If your Seester sends you a beautiful calendar every year with all of your very large family's special days artfully noted...
And if you save all of those calendars...
And if you inherit some from your Darlin' Mither, who also saved all of them...
There will come a day when way too many days have been taking up room on your studio shelf for way too long.
What will you do?
Will you cut some of the pages into circles and then cut the circles into spirals?
Will you roll all the spirals up real tight...
...and turn them into roses?
Maybe you'll take all those roses and make a wreath and mail it to the Calendar Girl for Valentine's Day...
...because everyone knows Valentine's day is so importantly fun that we must celebrate with pink and red, hearts and flowers and punny little greeting cards (I'm not lion).
Hey, even my eye shadow is preparing for Valentines Day.
Are you, Dear Reader?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had a friend who was replacing her parquet floor.
I asked her to save some pieces for me, thinking I would use them to mend a bad spot in our own floor while we wait for the happy day when we replace ours.
The bad spot was in a corner behind and under the media center so, obviously, it was a red-hot priority item on my home maintenance to-do list.
But, by golly, I've hung on to those 'tiles'.
When the grandshoots dropped in the other night, they discovered a loose piece of flooring in an exposed area of our floor and proceeded to do a very excited and competitive search for more when I told them there were others that were loose, as well.
As I watched them find (and pull up!) a few pieces of flooring, I remembered the salvaged pieces I'd been hoarding and realized that I am simply not going to do any floor repair with them.
I got out the Sharpies and the salvaged pieces of flooring for the grandshoots and told them they could design (temporary) replacements for the pieces of flooring they'd pulled up.
They were very pleased with their work...
...and their design choices...
...are as unique as they are.
We didn't glue anything down, and I kept and marked the pieces of 'real' flooring so I can put them back in, but just for now we have the most interesting and unique custom parquet floor "in the whole world on earth", as the Shoots used to say.
Tell that to
Yesterday morning, during my walk on the mean streets, I picked up a handful of magnolia leaves.
I was remembering something beautiful I'd seen here.
I messed about in my studio for just a bit this morning.
I want to go back.
With a few leaves from all the trees in the neighborhood.
And colored paints.
And tiny paintbrushes.
And my grateful heart.
Getting a box of these that are fat-free seems like a pipe dream, doesn't it?
...just last week I was able to get my hands on that very thing.
Of course, they're very small, can't be chewed and have no flavor, but, hey, we were talking about fat-free, weren't we?
I am having waaaay too much fun making things for our American Girl dolls these days.
This craft came courtesy of the generous folks at American Girl Ideas (whose video theme music Prince Charming says he can now readily recognize) and you can see their lovely tutorial here.
I used Sculpey clay to make my little donuts, because a kind friend gave me a LOT of it years ago (along with the pasta machine one 'needs' to soften the clay before use) and it's been waiting for its day in the sun.
The frosting is puffy paint and the glaze is clear nail polish with some interference pigments sprinkled/brushed in (an experiment which ended happily).
For several months now, I've been having so much fun making clothes, furniture and accessories for my dolls that one evening Prince Charming sighed and said to me, "I'm so sorry you didn't have the childhood your soul craved."
My response came spontaneously and immediately.
"Are you kidding?! God is giving it to me now, when I have money and mad skills!"
That, dear readers, is the kind of God I serve and the kind of man He gave me.
I am blessed and grateful.
Every once in awhile, I look at these shelves in my studio...
...or more specifically, all of the things inside of them...
... and begin accusing myself of being a useless hoarder (and worse) and start mumbling about giving it all away.
Usually, my family hears these mumblings, begs me to reconsider, reminds me of the many times "having everything" in my studio has blessed others, and just generally backs me away from the cliff (and the thought of hiring a dumpster, building a chute to it from my second-story window and sliding everything into it) (yes, it gets that bad).
I'm so grateful for their interventions.
This week, as I was getting ready to host an American Girl Valentiny Party for a group of my young friends and their dolls, I pulled the matchboxes off the shelf... ...
...to make tiny invitations.
...with a surprise hidden inside.
I got down the red paint and the small wooden hearts ...
...to begin making place card holders.
When I needed something to hold the two hearts apart so the cards could be slipped in, I pulled down the toothpicks, and had an "Aha!" moment.
The wooden game pieces...
...were added to wooden spools, some empty tins and lids I stole (!) from the storage jars...
...to create mini cake stands (shown here with a naked cake during the test fitting).
The red binder clips...
...came down and were taken apart to serve as menu holders.
I made seven matching doll dresses as gifts for the girls...
...and I was very much over it by the time I finished!
I dumped out the contents of my "random heart charms" container and got out some beads to make dolly-sized necklaces as take-home favors.
(I also took some really bad photos.)
My friend, Able Baker Dana, came over on Friday to help with the little cakes and all the heart-shaped food preparation.
We had some fun...
...and did some work...
...which included cutting little tiny tortilla hearts...
...to make into tortilla chips.
We cut the world's tiniest carrot sticks...
...and we made menus...
...and small paper placemats, bingo cards, and hearts for "Musical Hearts".
When the big day came, I set the table using the tiny plastic 'silverware' I found at the dollar tree...
...6" dessert plates, votive cups for drinking glasses, and tiny cloth napkins made from the excess length I cut from the (free!) tablecloth.
And, finally, seven precious girls arrived, bringing their dolls with them.
They had lunch...
...waiting patiently for their special orders to be served.
They played Pin the Heart on the American Girl.
They played a (very intense!) game of "Musical Hearts"...
...but were great sports when they lost their place.
They played a game of reverse "Conversation Heart Bingo", eating the candies as the sayings were called.
Then we let them eat cake...
...and make the world's tiniest ice-cream sudaes.
They exchanged Valentines.
...had their photographs taken...
...and then they just played and played and played with their dolls and with each other.
It was a wonderful Valentiny day.
I love a redemption story and this one is no exception.
After I posted these before and after photos of the restringing of Miss Helping Hands' childhood American Girl Doll...
...a friend sent me this photo of her daughter's first AG doll, wondering if I could do anything to help:
Her daughter had received this baby before the recommended play age and had used a marker to give her some purple eye shadow and fingernails.
A distressed momma then partially obliterated her right eyebrow trying to remove the ink with a Magic Eraser.
I had no experience with fixing any of these problems, but then I'd never restrung a doll before I did Molly McIntire, either.
Thank you, YouTube tutorials, you're the best!
After a few hours of online research, I decided to try to save this sweet girl.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this transformation!
This poor little baby...
...was having a really bad hair day...
...and had more skin problems than you could shake a stick at ( go ahead...make that phrase obey your grammar rules!).
I began by washing, brushing out, and trimming her hair.
Did I just calmly say "brushing out"?
It took hours, a few strands at a time and one half inch at a time, to do that little job.
Afterward, I applied a LOT of lovely-smelling "braid spray" (a black girls' hair product).
I left it on her hair while I cleaned her skin with water and my EnviroCloth (LOVE that thing) and started her first skin treatment.
I covered it with plastic wrap and let her lay in the sunny window.
After a few treatments, it was fading nicely.
It took about five days of treatments - sometimes several applications in one day - before it was all clear.
But, man-oh-man, what a thrill!
I drew on a new eyebrow using colored pencil and she was just as pretty as she could be.
(Oh dear. I just noticed she has a smudge on her nose. I'll have to take care of that.)
Phase two of hair care meant another gentle wash, "pulling" it (yes, I had to completely remove many completely unruly strands of hair), another thorough brushing, a teensy bit of trimming, and a light mist of braid spray.
It did wonders.
She is leaving foster care and being reunited with her family soon, so I made her a new dress and bought her some new shoes for her new life.
I also gave her a new name, at the family's request.
Meet Natalie Renee:
Now, take another look at the before and after photos...
