The Giving Tree: DIY Fireplace Project

ordinary creative tree

Once upon a time I worked in research for a large healthcare organization.  I wore a suit and analyzed data.  One of my first assignments was a Driving Miss Daisy mission.  I was selected to drive a visiting PhD from NYC to a dozen hospitals as he conducted one-on-one interviews with physicians.  At the time I had no mobile phone, no GPS and I drove my parents hand-me-down blue Chevy, complete with six-figure mileage.

I vividly recall the route to the airport to retrieve Mr. PhD and the thoughts of unworthiness that danced in my head.  It was the late 90’s after all and Wayne & Garth had given birth to the unworthy gesture. The initial awkward vibe soon dissolved and we spent two days canvasing southeastern Wisconsin.  Our freeway conversations covered a range of topics.  He had built his career analyzing “stories” so of course our conversations had depth and circled around connecting the dots of life and work.

At the end of our assignment, Mr. PhD requested a bookstore detour.  I pulled into Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop and waited curbside.  He returned with a gift.

His gift went beyond Shel Silverstein’s wise words: the real gift was the handwritten affirmations on the inside jacket from Mr. PhD.  He explained how we are all connected and we can choose our impact on one another.  A lesson I carry like an invisible tattoo.  Impactful people deliver life lessons in the most spectacular ways.  I never saw him again; but I will never forget.  I also felt Stuart Smalley’s nurturing affirmation was somehow included in his conviction that my gifts have value.  Click to this link to hear Stuart Smalley’s words wash over you.

I hope this flashback reminds you of encounters in your life.  The small chapters where someone planted a seed, provided support and perhaps changed you or your path forever.  And, perhaps you can recall a situation where you were that someone for another.

I love that the main character of The Giving Tree is a wise tree who finds happiness in giving.  Trees are glorious and consoling and change with the seasons with greatest of ease.  They are earths ultimate yogi’s:  rooted in the earth while expertly bending and stretching.  They remind me that change is inevitable and to let it go and let God.
ordinary creative tree quote
With my dad’s assist, we created this project honoring fallen trees from his cabin.  We built something to bring a little tree energy inside my house.
Two very enthusiastic songs to layer with this love letter to trees.  Both offer compelling lyrics and an angelic melody.  Please check out Dream or In a Tree by Priscilla Ahn.  Here is a little slice of lyric heaven from In a Tree.

Chaos in the streets,
Lonely hearts bear lonely beats,
In a world carved with steel and stone.

Miscommunication leads to fear and hesitation,
And it won’t leave me alone.

But now in my tree,
I’m living free,
As any child would wanna be.


The End.

Happy Pumpkins: 10 DIY Pumpkin Projects


Please examine this pumpkin stem and tell me what you find. Don’t you love finding magic in unexpected places?  In the cracks and hiding in negative spaces.

IMG_9634When I was a young (maybe 8?) my dad’s sunset photo was featured on the local news.  The honey-colored sun aligned itself perfectly on a railroad track while my dad honored the scene with a shutter click.  Just one snap on a roll of Kodak film. And then we waited.  We waited to finish the roll (he didn’t waste frames) and we waited some more when we brought the film to Osco for developing.  But, the point isn’t about patience.  It’s about the magic.  If we had to categorize my dad using Einstein’s equation, he sees “all miracles, all the time.”

ordinary sunrise miracle quoteI think he was born with an enlightened appreciation for simple wonders.  I remember arguing with him as a know-it-all-teen about his fascination with autumn.  Falling leaves remind me of tears; mourning summer’s death.  I was dramatic in pleading my anti-autumn case.FullSizeRender-4

In honor of my dad’s love of this season, I am using pumpkins as a creative canvas.

In the process of creating, I am slowly falling in love with autumn.

IMG_8515Enhance a natural pumpkin with moss and succulent clippings.

IMG_8539Use moss to cover a no-carve pumpkin.  I hope it will last many seasons.


IMG_8555 IMG_8568The three preceding pumpkins were covered in tissue paper using Mod Podge. The next three were all painted (silver spray paint for the glass encased pumpkin and acrylic paint on the others).

IMG_9075 IMG_8541


IMG_8586Create a topiary tower!

IMG_0087 My youngest teen carved this Vineyard Vine’s inspired natural pumpkin.


3 x 3 heart leaves

Song tip: Kate Nash’s Pumpkin Soup.

Go Gold: It is a Verb

go gold image september

If you reading this on September 30th* you still have time today to Go Gold.  It is a verb.  A call to action.  Paint your heart gold and honor September for its noble place on the calendar.  There is still time to fill the final box on the September grid.


Let me introduce you to someone who can explain it all better than anyone I know.  Please take a peak at this video; I promise it will be the best few minutes you spend online today.

