Lessons Learned from Bird Mess

I woke up this morning to some very unusual sounds. Raindrops? But I thought the rain was over. Splattering? But no one should be outside my bedroom window.

I couldn't figure out what was going on (and was too cold and lazy to crawl out from under the cozy covers), so when my husband got home from his early morning lecture, I asked him to take a look.

Something was falling from the sky all right, but it wasn't rain. It was BIRD POOP! Lots of it. Now, before you get all grossed out and stop reading, there's a reason I'm telling you this.

Often, when we see the unattractive, undesirable or unpleasant side of things, we're tempted to turn away and assume there's nothing good to be gained...or we fixate on the negative and end up with a grumbling, complaining spirit (I fall into this second camp far too often). When I saw my driveway (which had just been power-washed) and even my studio window splatter-painted with bird poop, I was ready to grumble. YUCK!

But when we fixate on the YUCK, we miss the beautiful...the GOOD that God wants us to see. I almost missed these hundreds of BIRDS...and the family moments their presence inspired!
These weren't your every day Houston birds. I'm no bird expert, but I could tell by their poop that they weren't from around here (I'll spare you the details). So why were all of these unusual birds surrounding our house and no one else's? And what kind of birds were they?

My husband was captivated at this point and noticed they were diving into the yard behind us, so he climbed into the tree fort to get a closer look:
It turns out they were sipping water from the puddles that always form in the unkept yard behind us (again, I tend to fixate on how gross this yard is and how it's a mosquito breeding ground, but today, God was using this yard for good...as a needed water spot for these migratory birds).

My husband came back in to report "a bright yellow stripe at the end of their tail feathers and a red dot at the tips of each wing." Just the clues we needed to get our girls involved in the back yard bird watching! Now it had become a family affair. My oldest daughter grabbed her new bird song book (great book, by the way) and the hunt began...taking notes, flipping pages, listening to bird calls...
Found it! A Cedar Waxwing! Migratory birds down South for the winter! Here's the close-up I would have captured had I not been freezing out there in my night gown (oh, and had it been springtime on a sunny day with a telephoto lens on hand!):
Have you ever seen these? I've certainly never noticed them before...and probably wouldn't have today had it not been for the mess they made of my driveway and house. I checked them out a little further on a back yard bird website...and guess what?!?! "Cedar Waxwings are the most specialized fruit-eating birds. Rather than regurgitating the fruit seeds, they eliminate them with their waste." They are specialized all right!

Lessons learned:
(1) Don't fixate on the mess, the unlovely or the undesirable. Look beyond the mess...
(2) There's often something beautiful, worthy, valuable or good to be gained from what seems yucky on the surface.
(3) God is up to good things; we just need to ask for His eyes to see them.
(4) Savor the moments when the unexpected happens. That's where memories are made.
How about you? Have you had any of those moments lately? The kind where something unexpected drew your family together...or where what looked like a mess on the surface revealed something greater and far more precious in the end?


Valentine Card Giveaway!

I LOVE cards, and Valentine's Day is a HUGE card day, but after a full-out Christmas card season, I never know if I'll have any creativity left for Heart Day. Some years, I let it pass me by, but this year, when a client asked if I had any new designs (and I didn't), I felt a sudden urge to go all out and had a LOT of fun doing it!

The truth is, once I got started, I could have created two dozen different designs (the more elegant and sophisticated designs with deeper messages are still swirling in my mind); but with so little time between now and February 14th, I had to stop somewhere...so I settled on these on these six designs:

View the full-size images on my website.

Remember when we were children and there was such excitement surrounding the home-made Valentine cards we exchanged with classmates? That's what inspired these designs...excitement, fun, nostalgia, innocence, simplicity and the sweetest kind of of love...the love of a child.

Who says we have to stop sharing that kind of love just because we're grown ups? Maybe you didn't send Christmas cards and now is just the time for you to spread a little love...or maybe you did send Christmas cards but want to enjoy the nostalgia of a personal, lovingly made Valentine. And get this: YOU don't have to make them! I will!

