Share Kindness

Last November, I was a vendor at a local Christmas Arts Market. That day is fresh in my memory for a couple reasons.

The first being, we took our boys with us to the show. That was the first (and probably last) time. They were such good sports, but it was an incredibly long day for them. We were all a hot mess by the end of the show.


The other reason takes a little more explaining. The day of the market, it was raining and super muggy (thanks, Texas). I was disappointed to find out that several of the vendors to one side of me did not show up and so it made my booth slightly secluded from all the action. I didn’t sell as much as I thought I would — in fact, if I’m being totally honest, I only sold a few things. Such a let down! I was feeling so guilty for bringing my whole family to the show and not returning with a profit (my husband is a really good sport!).


Anyway, as the show was winding down, I walked across the way to talk to the artist in the booth facing mine. I had been eying his beautiful pottery all day. We started making vendor small talk. He asked if I had sold much that day and I tried to make selling nothing sound as optimistic as possible. We talked for a while — he is a high school art teacher and family man.


Soon, it was time to pack up. As I was wrapping up my books, he came over to my booth with a bowl in hand. “You should have this. I was so blessed today.” I tried to refuse but he said, “It’s a gift. You have to take it.”


His generosity brought tears to my eyes. I’m a stranger to that man and his kindness has left a lasting impression on me.

I want to be that kind of person.

Now, the bowl sits in my kitchen as a reminder to share kindness.

Teaching Children Personal Responsibility

Last August, we were so lucky to have our dear friends live with us for a week while they were in between houses. The week flew by — it’s so fun having housemates! Meal time with four adults and seven children ages 8 years old to 1 year old was… exciting. We loved it.

That week had a profound impact on my mothering. Kari was so organized and had her kids doing way more for themselves than my children do. It was inspiring and helped me let go of things like packing up my boys’ backpacks for them each morning (I know! I know!). Kari had a detailed chart of all the responsibilities for her kids paired with a reward system.

I knew I wanted a chart to reinforce good behavior and personal responsibility but I also know I’m terrible at keeping up with charts! I always forget the stickers and we get behind. So I wanted a way for the boys to be in charge of keeping track.


Behold: the board game.

Each boy has their own board on the side of the fridge with a magnet marker. After they complete their morning responsibilities, they can collect 5 minutes of screen time to use later in the day. The same thing happens after school and then again after dinner. So in a day, they have the chance to earn 15 minutes.



Their responsibilities include:

  • Morning: pray, make my bed, brush my teeth, eat breakfast and clean it up, pack my backpack
  • After school: unload backpack and lunchbox, exercise, eat a snack and clean it up, practice the piano, complete homework, help with dinner (we have a rotation we follow)
  • Before bed: tidy up, brush my teeth, read scriptures, pray, read my book, lights out by 8:15pm

My day no longer includes nagging! If one of my boys asks to play with a friend or watch a show, all I have to say is, “Are you finished with your chart?” They are quick to self correct or they choose not to finish and then do not earn their screen time. It’s awesome.

Also, I’m careful to not call these chores. I feel like these are the core habits I’d like my boys to have before they go to college.


The board games are laminated so the boys can write notes and reminders for themselves.


charts_message“Me and Max live art like our Mom does too”

We have been using this system since August and it’s the perfect thing for us. Most days my boys complete their charts without any reminders from me. Give it a try!


2014 Class and Workshop Schedule


Happy New Year! Thank you for all your love and support in 2013. The last few months, I have been overwhelmed by all the encouragement from my real-life friends and my cyber friends. So, thank you!

So excited to announce the first half of my teaching schedule for 2014! I’m hoping to add in a bookbinding workshop or two and a few private art lessons. Subscribe to my newsletter if you want to be the first to hear about additional classes. Email me to secure your spot (sarah at sarahnielsen dot com).

Wednesdays / 12-2pm / begins January 22nd / $120 + materials

Introduction to oil painting. Students learn to skillfully employ basic oil painting materials and techniques, and apply principles of tone, color, and composition to create works of art.

