Friday, November 16, 2012

photo friday: baby's first punk show

Autumn drew a picture of our friends' punk band while watching them perform.
I know, I know I've been a very bad blogger. I haven't updated in two months! Go ahead and slap me on the wrists. I have so much to share from Autumn's birthday, Halloween, my first craft booth! I am going to post about all of those things in the coming days and then get back to posting more regularly. I promise!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

free printable: setting goals

These days it seems that I am constantly busy with one creative project after another. Between my Etsy shop, planning Autumn's birthday party, and some commissioned artwork, keeping myself on track can be a real challenge. When I saw Cornflower Blue Studio's Post-It goal list, I was inspired. I often scribble on Post-It notes to remind myself of things I need to do each day, and this is a perfect way to organize them. 

I decided to make my own version just for tracking my creative projects, and I'm sharing it with my readers because so many of you are awesome crafty peeps too. 

There are spaces for five different notes, and each time you accomplish one you can peel it off to reveal some words of encouragement to keep you moving. To download, click for the full sized image and save to your computer, then print on a sheet of 8.5" x 11" cardstock. Hang in your craft room or studio and get motivated!

Friday, September 14, 2012


Another year, another birthday! No matter how old I get, I still get excited about birthdays. What's not to like? It's the one day of the year that I get to be the center of attention without trying! I get presents and cake! I love presents and cake! I celebrated early last weekend with good food and my cute boy. We took a walk in the rain around historic Ellicott City, one of my favorite places to be, followed by dinner at The Rumor Mill, an amazing fusion restaurant in a turn-of-the-century building off of Main Street. It's our go-to place for special occasions.

 I saw strawberry beer on their drink menu and I had to try it. When I poured it into my glass I squealed when I realized it was PINK! How fabulous is that? It was definitely the girliest beer I've ever had. Perfect for sipping while wearing a frilly dress and mary jane shoes.

 The food was spectacular as always. See that pile of fried something up there with sauce on it? Yeah, that's an avocado. A curry tempura fried avocado stuffed with jumbo lump crab meat and drizzled with preserved lemon aioli. Stop drooling. You'll ruin your keyboard and I don't think your warranty covers it.

 Dessert consisted of chocolates from a local candy shop. I saw a sign in the window for "Old Bay chocolate crabs" and had to go in. They did, in fact, have molded chocolate crabs with Old Bay seasoning mixed in. How very Maryland! Sounds crazy, but they are delicious. If you've ever had chocolate covered bacon, it's sort of like that. Sweet, salty and smoky, with a hint of spice. Yum.

I cherish these dates with the man I love. We slow down, we indulge, we laugh, we take time to enjoy the things we often take for granted about each other's company in the day-to-day busyness of our lives. It's the best birthday gift he could give me.

P.S. SQUIRREL UPDATE: We ended up taking the babies to Frisky's Wildife and Primate Sanctuary in Woodstock. It's a sprawling animal rescue run by a compassionate and savvy woman who has been saving wildlife and exotic pets since the 70s. I trust that they are in capable hands and they will grow up to be healthy, strong little squirrelies.

Friday, September 7, 2012

photo friday: attack of the monster cuke from outer space

From Jude's garden. Seriously the most humongous cucumber I've ever seen! Imagine the tea sandwiches.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

a box of squirrels (or: seriously the cutest thing that has ever happened to me, ever)

So I was walking Autumn home from school today, and stopped suddenly at the sight of this little guy.

He was sitting very still in the grass. While I inched closer to see if he was alive, Autumn said, "There's another one!" I turned around and sure enough, there was a second baby squirrel lying on the ground about ten feet away. The first one started moving, taking a few shaky steps toward the sound of our voices. His eyes were firmly shut, but he tried to follow the sounds he was hearing. He made pitiful squeaking and chattering noises as he felt around on the ground. The second one was curled up in a little ball. At first I was sure he was dead, but he stretched his legs and writhed around when I got closer.

I called Jude to come and bring us a shoebox to put them in, and while we were waiting for him, a third baby appeared! He was stumbling around the base of the tree we think they may have fallen from. After calling the DNR and a couple of nature centers, all of which were closed for the day, we left a message with a local wildlife rescue recommended by my vet. 

An hour later a woman from the rescue called and told us to leave the babies near the tree until sundown to see if the mother came back, and to take them indoors if she didn't. Mom never came, so now we've got a box of squirrels! These things always happen to me. For real. If I had a dollar for every stray or abandoned animal I've taken under my wing, I would have a lot of dollars. From dogs to mice, I am a magnet for lost furry things. I did not ask for this superpower. It just happened to me. 

While I am tempted to train the squirrels to sing and clean my house like Snow White, we are taking them to the wildlife rescue tomorrow morning. In the meantime we are keeping them warm with some old towels and feeding them Pedialyte with an eye dropper, which is literally the cutest thing I have ever done in my life.

I don't know much about squirrel care, but we're doing what we can and I hope they'll survive the night and go on to live happy squirrely lives.

