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29 June 2012

What the Heck is a Redbud?

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If you've been following along over at pinterest, you might have seen this influx of redbud buttons and thought to yourself "Who is this girl and why is she posting so many buttons with little pink flowers?" "What the heck?"


Then you might have come over to the blog and read a post or two and thought "Wow - I'm still a little confused...I get she likes these bloggers or whatever, but what the heck is a redbud?!"

I get you. I hear you. ...and now I'm here to tell you...

1.  You see, a redbud is a type of tree. 

 Have you ever seen one? They bloom in spring and unlike most spring bloomers, they bloom both on the branches as well as the trunk bark. They bloom without any leaves -- just bark and blooms.

What does that have to do with bloggers? Well as I sit in my happy house with glasses on, hair up and pj pants still on, I'm pretty hot looking, you know? Yeah. Not so much. I imagine bloggers all around the country, waking up early and running to the computer to let their words out -- all looking rather icky. In fact, we all take photos of ourselves at our best (except for those weird posts when people show their "true" selves looking all grimy, but trust me you will NEVER see one of those pictures here), but the truth is we often do our best work when we are looking our worst. I know there is a camp of bloggers out there proclaiming that you work best when you've done your hair and makeup and made the beds and cleaned the sink and I want to declare that that is a load of hokey. YES -- you feel better when those things are done and you will live better in your space, but please don't joke yourself into thinking you will write better when you look all perfect. I write best when thoughts flood my mind and overflow so fast that I have to grab a receipt in the car, stop and write the bullet points on the back, race home and get everything out-out-out until it no longer fills my brain. The words consume me and I could care less about how "made up" I am.  

ummmmm...amy?   What the heck does that have to do with these redbud posts?

I'm getting there...I promise -- just hang on for the ride...ok?

2.  Let's talk about ugly some more.

Just as the redbud blooms off ugly bark and bloggers often blog their best when they look atrocious,  bloggers also sometimes write their best work when their insides are ugly too.  Ever read a post that just simply hit home?  Some girl just wrote and wrote and wrote and every word she said was right on?  Chances are, that post came from an ugly place.  She was confused, sad, angry, upset, wrong, bitter.  ...and she shared it.  Then she fixed it.  ...and you left inspired.

When someone shows you a picture of themselves after losing weight, you are like "oh you are so beautiful - good job" while inside you are thinking "eh - she looks fine, but what's the big deal??"  Then, THEN she shows you the before picture.  She shows you the ugly and that is when you get it.  You see the full picture and then you are fully invested in her journey.  You want to lsiten to her.  You want to know her.  She is a redbud.

Redbuds are the brave ones that share the ugly so you can know the beautiful.  They are little purple blossoms blooming in spring out of gnarled grey bark.

3.  After redbuds bloom, they don't loose their worth in the garden. 

 Heart shaped leaves appear and cover the branches tip to top.  They last all summer long, waving in the breeze, providing a foil for other blooming plants in front of them.

Those are my redbud bloggers.  They are bloggers that have brilliant successes, but that is not all they are.  They aren't lilies that bloom and then curl up and die.  They are redbuds that bloom and then grow into maturity and support the others around them.  Redbud bloggers are friends to other bloggers and give them a platform to be seen.  Redbud bloggers are girls that understand that being a peaceful, quiet force in the background can be the best purpose for their talents at any given moment.  The redbuds are the mamas in this world.

4.  Have you ever looked under a redbud in the summer?  

You might see pods depending on the sex of the tree.  Whenever I see these little seedpods growing, I always think of bloggers with secrets.  You can't see the pods unless you literally get up close, pick the leave up and check underneath.  Hidden under the beautiful heart-shaped leaves are little secrets.  Little ideas for the future.  Little schemes to become bigger and better.   Ideas for series, inspiration for a post, advertising know-how and that "big idea" that might catapult them to the top.  Redbud bloggers don't talk about the secrets, but they are definitely keeping a few things hidden in their hand for the next round.  They are forward thinking, ambitious and entrepreneurial.

5.  Have you ever seen a redbud in the fall?

They turn a lovely shade of yellow, lighting up the garden and going out in a subtle blaze of glory.  Redbuds aren't the maples, screaming for attention with their flaming foliage every October.  They aren't the tallest trees in the garden, nor are they the most bombastic, but they are arguably the most beautiful in fall.

