27Jan

A little bit of Ivy…

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I am an animal lover. Like the crazy kind that chases dog walkers down the street, so I can pet their dog. I would break my television before I would watch another Sarah Mclachlan commercial. I cry at animal videos, happy and sad. And sometimes I cry about injured animals completely out of the blue. It’s awful, but it is something I want to turn into a positive at some point this year, whether it is through volunteering or dog walking.

Knowing that, you can imagine my love for my own animals and how sad I am to be traveling on Ivy’s sixth birthday. She is an adorable corgi with an abundance of energy and a bark you can hear down the street. She will fetch a ball until she cannot physically move and she loves, loves, LOVES to cuddle. She lays at the end of the bed to protect us every night and hates to have her feet tickled. She loves playing under a blanket and enjoys my midday dance parties. 

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We got her nearly six years ago when we had our other dog, Clover. Clover is a corgi mix we rescued from a shelter. She is a sweetheart, but from the beginning we could see the difference in the two dogs. Clover was a ball on my lap on the way home. Ivy barked the entire way. Clover was a bully with her toys. Ivy was timid and scared. After two years together, they started to not get along. It was heartbreaking. After more than a year of vicious fights, terrible bites (both the dogs and us), numerous vet bills and even a dog whisperer, we had to separate the two.

I have been against getting animals and giving up on them for as long as I can remember. This tore me apart. Fortunately, Clover adored my angel of a mother, who graciously took her in. After a week or so of tears and lots of anger towards Dave, I came around. Visiting her now, I see how happy she is and Ivy is much happier being the alpha dog.

Right now, I work half at home and half on the road, so I have the privilege of being home with Ivy most days. She has gotten me through some bad times with a cuddle and lots of licks, so because I am missing her birthday, I thought I would make her some pumpkin peanut butter dog treatsIMG_6722 (1)

The recipe was only four ingredients, whole wheat flour, eggs, pumpkin and peanut butter. It was super simple, which I like. Mix, roll, cut and bake. I didn’t have any fancy cookie cutters, so I used an empty pill bottle to make circles. This recipe made a lot of treats, and I swear she knew I was making something special for her. Happy Birthday, Ivy. Thanks for all the smiles. 

26Jan

A little bit of flowers…

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 8.10.16 AMOne of my favorite things to make are felt flowers. If you’ve never searched how to do this, let me tell you, you can make pretty much any flower. Some of them are so intricate and just plain gorgeousI had made the flower box shown at the top of the page for a craft festival I was in last fall. It actually went to a friend from high school for her little girl’s room. How special is that?

I loved the design, so I left the item up for sale in my Etsy shop. When I received the second order, I decided to share how I made it. This order was a custom order for a blue and green flower. I actually had the wooden shadow box sitting around. Dave had made this last year out of pallets, but a quick search online shows me you can buy them a lot of places. You don’t have to put the flowers in a box. If you start to click some of these links, you’ll see other options, like wreaths, headbands, etc. 

IMG_6403To make flowers, you need felt (how much depends on size/type of flower), a hot glue gun, scissors and patience. Once you realize how simple these flowers can be, I think you’ll be addicted too. For this specific flower, I started with a blue felt. You need to make a base circle for the petals to stick to. I have noticed that a lot of sites get specific with petal counts and that never seems to work for me. Basically, you need to make enough petals to fill the circle.

IMG_6404The second layer of petals is a light green. Pay close attention to the shape of these petals. They aren’t circles, but more of a, well, a petal shape. Once you have enough for the second layer, you glue them on top. You do the same thing with the top layer, or in this instance, the light blue layer.

IMG_6406The center can be whatever you want. I have use balls of felt. I have used buttons. It really depends what kind of look you’re going for. For this specific flower, I took two circles and cut slits in them. If you zoom in a little on the finished product, you can see, they are just kinda smashed together and glued into the center. The slits give it more texture.

IMG_6408I have one gripe about this flower. I had the blue felt leftover from previous projects. It is a softer felt. The other two colors came in a pack I bought at Target. It’s really thick. I would not recommend getting this felt for making flowers because it is difficult to work with. The end product turned out well, but the petals were hard to shape.