Annie’s message of hope will inspire you to find a meaningful way to back her mission: for everyone to know that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month.  As awareness rises, hope soars.  Let’s propel Annie’s mission forward with final flurry of action.  A collective march before the calendar flips to pink.

change the world quote

A few ideas…

Donate to a pediatric cancer charity in your area or support Annie’s million dollar goal.  Research is the path to a cure.

Whisper sacred prayers of resilience for kids affected. And then pray for their nurturing families.

Follow Gold in September on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram.

Pray for the medical teams providing treatment or conducting research.

Contact your local Children’s Hospital to inquire about items they might need (books?) or inquire about volunteer opportunities.

If you are able, consider donating blood. Or volunteer at a local blood drive.

Wear G9 apparel (available at or purchase one of Sevenly’s meaningful shirts.  This collection of Sevenly t-shirts supports patients and families as they battle childhood cancer.

Write your representatives in congress requesting government’s funding of pediatric cancer research.

Support or launch a childhood cancer initiative in your backyard.

Set up a lemonade stand.


Listen to Rachel Patten’s Fight Song or Taylor’ Swift’s song, Ronan.  Maybe by next September someone will write and record a Gold in September anthem (song).

And, maybe, just maybe, these statistics will shift.

childhood cancer statistics

I would love to hear what you did this September.  Especially your Go Gold ideas!

*Of course we can carry a heart of gold all year;

and find meaningful ways to support this cause every day.

Summer Forever

IMG_5720According to Oscar Wilde, “And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.”  I have seen a few autumn leaves fall like summer tears.  But, if it looks like summer and it feels like summer, then let’s just call it what it is.  At least for today.


I created this t-shirt in defiance of autumn. You can easily make one just like it.  Stay tuned for the recipe below.  I have a few more photos to prove my theory that summer reigns in the heart of the Midwest.
ordinary creative butterfly

These tiny creatures seem to whisper my mantra… summer forever.  and ever.



Tonight feels like a Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Well said, William. Well, said.  “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”


The T-shirt Recipe

1 light colored t-shirt

1 sheet of Avery Light Fabric Transfer Paper

1 iron

2 minutes using PicMonkey to create your message

(I used the Special Elite font on a transparent background)

Print your text image in reverse (or as a mirror image). Cut out the design, leaving a narrow margin around the image.  Place the printed image face down and iron the entire transfer paper for 20-40 seconds.  Allow the t-shirt to cool and peel off the paper backing.

Of course, I recommend Billy Currington’s track Summer Forever.

And these two lovely tracks:

I Need the Sun to Break by James Bay


Romeo’s Tune by Pajaro Sunrise.

Shaken, Stirred or Blended?

you may say I'm a dreamer

James Bond* famously asked for his martinis “shaken, not stirred.”  To shake or stir? That is the question.  Or so I hear. When it comes to making hand-crafted cocktails I understand there are rules that apply to layering the liquids.  But I don’t know a thing about hand-crafted cocktails.  It seems Bond’s line omits another popular mixing option:  blending.

But this post isn’t about cocktails.

Today’s topic is photo blending.  Or the art of two photographs being more powerful than one.

photo blend equation

When blending, there appears to be a fine line separating what is visually appealing and meaningful, versus… well, just weird.  I walk the line and teeter on both sides of it.

The teens in my house declared I am Made of Sky (the image below) officially off-the charts “weird.”

mountain 2

But they both gave Chasing MomentsWise Words enthusiastic nods of approval.  Maybe they saw the layers of love I applied.

childhood dreams

Let us spend our lives chasing the tiny moments of grace that hide in borrowed breaths, stolen glances, and the last instant before smiling lips come to rest.

-Tyler Knott Gregson

Emma Schaefer-books you read

There was a fierce fail signal after I revealed to them the image below (Rooted).  But just between you and me… I kinda love it.  Call me a weirdo.  It won’t be the first or last time.  A friend recently sent me this text greeting:  weirdmaste:  the weirdness in me honors the weirdness in you. Love!

elle blend trees

Now on with the blended recipe!

1.) Consider buying this song by The Daylights as your blending theme song: I Hope this Gets to You.

2.) Pop to PicMonkey and light a candle.  Sip sweet tea in your copper mug.  Or don’t.

3.) Select the edit icon on the top of the PicMonkey home page.  Next you will be prompted to choose the photo you will be editing.

FullSizeRender (2)

4.) Use the magic wand symbol to play with editing effects. I recommend you test all the “tried and true” and “basic” tools that PicMonkey offers.  Creating the best canvas or base layer using the editing tools.  I have a sweet spot for the dark edges option. “Apply” the effects that enhance your base layer. (This is an optional step).

FullSizeRender (3)

5.) Now the fun begins!  Select the butterfly icon on the left side of the screen and you will see a pulldown menu at the top offering the option of selecting your own image. Click “Your Own” and you will have the option of selecting your second image (the top layer in the blend).

