Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Parcel Full of Mystical Cats!

All those years ago when I began working with amazing visionary author Lunaea Weatherstone on Mystical Cats Tarot, I made a big binder, like I do for all my big illustration jobs. I keep notes from phone conversations, reference photos, sketches, basically anything to do with the project is kept in this big binder so I can always find it. I also always decorate it so that it's easy to find the right one, and for fun and manifestation. Who would have thought all those years ago, I would have nailed which card Llewellyn would choose for the cover of the box...

It's the coolest feeling in the world when you get that finished product in your hands! FedEx pulled up in my driveway this morning and I ran out to greet the dude because I knew that my wonderful editor Becky Zins was sending a couple of the finished kits.  I'm a dork, but I can't help it, I was really excited!

Oh My Goddess Bast!! She sent two kits AND some book flats! Book flats are the book covers from the printer before it gets folded and glued to the book. I love to frame them when I can get my hands on these and hang them up in my studio.

Of course Willow the cat jumped right up and planted her kitty butt right in the middle of everything, like she does...always.  I think she approves. Willow the cat appears on two cards, once on the "Floating Cat" the Mystical Cats version of the "Hanged Man." I got the inspiration to use her for this card after she ate some poison lillies and ended up at the vets office overnight probably tripping her little kitty butt off.  She bounced back fine, more on that story here.  She also appears on the two of sea with my Llewellyn art department rock star and head of the art department Lynne Menturwecks cat.  So Willow is quite proud of herself.
Back of the deck
Back of the book
Here are the sides of the box, watch for this in bookstores everywhere this May!
Oh my, am I ever excited!  I just had to share with you. Now that the release of this shiny new deck is right around the corner, watch for new pretties to arrive in the official Mystical Cats Etsy shop too, we have tarot bags, jewelry, garden flags and more all featuring your favorite Mystical Cats!
https://www.etsy.com/shop/mysticalcatstarot


Also be sure to drop by our Facebook page for upcoming news and contests https://www.facebook.com/MysticalCatsTarot 

In the mean time I just want to put an entire kit on a necklace and wear it everywhere I go, is that so wrong?!


I was thinking all this excitement, purrrhaps I should do a giveaway, maybe a deck, tarot bag, autographed book flat, couple other fancies, what do you think?

Blessings,
Mickie

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Drawers to Dress Up the Studio


Since we moved to Aelfheim last fall, we've spent lots of time making this house a home.  Although we have gotten a lot done, we keep finding little things we can do to improve our space.  These clear plastic drawers used to have a home in a giant cabinet at our old house, but at Aelfheim, they ended up being used in my studio, and were one of the first things you would see when entering from the front door.  Not so nice.
This is the "before" view as you enter our front door.  See those nice plastic drawers? You can also see all the junk, i.e. art supplies etc. jumbled up inside of them. Not a great first impression.

The view from my art table when I turn around.  Pretty crap-tastic!

So Dan came up with a great plan to replace those ugly old plastic drawers with something much nicer.  I loved the idea, so we picked up two ClosetMaid Cubicals 3 cube organizers and 6 of their fabric cube shaped drawers and went to work.  
What's in my drawers?!  Holy cats, what a mess! Step one, organize and release!  I went though this mess and figured out what to keep, put it in a category, and what to pitch.

Next we built the two ClosetMaid pieces.  Now I have to tell you something really important here. ClosetMaid makes two lines of organisers, the Cubicals line will work with their fabric drawers, however... their Shelf Stackers line do not work with their fabric drawers, they look like they will, but they are about an inch too small. Yes, this was a lesson learned the hard way, one set had to be returned and the correct set purchased. We went with their 3 Cube Organizer.  We found two in a coffee color.  These are designed to be used horizontally or vertically, but they are designed to only stack in the horizontal position.  That cabinet that you see our ugly plastic drawers next to?  That's actually part of the house and can't be moved, so we needed to stack them vertically. 
Dan and I have built tons of these crazy boxed up furniture pieces in our day, we're like a well oiled machine working together.  Now to figure out a way to hack their design and make  the two pieces stack vertically.
Our homemade bamboo skewer peg tapped into place with a hammer.

