Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sudsy Saturday Featured Artist

Now, I am not a big bath person. Some people love to stay in the bath for an hour relaxing, about 15 minutes is my max, as long as I have a good book to read while I am there; if not, then it is shorter than that; however, I believe the products from Bonnie's Allegheny Hearth will change my mind. I have yet to see a more unusual collection of soaps and fragence combinations.

The soaps are all handmade in the heart of the Allegheny Mountains and my favorites, the Gemstone Soaprocks, are hand carved.

Bonnie also has a line of body products, such as this luxurious silken therapy set.

One of her best seller's is this Hippie Trip Soap made with Hemp oil, lemongrass, tea tree, lavender, patchouli and sweet orange.

Enjoy her interview below and make sure to visit her Artfire shop! There are over 100 items to browse through and I am certain you will find something that will be perfect for yourself, or for gift giving!

What role does your art play in your life?

Soap making is one of my passions. I find great satisfaction in formulating products that pamper the skin and care for my customers. Working with the many aspects of the craft, I am able to be a mad scientist as well as an artisan.

I am always mindful of the many generations of craftsmen who have passed along their skills. I strive to work for the advancement of the craft by honing my methods and techniques. I am always willing to mentor the next generation of artisans. I do demonstrations and presentations at symposiums and gatherings and I actively participate in soap making forums.

Where do you live and what is it like?

I live in Altoona in Central Pennsylvania. The area is abundant in natural beauty. My home is located on 5 wooded acres, atop a hill in the heart of the breathtakingly glorious Allegheny Mountains-thus, the inspiration for the name Allegheny Hearth Soaps. I was born in Altoona and lived here my entire life. It was a wonderful place, to raise my three sons, who are now adults. I plan to remain in this warm and welcoming place for my entire life, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Who is your favorite craft supplier?

I purchase my supplies from many vendors. The internet has been wonderful. I made my first soap in 1979. The only oils and butters were limited to what was available in local supermarkets. Now I can revel in delights like shea, mango and cocoa butters, coconut, palm and avocado oils. Essential and fragrance oil selections are astounding. My studio shelves are filled with enticing amber bottles that I can blend to my heart’s content. Colorants safe for cosmetic use are also readily available. I dance for joy when the delivery truck brings a new box filled with new delights, begging to be concocted into something unique and original that is sure to thrill my customers.

What are your goals with your ArtFire studio?

I have a well established local customer base. It is at the request of my customers, who are always asking if I have a website that I have decided to branch out to on line selling. I want Artfire to serve as an electronic catalog for my clientele, and to offer my awesome products to the rest of the world!

Where do you receive your inspiration, in general?

I am inspired by nature: the spectrum of colors, the textures, the herbs and flowers, the trees, the fragrances – all of creation.

I also draw inspiration from my customers. They are the greatest. So many of them are so kind to take the time to write me notes and emails thanking me for the results they get from using my products. They sing my praises to their friends and neighbors, which grows my business. I am grateful to them and dedicate my efforts to them.

How did you come to selling crafts?

When we moved to our home in 1975, the property was completely outlined with mature pine trees. The first autumn our yard was covered with pinecones. I picked 21 bushels and decided to make pine cone wreaths as Christmas gifts. Several people who were gifted with the wreaths asked to purchase some for their family and friends. Through the years, the requests kept coming. The store where I am employed was generous enough to allow me to place my floral arrangements for sale. 25 years later, I still work there. My soap cart offers my wares to our customers.

What is the best piece of advice you can give other artists?

Find your passion. If you love what you are doing, you will succeed. Continue to educate yourself and evolve in your art. And lastly, pass along what you have learned so your craft will benefit from your talents.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Favorite Mac & Cheese

Okay folks, I love me some macaroni and cheese! Have loved it since I was a child even though it was only cooked by my mom using the blue box with the powdered cheese that sometimes was not mixed enough and you get those little lumps of a powdered cheese ball in your bite...hmmm, that was a special treat! Sometimes there would be strips of the American cheese on top for added umph. Add some pepper to it and you have something special. What's that you say? Add pepper to anything and it is something special!! Well, that may be the case, but with my favorite mac & cheese recipe you add dry mustard....okay..and a little bit of pepper too! Intrigruied? Read on...