The redbud bloggers are just that.  Beautiful.  They don't need to be loud or obnoxious.  They don't scream their worth from the treetops, but they aren't afraid to strut a little.  They are beautiful in their writing, in their lives and they are inspiring to their communities.  Redbud bloggers are the girls you want to be.

6.  Redbuds can grow as standard trees or as bushes.  

They start out as a twig.  One little 12 inch twig with two leaves.  Then as the plant grows, it sends up new stems from the ground.  Leave it be and you will end up with a multi-branched bush about 5 foot high covered in blooms each spring.  On the other hand, you can cut out those branches, and save just one strong, straight trunk in the middle of the plant.  Give it a few years and that trunk will thicken into a solid, single tree trunk and the branches will begin to fork at around 4-5 feet.  The entire tree will max out around 15-20 feet and again -- it will cover itself in bloom all spring.

What does this have to do with blogging?  Redbud bloggers are adaptable.  They will grow freely into their own blooming bush or they might run into criticism and failure, leaving only one leg to stand on.  Those bloggers don't give up.  They grow greater -- that one leg grow stronger and they bloom brighter and higher.  I like both.  I follow both.  I highlight both.  I think they are both beautiful and both have a spot in my garden.

7.  Redbuds propagate easily.  

Simply cut a stem off of the branch and plant it.  Chances are  -- it will grow.  Great bloggers know how to give little pieces of themselves to others.  They know how to pass on little bits of wisdom without coming across as a know-it-all.  They know how to inspire others to do better, grow stronger, live more beautifully.  They keep enough secrets to keep growing themselves, but they are willing to share and willing to give.  That is the type of blogger I want to be.

You might have noticed that the photos in this post are not the typical photos of redbuds.  
I've chosen not to include any photos of redbuds actually in bloom.  Why?  well....read on...

*********************************************************************************************************************************************************
I sit here at home reading all the posts from Haven (I know I shouldn't) and all the updates from the newly airing Craftwars (I know I shouldn't...).  It's discouraging.  I wanted to go to Haven and I should have just gone.  I am so bummed to have missed out on meeting all my "friends".  I read post after post and feel my heart grow heavy (yes -- I know I should stop, but I just can't...).  Then there is Craftwars.  I applied.  I made it through several layers of casting.  We talked.  They had me make a video.  We talked again.  We signed contracts.  ...and then I didn't make it.   sucks.  I wanted to compete and I wanted to win...but I didn't get to play.

So today I turn outward a bit and celebrate the bloggers that inspire me.  The bloggers that give me the extra boost to do better, be better and live more beautifully.  I want to be encouraged by them and I want them to encourage you.  I also want to encourage them and let them know they are being watched and they are being admired.  One of the few little bits of wisdom I've learned throughout my 30 years is that when you feel discouraged about yourself, the only thing that busts that feeling in the gut is to show off others, give to others or just plain help others out.  So I'm trying.  I'm trying to forget about Haven and Craftwars and all the other disappointments along the way and think of myself as a redbud.  A redbud cut off at the knees, but with two little leaves and one wobbly trunk left chanting "I think I can, I think I can".  So join me as I turn away from my dissapointment and celebrate those that inspire me, would you?

Redbuds inspire me.  The trees and the bloggers.  They give me a push to be better.  They give me reason to try harder.  They encourage me to clam down and take deep breaths and remember to be a background player once in awhile.  Redbuds are the reminder that good can come from ugly and that beautiful doesn't have to be the loudest.


I want to be a redbud.  I want to be all those things I talked about.  Until I master my own "redbudness" I will celebrate the redbuds around me.  Would you join me as we celebrate those among us that bloom from the bark, serve others and create beauty?  Check out the latest redbud @allie of Freshly Completed and then check out the rest by clicking the big box below.




Who will be next?  It might just be YOU!

Redbud @llie of Freshly Completed

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Good morning loves!


Today I want to introduce you to @llie. 
She's kind of a firecracker crafter mama, blogging along over at Freshly Completed.

 
The girl is just one monster ball of inspiration, and from sewing bow ties to the most fun crafts, she is boy-centric all the way.  Forget the girly dresses and tea parties -- this blog is inspiring for us moms of BOYS.  (BTW...allie has a girl too!!  ...but the boys projects are off the HOOK!)  Without doubt I left inspired, pinned out and encouraged to do more creative crafts with my crazy boys.  I bet you will be too!  Check out some of the posts @llie's been working on lately...





FREE Printables?  - CHECK!

...and yummy food to boot?



