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Monday, June 2, 2014

On Peaks And Valleys

Yes, I am still alive! I know, I’ve been gone for a while.

And that leads me right into the topic I want to put out there today.

Whenever you read about successful blogging by the experts anywhere, they tell you that one of the KEY things is to blog regularly. Lots of reasons why and they are all good reasons.

Yet, so many bloggers I know blog in spurts. Does it make me want to read their blogs any less? No, not really, in fact sometimes I find the blogs that give me a great big blog post every single day a bit much, because I will inevitably fall behind.

 

I am very much a “spurt blogger” too. For weeks, even months, I want to share everything on my blog. I find the time, I take the photos, it all flows nicely. And then I inevitably enter a phase where it’s jut not happening. Usually, something else needs more of my attention, or I am just simply “blogged out” for a bit.
I used to have a lot of guilt about this. After all, I wasn’t doing it right.  I was letting my readers down. And it’s not like I don’t have anything to share - I just couldn’t quite get “my act together” to just keep doing it. Surely I would lose every single reader I ever had if I just quit blogging for a month.

Especially if I did that on a semi-regular basis.

 

But lately, it has occurred to me that first of all, the guilt doesn’t help anybody, least of all me. In fact, if there’s guilt in the way, chances are that blog post are even less likely to happen again, because well, it’s just no fun! Who needs that heaviness?

Second of all, it’s part of who I am. Be it on the blog, be it in my art, be it in real life. I work, play, paint, blog, be an extrovert/introvert in spurts. And I thoroughly enjoy it!


And then I need to retreat a little. Find my center again. Refuel. I enjoy the quiet then. I enjoy focusing on something else for a bit. I enjoy my own company for a bit.


I’m not talking completely exhausting myself, crashing and then needing to retreat to recuperate and “save” myself. Even though, that’s been more my tendency in my earlier years. These days my peaks and valleys are more rolling than spiking. *grin*

 


What I am saying is, that I have realized that this is, as much as anything else, who I am.

I am a spurt blogger.

I am an introvert with extrovert spurts or an extrovert with introvert spurts and I need  both.

 


For many years I always thought I should be finding the balance between the two at all times. Like, if I were to do a “spot check” on my life at any given time, I should be able to see balance (slightly more or less) between aspects of my life at all times.

And, not surprisingly, I always failed. Then I would beat myself up about not being able to find the balance, etc.

 

I have come to realize that when I am on fire, when I am inspired, when I am in the thralls of creation - there is no such thing as balance. Not in those moments or phases. The balance will come again, but it’s not there in those moments and phases of creation and change!

I have also realized that this doesn’t mean I am “unbalanced” either.

Much like on an old fashioned scale, when you add weight to one side (or take it away for that matter,) there will be a temporary imbalance as the side that’s being added to will swing to one side. Until you balance it out with the other side. It’s how it works.  And it’s a good thing.

 

Perfect balance at all times would be standstill. And life, the universe and we as human beings - we just don’t do perfect balance/ standstill for any length of time!


And by realizing, accepting, and honoring that I have found much more joy in my life - with both the “peaks” and the “valleys.”  Neither is good or bad. They both just are.

And I mean really honoring that. Intellectually we all know that there can’t be balance at all times. This is nothing new.

 

But to really truly internalize that and enjoy the swinging to the left and to the right of the proverbial scale, and enjoying visiting each side AND the swinging in between, to embrace the chaos that can ensue in the process -  that took a little more work for me!

Embracing the chaos and trusting that it will all work out in the end - that’s not only a true act of letting go of control, but of trust and receiving. Not something that comes easily to me. But I am getting better!

In all areas of my life.

 

And yes, that also means that there may be blog posts every other day for several months. And then there might be nothing. For a month. Or two.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Around Here Lately

Hello friends! It’s been a while!

Wow, it’s been quite the ride around here for the last few weeks!

So, I thought I’d give you the nutshell low-down of some of the things that have been happening around here lately!

1. There was a lot of this! My husbands family came to visit in March, which was closely followed by my folks visiting from Germany to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday with us!

{Please ignore my sinusitis induced swollen face!}

 

 

 

And this is the portrait I painted for him as a birthday gift.