Here's how we stacked them. We made 4 of our own pegs out of a bamboo skewer I found in the kitchen, they were the perfect diameter to make a tight fit.  Then, we put the top board onto the cubical that was going to be on the bottom of the stack and instead of using the screws to attach the board, we tapped the homemade pegs into the board as shown in the photo above. Then we built the second cubical and left the bottom board off. We stacked it on top of the other cubical lining up the pre-drilled holes with our homemade pegs and voila! We now had a 6 cube tower! I wouldn't stack these that high unless you have a nook like we did to put it in or at least a corner to add stability.  They also include a wall bracket which might be good to attach if you decide to try this little hack.  We didn't because it's pretty tight in that corner and clearly isn't going anywhere.

Now, I wanted some pretty labels for each fabric drawer so I wouldn't have to open each one to see what's inside.  I really wanted those fancy tags that look like luggage tags, heavy paper with a little metal strip around the outside. I've seen them in craft stores for use in scrap booking. But I had already spent more than my meager limit on this project, so I looked around to see what I had that I could make something with instead.
I found some pretty scrapbook paper and cut it to size, then folded it in half and glued both sides together so it would be thicker and two sided in case they ever flip.  
These are the only fancy scrapbook scissors I had at my house, I think my daughter Brittany left them here years ago...ummm...perfect!


Hole punched the top, threaded pretty green ribbon and tied it to the handle of the fabric drawer.

Then I used a cool font and printed labels for each drawer, aged them with some brown watercolor, and cut them to size.
I'm really happy with these, fancier than the tags I actually wanted, and they were free!

So now my studio has a nice upgrade! I have much more storage, I can find everything I need, and everyone that walks through doesn't have to look at all my junk in clear plastic drawers!
Didn't it turn out nice?! You can't even tell that it's two pieces that weren't meant to stack that way. It's really sturdy and visually a big improvement, not to mention all the extra storage!


Acrylic paint, I still have room for more!


Candle making supplies, a crafty witch's must-have!
Household tools, "I need a phillips head screwdriver!" Ha! I know right where that is! I added some empty tin cans so I don't have to dig to the bottom to find anything.


The new and improved view as you walk in the front door!  Oh so much better, that's a nice first impression!
And the view from my art table when I turn to stand up from my chair! 

I'm so much happier with this new storage solution! It's not a super expensive piece of furniture, but it really added function, class and personality to my studio and the adjoining library.  Sometimes being creative with what you can find and what you already have really pays off.

Brightest Blessings,

Mickie

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Signs of Spring on the Equinox

It's the morning of the Spring Equinox, also known by it's old Pagan name, Ostara.  I awoke with one thought in my head, probably inspired by some elusive dream that melted with the opening of my eyes, today's the day, I've got to get moving.  I haven't prepared a big celebration today, my little grands won't be visiting for a couple of weeks, although we'll have a big celebration then.  I have not set up a fancy altar, although I did boil a few eggs last night, and I have a bottle of honey mead for this evening to enjoy with the Old Gods, but I did not prepare a huge event this year.  I awoke, fed the cats, made coffee, and before it was done, I set forth to walk through the meadows of Aelfheim, to see what lessons the spirits of the land had to offer on this equinox morning.
I still need to color my eggs, and the flower pots will be transformed into an Ostara egg tree for when my little grands come to stay for a late Equinox celebration.  I love the cheery flameless candle and embroidered Ostara candle wrap that my mom gave me! See more here (Frogbirds House)

The first thing I noticed was the empty bird feeders, so I went to the barn for some bird seed and suet blocks.  As I worked in the chilled morning air, the birds gathered in a nearby stand of budding trees. Cardinals, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, juncos, doves and chickadees alike, watching my every move.  Once they realized, "Oh she's filling it up, hey guys, she's filling it up!" It was as if laughter erupted from the trees! They rose such a ruckus, they could hardly wait for me to leave so they could have their equinox morning feast.

