I’m an Alligator with no tooth brush. – Finding some relief amidst TN pain.

So, the weather bottomed out like a rocket this past Sunday. Wow! I woke up hurting so bad, but got in a hot shower immediately. I find that when I can’t take the pain, standing in the shower and letting the hot water run on my face gives me some relief. Tell you a secret, I even open my mouth and let the hot water fill it. Then, spit it out on the shower floor.

On really bad days, my face feels shot up with novocaine, but I have zips of needle like pain through my cheeks. Scrunching my face feels so odd. My teeth feel like they are full of cavities, my roof of my mouth and tongue feels burnt by scalding food and the back of my throat is numb. I typically get a pounding headache knocking on my brain from the left side.

Even though it was a whopping high of 14° out, I’m inside, bundled up and still pain. I wish I could come up with a method to my Trigeminal Nerves madness.

Since, I am trying to figure out if I am having an inflammatory response to something I am ingesting, I stopped taking CBD oil. I want to see what happens over time. I need to schedule an appointment with my GP to discuss refills on Cymbalta. I’d like to know if I can become allergic to it over time. I have been on it for years.

Since I am a mother, wife, and active in extracurricular activities, life doesn’t stop even when I feel my worst. I have a full time job and a work team relying on me too.

Stress tends to have an effect. Days that I have a lot on my plate seem to cause a flare up. I have always been a go getter. I like challenges and adversity. I like being busy. My nerve however…does not.

I have reduced my work load taking extra curricular actives off my plate. If I know something is gonna stress me out, then I don’t take it on. It’s definitely a change of pace for me.

Things that I have learned that help are Gabapentin, heating pad, warm air (hair dryer or the faux fireplace), hot showers, and sleep. Only if I could work from a hot shower. I love sleep. Sleep is an escape. I don’t hurt when I sleep. If I can sneak a nap in, once I get up, I feel like I can make it through the day.

Last Sunday, I was ornery. I try my best to have patience with my family, but when I am in a lot of pain I am mean. I mean, when I was in labor, I yelled at my husband (who was trying to help me,) “don’t you have calls to make?” I wanted him away from me. I wanted to punch something…HARD. I am reminded of the quote from Water Boy, “My Mama says that alligators are ornery because they got all them teeth and no toothbrush.” I have a toothbrush, but I can’t feel it, when I brush my teeth.

I try to do something that focuses my brain on something other than pain. I usually try to be creative or do something constructive. Some days, I just don’t have the concentration level to even be able to focus.

I drink a lot of coffee, A LOT! My teeth and mouth feel so very cold. Coffee is like a warm hug that restores feeling, as soon as I swallow the cold returns. It at least gives me a little relief.

I guess writing all this, I hope to reach people that maybe going through the same thing as me. Sharing tricks that I do to help the pain may help another warrior just starting their journey with this terrible disorder.

I also hope that I can educate others about TN. I never knew it even existed until I was stricken and had to learn the hard way about what works for me.

The Quack and Me

Sometimes people call Chiropractors quacks. “They aren’t real doctors.” Well, I have found a really awesome quack and he’s the only one that has helped me.

I had severe head pain for 30 days. My jaw hurt, my ears hurt, I had migraines too. I visited a clinic on short notice. You know, one of those nights where you say, “I can’t take it anymore.” I was told I had a sinus infection. Antibiotics for a week and no change. I visited the dentist because it almost felt like an abscess. X-rays and a good check up – nope, not it. I saw my GP. I have TMJ, get a mouth guard for night sleeping, and got a referral to a specialist.

After seeing the specialist. He hooked me up to electrodes and took pictures of me walking and doing dog & pony show tricks. “Even if I treat you, I advise you to see a Chiropractor.” He quoted me $5,000 for an orthotic and treatment, showed me all his positive & happy patient reviews, and pictures of how my body was crooked.

I have never been to a Chiropractor in my life. I used to go with my mom when I was little, but that is all I have ever experienced. I Googled ones in my town. I did my due diligence and read reviews. I picked one and made an appointment same day. Amazingly after he saw me, felt around my jaw and ears, he made a few adjustments and sweet relief I hadn’t felt for 30 days came flooding back. “Ahhh! This is what it’s like to be pain free,” I remember thinking that day.

I continued to see him regularly for adjustments and we worked on rehab for my neck. I work on a computer a lot and this greatly improved my pain. Some of which I had lived with for so long, I didn’t even know I had.

I hadn’t seen him since I was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia in late June until recently. I don’t know why. I kind of reclused. I wrapped myself in a tear soaked cocoon of self pity. I also took for granted all the Google-ing I had done. Nothing can be done to fix my numb, tingling, burning half face. Through my panic stricken moments of feeling hopeless and “everyday for the rest of my life I am just going to live in agony,” I told myself, “Self, pull up your big girl panties, this is life now get used to it. Let’s learn how to cope and navigate.”

After my 6 month MRI, or shall I say, $1,500 test for nothing new, I decided it was time to see the quack again. I needed an adjustment anyway. This Chiropractor has been the only professional I have seen that seems to give a rip, or at least questions what highly trained medical doctors are telling me.

To him (and myself) having a atrophy of the Trigeminal Nerve for “no reason” just doesn’t make sense. There’s nothing pressing it. There’s no mass. Why does it seem to be inflamed? He listens and ponders. He thinks my body is having an inflammatory response to something. Google tells me there’s not much to be said. TN is under researched and there are so many different cases and reactions. Facebook groups with people like me are getting the same answers.

