Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas to all . . .

. . . and to all a Good Night!

No matter whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus -- or some other holiday I haven't heard of that occurs this time of year -- we wish you all safe travel, peace and joy!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Oh the weather outside is . . .

. . . beautiful! We had an ice storm late Thursday night. A danger and inconvenience to many, but not to me. I had to get out and walk through the wonderland. It was magical! So many branches down around the neighborhood -- thankfully there was no damage to the house or our cars.

Yes, I'm one of those wacky people who likes storms and otherwise threatening weather.

My heart is filled with joy at times like these to know that no matter the progress of technology or the conquests of humankind, there is no controlling the weather. The universe is operating at its finest!

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's a balmy 40-ish day . . .

. . . here in Illinois and my fur-bearing muse and I just returned from a walk around the block. This is the rear view of our 2-year rental home, it's the one with the teal door. The house on the right was exactly like ours on the outside except for paint colors and our back stairs have been replaced. The house on the left is an original, to-die-for Craftsman complete with diamond paned windows and all the original interior woodwork. All three homes (and MANY more) belong to Fulvio Zerla, land baron. We really like the empty lot next to us and have plans for some spring landscaping. The photo below shows the proximity of our house to the beautiful church on the next block. If you saw my recent "crow attack" video you would have heard the church's bells chiming in with the crow noise. Behind our house is a parking lot reserved for hospital employees.
Next is a view of the church from the corner. BTW, if you click on the photo above you may be able to see the wonderful job the corner homeowner has done covering just about every opening with chain link fence. That's the only building in the strip that doesn't belong to Mr. Z.

Below is the view above the roof across the street where you can see the cranes erected on Jim's jobsite at the hospital. If he was a crow he could be home in seconds instead of the approximate three minutes it takes to drive. He hasn't taken the walk yet.

Here's our place from the front, matching teal door.

Come on in!

Okay, we've closed the front door. Now that you're inside, have a look around. Blog readers will have to wait for another day for more photos of the interior.
Door glass is my glass paint creation.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jewelry Challenge - Project 3

Yes, still bringing up the rear on Deryn Mentock's jewelry challenge. And this one earns me the Big Duh! award. Now everyone can know what a proponent I am of NOT planning! I chose to use an oval of etched nickel, drilled my holes, bent my little shelf and made my dangles. But guess what? MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE COORDINATED MY DRILL BIT TO THE SIZE OF MY WIRE? Yep. Slipped the first dangle through the hole and proceeded to pound away on the copper wire. Picked the piece up to check out the effect and voila! The dangle fell right through the hole.

Since I really liked the oval piece I decided not to scrap the whole project but rather to "improvise, adapt and overcome" as Clint Eastwood would say. Thus, the spirals did the trick, keeping the dangles from plunging through the too-large holes.

My philosophy is to live, whenever possible, without regret; I'm chalking this one up to a learning experience.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"For you have the poor always with you . . ."

. . but when do you know you are one of them? My title today is part of the bible verse from Matthew 26:11. I think about this often these days. You'd have to be living under a rock to escape the realization that we're in some kind of economic recession. Some days I even wonder whether it will end before we see a modern version of this:

The photo is from 1928. Interesting, exactly 80 years ago. Maybe it's a cycle. Doesn't really matter, though, does it?

I have to start by saying that never in my life have I considered myself to be "affluent." There were difficult times as a single parent but no time in which I needed to resort to welfare or charity beyond my own family. And I've been very spoiled for a number of years now. My husband started the spoiling and I quickly learned to participate in it myself. And let's face it, the meaning of "poor" is so very relative.

Lately I've been obsessing about, of all things, my toenails. I had my last pedicure before we moved to Illinois at the beginning of October. Of course it's the french pedi so it's not all that evident to the casual observer that I'm beginning to grow talons. Costs a little more but it's SO worth it! I've been avoiding getting a pedicure because, frankly, I just don't want to spend the money. I know, I know, it's only $30 or so. But we've been having to "tighten the belt" following four months of unemployment earlier this year. And the transfer to Illinois for two years has required us to rent -- for everyone knows one can't sell a house in Florida right now without a loss. So here we are with rent on top of the FL mortgage and double the utilitie bills. The FL house still has to be heated or cooled, right? The irrigation system still has to run in order to maintain the landscaping. And since we're not there we have the additional expenses of pool and landscape maintenance, things we used to take care of for ourselves. Boo hoo. I hear 'ya.

