Thursday, September 25, 2014

Throwback Thursday: I'm An Artist

This Throwback Thursday post is one of my favorite inspirational blog posts I have ever written. It is not a very practical post, as most of my blog posts are. But I as I reread it I found it to be quite motivational, even though I was the one to write it! I hope it inspires you to explore your own creativity and rethink what it means to be "gifted" in any area of your life.


"I'm An Artist" January 7, 2013

I started painting on canvas fourteen years ago at the age of ten. I was drawing and playing with Crayola watercolors long before that. Some of my first memories are of me sitting at the kitchen table scribbling away in coloring books with my mom. My dad worked his way through college and seminary as an illustrator for Sunday school curriculum. He is a talented artist in his own right and he taught me the principles of perspective and shading before I could even write my own name. I began private painting lessons when I was ten and continued to learn artistic skills on my own and in school. I even minored in art for the short period of time I was in college.

So it is safe to say that I have been artistic my whole life. I really can't say that I am a naturally brilliant artist. But I have always loved creating things and creativity was always highly encouraged in my family. My skills did not evolve over night. I have had so many people look at my work and say, "Wow, I could never do that. You are so talented!" I have to admit that that is one of the most frustrating things for me to hear as an artist. People may think they are giving me a compliment by saying such things, but really such a comment denies the amount of hard work and years of practice that went into the skills that I now have. I was not born with the ability to draw and paint. Just like I was not born with the ability to knit and sew. I was not born with the ability to ride horses or train dogs. I was not born with the ability to cook or even the ability to keep my house clean!

So many people view creative ability as this elusive lottery that some people win at birth while the rest of the world misses out. That is just not true! Yes, it is true that some people might have natural advantages over others for a particular creative skill, such as a keen sense of observation, great fine motor skills, a natural sense of rhythm, etc. But everyone is born with an imagination. Everyone is born with a creative nature. That creative nature may be expressed in different ways, such as music or dancing or interior design. But it is all based in that same raw creative potential.

Something everyone must keep in mind is that creativity is like a muscle. If it is not used and exercised it will atrophy and grow weak until it is apparently useless. Even an artist with the greatest natural talent will become rusty and regress in their skills if they do not exercise them. I am a testament to that!  There was a period of time from 2007 to 2011 where I did not touch a paintbrush and where I could count the number of complete sketches I did on one hand. Why did this happen? I got busy with life. I started a career as a horse trainer and found that I had no time for creativity. I thought I needed to focus all my time on my "real" job. At first this was by choice, but then after a while I couldn't draw anything even if I tried. Did I suddenly forget all the years of artistic training that I had? I may have forgot some techniques, but if that was truly the problem then it would have been easily remedied by reading a book or two. No, I had neglected my creative "muscles" and had chosen to believe a lie that my creativity wasn't worth expressing to the world. Once I started believing that lie I found it quite impossible to create anything at all.

Thankfully, such a state of atrophy can be remedied. In the fall of 2011 I went through a process of rediscovering my own creativity. I realized that I had greatly neglected my creative nature, an essential part of who I am. And I also recognized the lie that I was believing about my creativity. The interesting things about lies is that once you KNOW they are lies they actually can't deceive you anymore, unless you choose to let them. So I began to tell myself that my creativity was worth expressing and that what I create has value. The amazing thing is that as soon as I did this my artist blocks shattered! I was able to be creative again and right away I was producing drawings and paintings and even dabbled in techniques I had never tried before. There was a bit of an adjustment process where I had to re-acclimate myself to the many techniques I once knew (I am actually still in this process some). But there was a huge difference in how I viewed my own work and how I approached painting and drawing. When I realized that my creativity had value in of itself, apart from the finished product that came from it, my perfectionism began to melt away. Perfectionism had kept me from expressing creative freedom. Attention to detail is a gift, but perfectionism is a lie that says if you mess up and don't get things just right then whatever you create will be garbage. But that's a lie!

Before my four year artist block I was never really able to call myself an artist. I felt that in order to call myself an artist I needed to reach some standard of perfection. I was always striving towards that standard but could never quite reach it. But now because I value myself I openly call myself an artist and am experiencing creative freedom that I've never experienced before. Is my artwork like De Vinci or Van Gough? No, but it doesn't have to be. I am just as creative as De Vinci or Van Gough or Mozart  or J R R Tolkien or any other artistic person in the world because I was born with a creative nature. How I choose to exercise that nature is completely up to me.

Now, you may be thinking, "But I have NEVER used my creative muscles. Isn't it too late for me?" Not at all. You have probably been exercising the muscle in other ways and just didn't realize it. All arenas of life require creativity, and all arenas of life can be made better by increased creativity. Choose your arena and just start exercising. You were born to be creative. So just start creating. You are already amazing.

