Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Birds vs Windows

While working on some writing I heard a loud "bang" at the window. I knew immediately it was a bird, they do tend to smack into these big windows.  I turned and noticed the bird bounce off the glass and then zoom right back and grabbed the screen with his little feet and just hung there.  I found a great solution to keep birds from striking the windows last fall, and I knew I just needed to refresh it, (I'll show you my trick) but first, I was worried about the bird!

So I grabbed my phone figuring it would fly off soon, and I started snapping photos. The closer I got, I realized that the bird was really stunned. It was blinking it's little eyes and it beak was hanging open. The little chickadee allowed me to get really close.
Mouth open, eyes half closed, poor baby....

I was shocked, this bird must have really been seeing stars.  So I decided to Reiki the little sweetie through the glass.  Reiki is a specific kind of energy healing method that originated in Japan.  It allows you to channel universal life energy through your hands in order to heal people, animals, plants, and even situations, it's very soothing and works amazingly well.  I've been a Reiki Master/Teacher for years, but this was a unique situation that I've never had come up.  I sat with my hands against the glass for 3-5 minutes and the little bird just sat there soaking it up! I was just amazed. Finally, it closed it beak and the eye blinking slowed down as it began to turn it's head left and right looking around like, "where am I, what the hell happened?!"  It sat there a bit longer enjoying the Reiki, and then finally fluttered away.
Some Reiki energy for my feathered friend, I can't believe it sat there for that long!

Last fall when I noticed that birds do fly into the windows a lot, I've added some UV stickers to the windows, and I also dot  the windows with transparent UV liquid, both products help the birds see the window. To them, they just see the trees reflected in the glass and they think they can fly right on through, but the UV really stands out to their little birdie eyes so they know somethings up.  The UV liquid lasts awhile, but it's not permanent, and I knew after the experience with the stunned bird, it was time to refresh it.
THIS is the stuff! I found this last fall online on a website called Window Alert, I bought two bottle and some of their stickers too.

This is really cool, it's like a bingo marker, but it has special UV liquid that's designed to help keep birds from striking windows. I ordered two bottles of it last fall long with some UV leaf shaped stickers.
One of the leaf stickers, these are transparent and still are UV visible to the birds.  I didn't want to cover my windows with stickers, so I put them on the panes where birds were striking hard last year, and then I add dots of the less visible to the human eye liquid to the rest.
The stickers are pretty transparent so they don't mess up your view, I bet you never noticed them in my previous blog posts, but the birds can see them and the liquid very well, to the birds, they actually glow! Just so you know, I'm not getting paid to write this post, I'm just sharing it because it works.

Just dot it on, I do the middle of each square and the center of where the white lines on the windows meet.
They suggest you can use the marker in shapes too, if you choose to, you could make hearts, or magical symbols for healing and protection.  The stuff is slightly visible to the human eye, I just kept it simple with dots but applying magical intention and Reiki as I went.
I find that our birds strike the screened part of the windows too, it's a little more bouncy, so they probably don't get hurt as badly, but I like to treat that area too. push the screen against the window with one hand and apply the liquid right through the screen.
Here's the view out my studio window, it's quite jarring when I'm sitting there working on art or writing and a bird bashes into the window! I jump out of my skin, and then I worry about the little guys. You can see the difference between the stickers and the liquid here, it's really hard to take a photo of the liquid dots.  Visitors don't notice them unless I point them out.
You would think sun catchers in the window would help...
...but their little birdie eyes just see the trees reflected off the surface of the glass window!

I do have to add new liquid UV dots from time to time, I know when it's time because the birds let me know with a few big "bam" sounds.  If you love to feed and watch the birds the way that we do, and have a window or several that they seem to be smacking into, this stuff really works, it's affordable, and doesn't ruin your view.  Here's the link: http://www.windowalert.com/

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions, I've been using this stuff for about a year.

