Thursday, May 30, 2013

Big Black Puff Balls

So, today I don't have an opinion. I'm going to share something quite random instead. It has vaguely to do with our recent focus on fashion and style.

I had a really weird dream the other night. There was some sort of epic fight at a girls' boarding school over whether the new girl should attend classes or not. Guns, grenades, and eventual triumph by the headmistress of the dream school. And at the end, the girls were celebrating with a pompous gala. The fashion at this gala was hilariously gaudy. Like, imagine this one with a 4ft wide white hat with trailing black tulle ball/bow things. It was magical. Cruella de Vil meets Black Swan.

In honor of this dream, here's a collection of some of the weirdest black and white dresses I could find on the internet. Enjoy!

She's so proud of this, too....

Black snakes or duct tape? What do you think?

YES! My wish is to shop at Walmart in this.

Actually, that last pic came from another blog, The Witch of the Place, that has a fabulous collection of wacky dresses. Reading her gushing love for each dress is rather fun...

Okay, I changed my mind. I have an opinion. DO NOT put your $200,000 six carat diamond in the tiniest dang four-prong basket setting you can find. No amount of metal is going to "cover up" that sparkle, but you are gonna notice when you lose it. Geez. Better yet, come to my house and snag it on the carpet. I'll take better care of it.

Peace and happy Friday!

Rachel C

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Coastal Dream

There has always been a part of me that has felt a connection to the coast, the ocean, the beaches, the sea. I love the calming sound of waves lapping onto the beach; the smell of salt in the air and the singing chirps from seagulls. I long for the beautiful blues and greens of the sky and water and the soothing, warm, soft sand under my feet. I want to be sporting cool, casual beachwear, to go shopping at quaint beachside boutiques, and to go out for lunch and cocktails at an open air restaurant on the water with my husband. Who wouldn't, right? Too bad I live in Minnesota! I do love it here, but my dream is to own a cottage on the East Coast someday. I can picture everything from family fun and romantic evenings on the beach to crazy, wild, girls' weekends. I'm not exactly sure where this cottage will be, but I know what it will look like. It's been in my mind's eye for a long time...

Ideally, it will look a lot like this, except instead of tan with white trim, it will be a warm gray with white trim. Of course there will need to be some really comfortable and casual outdoor furniture, such as upholstered rattan pieces and Adirondack chairs on the porches. And I'm guessing the Mr. will want a fishing boat and other water sports stuff parked in that little garage under the front porch. Wait, no, no, no. That stuff will go out back or somewhere else. That little garage will house my brand new charcoal gray Jeep Wrangler. Silly me!

The "back yard" will look a lot like this. Soft, tall, blowing grasses flanking a long boardwalk out to the beach. YES! This is where we will collect sea shells and set up beach towels at dusk while enjoying a glass (or five) of wine or beer and unwind from a long day at work. This is what I will walk out to when I need a break from work, which, by the way, will be located on the top floor of the cottage:  My own studio where I will design and assemble my wares. When our kids have families, this is where they will come to visit and vacation. I'll have my girlfriends over for long weekends and bonfires at night on the beach. This is where memories will be made with our family and friends.

Of course, A beach cottage isn't complete without a fresh and casual interior. I see a white envelope - walls, built-in cabinets, some furniture; with accents of shades of blues and greens to bring the feel of the ocean and sky inside. I want my kids and future grandkids, family and friends, to feel at home and relaxed when they come to visit. It will feel comfortable, bright, and energetic during the day, and cozy, warm and peaceful at night. It will be a retreat and a home at the same time.

This is my idea of a living/family room. Energetic, eclectic, casual.

And a soft, soothing and romantic master bedroom...

and a light and airy dining room with a view of the ocean. is my coastal dream. I already feel relaxed and refreshed, and - even though I'm sitting in my suburban Minnesota townhome on a cold, rainy, spring night - I can smell the ocean breeze, hear the singing seagulls, and smell the salt in the air. It's time to wake up from my dream and face the daily grind and get to work. How else am I going to reach my ultimate goal? Well, I have to dream big!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Traditionally Folk Art is the work of untrained craftsmen.  There is a strong functional and practical element to Folk Art.  Utilizing the long winter hours, farmers would build new tools and whirligigs for the farm while the women would gather together and create quilts. 
Folk Art reminds us that art has a place in the simplest of homes. Combining a love of color and an inventive spirit with a creative flair, Folk Artists are perhaps untrained and yet demonstrate imaginative, artistic talent. 

 Primitively crafted and often roughly painted, Folk Art offers a bit of charm and whimsy but is meant to be practical and utilitarian. 