Today I was at the grocery store filling up the cart with the normal food items, the deli sliced ham, the Dove chocolates, the Christian Brothers brandy and eggnog combo. It was in the bread aisle that I encountered two women, seemingly strangers, talking about the high price of bread, of all things. As I passed them one said to the other "Oh, well, I guess we'll have to wait on that." Imagine going to the grocery store and one of the items on your list, bread, has to wait because it is too expensive. I wanted to buy the bread for her and perhaps I should have offered but at the time I thought she would be embarassed.

It's something to think about for most of us, I'm sure. Yeah, I know you believe you deserve that daily beverage from Starbuck's. There are/were 262 working days in 2008 for those of you who have to make a living (just kidding). Let's say you didn't go for the $14, 13 shot venti soy hazelnut vanilla cinnamon white mocha with extra white mocha and caramel. Still, are you really sure you deserved that daily Venti Mocha for, maybe, $5? Or do you more deserve the $1,300 and change you would have still had at the end of the year? Yes, of course I realize you cut back to going out to dinner only once a week and you just get the quick car wash instead of the full detailing. As I said, "poor" is all relative.

All of this thinking about the economy and our personal expenses has led me to a lightbulb moment. When did I forget how to use a nail clipper? When did I become unable to paint my own toes? What a revelation!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Let it snow!

After an impromptu pumpkin carving party in October, family members assigned me the task of planning a craft project for the Thanksgiving visit. Coincidentally (not really, as I like to believe the universe provides) I received my current issue of Craft, Paper, Scissors magazine a few weeks ago and on seeing the cover photo I knew I had a project.

After the pie and eggnog settled we all gathered back around the table to make our glass bottle snow people. Various containers had been gathered by Joy and I from thrift shops and other supplies purchased at various stores. We had "snowflakes," glitter, stickers and rub-ons, air-drying clay, beads, bulbs, bells and wire and so on.

You would have thought we were brainstorming on how to achieve world peace judging by the serious expressions!

It's really cool how an activity like this can span age and gender differences!

Oh, and I did I mention that we had BEADS, BEADS and more BEADS?

And what midwestern man has never made a snowperson?

It was a fitting way to close a FABULOUS family holiday. And what a super way to demonstrate that we all have a spark of creativity in us just waiting to get out!

Here's our finished snow person community:

Thanks so much to artist Sue Pelletier and the editors of Cloth, Paper, Scissors for the inspiration!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Good spuds, good meat . . .

. . . good God, let's eat! Okay, wipe that horrified look off your face -- that wasn't the REAL blessing we said at the Thanksgiving dinner table. And what a magnificent meal it was, our first traditional family Thanksgiving in the midwest in nine years. For those years, living in the deep south, Thanksgiving dinner had morphed into barbecued ribs poolside while the turkeys ran free. So nice to be back!
This year, in order to lessen the stress on our gracious hostess, we all agreed to help out with the cooking. The turkey was, without doubt, the finest and most moist and delicious I've ever had thanks to Steve's magic. Denise, Tom and Jess pitched in to make super cheesy potatoes, parmesan pull-apart bread and fresh cranberry sauce. Heather stuffed the celery, Joy made the dressing and I provided the marinated veggies. We finished off the meal with French Silk Pie by Chef Jimmy. Okay, not the most traditional menu but definitely one we all enjoyed.

Does it seem like we find more to be thankful for in these difficult economic times than when all is rolling along smoothly? Just having the family all together was ALL I could have ever asked for; an amazing meal was a wonderful extra. Gratitude to the universe!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What's my secret?

That was the name of one of the first TV game shows back in the day. Panelists asked questions of the guest with the secret and obtained clues until they could ascertain what usually turned out to be an unusual occupation. Pretty tame for those of us dwelling in the 21st century -- none of the contestants ever said his secret was being a serial killer; none of the women ever admitted to being an "escort."

