Friday, March 28, 2014

Mama Bleu Designs and Cottages & Bungalows Magazine

Three weeks into January this year I was contacted by Maggie Abratte, a writer from Cottages & Bungalows magazine. Needless to say I was thrilled that she wanted to do a phone interview with me for the artist feature in their April issue.

Of course, the first time I was published was probably the most exciting of all, but every time I see my Mama Bleu Designs items in a magazine I get butterflies all over again.

Thank you Maggie! Our conversation that January afternoon was a delight!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vintage Fabric Yo-Yos

In every corner and on every shelf in my studio there is a little reminder of my mom. One of my favorites is also an inspiration. It is a vintage jar half-filled with handmade fabric yo-yos. She found them in an antique shop years ago and used them on the dolls she loved to make. 

I was curious today about the history of fabric yo-yos. According to the Alaska State Museum "the yo-yo quilt was a popular style of quilt making in America from the 1920-40s. Yo-yos, or tiny circles of fabric, were gathered up at the edges and sewn together to create a three-dimensional effect. Yo-yo quilts were popular because women could carry the little circles of fabric with them and make yo-yos whenever they had a free moment. "

Wow.....these are women after my own heart! I have a little yo-yo making box that holds everything I need to make the yo-yos that I need for the orders that are waiting to be completed for Mama Bleu Designs. I take it to ball games, doctor appointment, just about everywhere. Yup....that's how I get it all done!!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Celebrating 5 Years with Micah

We celebrated Micah's 5th birthday over the weekend. He has been asking for a batman birthday party, complete with chocolate cake and batman rings, for about 6 months! Happy Birthday to my favorite 5 year old!!

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Sock in the Nose

I remember receiving a "get well" card from a friend years ago that had a super fun illustration by Robert Stine on the front if it. I was reminded of this picture because two family members had major issues with their nose this week.

Things are looking up now and we are getting ready for a big 5th birthday party for Micah at our home. I hope your weekend if full of wonderful surprises that don't involve socks!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tax Time

Yup, it's that time of year again! I hate paperwork so I dread tax season. Although keeping the books can mean time away from completing orders and coming up with new ideas, I was surprised at how little time it took me to get all of my income and expense reports together for my tax accountant.

I mentioned last year that I started using an online service and it has made things so much easier for me. I still personally imput some of my expenses but most of them are automatically added for me.

Because I have a long history of managing the paperwork for my husband's business I know that keeping my receipts organized is really important. We were only audited once in all of the 25 years he was in business. I handed a folder box of receipts to our accountant and he went to the audit meeting in our place. He was asked to show them 3 random invoices. When the audit representative saw how organized things were they were satisfied and ended the meeting without question!

My system is simple!

I have a hanging folder system. It can be kept in a file drawer or a portable file box depending on how many receipts you collect in a year. Naming the folders should be personalized to fit your business. I have folders for each type of expense and each vendor I work with. It doesn't have to be complicated especially if your business is really small.

It is best to consult a professional accountant about what expects can and cannot be deducted as business costs. If it has anything to do your business.....from batteries for your camera to editing software for your computer.....keep track of those expenses. When in doubt - save the receipt!!

diy origami dresses here

I used to write all of my mileage in a small notebook or on my calendar. Now I put it in the "notes" app on my phone. I have a running list of business errands with date and miles that I refer to at tax time.

If you are looking for more tips on making Tax Time easier you may find this etsy article helpful.

I am cheering for all of you as you work on your business and do your best to manage it and make it grow!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

It's the Irish in Me

My grandfather was born in Cork, Ireland and I have photos of him as a child with his numerous siblings. As a teenager he immigrated to the United States and eventually met my grandmother and the rest is history.

I never really thought about why my grandfather didn't talk about Ireland and his childhood there. My son brought it up as a question to me a couple of years ago. He wondered why we didn't celebrate any traditions based on that heritage. It caused me to think about how so many immigrants were eager to shed their old way and embrace a new life in America.

My grandfather, Roland Brennan, is the toddler standing in the center of the photo
My grandpa Brennan died when I was a senior in high school. I was years away from embracing my family roots so I never sat with him to have any kind of memorable conversation about his early life. I found out bits and pieces of family history from my grandmother just a few years ago so now I have stories and photos in an album. Yet, there is little evidence to tie us to Ireland. No photos from his homeland. No keepsakes. I don't even remember him speaking with an Irish brogue.

It's not often that I think about my Irish grandpa but St Patrick's day stirs up a few memories in me. We ate corn beef and cabbage every March 17th just like everyone else and made sure to wear green so we didn't get pinched! Yes.....I'm wearing my green today!

