Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hibernating and Hatching

Just a little food for thought today…
as a very busy mama and artist I often feel like my free time needs to produce the BEST paintings and mixed-media every single time.  Every single day.  I would say this fear of not producing something perfect or good enough comes with the territory for any maker, not just us mamas.  One could have an entire day in an art studio and still stand paralyzed by fear of getting anything down on the canvas or paper.  
A little concept I've been trying to practice lately is to trust the hibernating stage.  We are human beings after all, not big machines pumping out idea after idea after idea.  We are flesh and blood, hearts with a strong beat, fingers that feel, and souls that stir.  I, as well as you, must allow myself time to just be. Time for sitting in silence, not a phone or computer in sight.  Time to paint with my mind turned off.  Time for browsing stacks of inspiring books, without making a single "to do" list of ideas collected.  Time for baths and walks and long cups of coffee.  Time to let our bodies hibernate a bit.
What I've found is this: 
When my body and mind and soul emerges from this hibernation mode, my bucket overflows.  Kindness, deep and genuine ideas, soul for soulful art, passion for my life as wife, mama, artist and all the other roles I play….they spill over from my bucket, sloshing onto everything in its path.  
Creative sparks fly.

Today I encourage you to hibernate a bit…
and watch your ideas hatch.


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Friday, January 23, 2015

Sugar-Free Chocolate Syrup, Banana, Coconut Parfait

Ok, so I totally made this recipe name up, as well as the recipe!  I'm the lucky duck who had a root canal this week that was "really bad and infected" according to the dentist.  Yeah!  Go me.  So, I've been eating mushy food for about a week.  I didn't realize how much crunchy food I rely on since giving up sugar..think: blue corn tortilla chips, popcorn, almonds…sigh. 

So, when the gals from our church group met for our monthly girls' night I knew I needed a creative solution for "the mush".  Enter, my new parfait idea!  It's made up of plain Greek yogurt, a sugar-free chocolate syrup, unsweetened coconut, and bananas!  It's delicious! 
 At girls' night my friend suggested peanut butter on the parfaits so for this version I actually decided to warm several ingredients on the stove to make a sort of syrup.  I used a tablespoon or two of honey, about the same of natural, unsweetened cocoa powder, and about 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
(excuse the cruddy quality photos..)
 I noticed that my ingredients were making more of a paste than a syrup but knew I didn't want to add any more honey.  Too much honey makes me feel funny! So instead I threw in a splash of unsweetened vanilla coconut almond milk (say that three times fast, whew!).
 As I stirred the almond milk in the ingredients melted together just perfectly to create a thick syrup.  
I had a sweet helper and her horn while I tried to snap a quick pic of the ingredients! 


 To assemble the parfait I put plain Greek yogurt in first, next diced bananas, then the chocolate syrup.  I topped it all off with unsweetened coconut!  This was so tasty and rich tasting!  I think the syrup would even be fantastic on apples…you could make apple nachos with the syrup and coconut drizzled on top!  Yum.

A note about the yogurt, if you're used to eating sugar then the plain Greek yogurt might taste a bit bitter to you. It isn't sweet at all.  The bananas and chocolate syrup on top give it just the right amount of sweet.  

I hope you get a chance to try this out this weekend! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Our Creative Table: creating with my girls!

This week has been full of drama. 
Tooth drama that is.  Long story short, I've been in severe pain for almost a week and got the problem fixed with a root canal yesterday.  Three cheers for root canals!  Actually it was quite rough, but necessary and today I am finally feeling a bit more like myself!  And I like feeling like myself and the daily rhythms and routines the girls and I partake in.  We have our groove, my sweet gals and I.  It felt so good this morning to hear the dishwasher, washing machine, and my voice mingled with my girls.  
 The first thing we did after breakfast and morning chores was create a table just begging to be played with!  I covered the entire table in brown kraft paper, found at Dollar Tree.  A tip for you: You can also purchase an enormous roll of contractor's paper from Lowe's for around $11.  It would seriously last you forever.  And ever.  
 Next we got out all of our art supplies!  Stickers, watercolors, new giant ink pads (found for half off at Target), crayons, string, paint, glue, scissors, and watercolor paper filled the table, ready to be played with.  

 I absolutely love to watch the girls in action.  Anna Ruth usually says "Look Mom!" about a million times when she's creating because she gets so excited about what ends up on the page.  And I like that. You bet I look every single time.  
 Sometimes we do more structured art activities at the table, but this way is probably my favorite.  I'll occasionally show the girls a step or two (like how to use the stamp pad) and then sit down with them.  As I let their freedom and imaginations run wild, they get to see me create right alongside them.  



