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Summer Interview Series 05: Robin
July 1, 2009

I've 'known' Robin for about 9 years. The internet is a funny thing, you can know a person, but not know them in person! What brought us together was this red-headed girl from Green Gables. In 2000 Kevin Sullivan released Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, complete with a website that hosted a forum. The forum was a mecca for L.M. Montgomery fans and many people became fast friends. That forum branched into the Avonlea forum which branched into another forum, but in general over the past 9 years many people have become friends in real life. The 'net still felt young 9 years ago, and here it is now with bloggers and other groups meeting in person all of the time, but back then, meeting in person was not as common. Over the years I've been able to meet a few people from the Anne forums, but I have never had the chance to meet Robin, but maybe one day I will make it to Michigan!

You have the cutest little house! You and your sister have spent time decorating it over the years. What is your favorite room in the house? Your favorite item? And describe some design inspiration.

Thank you so much for the lovely compliment! A lot of hard work has been put into our little bungalow. It's always a work in progress, even after five years of being here! I'd say out of all the areas in the house, the living room is my favorite. It has a lot of old things and new things mixed together which makes it one of a kind. I'd say my most favorite item is a side table that my Dad inherited from his Aunt. It's almost a hundred years old [if it's not already] and so beautiful. Most of the design inspiration for our house started way back with Trading Spaces on TLC. It was really motivating to see the designers use a small budget and turn a drab space into something totally different and fantastic. I also happen to have a sibling who is majorly obsessed with HGTV, and has incorporated many ideas from a variety of shows into our house.

You've been blogging about as long as I have. What keeps you going and how do you stay motivated? And how the heck can you blog day after day for NaBloPoMo???! That's excellent discipline!

What's kept me going for this long is really very simple. I always seem to have a story to tell! Just living life and being out in the world is great motivation. As for NaBloPoMo [National Blog Posting Month], the first couple of years were really difficult, I won't lie! Thirty days of blogging seemed like torture, and at times, it was! Last year I finally came up with a rough draft system. I started to think about what would make a good topic several days in advance; that helped a lot. It's an annual tradition now that I look forward to!

The past year has been tough with you on the job front. How have you been able to cope and if you could pick the perfect job, what would it be?

Being laid off from my job after seven years was definitely very difficult. As much as I tried to prepare myself for it, it was still a shock when it happened. I miss my job [and even my crazy coworkers] more than I thought I would. The best way I cope with all of it is by keeping myself busy. I started babysitting for my cousin's daughter a couple of months ago. That's five days a week, so it's like I'm working again. I'm actually busier now more than ever! My absolute dream job would be having my own bakery. I love the fancy cakes that have the fondant and gum paste; they're amazing!

My cat Leo and your cat Mango are bff's via the 'net. Ok, we're just two crazy cat people, but have you ever thought about getting a dog?

They are indeed internet bff's! Crazy cat people unite!! ;-) I have thought about getting a dog, definitely. With three cats in the house right now, it's not something I'm thinking about anytime soon. Maybe one day though...

What has been your favorite story to tell over the years? There have been some great, laugh out loud ones! Which one would you recommend to people new to your blog?

Again, thank you for the compliment, Misti! I'm not even sure what a favorite story of mine is. I definitely had a lot of crazy work stories! One of my favorite posts to recommend is not a story, but a variety of excerpts from my childhood diary aptly named: "Dear Diary"

Do you excercise a lot of self censorship on your blog, or is most any story up for the telling? (Do you have any feelings about blogging and self censorship? e.g: judgement from people you know?)

Pretty much everything is up for telling. But at the same time, I sometimes feel like I water down my posts a bit too much. It's always in the back of my mind that I have to watch myself because "so and so" may get upset. It's a bit of a double edged sword that way.

What are some of your favorite blogs that you think we all should know about?

Two that I check out most often are: Dooce & Bitchypoo

Dooce is a hilariously, brilliant writer! Her pictures are fabulous as well. Definitely worth checking out!

Bitchypoo is a blog I've been reading for about six years now. When I first started reading, she lived in the suburbs with her husband, daughter and their six cats. They now live on a farm with over a hundred chickens, two pigs, two dogs and ten cats. She tells great stories, and shares a lot of wonderful photos of all the animals.

You've started a photography blog in addition to your regular blog. Have you been taking a lot of photos lately and what inspires you?

My poor photo-blog has sadly been very neglected. Even though I don't post much on there, I do enjoy photography quite a bit! I carry my camera with me almost everywhere. Sometimes I take a lot of photos, and other times not so much. I think I'm most inspired by architecture. Last month I went all around the city of Detroit taking pictures of old buildings. I had so much fun with it. I only wish I had more time!