I think I just instantly connect with any blogger that has boys in multiples and seems to be constantly racking their brain for creative "boy" ideas, toys, games, etc. I'm always so inspired b these fabulous boy-mamas and I so hope you go say hey to @llie and let her know that she's a pretty incredible redbud.

Want to meet the other redbuds?  Check them out below!




28 June 2012

[gathered.] v1

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27 June 2012

Meet the Chicks! | How to Order Rare Breed Chickens Online

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So this past winter I go online to order chickens. Yes, you heard me.  I went shopping online to find chicks for sale.   I went to a website and literally started shopping for chickens...and not just any chickens either. Cool, rare breed chickens that would arrive as chicks. Through the mail. THROUGH THE MAIL! Yes, these tiny little chicks are going to be hatched one day and shipped the next. OH how they will need hugs when they get here! Can you imagine your newborn baby being born and then SHIPPED the next day!? Holy moly!

So winter passes and the spring flowers come and the chicks come and go at Tractor Supply and I wait patiently for my little chickies to arrive. I gather my baby chick feed, dig the baby chick watering jar out of storage and check and double check my email. Then it arrives. The email from California Hatchery -- "Your chicks have been shipped. Please make sure you are home to accept them.". I forwarded the email on to my husband with the addition of:

"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I was a bit excited.

SO the day the chicks are going to arrive is our first day with our new nanny/mother's helper/wonderful teenage girl that saves my sanity....and I am out trying to get some work done, stopping in the post office on the hour every hour to see if the chicks have arrived. No luck. Of course, the last time I stop by, the post office says "oh yeah, she went out with those a while ago. Is anyone home?". Of course, someone is home, but it is the new nanny/mother's helper/wonderful teenage girl that is going to save my sanity. ...and someone is going to walk up to her and give her a box of 2 day old chickens. oh my.

So I race home and the boys come outside running and yelling "The chicks are here! Mommy, the chicks came!"

"Where are they?"

"In the coop!"

oh no. The coop. The tiny newborn chicks are in the coop.

You don't get it.

Putting newborn chicks into a hobby farm chicken coop is akin to putting your newborn baby on the stage at a biker bar. Not to mention that it had been raining for the past 3 days straight, so the coop was dry, but just barely and hadn't been mucked, so you can imagine that it is not quite the place for pristine, tiny newborn chicks.

So I run.

Literally run out to the coop and it is almost funny if it weren't a little frightening. These tiny TINY little chicks are walking around, hopping on tiny little feet around the bottom of the coop. Nearby the grown up chicks aren't paying them a lick of attention, but accidentally stepping on them every once in awhile with their feet that are quite literally AS BIG AS THE CHICKS THEMSELVES! I wrench open the door and start collecting the little things, one little wiggly chick into the box. Two, three, four. Whew -- they are all safe -- they are all ok.

I walk back into the house with my little chicklings and my little darlings come running up to see them. 20 minutes of chick petting later, the chicks are left at peace. ...and I think the babysitter will come back...at least I hope she will...



Meet the chicks! They arrived in a tiny cardboard box, with lots of air holes and sheets of dry bedding. 
 Pop open the top and there they are cute as buttons!

My favorite might be this little yellow, fluffy yellow chicky.  
Eventually, that tuft on the top of her head will grow and she'll be identifiable as a beautiful buff Brahma (I think!).


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Of course, this little lady might show her up.  Check out that headpiece!
I think she's my favorite...
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Then there are the bantams.  Tinier than the other chickens, there are 4 of these little girls and they stick together.  
Put them in a wheelbarrow and they hop on each other trying to cuddle themselves into a safe place.
They might actually be my favorites...






Are you shopping for chicks or chickens for sale? Are you looking at ducks for sale?
Check out California Hatchery for a wide selection and safe, secure shipping of your poultry!

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25 June 2012

Pink Lemonade Cake

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From the box...YUM.


21 June 2012

I knew I had a passion for plants when...

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I found myself in the garden running away.

running away from kids.
running away from responsibility.
running away from work.
running away from noise.

The garden is the place to think.

The garden is the place to drink (coffee).

The garden is the place to walk alone.

The garden is the place to walk together.

If there were no bugs and the temps hovered around 60, I'd live out there. (Anybody have weather like that?)


That's when I knew. I already knew I liked my plants, but when I realized that I was running to them. That is when I knew that I had a passion for them. It's kind of like that morning when I realized that I my passion was photography.

There are other things I run to at other times.