It is often said in self-help circles that one is only as sick as one's secrets. A few years back, a man named Frank Warren had an idea for an art exhibit. He distributed 3000 post cards, leaving them in books, on park benches and in other public places inviting strangers to share a secret; something that was true and something they'd never told anyone else before. He got about 100 cards back and used them for his art exhibit.

Surprisingly to Frank the cards kept arriving, often at the rate of about 200 per week. In 2005 Frank created a blog to showcase his 20 picks for the week, posting the new batch each Sunday. I learned of this only last week; perhaps many of you have already visited http://postsecret.blogspot.com/. If you haven't, stop by. The cards are an amazing insight into the secrets people keep. And many of them are quite artsy which I personally love to see. Some are amusing, some will cause you to laugh out loud and some are downright tragic. Here's one I kind of like:

Theoretically it is supposed that if one writes down one's secret on a card and sends it off in the mail it is no longer a secret and the writer is released of its burden. Maybe we all have some flotsam and jetsam to unload before we go into yet another new year.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Alfred Hitchcock I'm not, but . . .

. . . the digital cameras are so easy to use even a monkey could make a video. Speaking of animals, here's a little video clip of the winged variety. This started on Saturday when we heard a cacophony of church bells and cawing outside our house. This is an historic house we're currently renting in Peoria, IL, by the way, which seems to add to the creepiness of all of this.

To make a long story short, we watched HUNDREDS of huge crows roosting in the trees behind the house across the street. At seemingly scheduled intervals all of them would take off together, virtually recreating a scene from "The Birds." This went on all afternoon with us not realizing that when they left the neighbor's trees they were landing in the ones in OUR BACKYARD. Other than being somewhat annoyed by all the noise and the terror they struck in my tiny dog, we didn't think anymore of it. Until Sunday morning when we opened the blinds and saw CROW POOP everywhere. EVERYWHERE! The cars are covered with the nasty blobs. If you watch closely in my little video you'll see blobs on the sidewalk and blobs on the porch. And you'll see crows! Turn up the audio, enjoy the cawing and the church bells!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More inspiration from my Muse . . .

who has been somewhat under the weather with an eye infection. Warm compresses twice a day and ointment may be helping but I thought what she really needed were some new and festive accessories, hence the Christmas elf look:

As you can see she is ecstatic about wearing clothing, as always.

In an effort to further broaden my artistic horizons I've been taking an encaustic art class. Simplified, it's about making art with wax. My first piece is a collage which is so far unfinished. The jury is still out re: this process -- I'm wondering why one wouldn't just want to make a collage with the many processes and materials available that don't include wax. So far it just seems to add an unnecesary layer which, by the way, makes the piece all the more fragile and prone to damage.

Just for the heck of it, though, I threw together a 6x6 piece earlier in the week. Although I have mixed feelings about posting it, I'm trying to keep an open mind and remember what my son says -- "everything is art to someone." Here it is, and please be kind in your comments.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What's that you say? You'd like to create . . .

. . . but you can't afford the supplies? Check out the work of these two artists using NOTHING but Sharpie markers.



No more excuses!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Impress them . . .

. . . with this delicious chili! Found this recipe in Bon Appetit magazine. They give credit to JW's Food & Spirits in Grand haven, Michigan. I've made it twice -- it is easy, quick and great!

White Bean & Chicken Chili
6 Servings

This recipe calls for cooked chicken making it a good way to use up leftovers. Just toss the chicken with fresh vegetables and a few other pantry items and you've got yourself a perfect autumn meal.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapenos from jar
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 15-ounce cans Great Northern beans, drained
1 pound cooked chicken breast, chopped
1/2 cup half and half

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add celery, onion, bell pepper and jalapeno; saute until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder and cumin; saute 1 minute. Add broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add beans, chicken and half and half. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls and serve.

*** I would imagine you could use the already-chopped jalapenos that come in a small can. Also I purchase boneless chicken breasts to make this, just cut them up brown in a frying pan before adding them to the chili.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Challenge Folded Earrings

Last Friday I completed my first pair of folded metal earrings for the jewelry challenge that's been running via Deryn Mentock's blog. You can find the details of the challenge and photos of some of the projects here:

People who know me best realize a certain odd conflict about me. I've been making jewelry for years, selling it at art shows and online, and yet I'm not much of a jewelry wearer. When it comes time for my birthday or Christmas (or any other holiday that I can get a gift for!) I always seem to choose tools or some art-related materials gift certificates. When I wear jewelry it is almost always something that was a gift. Odd. Yes.