Blessed Be!,

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pre-Winter Solstice Nature Walk

Dan made a proposal today..."Walk with me outside, let's see what we find."  How could I resist?!  We've been discussing a project that will probably happen as I get further along on my current publishing deadlines, but we need to start gathering bits and bobs from nature to make some new, special, one-of-a-kind creations that we hope to start on in the spring.  So we grabbed the compost to take out, a collection basket, put on jackets, and headed out.

So we ventured out to walk the enchanted grounds of Aelfheim, our home in the woods. At first glance, it seems as if the land is barren,  the ground is strewn with fallen leaves, the trees are bare.
Some of the oak saplings still have their leaves, the sunlight shining through them looks like stained glass.

We found deer tracks everywhere, they are actually coming much closer to the house than we knew. 

Wild rose hips were plenty in the meadow, we have lots of wild roses growing everywhere.  They look quite festive, many of the other wildflowers that have gone to seed look like puffy snow, a pretty effect.

A big hawk flying over got Dan's attention, he's always on the lookout for them.

Even in December, we saw signs of life, a little frog hopped across our path, I told him, "Go hibernate silly froggie, cold weather's coming!" We also saw a honey bee, woolly worms, and a tiny spider on this lone blooming dandelion. 

My basket was filling up by the time we passed by the elder grove.

This is some of the prettiest moss, it's colors seem very Winter Solstice to me.  I think this is where the faeries must meet, on a stump near a grove of oak, persimmon, and juniper.  

My basket is full of some great finds! A turkey feather, many other feathers too, seed heads, berries, wild rose hips, acorns, we even found what we think is the jawbone of a fox, more research and we'll know what it is for sure.  The land rendered forth many treasures. 

Even though it's so close to the Winter Solstice, the weather warmed up more and more while we were out. Dan ended up with his coat tied around his waist, and I tied my hair back, it's actually 66 degrees Fahrenheit right now.  It couldn't have been a better day to get out of the house.  Now I feel refreshed, inspired, and ready to work on some of my illustration projects and writing on my new book as well!

What signs of life are you still seeing near your house?

Blessed Be!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Live Shenanigans Friday, Fog and Goulash

Happening at my house, live and un-edited, this is the real deal.  I just went around the house and took photos of what's going on even as we speak.

It's really foggy today, it's been so dark out all day it's hard to believe the sun is up there at all.  My daughter Brittany Sherman, her husband PJ and their little ones are coming out this weekend so PJ can use the barn to do some work on his car.  Dan and I grabbed the Yule tree out of the barn this morning, since the kids are coming, they can help decorate. I'll be seeing them again for Yule here on the weekend of the 21st, so we'll get all the decorations out this weekend and they'll have fun putting all that out and decorating the gingerbread house.   I'm working on making some of my decorated pens of art that people ordered from our Etsy shop right now.  The house smells like Hungarian goulash since Dan and I made up a giant batch in our roaster this morning.  Dan and I are playing old episodes of Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime while I craft pens and he works on the computer.  It's a rainy, cold, and darksome day, but we're cozy and warm.

I love to have a few candles going when it's dreary out, it brightens everything a bit.

The maple and the Four Trees Oak are visible, but the trees in the distance are obscured by fog today.  There was a squirrel sitting on the post nearby, but he wasn't there long enough to snap a shot.  Probably off to gather more hickory nuts. 

I'm making pens today, three Triple Goddess Pens and one Hecate's Key Pen.  Soon they'll be done and I'll have to cure them in the oven, paint, and varnish.

We plugged in the lights to make sure they still worked. The branches are still all bent out of shape, I need to straighten them up so we can decorate this weekend.  Watching Downton Abbey, relaxing and easy to have as background noise while we work because we've already seen these episodes.  Boxes everywhere! That's just our house this time of year.
My Yule altar, it's currently a work in progress.  My mom creates these cool sets with embroidered electric candle wraps and altar cloths,  for her Etsy shop Frogbirds House. I was so happy to get one.  I have more to add to it, but some of it is in the Yule totes in the barn, and some packed in my magical cabinet, I should have it all set up properly after the weekend.  Looking at this pic reminds me of another thing on my to-do list; I need to create an Etsy listing for those printable lanterns now that our Cyber-Monday giveaway is done...I hope I can get that done soon.
Vegetarian and Vegan friends avert your eyes, this is what I keep smelling, my Hungarian Goulash...Oh my, it smells goooood! We'll eat it for dinner with some crusty bread when the family arrives for the weekend.

