A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: February 2016

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29 February 2016

The Hidden Peony

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We are in the middle of our Puerto Rico "wilderness" as Christie Purifoy would say (as though a "wilderness" could possibly by made of palm trees and ocean) and I find myself oft dreaming of "home".  Home where the snow is.  Home where the ice is.  Home where the wild winds blow. I know it makes no sense.

The thing is -- when you grow up with seasons, your heart breaks when you live without them.  No matter what type of paradise you might be thrown into, your soul still longs for the cycle of seasons.  I long to sit inside a stone laid window, chai in hand and snow drifting down the frame like feathers off the back of a frozen goose. You think it is crazy to miss the ice, but for me the ice makes the spring all that more grand. When sand and sun are your normal, nothing seems special.

When I think about home, under those layers of ice and snow, I think about the peonies.  I don't have many at our new home at Stonecrest, but I KNOW I have one.  It revealed itself late last spring in a spot where I was not expecting a single bloom -- nonetheless a peony.

Growing Dividing Transplanting Peonies by Amy Renea of "Crafting With Nature" and "A Nest for All Seasons"

Do you see it?  It is in there...amidst that mess of wildling green.  There is also an electrical box hidden in that mess.  We found it with detailed instructions from George, the previous owner (yes, the one who ran the Bed and Breakfast) and with a switch of a button the lights came alive. (See a peek at what those lights can do in this post about the driveway :)

Growing Dividing Transplanting Peonies by Amy Renea of "Crafting With Nature" and "A Nest for All Seasons"

Can you see it now??  The leaves are elongated and a bit shiny.  They are a deep green compared to its neighbors on the left and the right.  It is quite green compared to that thistle in the front. Up close, it is a bit easier to distinguish the leaves. Do you see them now?

Growing Dividing Transplanting Peonies by Amy Renea of "Crafting With Nature" and "A Nest for All Seasons"

I didn't.

I must admit I had NO idea it was there until I saw THIS.

Growing Dividing Transplanting Peonies by Amy Renea of "Crafting With Nature" and "A Nest for All Seasons"

Quite hard to miss when a bush erupts into gorgeous deep red bloom, isn't it? 

Growing Dividing Transplanting Peonies by Amy Renea of "Crafting With Nature" and "A Nest for All Seasons"

The first thing I did when I noticed her was to dig up transplants.  Typically, peonies are best dug up and divided in the fall or the very early spring, but we weren't going to be around at the right times, so I dug out divisions, carted them up to the "show" beds near the front door and watered them in. I haven't seen a sign of them yet, but I hope.  I hope this spring, little red points will push out of the ground and frilly little stalks will push skyward.

Growing Dividing Transplanting Peonies by Amy Renea of "Crafting With Nature" and "A Nest for All Seasons"

I hope the hidden peony will be SEEN now and celebrated. 
I hope that the beauty found in the wild will come closer to home.
I hope I will finish my time in the wilderness with grace and patience.
I hope. I hope. I hope. 

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PS - Yes, Mom and Dad, I am a little homesick, but nothing to worry about! We are doing fine! :)

22 February 2016

I just need to stay away from blue.

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Last summer, my sister-in-law gifted me with a centerpiece leftover from a wedding she had attended.  The colors and textures were the most perfect piece of art I have ever held in my hands.  It wasn't just pretty pinks and pure whites.  Instead, there were frills of coral and a little bombastic naranja hiding beneath the surface. If I could have a garden composed solely of these colors, I would.


There were tulips and roses and ranunculus.  
Pretty little buds and fully open frills.


When I considered my own garden in reflection of this collection, I thought
I could plant drifts of tulips in shades of cream and blush...

Roses and ranunculus would be a bit harder, but with work it could be done...


I could fill up a vessel with the colors of my delight each day...
The perfect arrangement on our "picnicing" table under the perfect aubergine tree.

...if only I could reign myself in when the bags of garish yellow tulips look so cheerful in the nursery...


...and those mums...they always get me.

yellow.  purple.  orange.  GREEN.



...and I just CANNOT bring myself to rip out the magenta roses flourishing beside the front door even if they Don't. Match.

They just bloom so faithfully and so prettily.  How could I bear to part with them?