Monday, August 27, 2012

back to school

Today is the day! Third grade! I remember third grade as the grade when I started getting "real" homework assignments. It's all downhill from here, kid. Where has the summer gone?

Autumn was so excited to go back and see her friends and teachers. Look at that smile! Adorbs. This year she'll be in the Gifted and Talented reading class. I'm so proud of how hard she has worked to get there. I'm also feeling relieved that we have finally settled into a home where we can stay for the duration of her time in elementary school. She has had to switch schools twice in such a short time. Now she can put down some roots and make long term connections with other children here.

Now to enjoy the silence in my apartment with a cup of tea. Aaaaaah.

Friday, August 24, 2012

photo friday: zombie picnic

A behind-the-scenes shot from a promotional shoot we did with Jude for my Etsy shop. See the rest of the set on my Facebook page or at Tantalizing Enigma Photography.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

some good news


The last couple of weeks have been rough. With the passing of a friend, my hours being cut back significantly at work, and being sick for days, I've been feeling emotionally drained. There are times when I'm not sure how I'm going to get through the day. In searching for an outlet for my stress, a way to focus my energy, I've found comfort in creating. It's something I've been easing myself back into after a long creative rut, first with painting, and now with sewing again. Like catching up with an old friend, it feels natural and right. It warms my soul and calms my nerves. Because I've found such joy in rediscovering my passion, I am so very pleased to announce the reopening of my Etsy shop.

The shop will feature my classic zombies with a revamped design, new miniature and custom made dolls, accessories, and some of my art as well. It's been so long since I've sold my work that I'm quite nervous, but I'm really looking forward to coming back. The orphanage gates open on August 31st. In the meantime you can head over to my Facebook page for updates, photos, giveaways and more. See you at the end of the month!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Yesterday morning I received news of the death of a dear friend of mine. She and her infant daughter were killed in a car crash on Friday.

I met Amy ten years ago, when we were freshmen in high school in rural Pennsylvania. We became fast friends from the moment we met. Reading the goodbyes her friends have posted on her Facebook wall since Friday, that seems to be the case for everyone who loved her. Once you met her, you had to like her. She had an infectious giggle and the sweetest, softest voice. She was petite and impossibly gorgeous with long eyelashes and golden ringlets piled up on her head, like a teenage Shirley Temple. Her entire being, her whole existence, was bubbling with excitement over just being alive. A real live fairy walking among human beings. Sweetness and light.

I called her Sweet and Low. I gave her a piggy bank that I painted at one of those paint-your-own-pottery shops when I visited my mom over Christmas break. It said "California Vacation Fund". A couple of years ago she sent me a text message with a photo of it. She had kept it all this time. At her family's house we crawled into her attic with pillows and blankets, turned on a strand of string lights, and listened to John Lennon and Meatloaf. We walked to A&M Pizza after school and bought a large extra cheese that we took to the park and shared while taking turns on the tire swing and telling secrets. She cried with me when I did things with boys that I didn't want to do, when I thought I was pregnant the first time, when I found out I really was the second time. When we were done crying, she smiled and told me I would be a great mom.

After that I moved back to California to be with my mother. My grandparents couldn't handle the stress and the shame of raising a teen mom. Our lives began to move in different directions, but we always tried to keep in touch, and I always loved her. I don't even have many photographs of her. Just a couple of grainy snapshots I took at school one day with a disposable camera. We reunited at a birthday party a few years ago, and had been talking about trying to get together again this year. We would have talked for hours. Autumn would have played with her baby. We would have laughed and cried. Life got in the way.

Amy was good. So good. She did everything right. She wasn't a screwup like me. She worked hard. She fell in love with a great guy. She got married in a dream wedding on the beach. She had a baby girl, Ava. I remember she was just over the moon about becoming a mom. Motherhood was her magnum opus. It was her greatest joy.

People our age aren't supposed to die. Not ever, and especially not people as good as Amy. She was twenty four. Twenty four. She wasn't done yet. And her baby, too? It isn't fair. It. Isn't. Fair. At times like this I wish I still believed in something. I wish I could believe that she isn't just gone. That she is somewhere clean and bright and warm. That she is smiling that big smile at all of us now. I wish I could be comforted by those thoughts. As it is, I can only take comfort in the fact that, for a little while, I was lucky enough to call her my friend.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

local flavor

 Today we attended an annual summer barbeque at the Prigel Family Creamery, a local dairy store that sells delicious homemade ice cream along with milk, eggs and meat from a small family owned farm in Glen Arm. We sat picnic-style in the grass and enjoyed live music while the kids drew with chalk and ran through the sprinklers, followed by the consumption of quite a bit of ice cream.

 Is it me or does food just taste better when it's fresh and local? It just seems so much cleaner. The ice cream was pure and flavorful and so perfect in every flavor we tried; mint chocolate chip, chocolate peanut butter, and a flavor made from a trio of summer berries. All amazing.

