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Monthly Archives: June 2016

My Brother, My Friend

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Not Everyone is as Blessed as I am When it Comes to Brothers 

I have a big brother, who is not only my sibling but also a true friend.  The last couple of days we’ve been spent with our mother, who was paying a visit to the hospital.  We had moments of worry, a lot of laughter, but mainly, we shared in this responsibility as a team.  I’m so thankful that I’m not alone when it comes to caring for our aging Mother.  She has set a strong example for us, but sadly, Alzheimer’s is slowly taking her away from us.

 

A Not-so-Happy Glimpse of the Future

During Mom’s hospital visit, we saw a side of her that we’ve only had glimpses of thus far.  Between the anesthesia and pain medication, she seemed as if she had progressed quickly with new Alzheimer’s symptoms.  My brother and I tried to find humor in this situation because we knew it was only temporary.  But truth be told, it was very scary to know that one day this behavior could be the norm for Mom.  We witnessed it with our grandmother and dread the day that we have to see our mom go through the same mental decline.

It’s also difficult to think that one day we could also be facing the same diagnosis for ourselves.  I remember the day that Mom was diagnosed.  There were tears from both of us. Mostly, she dreaded the day that she wouldn’t recognize her children.  That was a sobering thought.  I hope and pray that the fate of Alzheimer’s never becomes a reality for either my brother or myself.

Fight the Good Fight

Discover the Alzheimer’s Prevention Diet

One of the best ways you can feed your brain for better memory is by avoiding a diet high in trans-fat and saturated fat. These fats, such as those from animal products (especially red meats), can cause inflammation as well as produce free radicals. As you probably know, free radicals are a normal by-product of your metabolism, but in high quantities, they can damage and even kill your valuable brain cells.

Eating foods that are high in antioxidants like vitamins C and E is a wonderful natural way to eliminate free radicals from your body. In a similar way, scientists believe that a vast intake of fruits and vegetables, eating fish rich in omega-3 oils and vegetarian protein substitutes (such as soy) are protective against memory loss.

The ideal prevention diet breaks down like this:

  • 20% “good” fats. Items in this group include extra virgin olive oil, avocado, and flax seed oil
  • 40% lean proteins. Look to include fish, chicken, turkey, and soy on a daily basis.
  • 40% complex carbohydrates. Discover the rewards of a rainbow of fresh vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fresh fruits.
  • Superfoods for the brain – as much as you want! These superfoods, including blueberries, spinach, and seaweed. The items have fabulous antioxidant properties preventing causes of Alzheimer’s.


The Healing Power of Relaxation and Meditation

Meditation reduces stress, which lowers cortisol and improves many other aspects of your mental function. Of course, stress management has many other positive benefits as well, such as improved performance, heart function, reduced anxiety, less chronic pain, and even increased longevity.

Balancing your daily stress is a vital part of any Alzheimer’s prevention strategy. Studies have shown there is a high correlation between having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and/or high cortisol and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Stress has been shown to be a key factor in all of these conditions.

Thankfully, research has shown that the benefits of regular stress-relaxation practice, such as meditation, can improve your health and prevent memory loss. And, as it reduces some of the negative impacts of cholesterol, cortisol, and high blood pressure, a stress relaxation practice also has the added benefits of improving your focus, attention, and optimizing your overall mental performance.

Some examples of stress-management techniques include:     

  • Meditation
  • Guided Imagery and Visualization
  • Hypnosis
  • Deep Breathing
  • Massage
  • Prayer

Trust me — it is not necessary to lock yourself into any of one of these stress relaxation techniques. Rather, it’s best to feel free to explore any or all of them to see which technique works best for you. Simply start with any of these techniques for a few minutes a day and you’ll quickly begin to experience better brain function. Then, find the techniques you tend to enjoy the very most and you’ll begin experiencing a whole new and improved — and less stressed — you!

Exercise & Brain Aerobics

The Importance of Physical Exercise

Exercise & Brain Aerobics 

Did you know that regular physical exercise can reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to a stunning 50%? Moreover, studies have shown that women from age 40 to 60 who exercised regularly were seen to have a dramatic reduction in memory loss and cognitive decline. That’s right: They kept their brain power at optimal strength! More recent findings suggest that an overall active lifestyle is the key to brain and body health.