For me using reclaimed wood for Folk Art satisfies my need to be creative. I enjoy taking a cast off piece of wood, cutting, painting and repurposing it as something whimsical, fun and playful.  Folk Art pieces are fun to create, and of course it's very gratifying if others enjoy them as well!


The simplest and most common example of Folk Art is the wind-driven whirligig.  The word whirligig is derived from two Old English words whirlen (to whirl) and gigg (top) meaning to literally ‘whirl a top’.  

The American version of the wind driven whirligig probably originated with the immigrant population of the United Kingdom as whirligigs are mentioned in early American colonial times.

Example of a wind driven whirligig
By the latter half of the 19th century constructing wind driven whirligigs had become a pastime and art form.  Craftsman from the southern Appalachians continued to produce whirligigs into the 20th century. During the great depression there was resurgence of whirligigs by craftsman and amateurs which was attributed to the need for ready cash.

A wind-driven whirligig transfers the energy of the wind into either a simple release of kinetic energy through rotation or a more complicated transfer of rotational energy.  The whirligig can be either a simple or a more complicated mechanism that produces repetitive motions and/or creates sounds. The wind simply pushes on the whirligig turning one part of it and setting it into motion by using inertia.

An example of a simple whirligig is the button whirligig, (also called button spinners).  Button whirligigs are simple spinning toys made with a button and a string or thread.  They work by looping the ends of the thread and twisting and pulling with both arms, causing the button to spin. They were simple toys.  In America, they were popular during pioneering days and during the Depression Era because they were inexpensive to make, yet very entertaining. Children of the great depression from the southern Appalachians and Ozarks remember a button and a string as the primary spinning toy of their youth.

Create a simple button whirligig:




1.   Cut a 24-inch length of string.
2.   Thread the string through the holes in the button.
3.   Tie the ends of the string together.
4.   Insert the middle finger of each hand into the loop at each end with the button in the middle.
5.   Spin the button to twist the strings and continue twisting the string until it becomes wrapped around itself all the way to your fingers.
6.   Pull the strings taut to let them begin to untwist.
7.  Release the pressure and then pull the string taut again to keep the whirligig spinning. Apply gentle tension to the string by pulling your hands apart. The button will begin to spin.

NOTE:  Pulling and releasing the string tension keeps the button spinning. Speeding up the action causes the button to make a whirring sound.


Enjoy some simple fun!
Author:  Trish (BlackCrowCurios)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Beer is not just for Guys. Ladies you can learn to love it too!

When I think of beer, I think of Al Bundy from Married with Children, sitting on the couch in front of the TV with his hand in his waistband and him opening up a cold one...haha. Talk about stereotyping! With the huge influx of Micro Breweries popping up all over the United States, it's time to redefine and open your eyes to this neat little world.

I hear it all the time from women: "I don't drink beer, it's bitter and it doesn't taste good!" Well ladies that's because you haven't given any time to "acquiring" a taste for beer. How many women choose wine over beer? I don't know but it seems to be a lot. When I look around a restaurant or bar and grill, the guys are drinking beer and the majority of women are drinking wine or a mixed drink....aka foofoo drinks. Now think about the first time you tried wine, did you go straight for the Merlot? Most likely not, you went for the white sweet wine, such as a Riesling. Once you've established the taste for white wine you eventually move up and onto red wine, like a Shiraz or a blend...thennnnn maybe a Merlot. I can only speak from my personal experience and that of other people I know, but once you've moved from white to red wine, that becomes your go to wine. Yes you will occasionally drink white wine, when pairing it with a particular meal or on a summer day but it's not your favorite. What I am saying is you've "acquired" the taste for wine over time, and this is the same for beer. Give it a chance and taste a few...don't give up!

First a little beer history-Beer basically falls into two categories-Ale or Lager. It's all about the yeast, Ale yeast collects near the top during fermentation and Lager yeasts collects near the bottom during fermentation. Lager yeast also tends to ferments more aggressively lessening the sweetness and flavors. Beers are rated with two values that may be listed on your menu: ABV (Alcohol by Volume) and IBU (International Bittering Unit) how bitter, skunky or hoppy a beer is.

