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The Sweet Joy of Pets…

We had a very special visitor at one of our church events recently- Joy, the comfort dog.  She is a specially trained golden retriever who is part of a local ministry sponsored by Lutheran Church Charities and it was such a treat to meet her.

I was amazed at how well trained she was.  She had kids, including really little ones, groping all over her and she was so chill. We had ice cream at the end of class and Joy didn’t react at all (her trainers shared that she never gets treats; only gets her dog food). My angel dog, Shelby, would have been in a frenzy trying to get a “taste” of everyone’s dish.

I know spending the evening with her had a great effect on my mood and maybe this is why I like to feature dogs on my cards. They just make people smile and feel good. I’m following Joy now on Facebook, getting to see how much love she shares with the community by visiting hospitals and airports, and I am enjoying all the positivity she adds to my feed.


Of course, cats shouldn’t be forgotten as they also bring a lot of joy.  After we lost our dog, Shelby, last year we had planned on an extended period with no pets.  But our house just felt empty and lifeless. We welcomed Max and Mia the day after Christmas- kittens we adopted from a local rescue group and they have certainly added a lot of happiness to our lives.  We definitely have to count our family as Team Dog and Team Cat and I love to feature both in my projects.

Mia and Max in their “glamour shots” from the rescue’s website
Shelby…sweet angel dog we loved for twelve years
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April 2- International Children’s Book Day

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s International Children’s Book Day- a holiday I never knew existed, but think is worth celebrating.  I was a voracious reader as a kid and it is still my favorite hobby. I never go anywhere now without at least two books in my kindle app in my phone, just in case.  Even though my college degrees are in lab science and business, my favorite college memory is from a children’s literature course I took over thirty years ago. I had to give a 20 minute oral presentation on E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan and still consider it one of the best projects I have ever put together, in or out of the classroom.

I have several favorite picture books, classics that I read over and over to my son when he was little.  I like the sassy beat of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, the sweet assurances of of the bunny family in Guess How Much I Love You, and am still fascinated by the creepily drawn monsters in Where The Wild Things Are.  I still have my son’s well read copy, even though he is now in his 20s.  It made such an impression on me that I named my cat Max after the main character, inspired by the line “…the night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief…” as this kitty sure likes to get into trouble.

My all time favorite childhood chapter book was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.  I think I always wanted to be like the main character, Francie Nolan.  She was poor and struggled with family upheaval, but she trusted that her determination and love for reading would be able to lift her out of the situation she was born into.  It gave me something to hope for.

I also loved the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, especially the versions beautifully illustrated by Garth Williams, who also did the artwork for Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan.  I have a special fondness for the stories where Laura and Almanzo met and fell in love.  As a nine year old, I found it incredibly romantic.

I recently started listening to author Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier and was surprised to learn that she was in several book clubs that read children’s literature.  What? Adults can read children’s books for their own enjoyment? This “permission” has reignited a desire to revisit some old favorites and see them through an older, and hopefully wiser, lens. Today would be an excellent time to start.

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Food Review: Chick Fil A’s Frosted Key Lime Treat

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to try Chick Fil A’s newest menu option- the Frosted Key Lime.  This not something I would normally get. If I’m splurging at Chick Fil A, it’s usually on fries or cookies.  However, the uniqueness of the flavor intrigued me enough to try it.

This treat starts as a frosted lemonade, an already well established item on Chick Fil A’s menu.  The lime flavor comes from a mixture of three types of limes and it’s colored with turmeric and spirulina.  I didn’t know what spirulina was and my stomach clenched a bit when I found out it was algae, but if algae tastes like this, I may just become a fan.

I loved how the creamy sweetness of the ice cream counteracted the tartness of the lime without obscuring it. Chick Fil A’s soft serve ice cream has a sweet vanilla flavor, better than other fast food restaurants, which really elevates all their frozen desserts.

The drink comes in two sizes and also in a “diet” version utilizing their Splenda sweetened lemonade in the base.  I tried the regular version, but next time I might try the “diet” as my husband might not be as eager to help me drink it.  Maybe I should just tell him about the algae?

I highly recommend giving this a try.  I don’t eat key lime pie so I can’t speak to the authenticity of the flavor when compared to the real thing, but it certainly was delicious.  It’s only available for a limited time and I will definitely be getting one more before it exits the menu.