 This homegirl up above looks like she got a black eye!  But I suppose that's the fun of creating..there are no rules or perfect ideas to live up to.  We just try things and see how they work!  And then laugh when we end up with eyes that look sorta funny. Maybe she's just winking?! 
 I will say that Betsy Grace loves a good mess and is more likely to use the art supplies for that very reason.  See that large puddle on the top right?  She thought it would be fun to dip her stamps in the watercolor cup.  To each their own! 
My top favorite part of our creative table is the confidence the girls show when they make something they're proud of.  And they're always proud of what they make.  It wouldn't occur to them to be anything but.  Friends, we should take note of that! These little girls have a lesson to preach to us all!

I'll be back in a day or two with some more of our preschool learning activities we've enjoyed lately!
'Till then, happy creating!

Monday, January 19, 2015

F.A.Q.: Art Supplies, Part 1

Friends, let me first start by looking you deep in the eyes and saying "thank-you."  Yesterday's blog post about the scale, my deepest insecurities, and refusal to continue to live as most women do..felt wildly unpopular.  Even after the post was published I found myself with my heart pounding, wondering if I should delete it.  And then the texts, messages, and comments started coming in.  You have spoken and I have listened deeply.  This is not a topic that just touches me.  It silently wounds almost every woman around me.  So, I hear you.  I'm praying for each one of you, for God to wrap you in a suit of armor so strong that nothing the world or Satan throws at you can shake your confidence in your healthy self.  And I pray that you have the strength to get that way…healthy.  It's not always a glamorous journey but it's your journey and you are an incredible human being.  More than worth it.  

I could preach right here ya know.  But let me give you that to think about and move along to one of the greatest tools God is using to set me free from the scale and other struggles as well.  ART!  
I mentioned on IG (I'm "therosylifeblog") that I've had several people ask me questions about my art, Etsy shop process, marketing, etc. lately and it just feels so unreal that I would be the one getting asked the questions!  Although I feel unqualified at times (whatever that means) I'm here and happy to share.  When I first started my journey as an artist I heard other artists say all the time to try out different products and you would figure out what suits you best, which supplies you craved and loved, which ones you didn't.  I was puzzled by that for a long time until one day I found myself thinking "I really don't like" or "I love this product! I could use it all day, everyday."  I realized, I had my own set of unique ideas and toolbox that every artist should have.  It didn't happen on a schedule or in a fancy or perfect way.  It happened from buying an art supply, trying it out time after time, and seeing how my art and eyes and soul responded to it.  
So let's get started! This will be my favorite art supplies, Part 1 because already I can think of about 10 supplies I forgot to add on this list. First are these acrylic paints you can find at just about any craft store.  They are a little over a dollar apiece and I try to buy them when they're on sale.  I love the colors and shades of these paints and find the pigment to be quite satisfying. 

I also use cheap paint brushes from Hobby Lobby because I'm pretty bad about remembering to clean my brushes adequately in-between painting sessions.  I'm usually moving from painting time to chores/the girls/real life in just a matter of seconds.  Even though I don't mind paint on my hands during the process of creating, I've discovered I really don't enjoy painting with my hands or fingers, as many artists do.  It's just not my jam.
Occasionally I'll even use these sample paints found at Lowe's.  They are cheap (around $3 for this whole tub) but the color is obviously a lot less saturated than the acrylic paints above or the Goldens below.  Still, I've had success with these, especially if tucking the colors in on a background.
For my birthday last year I saved up some $$ and purchased my first Golden Fluid Acrylics.  I like them, but they're not my most favorite paints.  If you know anything at all about Goldens, that would probably knock you off your feet!  Everyone seems to love Goldens.  Although I do too, because the color is so extremely rich and highly saturated, I enjoy using them most in combination with the cheap acrylic paints.  This helps with the cost too, as Goldens are very pricey. But remember, there's a reason for that.  In this case, more money equals better quality (higher saturation) paint. 
OOOOh, now sprays like these I really, really like! A lot.  I am very lucky to have an art and craft supply warehouse located about 10 minutes from my house where I can purchase sprays for $1.  Yep, you read that right!  Normally spray paints like these are very pricey.  If you don't have a place to buy them so cheaply I always, always recommend using a coupon at Hobby Lobby when buying any kind of supply.   These sprays are great for spraying directly on a canvas, using with a stencil, and letting the ink drip slowly down the page or canvas.
I bought these two paints on sale and love them both!  The ink on the left is fabulous for creating big drips and drops on the page.  The paint on the right is a very highly saturated, thick turquoise paint.  Also a fave.  It's much thicker than the cheap acrylic paints and can create great texture when placed thickly on the canvas.
Watercolors! I've discovered I don't like using watercolors when I have a certain picture in mind….like one day I had this image of creating houses all across the page.  When I tried it with watercolors I didn't like the look of the straight lines.  I prefer to just swipe the colors on and let them run and bleed together on the page with watercolors…