Miranda Joy

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Sentimental Value

This Throwback Thursday post comes from my retired blog, The Joy Panda. It was originally posted January 4, 2013. In light of my recent posts on Tiny Joys about simplifying and minimizing, I find this particular post to be quite interesting. I have had a problem in the past with parting with items I consider to be sentimental. This has led to me becoming a bit of a pack rat. I began a post a few months back about how to part with sentimental items, but I never finished the post. Two of the qualifications I set for keeping a sentimental item were, number one, Can and will you fix it? And number two, Will you use it? In this throwback post I talk about finding and fixing my childhood sewing box, which I am glad to say I am still using today.

I hope you enjoy this sweet sentimental piece. Maybe it will inspire you to explore your basement and attic in search for long lost treasures.


"Sentimental Value" January 4, 2013

While I was at home for Christmas I was poking around in the basement and I came across my childhood sewing box. When I was five years old my parents got me and my older sister sewing boxes for Christmas. Mine was blue and my sister's was pink, they were just like the sewing box my mom had purchased for herself. They were filled with basic sewing supplies and a cross-stitch kit to make bibs for our baby sister, who was on the way. I am not sure if I ever finished that bib, but that was the start of it all for me. I have kept that box all these years and it has a lot of sentimental value to me.

So you can understand my distress when I found it in the basement with the lining falling apart inside. I brought it upstairs and sat at the kitchen table to go through the box's contents. My mom walked by at that moment. With a sigh she commented, "Oh, that old box probably isn't worth keeping at this point." "Probably not," I sadly agreed. But I still hated the thought of throwing it out. I had always imagined giving it to my own daughter one day. As I played around with the sagging satin lining, my mom watched over my shoulder. There was really no way to mend it by sewing. I could tell that the lining of this box had originally been glued in place. Then my mom made a suggestion, just as the same idea came to my mind.   "Maybe you could fix it with the glue gun?" My mom is so smart. I just so happened to find my old glue gun the night before. Happy day! I fired it up, squeezed, squeezed, squeezed and managed to reattach the satin lining while only burning myself once. I was very pleased to see my box almost as good as new. This box is not heirloom quality, to say the least, but its sentimental value makes it irreplaceable  Even though I could have easily thrown it out and bought a better made one, to me it was worth it to take the time to fix it.

As fun as rediscovering my old sewing box was, something just as fun was what I found inside it. It was like stepping back in time. I found little bits of embroidery thread and fabric from past projects and a vast array of buttons and beads which I used to diligently collect, but never use. I found a simple doll pattern that had gone unfinished, a piece of fabric that looked like the makings of a primitive Barbie dress, and a small drawstring bag that was only a few inches of stitching away from completion. The most interesting thing to me was the draw string bag. I just barely remember starting that project, though I don't remember exactly why I wanted to make it. I was an adventurous young girl that loved the thought of finding and hiding treasure. I had seen so many movies with precious little bags of gold, I am sure I wanted to make one to keep my own coins in. I can only guess I was about ten when I started it. It was made from jersey material that I had probably salvaged from an old sweatshirt. I can imagine it took me a few days to piece together a bag that would only take me 30 minutes today. It was so close to being finished, I couldn't just leave it that way. So using bits of thread I found in the bottom of my sewing box, and a few pieces of yarn I found in my old bedroom closest  I finished the drawstring bag that was 14 years in the making. What treasure did I decide to put inside it? My collection of random buttons. I think my ten year old self would be pleased.

So, what sentimental items do you have hidden away in your house? Is there a way you can pull them out, re-purpose them and bring them back into your everyday life? I would love to hear your ideas.

Miranda Joy

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Braided Calzones

Although Tiny Joys is a relatively new blog, I have been blogging on and off since 2007. I have had many different blogs that I have started up but have not been faithful to. It seems like every new season of my life I start a new blog that reflects my current focus. I abandon one blog in the name of starting fresh. Sometimes change is necessary, but this has left behind a grave yard of great blog posts that will probably never again see the light of day, let alone develop and internet following. 

So, I have decided to begin a new series of posts that will bring new life to these old posts. Throwback Thursday has become a popular trend, where people post photos or status updates from years gone by. I have decided to do the same thing with old posts of mine from blogs I have retired. I hope you enjoy reading some of my oldies but goodies.

My first Throwback Thursday post is from a blog I started in 2012 called The Joy Panda. This post, titled "Braided Calzones" was first published December 29, 2012. It was my first fully photographed post and I was very proud of it at the time. I look forward to cooking these calzones for my family again soon. I hope you will also give them a try. 


