Ahhhhh, finally. Does it feel like this every year?? The need for Spring? Even though we in the Pacific Northwest weren’t experiencing the worst winter ever, it’s what we saw on the weather report every evening, as our rain kept coming down and our 3 days of snow and ice rendered us housebound and nearly helpless. It’s time to break out with joyous screams of delight as we watch our flowers emerge from our soggy soil.
On my list of things to do in the next couple of months:
So until next time, Happy Spring!
If you need pillows I’m having a heck of a sale in my Etsy shop right now. The gray Wine Country pillow covers at $10! A great time to stock up for gifts! Many other markdowns too, including lower shipping prices! Check it out here.
Our brief fling with snow is in the past and we are left with our typical rainy days. It doesn’t slow us down much, but I always think of warm offerings for dinner. This soup fits the bill perfectly. A friend served it recently and it’s delicious. Italian Sausage and Pasta; a bit like minestrone. I think it was originally in Sunset magazine. For the link to the online recipe click here.
It’s one of those dishes where you probably have everything you need in your pantry and fridge. I made it as directed through step 2 then took about half and froze it for another time. When I’m ready to make it again I’ll just add the pasta and spinach and I’ll be all set. The link to the recipe is provided above but I’ll add the directions below for convenience.
Italian Sausage and Pasta Soup
· 2 pounds hot or mild Italian sausages (I used a pound of each and mixed them)
· 3 carrots (12 oz. total), peeled and chopped
· 1 onion (12 oz.), peeled and chopped
· 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
· 3 quarts fat-skimmed chicken broth
· 2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) diced tomatoes
· 2 cans (15 oz. each) cannellini (white) beans, rinsed and drained
· 1 tablespoon dried basil
· 2 cups dried large shell-shaped pasta
· 4 quarts spinach leaves (about 12 oz.), rinsed
· Salt and pepper
· About 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1. Squeeze sausages from casings into an 8- to 10-quart pan over high heat and stir often, breaking them apart with a spoon, until browned and crumbly, 8 to 10 minutes. Spoon out and discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from pan.
2. Add carrots, onion, and garlic; stir often until onion is limp, 5 to 7 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes (including juice), beans, and basil and bring to a boil.
3. Add pasta, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until pasta is just tender to bite, about 10 minutes. Skim and discard fat. Stir in spinach and cook just until it is wilted, about 30 seconds. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve soup from the pan, or pour into a tureen. Offer parmesan cheese to add to taste.
You can prepare soup through step 2 up to 1 day ahead, but do not bring mixture to a boil; instead, cool, cover, and chill. To reheat, lift off and discard fat; bring soup to a boil.
You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging much lately. Who knows why, perhaps I’ve run out of things to say, but anyway, I think I’ll take a break. I’m still loving Instagram and if you’d like to join me there, download the Instagram app and search: Janet Brown Studios. It’s a fun way to share pictures. I’d love to see yours too.
I'll leave you with a new favorite quote:
The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm. ~ Aldous Huxley~
I’ve been neglecting writing so have decided to play catch-up as I look outside to our little winter wonderland. Portland gets snow irregularly, but these last few days are making up for it.
Raleigh and I took a long walk this morning before it started snowing again. He’s an ‘only dog’ now that our funny little Harper has gone to live with his Mommy (my daughter) in California. My son and I drove him down in January and stayed a few days, enjoying the beautiful weather. Hard to believe that we could drive 500 miles in the middle of January and have nothing but blue skies both ways. We timed it perfectly!
I love fresh looking gardens in January. These Euphorbia have the greatest shape and color.
I’ve been catching up on my reading and cooking while holed up and a bit snowbound. This book (all 784 pages, although I’m reading it on Kindle), is the perfect book to really spend time on. Wonderful characters, set in New York City, and a small painting as a large part of the story. I’m not finished, so I’m hoping the snow stays a few more days.
So there you go, all caught up. Stay warm everyone!
I’m packin’ up and movin’ to Etsy. Yes, I’ve decided that Etsy and I need to explore our relationship and get to know one another on a more serious level. Therefore I have decided to work exclusively with the huge membership that is Etsy (yes 30 million people are Etsy members). They must know what they’re doing, right??
I’ll be offering all of my current pillow lines and will be adding new, often one of a kind pillows. Most often the pillows will be sold as covers only, but the inserts are always an option. My aim is to keep my prices very low so that if you want several pillows then that’s what you should have. You can choose to include an insert which will raise the shipping costs, or you can find a suitable insert after you receive your new pillow cover. I will always make pillows in standard sizes.
Buying pillow covers offers you more options. You can choose a down/feather fill or polyfill. You can also change your pillow covers as the season or mood sees fit. You don’t need a cupboard or closet to hold vast amounts of pillows. One shelf can afford plenty of space for stacks of bright, fun, festive, seasonal, pillow covers that you just swap in and out of your room decor.
So check out my little Etsy shop again. If you have questions or requests, don’t hesitate to ask. I still love doing custom pieces and will be happy to discuss any particulars. Join me in getting to know Etsy a little bit better. I think it could be the start of a beautiful relationship.
Click here to follow the link to Etsy (you might just be quite glad you did!)
Keep in touch via Instagram and Facebook (Janet Brown Studios). Every now and then I’ll add additional discounts or free shipping; maybe even a give-away! How about that?!!
After the holidays are over and every little decoration and treasure are put away I’m never quite ready to fill up every shelf, table and bookcase with more ‘things and stuff.’ I kind of like the minimalist look, for a little while at least. I think it reflects the cool, gray weather outside.