 

2. Both my daughter and my husband are currently rehearsing for plays at the local community theater. Two different plays.  Which means rehearsals every night and all weekends between the two of them!

 


{Anna during the performance of her last play!}

 

3. While we got through the winter with very little sickness, it seemed to have caught up with us now. First I went down with some icky sinusitis (right in the middle of my folks visiting!) then the kids went down with something too, even though not nearly as bad. They had the good sense to wait with the real icky stuff until my folks left and Max is still down with it right now, having been home for 4 days, sick!

 

4. I have also had a bit of a redecorating bug, as I have already mentioned, and in addition to being busy sewing a bunch of stuff for the redecorated bedroom (curtains, pillow cases, duvet covers, etc.) I ended up making a few decorative pieces for various spots throughout the house, too.

 

 

 

I’m not quite done yet. I think the living room is next in terms of a redo, which will require quite a bit of DIYing on my part as well. I’m planning on using some of our existing Billy system, but as they don’t make our color anymore, I will most likely have to paint the lot to make it uniform with the extension pieces I am planning on adding and making into a custom “built-in.” However, that is a whole different story and will probably be one of those  “I do a little when I can” kind of projects, as well as a “now that I have this down, let’s paint all the walls while we can and have a minor renovation” type of project.

For now I have, yet again, given my little IKEA drawers another make-over. I think this is the third décor/color change they have been through over the years. I wish IKEA still sold those! They are so much fun to alter!

 

 

4. And while looking for something else I came across the instructions for these little beauties and I just adore them! I’ve made two so far but I think I have a few more in me! Aren’t they so cute?

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-V9qmKE9wN4

 

My idea at the time was to make a paper mache mannequin stuck on a candle holder with a chicken wire skirt for my earrings, but then I cake across these sewn ones and I just had to try them!

One as a pin cushion:

 

 

By the way, for this one, I used a “candle holder” that I made this way from dollar store items.

 

The other is for my earrings:

 

 

I used drawer pulls for the top of the mannequins.

 

5. Of course, there is also always the garden. Lots to do there! Planting, harvesting, processing ... weeding!

 

 

    

 

 

And Mr./Mrs. Squirrel is back too, which would explain the disappearing strawberries!

 

{We caught him/her in the act this morning!}

 

6. Even though I’ve been doing a lot less of the painting kind of art these last few weeks, I have still kept up with  it somewhat. I’ve been working on several faces with the pastel/watercolor/gesso method. Totally new experience for me and really a different style, but I’m loving it!

 

 

7. I am currently really into expressing myself through things other than just paintings, so I am also working on my first art doll!  Totally still a work in progress at this point:

 

 

8. The other thing that’s been rocking my world:

 

 

I love, love, love this pot! It’s amazing! And I’m sure it will be the subject of many a blog post and recipe to come!

For now, let’s just say I haven’t cooked a day without it since I got it!

What is it?

InstantPot is an electric, programmable pressure cooker!

My favorites so far: Perfectly soft boiled eggs in 3 minutes, a full pot of potatoes in 10 minutes, beautiful, rich bone broths/stock in 1 hour (!!!), fluffy brown rice in 20 minutes, whole chicken, incredibly moist and tender in 25 minutes! Oh, and it makes yogurt too (dairy and non-dairy) .... and I get to make it in mason jars!! Oh and dairy-free cheese cake - yep, in the pressure cooker! In 20 minutes!

Basically, it has taken over the function of a pressure cooker, the crock pot, the rice cooker, the yogurt maker and so much more! And the insert is stainless steel, so no issue with non-stick coatings and such!

And non of the scary parts of pressure cooking are involved with this little machine! It has a bunch of built in safety features and  clean-up is so easy!

Anyway, as you can see, I am totally in love with the thing!

If you are interested in knowing more, there’s a nice little video in the amazon listing I linked you to.

And no, I am not affiliated with InstantPot, I just love the pot!

 

9. I’ve been working on quite a few blog posts recently. But they seem to evolve. So, they started out one way and while writing, they turn another way! As a result, I have quite a few blog posts in my draft folder, none ready to post and all in progress. I will get them all to you at some point. I hope!