Well, that's it, the live, unplugged, directors cut...  What are you up to right now other than reading this blog?

Mickie Mueller

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sun Catcher Magic, Enhancing Moods In Winter

In the winter months it helps to keep the curtains open so that as much sunlight as possible can come in, it's warming and it can benefit people that suffer from seasonal depression to have the curtains and blinds open.  The view out the window in summer time is full of colors of life, greens of the grass and trees and the colorful flowers blooming everywhere. Winter however can look pretty barren, snowfall is beautiful and can brighten some people's mood but after snow has been on the ground too long under overcast skies it can become a bleak view.

Even when there's no snow, for many people the barren browns and grays of winter can really put a strain on their mood and leave your spirit feeling as dingy as a gray winter sky.  One way to break up that dull winter view is with a little color therapy.
Our sun catchers measure a generous 6.375"x 8.875" and includes a suction cup hanger. You can also thread a line through the drilled hole to hang if you prefer. The edges are a smooth polished bevel, so they're safe to handle.  Heather Faerie Sun Catcher is available here.

Using images that are uplifting, brightly colored, and spiritual on sun catchers in those dreary winter windows can break up the monotony of the winter view and brighten your outlook.
My dining nook really comes to life with all these sun catchers, magical and full of color, since there isn't much color outside. From left to right, Ivy Card from Voice of the Trees, Triple Goddess, Greenman, Lunar Eclipse Goddess.

Vibrant purples, lush greens, warm yellows,  reds, and soul soothing blues draw in the sparse sunlight of winter and transform into a glowing reminder of life and spirit.  The sunlight infused artwork of our sun catchers becomes alive with light.
Faerie magic to add the green to my view that I miss so much in the winter time, these tow magical spirits of nature are kept company by my witch ball. Heather Faerie Sun Catcher & Tatiana's New Dress Sun Catcher.

Gods and Goddesses of nature, faeries from the warm green woods, beings filled with magic give you a positive focus through your window, blessing your view with positive energy.

I love the idea of being watched over by Green Man and the Moon Goddess over the winter months, they glow with even the low sunlight of December.

Mystical Cats from a distant land play in your sunbeams and offer illuminated lessons of the tarot cards that they represent.
The Mystical Cats Tarot images look cheerful in my studio, and all cats love to be in windows!  From left to right, The Priestess, The World, and The Lovers.

Sun catchers are an excellent way to brighten up an otherwise dreary view and become a constant reminder that with patience, life will once again make itself known as the wheel of the year turns.  If you decide to make one of our lovely art sun catchers part of your winter view, don't hesitate.  The supplier where we get our frosted glass ovals that we make into sun catchers is temporarily out of stock, we're not sure when more will become available, so our current quantities are limited.  We'll get more as soon as they are available, so if you can't find the art you want on a sun catcher now, be sure to check back.
Four of Fire (wands) from Mystical Cats Tarot, I love this one because the cats are playing with a sun catcher too. 

What window do you look out of the most in your house? Which one do you think needs a sun catcher to cheer up your day?

Mickie Mueller

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Fellow Etsy Sellers, Entertainment While You're Minding the Shop

I know we get so swamped running our cottage business over the holiday season that we hardly know which end is which!  Many of my fellow Etsy sellers and other online entrepreneurs totally understand what I mean, when you work for yourself, you don't clock in, but more importantly, you don't clock out.  We're all happy to be busy, but sometimes we need a little extra to help get us through the busy season.

We're enjoying these, we thought you might too!