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Birthday Bear Card

I generally make my cards utilizing clip art, sadly my own artistic talent is limited, but  I found some really talented artists on Etsy and Laurie Furman is one of my favorites. Many of her sets include not only several kinds of adorable clip art, but coordinating digital papers as well, and I was able to use both in this simple birthday card.  I have seen some beautiful handmade cards made with stamps, but I have never been able to get the hang of using them myself.

I like to line my envelopes with matching paper- it doesn’t take long and really adds an extra decorative touch.  Sometimes I’ll add a solid border to frame the clip art, but decided that this one looked fine without.

I love this digital paper, it’s definitely one of my favorites. The abundance of color in the pattern makes it so versatile- I think I’ll be using this style quite frequently.

At one point I was making my own blank cards and envelopes, but found that for me, the extra time wasn’t worth it.  I get my blank card and envelope sets from the craft store and they work great.

I use Hewlett Packard’s matte presentation paper for the clip art and card background.  I think the quality of paper makes a huge difference in the crispness of the design and brightness of the colors.  Also, it’s thick enough to keep the background from showing around the main graphic.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/128433988/birthday-bears-digital-art-laurie

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Just to say “Hello”

It seems, from what I read, that genuine human connection is becoming a lost art.  In an era where almost anyone at anytime can “reach out and touch someone” as the old Bell TV commercials used to implore us to do, it’s odd that so many people report feeling alone.   The numbers have prompted some public health officials to characterize loneliness as an epidemic, though others disagree with that terminology. Regardless of what it’s called, feelings of isolation are certainly on the rise along with memes about “finding your tribe” and the availability of professional cuddlers.  

As an introvert who is very shy and struggles with social interaction, I can certainly understand this issue.   I am working on expanding my social circle and making a real effort to actually look at people and smile when they talk to me, even it’s a clerk in a store that I may never see again.

I was quite a prolific letter writer when I was younger and early in my work life I worked at several card shops. These provided ways for me to forge relationships with people that I might have struggled to connect with had all our interactions been strictly face to face.  

Today, when I am really strapped for time (and it seems I always am) a quick “hello”, “congratulations” or “happy birthday” message on Facebook or in an email seemed to be all I can manage.  But I thought, wouldn’t it be better to be able give an actual card, something my recipient can hold onto? And wouldn’t it be even more significant if I made the card myself? As a person who works two jobs, sometimes my time is even more valuable than my money and using it to create something special gives me a lot of joy, a feeling I hope my recipient can sense when they open it.

Clip art sourced from http://www.etsy.com/listing/90763967/puppy-love-digital-art-valentine-clipart

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Calendar projects

One of my favorite parts of celebrating a new year is picking out a new calendar.  Between the three of us, we have rotated through themes of Shetland Sheepdogs (a nod to our dog, Shelby), cats, Bible verses, airplanes, cars, Taylor Swift, and more.  One of my personal favorites was one that had amazing photos of lightening, tornadoes, and other weather phenomenon.

Joshua and I are huge Halloween fans and have joked for years about how we would like to find a calendar that celebrated all things scary.  The closest kind we have been able to buy to commercially is a zombie calendar, but it was just too limited.  Halloween is about a lot more than zombies.

Last summer, on a whim, I decided to see if I could make one myself for him.  I searched for blank calendars on Amazon and was surprised to find several different styles.  We sat down and planned which scares would occupy which months and had a blast putting together something that was totally custom to his tastes.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much I decided to do another one for my office at work.

I knew my calendar had to be safe for work (no vampires!) and I wanted to make it a little smaller than the 12 X 12 inch one I put together for Joshua.  His ended up being very heavy after we added all the background pages and artwork.  I wanted to continue the colorful themes and positive messages of those I had bought for my office in previous years.

I was so disappointed with what I put together for January, I almost abandoned the entire project.  But I told myself that if I finished it and didn’t really think it was worthy enough for work (where anyone who comes into my office could see it), I would just use it at home.

I learned from what I didn’t like in January and it really improved as I went through the year.  There are a couple of months that are just really lovely and I proudly hung it on my wall on January 2nd.  Yes, January was not-so-great, but I knew that it would only look better as 2019 went on.

Joshua and I plan on a repeat of both for 2020 and I can’t wait to start putting those together.

www.etsy.com/shop/LaurieFurnellDesigns

http://www.etsy.com/shop/DigitalArtsi