Sources of Color and Design Inspiration for Crafts, Blogs, and Decorating

When you are planning to create an art project or craft or redecorate a room,  do you agonize over color and design choices?  There's Pinterest, of course.  But do you still feel a little lost?  It took me so long to realize that inspiration is everywhere.  

That last sentence makes me sound absolutely oblivious.  Well...

I'm not completely oblivious, but I am much more conscious now than in the past that color combinations and design ideas are all around me.  (I know some of you are saying, "Duh.")

Here are some of my favorite sources of color and design inspiration:

Nature.  Some of the most beautiful color combinations appear in nature.  Colors from nature           evoke feelings of calm and peace for me.  Several of the rooms in our house are decorated in             colors of water, sand, and sky. (By the way, the wood floor in our kitchen is natural hickory. I resisted getting wood flooring for the kitchen for a long time, but I love how it looks. It's also extremely hard and durable.)

Yes, that's a wall phone. It's not connected...

Fabrics. Look at your clothes or other fabrics around your house. After posting about Zentangle designs a couple of posts ago, I began noticing the designs in our shower curtain and towels.  More Zentangle inspiration!  For color pairings, walk around a fabric store and observe the color combinations in the materials there.

Wouldn't the color combination on Sunny's harness be perfect for a child's room? (I'd like it for one of my rooms!)

Advertisements and Packaging.   Ads are all around us, and can be wonderful sources of color and design inspiration.  The colors on this box are similar to the combination on Sunny's harness!

 What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration?

Linking to:
Pretty Pintastic Party at An Alli Event
Saturday ShareFest at SITS
Inspire Me Monday
DIY Sunday Showcase
Crafty Spices Social Weekend
LouLou Girls
Read More
Pin It!

Photography Tips: Bouncing the Flash

Contrary to popular belief, flash photography is not the evil stepsister of natural light photography.  When used well, in fact, the flash can be completely undetectable. So my first piece of advice here is, Don't be afraid of flash!

These days, DSLRs are so good in low light, that many people decide they will never use flash.  The truth is, though, there are times when a flash will help. When it's too dark inside or when shooting outdoors in bright, harsh sunlight where there is no open shade, for example.

Those pop-up flashes on DSLRs are pretty bad (unless you like washed out faces and harsh shadows!) But an external flash changed my photography forever.

An external flash spreads more light, and you can use it to bounce the light, eliminating all of the nasty, direct flash problems. My flash swivels and tilts in different directions, so that I can bounce it to get the best light available. (In Nikon lingo, the external flashes are called Speedlights, and in Canon, they are Speedlites.)

How to use Bounce Flash

To bounce the flash,  I usually point it at the ceiling behind me, at a side wall, or on the ceiling in front of me, and the flash spreads nice light onto my subject.  (It's best if the wall is white, as colored walls will give odd color casts. That's why ceilings work well. I've also bounced off a piece of white foam board, poster board, or someone's white shirt!  ) By adjusting the angle of the flash, I can control where the light will fall. It's really a simple process.  I use the auto (TTL) setting on the flash. If you buy the same brand of flash as your camera, the camera and flash will coordinate to determine how much light is needed.  See, it's that simple!

girl with yorkie

This photo of my daughter  and Sunny was taken a few years ago, in our kitchen.  I had not taken a flash photography class yet.  I simply bounced the external flash up to the ceiling.  Had I used the pop-up flash on the camera, there would have been a harsh shadow behind them.  The shadows from direct flash are worse with vertical photos than horizontal ones.

Now here's an example of direct flash, without bouncing... See what I mean? Ugh, shadow.

If you're not ready to make an investment in an external flash, there are a few ways to soften the pop-up flash, without spending a lot of money. One solution that I've seen online (but haven't tried), is to place a business card at an angle in front of the pop up flash, so that the light bounces up. I've also used a product called the Puffer from Gary Fong. It's just a piece of plastic that diffuses the light coming from the flash. You need to up your exposure compensation quite a bit when you use it, because it really cuts back on the light.  Another option that basically works the same way is to tape some tissue paper over the flash! Try to keep the actual tape from covering the flash if you try that.

* Note:  affiliate links are present.

Want to Learn More?

I've taken several photography classes at Craftsy online. They are wonderful and not expensive. I learned a lot from their Portraits with an On-Camera Speedlight class.  I continue to watch the videos over and over.  I also highly recommend ClickinMoms. I have learned so much there--composition, lighting, equipment tips, Lightroom--it's all there. ClickinMoms has your choice of monthly, yearly, or lifetime membership fees.