...and remember never to give up on anyone.
You do not know what God is doing in secret.
Some of us He has just taken in.
Some of us are in the windowsill.
Some of us are in the hair chair.
Some of us have had a lot of work done and have new shoes and new clothes, but we still have a smudge on our nose.
And there are some who have not yet come in.
There is room.
And there is hope.
Because there is God.
My wonderful Beeg Seester volunteered to do some sewing for her church this Christmas season, thinking she'd be stitching up a few shepherd costumes or some such thing.
They asked her to make a tree skirt for their biggest Christmas tree.
An eleven foot diameter tree skirt, to be exact, from a diamond-puckered taffeta with two bands of velvet and a beaded trim.
She said she had to use pi when she was figuring out her patterns and fabric needs.
I said the only pi I understood was of the eating variety.
I was SEW impressed.
Making patterns, laying out all that fabric, cutting it and then getting it through the machine without creating miles of unsightly puckers?
That was an impressive feat.
Take a gander at this incredible finished product, folded in half here because...well...do you have a big enough space to open an eleven foot tree skirt?
(No. That is not my Beeg Seester.)
As I stood back in amazement and cheered her on, I was quietly lusting after the scraps that necessarily ensue when cutting straight runs of fabric into circles.
I finally just put in a bid for them.
She brought me a lovely, big pile.
I stitched some into a decoration for our front door and pulled, once again, a bunch of greens from the ice storm rescues, and some pine cones, cording and bulbs from the stores in my studio and Christmas boxes.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
After a lovely day full of creative pursuits, I went to bed last night with ice packs on the hurty places and distracted myself from the pain by thanking God for the treasures from the street.
And Beeg Seesters, and pinecones, and felt, and needles and thread, and hands that work, and the talents He wired into me, and friends to play with, and paint, and color, and berries, and twinkle lights, and...and...and...
Listing every little thing that I have been enjoying was a pretty wonderful way to fall asleep.
Try it tonight and let me know what you think.
The streets here are still (sadly) lined with the debris from the ice storm of Thanksgiving weekend.
My garage still has these buckets of greens I picked from the curbs of our neighbors...
...though they are not as full as they once were.
Yesterday, I made the centerpiece for our table.
I might need some new candles.
(I certainly need to straighten the candles I do have.)
I built the box from a 1" x 4" last year, and the sweet little birds were purchased at a clearance sale some time back, but...
...the greens, berries, and pine cones are all rescued beauty.
Thank you, God.
It's been difficult to see - lining the streets in every neighborhood of our city - the carnage from the Thanksgiving weekend ice storms.
It's painful to know my sisters lost beloved oaks and profusely-productive pecan trees and to hear of friends whose wonderful old shade trees are now only insurance liabilities with neighbors' fences crushed beneath them.
We hear talk about "nature's way of pruning", but it is often sad, sometimes dangerous, and frequently costly.
Our yard boasts no significant trees - a crepe myrtle with a few snapped limbs is all we personally suffered - and perhaps that is what leaves me in a position to see the beauty in the ashes.
I've been scavenging.
A bucket full of holly branches, quite loaded with berries, from a curbside up the street.
A big armload of magnolia limbs from a nearby neighbor's yard.
A trunkful of evergreens, with pinecones still attached, laying in the easement near the exit of our subdivision.
Limbs from a birch too big to fit in the trunk.
A branch from my sister's pecan, another from a friend's fallen Chinese pistache.
And lots of bare, straight twigs.
I am hoping to give them back to the people who suffered their loss.
Perhaps in the shape of a wreath, maybe in the form of a centerpiece, some in the form of decoration for porch or pillar.
Right now, most of the greens are in water in my garage.
A few sprigs made it into my Fiestaware pitcher and are sitting on the kitchen table.
I cut the limbs from my Beeg Seester's pecan and my friend's Chinese pistache into discs and have been using my woodburning tool (for the first time!) to make ornaments for their Christmas trees.
And many, many twigs are being made into new trees.
Beauty from ashes.
I love a good redemption story, and I love this one most of all:
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons."
Thank God for Christmas.
...still plays with dolls.
When my dear Daughter-in-Love recently shared this pin with me, I stopped smack dab in the middle of a building project (more on that later) to go up to my studio and MAKE.
I started with some simple little designs (which I saw on another site and am so sorry I can't find to credit here).
The fun is in opening those little matchboxes to see the magic!
Those legs reminded me of ballet dancers, so I tried to put the dolly in an appropriate pose and...
...I used my trusty Sharpie to give her some ballet shoes.
Then I thought, "Well, if a girl can have shoes...why not grab the white gel pen and give her some socks?"
I am so disgusted with myself for having failed to mark where I saw these "faeries in a matchbox" so I could give credit to the source. I loved them so much.
I love this little faerie's...
Since the inside surprise is so much fun, I thought "Why not give this birthday girl...
...a birthday gift?"
And, since this girl...
...isn't celebrating a birthday, why not give her a puppy for a surprise?"
You see how it goes.
Of course, I always think of my own little girls - now so grown-up - when I am playing with dollies, so I made a little Matchbox Mary, complete with her little "polka dot" mole...
...and her beloved Jack.
Now I must work out how to draw a teeny, tiny hedgehog.
And buy more matchboxes.
Prince Charming is having a poker game here tonight, with a few of his sons and friends.
He sent me a text this afternoon and the conversation went like this:
Prince: "Any thoughts on dinner?"
Me: "Yes. 'Dinner' in the Midwest once denoted the noon meal, though it is now largely considered to be the evening meal, which was once referred to as supper. Doctors recommend eating a light dinner, as activity levels are generally lower in the evening than throughout the day. A meal of 3-4 oz. of broiled chicken or fish, a salad of fresh, leafy greens and a 4 oz. serving of brown rice would be considered a healthy dinner. It has been noted that an occasional glass of red wine with dinner has health benefits as well. In modern America, with its large percentage of working women, it is now often considered the role of the husband to provide for the evening meal."
No reply for a full two minutes.
Prince: "Wow. What are your desires, sweetheart?"
So, I'm telling you, if you're a single girl and you're hoping to get married to a man some day...
Get one like that.
Better late than never?
I have finally returned from gadding about the country and can now settle down to get all these amazingly different cards posted for the final three weeks of the ICAD challenge.
Week number seven's theme was: "Inspired by words. Typography, found text, definitions, poetry, calligraphy, hand-lettering, metaphors, plot & character development."
Try that on for size!
Some of us strayed a bit from theme, but all of us hung in there (and that was tough to do!).
Annski dipped into her graphic arts background to create her cards online this week and Ellen used her well-honed photography skills to good purpose for the 'focus' prompt.
I was still 'stuck' (ha!) in California, with just my pen and pencil, for part of week seven and I also resorted to words-not-pictures for a prompt or two I found uninspiring.
I won't name names regarding those who were struggling and straggling by this point in the challenge (the worst stall-out starts with "N"), because we all managed to DO the cards and here they are:
Day 43 - Definition
Day 44 - Focus or Blur
Day 45 - Saturday Night Live
(Does Ellen have a house full of grandchildren on Saturday nights, perchance?)
Day 46 - Album Cover
Day 47 - Fashion
Day 48 - Disco
Day 49 - Black and White
Week eight coming up shortly!
You believe that?
Let's not discuss how far behind I am on posting the weekly cards for Gwen's little group in the Index-Card-A-Day Challenge;I'm even further behind in getting my actual index cards done.
The theme for week six is: Use a different color palette (a different combination of colors) each day this week. Any medium.
The prompts are as follows.
Day 36 - Backgammon
Annski chose writing as her theme this week because she has so many memories attached to the prompts.
Day 37 - Chess or Checkers
If you don't zoom in on the tag, you're missing all the fun.