 

10. There has also been a fair bit of this.

 

Gelli printing is so much fun!

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Monday, March 31, 2014

My Big Dream Catcher

Back in the beginning of February, I wrote a post about the large dream catcher I was planning to make. You may have wondered, if I forgot to post the end result or just abandoned the project all together, as I never spoke of it again.

Well, neither, really. I did go ahead and make it .... and make it .... and make it!

It appears to be one of those things that took on a life of it’s own and kept on growing and evolving. And even now, it’s by no means finished. I know that I still want to weave in a few more strands of relevant gem stones, take it up the sides a little more, etc.

Yes,  it still doesn’t feel done! However, I has been hanging above my bed for quite some time now as it’s evolving, so regard this post as a “progress update”, rather than a “I’m showing you my finished work” kind of post. Another one of those “work in progress” projects I mentioned in my last post.

But this one really lends itself to that status. As I add things that are precious to me, little knick-knacks and reminders of people and places, it grows and evolves and maybe it will never be entirely finished!

 

 

The interesting thing is also, that as I got started with the dream catcher, I had a completely different room. The long overdue and long wished-for re-design/reshuffle of my bedroom happened just in the last 2 weeks or so, too. Nothing fancy! Nothing expensive either - but oh so much more ME right now!

The room was in quite neutral greens and browns ever since we moved in, but I had such a desire to make it look and feel brighter, lighter with punches of color, especially lately! And some of my art work! And a little sacred corner!

So, I ended up with white, natural (light) wood tones and pops of orange and teal! Rather daring for me, I must say! But I love it!

This also started showing up in my otherwise quite neutral dream catcher!

See the Courage feather in there? I love that it ended up being the longest point of the dream catcher and with that, the closest in proximity to me! I think it is fitting!

So, what exactly do I have in this cream catcher?

 

 

Well, first of all, rather than weaving the inner part of the dream catcher, I strung a crochet lace doily to the metal loop, which I had left-over from my pantry project (I used the rings on the lazy Suzan's to stop the cans from sliding off.)

And then I have such an array of things. Feathers, obviously, lots of feathers. Some I found, some I bought, some were given to me!

 

 

Gems, pearls, beads, rocks, a piece of wood gathered by a friend for me on a walk, a copper triskelion I made for another project, a little earthen goddess I inherited from my mother, rose glass beads strung on lace, a heart shaped gemstone, a carved Buddha bead, silver wire pieces, lamp work pieces...  The list just goes on and on! Each piece, large or small, is there for a reason. And for a reason that is important and meaningful to me - nobody else. It’s a very personal piece and I love that about it!

 


And honestly, collecting significant pieces together for this project has been just as much fun and meaningful as the whole dream catcher itself! I also love that a lot of my little treasures now have a home, other than in a box or drawer!

My 8-year-old daughter has started to make her own dream catcher for her room, since mine has been up on the wall. She hasn’t asked for any help in making it and she is just using things that she finds in her room, making it out of bits of plastic, paper feathers and tiny little treasures she has collected over time!

How awesome is that!!

 

Here is a lovely story I found at Dream Catchers.org:

History of Dream Catchers:

Long ago when the word was sound, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision. In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and searcher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to him in a sacred language. As he spoke, Iktomi the spider picked up the elder’s willow hoop which had feathers, horsehair, beads and offerings on it, and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life, how we begin our lives as infants, move on through childhood and on to adulthood. Finally we go to old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle.

But, Iktomi said as he continued to spin his web, in each time of life there are many forces, some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you in the right direction.  But, if you listen to the bad forces, they’ll steer you in the wrong direction and may hurt you. So these forces can help, or can interfere with the harmony of Nature. While the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web.

When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the elder the web and said, ”The web is a perfect circle with a hole in the center. Use the web to help your people reach their goals, making good use of their  ideas, dreams and visions. If you believe in the great spirit, the web will filter your good ideas and the bad ones will be trapped and will not pass.” (Source: www.dream-catchers.org).