With everything emptied out it’s also an opportunity to change things up a bit. That’s what I did with a collection of sweet sake cups. I lined them up and filled them with things foraged from the yard. It was fun to wander with my clippers looking for a bit of life in a soggy winter garden.
The cups came to me housed in a beautiful ceramic bowl and I love how they look so tidy, ready for enjoying a glass of warm sake. Unfortunately, they seemed to get lost without a proper place to be showcased. I decided to bring them out in the open and set them on the mantle.
From the foraged bits and pieces I enjoyed picking and choosing little groupings to mix and match, for each cup. I always enjoy bringing a bit of the outside indoors. Herbs, ferns, twigs and evergreens, each tucked into their own individual little cup. It’s a fun change for the season.
Last year I was encouraged to find a word for the year. My word for 2013 was Forward, chosen for a variety of reasons that you can read about here. I loved my word choice and really truly thought about it often throughout 2013.
I found it the other day in the crossword puzzle . The answer to 43 down was Imagine. The clue: John Lennon classic. It’s funny how sometimes you just know when you’ve found exactly what you’re looking for.
Imagine has all sorts of sentiments about it and it’s the root of several other words. Imagination suggests creative ability and imaginative is defined as having a lively imagination. Imagism promises the expression of ideas and emotions through clear precise images. All intriguing.
I will keep my word close and think of it often to inspire me and encourage my mind to think of new ideas, look at things in different ways and to never be afraid of trying something new. I want my little pillow company to grow, and with imagination as my source of encouragement I feel ready to jump into the new year. Plus, what a great song, right??
I encourage everyone to consider choosing a word as inspiration for the coming year. Who knows what impact it might have on your life. Imagine the possibilities!
Happy New Year!!
It's the end of the year and I'm having a sale in my Etsy shop. 50% off of everything in the shop should allow you to pick out birthday presents, freshen up you rooms, be ready for the holidays next year with festive pillow decorations, and just get a really good deal on new pillows.
Only the pillows listed in the shop are available at 50% off and remember, on Etsy I don't offer the inserts. This is a quick sale, only good through the end of the year...and we know how very fast that's coming up. Be sure to use the code 2013SALE at checkout.
If you need a quick, portable little dessert that’s easy and makes a sweet presentation these little cupcakes might be just the ticket. I used a cake mix but you could make them with any favorite recipe. No need for a cupcake tin, these paper sleeves just sit on a cookie sheet to bake.
For frosting I chose to whip cream, adding a drop or two of peppermint oil. I crushed peppermint to sprinkle on top, and I had an easy dessert that was fun and enjoyed by everyone. I put our ice cream choices in the center of the table and let everyone pass the cartons and serve themselves.
Often the key to entertaining is a fun presentation of something quite simple.
When we were up in the mountains this fall, just the day before the first snow, I collected a bagful of pinecones, moss and a few sticks. I had big plans for an autumn wreath. I finally got around to it today, and although it’s long past autumn, I am so happy with the way it turned out.
I used a wire frame as the base and wound florist wire around the larger, curved cones to have something to glue the others to.
I just kept gluing and layering until I was happy with the balance. I tucked in the moss and lichen and added a couple of the sticks.
Click here to follow the link to our mountain visit.
We are scurrying around here at Janet’s House trying to get everything in place. My son is home from college and we’ve been last minute shopping instead of decorating. My daughter gets here Friday evening so we have two more days to finish decking our halls. I thought I’d take a minute to pass on a few fun finds I’ve found during our shopping sprees.
I love these salt shot glasses from The Meadow, one of my new favorite shops. Perfect for the tequila lover who thinks they have everything. They’re bored out of a solid piece of Himalayan salt and I think they’re just beautiful.
Air plants are perfect for someone who thinks they have a black thumb. An occasional dousing and they’re happy anywhere you set them…even in an old bed-spring display here at Boys Fort, another cool, downtown Portland shop. The shop bills themselves as Manthropology, a carefully curated collection for boys of all ages and those who love them.
If you still want to make something kind of crafty and natural, my recipe for spoon oil can be found here. Presented in a wooden spooned adorned jar and tied with a sprig of rosemary and a ribbon, you’ve got the gift someone will use again and again. It smells so good!
If you’re still looking for a Christmas cocktail, I think this Champagne Ginger one sounds perfect! Ginger infused vodka that you prepare the day before, then pour over chilled sparkling wine. It just sounds so Christmasy. I can’t wait to serve it; my vodka is already being infused with nice big slices of fresh ginger. For the recipe, click here.
Wishing everyone the Happiest of Holidays!
I’ve been cooking to keep warm. I can’t seem to get enough of the comfort foods when it’s so cold outside. I’ve also been trying to cook with what I have in the pantry and freezer so I am not running to the store so often .
I spotted this recipe for a simple Italian Jam Tart on the Food52 Website. I liked the sounds of it because I had everything I needed, except for the ice cream of course. The tart really is simple and the ingredients are what you already have on hand: butter, sugar, flour, almonds, and jam. Any jam will work, but I found some of my favorite fig jam in the fridge and it was delicious.
I also think this recipe would work in the summer using fresh smooshed up fruit. Raspberries and marionberries sound delectable. Until then, jam will have to do. It’s a great little recipe; easy, and it looks beautiful, baked in a fluted tart pan. I think it would make a great addition to any festive holiday event.
Follow the link to Food 52 and have a look around at everything else they have; not just recipes, but also wonderful products to fill your kitchen.