Your couch is draped in bubble wrap and tissue paper, you have products all over your house, and you have a big stack of boxes in the corner somewhere in your house most of the time.  Does this sound familiar?  

Orders going out for our Etsy shop after Thanksgiving weekend,
at least the cats can rest!
This week Dan came up with some wonderful entertainment to play on an endless loop this week while we work, two British shows that are all about being in the retail business; Masterpiece Theater's Mr. Selfridge on Amazon Prime and The BBC's The Paradise on Netflix!  Set anything in a Victorian or Edwardian era and it suddenly seems more glamorous, even retail.  As I sit in my elegant fuzzy pajama pants and stretched out sweater ensemble working on listings, Photoshopping new templates for items, packing ornaments, art, and compact mirrors into little cardboard boxes, I can watch and pretend.
A scene from Master Piece Theater's Mr. Selfridge, if I ever get to London, I'm totally visiting Selfridge & Co. it looks amazing!
Both of these shows actually do get you excited though, they make you think about our passion for creating beauty and sharing it with others and giving our customers a magical and inspiring shopping experience.  We Etsy sellers and online entrepreneurs are after all, shop owners, sales associates, shipping department, window dressers, head cooks and bottle washers.  We can relate to every station of the characters in these shows, because we're doing all of those jobs.  The characters are challenged to come up with clever marketing ideas, strategies to meet the trends of the times, attempting to create an ambiance that makes the customer feel special and giving excellent service even in the face of difficult situations.  They make it seem fun, glamorous, and elevating.  These shows are like Downton Abbey meets Macy's, what's not to love!

The first of these two series' to air was The Paradise in 2012, it's the story of a young woman who goes to work in a department store in the first English department store owned by John Moray called The Paradise.  This is a fiction based on the book by Emile Zola called Au Bonheur des Dames which takes place in France, but in this adaptation, the story takes place in North East England.  Back in those days wealthy ladies didn't shop like we do today, their dress makers would come to their homes.
Shopping at Mr. Moray's Victorian department store The Paradise
The idea of shopping with the public and having merchandise out where people could see and handle it was just unheard of.  The concept of a department store would have been a trailblazing idea, kind of like the idea of shopping in your pajamas from home at 2 am was also once a new concept.  The story involves the heroine Denise, who is a creative and talented young woman who works her way up through the ranks of The Paradise with her brilliant marketing ideas and catches the eye of Moray in the process. This series was cancelled after it's second season being pitted in the ratings against season 1 of Mr. Selfridge in 3013.

Mr. Selfridge is a Materpiece Theater production based upon the actual founder of London's first department store Selfridge & Co..  This series follows the career of Harry Selfridge (played by Jeremy Piven) an American entrepreneur who after turning Marshall Fields into a modern department store in Chicago, decides that London needs something similar.
Shopping at Mr. Selfridge's establishment

This is the story of how he moved his family to London and against the odds, even when people ridiculed him and thought he was nuts transformed the way people shopped by giving them an experience they've never had before.  The ups and downs of the staff bring us through the opening of Selfridge & Co. all the way up to WWI, and there are enough scandals and strife in between to keep you wondering what will happen next. Series 3 of Mr. Selfridge airing in the UK in March.

I have an idea, my fellow Etsy sellers (and other online small business  entrepreneurs) Why don't you add your shops link to the comments on this blog, then we can all check out each other's shops!

And while you're minding the shop this holiday season, if you haven't seen these series' yet, I highly recommend them as a great inspiration and lots of fun while you package orders, crafting new items, and answering customer questions. If you end up with a difficult situation you can ask yourself, "What would Mr. Selfridge do?"
Don't forget, add a link for your shop in the comments below. I can't wait to see your online department store!

Mickie Mueller

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sneak Preview...Secret Illustration Project Revealed!

I started a big illustration job for Llewellyn during the summer of last year, eight books that are illustrated with beautiful black and white pencil like I did for the companion books for Voice of the Trees and Mystical Cats Tarot. I've been having so much fun with this job that I took some photos as I worked because I knew that I wanted to share this project with you as soon as I could.  Well, now this set of lovely books is available for pre-order on Amazon and I got the official OK to share with you...here is a sneak preview of this amazing project that I'm so honored and excited to be a part of!