This recipe is from the Queen of Southern Cooking! Me...oh wait! I mean Paula Dean!! Best part about it, super easy (cooks in your slow cooker) and super delicious. My kids love this recipe! Enjoy!


  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (an 8-ounce box isn't quite 2 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stuck) butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Boil the macaroni in a 2 quart saucepan in plenty of water until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain. In a medium saucepan, mix butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. In a slow cooker, combine cheese/butter mixture and add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper and stir well. Then add drained macaroni and stir again. Set the slow cooker on low setting and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Musings from a Grandma

It is raining here, what else is new in Florida huh? Today, I received a phone call from my granddaughter's mother that yes indeed, she will be starting head start at the end of this month, no more two week visits for me and I was very cheerful, hung up the phone, and bawled like a baby. I have begun to realize just how quickly time passes. While she is only 3, it seems like yesterday that she was a tiny infant dressed happily in her easter bunny outfit...

Then it was off to starting to walk some and being able to actually go out with her mom and dad (that is my son...yep, I can remember him as a baby as well)....

Able to really enjoy her first Halloween last year.....

And a cupcake after ballet class this year....

Why was I bawling? Because I will miss hearing her clunking down the stairs in the morning when she wakes up with her "crazy Frodo hair" as she likes to call it, I will miss watching Lord of the Rings over and over again with her and both of us saying lines from the movie, I will miss singing with her, taking her to story time at the library, going to ballet class, watching Noggin to the point where I actually like the shows and the songs between the shows, I will miss my ever-ready model she loves to take pictures in her new outfits grandma makes for her, her laughter, and doing our beading together, hers with a lace with large beads, and me with mine. I will miss everything about her and while, yes, I will still get to see her, it will not be exactly the same because this phase is over you see; the time before school where you are pretty much everything to them. I will see her on the some weekends, that is very different from weeks on end.

Moms, childhood goes by very quickly. Enjoy every moment that you can, every age holds its own special magic and passes very rapidly. Cherish each moment and find delights in simple things. Make special moments with your children.

I do not usually post videos in my blog, but watch this one it sums up my whole posting in this one song....

Share Your Flair Award

I woke up this morning with a big grin on my face still because yesterday my blog received a Share Your Flair Award!! This award was presented from Yours Truli which is an absolutely beautiful blog that has numerous featured artists works displayed. She is a gem in herself in her continued efforts to promote various artisans in multiple genres.

So, with the reward now comes the extra exciting part! I get to tell you some more about myself!!....hey,,wait a minute...Where is everybody going!!? Alright, I get the picture, I will keep it short...three things about myself..

Well, I know everyone knows by now that I am a thrilled to be a grandmother to my 3-year-old granddaughter. Other than spending time with her, I love to read, sew, make jewelry, paint, and blog. I have been in the medical transcription field for over 20 years and that is my bread and butter job and by night, I am a starving designer/artist. I have an Artfire shop, Etsy shop, and a website.

I enjoy interacting with people, whether online or in person, and I love helping people in whatever way that I can. I feel there are so many ways to brighten someone's life, even a small gesture as a sincere complement, or calling someone behind the counter by their name, wishing them a nice day, that can add a smile to their face; in short try to make someone feel special every day.

As far back as I can remember, I have loved to make things. When I was a child, I remember having one of those bead looms to make the groovy 70s head bands. I would work on those in the evening and listen to the radio talk shows (yep, I was as exciting as a child as I am now as a grown up). I also used to knit outfits for my pets, with their names stitched somewhere on the garment...(see, even then I was embellishing!) I was raised in W.Va, beautiful country, and have lived in Florida for over 20 years.

Now for the fun part...passing this award on to three other blogs!!

Moonangelnay!!! Ha, try saying that fast 3 times, or even once...well, I may not be able to say it, but I love her blog and she loves to help people. Just take a look at her blog and how many other people she is promoting and various tips she provides. Job well done!

Not only does this blog promote other artisans, it promotes other blogs and has great links for tutorials and other helpful items. A must read for me on a regular basis.

Va Beach Quilter's blog regularly features shops with less than 10 sales, which I think is a wonderful thing to do. It can become quite discouraging to work so hard to put together what you feel is a fantastic item in a great shop, only to have no response. Va Quilter's followers may spot something they like and provide the jolt that a fledgling shop needs.

