Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Oh, You Sparkling New Year's Eve!

New Year's Eve always finds me feeling a bit down. I want to hold on to the old year, not let it go.

There was so much I still wanted to accomplish during 2014, and now it is slipping away with each ticking of the clock. It makes me a bit anxious, hyper, restless. Still, a coming brand-new year is something to celebrate! 2014 was full of so many blessings and opportunities.

I spent last New Year's Eve shooting fireworks with my son, but this morning's biting temperatures are a pretty good indicator that I'll not likely be spending the evening hours outdoors! No, rather we'll spend the afternoon dismantling all the Christmas decorations and getting our home back to a normal state; putting up new things, giving it all a good cleansing scrub, remembering the magic and joy of Christmas. And the best part is, it's what I WANT to do with my New Year's Eve! The coming 'blank slate' of a new year, while unsettling and a wee bit intimidating, makes me feel like cleaning, purging, letting go and unloading of all things I do not want to carry with me into 2015, including dust and the wee scraps of wrapping paper that seem to settle into every corner no matter how often I've cleaned!  

Tomorrow will be collards and black-eyed peas to ensure blessings and bounty in the New Year!

How about you? How will you welcome in 2015?

With love and wishes for a sparkling New Years,

Monday, December 29, 2014

Liberal Hunters, Flowing Art-to-Wear, and How We Change

I happened to run across one of the family members of an old friend I haven't seen in years over the holiday shopping season, and of course, I asked after him. I was surprised to learn that this gentleman, who was a pretty much a liberal, anti-gun kind of guy when we were well acquainted, is now a hunter who is slowly amassing quite an impressive collection of firearms for both himself and his children. My expression must have revealed my astonishment and curiosity as to what could have prompted such a complete change, because the family member laughed and explained simply that my friend had been in a relationship with a lady who came from a family of avid hunters. Nothing more needed to be said; nothing is capable of changing us so utterly and completely as love.

Still, the idea of how dramatically we can change stayed with me, and I ponder this now as one year fades into another. What about us, if anything, stays constant, and just how much is fluid, ever changing, at the mercy of relationships we enter into, places we live, careers we choose?

The streets of my town are so unbelievably amazing this time of year that it takes my breath away. On a night out with friends this weekend, visiting a new cafe here in town and enjoying some mild winter weather, we discussed change, what it means, and how it affects us all. Changes in us and changes in others, from fashion styles to deeper, more personal changes, and what might prompt them. I thought of changes in me over the past few years, ideas which I've touched on in previous posts, Personal Growth, Football Season and Blog Branding and Containing Multitudes.

Looking out from inside towards a downtown illuminated with 7,000 sparkling white lights, I thought about holiday gifts I'd received from a family member - flowing art-to-wear garments that I might have had a penchant for pairing with leggings and Nomadic State of Mind Sandals back in my late twenties/early thirties, but that I've not been partial to for almost a decade. This person doesn't see that, however; she sees the me that existed in a certain space and time, not who I am today. It's a wee bit maddening, but then... is impossible for me to imagine my strong-willed, set-in-his-ideas-and-ideals friend suddenly blazing through some crash course on Southern Outdoorsmanship in order to win favor with the family of his lady love. It would be easier to imagine him trying to convince them of the error of their ways than vice-versa, but here is where I underestimated my friend's ability to adapt and change when the time and proper motivation comes. Perhaps this was just the change he needed; perhaps the him I knew needed to fade, and fast, into this new, robust person. After all, is it required that we must remain the same, always?

I've always been somewhat mystified by people, even close friends, who proudly profess, "That's just how I am and always will be!" and the staunch unwillingness to change that statement (and similar statements) implies. Change is growth, just as adaptation is a survival skill. When I received my initial Reiki training, I was told to expect changes, but to also expect to lose a few people as a result of this, because not everyone we are close to can or is willing to grow with us. Also there is the idea that who we are in any given moment ebbs and flows in conjunction with the lessons we need in life; in other words, there is no core 'who we are' but rather, like a river, a constant flowing pool of growth and change as we adapt and react to situations both old and new. This kind of thought kindly disguises for us the reality that change and even growth can be volatile, especially when it is not desired.

And here, dear reader, is where I'd love to have your thoughts, to continue this dialogue on another day. Are you who you were last year, last week, yesterday? What has prompted your greatest growths and changes? A huge catalyst for me was becoming a mother, but of course, this metamorphosis happens to all of us who become parents. Still, even within this role, there must be room for growth and change, often quickly, because our children tend to become completely different people right around the time we think we we know so much about parenting them that we could write essays about it.