All images courtesy of and copyright of Robin at Anything but Ordinary. Read her stuff, I promise it's good!

Summer Interview Series 04: The Whitlocks
June 24, 2009

When I decided to do the interview series in May, my brother was one of the people I wanted to interview. He started blogging again earlier this year. Probably five or six years ago he had another journal but it soon dissappeared. I'm glad he is back! My sister in law, Stephanie, posts sometimes, though certainly not enough! The up side is I get to see snippets of my niece Zoe growing up. It was a bit difficult for me to come up with questions. I mean, this is my little brother, the one who enjoyed punching my arm in highschool, the one that let me put makeup on him 'cause I didn't have a sister to do that (thanks bro!), and the brother who played a mean game of backyard baseball.

You two embarked on a new journey this year. What has been the best thing about becoming a parent? The worst?? Besides the poopy diapers!

Curtis: The worst thing for me is that at night time after Zoe has been put down to sleep and wakes up in the wee hours, she doesn't want me. She want's her mommy. During the day I can give her a bottle and feed her food and do all the parent things, but when it comes to night time she doesn't want anything to do with me. The best thing are the smiles. I'm proud to say that I was the one that got her to laugh first. Blowing on her belly and nipping at her knees seems to do the trick every time. When Stephanie is feeding her dinner I will always crack a grin over at her and she just gives me the biggest smile back.

Stephanie: I would have to say that even though I might complain or act frustrated sometimes, I don't believe that there is a worst to being a parent. It is amazing to watch Zoe grow and learn something new every day.

I wish sometimes there was a course or a class or something that helps teach you all there is to know. But then having a child would be boring! Every day is a learning experience for Curtis and I also. Sometimes we just look at each other and can do nothing but laugh. This has been the most AMAZING adventure. Being a mommy is definitely the BEST, most rewarding "job" there is!!

The garden seems to be a second home to you, Curt, and I feel the same sometimes. How do describe how you feel about being in the yard, the dirt in your nails? What do you like about watching the garden grow?

Curtis: It feels good. Especially after working all day. I'm like a kid just getting home from school throwing off my good clothes and putting on some play clothes and running back out the door in less than five minutes. It gets my mind off things. The dirt doesn't bother me. I love the feel of the grass blades between my toes.

Stephanie: I love watching the garden grow. Well actually I love watching Curtis in the garden. He is just like a kid in the candy store and it warms my heart to know that something so silly to some is so special to him. The way he takes care of the plants and talks to them it is almost like we have lots of little children! I have to wait until it gets dark outside to ask for help inside most days. He gets up on his days off and goes straight to the garden and tries to discover what grew overnight. I bet he can probably tell you how many inches something grew in the past couple of days. I am glad that we have a house and a yard so that he can have something to do that he is passionate about. It's funny to see him pose his fruit for a close snapshot so that he can have a memory of the items he grew. Also, I just LOVE eating the fresh fruits and veggies that we get to have.

What plant has been the most challenging to grow?

Curtis: Depends. Last year it was squash. This year it was the beets and more recently, tomatoes. The tomatoes this year are failing. I'm not sure if its because I tried you're method of growing them (in pots) or I didn't do it right. I just finished transplanting two of the tomato plants from 5 gallon buckets and put them in the ground where the lettuce was once growing. We'll see what happens. Other than that, nothing really. I just put some seeds in the ground and it grows.

What other hobbies do you two enjoy other than raising a rugrat and digging in the dirt?

Curtis: Backpacking. I'm in the middle of writing on my experiences from Philmont on my blog currently. It once was the thing always on my mind, backpacking, but has more recently been put on the back burner for those occasional trips. I've been wanting to start the crochet thing back up. Feminine, I know, but you and I both grew up around it. I have only really made one thing and it really didn't fit my head.

Stephanie: Right now all of my hobbies have been on a long hiatus because of Zoe. I love to scrapbook and create different things. I also love to quilt and I am wanting to finish a quilt I have been working on for something like 5 years.

Do you feel it is possible to live a life entirely off the grid, especially in the city? I know that you are interested in the Path to Freedom garden in California.

