Monday, January 30, 2012

a little creating on the weekend

We didn't have much planned this weekend, and that was just fine by me.  On Saturday I went dancing with the younger child, having some special time with her being goofy.  Then we ran a few errands, and in the afternoon both girls had playdates.  A great opportunity for me to steal away into my creating space and finish the piece I've been working on.

I started with some nice scraps of paper glued onto my canvas, then painted with several layers of Golden acrylics.  I applied some homemade stencils over the top (snowflakes, I'm in a wintry mood).  The bird I scetched by hand and then collaged with the front page of the New York Times.  It didn't excite me when I was finished, so I pasted lace over the top of it, which gives it a softer feeling.  I really enjoyed creating a background of curlycew doodles, over which I painted a very basic tree.  I designed the Mandala with the help of my nifty Geometrigraph and Polygraph Set which my wonderful husband gave me for Christmas.  So fun!  The final touches are three small embroidered mirrors.  The whole piece is about 11x14" and is currently hanging in my studio

It's not until you post photos that you realize that the walls are crying out for paint

I seem to be really into blues these days... the urge to create something more colorful is beginning to assert itself, I can't wait to see where it leads.

Meanwhile my space has been taken over by a certain nine-year old who just needed to make a mailbox this weekend:

After much hammering outside my bedroom yesterday afternoon, today it needed painting.  (Note to family:  next time, could we try the garage or the mudroom or the basement?...pretty please!)
Now my mind is turing to sewing again.  The girl child has asked for mommy-made pants, there are a couple of tops I wanted to make, and I've been wanting to add a garland to the house.  And so begins another busy week...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

remember when

This week's journal challenge by Emily was titled "how we met."  This page is a bit crazy as I've been learning about different art journaling techniques online, and had to try some of them out.  I'm not sure if I'm a fan of alcohol inks on packing tape yet - this might work better in a bigger collage that's finished with gel medium - but I'm really enjoying stamping and painting in many, many layers.  One thing I have learned is to lighten my colors when experimenting, so I can write on them later.  I'm also sticking to the rule of using up everything, so I will take any paint from another project and just put it on a page for future journaling.

I've never really gotten the idea of art journaling as an end in itself before, but I like using this challenge to get to know my paint colors and how materials work together, so when I use them in other mixed media work, I'm not just experimenting anymore.  I can't promise all the pages will be attractive, but they will all be colorful!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

me and my girl

We were not even home yet when she said some skiing was in order.  I had a headache, but Dad was busy for a little while longer, so I let myself be convinced.  I am so glad I did.

We strapped our skis on right outside the garage.  To her surprise, I did not turn toward the back of the property but straight down the hill.  After several crashes accompanied by lots of giggles, we both arrived at the bottom.  Then, to her astonishment, we crossed the road and skied to the field on the other side.  "I have never left our yard on skis before" she exclaimed with big eyes.

For just over half an hour, we followed tracks made by a neighbor, carved our own, fell and rose (well, that's what she likes best after all) and watched a small animal make tracks under the snow.

Then suddenly she was tired and ready to go home.  One last scuttle up the hill, skis off ("Mommy, can you carry these?") and inside for a snack and warming up by the woodstove.

These are the moments I try to hold on to.  Because it's only half an hour, and yet...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

hello on thursday

Oh my, this week seems to be rushing by with various doctor's appointments, new classes, sick children and sundry mundane events.  But luckily, most of these (except the sick kids, of course) are good and much welcome.

Today we had to go into town for a parent teacher conference, so my husband and I were able to grab lunch at our favorite coffee shop.

Since we are both working at home now, we have committed to one lunch outing per week and it's been wonderful.  Having these mini-dates in the middle of a work day really helps us connect with each other and focus on our relationship.  Great coffee an absolute bonus.

I have also been working my way through an online class on art journaling.  This has been a lot of fun, especially as the nine-year old has joined me in the studio to help.  It has been such a welcome source of one-on-one time as we gesso, dab, paint, scrape and glue.  The class is on layering and texture for journaling backgrounds, and of course it is sparking all kinds of ideas on techniques to create depth in my pieces.  Here are a couple of pages in progress; I will post the final results when I have them

The ridges on this page are created by closing the journal on wet gesso and opening it again, then letting it dry.  On top of that are several layers of inktense and acrylic paint, plus glued paper. I'm a little surprised at the color of the blue paint in this picture, which in real life looks a lot more vibrant.  I used Golden's Cerulean Blue Deep liquid acrylics.

This page started with gesso designs and then several layers of paint and gesso applied on it to create a layered and distressed look.

I can't wait to see how these will turn out.  The process of mucking around with paint together with a child is just too much fun.  To be continued!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

slow tuesday

It's raining outside, and that seems to perfeclty match the mood in our home, where the sniffles are making their way around and it feels oh, so quiet.  There is much snuggling, reading and tea sipping going on.  The children have been home five of the last six days, so it's beginning to feel like winter break all over again.  I love the slow quietness, and I know the girls won't be the only ones who'll be sad to see this kind of togetherness end when they return to school tomorrow.

