Friday, November 8, 2013

It's Been Awhile

Yes, it has been awhile. My best intentions do not always come to fruition.  Much has happened since I started The Joy Panda last winter. For awhile I had limited internet access, which made it even more difficult for me to consistently update a blog. Excuses aside, I do wish to continue with my blogging endeavors. But please be aware that this blog may be about to undergo an evolution. My interests are so diverse that at times it is hard for me to focus on a limited range of topics.  This summer I worked a full time job at my local animal shelter, which re-sparked my passion for animal care.  So I may be writing some pet related articles. I also adopted two cockatiel parrots recently, Fable and Lore.

They have won my heart and I am continually exploring how to help them live happier and healthier lives. I would like to write about them some. I have also gotten back into running, so health and fitness is an area of interest right now. I am even considering taking up Taekwondo again. As of late, I have become keenly interested in topics of simple and sustainable living. Maybe I will write about that some. On top of all this, I am doing a pastoral internship right now, mentoring ministry school students. So, topics of spirituality and relationships may also pop up here and there. As always, creativity is a major part of my life and I want to keep writing about that.

I do not want this blog to simply become a random mess of me, "Oh, let's see what crazy venture Miranda Joy is up to right now." No, I would rather not make this all about me. But I really love my life and I love sharing it with other people. Chances are if something interests me it's going to interest someone else too. I want to encourage others to live their lives to the fullest. That is what this blog is all about.

So I guess my point is, I am not really sure what this blog is going to look like in the
future. I am debating whether or not I should simply start afresh with a brand new blog. But the core values of this blog still stand. So, please bear with me as I figure all of this out. I appreciate your input.


Miranda Joy    

Monday, January 7, 2013

I'm An Artist

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

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Crockpot Cocoa

Christmas and New Years may have come and gone, but hot cocoa season is still in full swing. I spent my winter vacation with my family in my home state of Maine, where we got a generous serving of snow. I have grown quite accustomed to the warm and dry climate of California, so the wet and cold conditions of my New England home chilled me right to the bone on more than one occasion. But that did not bother me one bit. It was a perfect excuse to try out this recipe for Crockpot Cocoa.

This was so easy and honestly the best Hot Cocoa I have ever had. It was an instant hit with my family. We made it three times while I was home! Give it a try. I promise you won't be disappointed.


2 cups of Heavy Whipping Cream
6 cups of Milk
1 can (14 oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract


Put all ingredients in slow cooker, set on low for 2 hours. Whisk periodically to incorporate all the chocolate chips. Serve with whipped topping or marshmallows if desired. This recipe would be great for when you have company over. It makes about 8 or 10 servings. Our family of six were all able to go back for a little extra. Enjoy!

Miranda Joy

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sentimental Value

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