Day 38 - Mah Jong
Meet "Ma Jong"
Day 39 - Bingo or Monopoly
Laura Leigh went 'off prompt' because she was "thinking about week one's chevron prompt".
I started my beachy vacation on this day, staying at my Big Brudder's home on Greenville Drive and dog-sitting while he was away. I and only packed pen and pencil, so my cards during were all done with those tools.
Day 40 - Yahtzee
Day 41 - Bridge or Gin Rummy
I was in LA. I couldn't help myself.
Day 42 - Scrabble
Still can't decide which I enjoy more; making a great double word play or eating a double-double at In-n-Out...
And there you have it!
There was some serious groaning going on last week in Gwen's little ICAD challenge group and I can't say that I blame anyone.
The prompts were fun for the most part, but I think the theme threw a lot of us: Mark-making tools, stamps, stickers & tape. Found stamps, eraser stamps, date stamps, postage stamps, stickers & washi tape.
Here are the results.
Day 29 - "Iced Cream"
Laura Leigh ("Help! I'm melting!")
Ree (I think this is how she felt about the theme this week.)
Day 30 - "Telephone"
Annski (I really like this card. Just sayin'.)
Naomi ("Liar, liar, pants on fire. Your nose is longer than a telephone wire.")
Day 31 - "Trivia"
Laura Leigh (I rode the carousel in Hyde Park in London and never noticed we were going the wrong way!)
Naomi (Nine honeybees equal the weight of one M&M.)
Ree (He's still alive...)
Day 32 - "The Weather"
Laura Leigh ("Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.")
Naomi ("Hot fun in the summertime." Sing it with me..)
Day 33 - "Mad Men or I Love Lucy"
Annski (Vintage DYMO Tape from the Mad Men era. Annski didn't like Pete Campbell. Thus, the poopy-colored tape. Ha!)
Naomi (It feels good to confess it. I always felt it was a little un-American not to like her.)
Day 34 - "Flag/Independence Day"
Naomi (You know you thought it was Jose when you were a kid...)
Day 35 - "Portrait"
Laura Leigh (I was told this was her first ever attempt. I am impressed.)
Naomi (My tribute to Amadeus Modigliani, whose work I really like.)
This week's prompts are all about games.
Game on, playa.
I have had a terrible week, so I am grateful that the others in Gwen's little Index-Card-A-Day-Challenge group have been sending some great looking cards my way.
This week's theme was a bit fussier, as it included more than just materials parameters.
The theme was: Inspired by wallpaper, fabric, thread & quilts. Abstract & geometric patterns. Colored pencils, neocolor wax crayons (must find out what those are), markers, ink.
Feel the squeeze?
I found it constricting, but it was still late in the week before I overcame my 'Law-Abiding-Larry' self and threw out a parameter or two in order to bring some joy back into the process; sad to say, my cards reflect both the misery and the return to ease.
Also, I'm not fast, but I'm slow, and I finally realized it makes a lot more sense to present the cards by day, rather than by artist, so you can see the prompt and the wildly different interpretations of it in one place.
So, without further ado, here are the cards for week number four.
Day 22 - "Psychedelic"
Day 23 - "Romantic"
Day 24 - "Geometric"
Day 25 - "Botanic/Organic"
Day 26 - "Exotic"
Facade (Laura Leigh's prompt-inspired original poem)
I'm always walking in a straight line
Always pretendin' that I am fine,
Ignoring the warning and sign,
It's a facade.
Layer on layer I make my mask,
Pull it up tightly before you ask,
Make it the goal of my every task,
It's a facade.
Always confining, your motives divining,
In fear I'm reclining.
Always confining, your motives divining,
In fear I'm reclining.
Contriving and striving I live my lies,
Hoping outsiders won't hear my cries,
I've got it together like that's my prize,
It's a facade.
Under the rug I have swept my fears,
Hardening my heart to avoid the tears,
Gets harder and harder throughout the years,
It's a facade.
Day 27 - "Academic"
Day 28 - "Dramatic"
Now, in the interest of "leaving 'em laughing", I am going to include a link to a Three Stooges clip which will explain Annski's "Academic" card.
If you haven't seen this particular piece of ridiculousness before now, I am just so happy that I can help put it into your brain to plague the rest of your day.
I truly hoped I would be able to solve all the technical problems before I had to post these photos of the results of the Index-Card-A-Day Challenge for week three, but I haven't been able to do it and week four is almost over.
So, with apologies to Ellen, whose work is so poorly presented here,these are the cards from Gwen's little ICAD group.
The theme for the week was collage.
The daily prompts were:
Day 16 - Two Views
I don't know how it goes for anyone else, but forcing myself to use the ICAD Challenge themes and prompts has meant that I am often quite surprised at the results of my playtime (sometimes even a bit frightened).
Last week,s prompts made a lot of us groan despairingly, but we made it through and have lived to tell about it.
Here are the results of Week 2.
The theme was 'Paint'.
The daily prompts were:
watercolor, Signo pen
watercolor, Signo pen
watercolor, Signo pen
watercolor, Signo pen
watercolor, Signo pen (with my apologies; the ends of the parsnips looked like scary eyes and the rest just happened)
watercolor, Signo pen
watercolor, Signo pen
acrylic paint, zig photo markers and a lemon
acrylic paint, stencil
watercolor pencils and acrylic paint
watercolor pencils, micron pen
And there you have it!
We are half way through "collage" week, now.
Well, some of us anyway.
I got a little bit behind because I was keeping the grandshoots.
And throwing up.
Don't those words just set your hair on fire?
Mine either, but Gwen's little group made it through the week anyway.
We are half-way through the challenging theme and prompts of week two.
There have been days I wanted to poke my eyes out with my paintbrush.
This morning I went out at the strike of 8:00 to mow the yards and I discovered that the mower was out of gas.
There are two gas cans in the garage and one of them contains a gas/oil mix for something other than the mower.
Although it has been a long time since some poor son of ours used the wrong gas can to fill the mower, I remember the consequences of that particular error and I feel my muscles tighten and my heart beat fast at just the thought of making it myself.
I texted Prince Charming:
"Big gas can for the mower?"
I wondered why he wasn't responding, as he had sent me a text just moments earlier, so I sent a teasing text.
I pulled out the large gas can, which I suspected was the mower gas, and discovered this:
I filled the mower and mowed both our big yards.
I watered the plants and flowers.
I pulled some weeds.
I came inside and took a shower.
I ate breakfast.
Still no answer.
So I sent another text.
"Don't worry about the mower gas questions. I used the small can. Apparently it was the wrong one, because half way through doing the back yard the mower blew apart. Thankfully, none of the pieces hit me, but one did go on the roof. I got out the big ladder and was going up to get it, but I got too close to that crepe myrtle where that big mockingbird has her nest. She dive-bombed me and it scared me so badly I lost my footing and fell. Nothing broke, but it knocked me senseless and Hannah called an ambulance. By the time we got to the hospital, I was coming around. The EMT asked me what had happened and I told him the whole story. He just held me in his arms and said..."
The Prince replied.
And I finished the story.
"Oh, you precious, beautiful woman. I would have answered your text."
It was only a split second before his response came.
"I've always told you that you deserved better."
And now you know why I call him Prince Charming.
The first four days of the ICAD Challenge are now under our belts.
There are themes for each week and prompts for each day, but both are totally optional, and some of us are following both, some only one and some neither.
Also, we have participants who are using the ICAD Challenge for writing, rather than visual art (which makes me very happy).
This weeks theme is "drawing & doodling" and the prompts for the first four days are 'chevron', 'carnival', 'map' and 'mailbox'.
So without further ado, here are some of the cards from some of us groupies (technical and other difficulties make this an incomplete round-up, sigh).
