Archive for the ‘Beautifying’ Category

7 Bright Spots

April 7th, 2010 by Jane

Spring has sprung and the world looks a little brighter, yes? Here are a few more bright spots for you to enjoy!

1) Who is Amy?
No, not our own lovely, Amy K. Brown. I am talking about the equally lovely Amy K. Rosenthal. She is a Chicago-based writer and maker of merriment. Her books are whimsical and touching, her small films are truly inspiring. And in my opinion, The Beckoning of Lovely is brilliant. Her work will be a definite bright spot in your life.

2) Guess What’s Exploding in Central Texas?
See the above photo, shot by our favorite photographer, Amy K. Brown.
We are having an awesome wildflower year here in Central Texas, due to all of the fall rains we had. The state flower of Texas is the bluebonnet and they are showy flowers in any year, but this one is a bluebonnetpalooza! Bring your toddlers on up here to put a heinie print in a field on the side of the highway!

3) Do you know TED?
If you are feeling down about the state of the world, then watch some of these TED conference videos. At the Technology Engineering and Design conference each year, some of the smartest people on the planet share their ideas and plans for making the world a better place. It gives one hope.

4) Got Gratitude?
I have been a fan of MJ Ryan’s books on gratitude for years now, my favorite being A Grateful Heart, but I didn’t know that she is an expert on change and adaptability. Peruse her website and blog and you might become a fan, too.

5) Know Any Young Poets?
Check out New Moon, no not that one. New Moon, the online and print magazine for girls, written by girls.

6) Wanna Get Lucky?
Katherine Center’s new book, Get Lucky is out today. I know what I am reading this weekend!

7) How Do You Eat an Elephant?
One Peace at a Time, a documentary by actor, writer and Austin-resident,Turk Pipkin, is out on DVD this week. If you missed his first film, Nobelity, then run out and get it.  In Nobelity, Pipkin asked Nobel laureates what to do about some of the world’s most pressing problems and their answers are simple and fascinating. A movement grew out of that filming experience and the Pipkin family started an non-profit to help solve some of those problems. Watch both of them back to back; with nine Nobel laureates, great music and Willie Nelson-you won’t be sorry! Or go meet Turk this Friday at the release party at Waterloo Records, if you are in the Austin area!

7 Things to Know When You Have a Baby

October 15th, 2009 by Jane

I have been reminiscing about early parenthood because an old friend just had his first child and my neighbor is due with a little girl any day now. My eldest daughter is nine, the twins are five and I don’t know how we got here so fast. People warned me of the speed with which the universe propels you through parenthood. I guess, in the early days when it seemed that the days were an endless loop of diapers, sleepless nights and breast milk-stained clothing, it didn’t occur to me that they wouldn’t always be infants. Or that I would barely have time to enjoy it.

I think it takes an incredible amount of grace to be a baby born into this world. Think about it, what if we, as adults, were dropped somewhere that we didn’t know the language, we were forced to live with people we didn’t know and we depended on them for our every need. I believe this is why we do not remember our infant hood; it would just be too painful. And yet, each baby looks at her parent with utter trust and eventually unconditional love.

I certainly don’t have many answers, but I’ve learned a few things. I have assembled the seven best pieces of advice, in my opinion, for new parents.

1. Lower Your Standards
I ‘m not kidding. Do not expect to have a clean house, clean clothes on your body or your teeth brushed, for at least the first three months. Your life will be much more enjoyable if you consider these things to be more like delightful hobbies you will resume when the baby is older, say around fifteen.

2. Follow Your Instincts
Everyone has some sort of parenting instinct, even those who say they don’t. If it seems wrong to take your newborn to that family reunion-listen to that voice. Then do not apologize for it.

3. Honor Your Baby’s Birth Story
In current pregnancy books, women are encouraged to write a birth plan to give to their doctor or midwife. This is a fine idea, but save yourself some grief and be flexible. Babies do not take anyone’s plans seriously. Especially their parents. Babies get here however they can and I will pretty much guarantee you that there is not one on the planet that has arrived according to plan. The birth story of your baby is the first of many wonderful stories your child will give to you and should be honored, not lamented.

4. Pay Attention
Isn’t it interesting that the phrase we use is “pay” attention? You give something to get something. Paying attention costs you some time and probably some patience, but here is what you might get: noticing the exact moment the eyelashes on your baby become lush, learning what makes  your child’s eyes light up, watching your child discover her toes. In other words, the good stuff.