A moth enjoying sap flowing from the maple.
My next stop was to visit the Four Trees Oak.  I decided to step up into the middle of the magical trees that all grow from one trunk for a quick blessing on this magical day of balance.  The equal hours of day and night inspired me to seek balance for my own spirit and I know no other place at Aelfheim better than the Four Trees Oak to find that balance.  I stood there peacefully soaking up the energy, feeling the tree summoning up life from under ground, pulsing with the life of yet another spring.
New buds on the maple tree, neighbor of the Four Trees Oak.

My spiritual battery recharged, I decided to take a brisk walk through the back pastures, the sun thankfully was shining through the branches of the trees, although mostly bare, they bear the new buds of potential.  I've decided that a morning constitutional will become part of my daily routine, to boost my metabolism before my coffee and breakfast, and also to watch this new land that I'm beginning a relationship with as it waxes and wanes through the year. 
Wild Cinquefoil bursts forth from beneath some dry leaves.
As I walked along the outer edge of the two back pastures, I thought about the difficult spring we've had so far, only days ago this pasture was covered in snow and ice. We've had weather nice enough for bare feet and so bitter that we needed hats and gloves all in one week. But as I walked, I noticed that nature is taking it all in stride.  We complain because we want to get started on our gardens and pack up our winter coats and sweaters for good, but through all of our aggravation,  green is being born all around.
The vast areas of  mossy faerie carpet is becoming an emerald green, offering promise of life returning to the land.
Even though much of Aelfheim still looks brown, there is green life bursting forth if you have patience and know where to look.  When I look out at the pastures from my windows it seems so brown, but walking and becoming one with the land helps you notice what's really happening as the land awakens from it's wintry slumber.

Upon returning to my house, I grabbed a stale bagel I had put aside and tore it into pieces as I strolled over to the bird feeder that's in front of my studio window and began tossing  the bits around the base.  The birds scattered upon my arrival at their feeding station, but as I was finishing up my work, a lone brave nuthatch flew over and positioned himself upside down on the shepherds hook (as is their nature to do) and curiously looked right at me.  I could have reached out and touched him, but didn't dare try.  "Well, hello." I said softly. Not wanting to appear rude, the nuthatch replied, "Hello, thanks for the bagel." and then flew back up to a nearby tree top. I chucked as I walked away, "Your welcome, my friend, enjoy!"
Moss with new spring sporophyte pushing their way upward, eventually releasing spores to continue the green carpet yet further along the path.  
Now I sit with my first cup of coffee. My walk awakened my body as I moved my legs along the land. Energy rose up into my chakras and filled my heart with joy.  The air fresh and clean filled my heart and awakened my mind with the scents of the earth. My system became energized, my spirit fed with the beauty of new life unfolding, I felt the burn in my thighs, oh I really need this, I sat too lang at the art table this winter! So this shall be my new morning routine, as often as possible, I will walk the land first thing.  I know that and object set in motion tends to stay in motion, so the action that I choose to take on this day of the Spring Equinox is to plant the seeds of a healthier body, mind, and spirit.  So mote it be!

Where is my Ostara altar? It's all around me!

Happy Spring!
Mickie Mueller


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mystical Cats Proof Pages are Here!

It's interesting how a project that takes years to complete doesn't feel as real as it does the first time you get the finished project in your hands.  Mystical Cats Tarot is a project that is no exception. I was delighted to receive the giant tube from Lynne at the Llewellyn art department for I knew what was inside!

Garfield seems perplexed by the big sheet of cats he's standing on.

I unrolled the uncut sheets of Mystical Cats Tarot and was completely blown away! I used to work for a company that made displays for big companies like Coca-Cola and Under Armor, so I've seen lots of press sheets over the years, but it's always exciting when it's your own work.  They print them all on a big sheet, have to match up the backs on the other side, and then they are die cut to the correct size and shape of the tarot cards that we're all so used to.  It's a pretty cool process.
Continuing the inspection, The Cat (The Fool) begins his journey.

I laid the press proof sheet out on my kitchen table, it's much too big to fit on my old wooden art table.  I weighed the edges down with anything heavy I could find and of course my cats Willow and Garfield had to jump right up in the middle of everything and do the official Mystical Cats inspection.  The first to investigate was Garfield, which is appropriate since he was the model for The Cat (The Fool).