Lulu (8 yrs old):
#2 pencil, blending stump
#2 pencil, blending stump
It's like a little peek into the hearts and minds of these artists.
And I'm enjoying the view.
Several of the people in Gwen's little ICAD Challenge group have shared their title pages with me and I thought you might like to see them
I think I'm going to love seeing all the wonderfully different artistic expressions which can be made on a little 3x5 index card.
I forgot to ask these artists to share a little bit about the techniques and materials they used, but I'll try to get that information for the first round of cards.
It looks like Ellen did some printing, but I wish I knew how and with what.
Rosemary used fabric. Love.
Ree used every color in the arsenal and, as Iris said, "Color can raise the dead".
You already know that I cut stuff up.
I'll let you in on a secret though: not one of these title pages gives any true indication of what page one looks like for these artists.
And I just love that.
I've heard from quite a few of you Dear Readers who are planning to start the ICAD challenge tomorrow and I'm really glad.
I'm also pretty wigged out.
We were challenged to create a title page this week and, per usual, I got totally spooked and freaked out about it all.
Do you ever hear the voices?
"You can't do anything. You don't have any talent. Who are you kidding? You're going to embarrass yourself. Let the real artists do art."
Et cetera, et cetera, and I do mean ET CETERA.
This idea of having to perform perfectly the first (and every) time I try my hand at something wedged itself pretty tightly in my brain very early in my life and I'm still waging war against that lie.
All this resistance keeps me from doing art most of the time, which is precisely why I decided to commit myself to this challenge.
I want to use my 61 index cards to try roughly 61 things I've never tried before and enjoy the process.
That sounds almost impossible to me, but...God.
So, please pray for me, Dear Readers, as I strive to keep going and keep it real.
For now, eye will sign off with my EyeCAD title card...
...which is resting against a big stack of books from which I plan to take my art exercises.
I will not be doing them perfectly, but I will be doing them.
"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home." Twyla Tharp
I am taking the "2015 ICAD Challenge" being offered over at Daisy Yellow and I'm inviting all of you Dear Readers to join me.
You can read about the challenge by following the above link, or you can start with this link for FAQ's about it.
It is NOT a competition and it does not require a big layout for art materials; the idea is just to DO something creative on, or with, a 3 x 5 index card every day for 61 days, beginning June 1, 2015.
I hope you'll follow the links and the reading will inspire you to take the challenge.
Please leave a comment to let me know if you're going to participate.
We'll run away together.
Little Mr. Fox is celebrating his second birthday here on Saturday and I am using it as an excuse to make some games for the grandshoots to play when they visit.
I'm always hoping to use things up and spend no money, so I started with a little 'research' on the web, and decided the first game would be a "Feed the Monster" bean-bag game.
I had some help from Little Man putting the primer on a scrap piece of particle board from the garage, and then used a giant Sharpie to draw the outline of the monster Miss Helping Hands wanted me to use (which she found at Candyland Studio).
The grandshoots helped color the monster using some of the craft paint which has been lingering in my studio for years.
This afternoon, I drilled holes at the corners of the monster's mouth for inserting the jig saw blade and then used the saw to cut out the entire mouth.
A very quick sanding of the cut edges, followed by coloring with the giant Sharpie, came next.
Fabric glue and cheapo craft felt came into play next.
Teeth were cut and attached like this...
...and a large rectangle of black felt was glued to the back of the board just above the mouth.
Because I wanted to be able to set up this game anywhere (instead of having to prop it against a fence or wall) but it also needed to be flat for storage, I used a 3" hinge to attach another piece of scrap wood to the top of the back to support it sandwich-sign style.
It was sturdy enough that it didn't budge when we tossed bean-bags at it, but I was still concerned it might fall on a small person who leaned on it while retrieving bean-bags, so I was happy to find the locking hinges, which hadn't worked for the fold-down art desk I built, were the perfect solution.
We spent no money and we used up some stuff.
The monster is now ready to be fed.
Alas, we have no dried beans in the house with which to fill the bean-bags.
When life gives you lemons...
This morning, after getting all my supplies loaded up and my work clothes on, I realized that it would probably be a kindness to my niece/client (who has three young children and a baby) if I didn't show up for work as early as I had planned, so I threw on a jacket (in May!?) and set out for a brisk and pared down version of one of my walks on the mean streets.
As I walked, I began talking to God, offering prayers of thanksgiving for legs that still work, a new day, the rain we've had, my family members, and for all manner of good things.
But, just so you know the whole truth, Diary, when my path took me onto the busy street and I began to feel agitated by the roar of the cars rushing by, my thanksgiving faltered in a very quick and noticeable way.
I thank God, who is constantly having to rescue me, that instead of cursing the noise and bustle of it, He prompted me to give thanks for my city and for the goodness of such things as a sanitary sewer system, paved, lighted and maintained roads, the sidewalk I was using, clean water, emergency alert systems, and curbside trash and recycle service.
Thinking with purposeful gratitude about my city caused my mind to turn, again, to the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem; a piece of history which we have been studying on Sundays,and on which I have been meditating for many weeks.
Those thoughts, in turn, became prayers that the Prince and I would take our places in the city, that we would mend and defend our section of the wall, wherever it is, and bring honor to God.
Two hours later, I was covered in bits of wallpaper backing and joint compound dust, teetering on a ladder and wielding a brush full of sealant for damaged walls which I was desperately trying to keep out of my hair.
I was listening to the sweet chatter of my client's five-year-old and promising her that she could use the roller and 'paint on some glue' once I'd worked my way down the wall to her level.
I stopped, once I'd gotten there, to take a photo - the third in a series showing the process of redoing the room - and it suddenly struck me.
I was, quite literally, repairing a wall in my city...
...and I knew that it mattered.
Without a 'G' there is no green,
There's nothing great, no gym, no Gene.
There are no gods, no goop, no glee,
There's nothing good without a 'G'.
You've got to have a 'G' to go,
To grin, to giggle, and to grow.
Without a 'G' there is no Glen,
No Gertrude, Gregory...
Good thing the streets yielded up a (perfect!) 'G' when I was walking yesterday.
Such an exciting discovery prompted a check on the progress of my Found Alphabet and I made another nice discovery when I pulled the letters out of the box: I'm much further along than I thought!
Here is the roll call:
I've walked an awful lot of miles and there are nine letters still MIA.
I had an unusual walk on the mean streets yesterday.
Well, I wasn't actually on the mean streets much, I spent most of my five miles in some nearby neighborhoods.
I had some of my typical experiences; I found four pennies and another pair of flattened eyeglasses, and I saw a couple of things I wondered about.
For instance, how does a cleaning sponge wind up on the side of a major thoroughfare...
...and what is the story behind these broken crayons that were laying in the side street?
Why did they make me feel kind of sad?
When I found a nickel on the street yesterday, I had to wonder again why I find quarters and nickels very rarely, but find pennies and/or dimes nearly every time I walk.
There were some typical happy moments, too; as when I once again passed the names and dates which my neighbors - who are not kids - etched into our freshly repaired street last winter.
I like to think of the two of them deciding to leave their mark in the street and I always wonder if they did it openly or furtively.
Maybe it is more fun to imagine than to know.
I also took some action on a thought I have had many times when passing a lovingly landscaped yard.
I took photographs of anything that inspired or blessed me and am having some prints made to turn into postcards.
Maybe those strangers will enjoy getting a note letting them know the fruits of their labors are being appreciated by others.
But, Diary, what happened that made the walk unusual is kind of hard to tell you about.
You know my rule about kicking home any balls or round objects I find in the street when I'm close to home; just something I do to act like a kid again.
You also know that the ball has to be rated at least 3F : it has to be flattened, forsaken, filthy, forlorn, and/or forgotten (I wouldn't want to break any child's heart).
Unfortunately - or not, depending upon how you look at it - I found a 4F ball yesterday when I was a full two miles from home.
