DIY Clean-Lines Centerpiece

DIY Centerpiece

DIY Clean-Lines Centerpiece

Last month, Hubby and I hosted a big family event.  Hon, you know what I love about a party besides celebrating happy occasions with friends and family?  The theme!  I love coordinating colors and carrying the theme through the details. It fires up my imagination.

Since the theme of the party was Broadway shows, the Manhattan skyline became a design element on the favors, large scale decorations and the centerpieces. I created the vessels and then handed them off to florist Kristen Carlberg, who brought my vision of happy, bright, colorful bouquets to life.  I must give a shout out to my good friend, Ina Wallman.  Not only does she have an exquisite eye for design, she helped me focus my many ideas into one cohesive plan.

Each table was set with cream tablecloths and fuchsia napkins.  Round tables featured one larger (6 inches by 6 inches) centerpiece while larger oval tables featured three smaller (5 inches by 5 inches) centerpieces, lined up in a row.

Supplies:

–Unfinished wooden boxes. I bought mine at G & G Distributors, a wholesale floral and craft store and website.

–White paint.  I used leftover water-based wall paint, semi-gloss.

–Paintbrushes or foam brushes.

–Drop cloth.

–Decorations to wrap around the boxes.

–Varnish, optional. (I didn’t varnish the boxes, but wish I did.  Water-based paint tends to run when water touches it.)

–Glass inserts for flowers and water. The florist supplied these.  She measured the insides of the boxes ahead of time so she’d know what sizes to get.  The unfinished wooden boxes came with thin, plastic liners.  If I was using floral green foam, then the plastic liners might have sufficed, but they wouldn’t hold cut flowers in water.

Steps:

–Gather supplies, including wrap-around stickers or whatever you are using for decorating the boxes.  Hubby has a talent for graphic design so he worked up a Manhattan skyline and ordered the custom-designed stickers an online site.  Or a paper design (not on paper that’s too thin) that coordinates with your theme can be used.  Paper designs can be secured around the perimeter of the boxes using craft glue.

–Measure designs by wrapping them around boxes and cutting them to fit.  They’ll be ready to apply once the boxes are painted and dry.

–Paint boxes and dry thoroughly.

–Apply designs.

–Varnish, optional.

–Add glass inserts and flowers.

–Set your tables and enjoy!

1. Unfinished wooden boxes were painted white with leftover wall paint.

Unfinished wooden boxes were painted with leftover water-based, semi gloss wall paint.

2. Custom-designed stickers were wrapped around each fully-dried, painted box.

Custom-designed stickers were wrapped around each fully-dried, painted box.

Boxes decorated with wrap-around stickers.

Boxes decorated with wrap-around stickers.

Three 5" x 5" boxes were lined up on oval tables. One 6" x 6" box was set in the center of round tables.

Three 5″ x 5″ boxes were lined up on oval tables. One 6″ x 6″ box was set in the center of round tables.

The florist measured the insides of the boxes, so she could pick up the correct sized glass inserts.

The florist measured the insides of the boxes, so she could pick up the correct sized glass inserts.

I love the contrast of the colorful flowers against the white box.

I love the contrast of the colorful flowers against the clean lines of the white box.

Bright, pretty, happy!

Bright, pretty, happy!

Orange Cake

Orange Cake

Orange Cake

1. Beat butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.

1. Beat butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.

2. Peel, cut into chunks and seed oranges.

2. Peel, cut into chunks and seed oranges.

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3. After whirling oranges in food processor, add them to butter/sugar batter and beat until blended.

3. After whirling oranges in food processor, add them to butter/sugar batter and beat until blended.

4. Add flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder to bowl and beat until smooth.

4. Add flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder to bowl.

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5. Beat batter until smooth.

5. Beat batter until smooth.

6. Before pouring batter into Bundt pan, spray non-stick spray and possibly line bottom with parchment paper.

6. Before pouring batter into Bundt pan, spray non-stick spray and possibly line bottom with parchment paper.

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7. Pour batter into pan.