By the way, Salt and Straw Butter Roasted Chestnut ice cream was worth a trip to their shop, and in the frigid cold weather I didn't have to stand in the usual long lines. Win Win!
Since it’s officially Small Business Saturday, and I’m a small business, I’m offering a deal to anyone making a purchase from my Etsy site. I’ve filled it with pillow covers and am offering free shipping through December. Go here: Etsy and enter the word HOLIDAY13 in the coupon field at checkout.
Not every pillow I make is found on Etsy, but the ones that I’m offering are priced much lower that usual and with free shipping it’s win win all the way around. The covers fit a 20 X 20” insert.
So, if you need a gift for someone, or want to freshen up a room, or you think that those Christmas pillow covers I’ve featured before would be the perfect addition to your holiday decorating, stop by Etsy and see what I’ve got for you. Enjoy, and let the season begin!
Please excuse a bit of self promotion as I invite you to join me at a flash sale at the Joss and Main site tomorrow. Several of my wine pillows and my favorite linen 'Day in Paris' pillow are available at special prices. Perfect gifts and a great way to freshen your home for the holidays. Act quickly though, as holidays and sales are over in a flash! Find Joss and main here: Joss and Main
Oregon is well known for its cloudy, wet weather, but it rarely stops any of us from going outdoors. Last weekend we took a drive to the Oregon Wine Country and it couldn’t have been more beautiful. The colors were vibrant, the weather was mild and the wine was delicious.
Each winery is unique. The personalities show through the architecture, the wine labels, and the descriptions of each varietal. The tasting room staff are always knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their favorites.
There’s nothing quite like staying in a cabin in the woods. Our family has enjoyed the cabins at Odell Lake, high up in the Oregon Cascades for many years. We spent a week each summer and an occasional winter weekend, and watched the kids grow up loving it as much as we did. This weekend we took the two dogs and headed back up to the mountains for a mini vacation.
I love seeing the dogs so happy. It’s a bit more work to add dogs to a vacation. They were unsettled at first, trying to figure out what was going on, but as soon as we let them off leash, they knew they were in for a good time. Running and playing like little kids on a snow day.
Odell Lake Resort offers cabins as well as rooms at the lodge for year round rentals. From tiny one room cabins for 2 to large roomy cabins for families to share, there is something for any sized group.
There are many other campgrounds and resorts in Oregon and all over the Northwest. The current issue of Sunset Magazine offers a cover story on the West’s Best Cabins. Spending your vacation in a cabin is like the best of camping but with indoor plumbing and a cozy bed. You can enjoy the outdoors, hiking and exploring and then come inside for a hot shower and a good night sleep. Many cabins and small resorts allow dogs for a little extra cost.
If there’s any doubt about taking dogs, just look at our boys. Raleigh, the brown one is 9 years old but acts like a puppy when we head for the mountains. Harper is the younger one, and this was his first real vacation in the woods. He had a ball exploring the wonderful sights and smells. It's such fun to see their unabashed enthusiasm!
My sister has an awesome collection of Halloween decorations. Vintage and new, she blends them artfully around her home and office every autumn. She showed me a picture of a project and asked if I would make it for her. Sure! We stopped at the fabric store and picked out several wonderful Halloween prints, then figured out our triangles, placements and how big we wanted the finished product to be.
As we began trying to make our triangles we truly wished we had paid more attention in geometry class. Wait! Was there ever a geometry class in which to pay attention?? I’m afraid not. We knew there must be some sort of calculation but alas! We decided hands on was our way of getting this done, so I pulled out paper and muslin and we fiddled until we had long, tapered triangles that made us both happy. That’s they way I often end up doing math…fiddling until I get an answer that makes sense.
After that it was simply a matter of stitching the triangles, wrong sides together, leaving the top edge open, and turning. I decided to make them all the same length (20”) for two reasons: ease of cutting and placement. I later decided which ones I wanted shorter and gave them a trim (13”). I measured my base cloth (13” X 51”) to fit her tabletop. I cut two pieces, and with wrong sides together, stitched all around, leaving an opening for turning. I then laid it flat and positioned my triangles, overlapping, alternating and pinning until I was satisfied.
I think it can be anything you want it to be. Different sized triangles, strips of ribbon, long and short rectangles overlapping here and there. Use up scraps and keep an eye out for the perfect coordinating fabrics. I did think of making the back side plain autumn colors to then simply flip over for Thanksgiving decor…but that’s another project. I think our collaboration turned out quite nicely and compliments her wonderful collectibles.
What goes around comes around you know, and I couldn’t be happier than to see macramé coming back. It’s been a long, long time, and I know because the last time I did macramé I was probably listening to anything by Bob Dylan, Chicago or Elton John. I know it all dates me but I’m thinking this means I might have a head start on all things macramé.
For those of you unfamiliar with the art of macramé, it’s simply a series of knots. Cording of linen, cotton and jute are used to make wall hangings, plant hangers and hammocks. It’s somewhere in the same family as weaving and knitting. Different kinds of knots are used and the strings or cords are crossed, knotted, and crossed again to form patterns. The addition of beads enhanced the pattern and added depth and texture.
I found these two images on Remodelista and wouldn’t you know, the photos are taken at the Ace Hotel here in Portland. I love the contrast of the white cord against the dark gray wall. It’s very contemporary, not at all a flash back to the 70’s. I think that’s what works when a style or design comes back around; it’s never quite exactly the same. New and improved.
