"A (wo)man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of (her)his life in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of beautiful God has implanted in the human soul."- Goethe

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tubby Santa Race

Earlier this month, we got to watch Kirk run a Santa 5K, fat pillow belly and all (which according to a certain 4-year-old wasn't necessary to achieve the proper tubbiness):

It was fun for all of us to try on the costume, cheer him on, and share the milk and cookies for refreshments afterward.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

That Sneaky Elf

Merry Christmas, friends! I hope you had a warm and loving holiday! We've been celebrating pretty much since Halloween ended, and here is one of our newer traditions:

Oh, that sneaky elf, up to her mischief and shenanigans! We like the buoyant happy spirit she brought to our home this year. Farewell, Frosty. You did good work!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Family Photos

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! We recently took family photos before everyone moves their tiny hineys far across the country never to be seen again. (That, and we have a few awesome new additions to our family.) I ended up being the photographer, but I'm no pro, that's for sure. At least all our bodies are in the same frame:

The best idea by far was to take pictures of all the kids together. I was not meant for such things, and just for funsies, this photo pretty much sums up how it actually went:

I love these crazy people, and I'm glad we got to take these while we could. I hope you are staying safe and happy with the people you love this week.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Family Fun Days

In our family, we hold what we call 'Family Fun Days' every week or two. It's usually on a Saturday after we get all our have-to's done. Here's how they work: for a set amount of time (a few hours, or even an entire day!), we each take a turn selecting an activity for us to do as a family. The rule is that we have to do what the person choosing wants to do, no matter what. We rotate through the members of our family until time runs out. Sometimes we include extended family members in select activities, but not always.

This is a great exercise for our family for many reasons. First, we get to do things we personally wouldn't normally do. Second, everyone gets a chance to do something they enjoy. Third, we spend quality time with one another in a variety of settings. Fourth, we learn how to take turns and respect what makes other people happy. Fifth, we connect and bond during and after, as we create happy moments and remember the good times we've shared together.

One of our more recent Family Fun Days looked like this:

A trip to the art museum because, duh. Art museums are the best. Even the baby got an eyeful of creative beauty.

Next up, a visit to the nearby petting zoo. Because animals are the best too, even if the ostriches and emus are sometimes scary.

Then, a quick frozen treat at a grocery store because a four-year-old doesn't care if it's winter. Chocolate ice cream is always a grand idea.

Then, a hot dog roast in our back yard to wash down our ice cream appetizer. It's good for us to shake things up for dinner because I find it makes our normal everyday rituals exciting and memorable.

And that's it for this mini round of Family Fun Day activities! Most of our activities include doing things outside, going to new or favorite places, or getting treats. Sometimes it's something as simple as each picking our favorite book to read together or sometimes it's an expensive night out for dinner. No matter what we do though, it makes me happy to spend the best times with my family.

Friday, December 18, 2015

One Million Cookies

Guys. We've been making cookies for the past two months straight for a family wedding. All good things, all good things, but I will not be making any cookies for the 2016 calendar year. Firstly, I'm all sugared out until the end of time, and secondly, the leftovers (of which there are many) are still sitting in our freezers.

I say 'our freezers' because I was not alone in this quest. My sweet little Pepper was more than happy to help out. And, my mom and sisters have also been baking their brains out. It may have been many late nights, but the results were unarguably worth it.

I made tags for all the cookies (because heaven knows the worst thing when you're expecting chocolate chips is to discover raisins instead!) using the Mini Minc from Heidi Swapp. I printed the tags off on my toner printer and ran them through the machine with lovely gold foil. Lickety-split!

All in all, we made 17 different kinds of cookies, quadrupled or octupled every recipe, and I personally filled at least a dozen gallon freezer bags with baked goods. I wish I had counted exactly how many cookies we made, because we would have impressed ourselves, I think. However, I think that approximately one million is a safe guess!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Nature-Inspired Art

One thing I love doing is sharing my art and love of nature with others. For Feather and Fir, my fun and time-consuming side-hustle, I like to focus on nature-inspired art.

I have found that every person I ask has a moment of wonder with nature that is unforgettable. There has been something or someplace that has touched them deeply, and they will never forget the feeling or magnificence of that moment. I love to focus on those meaningful moments and express those feelings through my artwork.

Each piece of art I create has a back story and a moment of wonder connected with it. If there is someone you love who has such a moment and is lucky enough to get a gift from you this holiday season, consider sending them a little token of that memory.

There are several nature-inspired artworks up in my shop that would love to find a happy new home to beautify! Take a look around! Or, if you have a specific moment or wonder you are hoping to commemorate, I am also open to commissions. Or, if you have any questions or just want to geek out with me about how neat nature is, then shoot me a message. Nothing would make me happier than digging deep into a grand discussion with you!

Right now these autumn leaf watercolor sets are at a special early-bird buyer rate:

If you follow me on Instagram, you might recognize these from my November art series. Right now, they are only $75 per set of 6, which is an awesome deal for original watercolors. On December 21st, though, they will go up to full price permanently for $90. I don't offer any prints, only original artwork, which is unique these days with all the free printables available. I love to make art that speaks to people's souls.

So what kind of art speaks to you?

Do you have a moment of wonder you would like to see made into one of my future art projects? I'm open to any suggestions, especially for my current December series: Days of Wildlife.

Friday, December 11, 2015

How To Freeze Corn

I have fond childhood memories spent at my grandparents' house helping my aunts and uncles and parents freeze enormous batches of corn each year. This year I decided to give it a try, because no canned or store-bought corn ever tastes quite as scrumptious as when you cook it fresh yourself. Here's how:

Get a couple of big pots of water boiling. In my youth, there was so much corn we would use canning pots, but for our little family, a couple of stock pots were enough for us.