I don't know what got into me.
I thought, "What the heck. I'll just kick this baby all the way home."
Gosh, Diary, I felt really awkward when I was on the busier streets and old Flatty would lopsidedly meander into the middle of the road and all those nice drivers would slow down or stop to let the crazy old lady get her play toy.
Then something worse - or not, depending on your perspective - happened: I found another 3F.
It was a tennis ball, whose photo I didn't capture, because by now Flatty was behaving like a toddler, going this way and that no matter how I tried to direct him.
Well, I added Tennie to the family and let me tell you, Flatty and he never went in the same direction even once.
I was swerving all over the road and leaving my dignity behind me in bits and pieces.
After a mile or so - free, now, of all pride - I knew myself to be completely dedicated to seeing these two safely home, and I found myself going further and further out of my way to keep them rounded up.
As we all got tired, we took smaller and smaller steps, Flatty and Tennie started keeping together more and more, and we all seemed to be getting along better and better.
I was worried as we approached the main thoroughfare.
How was I going to get us all safely across without breaking the No Hands rule?
I silently formulated a plan to send Tennie across first: he was younger and had more bounce left in him, so I reasonably figured that he could make it onto the easement on the opposite side and wait there for Flatty and I to follow.
He didn't make it.
He got about three quarters of the way across and just stopped.
I watched with horror as he was hit by a car and dragged a good ten yards up the road.
Flatty and I crossed safely, if not altogether gracefully, a few moments later.
It took me some time to get Tennie out of the street then, and he was badly hurt; his fur coat hanging in shreds from every part of him.
As we were now so close to our own street, and home, I urged them both on and we rounded the corner onto our block.
Flatty must have been a little shook up, because he rounded the corner and went all the way to the far side of our street.
Tennie, mortally wounded and feeling he couldn't go on, rounded the corner, saw his chance to escape his misery, and offed himself; slipping quietly through the grate into the storm sewer.
I was stunned and unable to move for a moment.
When I pulled myself together, I crossed the street to Flatty and the two of us silently made our way home; moving very slowly now, exhausted and sorrowful.
Today Flatty lives with the other Round Objects I've Kicked Home in the drawer of the wicker plant stand on the front porch.
Unlike the others, I doubt he will be played with and enjoyed by the grandshoots; he's too obviously flawed for them.
He has a special place in my heart, though.
He lived a whole life inside my head on the mean streets of Oklahoma City.
And so did Tennie.
God rest his soul.
In my never-ending quest to find a chair I can sit in comfortably (post-hurting-my-back), I purchased this mid-century modern piece at a garage sale last spring.
The foam cushions, which were almost useless, were covered in this unlovely grayish-white vinyl, but the chair seemed to promise me comfort if I would give it some care.
It made it to the to-do list this month...
...and I am happy to report that it was completed today.
I would love to report that it turned out exactly as I'd hoped, but, alas, I did it myself.
Some things did go very right, and I am very happy about them.
I was able to construct the covers - lining the fabric, covering and attaching the cording, installing hidden zippers - in a way that pleased me (and I usually don't like working for Me, as I seem very hard to please).
Also, my friend, Able Baker Dana, shopped for fabric with me and pointed out that I had pulled the same piece of fabric out and considered it at two different stores.
The fabric is a departure from my usual orderly geographic prints, so I was very grateful that she was there to tell me that I was obviously desirous of a change.
Friends are an excellent thing to have.
When I told her that I just didn't think I would like the piping covered in the same fabric as the cushions, but also was concerned that black (the only other option my limited thinking could offer) would be a bit too harsh, she is the one who suggested I use the piece of fabric I had purchased to cover the piano bench (just because I liked it with chair fabric).
It was the definition the cushions needed, without a harsh note.
There were things I learned on this job, though, which, of course, are things I wish I had been able to avoid.
I made the top cushion shorter than the original because I wanted to see the lovely curved top of the chair.
Can't see it, can you?
I did not take into account how much higher the seat would be when there was a new, wonderfully-firm piece of foam in the new-but-same-size cover.
Also, I wish I had used a 3" piece of foam for the seat-back cushion; using the four inch foam means I am sitting just a little bit too far out on the seat for perfect comfort.
Granted, that could be fixed, if I was willing to take the cushion cover apart and remake it and I was willing to spend money on another piece of foam.
Am I willing?
I have placed my new chair in my newly designated reading corner, and tomorrow morning I will make a test run.
I have a LOT of books I am currently reading and a whole lot more in the wings (that's a blog post for another day).
I am currently searching for the perfect little side table either to build or refinish for this space, and wondering what art would be just about right for the wall.
Other than that, all that is needed is to open the window and pour a big, fresh cup of coffee.
Life is good.
I need to talk to you in a rambling, non-edited sort of way today because, in spite of walking several miles on the mean streets this morning, I am a little nervous and unfocused and having a very hard time doing even one of the many, many things I need to be doing today.
Let's start with talking about those walks on the mean streets and see where it goes, because those walks fill me with lots and lots of questions and it's a safe bet I can ask them of you without having you laugh at me.
Am I nuts because I think the collection of washers I've found on the mean streets is beautiful?
Like, I would frame them and be happy having them on my gallery wall.
Also, I understand how washers and nuts and bolts and such wind up on the streets, because cars and trucks, and things that go, just naturally shake them loose and shed them after awhile.
But, Diary, how does all the silverware wind up on the street?
Who takes their dinner out to the street to eat it?
Why don't they pick up their silverware when they drop it?
Why aren't there ever any knives?
And these keys...
What do they open?
Are their owners locked out forever?
Diary,how come I find so many yellow #2 pencils on the street?
What were they writing that they were cast off in such a manner?
Why do I feel sorry for them?
I feel sorry for the many pairs of smashed and broken eyeglasses I see in the street, too.
How did they come to be there?
Are they missed?
And another thing, Diary, I was walking down this sidewalk this morning...
...and being very careful not to step on the lines.
Because I was thinking about this ridiculous childhood rhyme we always chanted on our way to school:
"Step on a crack, you break your mother's back. Step on a line, you break your mother's spine."
Who on earth thinks up such terrible things for kids to chant?
And why pick on our dear, sweet mother?
Since I seem to be venting all my pent-up feelings about my walks on the mean streets, Diary, I'm just going to make a confession.
I take pictures of some wonderful things I see along the way, like these gorgeous roses which someone with an eye for beauty planted by their mailbox, ...
...and these colorful posies growing at the side of the road.
I appreciate their natural beauty, but I confess that sometimes I feel obligated to notice it.
I never feel obligated to notice the round, metal things which I am always delighted to find along the way.
Why do I like them?
What thrilled me about discovering that the power companies mark their big tree-trunk poles with these?
And why was I disappointed to find that, at some point along the way, they had changed from this 'gentler' font?
Why do I love the paving company emblem set in the concrete curb at the middle school?
So many round, metal things catch my eye when I am walking; some more or less permanent...
...and some there only temporarily.
Lastly, because I'm feeling better now, Diary, I just want to tell you that I am very conscious of being watched when I walk.
I wonder if other people have noticed The Watcher, too.
He's a little, um, unnerving.
For the last two weeks, I have been working some long, and sometimes tough, hours on a kitchen re-do/paint job for a client/friend.
When Sherwin Williams sent the little notice telling me about their 40% off sale, it still made my fingers itch and my heart all beat-skippy and I began to look disparagingly at every wall in this house which had been bothering me even slightly.
I bought four gallons.
Last Monday, I repainted the family room, moving from Ralph Lauren "Raffia" to Sherwin's "Rice Grain", which I had used to brighten up the hallways, stairwell and entry a few months back.
When Prince Charming left town on Wednesday, I decided to paint the entire front room in the same color.