Now, selected sharing and caring blogs, your mission? To pass this award on to 3 more deserving blogs. Have fun and congrads!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Weekend Featured State: Florida Artist

I plan to feature artists from some of my favorite states, starting with the state where I reside now.....FLORIDA!! Woo-Hoo!!

Florida has been very dear to me for the past 25 years I have resided here. My granddaughter lives here along with my children and many other family members. It is the home of my favorite theme parks; Disney, Universal Studios. We have year round sunshine, cultural diversity, and many talented artists...don't believe me? Take a look at a sampling from the Florida Etsy Street Team (FEST) which I am very happy to be a member of this active and supportive group. Below are some of my selections from their stores:

This pendant is certain to receive complements for its beauty and unusual nature. I like the working on the outer area and it is then worked into this different tube shape. Fishbonesilver has several worked silver items in her store. If you are a silver lover; fishbonesilver is the shop for you.

Early last week I wrote in my blog about critters in my neighborhood and in it was a pair of cranes who graced my yard for a couple of weeks this summer. As soon as I spotted this quilt, it brought back fond memories of my cranes,,,even though they pecked a hole in my screen, they are welcome anytime. CinfulArt has quilts, cross stitching, and many other meticulously crafted items in her shop. Make sure to visit..go visit my crane!

PattiElizabeth's hand-painted pillow is a work of art in itself. It would make the perfect addition to any room in need of a splash of color.

The vivid blue color of the lampwork beads of this necklace
immediately drew my eye to this piece. Upon reading the description I learned that it is also crafted with copper, which I also enjoy wearing. The necklace can be wore in varying lengths which is a plus as well. Visit DonnaJs shop for something exquisite.

Now tell me if this does not sound yummy...Bubblemint Goat Milk Soap...I have to try this! It would be the perfect ending of a stressful day to relax in a warm bath with a fragrant soap, and I have never tried a goat milk soap, but want to give it a try! Visit EScentualCreation's store for your own bar.

PJ Plush likes to watch birds and eat cookies in bed! His description is almost as fun as snuggling with him would be. Handmade 3D offers this Plush along with several others in her shop. I like him because he reminds me of when I used to try to pretend I was sleeping as a child and your eyes are scrunched up so tightly that your parents know you are faking. You thought they were magical..but as an adult you realize it is the scrunched up eyes as a sure giveaway! Love this guy.

I have adored peacocks since I was a child and GladRaggz has crafted this unusual purse in the depiction of my favorite birds not in the usually shown colorful stance, but with their tails down. Maybe because there is no female peacock around. This purse has pockets abound and I love the contrast of the handle with the colors in the purse.

Looking for the unusual? How about this beautiful necklace made of recylced metals and coffee beans! Need a gift for someone who has everything? I can bet you they do not have one of these. You can find it in Recreational Art's shop.

Here is another unusual necklace offered by the Creative Art Center on Etsy. I love the different textures of this pendant. It offers simplicity but is also stunning.

I just love this complete set that can be personalized. This is a must have for my next grandchild! Visit Madly2005 for an ensemble for your special bundle of joy.

My granddaughter loves Ladybugs..see her Halloween costume from last year in my Musings

from Grandma. This group of beads would make a lovely necklace for any ladybug or garden lover. Fragiacomoglassart's Shop

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'm Going to Disney World

I am doing the Happy Dance today because I just booked my trip to Disney for next month. What is the occasion? My BDay. You know, BDay's lose their luster once you hit 40, so you need to inject a little bit of magic in them, and what is more magical than a Disney vacation....hmmm, hitting the lottery! Yeah, well, besides that.

Of course my DGD will be accompanying me, so I am really looking forward to the trip. I have been cruising the Disney forums, which is a great place for planning. Disney is in the midst of a dining deal which threw a bit of a monkey wrench in the planning process because every single character/princess meal I tried to reserve was totally booked for the three days we will be there; but, places to dine in Disney are plentiful and I am sure we will not starve.

I will have to get into overdrive to complete a few dresses for the trip and to add to the shops, so that should be coming up shortly as well...okay, back to planning.....I mean working... for me!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Weekend Featured Etsy Artist

I believe it is important to artists to support each other and online network is very important, especially for many of us who work mainly from our home studios; through forums, blogs, and teams we can met other artists and offer support and friendship.