Willow seems satisfied.

Willow checked it all out and then plopped her butt down right in the middle of the whole thing which I have come to understand as her highest approval.  This was her inspection process for most of the art as I created it.

I was really excited to find a cut deck as well inside that magical shipping tube!  I've flipped through them over and over, but I can't bring myself to shuffle them yet for some reason.  I'll have to bite the bullet and do it this week, I really want to start doing some sample readings with it.
Mystical Cats Tarot, the card return to the old wooden art table where they were born!

Lynne did such an amazing job adjusting the color from the scans, she really made sure that the colors on this deck are accurate to the colors of my original art.  She even managed to keep the delicate shading in the white areas, which is no easy task! All of that means that when you get this deck in your hands, it looks exactly as the original art does, just smaller, every detail, highlight, shadow is accurate!
The Stars card, King of Earth, and the aces!

As an artist, I can't be happier!  The deck is borderless which means you get a little more art. The drop in banners with the names of each card turned out so pretty, slightly decorative, easy to read, and it's got the slightest bit of bronzey metallic to it, so it's really elegant.

All I'm waiting on is the boxes to arrive! I can't wait to see that box, pop it open, and flip through Lunaea Weatherstone's beautiful book, even though I've seen the PDF proof, it's just going to be amazing to flip those pages!  If you're as excited as I am, you can pre-order the deck now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and of course Llewellyn's website, the decks are coming out in May, so not long now! I'll add the links below for those of you that want to be among the first to let these cats out of the bag.

Speaking of bags, we also have special bags to keep your decks in over at the official Mystical Cats Tarot Etsy shop, be sure to drop in, there will be more items coming soon, and you'll be able to order your favorite cat on beautiful gifts!
A satin tarot bag featuring "The Priestess" from Mystical Cat's Tarot, we make these right in our studio workshop.
Check them out at Mystical Cats Tarot official Etsy shop, click here!


Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mystical-Cats-Tarot-Lunaea-Weatherstone/dp/0738733881
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mystical-cats-tarot-lunaea-weatherstone/1117011341
Llewellyn: http://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738733883

https://www.etsy.com/shop/mysticalcatstarot

Blessings,

Mickie



Monday, February 10, 2014

Aelfheim in Winter

It's amazing what you can see on a Monday afternoon while taking out the compost.  I dropped off the fruit and vegetable waste and covered it with hay, and as I looked around, I saw beautiful sights around me!

The garden gnome still welcoming with his magical paint brush even though he's halfway covered in snow.

I love the golden afternoons here, the way the light glows through the trees and across the meadow, in the winter it has a magic all it's own.


I discovers this unique ice sculpture on the back side of the barn, dried flowers and seed-heads encased in ice. Thick ice sickles formed around the dried wildflowers as the roots and seeds beneath the soil await the coming thaw.

Ice had melted and refrozen over and over at the corner of the barn where it's dripped off the roof. It created an intricate haven for ice faeries to rest in between frosting the land.
 
Wild turkeys crossing the road! Why did the turkeys cross the road? To get away from the crazy artist with an iPhone, of course!

Then the sun went down and the solar lights came on as proof that even though the land is encased in snow and ice, the days are lengthening and soon the land will sparkle with new life!

Good evening from Aelfheim!
Blessings,
Mickie

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Years, Holiday Wrap Up, and New Kitchen Renovations

Hi! Hi!  Wave, wave!!

Gosh! It's been awhile since I blogged, we had the busiest holiday season.  We're still getting the hang of things here at Aelfheim, and learning that we have to do some things differently.  For instance, my old tradition used to be to put up the tree over the Thanksgiving weekend.  Now that we live in the country, we travel much further for Thanksgiving and between that and catching up with orders when we get back home, I decided that from now on, all the Yule decor will be coming out much earlier, probably the weekend before Thanksgiving.