So you are in a Micro Brewery with friends and there are a ton of beer selections, what do you order?? Well let me break it down for you:
Ambers 4-6% 25-40 Light Lager 4-5% 8-10
Brown Ales 5-8% 20-40 Dark Lager 4-5% 15-25
Hefe-weizen/Wheat 4-5% 5-20 Pilsners 4-5% 25-45
Pale Ales 4-7% 30-45 Bocks 6.5-8.5% 25-35
IPA (Indian Pale Ale) 6-9% 40-70
Imperial Pale Ales 8-20% 60-100
Porters 6-7% 25-50
Stouts 4-5% 35-75
*Imperial anything= High ABV and IBU

1)If you are a newbie or an "I'm going to give this a second chance" gal then start off with a Hefe-weizen/Wheat beer or a Light Lager. These are lower in alcohol content and their IBU is the lowest, meaning its going to be less bitter, less hit-you-in-the-face aftertaste. If you prefer flavor then definitely go with the WHEAT BEERS. Most Micro Breweries will have a few wheat beers on tap, ask for a fruity one. Many are berry, orange, apple or even grapefruit flavored. In bottles- Leinenkugel offers a Berry Weiss or Summer Shandy and Shock Top offers  Raspberry Shock Top. They taste delicious!

2)If carbonation is the hold back, many of the breweries now offer Nitrogen infused beer. Rather than using only Carbon Dioxide (CO2) to carbonate beer, they can offer a combo of CO2 and Nitrogen (N). The Nitrogen has a smaller particle size, thus giving the beer a smoother headier taste. Beers such as Guiness and Murphy Stout have always been nitrogenated. My personal opinion is the beer tasted flat...I apparently prefer lots of carbonation.

3)If that still isn't your style then go for the newer Hard Ciders, but beware they taste like apple cider but with alcohol....try not to chug them! At least you won't look like the odd man...I mean woman out, you still look like you've got a beer in hand.

I hope I have at least gotten you interested in a do-over and giving beer a second chance. Remember, just like wine, you most likely have to acquire the taste for beer....give it time:)

**Popular beer brands you might recognize:

Brown Ales-New Castle, Moose Drool
Wheat Ales- Blue Moon, Shock Top, Leinenkugel
Pale Ales-Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Blue Heron
Stouts-Guiness, Murphy's
Amber-Fat Tire
Pilsners-Beck's, Stella Artors
Light Lager-Papst, Coors, Bud Light Corona, Heineken, Red Stripe
Japenese Rice Lagers-Sapporo, Asashi
Bocks-Shinerbock, Michelob Amberbock
Hard Cider-Old Orchard


Monday, May 13, 2013

Style – House Style

Personally, I have little or no style – clothing wise that is.  I totally believe in being comfortable…and have not always pulled that off stylishly.  You could probably say I dress like your typical stay-at-home mom…well typical in Arkansas at least.  In winter - jeans and sweater (light weight of course), in spring and fall – capri pants with cool sandals, summer – shorts and tanks with more shorts and more tanks.  For those of you who don’t know – it’s awfully dang hot and humid in south Arkansas in the summer.

But my house now…I have always had a stylish house.  I’m fairly certain my husband and I buy and remodel houses just so I can decorate.  LOVE to decorate.  When we had been married a little over 4 years, we bought a house that is about 4 sizes too large for us.  It needed a lot of tender loving care, and the plan was to remodel, decorate, and resell.  Seventeen years later we are still living here, because I can redecorate anytime I want just my rearranging who is sleeping in what room or what a room is being used for.  Plus, now that we've been here this long, we have WAY more furniture than I want to move to another houseJ.

Ever fear you are turning into your mom?  Well, in many ways I could totally benefit by being my mom…but she has no house style.  Here’s her style: 

ugly early American.  REALLY ugly.  I was so proud of my mom last year when she decided to remodel.  Unfortunately, she just remodeled right back to NEW ugly early American. Remember Hurculean? YUK.

A readying nook/library - so me!
I've always liked many different types of style – ultra modern, French country, mid-century sleek.  But I find that I end up decorating in more of a transitional style.  I love to find an old piece of furniture and put a totally modern fabric on it.  Or take an abused piece of mid-century furniture and paint it high gloss black.  Here are a few pictures of rooms you might find in my  house...if I took pictures.
Not my exact hallway but pretty close.

I just love this painting.

My dream dining room...
My current kitchen looks a lot like this...I just need more window.

A bedroom to dream dreams in!

You can see more of my particular style on my pinterest board:

My style is an expression of my emotions via my house.  I like things organized and clean…if only I could convince my family to feel the same J.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

No matter what you put on... you'll look bad!

How many times have you stood in front of the mirror after changing three times?

And yet nothing you put on looks good... it makes you want to pull your hair out in frustration!!  And yet the problem isn't the clothes in your closet at all.  It is how you feel about yourself at that time.  Its not like a bad hair day.  Sometimes a cowlick just shows up, we slept on our hair the wrong way... but a fat day is different!

