, though the deadline is coming up fast. Please have Valentine orders in by January 30th.


Unbelievable but True

I come from a small town and every time I go home to visit, I love to read the "Police Beat" in the local newspaper. It cracks me up to read about the person who is being harassed via text messages, who got caught peeing on the sidewalk, or who lost their cat up a tree.

In the more urban areas,you have to shoot someone to get mentioned in the paper!

Well, my husband knows my love for the ridiculous and sent me this forward. Enjoy!


A Magical Fort

What to do with an energetic 6 year old Helper Munchkin (with a "boo-boo") in the dead of winter? This idea from Garden Nymph takes the ordinary pillow fort to the next level. Piled with pillows, stuffed animals, and blankets and strung with lights - this secret fort is magical and cozy.

Take a peek inside...if you know the secret password, that is.

Helper Munchkin waiting for the surprise

We dug out our patio lights. They are easily attached by winding the cord around the table legs and across the center. Tuck the cord into the hook for the extra table leaves to hold it up and out of the way. The glow is magical and sets this pillow fort apart. Supervise while the lights are on, you know I'm Miss Fire Safety now!

Some lunch, a cuddle with the pup, a few games, a movie on the portable DVD...a pretty nice afternoon into the evening.

Your Skin Fix, December Edition