Friday / 7-9pm / February 14th / $20 per person

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with your loved one learning how to paint! Join me at my house for a Paint-Along where I will take you step by step through a painting. At the end of the class you will have your own masterpiece to take home with you. I provide all the materials–you just get to show up and have fun.

Friday / 7-9pm / April 11th / $20 per person

Get your girlfriends together and come paint like the masters. I will take you step by step through a painting. At the end of the class you will have your own masterpiece to take home with you. I provide all the materials–you just get to show up and have fun.

somtime this summer / details coming in May

Art workshops for kids is becoming a tradition. This will be my 5th year! We have lots of fun. Proof of it here and here and here and here.

holiday pop-up shop

popupshopBack by popular demand: I’m having a Holiday Pop-up Shop! Stop by on Monday, December 9th and browse my creations. Handmade journals and sketchbooks, notebooks, gift card holders, pop-up cards, original oil paintings, prints, drawings, and more!

It’s time to clear out my inventory to make room for my new big ideas. Most items will be heavily discounted (20-40% off!).

This is an easy, come and go sort of thing. Bring your kids. Stay a long time. Or just pop in between errands.

My handmade journals are the perfect gift for the writer or artist or teacher or architect or doodler in your life.

See you Monday!



tutorial: tiny book ornament


Remember how I told you we made paper ornaments at the Harvest Festival a couple months ago? Remember how I made that great little video tutorial of how to make the Paper Ball Ornament?

Well. Get excited. We also taught how to make a Tiny Book Ornament.

What’s that you say? You want to make one too?


First watch the video below. Then follow these detailed instructions for a pamphlet stitch. And in 60 seconds you will have your own tiny book ornament.



You’re welcome.

I upcycled paper scraps from my studio and used extra bits of thread. Lucky for you, I packaged up Tiny Book Ornament Kits! For $5 you receive enough materials to make 6 ornaments and complete instructions. Email me if you are interested.


the paper ball ornament


If you’ve been hanging around this blog for a while, you may remember The Paper Ball Ornament Tutorial from two years ago. It is still one of my most popular blog posts. So, if you don’t know what I’m talking about you should check out the tutorial.

WAIT! But first, watch this little video I made. Just. For. You. (You’re welcome!)

At the Harvest Festival at Royalty Pecan Farms a few weeks ago, I had a table set up in my booth for people old and young to make these ornaments. It was so fun to chat with new friends while we worked. There is something magical about making these ornaments — give it a try!

Ok, now you can go to the tutorial.

and so it goes

The last few months have been so heavy. Many dear loved ones and close friends have had really big life changes and challenges. And yet, I’m always amazed at how many miracles and blessings and angels have offset the trials. Even during the hardest, most confusing times I have felt peace and overwhelming love for my people.


So, during this month of gratitude, I’m feeling extra thankful for the small, daily blessings God sends our way.


And just in case you were wondering what we did during October… fall_costumes  …There were some costumes worn and an incredible amount of candy consumed.fall_kids

…There was a week for me to be a full-time Auntie (thanks to amazing husband and friends for being mom for me while I was gone).fall_fire

…There was a campfire at the Nielsen Ranch.fall_bug…And, there was a praying mantis.

My Favorite Place: a commissioned art project

I’m excited to announce my new art venture:

My Favorite Place: a commissioned art project.

This is your chance to have custom artwork that will be completed in time for the holidays. I will paint an oil painting of your favorite place from a photograph of your choice. The painting will arrive to you framed and ready to hang.

So think of your favorite place — the place where your heart sings — and order your custom artwork. I can’t wait to get started.
Monday, September 16, 2013

8″ by 10″ oil painting on plywood panel, framed

You email me a photo of your favorite place (landscape). I paint it. I ship it to you. You hang it or gift it.

On or before December 1, 2013.

If you are unsure of which angle makes for the best painting, send more than one photo. I will let you know which one I choose to work from.