5. Find Friends Who Keep It Real
If all of your friends with children arrive at a play date with perfect hair and clothes on their person, as well as their children-keep an eye on them. It is entirely possible that they cannot be trusted to have a real relationship. If their homes are in the same state of constant perfection-run! These are not people with whom you can build a nurturing, supportive friendship and they will wear you out in the interim.

Instead, seek out the moms who have other interests outside of motherhood, the moms who tell you when things aren’t going perfectly, the ones who feel no shame in taking store-bought cupcakes to school. They will become your support system.

6. Make No Plans
After the twins were born, I was commenting to someone that every time I made a plan to go somewhere, someone in my house started throwing up. This woman, who happened to have a set of 30 year old twins, very gently put her hand upon my arm and said “Jane, stop making plans. You will get back to that one day, but not right now. You will feel better if you just take it one day at a time.” Her words were like an elixir for my battered being.

7. It Doesn’t Last Long
Each stage your child goes through seems like it might be endless. Colic. Teething. Potty-training. Learning to drive.  One of my favorite quotes about parenthood is “The days are long, but the years are short.” When I was able to step back and view my children’s stages in six month increments, I could look at all of those frustrating moments with perspective and grace.

My favorite aunt (also a mother of grown twins) once said to me after I recounted a terrible day with toddler twins,  ”Sweetie, I don’t know if anyone has told you this, but you will never again expend this much energy.” That gives me hope, how about you?

7 Scraps Of Praise For Messiness

October 8th, 2009 by Amy

Ever notice the fact that Jane and I have over a hundred entries in “Appreciating” and barely a dozen in “Organizing?”


That’s just the kind of gals we are.


Today I came across the book A Perfect Mess online and while I haven’t read it yet, I’m already in love.


Mostly because it seems like it will be validating.


Suddenly all this messiness on my desk and in my home has the potential to be recast as functional.




Here’s an unorganized collection of seven catchwords and sentences I found insanely uplifting from A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place:



1.  “Chemist Stephen Berry, a recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant award, works among a landscape of 18-inch-high piles which have harbored individual documents for as long as two decades.”


2.  “beneficial mess”


3.  “In general, a messy desk tends to end up so that the more important, more urgent work stays close by and near the top of the clutter, while the safely ignorable stuff tends to get buried near the back–which makes perfect sense.”


4.  “A messy desk can be a highly effective prioritizing and accessing system.”


5.  “Actually, messy homes can provide a far more inviting and nurturing environment than highly ordered ones.”


6.  “pointless home neatening”


7.  “A Perfect Mess shatters the myths and misunderstandings about messiness and disorder that have led to an often pointless, counterproductive and demoralizing bias toward neatness and organization in our society.”

7 Thoughts on Arts & Culture

October 6th, 2009 by Jane

This week, someone asked me if I thought a community could have too much art and culture. When I picked my jaw up off of the ground, I gave this matter some serious thought. My answer is no, a community cannot have too much art or culture. I have lived in places with innumerable opportunities to immerse oneself in the arts (Santa Fe, New Mexico and Houston, Texas) and I have lived in places (which shall remain nameless) that have been referred to as cultural wastelands. Believe me, the former is utterly preferable.

Having said that, I think it is crucial that you do not overburden a community with more non-profits than it can reasonably support. However, building infrastructure for arts organizations takes time, patience, planning and money. Making the effort to bring art and culture to a community is good for the citizens, as these programs bring a chance to see beauty, to experience something larger than oneself. as well as inspire interesting thoughts and dialogue. Art and culture are good for economic development because business leaders look at what communities can offer employees in terms of quality of life experiences before they develop a business in that city. And finally, art and cultural opportunities are imperative for the intellectual development of children. But we do not have to convince them of that, children already know. Ask a child you know to attend a play and see what she says.

Here are some further thoughts on the matter. Thanks to the Kennedy Center’s Artsedge for the great quotes.

The beautiful painting above, entitled The Road to Awe, is by my compadre Dan Zinno. Call him up and buy some art-you won’t be sorry.

1. Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.
-Stella Adler

2. Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us.
-Roy Adzak

3. Where words fail, music speaks.
-Hans Christian Andersen

4. Any museum can invite you to look. A great one changes the way you see.

5. There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.
-Vicki Baum

6. The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

7. In the end, art outlives politics.

7 National Parks to Visit

September 28th, 2009 by Jane

Did you see the new Ken Burns documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, on PBS last night? The brilliant Burns brings his passionate lens to our national parks systems. As with his previous films, there is much to learn about the subject he explores. But the gorgeous cinematography makes this film rise into the realm of spectacular. And spectacular is just what Burns wants you to think when you watch. After your first viewing of his documentary, you could  mute the sound and use this as a stress-relief video. Really.