I try to reign myself in by sticking to a color palette...even if it is wide.
Corals and peaches and pinks, they're in.  White and cream and blush are always welcome.
Their darker counterparts of rose and aubergine can join the party...and lightest yellow will work too.
I just need to stay away from blue.  Keep the undertones yellow and everything will blend nicely.




...and then 

there is this:






I give in.  
I will never be able to create the perfect piece of art.
I just hope Kjerstin goes to more weddings.


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If you would like to see more of my imperfect, yet joyful playfulness with nature, you will love my new book Crafting With Nature.  Full of ideas on how to grow plants (in every color of the rainbow! )and how to create beautiful (and often times useful!) crafts and DIYS with those plants, I hope it inspires you to PLANT and MAKE!

Find Crafting With Nature or sale HERE at Amazon and HERE at Barnes and Noble.  It will be available in bookstores and other online retailers on the release date; March 22nd.  If you are interested in buying, please consider doing so NOW before the release date as preorders are especially helpful to first-time authors!


12 February 2016

The Cover Shot ::: Behind the Book

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I think some people have long, drawn out cover shoots.  In fact, I know they do.  I know authors bring in photographers, stylists, TEAMS of people on cover shoot day.  I have been fascinated by their stories and drank them up as I wrote my book and got closer and closer to publishing.  (Here are a few of  my favorite stories:  Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, Emily Henderson, Lauren Liess, Garden Betty).  My cover story is a bit different.





Behind the Book Making a Cover with Amy Renea of Crafting With Nature
One of the "working" covers

As book release date draws closer (March 22nd!! ), I thought I might give a peek into the creation of my book start to finish.  You might remember how I started out on giant posterboards and then clipboards organized by chapter for the writing (the whole post is HERE) then transitioned into hardcore crafting, testing and photographing. A large portion of the book was shot indoors last winter (2014-2015), so I did a lot of work in our courtyard where the skylights give some natural light.  The absolute best days were the snowy days when the extra white on the skylights made things pop!

The Setup



Most of the white backgrounds you will see in the book were made on cheap IKEA LACK tabletops.  You can find the tops for $1-2 in the as-is section of IKEA and they are sturdy and thick. A photo like the one above with a white bottom and back is done on a LACK table with a LACK tabletop sitting vertically on top of it:

Behind the Book Making a Cover with Amy Renea of Crafting With Nature
Yes, that is a chicken coop being built in the background :)

The light reflects white onto the picture from the second tabletop for top down photos like this one.

The Process:


Step 1: The publishers sent samples of the image style they thought would work best for the book,
namely including materials and finished products in an artful way shot from the top down.

Step 2: I grabbed some materials and finished products I had from the book and took a sample shot. 

Behind the Book Making a Cover with Amy Renea of Crafting With Nature

Step 3: I evaluated the lighting and placement of items and made adjustments over and over again. My publishers had sent me an idea of what they were going for with the text, so I knew the text was going to be in the upper right and lower left when looking at the cover vertically and I needed to leave those white spaces. (see above, the white space in upper left and lower right when oriented horizontally)  The next few shots were moving things around to see how many more projects or ingredients I could get into the frame without A. losing the necessary white space and B. getting too cluttered.

Behind the Book Making a Cover with Amy Renea of Crafting With Nature

I liked the lavender bits across from the lavender hearts, but lost the lower white space...like the clippers...
Behind the Book Making a Cover with Amy Renea of Crafting With Nature
Too little heart, but gained the earrings -- like those!  Lost the clippers too....hmmm

Behind the Book Making a Cover with Amy Renea of Crafting With Nature
 Better, but I blew out the whites and you can't see the lotion bars in the middle...

Before I bore you though....just imagine that process with 150 or so photos.


The Submission

I sent in several variations, some with the clay tools in the corner that ended up making the final cover below (one of my favorite details!).  Once the designers got their hands on the cover, it got MUCH better!  They tweaked and arranged and photoshopped until it was *just* right. I asked for the "Nature" font by name with a light watercolor effect, while the designers picked coordinating fonts for the remainder of the book and made the finishing touches on the photo.  All in all, it took about a month from the first photo request until the cover was finalized. It was surprisingly one of the fastest portions of the entire book writing process. The cover officially looks like this:






Make your own coconut oil.
Gather your own sea salt.
Grow your own grapevines for wreaths.
Give gifts naturally grown and crafted from your backyard garden.