Curtis: I've been thinking on this idea for a while now, probably since we moved in to the house. Everything is possible if you have the pocket book for it. Solar panels or a wind turbine can cost a pretty penny. Wind turbines wouldn't be good in the neighborhood setting so you are left with the photovoltaic route. Stephanie, for the most part is always getting onto me for leaving the lights on. Its all about be self conscious about what your doing. We have thought about cutting the tv/internet service for sometime. We only watch tv at night time, just before putting Zoe to bed and the internet thing is the same way. Getting rid of it wouldn't be hard. Having a baby and being off the grid could be difficult, but just think back. There were still some people in the 30's that didn't have electricty and they made it just fine. Of course, they had a root cellar that kept things cool never grew up knowing any different. I've got cabinet above the dryer to store my 50 pounds of onions, kept cool by the compressor outside.

Growing up we both played in our grandmother's and great-grandmothers garden, as well as watching Dad mow the lawn every week. Do you think that has had any influence on your interest in gardening? Or was it something you fell into because you'd just bought a house?

Curtis: Stephanie and I got married and moved from the apartment to a house. I had responsibilities now. No more summers of hiking in the great wide open. Good song by Tom Petty also. So I started to look for some way to spend more time outside. I never really thought of growing food. I planted some flowers in the front yard and just kept mowing the grass. But mowing was just about once a week. So, that first winter I got thinking about growing food. Having never grown vegetables, I did some research on the 'net on when to plant certain veggies and started last February tilling a small plot (10ft by 10ft aprx) and planted some 'maters and peppers. Later last summer I planted watermelon that took off. I started reading up on Mel's "Sqaure Foot Gardening" method on growing more in less space and from there it just snowballed. I built the first raised bed and planted green beans and radishes. A month or so later, I made the second one and planted lettuce. Lettuce? I never would have thunk it. By August, I had come across the urban homesteading movement and Path to Freedom. There were tomatoes and peppers being harvested weekly and the green beans wouldn't stop growing. I learned how to can, and started preserving the bounty of beans. This last winter and proceeded in taking down the picket fence around the small plot and added the greenhouse and added eight more raised beds. 50 pounds of onions and 25 gallon sized plastic baggies of lettuce later, I'm glad that I spent those few moments playing in Granny's chicken coop & garden and Nan's garden, so that I would have that spark of, "Hey, they used to do it, why can't I?"

What creative outlets do you both enjoy, or wish to enjoy again someday?

Curtis: I used to sketch when I was in middle school. Mom found my old books that I left we I move out. I've thought about it. But, can you give me a 25th hour?

Stephanie: Someday I would like to enjoy music again. I used to play/peck the piano, self taught, and I would also sing. I would love to take piano lessons and someday buy some kind of piano for the house.

I also love to design things. Graphic design in high school was the best thing that I stumbled upon. I love researching and getting new ideas for a project I am working on. Someday I would love the opportunity to plan parties and get the creative juices really flowing.

Name the best thing about the moment that you are writing your response. (as in, the simplest thing that makes you happy right at that moment.)

Curtis: Zoe is asleep, and I'm listening to 'The Weight" by The Band.

Stephanie: Having the most wonderful family in the whole world!

All photos courtesy and copyright Curtis & Stephanie Whitlock. They can be found at The Whitlock Family where the garden and Zoe antics are plentiful!

Summer Interview Series 03: Kasie & The Art of Life
June 17, 2009

I found Kasie while blog hopping. I was on Kal's blog one day and was reading through her comments. I often find new blogs by clicking on the commenters instead of on blogrolls. I saw Kasie's blog and fell in love. A good mix of art and life and she is always so nice!! I think the key to forming friendships or bonds in the blog world is to keep commenting on blogs you enjoy and hopefully the other person reciprocates. Luckily, that's what happened here. I enjoy reading her blogs and they are always in the top five or ten that I hit immediately on my Google Reader when I see a new one up. Kasie is one talented artist as you will see below!

How long have you been painting and drawing? Do you have any special training, ie: college degree, art classes?
~Iíve been drawing since I was a very little girl. I remember playing outside and carrying around my sketchpad; trying to draw the trees, leaves, etc. Itís always just felt like a part of me.

~The first time that art class was offered in school was Junior High. (7th grade) From that year on I always took art class and worked to finish all of my required high school courses early so that I could take 2 hours of art my senior year. Oh how I loved having 2 full hours to paint, draw and just get lost in my work!

~After graduation I went to Oklahoma City Community College and got my Associates degree in Visual Arts. While I truly enjoyed college and feel that it helped me to grow as an individual, I do think itís important to say that I absolutely do not feel that a degree is necessary to be an artist. Iíve learned so much more about art in the time since college by studying and practicing on my own. I say that because there are people who would love to try their hand at art but are intimidated by the fact that they donít have any formal training. My advice is to dive right in! Scour the internet or library to find artists you love and study their work. Ask yourself what it is about those pieces that you love. There are many great teaching websites like Wet Canvas and Scribble Talk where artists share works in progress along with tips and advice. Thereís no wrong way to be an artist.