I am a huge fan of Pinterest. If it were not for the fact that I have limited access to the internet at my apartment  then I could easily spend all my free time pinning and repinning. I especially love browsing through recipes and pinning yummy ideas away for a later day. A few months ago I found a recipe for braided calzones. The recipe used pre-made refrigerated dough, which made it super quick and easy to make. I pinned it away for later, but this week when I went to go revisit it I was disappointed to find that the page had been taken down. I wanted to make it for my family while visiting with them over Christmas break. Feeding a family of seven (plus the brother in law and nephew) can be a challenge for us at times, so we are always looking for yummy meals that are easy to make for a large family. And as Italian food lovers, calzones were sure to be a big hit with my whole family. So I decided to try my hand at making braided calzones myself. It was a raving success!

  • Refrigerated pizza dough
  • Your favorite jarred pizza sauce 
  • Favorite pizza toppings (we used pepperoni, hamburger and green olives but you can use anything you like)
  • Mozzarella chesse
  • 1 tbls melted butter
  • Garlic salt/garlic powder to taste
  • Parmesan cheese to taste

  • Pastry board
  • Rolling pin (or your hands)
  • Pizza cutter (you can use a knife, but it tends to stick to the dough too much)
  • Baking sheet covered in foil, lightly greased (I forgot to grease it... don't do that. Will make the dough stick )
  • A preheated oven (follow the preheating specifications on the packaging of your refrigerated pizza dough. Mine said 375 F.)
  • A pastry brush (I couldn't find mine, so I just used a spoon to spread the melted butter)
  • Flour your pastry board and your hands. The dough I bought was quite sticky.
  • Place the ball of dough on the pastry board and roll it out flat with the rolling pin. Your goal is to make it into a rough rectangular shape. I found that it was easiest to accomplish this by picking up the dough and stretching it into the desired shape and then placing it back on the board to smooth it back out. Be careful not to work the dough too thin. I made this mistake with my first calzone. It still turned out fine, but it stretched and tore a bit too easily for my liking. I think it's better to have it too thick than too thin.

  • Transfer the dough to the baking sheet.
  • Spoon the pizza sauce down the center of the dough, leaving about 1 inch without sauce on each end and three or four inches without sauce on both sides.
  • Add whatever pizza toppings you want on top of the line of sauce. My family has varied tastes. We made three calzones to be split between six people. One with pepperoni and green olives, one with hamburger, and one with hamburger and pepperoni (we added olives to half of that one). The possibilities are endless. Next time, I want to try adding ricotta cheese and spinach.
  • Cover your toppings with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese. In my family, the cheesier the better (come on, it's not like we eat calzones EVERY day).
  • Now for the fun part: braiding!
  • Using a pizza cutter, cut slits into the sides of the dough from the outside edge to about 1/4 inch from the sauce. Space the slits about one inch apart. Do not make these tabs of dough too thin. I made this mistake on the first calzone I made and it made the tabs hard to work with and easy to tear.
  • Starting at one end, take one of the tabs and lay it across the filling at a diagonal. Take the tab opposite of it and cross it over the first tab, at an angle. 
  • Continue in this manner, alternating side to side, until you reach the middle of the calzone. You want to be sure to cover up as much of the filling as you can as you cross the tabs over each other. Try not to leave many gaps. 
  • Switch to the opposite end of the calzone and cross the tabs over each other in the same manner.
  • When done it should look kind of like a loaf of french bread.
  • If the ends of the calzone are still open, pinch them shut so that the sauce does not run out when baking.
  • Brush the top of the calzone with melted butter.
  • Sprinkle garlic salt or garlic powder on top to taste (this made such an impact! I don't remember this step being in the original recipe I found, but I think it is what really makes the calzone).
  • Put the calzone in the oven to bake. We baked three at a time, which took about 25 minutes, if you are only cooking one then it should take less time. The top of the calzone should be lightly browned. If in doubt, following the recommendations on the packaging of your refrigerated pizza dough. 
  • About 5 minutes before the calzone is done baking, sprinkle parmesan cheese on top and return it to the oven. 
  • Once the calzones are golden brown on top, remove them from the oven. Let them cool just a few minutes. Cut them in half and serve. For our family, half a calzone was more than enough for one person. 

These calzones are beyond delicious and super easy. They were an instant hit with my family. My dad even ventured to say they were the best calzones he had ever had. Well, I'm not sure about that, but I gladly receive my family's compliments. Give these braided calzones a try and let me know how they go for you.

