Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What sparks You? Cathe Holden

I rarely if ever set the alarm to wake in the morning. Somehow, like many, I open my eyes from sleep about the same time every day. Then, if given the opportunity, I will close my eyes and lay in bed for about an hour as creative ideas flood my mind. How I wish I had a mental note pad, knowing that if I sit up to write ideas down, the lucid state of creativity will surely leave me. Often I can work out full design and craft concepts in my mind from beginning to end, troubleshooting, revamping, shopping for supplies, and displaying and photgraphing, all before leaving the pillow, working out all the kinks I can before I ever begin the actual project.

It’s a strange method I’ve learned to embrace. Creative ideas used to come to mind primarily in the shower or on long walks, when my mind was still from deadlines and duties. But I’ve discovered that early morning meditations are the most productive moments of my day.

I’ve always been a doodler. In high school, I found it was the only way I could absorb the information being spoken by the teachers. I bring a small sketchbook to church every Sunday morning in attendance and doodle page by page of ideas as they come to me, taking in every spoken word of the pastor simultaneously. 

My sketchbooks are my journals. An addiction of sorts. They are my memory as my own begins to wane. I become disoriented if I find myself out and about without one tucked into my purse or car and available for jotting down ideas and concepts that find their way into my brain at any given moment as I know for certain they may be lost forever if not recorded. In the years since I began keeping sketchbooks, I have accumulated volumes of creativity, much long forgotten but occasionally revisited. I occasionally discover old ideas as if seeing them for the first time and at times I’m quite impressed.

I have a little notation system within my sketchbooks. As I sketch, (usually with a fine-point black rollerball pen), some ideas make more sense than others and are deemed craft-worthy, blog-worthy or book-worthy. Those get a "GI" (for "good idea") and a thick-lined doodled star. Then, whenever I hit a creative wall I can always turn to my sketchbook and find those GI-stars for previously scrutinized ideas to work with.

Before beginning projects, I often pray, as ultimately, ALL of my creative sparks are the work of God in me. I have acknowledged Him always for my creative gifts and accomplishments, humbled by the fact that he would bless me in such a beautiful way. In return, it is my purpose to share those gifts freely with others, which in full-circle, enriches my life tremendously.

Cathe Holden is a graphic designer and an passionate crafter with a love of authentic vintage style. Her blog, features her innovative craft projects & tutorials, creative inspiration and free digital downloads. She lives in beautiful Petaluma, California with her husband, Jeff, and three teenage children, ages 14-16.

Monday, June 27, 2011

a sticky situation

Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.

The first batch of taffy was cherry flavored and hard as a rock.  It went into the trash.

I followed the directions.  I did exactly what the experts told me to do.  It was frustrating, and when I could see where it was headed I cursed and stood in my kitchen with my fist on my hip trying to think where I must have gone wrong.

This is where I realized that baking candy is just like everything else in life.  If you desire to do something extraordinary, you must pay the piper.  There is a reason that most people buy salt water taffy.

In case you're wondering, the piper is paid with time and persistence.

Very few people fall into success.  Very few.  Some would have you believe that it was easy.  They don't admit to toil and strife. But I'm here to say that everything I've done in my life that has brought me  big rewards has cost dearly. The piper has grown rich on my exertions.  I think he has plans to retire to Dubai.

So I tightened my apron strings and went back to work.  This time I cooked the candy slower.  I made sure the sugar crystals were all melted. I enlisted the Sugar Daddy to help pull the candy.  It was pineapple flavor.

And we made taffy. And it's delicious.

But still, it is a little stiffer than what I want. It's dangerous for dental work.

So I will try again.  I will gather up the experience I have gained and put it to use.  I will try to be patient and persistent. Hopefully I will be rewarded.

I think the next batch will be apple.  Or maybe watermelon.

I wish all of life's problems could be so sweet.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

what to have for dinner

Yesterday was the first offical day of Summer. Which means kids are on break, moms are not.

For me, it is a chore to try to come up with something for dinner that can be made quickly. In the Summer we are usually getting home from the beach or an outing right before dinner time. The kids are tired and cranky and I want something healthy that I can prepare in less than a half hour.

 Today we are giving you a spark of inspiration for what to have for dinner tonight.