Medium: Fluid Acrylic

When I first started reading your blog you were into colored pencils. You have since migrated to acrylics and have really seemed to master them. What made you want to delve into this medium more?

~Colored pencils, more specifically Prismacolor colored pencils, have always been my true love in art. I was introduced to them by my high school art teacher but it wasnít until after college that I discovered the world of layering and ďcolored pencil painting.Ē I stumbled onto the work of Ann Kullberg and couldnít believe the depth and beauty that colored pencils could create.

~Prismacolor pencils are translucent, meaning that when you combine them in layers the colors will shine through each other and work together.

~So I began studying and learning all I could about working in colored pencil. I got the book ďColored Pencil Portraits Step by StepĒ by Ann Kullberg and spent a lot of time on forums like Scribble Talk.

~Colored pencil painting was the perfect medium for me because it plays to my love of details. Also, I had a very young daughter at the time and liked the fact that I could pick up and put down my pencils at any time without worrying about her getting into anything harmful like paint.

~SoÖwhy have I switched? Well, colored pencil is an absolutely legitimate fine art medium but because itís so new in the art world it sometimes takes a bad rap. I was getting frustrated with people saying that they loved my work and thought it was wonderful but once they found out it was pencil I would hear things like, ďbut Iíd rather have paint.Ē Grrrr, lol. Plus, my own style of art, which is highly detailed, was extremely time consuming to do in pencil. Some areas of my colored pencil portraits would have up to 20 layers and one small piece would average 40 hours of work or more. Add onto that equation that I was now the busy Mom of two little girls and it felt like I could never get any artwork finished. (I do want to mention that I have colored pencil artist friends who are able to work much faster than I do and who create amazing work. Check out Nicole Caulfield.

~The changing point came for me about 1 Ĺ years ago when I entered some of my colored pencil pieces in the State Fair. I did well and was pleased but I remember seeing my small colored pencil piece hanging right next to the much larger Best of Show painting. What amazed me was that we both had the same sense of style. And yet because this piece was a painting the artist was able to do it in a larger scale, add a background and frame it without glass, which makes a world of difference in presentation. I decided right then that I needed to try my hand at paint.

~My first attempt at a painting was a downright failure. I didnít even finish the piece and I was so depressed. I think the reason was that I was trying to paint in a way that was completely different than the way I worked in pencil and it just didnít click with my personality. So I attempted the painting again only this time I decided to try layering the paint in the same way that I used pencil. I added a glazing medium to the paints in order to make them more transparent. This method worked slightly better for me but I still wasnít happy. The finished painting didnít have the same look or style as my colored pencil pieces. At this point I was ready to give up paints for good.

~Then, for some reason I stumbled across a watercolor canvas at the art supply store. I donít know why but I decided to pick it up and give it a try. I also picked up some fluid acrylic paints. These two things were the missing pieces I was looking for. I was ecstatic about the way the paint glided across the canvas in thin smooth layers. I was able to layer in the same way that I had before. In fact I felt like I was doing the exact same type of work as before only I now had a brush in my hand instead of a pencil. And the plus side was that Iím now able to work larger and add backgrounds more quickly. My style of work is still slow and detailed but the overall piece is finished in much less time.

Medium: Fluid Acrylic

You have two adorable girls! They seem to be the inspiration for many of your illustrations and paintings. Do you have any other artistic influences?

~In high school I decided that I wanted to be a childrenís illustrator. Later, however, I decided that my style was much too detailed and time consuming for illustration work. So I went through a spell of doing wildlife art which is still a passion with me. I took a workshop with Luke Frazier and studied works by artists like Carl Brenders and Terry Isaac.

~When my oldest daughter was born I found it harder to truly study wildlife the way that is necessary to be a good wildlife artist. I was spending more of my time at the park or in the backyard.

~Motherhood also changed the way I viewed life. I felt so much joy in the simple little moments that I spent with my daughters and I wanted to share that feeling with others. Wildlife art has the goal of bringing awareness of the beauty of nature to others. I feel that my art has the goal of bringing awareness of the joy of everyday life and the love of family. Iím very influenced by the works of artists like Steve Hanks and Jim Daly.

How much time do you devote to art during the week? I know you volunteer with your kids classes a lot and seem to be very active in their lives. I know it must be hard to find a balance between the creative and doing all of the other obligations of life. How do you do it?? Any advice for other people trying to do the same thing??