And that, I believe, is the gist of it - change and adaptation just at the precise moment we thought we had a good, strong grip on who and what we are.I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Friends Near and Far

During the time of my birthday, a gift mailed to me by my friend Cassandra did not show up for several weeks. She was so concerned about this that she sent out another gift to replace the missing one. Of course, the new gift, which was monetary, arrived on the same day that the lost gift finally found it's way to my mailbox! When I messaged her to let her know both had arrived and I was happy to send back the second gift, she insisted I keep it, citing our friendship, which has spanned almost two decades, as being worth more than the price of any present.

What followed was a sudden texting flurry of  'I'm so glad we're friends' gushing that lasted for at least a half-hour and warmed my heart. The kicker here, however, is that I've never actually met Cassandra in person. In almost twenty years, our friendship has been maintained solely by hand-written correspondence and occasional text messaging.

During this busy holiday time, I'm very grateful for friends like her, both near and far. At the post office Wednesday to mail holiday packages, I felt a rush of excitement knowing all of our gifts would soon be on their way to so many friends far away. This morning, I packaged up small handmade gifts to exchange when my knitting group has our annual holiday gathering later this week. It will be a Tasha Tudor themed gathering, with gifts and treats all handmade/homemade, and it was so much fun to wrap the items up and began making treats to share,

It's so much fun to have my friends here, in my home, celebrating the holidays with us! Just as it is fun to anticipate Christmas packages from friends I don't see often enough, or maybe, like Cassandra,  have never seen at all! 

Friends bring such an added blessing to our lives, and this is never more evident than during the holidays! While our families provide our roots and our support system as we're growing and learning to make our way in the world, I feel it is our friends who give us the wings we need to fly out and explore. Our friends are often the ones who encourage us to get out there and live our one and only wild and precious lives, to not be afraid of change, to keep our minds and hearts open...

It takes much effort in the course of our busy lives to connect with others, but it is so essential and vital to our happiness and well-being. It's easy to get so caught up with our work, families and home that we forget the importance of friendships, which do take time and energy to maintain, but the time and energy is so worth it! 

If there is a friend you've been meaning to write, talk with, or visit, the holiday season is the perfect time! Send a card, call to say hello, or bake a batch of Christmas cookies and drop them by!

 'Tis the season, after all!

I've chosen to illustrate this post with pictures from a birthday gathering held for me by my friend Virginia at her lovely home this past October. 

~ Amy

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Simple Season + New Issue of The Mother Magazine + More

Join me in life and on Instagram (@panpanstudios) in celebrating a simple, stress-free, homemade and handmade holiday season!

Learn more about this and The Living Home at!

And join me in celebrating the newest edition of The Mother Magazine, featuring my article, The Wisdom of Waldorf, and an exclusive interview with actress Alicia Silverstone!

I'm also participating in Instagram's Global Advent Calendar, which you can learn more about here, and enjoying Drops Design Christmas Calendar by Garn Studios!

What you enjoying this holiday season? I hope it's simple homemade, handmade happiness in a cozy loving, living home!

Happy Thursday!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Oh Happy Days...Holidays and Birthdays

It was a big week, with the Thanksgiving Holiday festivities! Seeing family and friends, and cooking the turkey for only the second time ever!

I delighted in serving it on this vintage platter, a treasured gift from a friend. It had been in his family for decades, and I love that it's now a part of our celebrations and traditions as well!

But this weekend also had another very special day - my son's tenth birthday party! We spent 'Black Friday' not out shopping with the masses (most of our gifts are either already wrapped and under the tree or handmade items in various stages of completion!) but getting the house ready for a party! Just like we're committed to keeping the holidays a simple, stress free time, we wanted to keep the birthday party low-key and stress free as well. Still, there was much preparation to be done, including leaf-print banners...

Remember that little house on the right...
...and making my son's favorite hummingbird cake...

The little train cake topper has been with us about six years now!
A bit of glitter makes anything festive, even newsprint and the brown paper insert from a wrapping paper roll! Yaay simple, fun, handmade decor!

We were thrilled that our little Tomten, Ingrid, arrived from Audrey Eclectic just in time for the party!

And shortly after lunch, we welcomed family and a few friends as well! Our cozy little home was bursting at the seams, but it was wonderful!

My sweet niece and her beau make a cute couple, don't they?
Singing birthday songs!

Opening gifts!


There's that little house from earlier picture!
My son painted it for my parents as an early Christmas gift! 

Friends who are like family are so special!
776 pieces of fun, heh heh!!
It was such a happy day, following the happiness and celebration of gratitude that is Thanksgiving, and then followed by the first Sunday of Advent, which heralds in the magic and wonder of the coming winter holidays!