He suggested an absolute full blood panel to look at any bio markers that may be present, including food or medication allergies. People are known to develop allergies over time. Is it possible I have an inflammatory response to something? My guess is as good as his. Sounds legit. Let’s spend another $500 for a full panel. After all, it’s just money.

No, my neurologist didn’t run a full panel. He originally ran tests for MS markers, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc. Things my symptoms seemed to match. Don’t ask why I didn’t ask for a full blood panel. I was new to this. I didn’t know what to ask. I was in the worst pain of my life. I let a professional guide me into the best course of action.

The quack is consulting another quack. After case study reading and research, My Chiropractor knows of a Neurologist/Chiropractor out in AZ known for being sought out for patient with Neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s and Dementia. He is reaching out to see if the other quack can give any insight as to which blood panel he would think would be specific to my case.

Whether the theory is correct, or not, it’s a logical theory. Many people with TN would probably say it’s dumb, but even if it doesn’t fix my TN, I am curious. Every time I have a blood draw, my WBC is really high. I believe I have hormonal issues, but blood tests seem to always come back on the higher side of “with-in range.” I was told I have Hypothyroidism in one test. 6 months later was told I don’t. I just feel somewhere inside, something is wrong.

I’m shooting for hope. I’m shooting for something to give me more answers. I can second guess all day long. I can be a pessimist most of the time, (I like to refer to myself as a realist) but for today I will rest in hope and God’s divine plan. I’m not gonna over analyze the possibilities. I’m going to learn patience and perseverance. Even if my TN doesn’t get fixed, I can say I tried. I tried hard.

God cares more about my character than my comfort. Patience and perseverance are great qualities to master. The only way I can make sense of this life is to say that through the sinful nature of our human essence, we experience the tragedy evil of this world brings upon a us. In Gods plan, He allows those tragedies to happen to certain people with specific inherent character traits, so they might connect with others to 1. Get through this life (minister to one another) and 2. Glorify him.

10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

11 For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!

12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant. – Psalm 143:10-12

The Year I Fight Back

It’s been a while since I have posted. Mainly because of the Holidays and “clearing my plate.” You see, my thoughts are all over the place.

I originally wanted to use this blog to teach others about cake and cookie decorating. I have some great ideas for new products and development. I love to be creative and want to share, but I don’t feel that is my path right now.

With much dilberation and well…. internal arguments, I have decided that what is best is to focus on me, my health, and home. Even though it’s not the fun stuff I love to do, it’s the right thing to do. After all, I named this blog Starving Baker because I was neglecting self care and running after a dream.

God willing, dreams will come later. One thing at a time. First, Me.

This blog is going to turn into more of a journal and adventure into my life with a chronic nerve disorder and my process of searching, fighting, and relying on God while I navigate my new normal.

After being diagnosed 6 months ago with Trigeminal Neuralgia, I have done a lot of digging, research, group finding, reading, among taking medicine 4 times a day and CBD oil twice.

I soaked in what the Neurologist said. ‘There is no apparent cause, there is no mass, nothing touching the nerve, your brain looks good. We just have to navigate the pain.’ We decided to be patient and wait until the new year (6 months after the diagnosis) to see if there is any change and what my rascal-y nerve is up to.

So…. there’s nothing medically that can be done for my type of TN, but live with pain that fluctuates on a day to day basis. I have monitored atmospheric pressure, humidity, weather highs and lows, cold fronts….. nothing along with my pain makes sense. There is no pattern. I never know when a debilitating day will strike. It’s just dumb.

My New Years resolution was to go on the Keto diet for weight loss and inflammation purposes. I’ve gained 10 lbs since the medicine started. Even though, “its not a weight gaining medicine,” I’ve gained weight. I’m more hungry along with other side effects like brain fog, fatigue, random jerks, and the like. I’ve read some studies that have found correlation between TN pain relief and low carb diets. Why not give it a shot?

Real talk – when it come to TN there are so many different stories and what works and what doesn’t. One person may have some awesome results trying something, and one person doesn’t show any sign of difference. Tricky illness, isn’t it?

My MRI results came back today. Nothing new. Nothing changed. It is, what it is. Well…. I am not going to take it laying down with a heating pad on my face. It’s time to do my own experimenting to see what’s right for me, and what will bring results. Who knows?!? I may stumble upon the next big break through. (HA!)

I’m by no means an expert, and I wouldn’t say I’m on this ride for the thrill of it. I’d gladly step off if I could. However, I don’t know what will come if I don’t try. My current plan of attack:

  1. Keto diet
  2. Ultrasound Therapy 3 times a week
  3. Cold Laser Therapy 3 times a week
  4. Cervical Rehabilitation 3 times a week
  5. Chiropratic adjustments 3 times a week
  6. 600mg of Gabapentin every 5 hours
  7. CBD oil 2 times a day
  8. CBG oil in the morning
  9. Heating pad as needed

Here’s to my journey and my fight –attacking the pain that attacks me.

Holiday Gift Guide for the Baking Superstar

Cute & fun gifts for that special kitchen dweller.

If you have a person in your life, like me, that loves spending time in the kitchen whipping up fantastic goodies then this blog post is for you.

Here are some gift ideas that will bring a smile and a warm heart to the person that tantalizes your tastebuds.

