I've never had a mantelpiece to decorate before. Oh the excitement! I'm planning on printing out a banner but I have to find one I really love or make one. For now I made two Halloween printables that I've framed. Don't you especially love that ornate metal frame? Yeah, I thrifted it for a couple of bucks this morning. That and the candle holder. And the jack-o-lantern box. Oh and all of the raffia pumpkins. I am a thrifting queen!

Using pretty fonts, some graphics from The Graphics Fairy and some pretty paper textures from Lost and Taken it was a snap to whip up something I loved. If you love these printables too, feel free to pin, download, etc. They are free for personal use, no resale. The raven printable has script from Edgar Allen Poe's, The Raven, written on it. Happy decorating!

Yesterday and today was the 183rd Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was really nice to sit down and listen to council from a living prophet and apostles of Jesus Christ. There were many inspiring talks given. One that particularly spoke to me was an address given by Elder Richard J. Maynes.

I love to play basketball and do other athletic activities and over the past year have worked really hard to get fit again and stay fit. Self discipline has been necessary to achieve this goal and it has not always been easy but I know it is necessary to be able to remain healthy and fit. Comparing that concept to our testimonies was just brilliant to me. Below is a free printable of the quote that inspired me so much, maybe it can give you motivation too.

Our bodies, our minds and our spirituality take constant maintenance and dedication to stay in shape. I think of it also as like having to clean a shower. If you take a second to spray and wipe down the glass daily then no water spots build up. It only takes a little bit of time to do this preventative maintenance. But if you skip this simple every day step and let the hardwater spots build up for weeks or months then you have to take much longer and work much harder in order to scrub the build up off. Regular maintenance of our body, mind and spirituality will prevent the build up of health problems and spiritual apathy. Self mastery is not a one time event, it's a continual process and I'm grateful for Elder Maynes for reminding me that it's just as important to practice daily spiritual self discipline as it is daily physical self discipline.

My lack of blogging in a nutshell.

When it comes to using time wisely, I am not the greatest. I have this tendency to always be learning new things or starting crazy projects just because I can. There is not enough time in one life for everything I wish to do and learn and see. I gave a talk on agency and using it wisely in church this past Sunday, not because I'm an authority on the subject but because it was the perfect topic for me to learn from. Blogging has been on the back burner for a while but other things manage to step up in place of whatever I feel I'm wasting too much time on. This has always been and will always be a battle for me. Doing things that are best above things that are just good or amusing is really hard for me. But I am trying. This quote is a good reminder to myself to choose the better part. And hopefully I will be able to do that more and more each day.
So being that we're in Austin, without our stuff, and with very tight funds, we like to find free things to do.

Today I thought we'd make a little outing to Cabela's. I've never been and heard that there was pretty much a whole taxidermy museum in there, along with a good sized aquarium filled with large river fish. Sounds like fun for kids right? Off to Buda we went!

The store is huge and in the center is a small mountain with taxidermied animals all over it. It's nice that most of them are labelled as well for learning purposes. There's also a small section with animals from Africa.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed the mountain, little waterfalls and animals posed thereon but the aquarium was definitely the highlight of our trip, at least for the boys.

Within the giant freshwater tank swim Catfish, Crappie, Sunfish, Carp, and Black Bass among others. We also saw a Pig-nosed turtle and some snapping turtles. Then we noticed all the goldfish in the tank. You would think we would have seen them first, being that their orange color was vivid in comparison with the drab colored fish around them. But we hadn't because they were all clustered at the top of the tank in a back corner. About that moment it dawned on me why this was.

A snapping turtle swam right in front of us with a wiggling goldfish in its mouth. As the turtle swam, it chomped on the fish and suddenly a goldfish head was floating to the bottom of the tank, the body still in the turtles mouth. My boys made exclamations of "Awesome!" and "Cool!"  I hoped my daughter hadn't noticed. But when I turned toward her, she was staring, horror stricken at the decapitated goldfish head on the pebbled floor of the tank. I was about to say something to her when we both watched a large catfish swim over the fish head, and suck it up into it's mouth.

"No!" she cried out. "Not goldfish!" Goldfish are too cute to eat!!!" Her eyes were huge with concern and brimming with tears.

I patted her on the back and tried to explain to her about the circle of life and why it was okay that cute little goldfish were getting torn apart or swallowed whole. Luckily she kept the tears at bay and while her brothers sat transfixed, happily watching goldfish get plucked off one by one, she kept cheering them on in their pitiful attempts to get away. I love her tender heart.
It's been a whirlwind few months with all the packing, the drive out to Austin, then the house hunting on a tight timeline. But we all arrived safely, found a home we love and we're trying to keep from going stir crazy in our temporary place while waiting to close on said home. We definitely feel like our lives are in limbo right now and the big changes have affected everyone emotionally but hopefully those feelings won't take too long to abate.

Our future backyard. Can't wait!!
My last post was April 9. On that day or the next I got a call from my sister in law. Her son and his longtime girlfriend had announced a few days before that they would be tying the knot. On April 18th. In 9 days. And would I make the wedding cake?

So I've been busy. The bride to be sent me a picture of her dream wedding cake, a beautiful and classic creation made by Sedona Wedding Cakes, shown below:

 I knew my rendition wouldn't look exactly the same as every cake artist does things a bit differently, adds their own personal style I guess. Also I had never made calla lilies before but I've modeled in fondant and polymer clay a lot so was certain I could do it. As the creator I can see every little imperfection but it was a good learning experience, lots of fun to make and I really am pleased with it.