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Work In Progress

That seems to be the theme for me the last couple of weeks. Work.In.Progress.
I don’t have much finished, most of my art is currently in the “work in progress” stage.
We’ve had a lot of visitors lately and there is more to come!
So, normal life has been not at all “normal” and has sort of been happening between bouts of visiting and other distractions.
As a result, I haven’t really been able to do all that much art and the little I do get done, seems to just add to the work-in-progress pile.
 
This is not an easy state for me to be in - the perpetual WIP, without something finished and filed away - is not something I revel in!
However, these days, when I find an area where I am supremely uncomfortable, instead of “making it go away”, fighting against it, resisting it or pulling some superhuman efforts out of my hat, usually at a great price to myself, or, decide not to do something just so I don’t add to the pile -  I try and lean into it and embrace the discomfort.
I say “try” because some days I’m more successful than others with this!
 
But, I am learning so much about myself! So much to clear, so much to let go and so much to open up to!
Having a perpetual work-in-progress pile in my art, is just one of those discomforts in my life right now. There are many more. How did I get so lucky?
 
But, I am learning to really appreciate the discomfort! It’s that message that tells me something is up!
  • It tells me that there is an opportunity to let go of an outdated way of thinking/feeling/acting.
  • It tells me, that I am learning to recognize and leaning into my vulnerabilities, something I would have avoided at all cost not too long ago!
  • It tells me that in this moment, on this day, in this situation, however minute, I am practicing courage and I am opening myself up to not only vulnerability, but also change!
  • It tells me I am one step closer to being authentically me, and one step further away from needing to be “perfect.”
  • It tells me, that at the other end of it, there is so much more opportunity for ease, joy, gratitude and expansion!
  • It tells me, that I am  also a constant work in progress and that that is a good thing! Sometimes it’s also a difficult thing, but it’s never not a good thing!
 
And with that, I will show you one of those work-in-progress pieces from my pile.
 
I decided to go big on a face, to really practice features. But not only that, I also learned a new (to me) method of painting with gesso, watercolor crayons and black ink  while I was at it! It’s nowhere near finished, but it is starting to take shape!
 
 
 
 
 
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
― Brené Brown

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Happening Around Here Lately

Hello everyone! I feel like I haven’t posted in a while, even though I had daily posts going on every single day the last 20 days! Phew! I hope you enjoyed the 20/20 series!

For those of you who are subscribed to my newsletter, I’ll be sending out the download link for the e-book to the series later today!

 

1. Happy Spring, everyone!

Look who I finally captured on “film”! I get so many hummingbirds in the garden and they let me come up quite closely, but I’ve never had a camera handy when they do! Until now!

   

 

 

Things are really happening in the garden as we’re moving out of the “winter” veggie harvesting and into the “summer” planting. I put adverted commas, because the dessert seasons are obviously not like the usual seasons! We’re having a little bit of a lull, right now, while the various summer veggies are getting there! But I still have plenty to keep us happy!
I have to say though, I am REALLY looking forward to the zucchini, cucumbers, beans and melons that are currently growing! Won’t be long now!

 

2. I’ve been working on my first portrait. It’s a gift for my father’s 70th birthday.  I am all at once fascinated by the thought of me doing even a single portrait and astounded that it actually looks like him!

I was somewhat in the zone when doing it, but haven’t been able to do another portrait of similar “skill” since! Go figure! Now, how do I go back into that zone?

 

 

3. I’ve been busy playing with my Gelli Plate! So much fun! I am working on a separate post on this however, so here is just a little preview.

 

           

 

4. Lifebook 2014 has had some more rocking lessons, in particular the last two I worked on, which was one by Tamara Laporte and the other by Anna Dabrowska, aka Finnabair!

 

Tamara’s lesson was on the “paint over collage” technique, which took me from this

 

 

To this:

 

 

Anna’s lesson was on her collage technique, which was quite fascinating! My take on the lesson took me from this:

 

 

To this:

 

 

The final collage was a little hard to photograph, as I used primarily shimmer mists to color the collage and they don’t photograph well! In real life the colors and objects have much more distinct colors and the separate objects stand out much more in their own right than the photo suggests. But you get the idea!

 

I am so glad I decided to do Lifebook 2014! We’re only in March and I have already learnt SO much and I just love having all the different artists show us how they do what they do!