To see the best benefits of your exercise program, the latest research reveals that the magic number for maintaining cognitive fitness with age and preventing Alzheimer’s is to work up to a level of 150 minutes per week of a combination of cardio exercise and strength training. Great ways to get in your aerobic exercise include brisk walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, and playing tennis, or going to the gym and utilizing an elliptical, treadmill or stationary bike.

Anything that gets your heart pumping and your muscles moving is heading you in the right direction to better overall health. Plus when you include strength training (e.g., weights, resistance machines, isometrics, etc.), you maintain your muscle mass and prevent osteoporosis and related illness.

Keep reading to discover how you can work out your brain to keep it in the same good shape as your renewed body, in your goal to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Benefiting from Brain Aerobics

Neurologists report that mental exercise can reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 70%. With numbers like that, it’s amazing that everyone isn’t exercising their brains more often. Get a head start by spending at least 20 minutes, three times a week doing mental exercises.

Don’t know what brain aerobics are? It’s simple. Whenever you challenge your brain with novel tasks (anything new or different), you’re exercising your brain and improving brain function. In order for an activity to be considered brain aerobics, three conditions must be met. The activity needs to:

Mind Games generously donated by Cranium Crunches

  • Engage your attention.
  • Involve more than one of your senses.
  • Break a routine activity in an unexpected, nontrivial way.

Some examples of fantastic, brain-building mental exercises include reading, writing, playing board games, and doing crossword puzzles.

Mind Games

Distraction and competing bits of information often make picking out what is important in a situation complicated. The best way to hone those skills is to practice in situations that replicate real life.

 

Although Alzheimer’s is a horrible problem for so many, we can practice prevention and hope for a cure one day.  I’m grateful for scientists and physicians that work diligently to put an end to this illness.  I’m also thankful that as more and more is learned about Alzheimers, we can put practices into place to combat the onset and progression.

Have you known a relative or friend who has dealt with a family member or friend who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease?  I’d love to know how they coped.  Please leave a comment below and let’s share information about the trials and triumphs associated with this illness.

 

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Cottage Blues

House

 

Hello Peeps,

I hope your weekend was fun and relaxing!  Did you do something special to celebrate Father’s Day?  My poor hubby, and the amazing father of our two sons signed up for sweat and tears this weekend!  Just kidding, but he worked really hard and I did, too.  You see, we replaced all our windows and doors last summer and added shaker siding.  We love the way our house went from tired, ugly Brady Bunch to a lovely shade of blue with the feel of a country cottage.  Scroll down and you’ll see what I mean!

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Yep, that’s the way the house looked when we bought it!  We knew this place had a ton of potential and we loved the setting so we dug our heels in and held on until we could make exterior improvements.  Since the work wasn’t done until late last Summer, Fall  set in quickly and we turned our attention to stocking up our wood supply.  We had a mild winter, but I was still surprised at the amount of dirt and debris that had collected on our window sills and decks.  Ewww!  We decided it was time to do some exterior clean up, so we fired up the power washer and worked our little hearts out.

Everything looks and feels so. much. better.  So, although Father’s Day wasn’t our typical day of celebration, the king of my castle will rest well knowing that all our hard work was worth every minute! 🙂

Have you ever fallen in love with the feel of a house and plunged in despite its current state?  We have lived in a lot of houses.  So many, that I’m often teased by my friends and family.  You know, we were flipping houses before the phrase was even popular.  We didn’t actually set out to be flippers. But for one reason or another, we would buy a home, rework it inside and out and then we’d move and start all over again. I kind of blamed myself because I thought it was because I loved decorating.  I actually worked as a decorator and so our houses always sold quickly.  What I didn’t realize was how much both my husband and I craved being in a place where we could enjoy our privacy.  We have the world’s greatest neighbors, but they seem to feel much the same way; always there if needed but otherwise a friendly wave is sufficient!

I hope that doesn’t sound rude or unfriendly!  I really, really don’t mean it that way!  Just before we moved here I began understanding what a true introvert I am.  I’ve taken test after test and each one of them ends with the same result.  I am an introvert.  I love being alone and especially when I have a drawing or invitation that I’m working on.  I love having projects that consume my thoughts and I love being home. I need time alone to process and make sense of everyday life.