Well this was different. We were going out to dinner and to do some shopping Friday evening so I thought I'd just throw on those newly created earrings. Later that evening after returning home I was snuggling on the couch with my muse when I noticed I WAS WEARING ONLY ONE EARRING! My loving and supportive husband immediately ran out to the car and searched inside and out. Ever try to find a copper earring in the fallen autumn leaves? Nada.

On Saturday I was up bright and early (for me) and we set out to retrace our steps. We searched the restaurant and Lowe's, their lost-and-founds, and all but crawled around the parking lots. Again, nada.

Nevertheless I am submitting my link for this project and I'm happy to say I still have ONE of the earrings. That counts, right? Only now it's going to have to be a pendant.

And many thanks for featuring my stacked necklace on your blog, Deryn!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Color Study

While visiting in Indiana I was attracted to some ornamental grass by it's great color. I'm not much of a photographer but I think this one will be blown up and framed because I really love it. While I was looking at it on the computer screen I got to wondering just how many colors there actually were so I isolated them using an online palette generator. Imagine the possibilities: decorating a room around the photo, creating an outfit or piece of jewelry using the colors, even using them to choose the mat colors for framing. Here it is:
Here's the screen shot from my monitor of colors the palette generator found:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lewis and Clark? Marco and Polo?

Blake and Taylor. Exploring the Kirkendall Creek to be exact. What an outstanding way to spend a beautiful, warm November afternoon. Catch a frog, lose a Croc in the mud, navigate the rapids. They did it all. Experienced woodsperson that I am, I managed to hit myself in the forehead with a branch and turned myself into a unicorn.

NOTE: Not a mom-sanctioned activity and don't try this at home, we are professionals. And we took hot showers immediately after!

Our victorious survivors!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

We spent Halloween in Indiana with the Kelly family. This is something of a tradition that dates back to Blake's first Halloween when he dressed up as a tiny bat. After Taylor's arrival in 2000 she joined our ghoulish bunch and now we make it a point to be together on Halloween. Here's Blake with his Rastafarian dad. My goodness, what parents would allow their little Padmé Amidala and storm trooper to trick or treat with such a scary escort? My friends collected treats till dark -- I'm estimating the take at approximately 25 pounds. Each year a neighbor takes a turn hosting the after-party and this year was no exception. The weather held up nicely and we all got our sugar high!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Challenge Necklace

I've been reading a few other artists' blogs lately and came across one that put out a challenge last June to work through making projects using techniques featured in Mary Hettmansperger's book "Wrap, Stitch, Fold & Rivet." Here I am, as always a day late and several dollars short. A friend once said of me "You are so slow you're going backwards." Well I'm not sure I'm slow but I am often a victim of my own lack of planning.

So, although this was meant to be a summer project, summer of 2008 that is, here's my entry for project number 1. Check out the details of the challenge and the entries at Deryn Mentock's blog:


I listed this necklace for sale tonight on my Etsy shop. Will I continue on through the rest of the book? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This is as close as I can get . . .

. . . to having Johnny Depp in my house. Or, more accurately, Captain Jack Sparrow. I'm sure he's more fun than Johnny anyway. Maybe.

I love, love, love Halloween! It is absolutely my favorite holiday ever.
We have only recently relocated to Illinois and we are living in a house built in the 1800s; I was hoping to encounter some friendly spirits here but other than the neighbors, no such luck. We found some VERY friendly spirits last weekend in the Chicago area and held an impromptu pumpkin carving class. It was quite a mixed group of gender and age and it is safe to say a good time was had by all. Worth mentioning -- these are all first-time pumpkin carvers and their results were magnificent!

Thanks to my sister, Joy, for the wonderful treats, great decorations and a fire to take the chill off!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Who doesn't love fall color?

Just a few photos of Illinois fall color from a road trip on a beautiful October Sunday:

A fine day made even better when you can enjoy it with a friend!