By the way, if you’re thinking you might want to join too, you can! It’s not too late! Once you join, ALL the lessons are available for you to download and do at your own pace!

Even though Lifebook 2014 has a somewhat overriding theme every month (this month it is “celebrating connections”,) the lessons don’t build on each other, so you can jump in at any time and do the lessons in any order!

And for those of you that don’t want to do it because they think that the inner mean girl would never let them post their work or enjoy any of it - Lifebook has an amazingly supportive community, with EVERY level of artistic ability fully represented. Really, from ABSOLUTE beginner, the I-never-even-held-a-brush-before kind of beginners, to professional artists!

Anyway, as you can see, I’m really, REALLY enjoying myself in Lifebook 2014! It rocks!

 

5. I want to leave you with this awesome reminder by Ira Glass, about the creative process!

 

 

Yes, yes, YES!

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Big 20/20 Event: Day 20: 4 Ways To Make A Hand Stitched Cat's Collar

Today is our last day in the “Big 20/20 Event. Thank you so much for joining us!

Over the last 20 days, we have shared 20 fantastic tutorials from a host of awesome contributors.  If you missed the previous tutorials in the 20/20 series, just click on 20/20 icon over on the side bar and it will take you to all tutorials, without having to scroll through all my blog posts!
Or, you could just sign up for my newsletter, as all my newsletter subscribers will receive a beautiful PDF eBook at the end of the event, showcasing all 20 tutorial projects to keep and peruse at your leisure!

Here we go with our last tutorial in the series.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

4 Ways To Make A Hand Stitched Cat's Collar

 
 
This post is brought to you by the lovely Sarah.
 
Hey there! Today I wanted to share with you some cute little cat collars I stitched recently for my beloved kitties :) I love making things for them and pestering them for photos - they don't like it quite so much though ;)
 
 
Here's what you will need for this project (pictured above): 2 bows, ribbon, lace, pins, needles, scissors, embroidery floss, a tie, a teddy.
 
 
1. Measure the length of ribbon you need for your cat's neck. I used their old collars as a guide at this point. Make sure the ribbon isn't too tight around their necks.
 
 
2. Cut your new ribbon to size and sew both ends together.
 
 
3. Add on your bow to your ribbon. Stitch it well as all stitches will be hidden behind the bow anyway.
 
 
4. Ta-Da! Our first two bow collars are now completed! (I repeated the same steps above for each).
 
 
5. A Tie collar - you need your tie, ribbon, needle, thread and teddy for this bit!
 
 
6. Tie your tie around your teddy's neck. Don't worry about the neck width as this won't be going around your kitty. Make the tie itself quite short.
 
 
7. Stitch the tie's knot in place really well. Hide all of your stitches in the back so you can't see them on the finished item.
 
 
9. Cut off the collar and the long thin end of the tie.
 
 
10. Stitch up the cut off ends to avoid fraying.
 
 
11. Tuck in the collar section and stitch well to avoid any stray threads.
 
 
 
 
Look - no stitches!
 
 
12. Sew on your ribbon circle (as above).
 
 
Ta-Da!
 
 
13. Take your lace and ribbon for this collar - this is a peter pan style lace collar.
 
 
14. Cut out two half moon shapes from the lace.
 
 
15. Stitch your pieces of lace onto your ribbon circle.
 
 
Ta-Da!
 
 
I had a little photo shoot with the kitties once I had the collars ready. Murphy really was not keen on being photographed, as you will see!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Darla was much more obliging!
 
 
 
 
 
 
4 brand new dress up collars for your kitties! (PS. these collars should not be left on kitties unsupervised. They shouldn't be allowed to stray from the house in them as they could become tangled in branches and be fatal! Strictly for indoor photo shoots only!)
 
curiously sarah
 
Sarah Leonard is a curious soul, who lives a magical creative life with her kitties and her husband. She runs an Etsy store full to the brim with artistic curiousities, and writes regularly on her blog A Cat-Like Curiosity. She is also the founder of The Curiously Gorgeous Sisterhood, a gorgeous community full of light, life and inspiration.

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