Saturday, April 5, 2014

Healing Hearts Touching Hearts

Healing Hearts are taking off and touching the hearts of others.  Earlier this week I shipped the first Healing Heart to a buyer who is not connected to me in any way.  She found my Etsy shop and ordered a Healing Heart for her daughter whose kitty recently passed away.  The customer asked if I could add a green crystal with the charm because the cat's eyes were green.  I had been considering adding an option for a crystal.  I am so pleased with how it turned out that I will be adding this as an option as soon as I order the crystals.  You can see for yourself what a nice touch it is (in the lower right hand corner).

I have a few more fabric colors to add to the current fifteen shown in my Etsy shop.  I need to make samples and get them online.  But before I can do that, I have a couple of Healing Hearts that I need to complete and ship.

There is a story behind each Healing Heart and I'm familiar with most of them.  Many have gone to pet parents who have recently lost a pet.  Winston, Reese, Scout, Grace, Patches, and Ozzie left behind owners/parents who were devastated by their deaths.  Others have gone to friends struggling with life's challenges:  a young woman recently diagnosed with cancer, a high school girl struggling with the difficulties of growing up, and a woman who lost her mother.

The photograph to the left is Reese's "mom", Amanda when she received her Healing Heart.  She sent the picture to my friend who gave her the Healing Heart and graciously gave me permission to use it.

My sister received this response about a Healing Heart she gave to a friend:

I just got your beautiful Healing Heart and it touched me so tenderly.  That was so thoughtful of you.  Thank you!  With the whirlwind week preparing for mom's memorial service and having my sisters around, I know the full impact of her death has not hit me.  The Healing Heart will help with my feelings next week and in the weeks to come when the service is over and the family goes back to their usual routines.

A recent custom order really tugged at my heart.  This heart with the polka dot bow was purchased by my friend, Terri Lynn.  Her cousin's three year old son, Brayden was nearing the end of a 15 month battle with cancer.  Brayden carried a polka dot blanket everywhere he went.  Terri Lynn wanted to incorporate elements of the blanket in the Healing Heart she purchased for her cousin.  She sent me a couple pictures of the blanket and I headed off to the store where I purchase my ribbon and found this polka dot ribbon that was a very close match.  It was a successful custom order.   Sadly, Brayden passed away on March 24, 2014.

It is such an honor to know that my Healing Hearts are touching the hearts of others.  Healing Hearts are sold exclusively in my Etsy shop, The Pink Contessa.

Friday, April 4, 2014

50th Birthday Celebration - Western Style

We recently celebrated my sister's 50th birthday western style in Tombstone, Arizona.  Faith wanted a simple, relaxing weekend in the old western town laden with history.

My parents and I (we both live in the Phoenix area) drove to Tombstone to meet up with Faith and her boyfriend, John (they live in the Seattle area).  Faith, John, and I stayed in a small, comfortable cabin at Katie's Cozy Cabins just two blocks from downtown Tombstone.  Katie's has four cabins that sleep up to six people.  Each cabin has a kitchenette consisting of a microwave, stovetop, refrigerator, sink and coffee maker.  A 19" television with cable and a DVD player was located in the main cabin area.  There were three DVDs in the cabin including. . .yes, you guessed it, Tombstone! The bathroom was small but adequate with a toilet, shower, and sink.  Although none of us traveled with our dogs, Katie's does allow pets for a small additional fee.  I would stay here again without hesitation.  My parents stayed at the Tombstone Grand Hotel and were very comfortable.

Katie's Cozy Cabins
The town of Tombstone is adorable.  We started our Saturday with breakfast at a local diner.  The next stop was 1880's Costume Rental where Faith had reserved a costume for the day.  Shop owner, Diane Fenton greeted us and helped Faith become an 1880's woman from head to toe.  While some might think she was alone in her idea to dress up, a day spent in town made it clear that dressing the part is very common.

Our day consisted of wandering through the shops in town, visiting the O.K. Corral, the Tombstone Historama, the Birdcage Theater, and Boot Hill Cemetery.  Faith's birthday dinner was at The Crystal Palace Saloon.

Faith and John with the Earp brothers &
Doc Holliday at the O.K. Corral gunfight

We spent the evening playing BINGO with other guests at the Tombstone Grand Hotel, opening birthday gifts, enjoying western birthday cookies, and playing cards and a few other games.  It was a perfect, low-key evening.