Its different because it can't be fixed by washing our hair again, or changing into the perfect outfit.  It is a state of mind.  Usually brought on by overeating the day before or a night of drinking and snacking on junk food.  Something that feels so good the night before, but oh how we can kick ourselves the day after!

Its a day that starts out bad and then tends to get worse because once we finally decide on what we are going to wear, we are not happy about how we feel in it.  We take that feeling out into the world with us and people can feel it.  They react to it and our day tends to get worse!

How do we fix this???
Don't we all wish we could do it in the snap of our fingers?  A easy Abra Kadabra! Whoosh its gone and we feel sexy and fabulous!

Its not as easy as all that, but I think we can make a little bit of a difference in our days with a couple of changes to that horrible routine!

The number one rule of thumb to remember is that feeling sexy is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with your dress size what time of month it is or anything like that.

Also looking sexy has nothing to do with your age. Its all about your attitude. Having the right attitude goes along way. Matter of fact, I think it is one of the most misused, or under-rated statements made. The way people see you is different from the way you see yourself. People have no idea how old you are unless YOU tell them.
So get over it!!  Start acting like how you want to feel and it will be your reality!

Be strong and confident. The only person who can tear you down is you!  So instead build yourself up.  Quit looking for others to draw self-assurance and self-approval from. People, especially women have way too many jealousy issues to mulled around with. So stopping dressing for them, and start dressing sexy for yourself.

You will be amazed at how much better you'll feel with less refined sugar, less grease and more water. The body is an incredible bounce back machine.  Throw way all the diet fads and crash diet recipe mixes. Go outside a sweep off your sidewalk for exercise today. Starting eating healthier. You know what it takes; lesser portion size, more fruits and veggie's, only water and lots of it, and a little more daily activity to living life right. .

It is all about what how you feel inside!

Treat yourself kindly and you will feel amazing!!


Monday, May 6, 2013

Clothing Power!

So, Merry's post got me thinking about style. Personal style is in many ways, a flashing neon sign directed at other humans. It signals such things as mood, confidence, personality type, daily activities, duties, and sometimes what you ate that morning. I don't care how much you say you don't judge people based on clothing. You many not be "judging" but you are analyzing. We all do it; it's an ingrained method of understanding culture and the individuals within it. Because this analysis is ingrained and largely subconscious, changing your personal style is an excellent way to mess with people's heads. I do this often.

For instance:

My little demon <3
I like to walk my dog with a Pashmina scarf (wide, shawl-like type with elaborate patterns) wrapped around my head if it's misty. This mostly happens in the wintertime. My dog is a wild animal and needs all hands on deck to manage. Umbrellas are out of the question, and most jacket hoods are too small and slip off. My head's not that big, I promise. I suspect the industry just thinks hoods are for looks only. Like fake money, and almost as disappointing. Anyway, I walk my dog with my head wrapped up when it's misting. My neighbors then go from smiling, waving, chatty people whom I've known for years, to nervous little critters. If I wave, they scurry back into their garages with heads bowed and a clear lack of actual purpose. My neighbors think I'm a Muslim when I have the scarf on. They run away because they think I'm a terrorist. Or, perhaps I've got it all wrong and they think me a leper. Either way, these kinds of reactions made me quite curious at the power of a scarf.

OK, that's me in a blanket, but you get the idea.
So I did a little experiment all winter. It was windy, so I could be justified in bundling up. It's not like a tried this in the summer. When I used a "normal" knitted scarf and wrapped my face, nobody gave a flying squirrel about it. When I used the Pashmina, cashiers flinched, nobody was available to help me in the aisles of stores, and people actually stopped their cars more than 3 inches from my kneecaps in crosswalks. It was weird.

It makes a nice tribal wall decoration, too!

Another for instance:

For my college graduation jewelry exhibition, I had made a wild necklace from computer cord and zip ties. It didn't really fit with the collection to be in the show, but it was fun to wear, so I borrowed a hot-momma black dress, popped on the necklace, painted my lips bright red, and went to my show. Those of you that have been to art shows know that strange people infest art shows, so I shouldn't have stood out as much as I seemed to. People asked to take pictures all night, even in the streets, like they were tourists. I went downtown for fro-yo later and somebody got out of their car to shout "Lady GaGa!!" and point at me. Still not sure if they were kidding, drunk/blind, or actually thought Lady GaGa was present. Several people clearly thought I was some kind of celebrity and I almost caused an accident because some driver was gawking. The fro-yo people even treated me like I was a very important person who had paid a surprise visit and whom they were desperately trying to remember the name of.