And you don't even have to turn on the oven to make this meal.  Grill the peaches after dinner so they are nice and hot.

Grilled Peaches and Cream

 All the ingredients to make these dishes can be bought at Costco or your regular super market.

Do you have a favorite Summer meal idea? Please share! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

class preview: Felting

Good Monday Sparkers!  Do you know Emily Falconbridge? You should.

Everyone should know someone like Emily. Margie and I consider her our own personal "Earth Maiden". She is so easy going and the creativity just oozes out of her.

Em will be teaching a super fun class using felt.  Here's what she has to tell you about her class:

Wet-felting is an artform that can be enjoyed by all ages and is my newest crafty-love! You can take natural wool roving, agitate it with water and soap and you can create on so many levels - check out this felt dress!

Sadly, we won't be making that at spark this year, but you will still enjoy dipping your hands into bowls of warm soapy water and felting a simpler project - felt soaps! They make gorgeous gifts and are much more fun to wash yourself with than with a boring old bar! 

There were some amazing felted scarves and beads made at spark last year and i can't wait to see the wooly creations this year!

Yep, we promise a party for all your senses in this workshop = see the beautiful colored wool, smell the yummy handmade soap, hear em's delightful aussie accent, feel the texture of the wool felting between your hands, taste the sweet success of your finished creation!

Friday, June 17, 2011

the big announcement

Margie has a huge announcement today! It's a little secret she's been keeping for sometime now. She's been working so hard and I'm so excited for her.

I want her to be able to tell you all about it so jump over to her blog and take a look!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What sparks you? Lindsey Johnson

My best ideas come to me in flashes.  I wake up each morning and go to sleep each night thinking about recipes, ingredients, flavors and textures.

My mind is organized into slightly chaotic file folders, not too different from the recipe binders and manila envelopes filled with magazine clippings that I store the drawers of a dresser in my family room.  I know where everything is, but don't ask anyone else to go looking for a recipe or we might have to send out a search party.  An idea or flash might get filed away for later, or I might place a mental sticky note on top so I can revisit it as soon as possible.

I thrive on creativity in the kitchen, particularly those flashes and ideas.  I think about pairing different foods together in new ways. I try to visualize flavors and textures.  These things get me into trouble sometimes when my more creative recipes are just a tad too "creative."

The idea for Smore's Ice Cream Sandwiches crept into my thoughts one day a few summers ago.  I had a bee in my bonnet and I contacted a blogging friend to ask her opinion on making frozen marshmallows.  We e-mailed back and forth and I spent a few weeks trying out my idea.  They were a delicious few weeks to be sure.  My kids, my husband, and I didn't seem to tire as we tasted each batch of perfect and not-so-perfect frozen marshmallow attempts.  Alas, I gave up my efforts as the summer heat gave way to cooler autumnal days and baking took over my ice cream making.

When April asked me if I'd pop over and do a guest post, I knew this was the recipe I wanted to resurrect,  perfect and share with you.  So I dug out my notes and got to work.

Creativity can be work sometimes, can't it?  Nothing sparks my creativity more than working hard and opening the channels in my brain.  Sometimes it feels like I figuratively dump all the mental file folders on the floor, but eventually I pick everything up, reorganize and once again feel the energy surge. Like I said, I thrive on it.

A quick Google search on "frozen marshmallows" and "marshmallow ice cream" led me to a few posts that were written recently.  I added them to my notes and went back to work.  Eventually I settled on an idea I found here for Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream.  I abandoned my frozen marshmallows for the time being.  I took the new recipe a step further by making homemade marshmallows, a favorite treat for our family.  And there it was--perfection.

I hope you'll enjoy this recipe was much as my family has.  It may seem like a lot of work, but the result is so magical it's worth it--a surprising, fun treat for an afternoon or evening 4th of July BBQ.

Smore's Ice Cream Sandwich Bars
recipe from Lindsey Johnson of Cafe Johnsonia

1 Recipe Homemade Graham Crackers*

1 recipe Homemade Marshmallows

1 recipe Ice Cream Base (recipe follows)

1 recipe Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)

Ice Cream Base

10 oz. homemade marshmallows (about 3/4 of the recipe; can use store-bought)
1 cup whole milk
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups light whipping cream

Preheat oven broiler to high.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lay half the marshmallows on the baking sheet and toast under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, watching very carefully so they don't burn. Remove baking sheet from oven and allow to cool slightly.  Scrape the toasted marshmallows into the bowl of a food processor.  (You can also use a blender.)

Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar together until thick.  Heat milk in a saucepan until very hot, but not boiling.  Gradually drizzle the hot milk into the egg/sugar mixture while whisking.  After all of the milk has been added, pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over medium-low heat until thickened and is 170 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.  Pour the hot custard into the food processor or blender and turn, pulsing on and off, until well combined.  Add the cold cream (if you are using a blender, it might not all fit, pour it into a bowl) and pulse again.  Pour the mixture into a clean bowl and chill in the refrigerator until very cold.  Because of the gelatin in the marshmallows, the custard will set up a bit.  Whisk to loosen it before churning in an ice cream maker.

Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer directions.  Transfer the ice cream to a freezer proof container.  Place a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap against the surface of the ice cream and allow to harden in the freezer for about an hour before assembling ice cream sandwiches.

Chocolate Sauce

1 package semi-sweet, milk, or dark chocolate chips
4 Tbsp. butter

Place the chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on 50% power for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted.  Set aside until ready to use.  (If the sauce sets up too much or gets hard, heat gently in the microwave on 50% power until melted again.)

To assemble:

Place the graham crackers upside down on two wire racks placed on rimmed baking sheets.  Top each round with 1/4 cup of the ice cream.  Use a knife or spatula to press it down a bit.  Place the baking sheets in the freezer and allow the ice cream to get firm, about 15 minutes.

Spoon a good amount of the chocolate sauce over the ice cream and top with another graham cracker round.  Gently press down.  Place baking sheet into the freezer for another 15 minutes or so.  Wrap each ice cream sandwich in waxed paper and store in freezer until ready to serve.  Will keep for 2-3 days.

Makes 16, 3" sandwiches.

*This is my favorite recipe for graham crackers.  I use half whole wheat flour and only bake them for 10 minutes when using them as cookies for ice cream sandwiches.  Roll dough out to 1/8"- 1/4" and use a 3" round cookie cutter to get 32 rounds, enough to make 16 sandwiches.

Lindsey Johnson writes the food blog Cafe Johnsonia.  She lives in Utah County with her husband and three children.  She has been featured on Design Mom, Cafemom's The Stir, was named one of's Top 100 Mom Food Bloggers 2011, and contributes monthly to Make and Takes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

creativity workshop with Mindy

Here are some things you might not know about Mindy Gledhill that will probably make you like her even more than you already do.

I happen to know these things because I insisted we become friends. I couldn't imagine a life without her in it.

Okay, first, did you know she is currently pregnant with her third son? She is. And baby Gledhill the third has so kindly agreed to arrive in time for Spark.

Second, she likes to eat cereal late at night. I know this because I follow her on Twitter.  She likes cereal at night and she really likes to eat it in her grandmother's kitchen.

Third, she's thrifty.  She loves a good "junking" day.  She buys most of her dresses from the thrift store and has them tailored.  So don't ask her where she got that lovely frock she is sporting because you will never find one like it.  Believe me. I have tried.

Also, you might not know that Mindy is giving back to her hometown by serving on the board for the Rooftop Concert Series.

AND, the most exciting thing that I happen to know about Miss Mindy, other than the fact that she is kind and generous, is that she is writing more music.  Hopefully she will be able to perform some of her songs at Spark.

This year, Mindy will be teaching a workshop on how to tap into your creativity. She will be helping students think of things that are personal to them that can be used as "sparks" of creativity. And she will be singing a little here and there.

We are so excited to have Mindy at Spark again this year. She is truly inspirational in so many ways.

Now go and do something creative to kick off your week. Maybe listen to a little Mindy to get the juices flowing.


Love these photos? They were taken by Jefra Starr and styled by Rosie.

Friday, June 10, 2011

introducing sarah sample

Instead of a giveaway this fine Friday, we decided to give you a juicy bit of info.

This just in...

Guess who is going to be performing this year at Spark!

Sarah Sample.

(Insert small shriek gasp and swoon.)

Here's a little about Sarah's music career.