Early stages of the chapter opener; forms of divination here include cards, crystal ball, tea for reading the tea leaves as well as spell elements such as a candle, oils, herbs and a pen with parchment.
As soon as I got the email from Lynne at the Llewellyn art department and saw these beautiful book covers, I was "all in" to take on this big job filling the pages of this series of books with magical illustrations! I thought the covers look like an invitation to a witch's garden party to celebrate each sabbat.  I gasped when I saw them, so much inspiration, upon reading the description of the books, I knew this was a series that I would want to own myself. I thought of how pretty they would look on my bookshelf, and how delighted I would be to flip through them for ideas as each sabbat approached. I knew I had to be a part of this lovely series!
From the Amazon listing for the first in this series Ostara which is slated for Jan. 2015, "Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series explores the old and new ways of celebrating the seasonal rites that are the cornerstones in the witch’s year.  A well-rounded introduction to Ostara, this attractive book features rituals, recipes, lore, and correspondences. It includes hands-on information for modern celebrations, spells and divination, recipes and crafts, invocations and prayers, and more!"  Pre-order here

While I was working on illustrations for Mabon, it was actually that time of year.  Right out my studio window I was watching squirrels running back and forth with acorns and hickory nuts. Since the squirrel was mentioned  in the manuscript as one of the animals associated with Mabon, our squirrel ended up running across the modern witch's front path in this chapter opener.
The witch's garden gate for a chapter opener, can you guess which sabbat this is for?
I always gang as many illustrations on a sheet as I could while still leaving room for labeling them and for the art department to digitally separate them after scanning. 
Part of the fun of illustrating this sabbat series is getting to revisit some of the concepts, deities, and teachings in order to offer a fresh take on the standards.  For Lughnasadh, I wanted to include Lugh in this chapter opener since he's one of the major deities of this holiday (it's named for him after all)  I've illustrated Lugh several times before, but this black and white may be one of my favorites.  
Re-inventing the wheel... this is another concept that I've illustrated before quite a few times before.  I have a black and white poster that's been circulated for years that I re-created as a design for my Sacred Source Wheel of the Year plaque, and I also illustrated one for The Well Worn Path deck.  So I did my best to come up with a fresh approach taking my inspiration from tradition as well as continuing the garden theme that was my original inspiration. 
I have three more books to illustrate, Samhain, Yule, and Imbolc, I'll have the manuscripts from those authors later on in December, so I'm working on Magical Almanac 2016 illustrations now to have them out of the way as soon as the last manuscripts are ready.  Part of the fun of working on this project is getting to read the manuscripts for the books, I have to make sure the illustrations work with what the authors have written so I've done my best to take lots of inspiration from their work.  The authors for the first five books are Kerri Conner, Melanie Marquis, (she wrote twoDeborah Blake, and Diana Rajchel.  These are really good books, chock full of no nonsense information on each sabbat. They discuss the ways the sabbats were celebrated in the old days, and new traditions as well. There are very creative craft projects, delicious sounding recipes, loads of spells, divination, rituals, and a handy section for correspondences.  I actually can't wait to get my hands on the finished books myself.  These will be released as the seasons progress starting early next spring well ahead of each sabbat so you can read them ahead of the sabbat and take full advantage of some of these great ideas, Watch for them to come out one by one, just like the seasons turn through the Wheel of the Year.   If you want to be the first to get them as they come out next year, here's a link for pre-ordering the first in the series, Ostara, and four more are available for pre-order as well.

Which Sabbat is your favorite? Which one would you love to have more recipes, crafts, and ritual ideas for?