This year's Advent calendar, a gift from afar!
 I can't image that ten years have passed so quickly since the day of my son's birth...or who I was before I became a mother. And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I can honestly say I am so grateful for this journey, this life, friends, family and the work that I have now.

Holidays and birthdays are times to be filled with loved ones being together, good nourishing food, traditions, memories being made...such important moments in our lives! It has been a wonderful holiday break here in South Carolina! Going back to work after five happiness-filled days of holiday break has me ready for the next few weeks! I'll be back soon with a new installment on my Setting Reasonable Goals series and also sharing a favorite Southern pumpkin pie recipe for your holiday feasting!

Happy Monday!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Listening to Our Bodies

Autumn. I can't help but thrill at this time of year.

Sometimes I think my Instagram feed in Autumn is nothing but my feet in leaves!

Southern summers are long and hot. Wonderful in their own way, yes, but there is something so rewarding about being outdoors in Autumn in the Carolinas. We natives often say that Autumn is our reward for enduring the sweltering heat of summer!

And enduring is the theme of today's post. There has been so much going on around here lately that I've fallen behind once again (there goes that reasonable goal of one post a week!) but it is a good kind of busy. I had two college classes come to a close last week, another article published, and a myriad of other things to do and responsibilities to fulfill. All in addition to caring for our home, being a solo parent and working a full-time job and freelancing! So life has been joyous, though a wee bit hectic - the classes I was taking, while necessary and meaningful, meant my free time was not my own, a circumstance I despise to find myself in.

And as soon as they were body reacted. Constochondritis was the diagnosis. I eschewed the steroid route for treatment that would have, in the kind doctor's words, had me 'up and running again' in just a few hours, and opted instead for a mild over-the-counter medication to relieve the inflammation and a couple of days of much-needed rest. Though the costochondritis was painful, I knew that it's sudden appearance was my body's way telling me rest was what it wanted, what it needed after such a busy couple of months. The last thing I should have strove for was to be 'up and running again'  in a few hours.

I needed to just simply sit.



Our work ethic here in America often goes completely against what we know in our hearts is best for our bodies and minds. I, too, used to pride myself on not missing a beat, or a day of work, when ill (cringe). That was the old me. Now I know better.  On the way home from the doctor, I picked up a DVD series I'd been itching to watch from our local library...

Thank you Audrey Eclectic for turning me on to this amazing series!
...and then headed straight home, where I stayed, for two days. Resting. Sitting. Being.

Healing. Slowly, naturally, not an accelerated pace so that I could be up and running again as soon as possible, but at the pace my body required for balance and well-being.

Because I was not contagious, I allowed my son to remain at home with me, where he learned valuable life lessons in what it means to take care of another person when they are ill. He also learned to whipstitch...

...and to make stacked-felt Christmas ornaments for holiday gifting! (Aren't those little trees just too adorable? I have to resist the urge to keep them all! More on our homemade holiday plans in future post!)

And I learned that I'm always learning, and that I need to balance my life a bit more. No more taking two college courses at is simply too much at this time in my life, and that's okay. This is all part of what my series on Setting Reasonable Goals is about!  In the afternoons, when I was feeling a bit better (and a wee bit restless from so much sitting), there was time outside...

Healing time in nature, enjoying the waning Autumn sunshine. Slow walking with much stopping and discovering surprises along the way...

A real hollow log! What lives here, we wondered!
I tend to over-estimate what I can endure, but my body reminds me when it is time to slow down. Sometimes the reminder is harsh, as it was with this illness. I'm grateful now for two months' break before my next college course; the coming holiday season; and that I have a job which allows me to  take a couple days sick leave to rest and heal when I need it. Listening to my body and responding to it's needs, rather than masking pain with medication, truly works for me and promotes better health for me both physically and mentally!

I look forward to bringing you the next installment of Reasonable Goal Setting soon, featuring an interview by ZenHabits own Leo Babauta! A long-time lover of ZenHabits, I'm thrilled to be featuring Leo in this blog series and to talk with him about the pending release of the ZenHabits book, which you can learn more about here! I'm also thrilled that it Saturday, so I'll close with a happy weekend wish to you and a bit of advice...listen to your body, rest if you should, take it easy if you can. Don't push the levels of your endurance. Get out in nature.
Just take time to be, not do...

With love,

Friday, November 14, 2014

Magic Moments

I am required to be at my job site very early. I often grumble about the hour, especially during winter months, but I've found one good thing about having to leave my cozy little home so long before I'm ready.

When I crest the hill at the top of the road, there, waiting, is the sunrise.