~This is an area of life that is a constant work in progress for me. Itís one of the main reasons that I started my blog. I had been scouring the internet, trying to find other artists moms so that I could figure out how they do it. And I just couldnít seem to find much out there. So I started my blog and called it ďThe Art of Life~The Creative Journey of an Artist and Mom.Ē Thatís what it is for me; a journey and a learning experience.

~The time I spend on my art varies depending on the season of life weíre in. There are times when life is in a normal routine and Iím able to get more done. Then there are times when so much is going on that my art gets pushed to the side. Itís times like those that I have to stop and re-evaluate things because Iíve found that Iím a much better wife and mother when I make time for my art.

~My oldest daughter just finished 1st grade and my youngest has been active in things like music lessons and library. Iím very involved with their school and activities because I love it. But even this has been a learning process for me. Iíve had to learn that I canít volunteer for every program, activity, etc or Iíll never have time for art. Once again, itís just part of the journey.

~So I canít really say that I have any specific advice. I do know that every person out there has something that theyíre passionate about. For me itís art. And I feel that itís so important to keep that passion in your life no matter how busy life gets. I want to set a good example for my daughters of a woman who lives a life of passion; someone who cares for others and yet never lets her true self get lost in the shuffle.

It is possible to be an Artist and a Mom!

Rain Buddies
Medium: Fluid Acrylic

Your family is very important in your life...I can tell from the great posts about Dustin's bike races and the great wedding photos of your sister. How do they help you out creatively? Are they supportive of all of your ventures?

~I would be no-where without my family!! They are my anchor. Growing up my parents always encouraged me in my art. My Dad is an artist and so was my Grandma and my Mom is very creative. My sister is now a high school art teacher and my brother used to draw the coolest cartoons. My Mom helps me out by watching the girls if I need time to work on a piece and I know that I can always get opinions and thoughts on my work from my Dad.

~My husband, Dustin, is my biggest fan and greatest supporter. I could not do this without him! He believes in me more than I believe in myself. Heís such a great Dad and spends a lot of time with the girls. He knows when Iím needing art time and never hesitates to take the girls to the park or pitch in with the housework so that I can get that time. And he does all this while being very, very busy himself. Besides his full-time job heís also a cyclist and bike racer with a demanding training schedule. We support each other in our passions and work as a team. (All four of us!) I think thatís truly what being a family is all about.

You recently talked about the Eat Clean Diet and how it has changed your family's eating lifestyle. Tell me about some of the meals you make that are healthy and how you incorporate eating healthy on a daily basis. Share a recipe if you have one!! (plus, I know you bake some killer stuff.... ;) )

~As I mentioned before, my husband is a bike racer and racing is an incredibly physically demanding sport. It takes hours and hours of training every week. Although we felt like we were eating a fairly healthy diet before we decided to look into how nutrition affects athletic performance.

Weíve been reading and studying together and are now both whole-heartedly convinced that what you eat dramatically affects every part of your life. Some books and websites that I highly recommend are:

~Nutrition and learning more about it has become a new passion for both of us and weíre now working to help our daughters learn to love a clean eating lifestyle. (Basically eating whole, nutrient dense foods and staying away from processed junk.)

Hereís a really yummy whole wheat bread recipe that even our girls love:
Whole Wheat Bread

(found at which is another great website)

  • 3 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Mix 1 ĺ cup warm water, flour and yeast in a small bowl. Let rise until mixture doubles in size, approximately 30 minutes.

Combine remaining ingredients with dough and knead by hand or with bread maker until dough is sticky. Add additional warm water if needed. If kneading by hand, let rise for 30 minutes, knead again and let rise for 30 minutes. If using a bread maker, let rise once, then put it in standard bread loaf pan to rise for an additional 30 minutes until dough fills out loaf pan.

Bake at 350įF for 40 minutes. Slice to desired width and serve.

Recently you launched a website devoted to your art work. Where do you see this taking you in five years?

~My goal with my art is to continue to keep going. Iím working to build up my portfolio and hope to be selling prints in the near future. Life has also taken me in a circle and my dream of doing childrenís illustrations is now more possible than I ever thought. Iím enjoying taking it one day at a time and loving the journey!

What are some great websites and blogs that you visit daily? (I'm always looking for neat inspiration!)

~I find inspiration everywhere. My bloglines list is way too long and most of the time I have to skim through them quickly. I read a collection of different art, photography, nutrition, parenting, and dťcor blogs. I love to browse and and see the inspiring things other people make. Honestly though, Iíve found recently that I have to limit my computer time if Iím ever to get any painting time, lol.