Of course, I was working for my client all day, so I would set the timer for 20 minutes in the morning and 'cut in' part of a wall, then set it again for 15 minutes on my lunch hour and do a little more.
I would drag home from the jobsite, feed my hungry self, and paint until bath and bed time.
It got done.
I have a few interesting things to tell you about it.
One, I missed having the time to take my long walks on the mean streets, so I missed finding the pennies that are always out there waiting for me, but... I found a single penny, in both rooms, when I moved the furniture (also, a Lego brick and a small pinecone, but they don't count).
Two, I had a great laugh when I took the mirror off the wall. Remember our herd of swine (which Miss Helping Hands recently moved to over the door to the kid's playspace)?
Apparently, the herd of swine once traveled along the tops of the mirrors in the dining room and when I took the mirror down to paint behind it, I discovered a stray.
Poor thing was upside down and stuck; made me laugh out loud!
Three, and this is the best part, Prince Charming still hasn't noticed that the room has been painted.
He came home on Friday afternoon and we sat in that room and talked and talked.
At one point in the conversation, he said, "Wow, these new windows make such a big difference. That breeze coming in (our old ones were single pane and stationary) is awesome. And they seem to make the whole room feel more open."
Could it be, maybe, that it seems more open because we changed from this yellower color and dark accent wall...
...to these much lighter and all-one-color walls?
I think so, and, after he reads this, I'll bet Prince Charming will think so, too.
I just love that man.
Before February breathes its last, cold breath, let me show and tell you what happens when you take...
...and then mix in great friends who bring readings and music on the theme of love and add more delicious food and drink to the table.
You get a party.
The night was so lovely...
...and it's such a great blessing to have friends...
...and hosts like these...
...who welcome us into their home, make these great photo props, and are still enjoying each other after thirty plus years of marriage.
It was great fun to read the quotes on the back of our place cards and try to name the sources...
...and it was nice to send everyone home with a Valentine...
But, the nicest thing of all is having a Valentine of my very own.
I love him like a fat kid loves cake.
Now that they've all been delivered, I can tell you about my Valentines.
This week, I got out every pink, red, heart-shaped or glittery thing I have in my studio, put it on my work desk, cut it into pieces, added in some wire and feathers and mixed it all up with some hot glue.
See what I made?
A really big, scary mess!
Oh, and these:
Yep, I heart Valentines.
And, even though I had to give these away already, I am going to love tomorrow.
Because tomorrow is Valentine's Day - which is just about my favoritest day of the whole entire year - and tomorrow is a party.
I can hardly wait to go and then come home and tell you about it..
Somewhere in our discussion on the first chapter of John last night, I was asked the question, "So, where do you most often experience those 'thin' places?"
Those 'thin places'...where the things that keep us from seeing God's face - the things that separate us from the heavenly realm where all is right - suddenly cease to form a wholly impenetrable veil and we catch a glimpse of glory.
Glory that makes our souls soar and our minds and bodies free of their fetters... for eternity... within a single moment.
Where are those 'thin places' for me now, that, truth be told, I so often experienced at the clothesline when I was busy raising six shoots?
It took a moment to realize that in this current season of my life, those thin places often come when I am immersed in art: standing, heart struck, in front of a painting or a sculpture, reading a piece of poetry or prose that " gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in me for utterance” (Oswald Chambers), listening - my soul possessed of ears - to an exquisite instrument or voice, or transfixed by a dancer who is no longer executing forms and steps, but expressing the beauty of God.
I thought about the time I was able to spend - riveted and lost from the earth - standing in front of "Portrait of the Artist's Mother" by James Abbot Whistler.
And I remembered how, when I had to leave it behind, I came to understand, in an instant, what is in the heart of some art thieves.
How like the flow of life is it that I should have finished, just this week, "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book with art theft featured in its story line?
And in that story line, these lines describing how a piece of art may affect us:
"...if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don't think, 'oh, I love this picture because it's universal.' 'I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.' That's not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It's a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you. ... Yours, yours. I was painted for you."
All this passed through my mind, and some of it crossed my lips, as I tried to answer the question which had been put to me, and then...
This morning I read the February 6 entry (I'm behind and what a blessing!) from "A Year With Rilke" (a blessed gift from my Hair-on-Fire Friend), and Rilke gave me this:
"Things are not nearly so comprehensible and sayable as we are generally made to believe. Most experiences are unsayable; they come to fullness in a realm that words do not inhabit. And most unsayable of all are works of art, which - alongside our transient lives - mysteriously endure."Paris, February 17, 1903 Letters to a Young Poet
And there is the truth.
Things - and God - may not be sayable.
But they are experienceable.
At the clothesline or at the museum...
...there is God.
I don't know whether it was last summer or the summer before that my dear sister-in-love came for a visit and bought two beat up card cabinets at a garage sale and then decided she didn't want to take them home.
I do know it was the same summer we found a broken down cabinet at someone's curb and threw it in the trunk to take home and cannibalize for parts.
The card cabinets had been used as storage in someone's shop and were really dirty and rusty and chock full of old screws and bits and pieces of small hardware.
In the end, the broken cabinet had only it's four legs (with casters) which were worth keeping, so they have been sitting atop the card cabinets in the garage waiting.
This week, I finally finished up the project I had envisioned at least a year ago.
I'm not fast, but I'm slow.
Alas, I forgot to take any 'before' pictures.
Before I emptied, cleaned, sanded and spray-painted the cabinets and the legs, and before Prince Charming got them all assembled for me.
But, I did take some 'after' photos and I think my little Seester is going to like having this piece in her new industrial-look studio.
She makes beautiful glass mosaic art pieces, among other wonderful things, so she needs storage for all her supplies.
I hope she can use the special labels I made for this piece, because I made myself laugh out loud when I thought of them.
"F" is for "finished".
I went to the fabric store this weekend to buy a few things I needed to make the drapes for my Daughter-in-Love.
The drapes are coming out just as we pictured them, and I hope to hang them tomorrow when I am there priming the ceiling and the walls I just textured.
But, golly gee, the trip to the fabric store was anything but what I pictured.
I wasn't two steps inside the store before an old friend spotted me and gave a genuine shout of joy.
I recognized her, but I was shocked at her appearance.
There were flames shooting out of her head.
Inside the space of three minutes, I got at least three hugs and a jump start on a conversation about creative endeavors that nearly left me breathless.
She spoke to me about quilting and told me she is making quilts, preparing to become a quilt contest judge, and knows my friend in the Modern Quilt Guild.
She spoke to me about "The Artist's Way" and told me she is going through the book for the fifth (?) time, reads all of Julia Cameron's books, and is faithful to do the reading and the assignments every day.
She spoke to me about writing and told me she is attending local writer's club meetings, has been writing poetry, and is a member of a poetry group where members read their work and recieve critiques.
She spoke to me about fiber arts and mentioned - with a sort of breathless excitement - that there is a local fiber arts group.
She spoke to me about the way she has set up her home to facilitate creative thinking and doing; "corners" for reading, for sewing, for writing, for thinking.
Yes, her hair was definitely on fire.
And I wanted the flames to leap their boundaries and set my own bean ablaze.
Dear Diary, she told me that she reads what I write to you, so maybe she will see this and be glad to know she was an inspiration.
I met an old friend at the store,
And she spoke like she ne'er had before,
Her hair was on fire,
(A thing I admire),
So I said, "Tell me more! Tell me more!"
Then again, if she sees this, she may also be sorry.
She invited me to the poetry group.
I've been sewing.
...and I made a sweet little dolly for a young friend of mine (free PDF here).
I've also been cutting.
I used a free template from the generous CindyMindyPindy at Scherenschnitte and a new-in-the-box (and perfectly sized!) frame I found at the thrift store.
Mostly, I've been missing Me Darlin' Mither.