Truly a magic moment. I never get tired of it.

Earlier this week, while cutting through the courtyard of our local Arts Center, I did not have magic moments at all on my mind. I was in something of a hurry, my mind filled with many thoughts.

At the top of the steps, however, I stopped, somewhat amazed at what I saw.

Dancing spheres of light created by sunlight reflecting off an installation featuring dozens of small mirrored spheres hanging in the courtyard.


Now, as I head to work, I'm thinking of today, the magical sunrise waiting and the opening of our town's Christmas Village tonight. This weekend will be cold, with lots of fireplace snuggling and reading and coziness and holiday crafting and pecan pie baking...

...and lots of magical moments. I hope yours will be filled with the same!

Happy Friday,

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Reasonable Goal Setting Pt.2 - Clarity

When I began my series of posts on reasonable goal setting, I intended to write post a seemed like a reasonable goal, correct?

Then life kicked in...and I don't mean that in a bad way, I mean that in a wonderful way! I had a new article for The Mother Magazine to wrap up, as well as coursework for college class and all the normal things such as taking care of home, work requirements, preparing for coming winter, and football practice.

Gathering kindlin for firestarting!
So I had to reassess this goal! Is it unreasonable? Not at all! However, Saturday ends my college courses until January (whew!) and so I'll be able to stay more on task with the series. Which I'm very excited about for many reasons, including contribution by Mari of SaimaaLife.

I thought a lot about this series, and how I began it, with the story of my cards. It was a real release to write that post and admit that, in many ways, that goal was someone else's dream, or rather, a dream fueled by someone else's expectations.

There have been many times in my life I've had to 'wake up' from dreams fueled by someone else's expectations.
  • The expectations my parents had for me
  • The expectations my teachers had for me
  • The expectations my friends had for me
  • The expectations men I loved had for me
  • The expectations family members had for me
There are many reasons for why I came under the spell of other's expectations off and on over the years, but more often than not it was self-doubt - believing that others, especially my elders, knew more about what was best for me than I did.

And one of the most freeing things I ever did for myself was learn to break that unhealthy thought pattern, and be clear in my mind about what it was that I truly wanted. Mari has written about this extensively in Saimaalife.

"I think it all starts with clarifying to yourself what are the things that are the most meaningful in your life at the moment," says Mari. "After that we should carefully think are we using our precious time for those things or for some other not so meaningful things? I think this is something you have to learn and do on a daily basis, over and over again, because it's very easy to get distracted."

Like a spider weaving a web, I created situations that were good and productive, but not really what I wanted, because I got distracted by the expectations of others. It took time and living to realize that what I wanted might be different, or even polar opposite, from what I had been encouraged to believe was best for me. As Mari says, it starts with clarifying what is most meaningful in our lives at the moment.

Stop and think about that. In this moment, what is most precious, most meaningful to you? And don't be afraid to be honest with yourself! You might find this to be a difficult question to answer if you've never actually stopped and considered it. And many of us, in the desire to please our parents, families, and loved ones (a desire that begins in early childhood) have never actually stopped and thought long and hard about what we actually want, and need, for our happiness and well-being.

In Mari's series, 365 Ways to Wellbeing, she addresses this in question 3 - How can I find the things that mean the most to me? The answer is provided by a listing of posts that I encourage you to visit; there is a wealth of insight and inspiration in all.  However, she sums it up in this following phrase -  "Finding the connection to myself and spending time in a place where I´m as free as possible from all the expectations and cultural pressures that prevent me from hearing and recognizing my voice."

Finding our voice is the awakening to finding the clarity that allows us to finally focus on what we want. In our homes, in our lives, in our careers, in our daily activities, in our relations with our children, family, and loved ones. No goal is more worthy than another; a desire for more time in nature is not a lesser goal than the desire to change careers. 

Last weekend a friend dropped by to show me some yarn she had purchased at SAFF, the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair, held yearly in the cozy mountain town of Fletcher, NC, about 2 hours north of my home. As I held the soft, beautiful skein of alpaca fiber, hand spun and dyed, I knew that there was something about my future linked to the feeling of home it gave me. A dream I had long ago was stirring again - a genuine, authentic dream that I had stepped away from almost two decades ago. And while being in the moment is so, so important, having clear goals and a long-term ideas of  how to reach your goals are just as important.

My garden - truly one of my own, authentic dreams!
For setting reasonable goals, clarity is essential. Stay tuned for pt. 3 in this series, coming - hmmmm - let's say in two weeks!

With love, readers!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lifeways of North America and a Monarch Moment!