Happy St Patrick's Day!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wisteria Weekend

It's Wisteria Weekend here in Sierra Madre! There will be a festival in town and public viewing of our world famous blooming vine. It's a big deal around here every March!

I decided to decline the invitation to set up a booth in town during the festival. Instead, I have been working on restocking my inventory at Belle's Nest. They will be open all day for the celebration so you can stop by and check out their pretty little shop.

In addition, I have a special Wisteria Weekend coupon code that you can use at Mama Bleu Designs on etsy all weekend. Use the word WISTERIA at checkout and receive 10% off any order of $50 or more.

I wish I could also send along the wonderful sweetness that fills the air when a breeze blows through this massive purple blooming vine! Enjoy your weekend!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's a Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

Sometimes you just need to take a break from routine and bake a couple dozen cookies. Just the mention of baking gets my grand kids excited. They play with the measuring cups and spoons and take turns dumping ingredients into the mixing bowl. It's probably one of my favorite activities with the kids!

A friend asked me to share my recipe with her so I thought.....what the heck.....I'll just share it here with all of you. This reminds me of my baking session today. I was showing the kids how my cookie dough scooper works. They watched as I squeezed the handle parts together and made the curved scraper move back and forth inside the scoop. Micah exclaimed "what the....." and Kyla finished his sentence....."heck"! Out of the mouth of babes!!

Long after the kids were gone and I sat down to write this post for you I sat with my ipad in my lap to look as some photos. I noticed a few pictures of Micah that I didn't remember taking. Investigating further, I found 376 Micah selfies that he must of taken while I thought he was quietly playing with his Legos!!

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp hot water
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour. Then add chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

(This recipe was originally found on The original recipe suggests baking for 10 minutes but I find that I don't get a nice brown edge on my cookies until they have baked for 18-20 minutes.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Watercolor Lessons

I heard an artist friend say that "what took her years to learn in school can now be done in an instant with an app".  Not to say that apps can replicate what a true artist can create but they can become creative tools for those who feel they lack artistic ability.

Whether you know how to watercolor or not. you are going to love using Waterlogue!! It turns your photographs into watercolor images!

The app is $2.99. Pretty cheap for watercolor lessons!! Have fun creating your own masterpieces!!!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Finds: Florals

It seems that everywhere I look, florals are popping up. I think everyone is in the mood for Spring! 

We often bring flowers as a gift for someone when we are invited over for a meal. How about reversing that idea and sending flowers home with your guests? This is such a sweet idea and something anyone would love!!

A pretty print from The Black Apple on Etsy.

Add some floral designs to the next batch of sugar cookies you bake. Wrap them up in some pretty paper and add a little note that is stamped with the same floral stamp!

The beauty of edible flowers in a salad! Add a floral surprise to your next meal!

The simple beauty of forced spring bulbs brings the garden indoors no matter what the weather is outside.

I love the floral illustrations that Katie Daisy creates. This one is perfect for Spring. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Irrational Joy

Sometimes you just have to get away from it all and spend some quality time with women who can feed your soul and encourage you in your walk with the Lord. That's what I did this past weekend.

I joined over 375 women at a conference center in Twin Peaks and we learned about and celebrated with "Irrational Joy" all weekend!!

One of the highlights of this annual retreat is the gift basket raffle. It's a brilliant idea really!! All of the baskets are donated by women who attend the retreat. And mind you....these are not your ordinary gift baskets!! The most popular items.....a large screen TV, concert tickets, weekend getaways to mountain cabins or beach cottages, an ipad, hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards and more.

Up to 40 baskets were lined up along the walls of the main lodge for us to parade by. Each had a corresponding slotted box to drop our raffle tickets for a chance to win. The ticket price....$1 each. The money.....all goes to various ministries.

Last year we raised over $10,000. Most of the money was used for fill up goodie bags and provide registration scholarships for a group of missionary women in China who desperately needed a weekend retreat of their own. I heard more stories last Saturday of how much those women loved the "breathe" bags that I made for them. It brought tears to my eyes!

I bought my share of raffle tickets this year and was a lucky recipient of a box full of art supplies. I won for my grand kids to use. This morning, when Kyla said she wanted to paint, I pulled out the palette of watercolors and brand new paint brushes. In her sweet little voice she exclaimed, "Oh Wow"!

These gift baskets brought us joy at the retreat. The money raised will expand that joy to another group of women on another continent this year. And of those baskets brought joy to a little 2-year-old artist. THAT is Irrational Joy!!!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sewing Lessons for a 2 Year Old

My 2 year old grand daughter loves to play with my fabric yo-yos so I decided to give her a little sewing lesson last week. I told her to use the sharp point of the needle on the fabric and not her fingers. That was it. I let her do the rest and she did a great job!!