There is God, there is sugar and there is the sweet sweaty arms of babies or the strong, rough arms of my husband.

I knew those were passions - I've known that for a long time. Sometimes though you think things are just hobbies. Just things you like to do. Sometimes they are just ways to make money -- a job. Sometimes though, when you run to those things, you might have just found a passion.

...now the question is -- how many passions can a person reasonably have? Hmmm-hmmmm?






19 June 2012

How to Photograph a Tutorial | Blogging Basics 101

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*The following article was previously published on Allenaim Photography.  Did you miss it the first time? Don't miss it this go around!!  It's a goodie!

Are you bursting with DIY ideas or recipes you just HAVE to share with your bloggy friends?  You should absolutely get on the ball and write a quick tutorial then!  I'm going to outline a few simple shots that will give you a basic tutorial below.  Enjoy!

 1. Start with your inspiration.  It could be a link to someone's site where you saw the idea or recipe first.  It could be a photo of a single ingredient that inspired you or a BEFORE photo of your kitchen before its big remodel.  It gives readers a frame of reference and an idea of where you are going so they can decide if they want to keep reading!  In this case, it is a peek at the page of a cookbook.


I used an open aperture to blur out some of the words and also photographed a tiny section of the page to make sure I wasn't coming anywhere near breaking copyright rules.  I just want to give the reader a taste (figuratively) of where this whole thing came from.    

Most important:  DON'T take a picture of entire recipe or section of text!! ...and DON'T steal a photo off a website! 



2. Show off your ingredients.  Sometimes I just show the ingredients in a still life like this:



3.  Other times I like to mix it up with a little action:

If you are wondering how on Earth to photo food in motion, it is not as complex as you might think.  First, make sure you have enough light so that your shutter can snap fairly quickly.  If it can't use flash or move to another location close to a window with natural light.  Your readers won't necessarily care if you show them your ingredients in your kitchen or on a sofa table as long as you are giving them easy instruction and beautiful photos of the process.

Secondly, you get your focus set.   In this case, I held my arm in the air towards the camera, leaned over and focused the camera on the still shot.  Just press your shutter halfway down and make sure the little red dot or box focuses on the subject you want to highlight.  Then, start the motion SLOWLY (in this case pouring the flour) and press the shutter all the way down.  Do it at least 3 times.  Check your work.  If you are happy, move on.  If not, try, try again!  By all means, if it isn't working out, take a still photograph and move on.  There will be other action to capture :)


Are you wondering how to insert yourself into photographs like this?  Surely my arm is not that long to hold the camera while I'm cooking this far away, right?  You're right.  I am usually holding the camera taking self portraits while I'm pouring or stirring, but sometimes the action is a little bit too difficult to complete with a camera in your arm.  I was afraid I might spill these eggs and the bowl of flour on the floor if I wasn't careful, so this was a self timer shot.  They aren't as difficult as you might think.  The instruction might vary depending on the type of camera you have, but the instructions should be similar.  My example is from a Nikon D5000.

1.  Press the info button on the top of your camera. 
2.  Press the info button on the BACK of your camera (mine is towards the bottom on the left).
3.  Move your cursor up and down the list of options until you see "release mode".
4.  I select the "20 seconds" self timer option. 
5.  Focus your camera on your subject (by pressing the shutter halfway down).
6.  Press the shutter all the way down and get into place.  You have 20 seconds.  There should be a light flashing on the front of your camera.  It will flash several times and then hold for 1-2 seconds.  That is your cue that the camera is about to take the photo.  Start doing whatever action you want to illustrate.  Do it a bit more slowly than you naturally would to give the camera the best chance of being able to focus on your action.  A little blur is ok to show movement.  Too much blur will ruin the shot.


4.  Change it up a little by going back to a still if you have something important to illustrate.  I wanted to show what the dough looks like when it starts to clump and needs to be hand kneaded.


Then go back to your action.  It's all a little bit like a dance.  There should be ups and downs, fast moments and moments that you stop and really look.  You want your reader to feel like they are in the kitchen with you.  Most importantly, you want to try to NOT confuse your reader.  This is the hardest part of tutorials and the best reason to include photos in your tutorial.  Even if a photo seems ridiculous (people KNOW what eggs look like, right???), take it anyway.  Sometimes a picture can explain away questions you wouldn't have even thought of (will a glass bowl work for this step??).  Your readers are going to be a mix of more and less experienced than you.  Your goal is to make sure that you are giving clear instructions to those less experienced so that they can be successful, while giving the more experienced a new interesting take on something they already know. 