I have been trying for months now to capture a picture of a migrating Monarch butterfly. Wednesday, while wandering the school garden during lunch, I discovered success! An exquisite monarch who was quite content to pose, and after the coveted shot, I was able to just enjoy watching him and being in a beautiful inter-generational garden (more on this later!)

I also discovered something else on Wednesday, too, that I'm bursting at the seams with excitement to share with you! While doing research for upcoming magazine article about incorporating Waldorf educational methods and philosophies into your home environment and family life, I came across Lifeways of North America. 

I gotta tell you, I felt like a 49er who'd just discovered the motherlode!

If you are interested in Waldorf, living arts, or a more holistic approach to parenting and family, please head on over to Lifeways of North America. There you can find an offering of workshops and training opportunities, recommended reading, a wealth of inspiration via their blog posts, and so much more.

I'll be back soon with the second post in my series, Setting Reasonable Goals!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Reasonable Goal Setting Pt. 1

A couple of years ago, I invested a pretty penny in having cards made featuring images of my artwork...

I was very excited when I sold some to be displayed in an Atlanta shop, and here and there I sold a few to friends and family. I vended fairs and festivals and gave many cards away as gift sets. I even had some listed in my etsy store (now closed.) For the the last year, however, they have mostly lived in a box in my closet.

This weekend, I changed that. I donated the lot of them to a friend who vends similar items at fairs and festivals. It was a real act of letting go, not only of the cards but of the dream that inspired their creation. I was able to release both because it was never really a clear goal for me...just a vague idea that creativity might be the path for me to take professionally. For the past few years, however, things regarding this dream had felt at a standstill, always on the verge of becoming, but never being, real.

One day, I realized why...I am already doing it. The job I currently have is directly related to  creativity. Therefore, I am making a living via my creative talents.

I have realized a few other things as well...

...I'm not a salesperson.
...I have a deep personal conflict with creating for the sole purpose of selling what I create.
...I don't like to vend at fairs and festivals.
...I don't want to feel pressured to create to maintain a 'stock' for showing/selling.
...I don't want to be confined creatively to one medium.

All of these things are fine and good things if they suit one's personality and desires; they just don't suit mine. This of course would make it pretty difficult to support myself as a professional visual artist, a career that involves and can even depend on the above things.

And that's perfectly okay. It has taken me some time, but I know myself now, and I know what I am striving both towards and for.

Like most people, my entire life changed when I became a parent. No matter the goals and dreams I'd had before, when my son was born, there was one thing and one thing only that I wanted to do... with my baby. I wanted to be a full-time, stay-at-home mother. However, that's not really possible when one is a single (solo) mother (or at least if it is, I could not find the way to do it!) My desire to combine finding a way to be at home full-time with my son with making a living from my creativity clouded the reality that I had already accomplished my long-time primary goal - to make a living through creativity. I failed to appreciate my professional successes and instead ran on empty, striving in the wee hours of the night towards vague, unrealistic goals that did not suit my situation.

Fast forward to almost ten years, and so much is different! Would I still like to be a full-time, stay-at-home mom? You bet! However, I accepted years ago that was not my path. Since then, I have learned to be clear and precise with goal setting to accomplish the things I want to achieve while balancing work with being the best mother I can be. I have also learned there is great authenticity in what I was most passionate about in my youth: writing and nature.


Becoming a mother only intensified my love of nature and the joy I found in writing. As my son grows (at what seems like the speed of light,) I learn more and more the importance of being fully present and focusing on the moment. I also understand the importance of acknowledging my current situation and how it relates to setting clear, realistic goals whose demands don't take away from the present or my most important role as a parent. When our goals are authentic and our pacing is appropriate for our situation, doors open. We see change, and growth, and opportunity. And we know we're on the right path.

As Mari of SaimaaLife writes in her series 365 Ways to Wellbeing, the 312th Way, "Remember to acknowledge the situation you’re in with your parenting. Think about how many children you have, what age your children are, what kind of personalities they are and what is the general situation where your family is living in each season. Acknowledge the differences and demands that they set for you as a parentAnd AFTER THAT  set realistic goals for your own work or for your free time plans!"

I am thrilled to have Mari's contribution in this set of posts, which I will continue soon in a part 2! Her blog has long inspired me and I am sure it will inspire my readers as well! So I will be back in a few days with more information on setting reasonable goals for personal and professional success, but a first step is finding clarity in what we truly want to accomplish, whether a goal is personal or professional. This can involve really looking closely at what drives us as persons, and what we are most passionate about. 

Once we become parents, achieving both personal and professional goals can involve a little more balance and juggling but it is possible. And this is what this series of posts will be about!