The best part of this whole thing was not the attention or the stories to tell later. It was the fact that, in that dress, with those red lips, with that spikey wild "necklace" on, I felt invincible. In one of the strangest outfits I've ever worn in public, I felt more confident than I ever could in my own clothes. I walked tall, ordered my fro-yo like I owned the shopping center, and stared directly back at the gawking people. Normally, I'm terriblyshy towards strangers. My words get all knotted up and I forget to look at people. Not in that outfit! (I've always thought it's impossible to be shy in red lipstick.)

So, while I don't believe that clothes are the end-all-be-all to "making the (wo)man," I have to honestly say that it often makes a huge whopping difference.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013



“You cannot travel the path until you become the path itself”
Ancient Buddhist saying
Hiking, besides being healthy and invigorating has always been a pleasurable way for me to spend time outside.  Hiking provides a physical challenge as well as a break from today’s hectic living and offers the tranquility of the forest as well as the thrill of connecting with nature.  Vancouver Island is rich with hiking trails and a moderate climate, allowing for year round opportunities of hiking where we can observe unique ecosystems and an abundance of wildlife and wildflowers.  The pleasures promised by a hike on one of the many trails never fail to tempt me to strap on a pack and lace up my hiking boots.  The scenery at the top of a mountain is without a doubt well worth the effort it sometimes takes to climb there.  Rock outcroppings offer rest spots with breathtaking vistas, eagles soar overhead and birdsong fills the clear, brisk air.  The rewards are immeasurable. 
There are no guarantees that the wilderness you’re hiking today will still be there tomorrow, therefore when it comes to sharing and enjoying nature a little consideration is crucial. More people are finding pleasure in the outdoors and the evidence of public recreation and the effect on the environment is becoming increasingly apparent. 

Even one hiker can have an impact on the fragile wilderness and hopefully we can retain the essence of the outdoors by using good ethics and practicing ‘no-trace hiking’.  Carrying out everything we bring into the forest, treating the forest and the trails with respect and leaving “only our footprints behind”.

So I encourage you to strap on a packsack, lace up your boots and hit the trails.  But before you head out here are a few significant points to keep in mind.
·        Insure that you are physically prepared
·        Carry a fully stocked backpack
·        Break in your boots before the hike
·        Wear wicking socks
·        Research your hike and be familiar with the area
·        Leave a detailed note as to where you are hiking and when you are expecting to return
·        Carry the ten basic essentials

1.     Water and plenty of it
2.     Food including high energy snacks
3.     Rain gear and change of socks
4.     Hat and sun block
5.     First aid kit
6.     Waterproof matches or lighter
7.     An extra layer of clothes
8.     Whistle
9.     Pocket knife
10. Compass and map of area

Once you are on the trail you will experience the inspirational rewards of embracing the wilderness, just watch your footing, respect the environment and enjoy the moment.
Happy Hiking!
This book was originally written as a tribute to my friend and mentor Marianne who at the time of the first issue was dealing with breast cancer. Marianne is well versed in wilderness safety and taught me many important lessons as we hiked. I compiled these lessons into this Hiking Book to share with you and designed the book to help you plan your hikes safely, and to carry with you as a guide.   Many readers found hope and inspiration in her strength and positive attitude as she dealt with her cancer treatments.  It has been over twenty years since Marianne first guided me on our initial hike together and ten years since the first writing of this book. At the time of the first writing, Marianne had hiked through her breast cancer treatments with the same quiet dignity and strength that she exudes on a mountain trail.
The hikes we shared during Marianne’s cancer treatments were not as strenuous as our usual weekly treks and yet they were especially meaningful.  Being on a forest path feed’s your soul and when you are feeling less energetic the essence of the forest energizes you.  The verdant forest, lush greens of the various fern’s, the assorted colors and variations of the wildflowers and the scampering of the forest inhabitants along the trail are a robust reminder of life’s ever changing cycles. Being on a forest trail renews our appreciation for all things living.  
Once Marianne’s strength returned we were back hiking with a renewed reverence for life and a reminder of the strength and beauty surrounding us in the forest as it does in our lives.
This book is meant as a guide to both those who are approaching hiking on Vancouver Island for the first time and for others who are already experiencing the pleasures of hiking. This anecdotal and informational account of hiking gives voice to the delight and lessons a trek in the wild imparts.
Author: Trish (BlackCrowCurios)

Question for the reader: 

What are your thoughts on development eating up the green spaces?