Sometimes focus is off.  Notice in the first photo of this series, the focus was on my shirt sleeve.  In this last photo, the focus is on the faucet.  That is ok with me once in awhile.  I could close my aperture more to get more in focus, but then I would catch ugly things in the background, so the blur is worth it to me.  As long as the photo is illustrating the motion AND is pleasing to the eye, I am ok if the focus is not exactly where I want it.  You might be a bit more perfectionista when it comes to tutorials.   

5.  One of the most important things is to get a photo of the final product 
Sometimes, I forget all about this and we eat the food before remembering to take an AFTER photo.  Oops!!  Your reader definitely wants to see the end result, so make sure you give them a photo like this:


Now, contrary to the above statement,  if you are wondering why I am showing you a photo of RAW pasta dough, well, that's simple.  It did NOT work out well.  I wasn't able to roll the dough thinly enough by hand and the end product was not so great.  Therefore, you are getting a tutorial on how to write a tutorial instead of a tutorial on how to make basic pasta dough.  If you are curious, the process took about an hour (including a 30 minute wait time) and about 20 minutes of kneading and rolling by hand.  It was not fun, but my arm muscles did get a workout.   If I had a pasta attachment, it might be worth it.  It is NOT worth it this way.  The $1 box of spaghetti tastes much better.

Don't even get me started on the ravioli...



...which leads me to my last step...



6. Be Honest.  If something tastes great, rave about it.  If it comes out awful and took forever and was not worth it (see above!) , be honest and tell them!!  Alternatively, just don't share the tutorial.  If you teach people to make bad things, they won't trust you.  So be honest in your critiques and go on and on and on and on about the things that DO work out!  If you are interested in things that DID work, check out my FOODIES page in the NEST!

Want to join along sharing your failures and successes?  
Join the PINFAIL and PINTASTIC boards!


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Since many of you have asked for more gear recommendations, here goes!


1.                           2.                                3.


Want the best camera ever?  Sorry -- I can't help you.  I CAN however tell you what got ME started!
I started out on a D40 (camera 3), currently shoot with a D7000 (camera 2) and recommend the D3000 (camera 1).
Whatever you do, save your money you had set aside for that Nikon Coolpix or Canon Powershot and buy a used DSLR.  Trust me.


...oh and PS -- these tips work JUST as well for a manual camera as they do for digital cameras...

18 June 2012

Pinching Plants Hurts but is GOOD for them!

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Pinching plants almost seems kind of mean doesn't it?  I mean, that poor plant has been working and working to produce buds with beautiful flowers within, and you are just going to pinch them off?  Really?  It's not natural!

For years, I rebelled against pinching.  I especially rebelled when my (highly experienced and up in years) neighbor kindly advised me to pinch my tomatoes for better yields.  I couldn't do it.  In fact, when he started pinching my tomatoes, I kinda gasped a little and was mad for a while (just a tiny bit).  Turns out he was right.  It is good to pinch your peonies (or tomatoes or mums or asters or zinnias).

Here is why; some plants produce one main flower and several smaller flowers on the same stem.  Leave them all there and they will all produce flowers, but the little guys will be wimpy.  Pinch them off and the plant devotes all its energy into the one main flower, making it bigger, badder and more peonylicious than ever.

To pinch peonies, simply pop the top off the stems.  You can clearly tell which flower is going t provide the biggest bang for your buck, yes?


Here she is, all pinched.  You should see her a week later when she pops into bloom.  Just stunning and worth a little pinching now and then...


What else should I pinch?  Try this technique on other plants that bud several smaller flowers next to a main stem, such as roses, apples and various other fruits.  Tomatoes, zinnias, and other multi-branching flowering plants also benefit from the treatment.

Don't you pinch before the 4th of July only?  Pinching directs energy, so in this case you are directing energy to one singular flower.  The rule about the 4th of July applies to fall blooming plants like mums and asters.  You want to pinch their foliage now through July 4th so that the plant's energy is redirected into making more stems.  This will result in a later fall bloom date and a bushier plant.  Pinch these plants after July 4th and you run the risk of them not blooming before frost hits hard.
Questions?  Just ask!

PS -- Don't forget to sign up to WIN 3 free gallons of Flood OneCoat HERE
...and make sure you don't miss the deal on Organic Gardening Magazine - 2 YEARS for 5 BUCKS HERE!

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