Miranda Joy

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What to do in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado

This summer I have been working as a horse wrangler at a dude ranch in Parshall, CO.  According to Wikipedia, Parshall is classified as an "unincorporated community," barely even a town. Though the natural beauty of the area more than makes up for the lack of attractions in the town, it is still nice to go into town for a warm meal or a cone of ice-cream. For this, I've made friends with the next town over: Hot Sulphur Springs.

The town of Hot Sulphur Springs in Grand County, Colorado is barely a speck on the map along highway 40, north-west of Denver.  If you were just driving through it would be easy to simply pass by. But it is a place that has become dear to my heart, so I would like to take this time to share with you its simple pleasures.

Named for the natural hot sulphur springs found in the town, the natural spa is considered one of the best in the country. The hot springs was originally used by the native Ute tribe and was called their "magic waters" and "big medicine". It was believed to have magical healing properties. They even bathed their horses and dogs in the springs! The first white man to discover the springs was William Byers, who is the namesake of the neighboring Byers Canyon (which I ride my bike through from Parshall in order to get to Hot Sulphur Springs). The spa has been open for over 140 years now and has had recent renovations to make what the Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa is today. There are seven natural springs there that flow into 21 man made pools at the spa. It is quite an amazing experience soaking in a pool that you know is heated by volcanic rock thousands of feet beneath you. Once you get past the slightly eggy smell of the sulphur springs, it is quite enjoyable.

The spa alone is reason enough to stop by Hot Sulphur Springs, but that is something I have only taken advantage of once. What really charms me about the town are the three staples of my summer, The Glory Hole, Dari-Delite, and Hot Sulphur Springs Candy Company.

In my opinion, The Glory Hole Restaurant is the best place to get a warm cooked meal in Grand County. Of course, I have only been here for one summer, but it only took one visit for it to become a favorite. Its brightly painted exterior is enough to wake you up from the hum drum of driving down the long stretch of highway 40, but once you enter the doors you are instantly calmed again by the warm woodsy theme. I first visited The Glory Hole my second day in Colorado. I rode my bike five miles through Byers Canyon just to get some warm breakfast and a hot cup of coffee (which I do not recommend when you are not used to the 7500 foot elevation). I was greeted by a busy, but smiling waitress who called me "Honey" and told me to sit anywhere. The place felt more like walking into a friends warm mountain lodge, then like walking into a cafe. Though the beige painted walls and light oak wood made the place feel lighter than a cabin. A large Elk head smiled down at me as soon as I entered the dining area, and woodland creatures in paintings and plaques adorned the walls.  That first day, I enjoyed a phenomenal breakfast burrito. I chose to have it smothered in sausage gravy, but you can also have it with green chili if you would like. The coffee is everything diner coffee should be, served in ceramic mugs with frequent refiles. They also have a great lunch menu. I recommend the chicken fingers, but they also have great sandwiches.

If you are in more of a hurry and do not have time to sit to enjoy your meal, another option in Hot Sulphur Springs is to stop by Dari-Delite. Dari-Delite has a walk up window and outdoor picnic table seating. They serve hotdogs, hamburgers and all other sorts of fried goodness. But what they do best are their shakes and malts. They have many flavors beyond your standard chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, such as pina colada, coffee, butterscotch, and hot fudge (which IS different from chocolate and tastes great!) just to name a few. You can have any two flavors mixed. My go-to is coffee and chocolate mixed together. You can also get toppers for your shakes, such as M&M's, brownies, and Oreos. It is the perfect place to cool off after a hot summers day of work or bike riding. 
My last, but not least, favorite is Hot Sulphur Springs Candy Company, which is so much more than candy. I first visited the Candy Company that same first day I visited the Glory Hole. The owner is a sweet lady named Diane, who I have had many great conversations with over this summer. She works so hard to make her shop a place worth stopping at again and again. The selection of chocolate and other candies is vast. She also sells old fashioned sodas in glass bottles and a wide variety of gift items. In the gift shop portion of the store you will find handmade soaps, candles and lip balms. The place smells amazing. The Candy Company has become a regular stop for me this summer. I come away with at least three bags of chocolate each time, my favorites being non-perals and the mini peanut butter cups. I enjoy knowing I will be warmly greater by Diane and leave feeling like a truly valued customer and friend.

My times in Hot Sulphur Springs have formed in me an appreciation for small town businesses like I have never experienced before. We have all stopped at places such as these before, and we may not always think much about them. But these sorts of places are what make small towns what they are. So they next time you stop at that little diner, or that drive in ice-cream stand, take a moment to appreciate what they add to that town. Take a moment to smile at the lady behind the counter. And if you ever find yourself at the Hot Sulphur Springs Candy Company, tell Diane, Miranda says, "Hello."

Miranda Joy