It took me quite a long time to realize that this is the way God made me and it’s really okay.  For quite awhile, I felt like I must surely be different than everyone else.  It was a real eye-opener when I learned that there are others out there who feel much the same way that I feel.  I learned to accept my differences and even to embrace them.  This little home of ours helps me live the life I was yearning to live.  I am so grateful that my husband is content being away from a large city or in a neighborhood full of people, too.

What about you?  Do you get energized being with people or by being alone?  Does your home help fit your personality?

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Vintage Style Wedding Invitation

Walters Simpson Invitation

 

This sweet, vintage style invitation was so much fun to create!  The banner with birds and flowers was found at The Graphics Fairy http://thegraphicsfairy.com.  I love the grass green accent color mixed with black.  It’s interesting to see what colors are trending.  It’s also nice to work in colors that are not often used together.

I have to chuckle when I think back to what was popular when I got married.  My wedding colors were baby blue and white.  Even my groom was dressed in baby blue!  Wide brimmed garden hats were all the rage and I carried a boquet of daisys!  The church was beautiful but it was a hot August day and the church wasn’t air-conditioned.  The best part is that I’m still married to the great guy who met me at the altar!

Sometimes I wonder what style and colors I would choose if I were a blushing bride today.  Would I go with the current trend or choose something completely different than most?  I honestly don’t know!

What style and colors would you like in your dream wedding?  What kind of venue would you choose?

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Free Printable Give Away with Subscription!

ivy botanical

 

FREE Ivy Botanical Illustration Printable with Your Blog Subscription!  You can print this out, trim it up and put in an 8 x 10 frame and have instant wall art!

Please sign up on your lower right and pass it on to your friends!  I’ll be adding freebies from time to time so check back when you can!  Please note; for personal use only. No commercial use is authorized.

                                                DOWNLOAD BELOW: 

http://www.mycottageblue.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/MCB-Ivy-Poster-Printable.jpg

 

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Tulip Botanical in Colored Pencil

Pink Tulip

Colored pencil is my favorite medium to use when drawing flowers.  Don’t you just love the colors that burst forth in the Spring?  This illustration was done several years ago while I was attending a class at The Indianapolis Art Center http://indplsartcenter.org.  That class is what made me realize how much I love working in colored pencil!  I worked on Strathmore Bristol Vellum.  I like the feel of this paper because it has a nice tooth but isn’t heavily textured.  I used Berol Prismacolor colored pencils because I like the way they are  waxy which helps me blend colors together.  I was excited to learn how to add water droplets to the drawing, too.

Do you have a favorite medium to work in while illustrating or painting in nature?  I’d love to see your work and to share it with my readers!

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Birds of a Feather

 

Tufted Titmouse jpg. 1

TUFTED TITMOUSE

Baeolophus Bicolor

I often spot these little birds on our feeder just outside the window.  I used Berol Prismacolor pencils for the bird and foliage and pastel for the background.

Here’s a little info about these sweet birds:

The Tufted Titmouse is a small songbird from North America, a species in the Chickadee family.  Their habitat is deciduous and mixed woods as well as gardens, parks and shrub land in the Eastern United States.

They forage actively on branches, sometimes on the ground and are often seen eating seeds, nuts and berries.  They tend to be curious about their human neighbors and can sometimes be spotted on window ledges peering into the windows to watch what’s going on inside.  They are more shy when seen at bird feeders; their normal pattern is to scout the feeder from the cover of trees or bushes, fly to the feeder, take a seed, and fly back to cover to eat it.

Are there any other bird watchers out there?  I’d love to hear what your favorite species is.  Who knows, maybe your favorite bird might inspire me to illustrate another lovely feathered friend!

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Kentucky Derby Inspired Wedding

Server Bosse Invitation 12 16 100 4

THE DESIGN PROCESS

The mother of the bride contacted me last Fall and asked if I would like to design Lesley and Patrick’s wedding invitation.  She said the ceremony would take place in Lexington, Kentucky and that it was to be an equestrian themed event.  I was thrilled because this was a unique design challenge for me.