I now shoot with DSLRs that are much better in low light than my first one. (I have a Nikon D7000 and a Nikon D5100. The newer versions of these are the the Nikon D7100 and the Nikon D5300. I love my cameras!  There are still many times when I need my flash, so I'm glad to know how to use it well!  I'll always be learning new things about flash and new ways to use it.

Do you have tips for bouncing the flash?

*  If you click on and purchase from an affiliate link, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

Linking to:
Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings
Good. Random. Fun.
Life Thru the Lens
The Weekend Blog Hop
Inspire Me Monday
Sunday Showcase at An Alli Event
Crafty Spices
Picture Perfect
Turn it Up Tuesday
Read More
Pin It!

Learning to Zentangle

Well, the title of this post is Learning to Zentangle, but you really don't have to learn a lot.  It's actually just a way to create images with structured patterns. Very relaxing and fun.  I bought a book, but there is also a lot of Zentangle inspiration on Pinterest.

The first time I saw some Zentangle designs, I was instantly intrigued by them.  They reminded me of the drawings I made for years in my spiral notebooks in school when I was supposed to be taking notes. Even in college.  (I did take notes too. I don't know how I had time for note-taking between all of that doodling, but I did...)

Not surprisingly, I wasn't the first one in my home to break open the book and give Zentangle a try. You might already know that my daughter is usually the one who ventures first into new creative projects. (She actually makes some of the Pinterest stuff she pins.)  She was home from college for the summer and spent some time making these fun patterns.

(My daughter has always insisted that she "can't draw.")

zentangle design

These are phone pics, so not the greatest, but you get the idea.

 I got the book, Totally Tangled, by Sandy Steen Bartholomew at my favorite art store. (Shout out to ArtMart!  Not affiliated...)

I love the designs my daughter drew.

Have you tried Zentangling yet?

Linking to:
The SITS Girls Craft and Recipe Linkup
Thursday Favorite Things
Handmade Tuesdays
Simple and Sweet Fridays
Create, Link, Inspire
Treasure Hunt Thursday
Read More
Pin It!

5 Blogs You Should Visit

Hi there!  With summer flying by, I'm in the middle of a lot of things and enjoying some little treats. Like the saltwater taffy I got on the little getaway I took with my husband a couple of weeks ago.  Lots of it. From a little place in Southwest Missouri, right off the highway, called The Candy Factory. The Bubble Gum flavor is good, the Frosted Cupcake is even better, and the Apple Pie flavor is amazing. Maple Bacon-no. There are many, many more. (Can you tell how much I love the taffy? Enough to walk around with my phone and take pictures of it...)

But I'm digressing again. I've been thinking a lot about changing things up at my blog lately. So I've been thinking about the blogs I love and why I love them.

There are some blogs that have that "something" that could be described as heart, substance,or soul.

There are some that contain so much useful information in an entertaining way.

And there are some that inspire me to create.

Here are 5 fun blogs to visit:

If you are a fan of bloggers who write from the heart and are incredibly creative and talented in both writing and photography, don't miss Tamara Camera. I often get teary and then laugh hysterically in the same post.

You will find an art teacher turned blogger who creates beautiful things at Grow Creative. Great tutorials, and you can buy her artwork too.

I learn so much about blog design and blog fixes at Carrie Loves.  It's my go to place for techie tips. Don't miss it if you need some blog design help.

Katherine's Corner is a really friendly place, and I pick up so many tips about so many things. I was a co-host for one of her link parties a few years ago, and she's as nice as can be.

If you love crafts and want some inspiration, visit Gluesticks Brandy has a lot of projects, recipes, and some free printables.  Parents, even if you don't adore crafts, check out the Kids Crafts section for some fun things to make with your kids.

Those are just a few of my favorite blogs. I'd love for you to share some of yours.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!


I didn't try the Chicken & Waffles taffy but kind of wish I had...
Linking to:
SITS Saturday Sharefest

Read More
Pin It!

Mini-Book/Photo Book from Flip-Flops

mini-book, photo book, made from flip-flops craftToday, I want to show you a little book I made for a friend's daughter.  Yes, these are real flip-flops. (Think dollar store!)  Little girl size, so they make a cute little book. Do you know a girl who might like to fill one of these with little summer pictures?