The dog has adopted an old blanket and, ahem, our floor pillows.  Poor thing, he was born in Hawai'i and really prefers to be warm by the woodstove.  The snow is really not his favorite.  Meanwhile the children have adopted my favorite hammock chair.....

Since the living room has been invaded and taken over by them, this Mama had to make a cup of tea and find a place to sit in her studio.  And so at last I was able to finish the tiny shelf the twelve-year-old has requested I paint for her weeks ago.  A little color to brighten up this day:

Friday, January 13, 2012

mixed media collage

I just checked my blog traffic and I realize that there are a lot more people visiting here than I was aware of.  Welcome!  I would love it if all who read this would leave a brief comment (even if you're my FB friend) and let me know where you're posting from and what brought you here.  Thank you!

Today we're all a little off rhythm.  Yesterday was a snow day and school started two hours late this morning.  Our carpool driver was delayed because there was a minor skidding incident (thankfully nobody and nothing was hurt, we hear he was very, very lucky), and the children only spent four hours in school.

I did use my time productively though, and finished up a collage work that I began early in the summer.  Somehow I was missing something in the piece, so it wouldn't come together.  But earlier this week I was speaking with an acquaintance about how much time you can spend in a studio just thinking about what you want to do instead of actually getting to work.  She suggested I post some motivating phrases on the wall, but since that isn't entirely my style, I came up with this instead:

After painting the background with thick fluid acrylics to build up some texture, I added sand, shells, a few pieces of coral and a rock to the foreground.  It's amazing what you can find around the house!  The ladies on the left are copied from an old family photograph (though I don't think anyone knows who they are), the other pictures were cut out a long time ago from magazines.  I added a final glaze of self-leveling gel.  Voila!  I had a lot of fun with it and now it will hang in my studio to remind me that you do need to make that first step happen if you want to complete anything. 

Hopefully it will help me cut down a bit on my dreaming time and increase my doing-time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

journaling together

It is funny how sometimes you get interested in a theme and then all of a sudden you see that theme everywhere.  Sort of like when you're pregnant and all of a sudden it seems like you only see pregnant people.  Perhaps it's where your attention is, or coincidence.

In any case, I re-dedicated myself to journaling again in December.  Since I have a terrible memory, I decided to write down a summary of every day (tedious as that may seem) so it will help me remember life in our family.
At New Year's we started a family journal.  For years we've written down our thoughts on the previous year and our hopes for the coming one, but this year we decided to take it a step further:

As in previous years we decided to begin with our thoughts on the past and the future.  We also decided that every weekend we would write a little about the previous week.

And of course it wouldn't be a family journal if it wasn't open to drawing and other contributions:

So as I was getting into my journaling groove, imagine my excitement when I came across Emily's blog and this post.  Coincidence much?  It just so happens our daughters are good friends but we hadn't talked since before the holidays.  And of course I love her 2012 journaling challenge, so I jumped right in.

Problem was I didn't have a journal on hand, so with instructions from this lovely book which I picked up at a book sale last year, I made one.  I've been wanting to learn how to make books for a few years now, so what an opportunity!  I really like the final result

I like how it came out.  I used a watercolor painting for the cover and just regular computer paper on the inside.   And here is my first entry, based on this prompt:

Journaling and sharing the journal with others is a new experience for me.  I look forward to learning from others and see all the creativity out there.  It should be a lot of fun!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

it's going to be a lovely day

Northwest view with chicken coop


Our neighbor - the Mountain

It's early morning.  We live on one of a series of ridges, and when the sun comes up, the world around us is bathed in light.  Everything is still.  The woods hold their breath.  A sacred moment.  Then the sun, never still, moves higher and the light changes.  I go inside, knowing that this will be a good day.

did I mention cooking and baking?

Well, since I have had questions about some recipes before, I thought I'd let you in on a few of them.  Sadly I cannot take full credit for the granola, as I used one from Amanda Soule's beautiful blog, soulemama.  I do make some changes to it though, using only coconut oil and adding shredded coconut into the mix.  Also, if I don't have an ingredient on hand I'll happily use another, sometimes adding nuts.  I'd love to try adding dried fruit to this one, but I'd be on my own eating it in this family, and what is the fun in that?  Another change is that I bake it until it's "dark golden", as I like it crunchy and roasted.

Now the soup, on the other hand, I cannot give a source for, as my emailed copy is dated 2003 and indicates at least 3 forwards.  Popular little brew, indeed.  In fact, what I love about this soup is that my children will eat it until they are stuffed.  It is quite sweet and contains a small amount of wine, which you can omit or cook off.  I cook it with the wine and my children seem to tolerate it just fine.  So here is what I do:

Take a medium butternut squash and 4-5 small sweet potatoes and roast them in the oven until done.  I usually cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds and roast it cut side down with a little water and covered up.  Since there are a number of steps in this recipe, I often do this a day or two ahead of time.  Another alternative is to peel and dice the vegetables and cook them in vegetable broth with a cinnamon stick and some salt.