FullSizeRender (4)

In my example the tree branches were my base layer and the typewriter was my “own” image via the butterfly click. (Of course, technically both the tree and the typewriter photos are from my own photo collection.)


6.) Grab one of the circles on the edge of your second layer (typewriter image in my example) and stretch it to cover the base image (the tree).

7.) Drumroll…  this is where the magic happens.  Select “overlay” under the blend mode and watch as the top image (typewriter) transforms to translucent, allowing the tree to shine through from underneath. Play with color or other PicMonkey features to achieve the significance and style that appeals to you!  I added a text layer (the dreamer lyrics).  Play and save your masterpiece when you love it.

For an official and in-depth tutorial, I found this one.  PicMonkey refers to this technique as double exposure instead of photo blending.


Is it weird that I name my blends?  Maybe the Moscow Mule is regaining popularity because of its clever name.

golden hour blend deb july 2015

Shine On


*If you want to hear about the time I met James Bond (Pierce Brosnan)…well, message me.

Lyrics: Soul Vitamins

plato music quote

Life is the lyrics.  Last month I sat at a graduation ceremony as students unleashed a heartfelt version of The Head and the Hearts’ Rivers & Roads.   This one song was like a trigger firing off tears.

A year from now we’ll all be gone
All our friends will move away

Rivers and roads
Rivers ’til I reach you.

Not to downplay the wonder of chirping birds and thunder… but lately its lyrics that snap me to attention like smelling salts.  They serve me shots of wisdom, patch my fits of worry and provide slices of prayer. Not convinced?   Let me introduce you to Multiplied by NEEDTOBREATHE.

God of mercy, sweet love of mine
I have surrendered, to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Hallelujahs be multiplied.


How can lyrics tap places in your soul that words alone can’t touch?  Maybe its poetic ambiguity, enabling lyrics to become personal, as if they were written precisely for you.

The lyric love inspired several projects recently.


When you cross the threshold to our home, we now welcome you with lyrics.  Stock rug from Target (circa 2012) and an application of paint to convey my “hello” message upon your arrival; or a farewell message upon departing.

Join me in the kitchen and you will find a few lyrical towels.


And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.

Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin (written by Jimmy Page & Robert Plant)


Last evening I was floating on a paddle board through a trail of cattails.  As the sun fell, a flock of red-winged blackbirds took flight in a cooperative formation, bringing this song to life:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly 

All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird, The Beatles (written by Paul McCartney & John Lennon)


The Perks of Being a Wallflower quote

Lyrics are my anchor, my life line, and my favorite sign on the path to redemption.

Perhaps lyrics are soul vitamins?

 I bet you have lyrics dancing in your head.  I would love to hear your theme song!

DIY Spray Paint Tales


I saw a tail last week in a pile of carpet samples… and I screamed (think Carrie but not quite The Exorcist).   The long brown tail initially disappeared and then re-emerged, whipping in an endless circular loop below me revealing the official origin of said tail.  A real mouse tale.  The whole incident confirmed I have an odd fear of tiny rodents.  Maybe if the mouse had jumped into a Matchbox car and driven off into the sunset…

I adore the children’s books starring characters like the clever Stuart Little or the lovely and graceful Angelina Ballerina.  Perhaps my favorite children’s book is Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond’s award-winning, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

Where exactly I am going with this?  Well, if you give an eager creative a can of spray paint…

The neighbors presented me with a heavy metal chair covered in Sharpie flowers (this might sound “cute” but let’s be honest, it was so “not”).  They dared me to give it a new look and find a good home for it.

Carrying forward last year’s obsession with key lime &  aqua paint, I added a few stripes and found a home for the chair at the end of pier.


Which reminded me that I should paint more flower pots with this paint combination of joy!



I then kicked the painting up a notch, updating another planter.


Oh my gourd, I used a circular attachment for my drill to convert the gourd below to a home for birds.


And then I found a can of flat black paint which reminded me I need to update a desk for my studio. After painting the legs black, I added a coat of white to the desktop.  My family suggested I stop right there.  But I didn’t.

diy spray paint desk

Don’t you love how this story ends?




The desktop is covered with striped issue paper (source Target).  After brushing a thin layer of Mod Podge to the desktop, I attached each sheet of tissue paper.  The tissue paper is very forgiving and easily adheres to the edges and sides.  Add an additional coat or two of Mod Podge to the top of the tissue paper layer.  It seals the deal.


In case you are interested in applying stripes to your flowerpots, simply apply a base coat of paint and allow drying time according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.  Once dry, add painter’s tape to segment off the stripes and then apply a second color of paint.  When dry, remove the tape and admire your creativity.   I love Rust-Oleum: especially the cans of Key Lime and Aqua.

I hope you are inspired to go paint something!  Listen to this song:  “Afraid of Ghosts” by Butch Walker (my current title twist, “Afraid of Mice”).  I am going to go hide my spray paint and bake.  Cookies of course.


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