Here's how I made it:

To begin, I folded a piece of the scrapbook paper in half. I then  traced the flip-flop onto the paper, and cut it out, being careful to leave part of it connected at the fold.  I did this twice, and then taped them together to make 4 foot shaped pages. (See the picture below.)  Before I glued the first and last pages to the book, I adhered a strip of ribbon to each flip-flop, so that it could all be tied shut after the pages went in.

There are other methods to make the pages. Next time, I think I'll punch holes in the side of the flip-flops, and then tie them all together with ribbon. It would open like a typical book, rather than an accordion type.

The really fun part of this project, for me, was decorating the "cover."  I knotted coordinating ribbons around the straps, added a fabric flower (that I personalized), and a rhinestone for some bling.

Rachel was delighted with her little book, and that made me happy.

Let me know if you give this a try!

Linking to:

Inspire Me Monday 
Made by You Monday at Skip to My Lou
Share Your Creativity
Handmade Tuesdays
Frugal Crafty Home Blog Hop
Think and Make Thursdays
Thursday Favorite Things
Being a Wordsmith
Share It Sunday
Read More
Pin It!

Puppet Theaters, Pools, and Playtime

I've been trying to digitize as many of my old film photos as I can, and as I do that, I find so many fun ideas for blog posts!

As I go through the photos, I'm re-living the fun we had at home, simply playing,  when my kids were little. They loved puppets, (maybe because I loved puppets so much?), and we had a few different ways to get a puppet theater up fast. This picture shows one of the simplest--a big piece of cardboard to hide behind!

easy puppet theater

My favorite quick puppet theater, though, was the curtain rod across the door or hallway version. (Wish I had a picture!)  Simply get a tension rod (the kind with the rubber caps on the ends), and place one end on each side of a doorway or a hallway wall. Drape a sheet or blanket over the rod for the puppeteers to hide behind. Adjust the height, so that your kids can either kneel or stand. Voila, instant puppet theater! You can, of course,  make an elaborate one if you like, with colorful fabric and a square window cut out, etc.) The great thing about this, though, is that if you have a tension rod and a blanket, you can throw a simple one of these up in just a few minutes.  My kids loved this. They would write plays and act them out with the puppets or re-enact their favorite scenes from movies. (Don't even worry if you don't have puppets. Just use stuffed toys, home-made paper puppets, etc.)

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, isn't it? What would we do without photos?  So, here are some other playtime pictures I came across,  (My"kids" are now 21 and 24 years old!)

Popping in and out of my blog seems to be the norm for me over the last months, and, rather than feeling guilty, I'm instead choosing to feel happy that I'm getting a blog post up today!  Focusing on the positives, you know?

How is your summer going?

Read More
Pin It!

Instagram, Real Photo Style

It's been a hectic and eventful few weeks. We have a lot going on, but that just means I have more to share with you. IF I can catch my breath long enough to sit down and write. (One thing, I was the second photographer at a wedding last weekend. Fun, exhilarating, stressful...and I'll do it again for sure.)

Also, during my daughter's spring break from college, she spent the whole week at home. (Her college is local, but she lives in a dorm there, so to have her home for so many days is a treat.) Sunny was overjoyed to see her girl.  (For those new to my blog, Sunny is our sweet, quirky, Yorkie. She's technically my daughter's dog, (but pets often seem to figure out who the mama is, don't they?)

So we had some old pictures out, and in between the laughter at my teen clothes and the amazement that my 12 year old self looked pretty much exactly like my daughter's 12 year old self, she asked why some of the pictures were square.

"Those are from an old instamatic camera,"  I told her. Terrible, fuzzy photos, but the square shape and the hues are trendy and digital now, in the form of Instagram.

So here, in all of their trendy glory is my version of Instagram, "real photos" style.

(Clockwise, from top left)  Picture One-with two friends in VA Beach,  Picture 2-My kitten named Friday,  Picture 3- Me with my baby niece (She now has a teenage son!),  Picture 4-With the same two friends in front of the White House,  Picture 5-My seventh grade slumber party (I'm holding the stuffed dog),  Picture 6- With a friend at Disney World,  Picture 7- Ditto,  Picture 8- My softball trophy (I was so proud. We were the last place team, but in the playoffs we beat all of the other last placed teams!)

 And, a reminder to please, please print out some of your pictures, so that your kids can laugh with you years from now!

Read More
Pin It!