T-Shirts & Apparel

Sprinkle me this, Cupcake – T-Shirt

Sprinkle me this, Cupcake - T-Shirt

I can’t. I have cookies to bake T-Shirt

I can’t. I have cookies to bake T-Shirt

Love Baking T-Shirt

Love Baking T-Shirt

Cookies and Jesus Baking Shirt

Cookies and Jesus Baking Long Sleeve Shirt

With Jesus In Her Heart A Whisk In Her Hand She Is Unstoppable T-Shirt

With Jesus In Her Heart A Whisk In Her Hand She Is Unstoppable T-Shirt

Sock It To Me, Whisking Business

Sock It To Me, Whisking Business Fun Socks

Funny Saying Baking Socks

Funny Saying Baking Socks

What’s Cookin Good Lookin Apron

What's Cookin Good Lookin Apron

The Smart Baker Cheat Sheet Baking Apron

The Smart Baker Cheat Sheet Baking Apron

Baking Must Haves

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer – Check out Deals

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

Cake Decorating Tip Set by Chefast

Cake Decorating Tip Set by Chefast

Cake Decorating Supplies Kit – 107 Pieces

Cake Decorating Supplies Kit - 107 Pieces

Pampered Chef Stackable Cooling Rack

Pampered Chef Stackable Cooling Rack

AmazonBasics 6-Piece Nonstick Oven Bakeware Baking Set

AmazonBasics 6-Piece Nonstick Oven Bakeware Baking Set

Joseph Joseph 20036 Adjustable Rolling Pin with Removable Rings, 16.5″, Multicolored

Joseph Joseph 20036 Adjustable Rolling Pin with Removable Rings, 16.5", Multicolored

Classic Cuisine Digital Kitchen Scale

Classic Cuisine Digital Kitchen Scale

Bakelicious 73852 Reusable Cupcake Dividers, Set of 12

Bakelicious 73852 Reusable Cupcake Dividers, Set of 12

Vintage Hand Mixer

Vintage Hand Mixer

Baking & Kitchen Decor

Baking set of 6 Patent print Poster

Vintage Hand Mixer

Baking Patent Posters

Baking Patent Posters

Flour Sack Dish Towels

Flour Sack Dish Towels

Personalized Embroidered Oven Gloves

Personalized Embroidered Oven Gloves

Kitchen Conversion Chart

Kitchen Conversion Chart

I Lick the Spoon Canvas

I Lick the Spoon Canvas

Life is what you bake of it Kitchen Wall Art

Life is what you bake of it Kitchen Wall Art

Kitchen Gadgets

OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Mixing Bowl Set

OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Mixing Bowl Set

Cuisinart HM-50 Power Advantage 5 Speed Hand Mixer

Cuisinart HM-50 Power Advantage 5 Speed Hand Mixer

Cuisinart 10-piece Hard-Anodized Cookware Set

Cuisinart 10-piece Hard-Anodized Cookware Set

Personalized Casserole Dish

Personalized Casserole Dish

Personalized Cutting Board 

Personalized Cutting Board

Fun Stuff

Baking Spiral Notebook

Baking Spiral Notebook

Bakers Charm Key Ring

Bakers Charm Key Ring

Baking Necklace

Baking Necklace

Mixer Earrings

Mixer Earrings

Just Call Me The Cookie Whisperer Ornament

Just Call Me The Cookie Whisperer Ornament

I Bake Because Punching People Is Frowned On Tumbler

I Bake Because Punching People Is Frowned On Tumbler

About That Bake Life Tumbler

About That Bake Life Tumbler

All I need is coffee & a spatula Mug

All I need is coffee & a spatula Mug

KitchenAid KSM5SSBQB 5QT SS Stand Mixer Bowl, 5 quart, Quilted Stainless Steel

KitchenAid KSM5SSBQB 5QT SS Stand Mixer Bowl, 5 quart, Quilted Stainless Steel

Cooking wine charms

Cooking wine charms

For the Little Bakers

Grandma’s Baking Buddy Onsie

Grandma's Baking Buddy Onsie

IKEA DUKTIG Play Kitchen

IKEA DUKTIG Play Kitchen

Kid’s Apron/Wood Utensils

Kid's Apron/Wood Utensils

Kid’s cutting board

Kid's cutting board

Tovla Jr. Kids Cooking and Baking Gift Set with Storage Case

Tovla Jr. Kids Cooking and Baking Gift Set with Storage Case

Handstand Kitchen 17-piece Introduction to Real Baking Set with Recipes for Kids

Handstand Kitchen 17-piece Introduction to Real Baking Set with Recipes for Kids

Hapinest Kids Baking Set

Hapinest Kids Unicorn Baking Set

I hope this gives you some great ideas when you’re shopping for the baking enthusiast this holiday season. Have fun shopping and don’t forget to feed yourself!

Much Love,

This post contains affiliate links that I adore. I do not receive any compensation for items advertised or purchased. I am just sharing nifty ideas a baker like me would love.

How To Flood a Sugar Cookie with Invisible Edge

Decorated sugar cookies are always a hit for gift giving or adding a special touch to an event. Decorating cookies is an art. With patience and practice, each artist creates a technique that is unique to their style. Once a technique is developed is become habit. The key is to get in the right habits to create great results again and again.

A technique I have mastered over the years of decorating, is to create an invisible flooding outline with royal icing. This gives the base layer of decorating a seamless, poofy look.