Each chapter focuses on a plant or groups of plants and how to grow them in your home garden.  Then, gather up those natural ingredients and get crafting! From lavender wreaths and hypertufa planters to lambsear angels and pickled tomatoes, there are projects for beginners on up!

Crafting with Nature is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a MillionPOWELL's! (!!!!)  Booktopia (Australia!), IndieBoundAlibrisGlose.comThe Book Depository and Walmart.com.  Books are also rolling out to retailers and libraries, so check for them there. 
 If your library does NOT have it yet, this is why you should talk to your librarian!


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05 February 2016

Gathering Endorsements for a Book - A Lesson in Bravery

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I thought writing the book would be the hard part. I didn't realize that asking gardeners, crafters, artisans, writers, CEOs and flat out famous people would be the REALLY hard part. When I first signed the contract to write my book (Crafting With Nature!), the first thing I pictured was the book in hand -- how it would feel in my hands and how it would look on the shelves. I thought about the writing, the editing (I was scared!) and even the selling of the book. What I did not picture was reaching out to those who have inspired me and who have paved the way in the Home & Garden arena for writers, photographers and bloggers. I learned how to be brave real quick.

It was kind of like painting a room, on day 3. The first coat is done, the cutting in is complete, the rolling has been done and you just have to do this last part to make the paint job perfect. (I will take a second to stop here and say that I admit I HAVE stopped at this point painting a room when it should have had a second or third coat -- for shame! I know!) I could envision the end result, but breaking out the paintbrush (again) and laying out the drop-cloths (again) and cracking open the paint with the screwdriver (again) -- just seems like a lot.  It seems like a large weight to be carried and if you procrastinate, the weight becomes a bit heavier.  In painting your own house, sometimes you might just give up. When writing a book, the publishers will not allow you to. Endorsements must be had!

Thus, I sat and wrote and researched and looked up old emails and wrote and wrote and wrote.  My dearest friends wrote back immediately with words of sweetness and vicarious joy. I could have kissed them all.  Then...then. The waiting game began. Would the "big" authors write back? Nothing like waiting on an email to come in to throw you RIGHT back to 8th grade waiting beside a telephone for the boy to call or waiting for that college acceptance letter to GET HERE with results. The waiting is the true hard part. The phrase "quaking in your boots"  felt quite apt.

The wait only lasted a few days and then the endorsements started rolling in. I was shocked and grateful and OH so happy. I'll admit that there were some blurbs that came in that made me jump around the room a bit. Nothing like a little celebrity-fever to make you act like a child, eh?

Those moments of "quaking"? They were worth it. The endorsements are in and finalized and the publishers have determined which they will end up using on the book jacket. Today, I want to share them all with you because I am grateful to each and every idol, friend and colleague that deigned this book good enough to write something about. I am proud of writing a book, but I daresay I might be prouder of this group of people standing behind me in support.

“This book belongs in the collection of every self-respecting gardener or crafter who takes great pride in creating something special with their own hands!.” Barbara Corcoran – Star of ABC’s Shark Tank 

Crafting with Nature brings me back to my childhood and all of the natural products and remedies I used to make.  The crafts look beautiful yet easy to do, and the photography is gorgeous! I cannot wait to dig in with my children!   Truly inspiring.
In a world where everything is packaged and made for us, this book is a breath of fresh air that reconnects us to our roots and natural resources. It's about time...this is how nature intended us to use it." 

For anyone whose creative spirit longs to connect with nature and its endless possibilities, Amy Renea’s beautiful Crafting With Nature is richly illustrated and dense with detail. With clearly written instructions and practical tips, this book is an absolute treasure and complete delight. I, and many others I’m sure, look forward to many happy hours Crafting With Nature. 

After years of struggling with how to be a better gardener, I was delighted to find Amy’s blog and began to turn to her regularly for inspiration and guidance in how to transform my struggling patch of soil into a retreat brimming with lush plants and blooms. In fact, I relied on Amy so much, she even became a contributor for my own magazine. Now, Amy has poured all of her tried and true tips and expertise into this book which, for me, has become THE reference guide for how to maximize my efforts in being a better gardener and crafter. She has demystified the steps and processes involved in sourcing supplies - no matter if they are from your garden or grocer - and provided simple, step-by-step directions to create usable art. This is garden and craft alchemy at its best! There is no question that this book belongs on your bookshelf, the only real question, is what are you waiting for, and which project will you dig into first?! 
Jennifer Carrol - Founder of Celebrating Everyday Life

“This book takes ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’ to the next level of beautiful. Making fun from nature is a great way to live a little greener – a must have book for year-round crafting.” Shawna Coronado - Inspirational Speaker and author of Grow a Living Wall

"Crafting with Nature is an invaluable source of inspiration and information for anyone passionate about creativity."