After the first of the year, I was contacted with more specifics.  The bride and her mother spent countless hours scouring the internet.  That was a huge help for me because I had a much better idea of the direction they were most interested in.  I knew Lesley envisioned a pretty horseshoe surrounded by a lot of pattern, and with little negative space in the design.  I suggested that we incorporate some of her wedding flowers in the design, whether using royalty free clip art or I hand illustrated them.

I was elated to find a beautiful Spencerian horseshoe on The Graphics Fairy website http://thegraphicsfairy.com.  Karen has a lovely site full of vintage royalty free clip art.  After finding the horseshoe, which is the background of the design, I began working in Photoshop to remove the birds.

Spencerian Horseshoe

Next I decided on the fonts I would use.  I love to use Edwardian Script for formal invitations, which is a beautiful, delicate script.  I chose to mix it with Engravers MT, which has a more masculine Serif style with all caps.  I began placing the text and varying the font sizes until I liked the feel of the design.

I added a banner which was pretty decorative and later changed it to a more simple banner style.  The wedding date was placed inside the banner and curved slightly.

Banner

Back at The Graphics Fairy I searched for something to enhance the horseshoe.  I found a beautiful antique print ornament.  I cropped portions of it and added the remainder to the top of the horseshoe.

Antique Ornament

Lesley and I discussed specific flowers that she would be using in her wedding.  They consisted of hydrangea, roses and ranunculus.  I found beautiful images for the hydrangea and roses but was unable to find the ranunculus that worked.  I wanted to add some flower buds so I drew some ranunculus buds.  I added the flower buds inside the antique ornament and finished it off with some feminine flourishes.

Hydrangea Server Invitation

Lesley and her mother, Janice, had a specific gold that they loved.  We tried several hues and decided to color match another invitation.   We found the perfect gold and I made everything match the gold that they loved.  We were all pleased with the final look!

Would any of you like to see the rest of the wedding suite?  There are four other pieces that coordinate.  Please leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions and are interested in seeing the complete wedding suite!

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I’m Crushing on Foil!

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Do you ever find a project on Pinterest that you obsess about; something new and beautiful that you are dying to try?  I tend to have a one-track mind when I find a new art project or craft technique that I want to conquer.

 

LIVING IN THE STICKS HAS IT’S ADVANTAGES BUT NOT ALWAYS!

Living away from stores and shopping doesn’t usually bother me.  That is, until I find something different that I want to dive into and then find I’m missing a major component to create said project.  This dilema leaves me with three solutions;  the first involves driving the winding roads to the next town, the second is shopping online and waiting for my package to arrive and the third is to sweet talk my husband into shopping for the supplies on his way home from work (insert wink)!

None of these options are ideal!  I try my best to come up “Plan B” so I can get my craft on!  The craft I’ve been crushing on is gold foil prints.  Love, love love!

 

NOT ALL PRINTERS ARE CREATED EQUAL

Much to my dismay, I realized s much as I love my Canon Pixma Pro printer for printing my invitations and cards, it wasn’t going to work for this task.  I needed a laser printer that used toner and not ink.  The toner is  necessary to make the foil react and stick.  I couldn’t justify purchasing another printer and I was far too impatient to send my work to a print shop and wait on the laser prints.  Are you beginning to see that I donn’t possess the virtue of patience?

Because I was desperate, I decided an experiment was in order.  I rummaged through my art and craft supplies.  I had already purchased a roll of gold reactive foil and a toner pen.  I didn’t like the tip of the pen and found it clumsy to work with.  It also dried up when I tried to use it the second time.  Ugh!

I had to find something that would activate the foil to stick to the design.  I thought about the different glues I had in my arsenal.  I decided to try a glue by Aleene’s called TACK-IT Over & Over.  This glue remains sticky so I decided to give it a try.  Here’s what happened:

 

A STEP BY STEP TUTORIAL WITH SUPPLIES PICTURED

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  1. I applied the glue lightly to a rubber stamp and then went over it gently with a paint brush to spread the glue evenly over the raised areas.
  2. Next I cut a piece of reactive foil just large enough to cover the area of the stamp and a bit beyond.
  3. I found the horizontal center of my card and placed the rubber stamp on my smooth cardstock.
  4. I pressed down softly on the stamp and then lifted it carefully.  There was a bit of resistance as I lifted the stamp, but I could see the glue was just where it was supposed to be (insert happy dance)!
  5. I placed the foil on top of the glue and gnetly smoothed over the image with my fingertips.  I could see the raised impression of the glue through the foil.
  6. Next I put the cardstock through my laminating machine on the 3 millimeter setting.
  7. Once the cardstock came through my machine, I carefullly peeled the foil away to find a beautiful, shiny gold image!
  8. On the cards below I added a strip of Scor-Tape near the bottom edge of the card.  I placed the tape and smoothed it on the cardstock.  I peeled back the top to expose the sticky top side of the tape.  I placed a sheet of foil over the tape and ran it though the laminating machine.  The foil strip added a nice finishing touch!