Thanks so much for interviewing me! It was a lot of fun.

Kasie's work can be found at her website The Art of Life.

All photos are courtesy and copyright Kasie Sallee.

Thanks Kasie for participating! I really enjoyed reading your answers! If you have a question for Kasie, feel free to post it or you can visit her blog and drop her a line there!

I have one more interview for June and I am in the process of lining up interviews for July. This has been very fun for me and I hope for you too! Feel free to share the interview series on your own blog!

Summer Interview Series 02: Michelle & Life in East Texas
June 10, 2009

When I started thinking of people to interview for this series I thought that I wanted to interview one of my best friends. I can't pinpoint when we met exactly, but we were on the Texas Clipper II in the summer of 1998, having part fun/part school/part work on this retired Navy ship that our college owned. I think we really got to know each other when we both didn't have class while the rest of our group had class and we started having our green tea on the balcony in the afternoons in the dorm. Ahh, memories! Michelle had a short lived blog about five or six years ago right after I had started mine, so I am very glad she started her new blog this past year. Here's her interview.

Doing what we do best....being goofy!

In this crazy, topsy-turvy path of life, where do you see yourself heading in the next five years? What goals have you set for yourself?
Five yearsÖfirst of all I canít believe it has been 11 since we met! I thought of that today Ė I usually think about that every year when school lets out. I left the day after my high school graduation and if I remember right, you missed yours completely didnít you? (Yes, I did. No regrets to missing 500 names being read aloud) Wow, it really feels like yesterday. I know people say that but it is scary how true it can be sometimes.

Ok, sorry, back to the question :) Five years from now I hope to have another baby here or on the way at least. Kylen will be in school (finishing kindergartenÖwow) and we will be settled into our new house as much as we are settled here (we have been here almost five years which I never would have said would be my plan five years ago!) JP will be at his job and hopefully still happy Ė maybe a different department but hopefully with a paycheck that will allow us to travel often. We have so many friends and family we donít get to see nearly often enough! My goals are so different now that I have achieved my biggest one. (being a stay at home mom) Now my goals consist of being a wonderful and fun mom, keeping a good house, gardening, the dogsÖIf for some reason we arenít able to have another baby and Kylen is the only blessing we are given then I plan to go back to work at a bank. If we are able to have another baby then I will be starting all over again with a new boy/girl about the time Kylen starts kindergarten. I plan to be working on decorating the house, playing in the garden and hopefully be back to normal as far as how Iím feeling.

You recently celebrated your daughter's first birthday. How has becoming a mother affected your attitude and outlook toward life?
Wow! Becoming a mom was the scariest thing I have ever done. I didnít know how we would afford her, I didnít know how I would handle her (wasnít around babies growing up), I have my nephews but Iíve always been able to give them back! I was worried I wouldnít have patience (I have always had a pretty short temper), I wasnít sure about any of it really Ė childbirth, staying in a hospital, if we really could afford for me to stay home, if I really could do it on my own when JP went back to work. BUT becoming a mother was the best, most joyful, most rewarding, most challenging, most wonderful thing I have ever done. Yeah, you donít know what you are doing. You canít even begin to prepare for what your body will go through. You just wing it and ask lots of questions to people that have been through it already. You just do what you think is right. The best advice I heard was that your baby doesnít know you are doing it wrong, so just do it your way, and donít be afraid of messing up. If it works then keep it up :) Kylen has brought such joy in my life.

You will miss life before baby, when you actually got to sleep as long as YOU wanted and you got to do projects when YOU wanted to do them, but the rewards COMPLETELY outweigh the drawbacks. She has taught me so much. She makes me smile on a daily basis. My attitude and outlook on life completely shifted. I have unlimited patience when it comes to Kylen. I think of her needs way before my own. My life is hers now. Finding a husband and spending the rest of your life with someone is one thing. Having a child and raising them, it makes me speechless to have that honor.

My point of reference Ė donít take being able to have children for granted. My momís best friend from high school would have made an amazing mom. She wanted kids but couldnít have them..never had any of her own. My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage and I still get sad about it. I donít think I will ever forget it at certain times of the year. When I got pregnant again I was nervous the first few months and was able to fully appreciate the gift I was being given My outlook on life Ė I am a kid again, only I get to live it through Kylenís eyes.