Monday, November 24, 2014

Join Dan in the Workshop! Project-Porcelain Magnets

We placed an order with one of our Dye Sublimation suppliers last week as we gear up for the holiday season in the workshop.  We always want to make sure that we have plenty of our blank porcelain, ceramic, metal, hardboard, shell, glass, and fabric blank gift items in stock so that we can make items to ship all over for our Etsy customers during the holidays. While we were placing an order for some extra Tea-For-One sets, we came across some really nice looking 2 x 2 porcelain tiles for making your own magnets. Dan decided these magnets would make really nice gift items,so we added them to our order.

You've seen people make magnets by printing art onto flexible magnet sheets, and decoupaging art onto wood, ceramic, or other foundations, but that's not how these are made. Our process is called Dye Sublimation, the art is printed using a specially altered printer that uses dye instead of ink, and then the image is infused into the surface of the item, in this case a porcelain tile.  This process makes the art vivid, permanent, and waterproof. Dan was kind enough to invite you into the workshop to see how he makes his magic using my artwork and his Dye Sublimation skills!

I edited the art in Photoshop to the right size and dimensions. These were printed on our Dye Sublimation printer and Dan cut them apart, and used a spray adhesive specially designed for Dye Sublimation to keep the tiles centered how he wanted them and keeping them from sliding around on the press.
Next Dan lays the tiles out on the art making sure to center the image. The art is a little bigger than the item, this is so that the art will go all the way to the edge without any gaps along the edges.
Next Dan has heated the big heat press to 400 degrees and makes sure the pressure is set right, it needs to really be tight.  It's a combination of heat and pressure that releases the dye into the special coating on the porcelain. 
He has a system, makes sure none of the paper sheets have shifted before he closes the press on them and the timer starts. That big arm on top will swing around and line up with the press bed where he's working. 
Here he is setting the time, then he pulls that big black handle down, it really takes a lot of upper body strength to close that press! I can't do it at all. Tristan and I once made Dan a shirt for his birthday, it took both of us together to close that press. 
The timer goes off, and he opens the press. (which isn't as hard as closing it, but still takes some strength)  The cover sheets, paper, porcelain tiles, and surface of the heat press are now all 400 degrees. He uses an "Ove Glove" and spatula to get the items off the press.
We got these awesome cooling racks, they're meant for cookies, but we can stack them when we're making stuff for festivals or during the holidays so we can get a lot done in a small amount of space.  It's tempting to touch them...I have to walk away for about five minutes while they cool.  Different substrates make the art look different.  For instance, hardboard tiles and aluminum give you a very sharp bold look, these porcelain tiles have a softer fairy tale quality, very pretty.
I use a strong adhesive to affix the magnets onto the back of the porcelain.  These are really strong magnets, we were very pleased. I can't stand a wimpy magnet that will only hold one piece of paper.
Look how thick the magnet and the porcelain is.  I love these, they feel very high-end , they have a nice weight to them, a lovely smooth texture to the surface, and the porcelain has a lovely sheen to it. 
Now to put them on my fridge so I can take photos to post on Etsy...um, wow. My fridge is a mess!  Hang on, let me clear off some of this stuff...what IS that under the kids art, wine or jelly?! *clean, clean, wipe, wipe*  You didn't see that, right?!
Ok, YES! This is how my fridge really looks ALL the time...artistically arranged magnets, polite notes, and a bit of nature magic at work.  (At least as far as Etsy knows, right? We won't tell the truth will we?! ) Click here to see the Etsy listing for these lovely magnets!

That's how we do it! We use that big press for almost all of our items, unless they're coffee mugs, tea-for-one sets, steins etc. We have a round press for mugs, and for some items we use silicone wraps and press them in the oven.  Each item has it's own time, temp, and pressure adjustment. We have loads of templates designed by myself and my teenage son using my artwork on our big workhorse computer that we can print out and press to make all the beautiful things in our Etsy shop.  We hope you had fun walking through the process of one of our newest items, these new magnets look amazing in the photos, but wait until you see them in person. They're fancy enough to make you want to clean off your fridge...or get someone else to do it! Dan would be happy to make a set just for you, here's where you can order a set of your own.



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