Sugar cookie flooded with invisible edge

There’s a little bit of science that goes into this technique that may seem daunting at first but trust me, with practice and patience you can do it too.

The consistency of the royal icing is key in this process. The royal icing should be thin enough to melt into itself, yet thick enough to hold shape—careful not to run over the edges. Think of this consistency like honey.

Test icing for the right consistency

I find that 12 second royal icing works well for flooding. To test the consistency, once mixed, drag a knife or spatula through it to create a line. Count how many seconds it takes for the line to disappear. It should take 12 seconds. If it does not add water, 1 tsp. at a time until you reach the proper consistency.

Cut out sugar cookies

Royal icing (12 second)

Food color gel (optional)

Piping bags

Couplers

#2 piping tip

For the outline, I use a piping bag with coupler and #2 tip. Keeping my tip about 1/2” above the cookie surface, I outline the entire shape that is to be flooded.

Then with the same tip on the piping bag, I use the same consistency icing to flood the inside of the cookie. I squeeze the bag harder for a thicker line, starting at the outline working my way into the center until the whole cookie is iced.

After the cookie is totally flooded, I use my scribe to move the icing to fill in any spots that may have not covered completely. This is also a good step to pop any air bubbles.

I gently pick up the cookie and give it a slight shake to help the icing settle evenly.

Ta-da! A beautifully flooded sugar cookie. Look at that poof!

After the flood base is crusted over (30 minutes) or I suggest, completely dried (approximately 8 hours), details with a thicker consistency royal icing are added for the finishing touches.

If you are a beginning cookier, try a simple shape. Then, decorate with some cute sprinkles.

Don’t be scared to give it a whirl. Within no time, you can be a cookie flooding whiz.

Have fun and don’t forget to feed yourself!

When Life Gets Messy :: Vol. 2 :: Where is my Joy?

Finding my joy amidst pain and discomfort.

On my journey as a cake & cookie artist, I felt happy. I was creating desserts that where delicious to the pallet and devoured by the eye. I enjoyed hand making edibles for my clients. I was using my God given talent to cultivate relationships with people and sustaining my income.

R and flower sugar cookies by Karen Piehl

After the debilitating pain came, I no longer had the happiness that I once carried. The pain consumed me. I focused on how miserable I felt. I had no desire to serve anyone else. The medicine to help with the pain made me unsteady, sleepy, and foggy. I dread waking up every morning and feeling pain.

If you’ve read my post “Facing the Pain” I referenced the diagnosis and feeling I had lost my joy. I began searching for joy. Why I lost it? Why wasn’t I happy any longer? I needed to find a way to make this pain go away, so I could be happy.

I tried secular counseling to learn coping skills to train my retrain my brain to focus in a different manor. I began using sensory tricks to make my brain think what it feels is supposed to be that way in turn giving it a rest from the pain.

Let me give you an example. I tried altered focus. I focused on a part of my body that didn’t hurt and meditated on the normal sensation.

I tried sensory diversion. Since the left side of my tongue, mouth, and throat all tingled, I would eat strong mints that made my whole mouth feel that way. In turn, my brain recognizes that mints were enjoyable, they cause the entire mouth to feel like this. My brain would think this is normal when eating mints. It was supposed to break the thought cycle of constant pain.

I tried mindfulness. I would try to immerse myself in a book that would take my mind away into another place.

I thought maybe I just need change to be joyful. I began getting restless from not being my creative self and working on cookies. I wasn’t used to such a slower lifestyle that allowed my mind to constantly be aware of the pain in my head and face. Thinking that I needed a physical change of space to be at peace and find joy in my every day life, I tore apart my office.

My office before makeover
Crafting area after makeover
Office after makeover

I spend a lot of time working in that room on a daily basis. To feel lighter and clean, I purged everything that I didn’t use in the past year or things that didn’t bring me happiness. I took out 10 bags of trash. Repainting walls, choosing a refreshing color scheme, refurbishing furniture, changing the arrangement, It felt good to be in a clean organized space. I was still not joyful.

No medicine or mind tricks made an internal difference in my soul. Nothing I tried outwardly fixed my emotional state. I was happy for a moment. Then, my mind would be back to thinking about the pain. Through prayer and focusing on hearing God, he used other people to minister to my heart. I learned through this process there is a difference between joy and happiness.

Joy and happiness can be felt at the same time, yet are two different things. Joy is eternal; while happiness is temporary. Joy is not based on outside circumstances like happiness. I was looking outwardly for joy, a feeling of internal satisfaction, no matter the pain I was in. After whatever I tried was over, I was back to feeling miserable.

I began to search for God’s wisdom through His Word. When pain is all I feel on a daily basis, how can I focus on heaven? It’s always so ever present. The Bible asks of me things I can not do on my own strength. I am human and a fallen being. I am not perfect and can not do this on my own. I am still learning these things today.

Philippians 3:1

I have been a Christian my whole life, but started doubting if I even knew the Lord because I didn’t feel joy present.

There is no light switch that God just flips on or off when we accept salvation. I found I must give Him my will and consent. He is ever present, but I have to do my due diligence in seeking him. When I dove deeper into reading the Bible and meditating on scripture, I started seeing it’s wisdom to be applied to my circumstances. It opened the eyes of my heart allowing me to see the things he was doing in my life. In turn, I inwardly was giving up control.