My own macramé that I could never quite get rid of. Not as grand but it holds some fun memories. I’ve dragged it to every house I’ve ever lived in. I’ve tied holy rocks and shells to the long strings. I added a dog license of a dog long gone and there’s even the POW bracelet I wore. Little pieces of my life woven into a wall hanging. There’s something nice about that. I guess it’s always about the journey with me.
I always enjoy curry, but there’s something about using vegetables that ripen in autumn that makes it all the more delicious. It feels heartier, warmer and is the perfect dish for a cool fall evening.
I gathered together an onion, yam, carrot, apple, corn, garlic and chanterelle mushrooms. I also planned on adding langostino, the little lobster like seafood. I chopped, cut and sliced everything and then got the pan sizzling with about two tablespoons of oil. I added a teaspoon of red curry paste and swirled it around for about two minutes and then added the garlic. As the aromas were released I added everything else (except the seafood), including a couple of tablespoons of stir fry sauce. I cooked it all for 2 more minutes and then added water. I added one cup and kept another available for adding later. I like my curry thick and didn’t want to water it down too much. I let it boil until the yam and carrots were fork tender. I then poured in 1 can of coconut milk and let the broth cook down for another 10 minutes. While it was doing that, I tossed the langostino in a separate hot pan to serve on top of the curry mix.
I love it when I'm in the mood to bake something and I have all the ingredients necessary. Of course other times, I look at my available ingredients and scan my recipes to see what will work. This little lemon tea cake comes from a family recipe book I was given so I don't know the original orgins of the recipe. It's a light fluffy little cake and would be just as good with a lemon glaze or served with fresh fruit. I've included the sauce from the recipe. I left out the nutmeg, cinnamon and wine, going with a lighter fruity compote.
½ cup unsalted butter-room temp.
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups sifted cake flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 325-degrees. Spray 8-inch square glass baking dish with nonstick spray and dust with flour. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in grated lemon peel, lemon juice and vanilla. Sift cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Mix dry ingredients into butter mixture alternately with sour cream.
Bake about 45 minutes. Cool cake on rack 10 minutes. Cut around sides of cake, turn out onto rack; turn cake over. Cool.
½ cup water,
½ cup dry red wine
1 ½ tablespoons corn starch
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Stir water, wine, cornstarch, and lemon juice in medium saucepan over medium heat until cornstarch dissolves and mixture boils. Add blueberries. Boil until sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Stir in spices. Cool.
Cut cake into triangles; arrange on plate, spoon sauce over top.
Honestly, I haven't forgotten to blog. My computer is broken and although that doesn't mean I can't use another one, it does mean that all my pictures are trapped in the vast darkness of the old one. I wanted to share this years tomato process and luckily one picture from the project was left on the camera. So here you go with that and a bit of catching up.
Last weekend I picked all the tomatoes that I'd been neglecting. I chopped them along with a couple of onions and 6-7 cloves of garlic. I tossed them all into my big roasting pan and slid them into the oven set at 300 degrees. Every couple of hours I'd stir and at some point I added chopped basil, oregano, salt and pepper. I really just let it cook for hours (like 6). When I had to heat the oven hotter to prepare dinner, I left the roaster in. Really I was just cooking it down, letting the moisture evaporate. In the evening I smooshed it a bit and let it cool before placing servings into bags and containers for the freezer. It was very easy and now we have several meals ready for whatever: Italian, Mexican, soups or sauces. It's like a starter - already to go.
I've also been sewing lots of pillows. I just sent off a big order to Wente Vineyards. The pillows are big (25" X 25") and will be used for lawn seating for the wonderful concerts they hold at the winery. Thank you Wente for using a small pillow making studio instead of outsourcing. I really appreciate it! They also chose several of the Wine Country pillows for their tasting room. Nice, huh?!
One of the other things that's been going on is a new Pinterest page for Janet Brown Studios. My lovely daughter has taken on this project and I think it looks wonderful. There's a new link to it over in the right column. Different from the blog Pinterest page that reflects my many interests, this one is more design and textile related. Lots of beautiful images she finds for inspiration and a great place to see the pillows in the variety of photo shoots I'm always setting up. Please check it out and follow along.
I should have a new computer soon. Our weather is gray and stormy, not much for taking pictures, but I was inspired the other day being surrounded by the grayness, with this picture...proving that gray can be a very nice color choice.
Inside or outside, wet or dry-Have a wonderful weekend everyone!
My sweet little pear tree produced three ripe pears. They were very heavy, weighing down the slender branches.
I picked my three pears
Took a quick picture of them
And within a couple of hours of picking made this wonderful Pear-Hazelnut Torte. The recipe comes from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison. It’s very delicious! If you find yourself with three pears, give it a try. The hazelnuts add an earthy, nutty flavor that makes this the perfect autumn dessert. Here’s the recipe:
3 tbsp. hazelnuts
2 tbsp. sugar
3 ripe pears, peeled, quartered and sliced
3/4 cup hazelnuts or hazelnut meal
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs, at room temp
1 tsp. vanilla
1. Lightly butter an 11" tart pan or a 9" springform pan. Roast all hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 15 minutes at 375F. Let cool and rub off skins. Pulse 3 tbsp. of hazelnuts with 2 tbsp. sugar until sand-textured.
2. Mix remaining 3/4 c. nuts in food processor with flour, salt and baking powder. Pulse until nuts are finely ground. If using hazelnut meal, mix with flour, salt and baking powder.
3. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add eggs and beat until smooth. Add vanilla, then dry mixture. Mix slowly until combined. Scrape into buttered pan and smooth out; arrange pears on top. Sprinkle with ground nuts and sugar. Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes until risen and browned. If you're using a tart pan, bake 45-55 minutes in a springform. Let cool briefly, then remove the rim.
I’ve been quite neglectful of things lately. Not just the blog, but the garden and pretty much any other craft project I may have wanted to start (or finish). The process of growing a business has changed tremendously since the last time I set out to sell my wares. I spend my days not only designing and sewing, but emailing, Instagraming, Facebooking and photographing. Its still fun, learning as I go, and learn I do. I am “hashtaging” and “liking” and wondering all the time what I am doing right and where I can learn to do better. Sometimes though, I long for the simplicity of the good old days.
Way back when, I made hundreds and hundreds of teddy bears. I designed bears with moveable joints and I sold them in many shops throughout the country. I had the help of lots of friends, family and everyone was helpful, supportive and pointed me in all different directions to ensure my success. I laugh when I think of my mother and I loading up my van with baskets full of teddy bears and driving up and down the coast stopping in at shops and boutiques. We’d walk in with a basket loaded up with bears and the owner of the shop was always there and would oohhh and ahhhh and buy whatever we showed her. At each stop we’d try to squeeze a few more bears into our armloads to ensure greater success.
Prior to that I did woven wall hangings. I sold them at art shows and shops in town and even scored a gallery showing of my work. Similar to the teddy bears, all of my marketing was done by meeting shopkeepers and gallery owners in person. I’d head out to my favorite shops and meet with the people who would buy them from me to hang and sell in their shop. Each shopkeeper would simply write me a check and I’d be on my way, happy, confident and $$$ in my pocket.
My, how times have changed. These days I use social media in its various forms to introduce myself, show photos of my work and continually attempt to have my product seen by all the right people. I make contact not with the shop owners but with the marketing managers and assistant managers to the buyers. I send emails with jpeg photos attached and hope I’m reaching out to the right person and wait to hear back from them. I get purchase orders and send invoices. Meetings are done via phone and email and often there’s no reason to meet in person. More often than not, after attempting to show them my pillows, I never hear from them. People are busy and my email gets lost in their inbox and slips away. Like I said, times have changed!
Because of the internet we have the world at our fingertips and we are able to be the webmaster, photographer, marketer, besides being the actual maker. There are parts of it that I love, like the design and the photography, but other aspects are more grueling; I can’t be good at everything. It might seem that with all of the options of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more, the variety of ways to be seen by all of the right people would be vastly improved. I’m not sure, but there are certainly more ways for us creative types to share our work. I assume anyone in a buying position is inundated with hundreds of photos and line sheets every time they open their email. For me…I still miss driving with my mom with that van full of teddy bears. I loved that person-to–person contact and the enthusiasm of the shopkeepers. They offered insight, ideas, suggestions and most importantly of all, they bolstered my confidence that I was definitely on the right tract. I’ll keep at it, but still I occasionally long for the good old days!
Last night was my turn to host our book club. I was pleased that the weather was holding and we could enjoy our dinner on the deck. Thunderstorms were predicted later in the night and the prediction proved true, sometime around 2am.
As nice as it was to enjoy our time outdoors, my hanging baskets were looking a bit tired after a long warm summer; not too many blooms left. I decided as long as we had several recent birthdays in our group, I would plan accordingly. I got a small bag of primary colored balloons and a handful of simple garden stakes. I blew up the balloons, tied, and wrapped them around the sticks. I then simply stuck the sticks here and there in the hanging baskets and the pots on the deck. It was festive, colorful and added just the right touch. A colorful tablecloth and a small bouquet of roses and we were set.
Chocolate cake for dessert of course.
Oh, and the book?? Life After Life: A Novel by Kate Atkinson. A super thumbs up all the way around!
Recently a friend was asking if I’d heard of Zen doodling. I hadn’t, but wanted to know more about it. She said it was used as a form of relaxation and that the simple doodles that we do on the back of an envelope while talking on the phone are kind of the base idea. Simple circles, loops, dots and curlicues, one upon another. I realized that the more she explained it to me, the more it sounded like a design I’ve been working on.
I came home and looked up Zen doodling. From a book by Carolyn Scarce on Amazon it’s explained: The simple repetitive nature of drawing patterns is spiritually rewarding and can boost creative confidence. Zen doodling doesn’t require any artistic training, and there’s no need for special tools or equipment, just a pen and a scrap of paper.
My design has been growing over the last few weeks. My first attempt was less fully formed but it inspired me to try it again. I admit it’s addictive and fun to keep adding little details like dots and circles. Simple dots can act as shadows and shading to parts of the design and repeating details adds to the flow of the larger doodle.
I find it so appealing because such simple little doodles become quite grand when they all come together. I keep the pad of paper nearby and get lost in lines and circles as my design grows. Sometimes I sketch the basics with pencil but all the embellishments are free form. I hope soon to add one to my pillow designs. I am imagining having it printed in red on white fabric for Christmas or maybe indigo. I love blue and white.
Give it a try. I think you’ll be surprised at what you didn’t know you could do.
Pillows are bulky. That said, I needed a better storage solution for the inserts and completed pillows. Another requirement was that whatever storage solution I arrived at, must look good, hopefully be portable, and accommodate a large amount of finished product. Not everyone has my storage needs, but I thought I’d show you what I came up with, because you never know what inspiration might be sparked. Sometimes one persons idea becomes another's solution for an entirely different need.