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And that’s it. For this shadow box, I stapled burlap to the back and glued the flower in the middle. This simple design can go on a wall or be set in your home. Happy flower making!

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25Jan

A little bit of social media…

kaboompics.com_Chalkboard- Social MediaI will be the first to admit that I am addicted to social media. I love the different ways it is used, from news to sports, from celebrities to cooking, from crafting to a bevy of perverted jokes. You can find me on pretty much all of it. I even signed up for ello and Peach for a brief moment in time.

I use Instagram personally and to share my crafts. I keep up with friends and family on Facebook. I also use Facebook to promote my crafts, but honestly I haven’t had a lot of luck there because the site’s organic reach basically sucks. I have high hopes for 2016 as the company promises greater visibility for businesses. (Clearly not a good subject.) I am also on Snapchat and Pinterest and Linkedin and the list goes on and on.

Twitter is definitely my go to when it comes to social media. I love the funny side of it, and I love the business side of it. I know a lot of people don’t “get” it, so I wanted to share some of my favorite accounts in hope that maybe some of you will jump on the bandwagon. (Keep in mind that most of these are Pittsburgh-related accounts because duh.)

If you love Pittsburgh as much as I do, you will enjoy following Dave DiCello. His gorgeous photos of Pittsburgh are on my timeline every morning. The different angles from which he captures the city are amazing. It reminds me how beautiful it is here. 

You’ve probably seen this next guy on your television or maybe out and about in town. Scott Harbaugh, weekday morning meteorologist for Severe Weather Team 11 and PCNC, is an awesome example of how to use Twitter. He tweets weather, right? Seems easy enough. But it’s how he interacts with everyone that always amazes me. From the teenagers harping on him about school delays and closings to the trolls harassing him about forecasts

If you are from Pittsburgh, I’m assuming you’ve heard of PittGirl (aka Virginia Montanez). If you don’t, she was an anonymous blogger for The BurghBlog.com before someone revealed her identity. She was then fired from her job because maybe everyone didn’t agree with what she was blogging, which lead to her starting a new site ThatsChurch.com. I got to hear her speak at Social Media Day Pittsburgh in 2014 and her story is amazing. Plus she supports my favorite city, Pittsburgh.

Now let me digress. There are obviously a ton of different news sources you can follow, both locally and nationally. And they’re all great, but let’s be honest, these days news is a little bit depressing. BuzzFeed is a social news and entertainment company and I am probably correct when I say that we have all clicked on one of their links. It’s like you can’t help it, they suck you in. And their tweets are the same way. I mean, who wouldn’t want to look at  19 photos of dogs being adorable during the blizzard”? 

And last but not least, there’s the “other side” of Twitter. I will not tell you where to find me there because somethings are better left unsaid. But if you like silly comedy, this is where you need to be. David Hughes is my go to account when I need a laugh. His collection of Winnie the Bear tweets kills me. Another account that always makes me laugh is Keet plus how cute is that avi?! Jason Lastname never fails to make me giggle, and I don’t know if that is him in that picture, but check out that beard. And last but not least, Pigeon Cop. He has a way of making me not hate birds so much. I don’t know any of these people personally, but I get to enjoy their humor for free every day. And, if they’d like to be friends, well…

So, there you have it. A very small collection of what I like to read on Twitter. If you’re already on there and want to find me, you can do so here. If you are nice, I might even let you see my other account.

19Jan

A little bit of sparkle…

FullSizeRenderToday was a bit sparkly…literally. My niece, Liz, requested a canvas painting that was a bit different from my normal style, and it turned out really pretty. My family loves hunting. They wear camo. Their walls are adorned with deer heads, among other stuffed animals. I am basically “the princess that moved to the city,” but I can respect a different style. 

Liz wanted a black and white striped canvas board with a glittery buck. The concept was easy enough, but I struggled a lot with the white and black stripes. After one failed attempt, I went to Google and searched how to paint straight stripes. The results were upsetting, but also humorous, i.e. draw two dots and connect them, don’t take your eyes off them, don’t look away. Ridiculous.