I don’t really love roller coasters, but I ride them. I am scared of heights. All the pent up anxiety waiting in line, my legs feel like gelatin when I sit down a strap in. Once on the ride being jerked, slowly rising to the top, and at the peak of the first drop, I see how beautiful everything looks from way up there. Then, knowing I can’t get out, have nowhere to go, can’t give in, I give up control. I let the ride take over. The feeling of freedom consumes me. I begin to feel the wind rushing through my hair. I hear laughter and excited yells. I smell deliciously greasy amusement park food. I experience rushing landscape of beautiful colors going by at high speeds—something I can’t do on my own. Before I know it, the ride is over and I really enjoyed it.

I have learned I want to be in control. I want to know what is coming up. I want to prepare. If I white knuckled the whole ride with my eyes squeezed tight, fighting against the inevitable, I would miss the other delightful sensory experiences. When I learned to give up control on the roller coaster, I felt freedom.

Life is a roller coaster

Life is like a roller coaster track with peaks and valleys, twists and turns. Sometimes you’re on a loop, upside down; Sometimes you’re scared to death. God is the coaster car. If I allow him to take control and trust him, he gives me the freedom to enjoy and experience new things I can’t do on my own.

James 1:2

Even though my pain is tough and I am not happy about it, Joy is finding peace in God’s sovereignty and resting in his plan for me. Joy is knowing that even though I have pain on this earth a better life awaits me in heaven.

I have found that God is my joy. Complete rest in his sovereignty, strapping in tight to the security of his promises. No matter what life brings my way, he will keep me on track.

James writes to count it as joy when we are in trials. Why? He goes on to say that it is because testing of faith brings perseverance and that produces maturity.

Why do I have joy when I am constantly in pain? It means that I am personally growing. Through this, I am learning how to train my brain to react positively and live a more Godly life. I am resting in the security of his grace. He will sustain me and comfort me in my time of need.

Romans 5:3-4

Suffering allows me to draw a closer perspective on Jesus’s suffering and death for my sins on the cross. It also is teaching me to die to myself. God is more concerned with my character than being comfortable. My outer circumstances are teaching me about my inward character.

Philippians 3:8

When I had my son, I decided I wasn’t going to be one of those parents that gives him everything he wants when he wants. That cultivates a spoiled, entitled character. When he faces harder trials in life, he wouldn’t have cultivated the maturity to handle it properly.

Especially now as he’s getting older, I want him to understand the hardship it takes to work for something he desires. If he wants a new video game, he has to work for it. He does chores and even works for neighbors doing small jobs to gain income. He learns that it takes sacrificing something he wants (giving up his free time) to gain something he (thinks) he needs (the video game).

I compare this with how God teaches me. He is my Heavenly Father. He allows hardships of many kinds in my life to teach me. When a harder lesson in life comes, I will have a solid foundation through experience with how I am to handle it.

Psalms 119:67-68

My heart was broken. I have a disorder that no human remedy can fix. Sure medication makes it bearable, but the pain is always there. God has allowed my spirit to be broken and humbled. Through humility, I allow him to fill me back up. He pours into me a point of view and wisdom I may never have found otherwise. My obedience in hardship helps me see things from God’s holy perspective.

Since my pain occurred, I have taken a step back from being super busy and realized sin in my life that enslaved me. I didn’t even realize it had a foot hold in my soul. I was too busy, making money, and people pleasing that I didn’t have time for God or myself. I let outward circumstances control me when I should have humility and freedom.

Hebrew 6:12

My life’s experiences have molded me into who I am and how I deal with situations. Since being vulnerable about my disorder, it has opened doors for many people to talk to me about their struggles with happiness and joy amidst pain. My perspective with people around me has changed. Wether it be a diagnosis of a physical pain or a new season of life, I have learned I am not alone. The human condition is all the same.

We are searching for lasting joy in our everyday life. My experience has taught me to share and help. I have a unique story and no one can tell it in my voice. My journey allows me to walk along side others and encourage them to run their race well. Sometimes I am called to give advice and other times, listen with a broken heart and attentive ear.

My diagnosis has cultivated my faith and brought me into a stronger relationship knowing my creator. I am still working on many, many struggles; however, this journey is teaching me amazing lessons about who I am in God.

I am learning the strength I have to persevere and grow. I have found deep rooted joy in my life being able to impart knowledge on the things I love and the things I learn. I will continue to rely on God to keep changing me for the better.

Keep preserving and feed yourself!

Much Love,

Karen signature

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Scrap Wood Fall Sign

Easy DIY Fall Project From Scrap Wood

Our arbor on the back deck needed to be replaced. When my husband cut ends off of the beams, inspiration hit. I saw the scraps lying around and took them for a project.

No cutting or sanding for me. Nope, I repurposed the scraps that would end up in the trash, into an inviting piece of home decor.

Take a peek at the project process

I saw the wood ends lying around, so I took them inside and arranged them in an eye please layout. I sent my son out on a scavenger hunt for twigs that had fallen in the yard. Then, I grabbed the drill and got to work.

Supplies and power tools

I matched up the drill bits to the size of twigs I had obtained.

Matching drill bits with the size of twigs

Time to use power tools!!!!! I notched the wood with a screw driver to mark the spot I wanted the twig. This also helps the drill bit not to skip out of place while boaring into the wood.

Drilling holes into wood blocks

After the holes were added, I made sure the twigs were a snug fit and broke them in an appropriate length to stick into the holes. I now had blocks with stems.