When you are ready to make the soup, take 2 medium onions and slice them thinly.  Cook them in butter until they begin to caramelize.  While cooking the onions, peel and slice 3-5 pears thinly, then add them to the onion.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently.  Next, pour in about 1/3 cup of white wine, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. 

While the pear mixture is cooking, heat 4-6 cups of vegetable broth, add a cinnamon stick and the squash and sweet potato.  Then add the pears and onions and puree everything.  Add salt to taste and some cream and pepper.  Serve hot and enjoy!

soup, salad and some mini-quiche means no hungry children tonight!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

the weekend

Oh my goodness, I didn't nearly take as many pictures as I had planned of our weekend. It was a time of doing of many different kinds:

beer, yeast and Husband's quality control lab

We - and when I say we, I mean my husband - brewed the first batch of beer (thank you, Santa Claus for the supplies!)  If it turns out it will be called "Mystery Ale" on account of the ingredients which weren't all immediately recognizable.  If it is really gross, it will be called compost.

Thrifting:  this is the only picture I got of that outing.  Husband needed new jeans and evidently a dart board - who knew?  I needed some knit shirts for a project or seven that I'm working on which I am not talking about yet.  I promise when I do talk about them, I will do so here first.  Of course the children never know what they need until they get to the store.  It turns out one needed a gorgeous wool/angora hoodie, and the other a handful of Skittles from the old-fashioned vending machine.

Loving:  This gentle soul whom I lovingly refer to as "the meatball" to distinguish him from the neighbor's dog whom we call "the fluffball".  Doesn't that face just tell you that you must drop everything and pet him right now?  Or maybe he is contemplating what ironic twist of fate transported him from warm, sunny Hawaii to New England.  Which reminds me of my grad school roommate from Thailand, who, on seeing the first snowfall, kept uttering: "I think I may have made a mistake!"

Skating on our teeny tiny pond out back with the new ice skates.  It turns out that the ice was solid, but really, really wet.  And this is how our children learned (again) that snowpants are not watertight.

Cooking soup and pasta sauce and baking pizza and granola.  We spend a lot of time in the kitchen as a family.  In fact, after our beds I think the dining room chairs are hands down our most frequently used pieces of furniture.  Which makes me think that it may really be time to finish painting the kitchen and dining room. And to bake some more things like bread and cookies.  Yes, that feels about right, doesn't it?

I love how each season has it's activities.  I tend to want to cook and bake comforting, nutritious meals when it is cold out.  I love to sit with the dog (or a guinea pig) and pet them, read stories to the children in front of the woodstove, venture out for short periods of time and I especially love to work in my studio.  There is something about the season that makes me turn inward, into myself, into my home, into my family.

But as soon as the year turns, I also look forward, thinking of the summer, when we will shed the layers, spend most of our days outside (hello, garden!), watch tadpoles grow in the pond, explore the woods and end our afternoons in places like this:

Really, it's practically just around the corner.

cosmic gardening :: burying the seeds

No, I haven't tried to sow my seeds in January in New Hampshire.  But you may remember that I'm taking a class on Biodynamic gardening, and it it common practice to bury your seeds in the middle of winter.

According to Rudolf Steiner, humans, plants and animals are all subject to planetary forces that work within us.  If you have ever felt anxious about heading into winter in September, or an inner sense of stillness in midwinter, or dreamy and unfocused in late spring or early summer, you have experienced these forces in your soul.  You can work to understand these forces by meditating on the weekly verses Steiner presents in the Calendar of the Soul.

In agriculture and gardening, these forces are also evident.  The Moon, Mercury and Venus forces work with the Sun to influence all that happens in plant life above the surface of the Earth.  Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, on the other hand, reign underground.  Supposedly their forces are particularly strong the two weeks after the Winter Solstice, and seeds buried about a foot underground (in a natural, watertight container), benefit from these forces and produce healthier, stronger plants.

As part of my biodynamics training, I am doing a project wherein I promised to bury seeds over the holidays and plant them along with a control group to see how they compare.

So as my children, my sister and her husband were comfortably snuggling into the sofa in front of the woodstove following a sumptious dinner on Christmas Eve, my dear husband (bless him) and I put on our coats and headlamps (we may have remembered this taks a little late in the day- ahem!) and headed outside with a jar of carefully covered seeds.  Luckily I had dug a bed in the fall and it wasn't too, too cold, so the ground was not frozen.  The soil was soft and loose, so it was an easier job than I anticipated.  Just as we were finishing up, it began to snow.

I picked two different kind of lettuce seeds in hopes they may mature by June

Two labeled envelopes in a small jar securely taped

The seeds stayed in the ground from December 24 until January 6.  Last Friday began sunny and surprisingly warm (in the 40's), though when I began to dig later in the afternoon, the ground was fairly solidly frozen.

Always mark where you bury things!

There it is (the little white circle)! Note the bricks on the sides to protect the jar from breaking while being dug up.

I love how the picture shows the ice crystals in the top 4-6 inches of soil.  Underneath it was loose and soft.

I will share my findings with you here after the seeds are planted.  On my way back to the shed I found these little lovelies smiling at me:

Have a great week!