If I do want to create a more defined, yet dreamy look with watercolors, I reach for my watercolor pencils.  You sketch with these first and then go over the pencil drawing with a water brush or regular paint brush dipped in water.  It still allows your sketch to have some structure (like this is great when creating faces) but gives everything a soft edge…an almost hazy look.  I love that.
Paint pens (on the right) are my fave for adding tiny details here and there on backgrounds on my canvases.
The Stabilo pencil on the left is at the top of my favorite art supplies.  Ever.  These pencils come in a few different colors but white and black are my favorite.  They write over a finished canvas easily or you can sketch directly on a blank page and then go over your sketch marks with water to create a shaded look.  
Stencils are another great favorite of mine!  Some of these are mine from childhood and a few I've purchased recently.  You can also make your own stencils or use things you find around the house!  I recently spotted the outline left from the girls' stickers and kept it for a stencil instead of throwing it away.
Mark-making tools are a must in my painting.  These may look familiar to you because these are some of the same supplies the girls used in our printmaking session recently.  I found the two red tools in the kitchen aisle at Wal-Mart!  The other is simply an empty spool of thread.  Basically anything can be used for mark making in your art. 
Tape is another favorite when creating backgrounds or special details in my art!  I try not to ever buy packs of expensive tape.  I either browse the Target $1 spot, use a coupon at Hobby Lobby, or buy it on sale.  The peach colored is Scotch brand which is my favorite brand EVER for really sticking.  The other kinds sorta stick ok…but if I'm using them on a canvas I always add ModPodge to the back and actually glue them down. 
Stamps, how many ways do I love thee? 
So many. 
Back in December I got on a kick to carve my own stamps.  It is so fun, so addicting, so easy.  I have a video of me carving my own stamp I need to figure out how to post.  In the mean time, I like to purchase all kinds of alphabet stamps at Hobby Lobby when they have their 40% off sale, or use a coupon for 50% off at JoAnn's.
For sticking things down on canvas, I still prefer ModPodge.  I use Gesso to create a bit of texture on my canvas, as a background, or I water it down to create a sort of film over parts of my background.
As for art journals, they could really use a post all their own!  When I first started painting I didn't keep a journal which blows my mind now.  I most definitely need my art journal now.  Like badly.  It's where I try out all my ideas, some of which end up really bad.  Others-really great.  I prefer a spiral-bound journal but also like working on several pages at once. This is hard to do when the book is already bound.  I've been pondering buying my own book-binding machine…anyone have experience with that? 



Just a little work in progress to wrap up today!  One of the biggest lessons I've learned over the last year is that finding the art supplies you love is part of finding your style.  I'm so much more able to create art that speaks directly of my soul when I know which supplies connect to my soul.  If you're unsure of what you like or don't like, I encourage you to buy what you can here and there, using coupons, discounts and sales if needed and experiment!  Play with different types of paints, pencils, pens, and see how your mind and and hands and fingers and soul react.  

I look forward to posting Parts 2 and maybe 3 or 4 soon! Then these will become their own separate F.A.Q. page on the blog for your convenience! 

Have a question for me?  Ask away in the comments or email me at sunshinebysara@hotmail.com
I look forward to hearing from you!

the scale and a slippery slope.

 Want to really know what I'm thinking as I'm about to write this post? 
Oh brother, not this again.  But yes, this.  