She was full of grace and she loved my little dolls, and bunting appliqued totes, and whimsical papercuts...
Since Miss Mary Mack married Mister Mitch (how's that for alliteration?) in August, I had the pleasure of making another Christmas stocking this year.
I let those two cute-little-honeymooners choose from a big selection of Bucilla brand stocking kits in the Merry Stockings catalog, and this is now hanging on the mantle:
After making ten of these types of stockings, I've finally developed an efficient production method, which meant this year's stocking was completed in record time.
For some reason, the lid on that particular case is loose-fitting, and I have had this accident...
...more times than I can count.
I'm all about efficiency; especially during the busy holiday season.
When it happened again this week, do you think I picked up this mess and immediately - and finally - put these sequins in a new case with a tighter fitting lid?
No, I certainly did not.
Because I, like the sequins above, am...
...a beautiful mess.
Last week, my art mentor friend sent me a link to art project she thought was fabulous.
My hair caught fire and there is only one extinguisher for that kind of blaze.
Since I'd recently made the decision to force myself to listen to, read, or watch one hour of news each week (after a long and wonderful sabbatical from the same), I decided to try my hand at this 'make' in just the way the author recommended; sitting in front of the TV with a tray in my lap.
Step two was done after the news, because it required a trip to the garage to turn those piles of fibers into these:
Tonight, those messy little things turned into these...
...with the help of some food coloring and rubbing alcohol.
Please do yourself the favor of checking out the original, thorough and beautiful tutorial over at Just Something I Made.
Honestly, I followed her tutorial start to finish and it went exactly as she said it would.
It is just magical when you take that little bundle of fibers wrapped in wire and start spinning it with the drill!
I got excited like a little kid at Christmas.
Though you trim the trees before dying, the alcohol does relax the fibers enough that another trimming is necessary.
The little pile of trimmings was beautiful.
But, gosh, I wish you were here, because the most beautiful thing in my house right now is what is hitting my ears as I write this.
I am being treated to one of my favorite Christmas pleasures: Prince Charming and Miss Helping Hands are playing "Oh Holy Night" on the guitar, violin and piano.
It's making my heart swell and feel all beat-skippy.
Wish you were here.
Today's 'make' is brought to you by the power of full-strength coffee.
Yessir, I've been drinking full-strength coffee for several days now and going to the gym, so there's no telling when this bus will stop.
Just warning ya.
Going through my Pinterest boards when she was here the other day, Able Baker Dana pointed out yet another Christmas project I'd pinned last year.
My hair caught fire (the time was right) and we hopped up right then and started making.
Pretty soon there was a sweet little paper forest growing under the chalkboard.
But, the real reason my hair caught fire was because another special little forest had started growing on the shelf under the Mickey Mouse Christmas puzzle (which, until this month, had been waiting for a frame for two or three years).
I had finally gotten my hands on some bottle-brush trees (love them!) and added them to some little trees we'd made last year (which had never seen the light of day); I knew adding the paper trees to the growing forest would make me very happy.
Actually, I was already very happy, but the little trees do make me smile.
You can see the original source of this delightful idea, and get the original pattern and instructions (for the large tree), from the generous Katja at http://shiftctrlart.com/Blogpost/umti.
When we started our fevered cutting, I decided pretty quickly that I wanted several sizes, so I've made some of my own patterns and you can download them here.
The pattern is for letter-size paper, and you need to cut two pieces for each tree.
To assemble, just cut a slit down the center of one tree from the top half way to the bottom, cut the other tree up the center from the bottom half way to the top , and then slide them into each other; a little finessing is all you'll need to make them stand up.
A couple of suggestions:
If you're going to make a forest or two, just print the pattern out on copy paper to use as a master and then run your letter size colored cardstock through the printer; no tracing necessary.
If you're going to make just a few trees: first, please tell me how you exercise that kind of restraint and, second, print your pattern on cardstock and cut out the trees to use as patterns for tracing.
And remember, kids, never, ever run with scissors.
You might drop them and hurt them.
It's December, and there is a lot of making going on around here.
The little card table that moves in and out of the sunroom by day or night is crammed with works in progress...
...and I don't even want to tell you what my studio looks like.
Of course, there are some 'makes' that I am pretty stoked about, but can't share with you because it's that secret-keeping time of year.
Today's make doesn't fall into that category, though, and you can make it yourself for peanuts.
I saw the idea here via Pinterest last year, but Dana saw it on my board this year and spurred me to action.
And now all the Christmas tags are ready.
I was supposed to buy the gifts, too?
Friday morning, I went with friends to pick peaches out at Wind Drift Orchards, and the necessity of putting up all those (delicious! juicy! beautiful!) peaches set off a bit of a kitchen binge this weekend.
In between bike rides, grandshoots and gardening, I sliced and froze most of the peaches, but we also...
...had the neighbors in for grilled peaches and vanilla ice cream.
...made our favorite peach smoothies (fresh peaches, vanilla Greek yogurt, orange juice concentrate, ice and, if it's dessert, a bit of vanilla syrup).
...prepared some peach-mango salsa for this upcoming meal (about which I may have posted previously, but which is scrumptious and easy enough to be worth mentioning again).
Because I was already in the kitchen with mangoes, and we had fresh Roma tomatoes and jalapenos from our garden, I also made this salsa:
I wish I could give credit to the original source, but I got it from Beeg Seester and she didn't say where she found it.
I'm posting it because it is absolutely declicious and there is not a thing in it to hurt you.
How often do those two facts collide?
Try it this summer.
Use it on some grilled chicken or white fish.
Eat it with chips.
Or simply dig in with a spoon.
It's hard to stop.
While we were cleaning up lunch today, Prince Charming looked at the BIG bunch of overripe bananas on the counter (he buys and usually eats them for snacks or breakfast during his work week) and said, "I didn't do well by those bananas".
Made me laugh.
But it also sounded like a cue to bake something.
Just Friday, Beeg Seester's main squeeze plied me with some pecans (freshly shelled!) from their trees, so I made a batch of banana nut muffins.
Let me tell you, I am beginning to make habit of typing "the best whatever recipe" in the Google search box whenever I have a hankering to make something.
Lately, every recipe I've tried using the results of those searches has been stellar.
This banana nut muffin recipe from Tyler Florence on Food Network is no exception.
Best I've ever eaten, and Price Charming said the same.
Wish you were here.
There are 22 left.
Maybe there are only 21 left.
In my vegetable and herb garden, behind the beautiful basil plants and the dill which came up on it's own this year...
...is the mint bed, which is bounded by large rocks to keep it from overtaking the garden.
Inside the mint bed lives my friend Toady.
Every morning when I hand water the garden, Toady jumps out of his house to see me.
I know he doesn't look cheerful, but I also know he is pretty happy living in my mint bed.
I know that he is happy, because yesterday I discovered that he has decided to settle down and have a family there.
Today, Toady Jr. hopped out to say hello...
...under the watchful eye of Toady Sr.
I saw Mrs. Toad, too, but she hopped off to do errands before I got her picture.
It wasn't until I took these family photos that I realized Toady and his clan are quite pigeon-toed.
Not that it matters to me.
In fact, I've been thinking about Toady and his boy; about how folks think they're ugly and disgusting and always make sport of their warts.
I got to thinking about how we all have our warts, and ways that are ugly and disgusting, too.
I've been thinking about what happens if the warts and the ugliness become our focus when we think about each other.
It isn't pretty.
I see Toady and his family and they are beautiful to me.
They are desired guests in my mint bed because they are busy eating the things that like to eat me.
It's because of them that I can water and weed in my garden without having to pay for it with a million itchy mosquito bites.
Toady and his family are beautiful, in spite of their warts and their grumpy looking faces, because when I look at them, I'm thinking about the way they make my world a better place.