Maryland is a state rich with small farms and artisanal foods like these, and I feel so lucky to live right in the middle of all of it. There are so many wonderful flavors and places to experience, especially in the summer time. I'm looking forward to finding as many of them as we can this year.

Friday, July 6, 2012

photo friday: making paper

Autumn and I took a paper making class at the Oregon Ridge Nature Center, where we learned how to dye recycled paper pulp with natural materials. This one is dyed with blueberries and strawberries. Bonus: it smelled delicious!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

fresh air

What better way to spend the summer solstice than with family at the sunny Outer Banks? We loaded up our cars with kids and dogs and headed to beautiful Kill Devil Hills for a week of sun and surf. This was our first proper, plan-ahead-save-up-money-and-take-time-off-work summer vacation in years, and I was so grateful for every minute of it.

The Outer Banks is a string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. It's a popular summer destination for many of us on the east coast. This was my first time there, and I instantly fell for its southern beach town charm. I spent a lot of time on beaches growing up in California. Last year we took an impromptu weekend trip to Ocean City, Maryland for the Fourth of July. I've gotten used to the crowds, the noise, the traffic, the hectic pace of a trip to a packed coastal city. But here? Here, it is quiet.

I loved stepping outside of our rented vacation home and just listening. Not to the sounds of racing cars, blasting stereos and crowds of tourists, but to the wind in the trees, the birds, and the distant sound of crashing waves. The air was salty and clean.

Instead of herding our family from one attraction to another, we took our time. No itinerary, just intuition. We moved in slow motion. We lazed around the house, in the pool, on the beach, and when the mood struck us we hopped in the car and drove until we found a new place to explore. My personal favorite was the Elizabethan Gardens on the island of Manteo.

Created in the 1950s and modeled after traditional Elizabethan pleasure gardens, this place transported me to another world. With its beautiful stone statues, centuries-old trees, carved fountains, and meandering paths, I felt like I had wandered into faerie land. Just look at this gate that leads straight from the garden to a beach on the sound side of the island! How magical!

With us on our trip were Jude's cousin's young daughters, who Autumn made fast friends with after meeting last summer. The three girls had a blast collecting shells at the beach, playing mini golf, and exploring the state aquarium. I just love watching the three of them together. They find so much joy in everything they do.

Being there made me realize the importance of taking a little time away from the stresses of everyday life and just breathing for a while. At home, stress is a daily challenge. I'm stressed about my job, about my bills, about parenting, about my personal relationships. I worry about being good enough, making enough money, finding time for everything I need to do. But for one week, I let go of all of that. I spent time with the people I love, did the things I love, and didn't worry about a single thing. I came home feeling refreshed, and ready to (reluctantly) return to the daily grind.

We went to so many fun and exciting places, but some of my favorite moments were the days when I woke up early and sat on the porch reading a book with a cup of coffee. We can't always just pack up and run away to the beach for a week (if only!), but whenever you find an opportunity for even the smallest break, take it. Have a cup of tea. Go for an evening walk. Spend time in your garden. Make a margarita on a Tuesday. Create something. The story we tell ourselves is that between work, housekeeping, kids and errands, there isn't any time to relax. But if we really look, we'll find that just about every day presents us with small opportunities to just sit and smile and be grateful.

Friday, May 25, 2012

photo friday: punk rock and tacos

One of my favorite local punk bands, Blinding Eye Dog, performing at Chapala in Burtonsville, MD.

Monday, May 21, 2012

the post in which xan got to frolic through the woods in a silly costume

May 12th brought us to the annual Maryland Faerie Festival, one of our favorite yearly events. My beau and I headed over to Camp Ramblewood with three little pixies (Autumn and two of her friends) in tow. The theme this year was "Goblins" so I put together a black and green ensemble complete with a handmade tulle bustle and a cockroach in my hair. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. My top and stockings matched my hair color perfectly, and my leather boots and bat wings really tied it all together. I love a well assembled costume. I may be 23, but I'll never grow out of playing dress up. I enjoy becoming a character for a day, and using the word "bustle".

The girls looked adorable in their outfits as well. Autumn surprised me this year by requesting a pink tutu and flower crown; probably the girliest things she has ever asked me to make. The sudden fear that my Tiny Small was outgrowing her tomboy phase was quickly quelled by her declaration that she is actually a dragon faerie, and that she can breathe fire. *phew*. As long as there is still fire breathing, we're safe.

Don't be fooled by her cuteness. She will straight up roast you.

After our troupe of fae danced around the Maypole and consumed an outlandish quantity of fried potatoes, we met up with some of the festival's regular cast of characters, including Sweetie the Unicorn...

 Wedgie the Goblin (surely the guest of honor this year!) who had a much larger cockroach than mine...


  and my friend Posie, who hosts marvelous tea parties for wee faerie folk. Pinkies up!

Two painted faces, one new hula hoop, several minutes of bongo drumming, a wild rumpus, a handful of baby goats, and an exhausting royal quest later, we had thoroughly explored the realm of Fae once again.

As always, we look forward to coming back next year!