A post about weight/the scale/being confident/being UN-confident/how women treat one another…
you might as well settle in and hold on-this post is going to be a wild ride.  My wild ride.  Please don't feel like this should be your story or that I'm stepping on your toes.  I'm simply sharing what is true to me.  Your story might be exactly opposite of mine..and that's fine.  We each must be the tellers of our own story.  Not letting others have the say.
 Let me just say I've written about this topic many times on the blog, each time totally genuine and real for where I was in that particular season of life.  My health and weight story looks kind of like the spice aisle.  Or maybe the laundry detergent aisle.  Basically a whole bunch of variety that all boil down to the same thing.  I'm a woman who wants to be healthy…
but I get so caught up along the way.  Just like with spices or detergent, there are so many avenues and routes you can take to end up with a really clean shirt, or a really great-tasting food.  With my health, there are so many different ways to reach "healthy" and sometimes that's overwhelmed me. 
 It wasn't until my late twenties that I started to fully embrace my body and how God created me.  (I feel like I owe a huge apology to our fabulous Maker for being so hung up for so long).  Then over the next few years I began to figure out what healthy eating looked like for me, and then later on-our family.  Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?  
The tricky part for me has always been the scale.  That darn scale.  It's ruled one too many days for me and by now I should know better.   And I do.  I haven't weighed myself in quite some time and it feels good.  They say ignorance is bliss. 

I'm not saying we shouldn't be healthy.  Our bodies are created to function and function well-We must take care of them.  Binge-eating potato chips for months and then worrying over our health would just be silly.  But here's the world I live in. 

Last winter I weighed considerably less and let me tell ya-that scale was my BFF.  I woke up, my mind consumed with how little of calories I could eat and how MUCH I could run.  Most days I was doing 3 or 4 miles a day.  And for some, that's fine!  Remember, this is my story.  But for me, I began to worship that silly scale.  The thinner I got, the more confident I felt.  
The problem is, I was greatly missing the joy of food.  And you'd better believe scales awful sister GUILT showed up if I ate something that wasn't on my handwritten schedule.  The problem was, I was already healthy before I even started this craziness.  I wasn't the skinniest version of myself I could be, but I was healthy.  Isn't healthy what we should be striving for?

The truth is, no one looks at others and says "Good job! I see you're embracing your curves and not worrying yourself stick-thin."  At least I've never heard it.  Instead I see and hear weight loss praised.  Even when the woman scooping up the compliments was already at a healthy weight before, we clap and cheer when she loses just a bit more.  (again, my own personal experience)
This winter I, admittedly, haven't been running on the treadmill like maybe I "should." Am I healthy?  Do I keep up with my girls?  Do I eat healthy most of the time?  Do I plan to be more active in spring?  Yes.  To all. (I mean, 90% or more sugar free for 7 months?! Holla!)

Do I worry other women are talking about how I've gained weight?
Yes. 

The awful, ugly truth.  
I've sat in circles where I was the only one that ate bread and felt guilt so thick I could barely swallow.  I just, somehow…don't think that's normal.  Sometimes I wonder how great it would feel if I'd been someone off The Biggest Loser..because then my size now would be recognized for what it really is-healthy, instead of just seen as the slightly bigger version of myself.

What it comes down to is this-I'm not my skinniest self.  By my own choice.  I know within a matter of a few choices and decisions the exact route to lose about 10 pounds, right now.  I know I have the power to do that.  But for what?  For whom?  
I want my girls to grow up seeing a strong, confident, healthy mama.  One that exercises and enjoys food and doesn't beat herself up over the numbers game that is the scale.  

I'm taking a confident stand against the scale in my life right now.  I'm choosing not to step on it..I'm eating a variety of foods and not apologizing for the lesser healthy ones, like the bacon on my plate above.  I'm taking notice of my health and if all my jeans start to get too tight, it's time to rein my habits in a bit.  But I'm not letting that darn scale and the whispers I fear rule my happiness. 

If you see someone who is healthy and happy…compliment that.  Even if they're not the skinniest version of themselves.  That's braver to me than attacking my self-consciousness with calories.

I am so lucky and blessed to have a very small circle of very important, deep friendships.  Friendships with gals who have seen me wear every single one of the six sizes in my closet and I still know that I matter to them….my soul, my heart, the real stuff of my body.  Sisters across the web…will you join me in pursuing a healthy, kind lifestyle?  For ourselves and the sisters that surround us?  

Because for me, when I'm caught up in worrying about my weight, sliding down that slippery slope called the scale..all other voices in my world are silenced.  My art doesn't get painted, my laughter doesn't bellow out, my ears don't do the listening they crave.  I'm just half the person I am, literally and figuratively. 

Where do you weigh in on this conversation?  Can you relate or have you found yourself slipping down the unhealthy slope?  I'd love to hear. 
Here's to being US-our best versions.  Our healthy versions, most interesting selves. 
We matter, you and I.  And we're worth more than any numbers on the scale.