Melissa Riker of The Happier Homemaker

"In a world gone plastic, Amy's practical step-by-step tutorials and stunning photos bring out my desire to get my hands dirty and make something beautiful again." Carrie Higgins of Making Lemonade

​“Reading the tutorials in this book can help inspire and enable gardeners and crafters alike to use their plants in new and creative ways”  Ball Horticultural
“Pinterest comes to your backyard in this nature-inspired workbook full of beautiful handmade items.  This book is a must-read for the creative folks who don't mind getting their hands dirty.” -Beth Bryan of UnskinnyBoppy.com

“So many people fail to USE the plants in their garden. Plants are so much more that just a bunch of pretty petals. Amy's crafty garden tutorials will help you discover a whole new layer of appreciation and pride in your garden.”
Rochelle Greayer - Founder of Pith + Vigor Quarterly and Author of Cultivating Garden Style

“The projects and photos in this book are so engaging! Crafting guru Amy Renea shows you how to make unique gifts you've never seen before."

"For the ornamental or edible gardener, curious forager, and enthusiastic crafter, Amy's book is an eclectic collection of fun, easy-to-follow projects using natural elements. She gives thorough recipes for things like creating your own fairy garden, canning your own jam, handcrafting holiday or everyday wreaths, and even making coconut oil at home from fresh coconuts! Interspersed with the crafts are tutorials for cement molding, wood burning, and growing your own ingredients (such as citrus and beets) — good skills to know for your own projects."
— Linda Ly, creator of Garden Betty and author of The CSA Cookbook

"As someone who grows lots of herbs and flowers, loves crafts and making natural products for my home, this book speaks volumes to me. What better way to be crafty than by collecting or growing the materials yourself? Amy has written a winner!"
Lisa Steele - Author of Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy Healthy Chickens and Fresh Eggs Daily

“A great read for anyone who wants to take their DIY projects to the next level. The book offers creative and practical uses for your garden bounty” Zapwater Communications​

"Amy is top-notch in the world of gardening and turning those lovely garden offerings into amazing crafts is just icing on the cake!  This book will forever change the way you look at gardening and will inspire you to try new things.  Spread your wings and fly into the garden of Crafting With Nature!"  - Jill Flory of Sew a Fine Seam

"Crafting with Nature is perfect for beginner or seasoned crafters who not only enjoy the outdoors, but wish to incorporate natural elements into their crafting.  From gifts to recipes to personal DIYs, Amy helps us recognize the supplies Mother Nature provides right in our back yard!"Julie Fiato of Redhead Can Decorate

“A must-read for anyone who wants to bring nature inside and create all-natural products to keep their family healthy.”
 –Stacey Pierson,Garden Media Group

"There's nothing like being able to make a project all the way from start to finish, including the materials! With the help of this book, you can do just that, creating masterpieces from things you've grown yourself or gathered from their natural source. It's a must-have for crafters of all ages." Amy Latta of One Artsy Mama
​"Crafting With Nature is the book I pull out for Saturday afternoons with my children. I love the practical knowledge, time immersed in nature, and the enjoyment we can get out of it. Thanks to Amy for such a fun way to learn about our world!"Janel Hutton of NellieBellie



Make your own coconut oil.
Gather your own sea salt.
Grow your own grapevines for wreaths.
Give gifts naturally grown and crafted from your backyard garden.

Each chapter focuses on a plant or groups of plants and how to grow them in your home garden.  Then, gather up those natural ingredients and get crafting! From lavender wreaths and hypertufa planters to lambsear angels and pickled tomatoes, there are projects for beginners on up!

Crafting with Nature is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a MillionPOWELL's! (!!!!)  Booktopia (Australia!), IndieBoundAlibrisGlose.comThe Book Depository and Walmart.com.  Books are also rolling out to retailers and libraries, so check for them there. 
 If your library does NOT have it yet, this is why you should talk to your librarian!



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