When I was a child, our family vacations were spent at state parks. These were fun trips, but I have never been to any of the national parks in this film.  They are now on my to-do list. Especially with my children.

Take a look and fall in love with the natural beauty of our nation.

1. Yellowstone

Yosemite is the first national park in the world.

2. Yosemite
I did not know this park was so immense.

3. Mesa Verde
Cliff dwellings that look like elaborate sand castles.

4. Grand Canyon
Until I can get there, I think I will watch the movie again. It is one of my favorites.

5. Acadia
I did not even know about this park. How dumb am I? Don’t answer that.

6. Great Smoky Mountains
Someone I used to know loved the Smoky Mountains. She said that they are old, feminine mountains.

7. Kenai Fjords
Fjords! In America! Don’t you love to say “fjords?”

7 Quotes In Praise Of Autumn

September 22nd, 2009 by Amy

I grew up in the Northeast, where Autumn is spectacular – the season that makes the entire year worth the wait. It starts with a little nip in the air and blows away a few blurry orange, red, and yellow weeks later. These days I can feel it coming ’round again.


Happy Autumnal Equinox.


1.  Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.  ~Albert Camus

2.  It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.  ~P.D. James

3.  Bittersweet October.  The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter.  ~Carol Bishop Hipps


4.  Besides the autumn poets sing,
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the haze.
~Emily Dickinson


5.  The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes


6.  For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together.  For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.  ~Edwin Way Teale

7.  Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.  ~George Eliot


7 of My Favorite Blogs

September 16th, 2009 by Jane

I do not have much time to read other blogs, but I try to make a few minutes every day to visit at least one of my favorites. The following seven (in no particular order) are a mix of humor, inspiration, creativity and information-four of my top interests!

1. Ink on My fingers
This blog is new to me and I am pouring through the archives of Susannah Conway’s blog as fast as I can. She has had a tragic past and I am fascinated. She writes about grief and art and life in a poignant, breathtaking way. Cathartic and refreshing.

2. Soul of the Garden
Tom Spencer hosts a local gardening show on PBS called Texas Gardener. His blog, Soul of the Garden, is where he talks about gardening, spirituality, travel, good books, his cats and much more. If you need something beautiful to look at, click here!

3. Ordinary Courage
I had the pleasure of hearing Brene’ Brown speak in Houston this past March and many of her words resounded so much with me that I found myself wishing I could be friends with her. After reading her blog regularly, I feel that I am. She writes about perfectionism, shame, addiction and gratitude with intelligence, humor and insight.

4. Katherine Center
Katherine Center writes books about mamahood that are funny, full of truth and love, with interesting characters. Her blog is just a continuation of  her fiction, but it is about her life. You will love getting to know her.

5. Orangette
Molly Wizenberg is a great cook, but she is also charming and sweet and thoughtful. Read her blog for delicious recipes, the chronicles of becoming a new restaurant owner and a love story. Her new book will bring tears.

6.  SF Girl by the Bay
Does your house lack style? Well get a screenful of ideas on this lovely design blog. You will be inspired to rearrange  your furniture, at the very least. We share a crush on the fictional character of Don Draper on Mad Men, so we know she has great taste!

7. Art Biz Blog
Alyson Stanfield’s blog is a self-help tool for artists. She offers marketing advice, support and inspiration for visual artists. She aims to make the term “starving artist” a thing of the past!

7 Signs of a Creative Flash Flood

September 14th, 2009 by Amy

We’ve been in a drought here in Central Texas, but this weekend it rained.


And rained.


And rained.


Our newly green world is now sprouting flowers and mushrooms.


After a long, hot, dry, crazy-making summer the drought at SevenOf has finally ended.


Seven sure signs of creative flash flooding:


1.  Inspiration

2.  Optimism

3.  Energy

4.  Focus

5.  Motivation

6.  Courage

7.  Vision


Look forward to plenty of flowers and mushrooms!


7 Accessories For Tweens

June 18th, 2009 by Jane

This post is inspired by my 9 year old daughter. Actually, it was her idea entirely. You see, she loves to accessorize and she always has. When she was a precocious 4 year old, my husband and I were desperately trying to find a way to discipline her that carried any weight, so we tried “grounding” her from her accessories for a day. It was accidental brilliance on our part because it worked. She couldn’t bear going to preschool without bracelets, barrettes or beads on her person. She loves to come up with a new outfit, complete with accessories and we love to see the results. Her style can be described as what  Pippi Longstocking would wear if she had been raised by Auntie Mame. Check out some of her favorite accessories.