Andi is this week's featured artist. Her shop CrazybutCute is a relatively new shop on Etsy; but, Andi has been crafting since she was a child, something to which I am sure many of us can relate. She has an assortment of masterfully hand crafted items which she has skillfully sketched and meticulously embroidered.

This piece is one of my favorites, from the speckled look of the blue bird to the scroll work at the bottom of the cage, this item is exquisite and is framed and ready for displaying. The thought behind the piece, the door is open but the subject is content where it is and does not want to leave. What a loving home it must reside in!

Imagine! You can place this in a prominent spot to remind your "lawn mower" man that it is time to take care of business! Get out there and get to mowing! Can go right on top of your "honey do list."

Andi and I both adore this piece, I love her stance of confidence, she seems ready to take on the world!

Q. Tell me a little about yourself (you can enter info from your profile if you like
A. I an upstate NY crafter, specializing in hand-embroidered oddities and home decor. By day I work at a publishing company. I love decorating, cooking, crafting, gardening, and reading.

Q. How long have you been crafting?
A. I have always been a crafter! As a child, I would make bears out of dishrags or felt purses for my Barbies, so this is a natural progression from that. I have always sketched as well, and all of my work starts out life as a sketch.

Q. What are your inspirations?
A. I am most inspired by people, but also by nature, architecture, and literature.

Q. What goals/plans do you have for your shop in the near future?
A. I am currently putting together larger artwork-type pieces for my shop, so that's what's coming next for Etsy. Outside of that, I am also creating pieces for a local gallery.

Q. What is your favorite item in your shop and why?
A. Currently, my favorite item is my mannequin. She represents a stillness and balance I am seeking in my life right now. I stitched her to represent strength, beauty, and utily. I will be happy/sad to see her go!

So visit Andi's shop CrazybutCute.
Tweet her on Twitter: ID: crazybutcutesew

Friday, August 14, 2009

Animals in my Neighborhood

What is the first animal that comes to mind when you think of Florida? Mickey Mouse!! No, he's not an animal..The flamingos with Miami Vice music playing in the background? No...geesh, you guys are a tough is the alligator! This beauty was lounging outside in a hotel resort's lake in Orlando much to the dismay of the workers and the joy of the patrons.

There were photographers out every day taking pictures of him/her and for the week we were there, so was he, I don't know why he picked that spot, but I guess he can go where he likes.

I was upstairs in my loft, enjoying a cup of coffee, bowl of cereal, my book, and getting the nice morning sunshine through the window when suddenly I noticed something from the corner of my eye, lumbering, but with determination, in the front yard. This grouchy fellow, who kept insisting on trying to make his way across the yard and into the street! Now, at the speed he was going, I did not want to risk him getting hit by a car, so I tried to do the nice thing and get him to turn around and go back into the yard and through the backyard. Well, he did not like that a bit, he bit my mop I was trying to move him with and took a big chunk out of it. Geesh, don't know what his problem was, but he wanted to go across the street, despite my attempts to get him to change his mind, so, I let nature takes its course, but I did help him along a bit, by nudging him until he was safely across and I let him go on his "unmerry" way.

These cranes decided they wanted to hang out around my house for a couple of weeks, especially since they discovered we always feed the squirrels, much to the dismay of the squirrels because they would eat all their food. These cranes were both beautiful and very friendly. They stood about 4 feet tall! and there was nothing nicer than the loud squawking noise they made in the morning for me to come and open the blinds so they could look in the house while standing on the patio. They also liked to walk around the house and look in my office/studio window while I was working. They did poke a hole in one of the screens at the back of the house
however, I had to go out and try to chase the culprit off so I could put something there to block him from that one particular spot he liked to peck on.

These little guys still like to dash through the yard every once in a while, never staying long.

Do you like my divider? It is tribute to the animal around my neighborhood that I see constantly! Yep, even coming inside every once in a while...the snake!

Snakes in the cable box outside, snakes in the bushes, the AC, the grass (of course) the house, you name a place, there is a snake! Ahh, the joys of nature.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reading Corner

I love to read and I wanted to devote a section of my blog to great books that I am reading. I am hopeful you will add to my list with your finds through the comments so we all can exchange great titles and share in our love for reading.