I made the western birthday cookies.  Although I do a fair amount of baking, this was my first go at royal icing.  I read a lot of blogs about making it and making it flavorful.  The frosting did the job.  The cookies were easy to pack and the hard frosting prevented any damage to the designs but, the tradeoff in taste wasn't worth it.  I will stick to buttercream.  I had some hits and some misses with the decorating but all in all it was a fun project and the cookies looked good and fit the western theme.  Of course they were pink!

Keeping with the western theme (and pink).  I used my Silhouette Cameo to make this cute cowgirl boot birthday card.  The card design isn't mine - it was a purchased designed.  The card folds open and there are two small brads that allow it to be propped in the open position as shown in the photo below.  My design contribution is the envelope.  I know, isn't an envelope and envelope?  Yes, it is. . .sort of.  It was the first thing I designed using the Silhouette software.  Perhaps I'll post some new, more adventurous designs soon.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Into the Garden

My last post was titled, Out of the Garden so Into the Garden seems fitting for this post.  After harvesting the cute gnarled carrots from my garden,  a month later it was time to remove what remained of the lettuce plants.  With my first attempt at gardening under my belt it was time to plant for the summer season.  Here in Arizona it comes a little earlier than in other parts of the country.  So today I planted sweet peppers, a Roma tomato plant, and some herbs.  My small raised garden bed is home to the sweet peppers.  The plants look hardy and already have blooms on them.  I'm already thinking about how good they will be and all the different recipes I'll use them in.

Last summer I planted mint and basil in a large pot in the backyard.  The basil was amazing.  When it came time to harvest the remaining basil, I chopped it in my food processor, added a small amount of olive oil to keep it from turning black and froze it in ice cube trays so I'd have basil through the winter.  Today I planted basil, cilantro, and rosemary.  The pot looks a little empty but it will fill in fast as the plants grow.  The mint from last year is still going strong.
Cilantro, Basil, & Rosemary
Roma Tomato
Basil ready for the freezer

One of the challenges I have in gardening is that my dogs like to eat plants.  They are happy to eat fruits and vegetables so I need to take measures to make sure they're not dining on my plants and that they're not digging in the nice dirt.  Enter the Superyard XT baby/pet enclosure.  I have sixteen of these panels.  I bought the first set when Rustin was a puppy and the second set when I was fostering for a Cavalier rescue group.  They have come in very handy for many situations including easily removable fencing.  The "fence" is just sitting on top of the boards and can be picked up and moved when I need to add fertilizer or pick peppers.  For the most part they didn't bother the basil and mint that grew over the sides of the pots last year and they won't be able to reach the tomatoes so this bit of fencing should be all that is needed.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Out of the Garden

In beautiful southern Arizona where I live, it is time to plant our gardens for the next growing season.  I've checked my carrots over the last month or so and found them to be rather gnarled.  Earlier this week I opted to pull the rest of them to prepare the space for new plants and this is what I got: a nice bunch of stubby, gnarly carrots.

What do you do with a bunch of stubby, gnarly carrots?  I cleaned them and enjoyed them as a snack over a couple of days.  They were very sweet and crunchy. . .perfect other than the shape.  They would have been beautiful roasted with the greens left on and served with dinner.

Introducing Healing Hearts

Blogging has obviously taken a backseat this month.  I have been spending my time getting my Etsy shop, The Pink Contessa up and running and, more importantly, working on my signature product: the Healing Heart. What is a Healing Heart?  Below is the description directly from my Etsy shop and a little information about how they came to be.

Healing Hearts are handmade in my studio.  They are a stuffed and weighted fabric heart measuring approximately 7” x 7” and adorned with a charm and an option for personalization. The Healing Heart makes a perfect gift for anyone grieving the loss of a loved one, a miscarriage, still born baby, or loss of a pet.  They are a thoughtful gift for someone going through a difficult time. . .just a simple way to tell them you care.

Healing Hearts are made from a variety of sensual, soft to the touch fabrics and can be adorned with the charm of your choice.  Your Healing Heart can be personalized with a 7/8 inch hand-stamped, stainless steel disc.

Many people find the Healing Heart a comfort to have nearby when grieving or struggling with life’s difficulties.  Some find the weight of the Healing Heart when placed upon their own heart to bring relief and comfort. Others display it as a remembrance of a loss or difficult period they’ve overcome.  There really is no right or wrong way to use a Healing Heart.