You went to college for a little while for photography. Do you have any particular way of seeing what you frame in the camera before you take a shot? The one tip I remember from class was not to constantly center the subject, something I always did before. It also made me more aware of the backgrounds of casual shots. I usually spot one thing that I want to take a picture of then look all around it to find the best angle. I naturally overanalyze everything in life and Iíve gotten good at doing so rather quickly so most people donít realize I have already thought of every possible angle and found the best one for me.

If you could own any camera, what would it be? And where would your ideal studio be?
I haven't done research lately to know what would be the best camera for me. I would love a digital SLR but I also love the holga for its nostalgic effect on film.

I wouldn't want a studio. I would want to maybe have a few backdrops if someone wanted that option but I prefer to let nature be the background. If I were able to take photos professionally I would have a few spots around town that are my favorites and always be open to client suggestions.

You were recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The initial reactions you had have had time to sink in. Has it affected your outlook on life?
This is kind of tricky. At this point in my diagnosis I find it more annoying and still scary but donít really react outwardly. I was afraid we couldnít have more children but know that isnít a problem. The side effects are the most annoying part. Side effects of MS as well as the daily injections. They still hurt a lot and Iím hoping my body will miraculously stop reacting to the medication.

To answer your question (Iím sorry, I seem to ramble for a lot of this) I have pretty much adopted the Scarlett OíHara outlook on MS Ė I will worry about it tomorrow. JP did all the research; I still donít really want to talk to anyone else that has MS because I donít know what to say. I donít really have any questions. JP had a ton of questions and went online and did TONS of research and told me lots of facts/statistics. I just donít think about it for the most part. I have lots of side effects right now that donít let me forget it and I still get sad when it is time for my shot because of what it means, but other than that specific time of day, I try not to think about it.

We've known each other for 11 years now. What do you feel has been the most interesting thing that has occurred during those years?
Most interesting is kind of hard to answer. My most exciting moments include the birth of my daughter, marrying my husband, buying our first house, going on a real cruise (not one where I had to work and do school at the same time, even though that will always hold a special place in my heart).

I guess the most interesting thing and what I consider to be my biggest accomplishment is becoming a stay at home mom. We went from a two income, childless household to a single income household w/a baby. I really juggled our finances but was determined to make it work. As my mom always says, when you want something bad enough you will find a way.

Now that you are about to move into your own home, do you have any inspiration from magazines or the internet that you want to take into consideration to make the house your own?
I donít know where the inspiration comes from, probably HGTV more than anything. Iím not going to jump right into decorating. I do have a few room painting projects I would like to do before we put the furniture in, but for the most part I want to get into the house and see what I feel for each room. Some of the rooms already have a Ďthemeí of sorts and I am very happy to continue with them. The kitchen is a Ďcantinaí type theme and the main bath is a Spanish style I think. The house has such a history. It isnít one of those cookie cutter homes that is new and a blank slate. This house was bricked in 1950; they canít even guess when it was built. THe 30s maybe? That is when the oil boom hit and most homes in the area were built. Rooms have been added and other rooms have been converted into something more useful. I have fallen in love with the house as it is and I cannot wait to be in itÖI think the house itself will be my inspiration in the end. I mean, I can see stuff on TV or in magazines but I wonít know what works until after we move in!

Thanks Michelle for participating! You can read Michelle's blog at Everything Kylen and a little Mom & Dad
. All photos courtesy and copyright of Michelle Harvey.

stephanie's wedding 10-18-08 149
Hug your best friend today. Or send them an email if you live halfway across the country.

Summer Interview Series 01: Sara at Going Coastal
June 3, 2009

Welcome to my first interview series! I've been reading various interviews on other blogs for awhile and I've always wanted to participate in one, so I figured the best way to start would be to do the interviewing! I thought of four people that I was interested in reading a bit more about and one of the first one is my friend Sara. I actually know Sara in 'real life'. We met in highschool honors art class and though we talked we never really got to know each other. Fast forward to this great internet age and the world of MySpace, and we reconnected. I was drawn to her blogs on MySpace about scrapbooking and jewelry making and started commenting. Before I knew it we were emailing and chatting about various creative things. At our 10 years highschool reunion last year we got to talk for awhile, but still not enough to really get into all of the great things we have in common. Sara has brought up some great musicians that I'd never heard of and well, now they are favorites of mine!

I sent Sara some questions and she happily obliged! Happy Reading...and drooling over her jewlery! I have a few of her pieces in my collection, so I can attest that they are brilliant!