"Someday, Someday" is Sarah Sample's latest release. And after two albums, an EP, and lots of touring into her career, Sarah Sample is quickly shedding any traces of up-and-comer with it's arrival. With a potent mix of hard work, conviction, an uncanny and tireless ability to connect with audiences, relentless enthusiasm, a stunning voice and- most importantly- an enviable catalog of really, really great songs, it's easy to see why.

With lyrics that "cut to the bone" (SLC Weekly) and "just a great, great voice" (Peter Mayer), Sarah's songs are getting noticed. They won her a slot on 2010's Cayamo Cruise and the mainstage at Folks Fest 2008. Telluride, Kerrville, Mountain New Song, Sisters: you name it, she's been a finalist. Marketa Irglova of The Swell Season says of Sarah's live performance, "I was inspired, so touched by her music and by her energy on stage with the band as well as with the audience. A lovely memory I will cherish." Sample has also shared stages with Darrell Scott, Melissa Ferrick, Willy Porter, Peter Himmelman, Mark Stuart/Stacey Earle, Edie Carey, and more, winning new and devoted listeners each time.

I've personally wanted to get to know Sarah for some time now and I am over the moon excited that she agreed to come.  We will be telling you a little more about Sarah in the weeks to come.

For now, you can visit her website and have a listen.

The winner of the Mady Sunshine giveaway is Chelsea of "The Alexanders" blog! Chelsea, please send me (April) your address!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Class Preview: Junk Journal

Jen Jensen has got to be one of the most talented girls that I know. She also is one of the funniest girls, kindest girls and dearest of friends.I have known Jen for years. She and I worked together at MM where she created project after project for all of their publications. She also designed classes and traveled with me to several CKUs. 

Most recently Jen has traveled with me to CHA shows working with me at the Girls' Paperie. We have had so many great times together! 

If I were to describe what Jen creates it would have to be Vintage brilliance. What she creates is brilliant. I wouldn't want to call her just a "scrapbooker" she is way more than that. She is a paper artist. Each piece she creates is like a little piece of art filled with details and little treasures. I am so excited she is going to be at Spark and I can't wait to see what she shares with us.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Class preview: reverse appliqué

This year at Spark, Amy Tan will be teaching how to do reverse appliqué.  Amy has built a large business on her t-shirt designs. They are quirky and fun and celebrities love them. Amy's designs reflect her cheerful personality.

Here's a few fun facts Amy shared with us about herself:

"As an only child growing up, I found myself bored a lot. I am no longer ever bored.
When we were shipping out thousands of shirts to boutiques and department stores years ago, I had 10 hand sewers based out of Los Angeles and 2 out of Georgia to help with the orders.
I don't often get star struck, but love meeting kind celebrities.
Cindy Crawford was one of the first celebrities to wear an amy tangerine piece. She was photographed wearing one in Glamour magazine and that's when I decided to get serious about starting a tee shirt line.
I am addicted to buying and using washi tape.
One of my favorite things is meeting other inspiring and creative people. So looking forward to that at Spark!"

We are so excited to have Amy at Spark this year.  Not only does Amy work with fabrics, but she is also an amazing scrap booker.  She is truly inspiring.

You can get to know Amy a little more on her blog.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A little surprise

Here's a little secret we've been keeping. Something delightful and very exciting.

Donna Downey will be teaching at Spark 2011!

Donna Downey is a bestselling author, instructor and all-around creative force in the crafting industry. In 2000, she got into scrapbooking as an extension of her paper product and photography addiction. This was only the beginning. From working as a popular columnist for Simple Scrapbooks magazine, to traveling the world inspiring women to push the boundaries of their own creativity, to developing her first fabric scrapbooking line with Prima, Donna is consistently on the leading edge of all things cool related to memory preservation art.

As a craft-media artist, Donna is a born experimenter, blending and transforming both traditional and unexpected items into meaningful pieces of self expression. A former elementary school teacher, she has synthesized her first love of teaching with her passion for craft and brings this to women via workshops at scrapbook stores and events, writing books, and through her popular blog and website.

Donna lives in North Carolina with her husband, and is a mother of three exceptionally blonde children, and one blonde dog. She also has recently opened Donna Downey Studios located in Charlotte, NC.

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing with you the classes that each of our teachers will be hosting at Spark this year.  We feel that we have an exciting and diverse set of classes and we can't wait to share!