Twigs is wood blocks for pumpkin stems

After, it was time for paint. I painted pumpkin orange and added yellow highlights and brown shadows.

Painting base  wood blocks to look like pumpkins

Base paint dried, I hand painted brown letters on each block spelling out “Fall” when assembled.

Painting lettering on wood blocks

Next step was to assemble. I used standard wood glue and clamped tight for good contact.

Gluing wood blocks together

When totally dry, it was time for adding a touch of embellishments with hot glue —just a couple silk leaves for a simple effect.

Gluing silk leaves on sign

Here is the final project all complete. A cute, festive fall sign for my home that cost me $0.00

Finished wood sign

I hope you enjoy this simple project and use this idea to branch off to make something of your own!

Did you like this project? Did it give you an idea of your own?

Like and comment to let me know!

Feed yourself,

Kitchen Crafting :: Trash Pumpkin Planter

Creating a welcoming fall planter out of trash and household items.

From learning to play an instrument to how to how to code a website, The internet is full of information on almost anything one could want to know.

I often search the web for ideas when I want to create something. This autumn, I wanted to make my front porch festively welcoming. Researching trending color schemes and designs ideas, I used Pinterest and found a pumpkin planter using 3 faux pumpkins in a stack on an urn planter. I fell in love.

Picture from Luvly Decora “48 Fabulous Orange And White Pumpkin Fall Front Porch Ideas To Inspire”
Picture from Luvly Decora “48 Fabulous Orange And White Pumpkin Fall Front Porch Ideas To Inspire”

Deciding it was something I would like to make to return to my porch every year, using faux pumpkins versus real ones seemed like the optimal choice. I began hunting for foam look a like craft pumpkins and my local craft store was having a sale! SCORE! However, when I nailed down the sizes I wanted they were still so expensive. Eeek! Was there a less expensive way to make my own custom pumpkins?

I have worked with paper maché before using the traditional method of newspaper strips dipped in a batter made of flour, glue, and water. I wasn’t positive that even if I seal it, it would hold up in the outdoor elements. I ‘Pinterest-ed’ other methods of creating sculptures, and found that paper maché clay was “a thing”. An artist uses her recipe to make wonderful art pieces from animals to masks. Impressed by her finished products and suggested application of spreading it on with a knife, I paralleled it to making frosting and icing a cake. (Now we’re talking my language!) Plus, maché clay didn’t have to be sanded. I set my sights on working with this medium to make pumpkins.

Picture  of Joni from Ultimate Paper Mache
Artist, Joni from Ultimate Paper Mache

Using a form of plastic shopping sacks and the paper maché clay, I created 3 pumpkins for my fall planter. After they were dry, I painted, assembled, added additional fall embellishments. VOLIA! I made my own pumpkin planter welcoming guests to my front porch this Autumn.

Before & After Pictures of Trash Pumpkins

If you are a DIY-er, you can make your very own pumpkin planter. Here are my steps for turning a pile of trash plastic sacks into a treasure.

I rooted through my utility room and asked neighbors for plastic shopping bags. I gathered a heaping pile of all types, some were flimsy while others were made of thicker plastic.

For the large pumpkin, I stuffed a giant plastic bag full of smaller plastic bags and tied it closed.

For the medium pumpkin, I used an average size plastic bag from the grocery and stuffed it absolutely full of additional bags. Then, I tied it closed.

The small pumpkin was an average size bag, stuffed, but not full. Then, I tied the handles together so it was tight around the inner bags forming a small ball.

After all three sacks were stuffed and tied, in a criss cross pattern, I used masking tape to wrap TIGHTLY around the sacks making them “poof” out like pumpkins naturally do.

Plastic shopping sacks stuffed and taped in pumpkin form
Plastic sacks full and taped

For the stem on the small top pumpkin, I rolled up on plastic sack and doubled it over. Then, I wound masking tape around it tightly.

I set my “stem” on the top pumpkin and taped the two forms together.

For this project, I used Joni’s Paper Maché Clay recipe and followed her instructions.

Ingredients and Supplies
Ingredients & Supplies

This project used:

Lots of paper sacks, but filling with newspaper would be a good option too.

Masking Tape

Dowel Rod

Faux Fall Florals – leaves, branches, acorns, pine cones, bows, flowers

Outdoor Urn or Planting Pot (I wanted something tall and slightly smaller in circumference then the largest pumpkin.)

6 rolls of toilet paper (Cheap 2 ply)

3 C Proform Lite premixed dry joint compound (Do not use DAP brand)

2 1/4 C Elmer’s Glue

1 C White flour

Pumpkin Orange, Apricot, Harvest Orange, & Brown Oxide Apple Barrel Brand acrylic craft paint (matte finish)

Electric Stand Mixer with whisk & paddle attachment

Strainer

Small off-set spatula

Curved rubber spatula

Craft paint brushes

Measuring cups

I made the paper maché clay by following The Ultimate Paper Maché recipe here.

Making paper mache clay in my kitchen

After the clay was mixed, I used a small offset icing spatula to spread on my pumpkin forms.

Icing my pumpkin forms in paper mache clay
“Icing” the trash pumpkin in paper maché clay

I covered the tops of the forms and let dry for 36 hours. Once they felt dry to the touch, I flipped them over and covered the bottoms.