The bottom tier was white chocolate cake with white chocolate buttercream, the middle tier was strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream and the top tier was vanilla cake (a cooks illustrated recipe) with vanilla buttercream. Hopefully I'll get a short tutorial about how to make your own gumpaste calla lilies published within the next few days.
Funnest engagement photo shoot ever! We visited the UP house in Herriman Utah. It happened to be a very windy day. It was her idea to bring balloons and to do jumping pictures to look as though they were floating away. With the gusty wind blowing the balloons to the right and her fiancees mad jumping skills, this worked pretty perfect. She's trying to hold him back in this pic but he's getting swept away.

This is my photo entry for the "Wind" theme at I Heart Faces this month.

Photo Challenge Submission
I've been busy editing more photographs from the photo shoots I've done with JMugleston's Exotics. All of these prints are available to purchase through my etsy shop. These creatures are just amazing!

Cuban Knight Anole
Bearded Dragons

California King Snake

Blue Tongue Skink

Diamond Back Terrapin

Tokay Gecko

Black Throated Tuatara Dragon

Giant Centipede 

Asian Forest Scorpion

Lemon Blast Ball Python

New Caledonian Giant Gecko or Leachie

Albino Python

Trinidad Dwarf Tarantula
Maybe one of these days I will get caught up on posting the many many photo shoots I want to share with you. The following photos, for instance, have been sitting on my computer waiting to be posted since August. But finally I've gotten around to watermarking them and writing this post. My niece through marriage, Jenny, was the mastermind behind this whole shoot. All the locations, the props (a few that aren't featured in this post) and the clothes. I just took the photos for her and fiance Harrison and we had a great time.

Cotton candy is always a great photo prop. And more than that, Jenny had a working cotton candy machine at her wedding, complete with bow tied cotton candy maker.

I'm going to guess that kiss tasted like...cotton candy.

This was the location of their first date I believe.

Such a gorgeous mural in downtown Provo. Who says there's no style in this college town?


Dancing to the music of the friendly neighborhood street musicians.


Nothing says 'I love you' quite like a kick in the pants.


These next few photos were taken at the UP House in Herriman Utah. It was an extremely blustery day though somehow we managed to catch some shots right as each huge gust of wind would die down. I was also worried about the glaring sun beating down on us, but it's position actually created a more dreamy, magical feel. Not unlike the house itself.

The above picture is Jenny's personal favorite. Harrison was so good at jumping like he was getting carried away by those balloons. And with the gusting winds it wouldn't have surprised me if he wasn't faking it.

Loved doing this photo shoot! Thanks so much for asking me Jenny!

As I said in an earlier post, some parts of Texas are a dust bowl, but some parts are lush and green and in Austin's case, hilly. Ladybird Lake (a glorified river) runs through downtown Austin and is a top spot for recreation, as you can see in the photo below.

I took this while my husband drove over Congress Avenue. You may have heard of it referred to as the bat bridge. It's famous for its colony of over 750,000 bats which sleep under the bridge during the day. Lots of folks come to watch hordes of bats fly off at dusk in search of food. From looking at this picture it's hard to believe the bustling downtown is right behind us.

The Austin skyline itself is very nice. The photo above was taken from near the nature center. This skyline is far more beautiful at night. I've been to Chicago, New York, Baltimore and D.C. and other big cities but so far this one is my favorite at night. I'll have to get a pic of it sometime. It's really beautiful all lit up.

The most amazing sunset I've ever seen was while we were in Austin. This picture does it no justice. The sky was on fire, the clouds silhouetted in blazing orange were unlike anything I had ever seen.

Austin is an awesome place for people watching.It's a city with a fascinating mix of culture and fashion. During our six week stay we rented out a house on the east side. We were told the east side is the "bad side" of town. For us, after having lived in Baltimore, the east side of Austin is just fine. If anything it was more colorful (literally, like buildings everywhere painted bright blues, yellows and pinks) and eclectic than the rest of the city. We spent lots of time downtown and in the suburbs too, exploring and getting a feel for where we might want to settle. Yep, Austin is a pretty cool city.

I mean, where else can you find Mickey Mouse lighting up a cigarette?

Oh yeah. Maybe Portland.

I've been there too. I have to say Austin wins though. More sunshine you know.

So wearing jewelry when you have small children around is not always the best idea.

I decided last night to repair three of my necklaces that have been broken by the tugging of little hands. Now that my youngest is 2 and understands much more about the word NO, maybe we won't have any more mishaps, though I'm not counting on it. After I fixed my necklaces I decided to dig through my bead stash and see if I could find inspiration for creating something else. I often like to grab pretty jewelry making things off the clearance rack at the craft store and see what I can come up with later. So I made two pairs of earrings last night.

 I love these yellow and cream danglers already. I was trying to figure out what to put with the crystal flowers when I found the tear drop glass pearls. I think they have a glamorous vintage feel.

And then these stud based mini dangles were easy, they really didn't need extra adornment. Simple but eye catching.

I haven't made every piece of jewelry I own but it sure is nice to be able to quickly create a piece for an outfit when you can't find anything to buy that really works.