HINT:  To throughly clean your rubber stamp, soak a cloth in rubbing alcohol and rub vigorously over the stamp.  You may have to do this a couple of times to remove all the glue.

HINT:  I found the more detailed stamps worked better for me than the smooth stamps using this technique.

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What about you?  Hav you fallen in love with all the foil designs found around the interweb?  Do you have any hints about working with a toner pen or printed toner?  I’d love to hear from you and see your stunning designs!

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Sir Crosby; a Pencil Illustration

I love drawing animals, botanicals and birds.  This particular little guy is my own personal pooch, Sir Crosby.  He is cute, sweet and a lot of company.  It’s true that pets come with a lot of responsibility, but when you’re an animal lover, the hard work comes with great rewards!

 

Sir Crosby is a funny little dog with a sweet disposition.  The little mark above his eye is called a kissing spot!  Funny but true!

 

Sir Crosby

For reasons I can’t explain, I love drawing dogs and cats in graphite but when the subject is a bird or flower I always work in colored pencil. Berol Prismacolor pencils are my favorite.

CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL

The cavalier is one of the largest toy breeds.  Historically it was a lap dog, and modern day adults can fill a lap easily.

The breed standard recognizes four colors; Blenheim (chestnut & white)

tricolor (black/white/tan)

black and tan

ruby

The breed is generally friendly, affectionate and good with both children and other animals; however, they require a lot of human interaction.

Do you have a special fur baby in your life?  Would you ever consider having an illustration made to commemorate their importance to you?

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Rise & Shine; You Can Love your Wake-up Call!

Coffee Cup

Early mornings are probably my favorite time of day.  Being an introvert, I love a quiet morning.  I enjoy hearing the birds sing and the wind blow through the trees.  Do you look forward to waking up each morning?  Or do you quickly jump out of bed feeling frazzled and overwhelmed with your long to-do list?  Because I want you to love your mornings as much as I do, I want to help you enjoy the start of each day.  It may require setting your alarm a few minutes earlier than usual, especially if you have littles, but I promise it will be worth it!  I think you’ll be amazed by the peace and anticipation you’ll feel when you begin your day this way!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1.   Be kind to yourself with something you love, like a steamy cup of coffe, tea or something else that soothes you and wakes you gentlly.

2.  Sit in the same cozy spot each day.  Before going to bed each night, remove any distractions, such as remotes, magazines, etc.If it’s chilly outside, have a throw or cover nearby.

3.  As you sip your drink, open your mind and talk openly to God.  I believe he cares about your day as much as you do.  Tell him about anything that jumbles your thoughts.  Allow him to show you what’s really important about your day ahead of you.

4.  Use a daily devotional book and read the correlating scripture.  Pray that God will direct you and show you how this reading applies to you in a personal way.  You may realize that you have found a solution to a problem or concern by appying what you’ve just read.

5.  Pray about any other thoughts you have, whether they make you feel happy or sad.  Try to release your worries and thank God for the good things in your life.

I believe this approach helps me put my life in perspective and to look at the bigger picture.  So many problems that I’ve allowed to take upon myself to fix are things that I was never in control of anyway.  These quiet morings help me remember that God is God and that I am not responsible for many things that I’ve let trouble my mind.  As you continue with this routine, I hope you will learn to be kind to yourself and to stop pressuring yurself about every.little.thing.

Heart Picture

Some of my favorite devotional books:

Jesus Calling

Streams in the Desert

My Utmostt for His Highest

Do you have a favorite morning routine?  I’d love to hear whether you’ve tried this routine to a quiet morning or have any other suggestions?  Please leave a comment and let me know!

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