Three pumpkin forms with the tops covered & dried in paper mache clay
3 little pumpkin forms with the tops covered in clay

After totally dry, I repeated this step again, but using a curved rubber spatula the second time, so I would have well coated and a durable final project.

Second coat of paper mache clay using a rubber spatula to spread

When all three pumpkins were dry, it was time for paint. My son helped me with this part.

Painting pumpkin orange apple barrel paint on a dried clay pumpkin

We used 3 different shades of orange paint for a natural pumpkin color and used a touch of brown in the crevices, so they would stand out.

Painting crevice details with brown oxide apple barrel paint
Just a tap of brown & blend into the crevices.
After paint and the brown is blended into the crevasses
Here is the brown after blended into the orange.
Painting the bottoms of the clay pumpkin forms
Just like covering with the clay, paint tops, & let dry. Then paint bottoms of each pumpkin.
finished paint on small and medium pumpkin forms

Once I was done painting, I used a screw driver to punch a hole through the hard outer shell.

Using a screw driver to puncture holes in the clay pumpkins

I used a dowel rod to secure all pumpkins together. Getting the dowel rod through the inner sacks was a bit tricky and requires patience. I sharped one end of a dowel with a box knife to puncture each pumpkin.

Sharpening a dowel rod to poke through the clay pumpkin forms

When I had gotten the dowel through each one individually, I stacked them all together and secured with hot glue.

Putting all pumpkin forms on the dowel rod
Put all pumpkins on one dowel rod.
Hot glue pumpkins together on a dowel rod.
Add hot glue between each pumpkin.

I sat the kabob of pumpkins on a large planter I bought on clearance for $10.00. I had fall florals laying around in my craft supplies, so I used leaves, branches, pine cones, acorns, bows, and flowers; hot gluing them in between the layers and filling in the space around the pot and bottom pumpkin.

Decorating with fall embellishments gave this planter character.

Here is the final product!

Pumpkin Planter project complete and on the front porch

I am super excited about my trash pumpkins and hope you enjoyed my project!

Learn and create something new today.

Don’t forget to feed yourself!

Make sure to leave me a like and comment below. Sign up for my blog to receive new projects tips and tricks straight to your inbox.

Frankenstein Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Unconventional candy corn sugar cookies for a spooky Halloween party

I haven’t been decorating cookies much lately to take time to rest, but when I stumbled upon a Pinterest post I had to give it a try.

Watch the making of Franken-corn sugar cookies

In 2017, The Sprinkle Factory created some fun unconventionally decorated sugar cookies for Halloween. I fell in love with the simplistic design and color palette. I can’t take credit for the design; however, I got the creative urge to get out my mixer and give it a whirl.

Your favorite sugar cookie recipe

Stand mixer

Rolling Pin with thickness guides

Baking sheets

Cooling racks

Flat Spatula

Candy Corn Cookie Cutter

Favorite Royal Icing Recipe

Lemon yellow food coloring

Leaf green food coloring

Fuchsia food coloring

Coal Black food coloring

Rubber spatulas

5 Piping bags

Piping bag ties or twist bag ties

Cookie Scribe

2 Icing Coupler

2 #2 Icing Tips

Paper Towels

Make your favorite sugar cookie recipe.

Mixing sugar cookie dough

Roll out the dough 5/8” thick using rolling pin guides.

Rolling out sugar cookie dough

Cut out candy corn shapes

Cutting candy corn shapes

Place cut outs on baking sheet

Placing cookies on baking sheet

Bake according to the recipe directions.

Baking sugar cookies

Remove from baking sheet and allowing to cool throughly on cooling rack.

Placing cookies on cooling rack

While cookies are cooling, make 20 second royal icing (piping detail consistency)

Remove about 1/2 C of each into 2 bowls

Bowl #1 – Mix coal black and load into piping bag with coupler and #2 tip

Bowl #2 – Mix neon green with 1 drop lemon yellow and a very small tap of leaf green. (If your color isn’t as green as you would like, keep adding a tap of green until you reach the proper hue) Load into piping bag with coupler and #2 icing tip.

With the remaining royal icing in the mixer, Add more water (tsp. at a time) to make 10 sec icing (Flooding consistency)

Separate 3/4 C white icing into a piping bag. Remaining icing into 3 bowls – equal amounts

White royal icing

Mix bowl #1 neon green using 3 drops lemon yellow and 1 drop leaf green

Neon green royal icing

Load into piping bag and secure shut

Mix bowl #2 electric purple

Electric purple royal icing

Load into piping bag and secure shut

Mix bowl #3 coal black

Load into piping bag and secure shut

Cut off a very small amount at the end of each piping bag.

Load icing in piping bags

On cool cookies, flood all the bottoms in a color block of black or electric purple- use a cookie scribe to help move the icing around. Allow to crust over – about 10 mins

Flooding bottom color

Next, flood the middle block neon green – allow to crust over – about 10 mins

Flooding middle color
Close up of middle flooded

Last, flood the tops – black bottoms flood white tops – electric purple bottoms flood black tops

Flooding top color

Allow cookies to set up overnight or use a dehydrator for faster drying time.

Once the cookies have all been flooded and dry use the 20 second icing to pipe details.

Use neon green and black to one between the color blocks.