7. Pour batter into pan.

8. Bake at 325 degrees F for approx. 55 minutes.

8. Bake at 325 degrees F for approx. 55 minutes.

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9. Make glaze by whisking powdered sugar with orange juice.

9. Make glaze by whisking powdered sugar with orange juice.

10. Drizzle glaze over inverted, slightly cooled cake. Let glazed cake set before serving.

10. Drizzle glaze over inverted, slightly cooled cake. Let glazed cake set before serving.

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Bon Apetit!

Bon Appetit!

Orange Cake

Even though I haven’t posted a recipe in awhile, I’ve still been cookin’ up a storm. This Orange Cake was a winner! It’s easy to make, light and delicious. I brought it to a friends’ BBQ and one slice just wasn’t enough.

As I always say, “Happy baking, hon!”

Source:  MyRecipes.com

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened (I used margarine to make the cake non-dairy)

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

2 oranges (about 1 lb total), ends trimmed, then cut into chunks and seeded

2 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon orange juice

non-stick cooking-oil spray

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Coat a 10-cup Bundt pan with non-stick cooking-oil spray.  (Tip: I lined the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and sprayed the sides and middle section of pan.)

2.  In a large bowl, use a mixer on medium speed to beat butter and granulated sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs.

3.  Whirl orange chunks in a food processor until mostly smooth but not pureed.

4.  Add 1 1/2 cups orange mixture to butter/ sugar batter and beat until blended.

5.  Add flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to batter and beat until smooth.

6.  Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan.

7.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it, about 55 minutes.  Cool pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then invert cake onto rack and let cool completely.

8.  In a small bowl, whisk together powdered (confectioner’s) sugar and orange juice.  Drizzle over inverted, slightly cooled cake.  Let glaze set, then slice cake.

Yield:  serves 12

Quotes and Notes (from the NJSCBWI14 Conference)

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The last weekend in June, I attended the New Jersey SCBWI Annual Conference.  I entered the conference nervous but excited. I left the conference exploding with ideas, anxious to start revisions, and encouraged by the connections I made.

I was inspired by illustrator and writer Floyd Cooper‘s Opening Keynote speech, and choked up after listening to Rachel Vail‘s Closing Keynote speech.  If a writer leaves me with a lump in my throat and tears threatening to make my mascara run, then her words have reached the core of why I persist with passion.  Surely, I’m on the right path?

Hon, I thought you’d enjoy quotes from the conference paired with pictures.

“Voice puts color and emotion on the page.”  (Susan Hawk)

Color and emotion.

Color and emotion.

Each girl has her own voice.

Each girl has her own voice.

“What does love require of us?”  (Rachel Vail)

Me and Three when they were 12 weeks.

Me and Three when they were 12 weeks.

“We have to have the courage to press that bruise.”  (Rachel Vail)

An accidental shiner care of my "Plus One."

An accidental shiner care of my “Plus One.”

“Make me laugh.”  (Quinlan Lee)

Laughing is contagious.

Laughing is contagious.

“Being brave is not the opposite of worry.”  (Rachel Vail)

I should've joined the circus!

I should’ve joined the circus!

“Gaze through a world made up paper and ink.”  (Rachel Vail)

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 This quote isn’t from the conference, but it speaks to me just the same.

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”  (John Wayne)

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Tween and me in Monument Valley, Utah.  We galloped to the base of the buttes and our American Indian guide sang us a lullabye his grandma sang to him.

 

 

Flags, Friends and Family

Moo-Flag!

Moo-Flag!

Happy Fourth of July!  

I’m still cleaning up and catching up from our Big Family Event but I wanted to share pics that make me as happy as Pharrell Williams’ song. While looking up the link for the song, guess what I found?  The Baltimore Police Department made their own “Happy” video!  It made me smile because I’m from Bmore and the folks in it are, well, happy!  