1. Gauntlets
She has three pair of fingerless gloves: one in black fabric (tough), one in hot pink (glamorous) and a pale pink knitted pair (cozy.) 

2. Fake Hair
My daughter says that the trick is to comb the hairpiece in, so that people think it is your real hair. 

3. Fake Glasses
My husband bought her a pair of glasses with clear lenses and I thought it was a dumb idea. She loved it. 

4.  A Very Large Flower
That is the back of her beautiful head, above, with a silk flower used for gift wrapping in her hair.

5. Mismatched Socks
We are not good at sorting socks. There is usually a laundry basket full of socks waiting for a matchmaker. Luckily, my daughter looks at matching as a choice and sometimes she chooses to go with tone on tone or a pattern mix. I especially like this look with knee socks paired with skirts.

6. Backpacks Color Coordinated to the Ensemble Du Jour
She has several simple cloth backpacks that she puts her essentials in and she uses them to complete her look.

7.  Vintage Jewelry
My daughter loves to find jewelry at garage sales or in my jewelry box. She will group several pins together or clip an earring in her hair or wrap some beads around her wrist. Somehow, she makes all of this work to the delight of her parents and those that know her! 

7 Skin Care Tips

May 15th, 2009 by Jane

My lovely neighbor, Debra Brown, is an aesthetician and I asked her for some skin care information that I could share with you. She graciously narrowed down her vast knowledge and experience to give us the seven most important things you can do for your skin.

1. Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen
Ninety percent of all visible skin changes attributed to aging are caused by the sun. One in three Caucasians and one in five persons of color will  be diagnosed with skin cancer. Prevention is the best solution for this issue.

There are two kinds of sunscreen, the first type, physical sunscreens, will reflect or scatter the rays of the sun. Active ingredients typically include zinc oxide or titanium oxide. Physical sunscreens will leave a white cast on the skin and they are perfect for children and those with sensitive skin. The second type is chemical sunscreens and these absorb the rays of the sun. The active ingredients, such as avobenzone, oxybensone, Tinosorb and Mexoryl can cause stinging and irritation to sensitive skin.

Debra also recommends using sunscreen specifically formulated for the face on your face. But most importantly, find a sunscreen that you like as you will be more likely to use it.

Debra’s favorite sunscreens are: SkinCeuticals Physical or Ultimate Defense SPF 30,  All Terrain KidSport SPF 30, Jason Sunbrellas Chemical Free Sunblock SPF 30+ and LaRoche-Posay Anthelios.

You can now wash sun protection into your clothing with Sun Guard by RIT. One package will add sun protection to one load of clothes. After using this product, your clothing will block 96 % of sun rays that will last for up to twenty washings. How cool is that?

2. Mineral Make-up
These make-up products were developed for the most compromised skin. They feel light and airy and are made from finely ground minerals. They are free from preservatives, artificial colors, talc, oils, fragrances and other skin irritants. These are great for all skin types, but especially if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. Try Bare Minerals, Jane Iredale or Bare Escentuals.

3. Vitamin C
This topical anti-oxidant will protect skin against damaging free radicals from UV radiation. Debra suggests using this daily in conjunction with sunscreen and she likes SkinCeuticals C E or Phloretin CF.

4. Hyaluronic Acid
This topical application can aid in hydration of the skin. Your skin needs both water and oil. Lack of oil feels tight and itchy, lack of water looks creepy and old, according to Debra! Her favorite hydrating products are Twinlab Na-PCA Moisture Mist and SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel.

5. Exfoliants
Your skin cells can turnover every 28-120 days leaving a build up of dead skin cells that  can look dry, dull and rough. With exfoliating products, skin can look fresh, dewy and younger. These products can  range from facial scrubs to light chemical peels to deep resurfacing. Please follow directions on the product. Every skin type needs exfoliation, so try a product with Retin A, AHA or glycolic acid in it.

6. Pay close attention…
To your face, neck and decollete area. The neck and decollete show aging just as much as your face and the damage is much harder to reverse in these areas. Use facial products and extend down the neck and upper chest area.

7. Spend Wisely
Debra highly recommends spending more money on skin care than on make-up. Healthy skin needs less make-up, so you will get bigger results for the money!

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