How did you live creatively after leaving high school and venturing into he life of work and motherhood?
At first, my artistic side became neglected as my husband, Peter, and I struggled to make ends meet while he finished college and we both worked full time. I worked at a pet store for a few years and then I started working at a car dealership when I turned 20. It didn't take me long to interject my creative side into my career, even though I was working at a dealership. I happened to overhear how much my company payed for some shabby and horrendously over priced car bows, and I had to speak up. Since then I have become the seasonal 'Car Bow Maker/Tree Decorator' for the dealership, and I have done so for the past 6 or 7 years. I have also discovered how gratifying scrapbooking can be to the creative soul with the birth of my two sons. My etsy shop was born from a 15 year love affair with macrame beaded jewelry. Going Coastal

I guess my point is, you can be artistic in your everyday life, even if you are not making a distinguished living from your artwork.

You make some awesome jewelery! How did you become interested in making jewelry and what spurred you into selling it?
I remember always going to craft stores with my mother and she would let me pick something to make when she would buy her pastels. One day I picked up a "How to Macrame" book, and I thought myself every pattern in the book. I started making bracelets for me and my friends and then I started experimenting with new ways to use wood and shell beads. After that, I started looking for pictures of new knots to learn, and it grew from there. I must have been around 14 when I started. Somewhere between here and there someone asked to buy a bracelet they saw me wearing, and so I started selling them by word of mouth. It wasn't until I signed up with myspace and etsy that I decided to expand on my jewelry projects. It's still just a hobby, but I have discovered so many great people in my own community from craft shows and indie blog groups. I have become a member of EtsyFortWorth and I write for the online blog: Etsy Fort Worth

What do you do to spur your creativity into action again after a lull?
I have become a horrible bead-aholic when it comes to gemstones. All I have to do is go bead shopping to energize my etsy projects. I love to lay out a few shells, fossils, or summery colored gemstones on the floor and just think about how I would use them. I am completely inspired by nature. I don't really feel a grand connection with a piece unless it has an interesting origin or a natural feel to it.

Oh, and I suppose I have to be bare-footed. As a child during the summer I hated wearing shoes, and I still do! It drives my husband crazy when the boys and I have been playing outside all day bare-footed!

Do you encourage your kids to get their hands into some paint or even Play-doh?
ABSOLUTELY! We love play-doh, pasta necklaces, paints...crafts in general. When I was growing up my parents ALWAYS gave me the opportunity to draw or work on crafts, and I want to pass that on to my kids as well! I try to think of fun, age appropriate projects, and I always let them color or make jewelry if I happen to be working on something in front of them.

What inspiration do you find across the Internet? Have you used any inspiration to create a piece of jewelry or art work?
Etsy is a very inspiring place to be! I love just watching the front page and clicking away at all of the fresh new items you can find there. I think my mind takes in too much at a time to say this, or that inspires me... I actually collect random photos for inspiration but I never go back and look at them! It's a pain because I always have to delete them off of my computer when I realize how many I have just taking up space. I try not to duplicate any other artists work but rather learn the applications to use in my own unique pieces.

You have leapt into the world of selling your craft. Do you have any advice for others interested in starting in that direction?
My advice would be... shameless self promotion!

Actually, just be excited about what you do and your enthusiasm will be contagious! I would not be where I am if I had not opened up to my friends and family about what I was doing. They were the ones who told me to list more on etsy, they were the ones who came to every one of my craft shows, and they were the ones who gave me my first etsy feedback.

If you sell on etsy make sure you use all 14 tag lines...the more tags you have, the more chances shoppers have to 'land' on your items. Also, give out business cards. You can create cards at Vista Print for free, so if you haven't yet, you should!

Where do you see yourself taking this creatively in the next five or ten years?
My creativity will always be there, spontaneously coming out in the most random ways... I recently painted a nursery mural for a friend and now I plan on painting murals in my boys' rooms too!

Name some other hobbies and fun things you like to do!
I love to cook, and I feel so rewarded when people rave about how well my boys eat fresh fruit and veggies that other kids won't touch with a ten foot pole. I have also recently become extremely fond of gardening. I think organic gardening will keep me entertained for a great while!

Photography and writing will always be passions of mine as well! I guess you could say my hobbies are all over the place! I have a personal blog that I use to unleash my inner dork.

Check it out: Post Punk Girl
(That was some of my shameless self promotion... try it, it works!)

Thanks Sara for participating! You can find Sara at: Post Punk Girl and her Going Coastal Etsy Shop
All photos courtesy and copyright Sara Pham..

If you have any questions for Sara, feel free to leave them in the comments and I am sure she will be able to answer them! I hope you enjoyed reading! Stay tuned for the rest of the month on every Wednesday for another interview!

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