I got my inspiration when my friend at Four Corners Design directed me to the link where her sweet basket was featured on the Creature Comforts Blog. Click here for the link. Along with Amy’s basket was a laundry hamper made from wire fencing. That was it! I knew it was exactly what I needed to hold my pillow inserts in the studio and later hold lots and lots of colorful pillows for a show I’m doing this fall.
I didn’t want to line the basket because I want the pillows to show, but I didn’t want to worry about snags, so I used muslin strips to encase all rough edges, including around the top. Now when I arrive at a show, I can wheel my pillows right in, and people can dig through and pick out their favorites.
Here’s a few photos to guide you if you’d like to make something similar.
It helps to have a handy husband who thought to make a little compass-like attachment. He screwed the piece loosely into the plywood so that it acted like a guide as he used his router to cut out the circle.
See how the router is able to swing around and cut the perfect circle.
Once the circle was cut, I wrapped one side with muslin and stapled it to the underside.
Using wire fencing, we measured by curving the wire frame around our wood base then clipping the fencing and attached it to its other side. Lots of twisting and pinching with needle nosed pliers to keep it as flat as possible.
Before attaching the cage/basket to the base, we screwed in casters. We chose to use two locking casters and two regular. Make sure the screws are the proper length so they don’t come up through the wood base.
Attach the base to the basket by cutting every other link and bending over the wooden base. Staple securely in place, adjusting and clipping where necessary to avoid the casters.
Here you can see the finished basket with its muslin cover on the wood base as well as the strips woven down the sides and top. I just wrapped the muslin around and tied it off at the bottom. Having the right tool (a router) helped but I know you can purchase ready–cut wooden circles. Then you just need the staple gun, wire cutters and a screwdriver. It’s kind of a two person job so of course, the handy husband helps a lot.
Last time I posted a creative way to change a t-shirt into something more interesting (here), I noticed a lot of people re-pinned it on Pinterest (here). I’ve got a new one that is just as simple and changes an ordinary thrift-shop black shirt into something much more fun. T-shirt fabric is so fun to work with because you can cut, trim and change it without worrying about fraying, seams or how many times you might have to trim to get it just right.
Here’s the finished tee, modeled by my lovely daughter. It makes a great swimsuit cover-up.
My inspiration came from this cute t-shirt on a young woman I saw in Hawaii last May. I’m not sure if it was hand-cut, hand-made or retro-fitted, but I thought it would be fun to try. Follow the tutorial below for the simple instructions.
I picked up this Old Navy t-shirt at a thrift store and went to work. Be sure you get one that’s a couple of sizes bigger than your usual size for a good loose fit. This one is a large for someone who would typically wear a small.
Step One- Simply trim off the neck band and sleeves. Just trim at the seam line; you can always trim more later.
Step Two-I drew these two circles with chalk for a guide. The end of the bottom circle should be at about the bra line. Keep in mind that the area above each circle will be incorporated into your tie so cut accordingly. See next picture for additional advisement.
Step Two, continued- See how the cut looks, so as to keep the tie area intact.
Step Three- I used the neck band to add length to the ties. A simple zig-zag stitch reinforces the extensions. You could add another color, ribbons or another fabric here if desired.
This is the back upon completion. I slipped a piece of white fabric between the front and the back so you could see the details. The front is still solid.
The rest of the work is up to you. Once you try the shirt on, you can further cut away the sleeves, trim the front to include another tied off circle or shape the sides or back. T-shirt fabrics are pretty forgiving and you don’t need to hem anything; the trimmed areas tend to roll. Have fun with it. I’d love to see your finished pictures!
I’ve been having fun with Instagram lately. Instagram is a social photo-sharing app for your android or iPhone. You simply download the free app and then take and share pictures with other users. Some people use it to promote the creativity of their business and others use it to track their day and keep in touch. I think of it like Twitter with pictures or Facebook without the social commentary. You can add a few words or caption your pictures if you wish. I find it fun and I enjoy following several people who take beautiful photos during their day.
This is a view of my profile page
The idea is to take the picture with the Instagram app but you can also transfer photos from your photo library already on your phone. The point is to be spontaneous and keep your photos current rather than digging through your old pictures. There are different filters that allow you to adjust or highlight the picture and every photo is cropped to a tidy little square. You can add hash tags (#) which add the ability to sort and search for other pictures. For instance, if you like to take pictures of flowers, you can add #flowers to your caption. This allows other Instagram users to search #flowers and find your photo. If you take photos on your travels, include your location and add a hash tag like #LA or #Paris and you’ll share your photos with users searching those locations.
To get started, you download the app, provide a brief profile and then begin taking photographs. To follow others you simply search user names (including your favorite celebrities or bloggers) or you can search by hash tags to find areas of interest. Instagram offers a few etiquette guidelines. If you’re interested, click here and here The basics are:
Give it a try. If you’d like to follow me, type Janet Brown Studios into the Instagram search queue. You’ll find a link to Instagram over in the column on the right. If you haven’t yet joined me on Facebook, you can click on that link too.
See you there!
Four of us got together yesterday to make pesto. My friend grew it from seed and had massive amounts. Grand pots full of that wonderful smelling herb are all over her porch and deck. She harvested and we got busy with the rest of the necessary ingredients and chopped, minced and whirred until we had batches and batches of fresh pesto for our freezers. We tried different olive oils for different menu ideas and now we’re set…until the next harvest.