While those puppies are heating up, shuck your corn. We had a four-year-old helping us, so our corn was extra hairy. Mmmmm. We're cool with that because we prefer a helping child over smooth corn kernels. Hopefully next year it will improve.

Next, put your shucked corn in the boiling water for 10 minutes. Don't forget about displacement. Plan for it, folks. Bill Nye gave a memorable lesson on that here.

Once the time is up and they've reached a bright happy yellow, pull out the cooked ears.

If you're an Amazon warrior, need your fingerprints to disappear, or have mom fingers, go ahead a start slicing the corn off. Or, if you value your phalanges, wait for those suckers to cool a bit before slicing off the kernels. (Not to brag, but I totally have mom fingers, so I started slicing right away. Just kidding. That was definitely a brag.)

Then, bag the sliced kernels and pop in the freezer for quick, fresh-tasting mealtime happiness.

Have you ever done this before? It took us maybe 1 1/2 hours from start to finish with roughly 4 dozen ears, and we ended up with about 8 quart bags sitting in our freezer. It's surprisingly easy when you aren't trying to do this for 40 people.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Stocking Up

Last month we embarked on a family tradition that officially welcomes autumn into our home:

Juicing grapes always smells like autumn to me. I grew up bottling and preserving scrumptious garden food every year and I come from a strong line of home canners. For us now, juicing grapes requires all hands on deck to help the process run efficiently and we all have a job to do. We are lucky to live in a home with grape vines and we look forward to harvesting the goods every year. Then we get to enjoy our labors all year long.

Love it.

Friday, December 4, 2015

All Over the Place

This is a super fun space I use to share the goings-on and general hubbub of the Baxter clan, but I have a professional side, too, with my art business. If you like some of the content on this blog, then you might want to check me out elsewhere too. I'm all over the place, guys!

If you enjoy reading some of the deeper or introspective things, the Feather and Fir blog might be a good fit. It's not as irreverent or goofy as it is here, but it's still me! It's a place where I share my weekly thoughts on nature, explanations of my nature-inspired art, art how-tos, and art case studies. And, if you ever want to geek out together about nature, or if you have questions about my art or processes, you can always send me a line. I'd love it if you joined me as we explore and discover new moments of wonder together.

I'm also on Instagram. I share daily posts about nature experiences I've had, as well as the current fine art projects I'm working on. I've done a couple of monthly art series lately that have been super enjoyable. I'm a busy little bee over there. If you are interested in getting posts in your feed on the daily with nature art, behind-the-scenes and in-progress shots, nature facts and ponderings, as well as some of my adventures in the wild, then I'd love it if you joined! I get giddy seeing the comments and discussions on that platform! The nicest people ever hang out there. For reals.

And, if you like to see and save visual inspiration, you can find me on Pinterest too. It's an awesome spot to see some of my favorite nature photos and my artwork all in one spot. Gotta love the giant bowl of digital eye-candy. Pinterest is always a go-to for me when I'm looking for visual inspiration or building a moodboard. Is it for you too?

And then finally, there is the Feather & Fir shop. Did you know I have a shop? I totally do! It's only been running for a few months but I'm super proud and crazy about it! It's been a lot of work to put all of it together, but I hope that it shows the stories behind the artwork and encourages people to pause and really take in those amazing moments that nature is waiting to teach us. All of the artworks in my shop are originals. There aren't any prints or copies. Say what? Yep, it's true! Like I said, it's been so much work. I have personally created and crafted each piece with love and care. I'm continually putting new things up in the shop, and prices start at $6, which is a pretty great starting point for original art. I like to keep a variety of prices and items in there, from small happy reminders to bigger conversational pieces, for a variety of budgets and tastes.

Right now, my watercolor leaf series are at a great price for only $75 for a set of 6 original paintings. That's a sweet deal! I don't ever discount my art, but I do like to reward the loyal people who act fast. Tomorrow, the prices on these newest sets will go up to the full value of $90, so check them out while they are still around at the introductory price.

So yeah, I'm a regular on those other platforms, as well as twice-a-week posts on this ole' blog. Each platform has its pros and cons, you know? I thought I'd let you know, just in case you weren't already aware. Mostly, though, I appreciate all the kind words and support from you. Thanks for sharing some of your precious time here, with me. I really do appreciate it, it's so encouraging.

P.S. I've been thinking about joining Periscope soon. Have you tried it? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Weekend of Tears

Our lives aren't terribly sad, that was just a sensationalist hook to put a little pep in our household activities. We shed tears all weekend long because we chopped and dehydrated loads of yucky garden onions in order to turn them into their more delicious dried counterparts:

Yum yum yum! Just imagine the delectable dishes we can throw these in! There were sacrifices involved, too, though. Such as:
1. Crying all weekend (although I think my eyes eventually just gave up and got used to it) and
2. Having several people tell me I smelled like a pot roast even though I had scrubbed and scrubbed.

I suppose there are worse things I could smell like, so I'll take it as a compliment!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Grandmas Are the Best!

I don't know about you, but our grandmas are pretty much the best. Last month we took a trip with Grandma to see some Halloween spookies and spend some time together:

Time together is even better if it includes pirates and a much-anticipated pony ride. Blaze was a pro, and so was our witchy little cowgirl.

Thanks, Grandma, for the fun outing! We are still talking about it to this very day.