Healing Hearts were born out of a discussion between my sister, Faith and I.  We're both avid pet lovers as are many of our friends.  Pet loss is something we deal with on a regular (sometimes all too regular) basis.  We've had to say goodbye to our own pets and have comforted friends when they've had to say goodbye to theirs.  The discussion centered around the want to give something appropriate yet different to a grieving friend.  Healing Hearts are a result of that discussion and I couldn't be more pleased to introduce them to you.

The pictures above and to the right are completed personalized Healing Hearts made from ultra suede fabric.

The photos to the left show a personalized and non-personalized Healing Heart.  I offer a variety of charms so the Healing Heart can be customized for the person receiving it.  The picture below shows the three Healing Hearts that I shipped today packaged and ready to go into their boxes for shipping.

If you'd like to send a Healing Heart to someone, please visit my Etsy shop: The Pink Contessa.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Red Shoes

Who doesn't love red shoes?  I found this pair today while doing a little treasure hunting at my local Goodwill thrift store.  I wasn't looking for shoes and very soon I will share the project I was working on that took me on a treasure hunt to Goodwill.

This beautiful pair of red patent leather pumps, size 8 with come hither heels was on the rack calling out to me.  Wouldn't these look beautiful with my gray business suit?  They surely would!  Alas, my wide feet and inability to stand or walk in 4-inch heels made these beauties a bit unpractical.

What is a girl to do?  This girl purchased the $6.99 shoes, stopped at the nursery to pick up a few succulents and potting soil, came home and put my new shoes to great use as planters.  I wish I could take credit for this idea but I owe it all to my sister, Faith.  She is the repurposing queen!  My new shoes will look great on my patio.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Healthy Dog Treats

Finding healthy dog treats can be a real challenge.  It seems that those of us with dogs are always hearing about pet food/treat recalls.  I monitor what I give my dogs for meals and treats very carefully.  One of my dogs' favorite treats are frozen pumpkin balls.

While I don't have an actual recipe for frozen pumpkin balls, I thought I'd share how I make them.  They're so easy to make and the measurements really don't matter.

Today's pumpkin balls will include 100% pure pumpkin (this is NOT pumpkin pie filling), four bananas, some Greek yogurt, and a bit of peanut butter.  They can be made without yogurt, banana, or peanut butter.  I've made pure pumpkin balls before and that's fine too.  I tend to use what I have on hand.  Sometimes I will heat apples to the point that I can mash them a bit and throw them into the mix.  Anything that is safe and healthy will work.
I add the pumpkin and banana to a mixing bowl and mix while mashing the banana.  It is easier to incorporate the banana if they're softened (over ripe).  For bananas that need help softening, you can place them in a microwave safe dish and heat them slightly.  Add them back to the pumpkin and they will mash nicely.  I find a potato masher helps get the bananas mashed so they will distribute through the pumpkin.

When the bananas and pumpkin are mixed, I add the yogurt.  I usually add what looks "right" to me.  Today I measured it and added 1-2/3 cup of yogurt.  I started adding yogurt for the probiotics.  The yogurt also increases the number of pumpkin balls you get from the mix.  The rule of thumb with adding the yogurt is to keep your mix thick enough that it will spoon into a small dropped heaps on a cookie pan.

I add peanut butter for a little bit of extra flavor.  Peanut butter should be used sparingly as you can see in the photo.  Peanut butter contains sugar so it is important to use just a bit.

After mixing the peanut butter in, the mix is ready to be dropped into individual treats.  I use a small cookie scoop to portion and drop the pumpkin mixture onto cookie sheets/pans.  A teaspoon works fine too.

I use high quality non-stick jellyroll pans that do not require any cooking spray. However, non-stick cooking spray (like Pam) is advisable when using regular cookie sheets or pans to keep the pumpkin balls from sticking.  Drop the balls close together on the pan and place in the freezer until frozen.  Keep in mind that you want to make them size appropriate for your dog.  Since mine often eat treats on the couch or on the carpet, I want these to be finished off in a couple of bites.  They freeze up quickly - I find I can usually transfer them to a ziploc bag for storage after an hour or so in the freezer.

Be ready for these special looks from your dog.  They know the yummy smell of pumpkin and peanut butter and will be very excited to get a taste.  I admit it. . .mine get to lick the bowl.   How can I say no to those faces?