Enjoy the day,  hon!

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Optical illusion of a flag from the Top of the Rock, NYC.

Optical illusion of a flag from the Top of the Rock, NYC.

At a July 4th bbq a bunch of years ago, my college girlfriends and I had a blast getting our kids together.

"Push me!"

“Push me!”

"Higher!"

“Higher!”

"Wheee!"

“Wheee!”

"Hold on tight!"

“Hold on tight!”

I came across these precious pics of my triplets when they were almost 7 years old and my “plus one” was a newborn.

"Say cheese!"

“Say cheese!”

Check out my son's body language.  It says more words!

Check out my son’s body language. It says more than words!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Blooms

I love the way the Swallowtail's wings curve ever so slightly towards the Cone Flower.

I love the way the Swallowtail’s wings curve ever so slightly towards the Cone Flower.

Happy First Day of Summer!

I’ve used up all my “Bmore Energy” throwing a huge party.  Last weekend, we welcomed guests from as far as Colorado, New Mexico and Nashville to help us celebrate a family milestone.  It was beautiful!  It was wonderful!  I’m exhausted!

Planning a weekend of festivities for over 200 guests took all of my time, so my blog simmered on the back burner.  My house is in clean-up mode and my energy needs to be recharged.  Tomorrow’s plans?  A hike to clear my mind.  After that?  DIY decorating blog posts.

In the meantime, here are some photos to welcome summer.  I took them at Ringwood Manor State Park.

When I say I have "Hot Pink Hope," I'm thinking of this Zinnia's color!

When I say I have “Hot Pink Hope,” I’m thinking of this Zinnia’s color!

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Two Swallowtails flitted around the flowers.  I was so excited to capture both feeding at once.

Two Swallowtails feed at the same time. The angle of their wings seem to form one continuous line.  Exquisite!

 

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Teen Daughter and fellow photographer.  We were snap happy in the gorgeous gardens.

Teen Daughter and fellow photographer. We were snap happy in the gorgeous gardens.

Happy Summer, hon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosie the Riveter (a Lost Dog)

Rosie, a Boston Terrier and lost dog.

Rosie the Lost Dog.

Rosie the Riveter.

Rosie the Riveter.

"Running around the neighborhood makes you hungry!"

“Running around the neighborhood makes you hungry!”

"Don't you want to hear my side of the story?"

“Don’t you want to hear my side of the story?”

My doorbell rang at 9 am on a Thursday morning.  There stood my neighbor with a lost dog, a Boston Terrier.  She’d put her big dog’s leash on the small dog, giving it an “on-the-lam” appearance.  It was yappy.  It had attitude.  It barged right in.

Lucy, my sweet dog, isn’t so sweet when delivery trucks pass the house, mailmen deliver the mail, workers come to the door, or when small dogs with large attitudes try to assert themselves.  Lucy barks, jumps, and runs around like a nut, saying, “I’m the alpha dog!”  She did all three while I chased her around with a leash, clipped it on her collar, and tried to restrain her from pouncing on the small pooch.  Morning mayhem!

The Boston Terrier had run up my neighbor’s driveway, and my neighbor figured a fellow dog-lover-like-her might know who it belonged to.  I had a hunch.  She started making calls, taking photos of the dog and sending them to its Likely Family.

My neighbor and I both had to be somewhere in 10 minutes.  What should we do?   I ran both crazed canines upstairs to my college daughter’s room to wake her up.

Lucy was riveted by Rosie (we found out her name when we called the Likely Family), but not in a good way.  While making calls, taking photos and sending them, Rosie had eaten Lucy’s entire bowl of kibble, drank from her water bowl, and snuffed and huffed at Lucy.  Lucy was having none of it!

Teen Daughter graciously got out of bed and gave up going to yoga. Instructions?  Separate the dogs and watch Rosie (she might need to relieve herself after eating more than her body weight in kibble) until her Mom, a teacher, arrived.