Photo Editing vs. "Photoshopping"

Sometimes I forget that not everyone is obsessed with photography.  So when someone says, "Is that picture "photoshopped?" it throws me a little, because I recently realized that to some people (especially non-photographers), the term "photo editing" has a negative connotation, as if "photoshopping" always means altering a photo in a "fake" or unrealistic way.  Not true.

Although that kind of extreme alteration of a photo can be a creative, artistic expression, and I'll sometimes do that for fun, it's not what I mean when I use the term "photo editing."   I take pictures of families, babies, pets, events, and places, so using Lightroom (or Photoshop, or PicMonkey, etc.) to edit a photo simply  means making that photo look its best.  Often, DSLR images need some post processing. Point-and-shoot cameras usually have better straight out of camera images than  DSLRs because point-and shoot cameras are already internally adjusted and don't have the versatility of  DSLRs in terms of settings.  It's more expected that DSLR images will be polished in "post."  Plus, a quick edit can save an otherwise unusable image.

photo editing with lightroom

See how subtle the differences are in the before and after shot of Sunny above?  (Recognize this shot from my last post?)  I edited it in Lightroom, with just a few simple adjustments with sliders. I can choose to punch it up even more if I want to, but these quick adjustments are all that are necessary to me for this photo.

As you can tell, I edit simply. Most often, I adjust the exposure, usually add some contrast, crop if needed, and sharpen a bit.  I don't make people look thinner or airbrushed or such things. (Well, if a client asked me to, I would!)  Occasionally I'll whiten someone's teeth a tad, but only an adult's teeth and only slightly. No glowing teeth here. I might add a little vibrance to the color, if needed. Even this kind of simple editing is subjective. Some people like a bright, "contrasty" image, while some prefer a softer, less vivid image. That is individual taste and art.

Picture Style and Picture Control
Do you hate to edit photos at all, or just want a head start?   No worries, if you have a DSLR, there are some adjustments that can be made within even the most basic DSLR that change the way a JPEG image looks straight out of camera (SOOC).  In Nikon,  this is called Picture Control, and in Canon it's called Picture Style. There are several basic settings from which to choose: Neutral, Standard, etc, and within those, some fine tuning of Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, etc. These are fun to play around with, and the fine tuning can help you achieve the look you want, without a lot of editing later. (P.S.If you shoot RAW,  none of this applies, as a RAW image is completely unprocessed and needs more editing.  RAW will give you the most control and will help recover badly exposed photos much better.)

Free Editing Programs
In the past, I used some free photo editing software that occasionally made changes that I didn't want (like changing the haircolor or skintones), when I was simply trying to brighten the photo. But even the free editing programs have improved a lot since then.  I really like PicMonkey. The basic version is great, and they also offer a Royale version with more effects and fonts. Picasa is another free program I've used. It's more basic, but is useful for very simple adjustments.

The duck photo below was one of the first photos I ever edited with Lightroom 5, and I was able to pull the shadows out  and make a dramatic difference very quickly. (Love those sliders!)

So, photo editing is simply adjusting photos to look their best, in much the same way that back in my film photography days I chose a company to develop my photos. (For instance, the film processing at our neighborhood drugstore  was always a bit off in color and exposure, vs. the processing at the camera shop nearby, who took the time to color correct and brighten the dark ones.)

Enjoy the process, and choose how much, or how little editing you want to do.

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. As always, I only recommend products or services I love!

Linking to:
Wordless Wednesday at Create with Joy
Sugar and Spice
Wordless Wednesday at Mama to 5 Blessings
Wordless Wednesday at Crafty Spices
Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings
Make My Saturdays Sweet at Amanda's Books
Made By You Mondays at Skip to My Lou
The SITS Sharefest

Read More
Pin It!

Birthdays, An "Ink Book," and Sunny

My birthday came and went earlier this month.  It was a sweet, simple birthday (as my birthdays tend to be these days. I love that.)  My husband and I went out to dinner (gluten free pasta. It's funny how much more the restaurants charge for a gluten free pasta dish, but it's completely worth it. Also, why don't they offer some gluten free rolls along with it?  I've got to write that email...)

These days, my birthday is a guilt-free day of relaxing a bit and a few little surprises from family. This year, I couldn't come up with any gift ideas in time for my husband, so I went online and found a calligraphy book I wanted. (Husband calls it my "ink book."  "Did your "ink book" come yet?)  A couple of new nibs, some red ink (which is great for Christmas, so the description said), and I'm a happy birthday girl, ready to start some calligraphy projects. (Yes, maybe some projects for next Christmas.)