Freshly picked and rinsed basil
Freshly toasted pine nuts Chopped Parmesan and Romano cheese and garlic
Everything in the food processor, ready for mixing
Adding olive oil and pulsing until everything is well mixed and blended into a beautiful green paste
All spooned up into our small freezer containers (1/2 cup)
Here’s the basic recipe but you can really just go with your feelings
4 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil
Stuff basil into food processor with cheese, pine nuts, garlic and salt. Pulse, then run while drizzling olive oil. Continue until mixtures resembles a thick, coarse paste. As the leaves break down to form the pesto, we continued to add another batch on top of this one, re-adding more basil, cheese, etc. until we had two batches in our food processor.
Spoon into small containers or ice cube tray. Layer a thin film of olive oil on top. Cover with lid, slide into freezer bags and place in freezer. For thawing, remove to refrigerator overnight. Will last several days in fridge; 1 year in the freezer.
We all enjoyed trying different varieties of flavored olive oils. The lime oil (our favorite) was delicious and we all considered menu suggestions like shrimp or chicken pasta to really appreciate the freshness that the lime added. The Romano cheese was saltier and made a more pungent pesto, and we found our choice of how much salt to add varied among us. We chose not to over salt, realizing we can always add salt to our pesto upon serving.
Basil the dog, who thought we were talking about him all day as we declared the Basil perfect and amazing.
He is too!
There’s nothing quite like a big handful of summer flowers, especially when cut from your own backyard. I like to play around and add little surprises to my bouquets. In the summer I think you throw the rules out and just have fun.
I always love a vase full of roses, but look, I added a few raspberries just for fun. I love the colors together.
Here are more roses and raspberries in a more dramatic arrangement. The vase is an old battery case which I think adds interest. I love the glass stamped ‘Made in USA’. The raspberries will last several days in water, unless they get eaten.
Nasturtiums and Basil go together so well; in fact that’s how I planted my big pots this year. I guess anyone would be welcome to pinch off a leaf or two and add them to their salad, as both are edible.
Roses and Hydrangeas are always great long lasting bloomers, from late spring through the summer. I like to keep them almost as picked without too much arranging, so they look right from the garden.
Summertime is a great time for informal arrangements, if you can even call them an arrangement. Try adding grasses, and ferns for that little bit of flair. The beauty of a handful of garden or wildflowers is a great way to bring a bit of summer into your home.
You can’t go wrong with flowers.
What a fun idea…to spread a bit of sunshine. That’s what two women decided to do a few years ago: to scour the world for the best in fashion, design, and décor then, one by one, give it all away. Before they knew it, things began to look bright again. Pretty soon they were helping people remember that life is beautiful and there is goodness in the world.
This is where I come in. They asked me questions, I answered. I also donated a pillow to the Bright Side Project. Check out the rules, see what they have to say and enter to win; as easy as that! This pillow is the wonderful story of the perfectly simple day at the beach. From jumping the waves, walking on the beach, finding the perfect rock…it’s all there.
Happiness, sunshine, looking on the bright side…what a simply wonderful idea! click here: The Bright Side Project
The other day I gave you a sneak preview , but today is my big reveal on BRIKA, an online creative community that celebrates craft, storytelling and the belief that our lives are as beautiful as we wish to make them. Not only my pillows are being featured, but a bit more about me too. Tricky stuff, sharing and telling the evolution of my little pillow biz.
I really love the environment that BRIKA has created. I love seeing all of the wonderful things, but I find it especially nice getting to know the artists and craftspeople behind the art. Although it has been a bit difficult for me to ‘put myself out there’, I know how I appreciate learning the details of why someone took up a craft and how their passions are fueled.
These are the pillows I’ve made as exclusive to BRIKA. I chose these bright fun oranges and pinks because I felt they reflected the cheerful, fresh colors that BRIKA offers in all of their arts and crafts, and in their style and attitude. My other pillows are there too, with fun ideas and suggestions on where they might best be used in a home.
So check out BRIKA! I just know you’re going to love what they have. Enjoy getting to know the artists…some pretty wonderful and creative people. Be sure and share BRIKA with your friends. You can earn credits as friends sign up and purchase. How fun is that??! The internet continues to change the way we shop and I love being a part of it!
Click this link to be included: BRIKA. You’ll be glad you found it! “A Well-Crafted Life” is an awesome idea!! Be sure and tell your friends!
Follow me on Facebook too by searching Janet Brown Studios (until I fix that link over on the right). I add things that are in the blog but also give updates on projects and sometimes just share something beautiful!
Here’s a sneak preview of what’s coming up for me. My pillows will be in the Wednesday Event at BRIKA.
Follow this link to see more of this wonderfully fun and exciting new site… BRIKA. More info coming soon!
Last night was the perfect evening to walk through the garden with my camera. Although some of the flowers are a bit sunburned, I love the way the light affects the colors. I love taking photos from different perspectives. Looking up at the grapes growing over the arbor, looking through the hanging basket, crouching low to get a close-up of a rose growing near the ground, and watching the silly dogs as their curiosity almost got the best of my pear. I’m glad I brought more flowers back into the garden. I’m enjoying the ever-changing beauty.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Check back on Sunday and Monday. I have very exciting news to share!!
It was so hot, that I was afraid the berries would parch right on the bush. It’s cooler now and there are still plenty of berries to be used on pancakes and cereal, as well as added to ice cream and smoothies. I like to make sure I freeze some of them for later. Nothing quite like a pie at Thanksgiving or in the middle of winter from your own summer berries.