My neighbor left, apologizing for leaving us with a lost dog.  I left to go to work, apologizing to Teen Daughter that she’d miss yoga.

Later, I got the full report.  Teen Daughter kept the dogs on two sides of a glass door.  Lucy was riveted by Rosie.  Then Rosie barked and Lucy barked back.  A lot!

Rosie’s mom arrived around 10 am and Rosie was on her way home (where she was going to get a replacement battery for her electric fence collar).  The morning excitement was over.

Naptime!

Hon, do you have a lost dog story to share?

"All this excitement has worn me out!"

“All the excitement wore me out!”

Teen Daughter who was on "Doggie Duty."  Thanks, sweetheart!

Teen Daughter who was on “Doggie Duty.” Thanks, sweetheart!

Central Park in Early Spring

Movement.

Movement.

Romantic

Romantic.

Reflection.

Reflection.

Happy

Happy.

Perspective.

Perspective.

Framed

Framed.

Hug

Hug. (Tween Daughter and Me)

I hope you enjoy some of my Central Park pictures. I was inspired to share them after posting Manhattan Moments (Exquisite Short Film).

I made my own video slide show, New York State of Mind, awhile ago.

Manhattan as muse.

 

Beautiful Bouquet for Mother’s Day

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Sending you a virtual bouquet of Ranunculus on this beautiful day. I recently came across a greeting card with a message as rich as the pink and purple colors and as layered as the petals of the bouquet above.

“She took a deep breath, declared her heart free and thanked herself for being so patient with it.”  

I turned the card over. The card’s designer is Leigh Standley, the name of her company is Curly Girl Design, and she has a blog. How fitting, since I’m a “curly girl” as well.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Manhattan Moments (Exquisite Short Film)

Central Park, Manhattan

Central Park, Manhattan

Central Park, Manhattan

Central Park, Manhattan

In January, I shared a gorgeous short video in a post called Moody, Magical Manhattan (Stunning City Video). Friend to my kids and amazing filmmaker Jake Oleson is at it again. His latest film reminded me of photos I took in Central Park. It’s easy to “find the extraordinary in the ordinary” in New York City.  Jake and the people he worked with certainly did.

Still Life’s subjects, close-ups, slow motion and message are exquisite! 

Enjoy, hon! I’d love to hear what you think of the film.

The particulars:

“Still Life” premiered on April 27th at the NFFTY (National Film Festival for Talented Youth) festival in Seattle.

Directed and Shot by Charles Frank and Jake Oleson
Starring Chris Trindade
Written by Kyle Harper
Voiceover by Beau Stephenson
Produced and Colored by Andrew Hutcheson
Music by Philip Glass & Tony Anderson
Sound Design by Stranded On a Planet Studios

My Writing Process (Bunny Hop) Blog Hop

A Florida bunny.

A Florida bunny.

Tween Daughter dressed up as the Easter Bunny.

Tween Daughter dressed up as the Easter Bunny for Halloween.

Thanks to Laura Sibson, I am participating in a “My Writing Process” Blog Hop. I added the Bunny Hop part as a nod to Easter, Spring, and my own beautiful Tween Bunny who is my first reader.

Laura Sibson

Laura Sibson

Laura earned her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts after discovering a passion for writing novels geared toward teens. Laura’s a fellow runner (she runs much longer distances than me), dog-walker, coffee-drinker, “ingester-of-pop culture,” and mom of teens. She lives in suburban Philadelphia and has impressed me with her knowledge of “Bawlmor” accents.

Laura describes the paranormal young adult novel she’s writing on her blog, Laura Sibson, A journey toward writing dangerously. Her novel sounds spooky and fascinating, and it involves the Black Aggie, a real statue that used to reside a stone’s throw away from my parents’ house, in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.

Do you think its a coincidence that Laura connected with a Bmore girl? I don’t know, hon. You’ll have to ask her!

My Writing Process Questions and Answers:

What are you working on?