And you, Dear Readers?
You do, too.
And today, this little bird did as well.
He was perched near the garden on one of the many fences in our back yard that are sorely in need of replacing.
In fact, one of our five backyard neighbors (count 'em!) lost two fence panels a year ago and still hasn't replaced them.
I am not very happy about the large piles of smelly stuff their big dogs wander over to leave on our lawn, but because the fence is down my eyes get these blessings every morning:
I'll scoop poop.
And give thanks.
This morning, and every morning lately, this mockingbird friend of mine...
...sits in the very tops of the trees singing as though his little heart is about to burst with joy.
He sings as loudly and continually as he possibly can and yet, still he finds his joy inexpressible.
After a few moments of sitting still to sing, his body simply takes flight with his soul.
He sings as he rises and He makes me long to join him!
Alas, I am earthbound, and though my soul may rise with him, I am here on earth and my eyes are on the sparrow.
Do you see my little house sparrow friend, just returning home after being out all night with friends?
He checks in with the little wife, but she is having none of it. She does not so easily forgive and he is not allowed inside.
He sits outside and calls to his neighbor in his distress.
Who knows if he finds a sympathetic ear?
I hope he has lovely neighbors, like mine.
They have beautiful gardens...
...which speak of the cooperation of man with God in the art and beauty of nature.
They share the fruits of their labors - beauty tucked in among beauty - with me, for no reason except love.
Do they know how I love to see their lilies lifting their heads to God...
...or how much I appreciate the pieces of man-made beauty they have added to God's handiwork?
I hope they do.
Prince Charming and I are celebrating thirty-five years of wedded bliss today.
In honor of the occasion, I made a batch of our 'wedding cookies' this afternoon.
Light, buttery wafers...
...with peach-colored (our wedding!) icing...
...turning them into the most melt-in-your-mouth bits of deliciousness you can imagine.
My little Seester wasn't here to help like she was thirty-five years ago, so Miss Helping Hands did the taste testing.
It seems appropriate that this evening included another kind of wedding sweet; the first fitting of a sweet little flower girl dress on an even sweeter little four-year-old.
Something's in the air.
And I think it's love.
I have an entire room dedicated to creative pursuits.
It has wonderful storage for all the paper, fabric, scissors, cutters, glue, paint, glitter and various other supplies I could ever use.
It has a place for paper-crafting, drawing, painting, or beading.
It has a place to cut fabric and a place to sew fabric.
It has a place to sit and dream, imagine or read.
My kitchen table looked like this last night:
Our family has a big occasion coming up this summer.
We will need boutonierres...
...fancy little dresses...
...and envelopes to mail them.
We will need to work on all these things in the little spaces between the other business of our lives.
We will need to keep these project trays handy.
We will be placing orders, cutting and gluing paper, wrapping floral stems and hand stitching.
We will be having fun and looking forward to August.
But will we be sitting down to dinner?
Yesterday and the day before, Prince Charming and I got very messy, very hot, very tired, and kind of sore transferring the contents of these paint cans...
...to the back side of our two-story house in the Oklahoma wind and unseasonably high temperatures.
So, today we decided to take a break from that (really big) job and concentrate on getting ready for weekend festivities (Miss Helping Hands is receiving her master's degree) and the house guests we'll be having for them.
We moved Phoebe out of the guest room (sorry, Pheebs)...
...so we could dust and vacuum and put fresh sheets on the bed.
I cleaned the guest bathroom and laid out some fresh linens.
Everything is now ready.
But, let's go back and get a little close-up on part of that bathroom, shall we?
Usually, when I'm preparing the guest bathroom, I just give the toilet paper this nice little fold:
But, I've been working really, really, hard and getting really, really hot and messy and I was starting to get really, really grouchy from not doing anything creative.
So, this week's guest isn't gonna get some sweet little hotel schmotel toilet paper fold.
No, this week's guest is gonna get this:
'Cause that's how we roll.
I am thinking a lot about discipleship and discipline today.
Early this morning, after a too-long hiatus, I wrote my 'morning pages' (as prescribed in "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron).
I wadded up and threw away the pages when I was finished, as I had not written them in a private notebook and they are not even meant for the kind of rereading a personal journal might merit.
But the wildly varying and random thoughts which were scribbled in my stream-of-consciousness writing this morning, included some which revealed discouragement about the ratio of 'years travelled' to 'distance travelled' in my walk with God.
I wrote down the thoughts which followed those, too, and they were all about the conversion of C.S. Lewis and how, afterward, his life and work were so completely devoted to Christ and to spreading the gospel.
Of course, the next thoughts to hit the page were about how abyssmal my own scrawny devotion is and how seriously my life and work are lacking in fruitfulness.
Do you see why it is a difficult discipline to do the morning pages?
Later in the morning, feeling the need of extra heart-help as I prepared to do my Bible study lesson, I grabbed a devotional book that I read only occasionally.
Here is a portion of what I read in the May 2nd entry of "Daily with my Lord" by W. Glynn Evans.
"This also means that I must forget comparison with others. Comparison means we are at the same point, on the same level. But no two children of God are ever at precisely the same point or on the same level. I must not, therefore, compare myself to David Brainerd, Henry Martyn, or Jim Elliot. I must only ask God if He is satisfied with my progress at a given moment, If He is, all is well, even though flaws and specks appear in my makeup."
I broke into tears when I read that.
All that I had 'dumped' in my morning pages came flooding back to me, and I heard God say (again!), " You do not, but I feel kindly toward you, Naomi."
So, I'm thinking a lot about discipline and discipleship.
If I hadn't shown up for morning pages (which is a discipline for my creative life), would I have been conscious of those discouraging thoughts?
If I hadn't shown up for His touch through His word, would I have gotten His light on those thoughts?
And yet, it's still hard to show up.
It's hard to show up to create; to write, to draw...
...to play or write music.
It's hard to show up to spend time with God; to listen, to read, to pray, to study.
There is resistance.
But there is Someone who feels kindly towards us, and when we show up...
...we find Him waiting.
Prince Charming and I recently attended the Restoration Arts Conference - "Beauty's Role in a Broken World".
It was so meaningful to me, on such a deep level, that I am finding it impossible to write about it.
You can watch a trailer of the documentary on the (beautiful) life and work of keynote speaker, artist Mako Fujimura, here.
I keep trying to form words to tell what being part of this deep conversation meant to me, but I can't do it; suffice to say it was a tremendous privilege and is still impacting my everyday life.
Of course, because I never want to miss capturing any visual images which might aid my memory, or your understanding, I took my camera with me.
During one break-out session, when the speaker asked how many people in the room were artists, there was almost a 100% show of hands; yet this was a conference about ideas and, in the end, I took exactly one photograph.
In the ladies bathroom.
I was so tickled and pleased that someone, whose work is the rather mundane business of manufacturing and selling public bathroom stall doors, had enough fun in their heart to put this kind of stamp their product:
Ain't it great?
About a month ago, Prince Charming came into possession of his late uncle's bowling ball.
Yesterday, St. Julie (my sister-in-law) and I came into possession of a bunch of used washers when she purchased some metal cabinets at a garage sale.
Last night, the two things came together with four rolls of nickels, a tube of E6000, the remaining candlestick of a pair that had formerly been part of our house decor, and a long-held desire to make something I'd seen somewhere (I'm sorry I can't find the source to credit it).
I'm glad I didn't make this until Uncle Mason's bowling ball came our way and St. Julie and I happened upon the washers when we were together.
Now, instead of what could have been just a funky little something that I took my art out on, I have memories in the form of...of...of...a funky little something that I took my art out on.
Not sure where it will finally come to abide, and I still hope to stumble on a more perfect stand, but for now I will leave it be while St. Julie and I...
...sniff glue in front of the coppers.