And here's the REALLY big deal: I'm offering these six card designs for only $1.50 each! Each card will be printed on classic white cardstock as a small, flat card. Envelopes are included! All you have to do is choose your favorite of the six designs, email your photo along with names as you'd like them printed, decide how many you'd like (50-card minimum)...and I'll take care of the rest! But you do have to jump on it, because this lowest-ever price ends February 1st! 

And one more treat, because I'm really feeling the LOVE for my fabulous clients and blog readers:

Leave a comment between now and January 31st and you'll be entered into the drawing for 50 free Valentine's Day cards! And...if you refer a friend to this blog and that friend leaves a comment with your name somewhere in it (such as "Linsey Hasenbank sent me!"), I'll enter YOU, the kind referral source, into the drawing an EXTRA time. In fact, I'll enter your name into the drawing for as many friends as you refer (just make sure they leave a comment with your name somewhere in it). Oh, and of course, the friend leaving a comment enters the drawing, too!

How's that for crazy?!?! I absolutely L O V E cards!


Cutest Cupcake EVER!

Look at what my sister gave me for my birthday!!!
And guess what...she MADE it!!! Hand-stitched felt with a cute little paper tag!
Now the fun part is finding a special place to put it. Somewhere quaint and personal...somewhere that needs a little splash of happy. I think I've got it! The French desk I bought at Urban Market a while back.
The "XO" woodblock stamps were already there...and the desk was just begging for something unexpected and hand-made.

That sister-o-mine sure knows how to make things! (This is just one of MANY amazing things she's made recently...hand-printed onesies and t-shirts, collages, alphabet flashcards...oh, to be that talented!)

This cute little cupcake is just the thing to make a birthday girl feel special all year long! And lucky for YOU...she'll make more! If you want one, send an email to Holly: tembostudio-at-hotmail-dot-com (trying to protect her from spam...but you get the idea!). You'll love your cupcake...and so will anyone who receives it as a gift!


Stuck on Color

I've thought WAY too much about color today. I hoped writing about it would help "unstick" me (since writing does that for me), but I'll be honest: I've written enough about color today to fill a small book, and I'm still stuck. Stuck on which colors are "just right" for some of my new stationery designs.

So instead of a nice and neat blog post, here are snippets from the many different ones I tried to write today. Goodbye perfection, hello random!
SOOTHING. I like blue. Lots of different shades of blue...especially the blues that remind me of Provence.
TRENDY. Should I consult the Pantone Color Trend Report (the "go-to" resource for designers in every field)? The fashion one is fun, but the home+interiors one is worth a look, too. And in case you're wondering: Pantone's pick for "color of the year" is...turquoise!
SECRET. When I'm working on new designs, I carry them around like newborn babies and stare at them while brushing my teeth, eating breakfast...I even drive them around town with me as if the colors were passengers who might speak to me! "Hi little pink and green...do you want to be purple and orange instead? Or just a lighter pink and brighter green?"
WONDERING. Maybe I should just do what most stationery designers do: pick some good Pantone colors (instead of mixing and tweaking my own) and establish a color palette that I stick to all year. Here's a nice and tidy color chart from the well-loved stationery designer Dabney Lee:
SEEING. When I was growing up, I never imagined I'd give so much thought to colors and how they go together. That's what real artists do...like my uber-talented sister. When we were young, I remember lying on a picnic blanket, staring up at the sky on a perfect blue-sky day. While I just admired the pretty day and saw things as they were, she stretched out her long arm, held her orange up high over her head and said, "Look at how pretty this orange is against the sky!" Huh? I didn't see things that way, but now I get it. Thanks, Holly. You inspire me.
FINISHING. So here has been my greatest challenge this week: getting the colors "just right" for my new designs. This final step is particularly challenging/fun/important for "name only" designs like these:

The pink and green combo is a no-brainer. Pink and green always sells. The question is: which shade of pink and which shade of green? How vibrant (more fun)? How soft (more sweet)? I don't know if I've nailed it yet, but I'm close. And the blue and yellow...totally new for me. I'm reminded of spring flowers...or cornflower blue and buttercup yellow in the crayon box.
This one's giving me trouble. Do I like the violet/periwinkle shade of purple with a soft coral-y orange...or do I like the lavender with tomato? Which one would you order?
So why do I spend so many hours tweaking colors? Because your personalized stationery is an extension of you, and I want your stationery to reflect you beautifully. The colors and fonts set the tone before you even put pen to paper...which is why it's PERFECTLY normal and good to have several different sets on hand!
So how about you, Dear Reader, what color combination are you liking right now?
Don't forget to leave a thought, question or comment on the "Get Organized" post by Sunday, January 24th. I'm giving away 2010 desk calendars in these great colors (which, of course, I spent hours tweaking!).


Get Organized Month

Did you know that January is officially "Get Organized" month? Who knew there was such a thing?!?! Well, I've got the bug. And one thing I know about the organizing bug: it's contagious when exposed.

If you'd like to catch the bug, I'll try to spread it with a few photos from my own home. (If seeing other people's organization stresses you out in any way, you have my permission to stop reading right now and jump right to the comment box at the bottom. Tell me what you're "into" these days!)

My mantra for organizing is "everything in its place." And of course, for everything to be in its place, everything needs to HAVE a place! That's why BASKETS are my all-time favorite home accessory. They give things an instant place and look nice while doing it (very French, don't you think?). Here are a few I use every day:

Kitchen baskets...
...pantry baskets...
...back door baskets...
...and the famous bottom-of-my-stairs basket!

I get more comments on this basket than just about anything else in my house...perhaps because it's visible the minute you step inside my front door. Sure beats the pile of clutter that would otherwise be visible on my bottom two steps!

"Don't you have a basket for that?" is one of my husband's favorite jokes (yes, I even have a remote control basket). He'll tell you I have a basket for everything, and it's true. I know...slightly obsessed, but it works for me!

How about you, Dear Reader? What is your go-to item or secret strategy for organizing? Leave your comment by January 24 to enter the 2010 desk calendar give-away! I'll be giving away several...and would LOVE to hear from you!



I had every intention of writing a thing or two while resting from card design, but when my laptop crashed while away from home after Christmas, I took it as a sign that I was meant to rest from everything. And so I did! I hope that you, too, enjoyed some rest in between the joyful chaos of Christmas and the brisk start of yet another new year.

But alas, one can only rest for so long before inspiration strikes, so here I am, twelve days into the new year, with this wish for you:

A new design. A new year. I love the sound of this particular new year: two thousand and ten. 2010. It looks good and sounds good.

But I'll be honest, newness kinda scares me. Whether it's a new year, a new group of people, a new computer or even new clothes, newness isn't my favorite thing. Fear of the unknown maybe? Fear of change for sure.

Whatever it is that lies beneath my silly fear, I've found one way to combat it: look for the little things that make newness appear BRIGHT and BEAUTIFUL...like new-fallen snow.

I don't usually like cold weather. In fact, I chose a college based on weather (Northwestern looked good on paper, but this Texas girl was freezing her boots off in May! I can only imagine January's chill factor!). But while in Maine after Christmas this year, I found myself enjoying, REALLY enjoying, the new-fallen snow. And this time, I didn't just ski or sled in the snow, I walked in it, laid in it, ENJOYED it! I especially enjoyed putting a new set of footprints in the snow on my walks...and then turning around to find that they were almost covered by NEW snow yet again!

And then I returned to Houston, where we've actually had our own glorious week of winter (cold temperatures with sunshine and blue skies). And just as I was beginning to default into that fear of all things new/what-to-do-next kind of paralysis, I saw this outside my kitchen window:

Yet another distinct symbol of newness. This brave, bright green bud stands strong and hopeful against today's blue sky, despite the recent freeze that threatened to shrivel God's plans for it to grow.

So I am once again inspired. How about you? Does newness inspire you? Does it scare you? How do you embrace it, look forward to it, tackle it, face it? Do tell!
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