Coco, the main character in my chapter book is based on a true story and a real dog. An article describing how a dog ended up on a NJ Transit train headed to Manhattan appeared in my local paper. We had recently adopted a puppy. A story was born! Coco’s inherent doggie abilities and desire to find bones will, hopefully, lead him on many adventures (meaning more chapter books).

In the picture book series I’m writing, my five year-old main character wanted to become a superhero just like his big brother. In the first book, he did it! Now he’s off to conquer the world (and his fears) as the fastest superhero ever.  I’m working on books about the day he thought his mommy was a zombie and about the time he battled deep sea creatures at the town pool.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Guess what one of my goals is? Hint: it’s in the name of my blog.  ENERGY!

I hope my writing grabs readers from the get-go! My manuscripts are populated by relatable characters, alliteration, funny phrases, and a dash of silliness. The universal theme underlying all of my manuscripts is family.  Whether the action revolves around siblings or parents and their children, the action happens between the humor and heart.

Lucy, the model for Coco Mercado.

Lucy, the model for Coco Mercado.

In my chapter book, Coco stays true to his doggie characteristics, but his impulsivity takes him to unexpected places. He meets a zany cast of characters along the way and, inadvertently, saves the day while on the search for the perfect bone. This chapter book (and the others I plan to write), will fill the gap for elementary school kids who are one step beyond First Readers but not yet ready for longer chapter books.

My nephew, my muse.

My nephew, my muse.

Logan, my latest picture book‘s main character, is just like real little boys. How do I know? Because he’s a compilation of my “superhero” nephew, my son, and the boys I teach at pre-school and at the elementary school. My nephew says, “Activate! Pshht! Pow!” So does Logan. My nephew says things are “mega.”  So does Logan. Sibling rivalry amongst my triplets plus one more was rampant.  My hope is that kids will love Logan and his brother’s vivid imaginations while parents will appreciate the heart of the story.

Why do you write what you do?

I write because ideas pop into my head, words and phrases tumble off my tongue, and characters stand in front of me, tail wagging and arms crossed, begging to be brought to life.

I write because the child inside of me connects to children from toddlers to teenagers.  I still love playing in a sandbox, climbing to the top of the swingset, and sledding down a hill at lightning speed.

I write because I believe stories are magical.

How does your writing process work?

An idea or a character or a turn of phrase will start off as a wisp of thought. The ideas, characters and turns of phrases that stay in my head like a song-on-the-radio-you-can’t-stop-singing must be written down. If scenes start appearing in my mind’s eye, while I’m driving, running errands, walking Lucy and, always, when I try to go to sleep, then I have to get my thoughts on paper. The process has begun.

First drafts go to my wonderful critique group. I revise. Second drafts are critiqued. I revise.  Etc!

My most important revision tools are a thesaurus, dictionary, rhyming dictionary and critiques from my group (or an editor or agent, if I’m lucky). More importantly, I take my watch off, don’t answer the phone, concentrate on listening to how my characters would speak and inhabit the world I’ve created.

Last November, I signed up for Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo challenge to come up with a new picture book idea for a month.  Thirty new ideas are now residing in my Idea Box.

Joining the My Writing Process Blog Hop, I’d like to introduce you to (drumroll, please):

Michelle Karéne

Michelle Karéne

 Michelle Karéne

Michelle and I connected on Twitter (Michelle on Twitter, me on Twitter).  Michelle not only has a blog called Michelle Karéne, Children’s Author, is a member of SCBWI and an aspiring children’s writer, she earned her doctorate in Biomedical Engineering, works for a biotechnology company, and has published fifteen articles in various scientific journals. Michelle’s short story, “Magnolia Fall,” will be published in the 14th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection. Michelle, who lives in North Carolina with her family, blogs about her chapter book and young adult works-in-progress, funny things her three daughters say, nature photographs and dinner ideas.  I hope you’ll check out her blog.

Thanks for reading, hon!