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I ended up just trying my best. This is always my go to motto with crafts. I put painters tape on the canvas board and I think it turned out pretty straight. The next step was to paint the black stripes. I use acrylic paints because I have them for painting wine glasses. Painting on canvas is kind of awesome. It dries super fast, which allows for multiple coats in one sitting. The black stripes were painted on and now my painting resembled a famous dress from 2015 (well, to some of you). 

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While the paint was drying, I used my Silhouette CAMEO to create a stencil. I use adhesive vinyl that I found on Amazon. I typically use the Silhouette adhesive vinyl, but I was trying to save some money, and honestly this stuff worked really well.

I purchased a design I found in the Silhouette store. If you’re not familiar with the machine, it cuts out any stencil pattern you put into the program. It does a bunch of other stuff too, but I haven’t played around with it enough to know it all. I struggled at first with the adhesive vinyl sticking to everything, but trust me, you slowly get better.

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Once the vinyl was attached to the canvas, it was time to make this thing sparkle. I used Elmer’s glue and just kind of spread it around in the inside of the stencil.

IMG_6598I worked fast so it wouldn’t dry and then I piled on the glitter. This took me back to my childhood. I used to love adding glitter to crafts. I went a little overboard with the glitter because I wanted to give it a thicker look. I wasn’t sure what I was going to uncover when I dumped off the excess glitter, but the end product was gorgeous and exactly what Liz ordered.

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18Jan

A little bit of pasta…

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Most of the recipes I make come from Pinterest or blogs I find online. I like to read what others say about the recipe, how they made it better and what they would change next time. I haven’t been cooking for long, so I need all the help I can get.

I didn’t start cooking until last year. Sure, I had made the occasional pasta dish here and there or a dip for a Steelers party, but I hated being in the kitchen. I still remember the first time I cooked for Dave. I made spaghetti and meatballs. The meatballs tasted like balls of clay. He ate them, which was so incredibly sweet. To say I was a bit traumatized by the whole thing is an understatement. I have yet to attempt making meatballs again.

I am known among my friends for hosting Fauxgiving, an annual Thanksgiving dinner that has become my favorite holiday with friends. Sounds like a lot of work, right? Not if you get your husband to make the turkey and stick everyone else with the sides. Not many people can get away with hosting a dinner party and not actually cooking.

IMG_6580Tonight’s dinner was something new. I was at the grocery store the other day and forgot to pull a list together, so I decided to pick a recipe on the side of a pasta box. I went with Mezze Penne, which basically looked like smaller penne noodles. I love Brussels sprouts and lighter pasta dishes with oil-based sauce. The recipe was simple. As you can see, you cook the sprouts and pasta. Once the sprouts are thoroughly cooked, you brown them in a skillet with sage. I didn’t have sage, but after a quick search online, I found you could substitute poultry seasoning. Oh, the joys of the Internet! After the sprouts are brown, you add in the tomatoes until tender and then mix everything together.

This dish calls for parmesan cheese on top, but when the meal was close to being done, I decided that was not enough cheese. You will learn that I eat A LOT of cheese. I found ricotta in the fridge and stirred in about a cup. The result was perfect. I also added meatballs (frozen, of course) because a meal without meat is basically a sin to Dave. I served it with garlic bread and VOILA! a simple 30-minute meal.

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16Jan

A little bit of art therapy…

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I assume when people picture someone painting, they picture someone sitting at an easel, staring out at the sea. Their brush is painting a blueish gray sky. They are cool, calm and collected. They are in the moment. Not a care in the world.

Let me first say that I enjoy painting. I love adding color to things that were previously dull. I love the feeling of finishing a piece of work whether its a wineglass or a sign or a painted picture. I love that after struggling with anxiety most of my life, I have found a way to release that energy. What I don’t love is when I have off days. Today was one of those days.

I know every job, skill, whatever you want to call it, has its ups and downs. I definitely went through that in the corporate world. In the end, it was more downs than ups. But this is a different feeling. Every morning my mind tends to race with ideas of what I will accomplish that day and when the end of the day comes and I have nothing to show but a full trash can, I stress out. I started to do some “research” on this and found out I’m not alone. In fact, it gets worse. In a TODAY Moms survey of 7,000 U.S. mothers, 42 percent said that they sometimes suffer from Pinterest stress – the worry that they’re not crafty or creative enough. Wow. I am not a mother, but seriously is this what we are doing to each other?