This time around, I want to focus on favorite places. Other favorites (shoes, cats, snacks, friends, etc…) will have to wait for the next commissioned art project.

2013 Summer Art Workshop Schedule

Can you believe it’s already time to make plans for summer? I have a feeling the upcoming month is going to be a whirlwind until school gets out.

I have finally put together my workshop schedule for the summer. I have so many fun projects in mind — it’s going to be a blast! So if your child is interested in art and art history, look over the information below. We will squeeze in as many projects as we can in the 4 days of class. At the end of all the workshops, we will have an Exhibition to showcase all the kids’ hard work and creativity. Hope your child can join us! I have limited space — email me if you are interested.

Also, if you have a child with a more specific interest (drawing, bookmaking, watercolor, etc) please let me know. I’m happy to put together mini workshops.

I will be teaching Paint-Along classes for the adults. That schedule will be posted within the next few days.

Here we go.


Summer Art Workshop Schedule for Kids

Children interested in writing and illustrating will join me for three days in the studio. We will use our imaginations to write a short story. At the end of the week, each child will have a complete short story with illustrations.

Short Stories
7-11 year olds
Tues, July 9
Wed, July 10
Thurs, July 11
Fri, July 26 @ 7pm
Time: 1-3 pm
Where: Sarah’s house
Cost: $70 (includes all materials)

Interested young artists will join me in my studio (aka kitchen) for four days of art exploration: learning about color, line, shape and texture. Our time in the studio will give each budding artist the chance to create six art projects. At the end of the workshop, parents and friends are invited to a special evening where all the little artists’ creations will be on display.

4-5 years old
(kids who have completed preK)
Fri, July 12
Fri, July 26 @ 7pm
Time: 1-2:30 pm
Where: Sarah’s house
Cost: $15 (includes all materials)

5-8 years old
(kids who have completed Kinder-2nd grade)
Tues, July 16
Thurs, July 18
Tues, July 23
Thurs, July 25
Fri, July 26 @ 7pm
Time: 1-2:30 pm
Where: Sarah’s house
Cost: $80 (includes all materials)

8-11 years old
(kids who have completed 3rd-6th grade)
Wed, July 17
Fri, July 19
Wed, July 24
Fri, July 26
Fri, July 26 @ 7pm
Time: 1-2:30 pm
Where: Sarah’s house
Cost: $80 (includes all materials)


Remember, space is limited — email me to secure a spot.

You can see photos from previous art camps here and here and here and here.

Polka Dot Cupcakes

I wanted to make a special treat for my son’s Destination Imagination team for the day of competition. Their challenge was centered around the colors of the rainbow. My little mama heart was ready to burst watching them perform their skit they came up with all by themselves.


I almost made rainbow cupcakes. Then I almost made a rainbow cake. But in the end, I gave polka dot cupcakes a shot. They were a big hit!

So, here is my version of how to make polka dot cupcakes.

1. Prepare one white cake mix as directed (I’m lazy, though, and used 2 eggs instead of 3 egg whites).

2. Separate into bowls and color with food coloring (I made 8 colors: red, orange, yellow, lime green, grass green, blue, purple, pink). Please note: one cake mix made 4 dozen mini cupcakes so I ended up with 6 mini cupcakes in each of the 8 colors.

3. Bake as mini cupcakes.

4. Pop those out of the pan and put one in each cupcake tin.

5. Prepare another white cake mix and spoon the batter on top of the colored mini cupcakes. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the top is springy (toothpick test won’t work here since the mini cupcake is already baked).

6. Frost. Sprinkle. Enjoy!

The kids got a kick out of guessing which color was in each cupcake. We all love surprises, right? I’m sure I will make these again.


In other news: I’ve started a newsletter! You can subscribe by submitting your email (look in the top right corner of my blog). I will send out a few newsletters a year with updates on my workshop and Paint-Along schedules. Be sure to subscribe so you can be the first to know! Plus, I have been known to send presents to people near their birthdays…

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...