One way to freeze them, if you know you’ll eventually make a pie, is to freeze them right in the pie tin. This works best for juicy berries like the blackberry varieties. I rinse, then smoosh them right into the tin and freeze them overnight. I then remove the pie shaped slab of berries and put them in a sealed bag. A freezer bag works ok, but if you have a seal-a-meal, it perfectly seals the berries and keeps out any air. If they’re frozen firm, there’s no ice/air mixture to cause freezer burn. At cooking time just let them thaw and proceed as usual. You know you’ll have just the right amount of berries for the perfect pie.
Blueberries are so simple to freeze. No need to wash them, just toss them onto a cookie sheet and freeze overnight. Once frozen, dump them into a freezer bag. The berries will stay loose and can be easily removed a few at a time, and will thaw as they are rinsed by the handful or colander full. Easy as pie!
The neighborhood parade was just as sweet as ever. Lots and lots of kids, dogs and decorated bikes. For over 30 years this neighborhood tradition has been going strong. People move out, new neighbors move in, and the parade continues. Some of the original ‘kids’ come back with families of their own. I like that. Here are my photos from this morning.
Happy 4th of July to everyone!
I love my iced coffee and am always keeping an eye out for the easiest way to make it. Last year I went to the trouble of making coffee concentrate and simple syrup, but honestly, it wasn’t any better than the one I made today out of the leftover coffee from this morning. I’ve decided that the key is a rich, dark brew and superfine sugar. When I buy coffee beans I always choose the darkest roast and add espresso beans to the blend . The result is a strong cup of morning coffee and perfection for my favorite afternoon beverage.
Tips for the best, easiest iced coffee:
I’ve been a fan of Heath Ceramics for several years. I love the clean lines, the simple, yet classic style and the wonderful colors of each glaze. When I began to read more about the company I was even more impressed. Each piece is designed and made in the same factory in Sausalito, California, where Edith Heath began selling her pottery in 1948. The mission and ethics of Edith Heath are still evident in the company that bears her name. Her social and environmental points of view are still practiced and the message is clear—create simple, good things for good people.
I love that I can buy each piece individually because that’s often how I make a purchase when I occasionally find myself with a little extra money. One of my favorite shops in Portland, Canoe has a wonderful showcase of all things Heath and they keep track of what I have and offer suggestions. One of their ideas was to blend the beautiful colors, but only within the same style and set. For instance I have pasta dishes in Birch, dessert bowls in French gray, and cereal bowls in Cocoa/Fawn. They’re all beautiful soft shades of brown and compliment each other perfectly. It’s fun to add a pop of color with a serving dish or something from their ever changing seasonal collections. My collection is far from complete, but that’s part of the fun.
If you ever get to visit the Heath warehouse in Sausalito I highly recommend it. There you’ll find seconds, one of a kinds and overstock. They also offer their wonderful tiles; highly coveted and only available at the factory. Factory tours take place on Friday, Saturday and Sundays and I need to make sure that’s part of my next visit.
Yesterday I focused my attention and camera on the fruits and vegetables in the garden and today I'll show off the flowers. Certainly no perfection, though I tried to avoid or crop the unsightly black spot on my roses and the ants are crawling madly on my lemon tree. I love to watch the flowers bloom in all their grand glory. Here they are:
Jude the Obscure. Always beautiful, climbing up and over my garden shed.
Another view of Jude in different light, gives it a different tone. It really is more this peachy color.
Beautiful rose from my friend Sara’s yard. I wrote of her generosity here last fall when she was moving.
My lemon tree has been on the porch since early spring. It’s happiness is evident in it’s blossoms.
I cannot remember the name of this plant with its vivacious pink blooms. It winters outside and treats me with rounds and rounds of flowers. This is its second bloom since spring. It’s great in a pot. Anyone know its name??
My favorite of favorites. I think this is why I decided to bring more flowers back into my garden; I missed these beautiful blue Delphiniums. No garden should be without them. After they’re finished blooming, cut them back and you’ll likely be rewarded with a second bloom in the early fall. A little shorter, a little less vibrant, but a welcome treat.
That’s most of my flowers. Of course there are the hydrangeas and azaleas and the long white Hosta blooms, but the ones above are my favorites. Happy Weekend!! Oh, wait, just one more… a sweet little poppy.
On this first day of summer I took a walk around the yard with my camera. It always amazes me to see what’s happening. Sometimes I appreciate it more, looking through the camera lens, because I take the time to really notice the details and I can briefly ignore the weeds. I love the look of the close-ups and in all honesty no one else has to see how much work there is to do either; you can just appreciate the beauty. Here is what’s going on in my garden on this fine day.
Delicious raspberries are perfect on cereal, pancakes, or just by the handful straight from the vine.
Marionberries, created in Oregon are a cross between two varieties of blackberry and are my absolute favorite for pies.
My blueberry bushes are finally showing promise. A very long wait for the perfect little fruit.
The huckleberry bushes are full, but I’m sure the birds have their eyes on them too. I rarely get even a taste.
My columnar apple tree is full of fruit. Probably enough for a couple of pies this fall.
I finally planted my tomatoes. I’m anxious to see those little blossoms become red ripe Romas.
Sweet pear on the tree that always makes me think of my father. I bought it at the nursery near the hospital he was in. It’s had a lot of trouble with rust and who knows what else, but I’m determined to get it healthy. So far the pear looks perfect.
Lots of edibles in the garden make me happy. Last year I vowed to bring flowers back in too. Check back tomorrow for a tour of the current blossoms. Happy Happy Summer to everyone. Enjoy a wonderful weekend!