It was such a joy creating beautiful things for people all over the world this holiday season, we shipped to Germany, Australia, even Japan for goodness sake.  Each order was packed up lovingly and as quickly as possible to try to get it all there on time.  Dan takes it very seriously, bringing in the holiday cheer in an efficient and timely manner.  We had families ordering for each other, incognito packages so as not to give away surprises, even helping to make a new surprise when one had been discovered by accident.  I have to say, it's really exciting getting the opportunity to be a part of so many holiday celebrations in even a small way.  We really felt like Santa's helpers!
One of our new items this holiday season, beautiful full color suncatchers!
Everyone that got one loved them! Check them out here; Mickie Mueller Studio Etsy shop.

Speaking of Santa's helpers, we are doing some upgrading here at Aelfheim.  When you move into a new place, there are always things you need to do to make your house into your home.  We brought in our own refrigerator, a really nice one I inherited from my grandmother that I wasn't willing to give up.  It spent some time in the dining nook blocking a window for awhile because we needed to move some cabinets and run a line for the ice maker in order to place it in it's proper home.

We were also very blessed to receive a dishwasher as a gift from Dan's mom at Christmas.  We all had been pitching in washing by hand, and we could manage, but especially when we have company like my daughters and their families, it ends up being a lot.  There was no dishwasher here at all before, so electricity had to be run, plumbing, and a cabinet needed to be removed. The counter was even to low, so a router was needed to be able to install it under the counter.
Sparkly dishes! This dishwasher was a great gift!! Amazing!

 Dan and Grandpa Gecko did all the work together, they're a great team.  I owe a special thanks to Will for climbing under the house to feed the electric lines through, dude, you're a great mole!  New Years Day, the last of the work installing the dishwasher and a garbage disposal was completed! Less time doing dishes, more time drawing, painting, and writing.

I also learned something new on New Years Day! Like many rural homes, we have a gas tank in the back yard here, and our heat, water heater, stove etc. is all gas. My stove is pretty old, it doesn't even have a light inside and uses pilot lights to ignite the stove and oven, which means it's always burning gas whether I'm cooking or not.  That kind of waste just bugs me.  We had looked at new gas ranges that would be more efficient, but once we got a look at the prices, we decided that was not going to happen!  Man they were pricey!  Well, New Years morning my mom and Grandpa Gecko discovered a really nice range that was returned and refurbished like brand new, still under the full warranty, and it was half off! It's pretty cool, and it's cobalt blue on the inside!  Apparently that's a thing, it's pretty striking.
Loaded up, ready to cart it home!
It's kind of Sci-Fi looking inside isn't it?!  I think I shall name it "Sexy!" 

We won't be installing that until next week probably, but I drove the trailer to Lowe's to pick it up myself, and I even managed to back the trailer up into Grandpa Geckos workshop! I decided I want to learn to drive with a trailer so that we can plan more festivals in the future without having to rent a cargo van.  I was pretty proud of myself.
Yep, I drove that in there!  Woo-hoo!

Well, that's all the news for now.  We've got snow here at Aelfheim which means we need to drive the little plow around the driveway.

Blessings and Happy New year to all!!

Mickie

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Sickies at Home

Well, Dan, Tristan and I had originally planned Halloween with my daughter Brittany and our little grand kids trick or treating on historic Main Street in St. Charles.  


We all ended up sick instead, I came down with this seasons big butt kicking cold and passed it on to both of the boys.  So we had to stay in this Halloween, and since Aelfheim is on a rural highway, no trick or treaters here! 

Step up to the front door and visit us this Halloween!

Come in and sit for a spell!

Our table is set with an interesting combination of treats and cold remedies!

Don't forget the throat coat tea, it isn't the cough that carries you off, it's the coffin they carry you off in!

We decked the house out with our Halloween decor.  

And I made a big pot of my moms meatball soup in the crock pot, complete with Halloween pasta. 
2 cans tomato soup
2 cans beef broth
2 cans water
Good splash of red wine
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion diced
1 bag frozen meatballs browned
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
Salt, pepper, cracked red pepper and Italian herbs to taste
Boiled pasta of your choice.

Toss it all in the crockpot and cook for 3-4 hours, add the pasta right before serving.

We relaxed, started off the evening with Practical Magic and then watched random scary movies while styling warm inside



Happy Halloween from the Mueller's to you!  Don't forget to take your garlic! It's good to ward of colds and vampires alike!

Blessings!
Mickie

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