Use black to add stitches and “x”’s

Piping black details
Finished cookie after details added

Allow details to throughly dry another 8 hours before stacking or packaging

Franken-corn Halloween sugar cookie

Need a good no spread sugar cookies recipe? Try this one: Vanilla 2.0 by Lilaloa

Royal icing recipes? No problem! Try this: Royal Icing Recipe with Meringue Powder by Lilaloa

To get proper consistency icing for your project, use a knife to draw a line in your icing after it is mixed. Count how many seconds it takes for the line to disappear. My suggestion calls for a 20 sec (details) and a 10 sec (flood) consistency. If the icing is to stiff add water (tsp. at a time) to thin it to the proper flow.

See my video at the top for help.

Make some spooky treats for you Halloween party! Get creative and change the colors or even make standard color candy corn.

Have fun and don’t forget to feed yourself!

Much Love,

Karen Signature

Kitchen Crafting :: Witch’s Cauldron Outdoor Halloween Decor

Getting witchy for Halloween and brewing up a magical outdoor decoration

My brother and I have a tradition decking out my house for trick or treaters every Halloween. Each year, we try to switch it up and make a different theme. We try to tell a story of some kind. It’s so much fun to act like a kid again, and enjoy the neighborhood kiddos say, “ooohhh!! Remember this house that year!” I think my neighbors enjoy watching us freak people out.

Watch the time lapse video of this creation!

This year, I really wanted to do a spider theme, but a little solar decoration in my kitchen window got me thinking.

Solar Halloween toy in my kitchen window

If I have giant spiders, they need to come from somewhere. In the deep dark woods there’s some witches cooking up a magic potion to produce all these 8 legged creatures. I had to have a boiling caldron brewing over hot coals.

A friend of mine has a house that backs up to woods. They had some large branches come down during the spring storms. They graciously offered their land for me to rummage through for what I needed. My son and I went on an adventure, hunting for the elusive tree branches. Once we found some decently straight with character, I opened the hand saw and let him get to work.

Cutting tree limbs

He really enjoyed cutting all the wood into approximately 7’ lengths. Once we loaded the 3 branches in my little SUV, stretching all the way to the dashboard, we headed home to assemble.

Loaded tree limbs in the car

I used nylon cord to wrap around the three branches to form a teepee. I never learned this in Girl Scouts, so I winged it. We also used a smaller branch, cut into 3 equal lengths, and assembled it into a triangle that would “wrap” around the 3 teepee legs. This provides a little extra stability, so the legs won’t slip and adds character. At the top of the teepee, I drilled a hole and screwed in an eye hook to hang the cauldron.

Making triangle out of limbs
Assembled teepee

Now, it’s time to begin working on the burning coals. I had some thin scrap board in the barn and a strand of orange LED lights left over from another project. I used the board as a base and covered with aluminum foil to reflect as much orange light as possible.

Supplies for covering board

After, I went to the garage to make the burning coals. Taking empty, clear drink bottles from our recycling, I cut off the ends and pulled the light strand through each of them.

Stringing water bottles on lights

Using clear packing tape I attached the bottles to the foil covered board in a spiral pattern leaving the plug end out, so I could plug it in.

Taping lights and bottles to reflective board

Next, I covered the bottles and lights with scrap clear plastic. (I have no idea where it came from – probably from some package shipment I received.) I taped the plastic around the edges of the board tucked under the lights. My hope that is if I have a lighting issue or need to replace the strand of lights, I can pull this off like a lid to repair.

Taping plastic to cover lights

I sprayed expanding foam over the whole plastic sheet. (Word to the wise this stuff is EVIL. Don’t touch it, and don’t get it on any clothing! It will not come off and takes days to wear off skin. It sticks to ev 👏🏻 ery 👏🏻 thing 👏🏻‼️)

Expaning foam over lights

It looked pretty good as is, but of course I want to display it leading up to Halloween in the daylight as well as night. It needed a little paint job.

Finished spray foam over lights

I waiting for 3 days because it was just too windy to spray paint. Armed with a can of red and black spray paint, I gave my foam monster a make over to look like burnt ash and hot coals.

Spray painting coals

While paint was drying, it was time to work on the cauldron. One of my best friends found a 16” cauldron for me that was dented at a Halloween store for $5.00!! SCORE! They are normally $15.00. I attached 40” faux chain from the Dollar Store to the cauldron using hanging planter chain. The night before, my husband and I experimented with the proper length of chain, and he helped me adjust the length by taking out links.

Adding chain to cauldron

I put a cardboard box in the cauldron to set some green LED lights closer to the cauldron rim. It’s important the green lights give off a vibrant ghoulish glow.

Setting up green lights inside cauldron

I cut a small square in the plastic cauldron with a box knife, and bought the light cord out of the side to hide as much of the electrical cords as possible.

Hiding electrical cord out the side of cauldron

So the cauldron looks like it’s giving of steam, I added pillow stuffing inside over the green lights.

Pillow stuffing over lights in cauldron

After the teepee, cauldron, and coals were created, I was getting super excited to see it completed. All I had left to do was set it up and plug everything in and wait for the sun to set.

Finished set up in the daylight
Close up of cauldron in the daylight

The set up looks great in the daytime, just like the a bubbling cauldron! But check it out at night with a purple flood light!

Finished cauldron at night
Close up of cauldron at night

I actually impressed myself with this project! I can’t wait to hang spider webs, set up creepy crawlies, and pass out candy to my victims….I mean trick or treaters! ::insert witch’s cackle here::

Happy Halloween!!

Have fun, be safe, and don’t forget to feed yourself!

Much Love,

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