I cannot remember a time that did not involve a love for reading in my life; even as a child, I can remember going on vacation with my parents and sneaking off to the bathroom at night with my book so I could read in the hotel room and not disturb my Mom, Dad, and brother. I remember reading the Cricket of Times Square every Christmas morning while waiting for my family to wake up to go tackle the gifts under the tree; and, I cannot recall a time of boredom because if you have a great book handy, you can be whisked instantly away to a place of your choice.

Here is what I am currently reading and I look forward to reading some of your favorites as well.

Water for the Elephants

This is the story of an elderly man recalling his youth as a circus veterinarian, a decision he makes after the untimely death of his parents and the subsequent inability for him to be able to complete his final exam to become a "certified" veterinarian and follow in his father's footsteps.

The narrative of this book takes place in both the present and the past of this main character. His musings on aging have been thought provoking to me as I move into my "middle-age" years and the storyline of his youth spent with the traveling circus, the characters, both human and animal, have kept me spellbound to this book. I am certainly enjoying every aspect thus far and hope that those of you who have not read the book will do so and those who have read it, please comment and let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My new BFFs

I am in love with my new best friends. They are there to help me everyday with the mundane tasks that I detested doing in the past, now, I can complete them everyday. They make me look good as well for my other less helpful friends and neighbors who think I am super woman..working as many hours as I do with my "day" job, doing my design work, cooking, and finding time to get out for walks and keeping my house looking spic and span. Little do they know about my BFFs' help...but, I am willing to share my secret, only with you...Ready?.......

This is my favorite one, the I Robot 550 series. I purchased mine from HSN on easy pay (yeah, right) of 64 plus change for four months, this was a special price, I have noticed the price has recently gone up, but considering what you might spend for a good vacuum, the time you actually spend vacuuming when you could be doing something more constructive and productive, the aggravation in asking your kids to help you clean, or the money you would spend to have someone come and clean your home for you...this is a wonderful gizmo to have clean your home, every single day. I just get up in the morning, grab my cup of coffee and push the button and that is it. It does have a scheduler that you can set to clean at a certain time automatically, but I just press the button on top of mine...I like to watch it for a bit before I go settle down in the morning to begin working.

This does a wonderful job, even though I set it to clean every morning, it still has dirt in the bin after every cleaning. You do have to remove the brushes and clean after each use, especially in the beginning, but after time, you will notice less dust/dirt on the brushes to clean. Mine has yet to get tangled in cords or anything, but I do try to remove any bigger items from the floor before letting it go on its way. I really love this item. Remember, we used to not think dishwashers were necessary either, it really is not, we can wash by hand, or get up and change the TV channels manually, cook our frozen dinners in the oven for 40 minutes, or pop popcorn in a pan, stay seated while on the phone instead of using a cordless one, but technology advances to make our lives easier, this is just another tool to assist us in our ADLs.

Next...on to the I Scooba.

Now, I purchased the Scooba through Overstock at a price of $199, but noticed they are no longer available.....guess I snagged the last one!! Lucky me! While I like the Roomba better than the Scooba, this is a nice gadget as well. The battery in mine does not last as long as theRoomba; running only about 20-25 minutes, and then needs recharging to finish emptying the tank and cleaning. Also, I imagine my tile area is about 1000 sq feet, maybe less, so if you have a larger area to clean, you may have to fill your tank more than once, not too big of a deal and the cleaner is not too expensive, they say you can also use vinegar and water, I have not tried it because I like the fresh, clean scent of the cleaner...but if I am in a bind; in will go the vinegar.

When the machine stops, it does leave behind some residue that you have to wipe up with a paper towel, not too big of a deal. The Scooba did go up on my low-pile dining room carpet once and made a sound like "I'm stuck" so I had to go downstairs and move it. I just place a couple of dining room chairs down now so it will not go back up on the carpet, again, really no big deal considering I do not have to mop, but not ideal. Still love it and it saves me so much time, house looks great, and my nerves are not fried by fussing with my sons to help me clean!

Great products IMHO! Thanks for reading and leave your comments if you own one of these nifty gadgets or have any questions.

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Favorite Films

Favorite Films
These are some of my favorites. Enjoy

All About Eve

Sense and Sensibility

LOTR Return of the King