I really think that we can suck the fun out of anything these days, so I am reminding myself now why I got into crafting in the first place. Art is supposed to be fun and a way to express yourself. There is a reason why six of the current top 20 bestselling books on Amazon are adult coloring books.  Through the repetitive motions of creating something, you shut off your mind like in meditation. And it doesn’t stop there, the reward of seeing what you created gives you more warm and fuzzies AND you get the satisfaction of knowing that you have the ability to finish something on your own.

Moving forward, I am going to try to not be as hard on myself when it comes to these off days. And I encourage all of you to pick up a coloring book or paintbrush or knitting needles. Give your mind a break.

15Jan

A little bit of meal delivery…

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You might have heard of this new trend called meal-kit subscriptions. If you haven’t, basically you sign up, customize your settings and boxes of ingredients are sent to your house. From Blue Apron to HelloFresh to Plated, there are several options to choose from.

When I had first started to dive into cooking, I decided I wanted to try this. I felt, like most of you I’m sure, that I was at the grocery store every damn day. I went with HelloFresh mainly because I saw a Cyber Monday deal that was basically half the cost. I went with the vegetarian option because I really don’t eat a lot of meat and I figured that I could just add meat to the meal for Dave. I thought I had this all figured out.

My first shipment came in the middle of December. This was my first mistake. Who has time to do anything in December? Between working and shopping and traveling to see family, we were hardly home. The boxes of ingredients, which did stay fresh way longer than I anticipated, piled up in my fridge. Those things are not small and I hate clutter more than anything, so this simple meal solution started to stress me out.

My second mistake was taking the vegetarian route. Apparently 75 percent of vegetarian meals (you will learn I make up statistics as I see fit) involve one of my least favorite foods, squash. And again, I could see this all online. I just didn’t look close enough. So, now I am stuck with these squashy meals and zero space in my refrigerator.

And, of course, my third mistake was not canceling my subscription. We’ve all been there, right? The meals kept coming through Christmas and New Years. And let me tell you, nobody is trying to eat squash on New Years day while battling a hangover.

I have since cancelled my subscription, and I am really not trying to bash the service at all. All in all it was my own fault, and in the end I realized I like to plan my own meals and eat what I am hungry for that day. I just want to know you have tried and was your experience better?

11Jan

A little bit about me…


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I had planned on launching my blog on the first of the year, but if you know me, you know I am always a little late. Anyway, hello and welcome. I guess I will begin by telling you a little bit about myself. I am currently 34 years old and living in Pittsburgh with my husband, Dave, and our three animals, Ivy the corgi, Pixie the cat and Flash the tortoise. An interesting lineup, I agree.

At the end of 2015, I had quit a job at a business paper in Pittsburgh. I had been there for 10 years and it was just my time to go. I knew there were other things I wanted to do with my life and leaving the company let me explore these options.

I started painting wine glasses a couple years back just for fun and realized I loved it and actually wasn’t too shabby at it. At the end of last year, I decided to take the next step and try to make some money from this hobby. And so, Bows and Branches was started. I went from strictly wine glasses to other home decor, such as pallet signs, wreaths and other various items.  In addition to my craft business, I am currently working for Social Minded Media Group and Southern Wines and Spirits. I am a little bit all over the place and I absolutely love it!

I also figured out something new about myself in 2015, I love to cook. This is something that has helped me remain calm throughout a hectic year and has made Dave very happy. Most of the recipes I make I find on Pinterest or blogs just like this.

Now here we are in 2016, a sparkly new year, and I want to share all these new experiences. I read a lot of online reviews and blogs and I have to laugh sometimes at the amount of perfection I see. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past year, it is that I am never going to be perfect at everything I do and I feel like others can relate to this. I have learned to laugh at myself, whether its burning yet another meal or getting stuck in my first knitting project (like literally stuck!).

This blog will basically be my own attempt at organizing my life, thoughts and experiences into one place. I look forward to sharing with you.

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