Which brings me to my next random thought, in my series of random thoughts today. I want to say that I'm so glad calligraphy has loosened up.  As in, when I first started learning calligraphy, there was so much emphasis on doing it "correctly."  A sort of highbrow exclusion of any letter forms that didn't follow the rules. That was always a little intimidating, because, after all, it's supposed to be a form of creative expression. So I'm really happy to see the recent acceptance of "modern calligraphy" that allows tweaking the letterforms to suit your own vision.

And, if you all are curious, the book I got for my birthday is called Modern Calligraphy, by Molly Suber Thorpe, and you can get it from  It's full of examples of pointed pen calligraphy, and it includes lots of projects.  I especially appreciate all of the variations shown for different letters. I love the book. My new favorite "ink book."  I actually have two books entitled Modern Calligraphy, and I love both of them. (The other one is by Lisa Engelbrecht and is wonderful too.)

My daughter's birthday was just a couple of weeks before mine. She's twenty-one. Twenty-one. That is a surreal feeling, and it's hasn't quite sunk in just yet.  I like her so much better than I liked myself at twenty-one.

Final random thought (question)--Do your dogs go a little crazy in the snow?  Our Sunny runs back and forth, in a tail wagging, bottom wiggling, crazed running sort of way.  We had our first significant snow a few days ago, and Sunny is loving it. Of course, her favorite spot is on a "softie." She's "not spoiled, just loved."

May we all appreciate the comfort of a warm softie on a cold day as much as Sunny does.

This post contains an affiliate link.

Linking to:
Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings
Good Random Fun
Sweet Shot Tuesday
Think and Make Thursdays
You're Gonna Love It Tuesdays
Creative Inspirations
Wordless Wednesday at Create with Joy
Picture Perfect Party
Where Your Picture Says it All
Made by You Monday
Wordless Wednesday at Crafty Spices
Wordless Wednesday at Mama to 5 Blessings
Wordless Wednesdays at The Tays in London
The SITS Sharefest
Creative Mondays at Claire Justine

Read More
Pin It!

Easy Chicken and Dumplings (with a Gluten Free Option)

See this cute recipe box?  It was my mom's.  I love that most of  the recipes in the box are in her own handwriting.  The dumpling recipe I'm sharing with you came from that little box and is a very simple one. It's a staple at our house. Sometimes I just want some comfort food (don't you?), and it's definitely that.
First, place some chicken breasts in a large stockpot with enough water to cover them, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer until the inside is no longer pink (165 degrees internal temperature. I go by color.)  Cooking  time will vary. For chicken breasts with skin and bones, it's roughly 30 minutes. For skinless, boneless chicken breasts, it's about 20-25 minutes, and for chicken breasts cut in half, it's about 15-20 minutes.   Hint--If you're in a hurry, using boneless chicken breasts eliminates the tedious process of pulling the meat from the bones.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pot, remove the bones, cut it into bite sized pieces, and return it to the pot.

Next, add a can of chicken broth  or a half container of Trader Joe's Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth and season it to taste with salt and pepper. (No firm measurements here;  I usually do everything to taste.)

Now, mix up the dumplings.
*I substitute gluten free flour for regular flour, butter or Earth Balance for the shortening, and I use almond milk in place of the milk, but the following is my mom's original recipe.  (My dumplings are usually not as fluffy as my mom's used to be, probably because of some of the substitutions. But they taste good!)

1 1/2 cups flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons shortening*
3/4 cup milk*

Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into bowl. Cut in the shortening thoroughly until the mixture looks like meal.  Stir in the milk.  Drop dough by spoonfuls onto the hot meat. ( I also sprinkle a little flour in, to make it a bit thicker.)  Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and cook a few minutes longer.

 easy gluten free chicken and dumplings

That's it! See, I told you it was easy.  Even the picky eater at our house likes this, and I hope you enjoy it too.  It's dumping snow outside, so I'm feeling the need for some warm comfort food today!  (Are you getting the snow too?)

Linking to:
Think and Make Thursdays
Read More
Pin It!

Disclosure Policy

This blog is written and edited by me. Occasionally I'll link to products or services for which I am an affiliate, and I'll receive credit or compensation if you purchase them. I also use ads in my sidebar and/or footer to generate income. My blog also contains sponsored posts, which are identified as such.

My blog is intended for entertainment and not to be considered as professional, medical, or legal advice.
Thank you for reading!

© An Artful Mom, AllRightsReserved.

Designed by ScreenWritersArena