Out with the Old

I've never been so happy to take down a Christmas tree before. It was really unbelievable having had cut it fresh. I should have video-taped the constant shedding of needles and random loss of ornaments. A tree really does make the sound of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree during that transformation.

As for the new...
I thought about stating some sort of New Year's Resolutions, but I never really make them. Of course we all intend to exercise more, lose the holiday pounds, start better habits overall, be more self-disciplined in all the areas we would like to be. Every day is a new beginning. I go through cycles of attempting to keep it all together and constantly having to begin again throughout the year. January is an exciting new time though. I love it.

I've been thinking of all the personal commitments I would like to renew at this exciting time. So many - I cannot list EVERYTHING! As one would happen to be "to simplify," here is my simplified intention:

I intend to create for myself
the same I wish for all -
Health, Prosperity and Joy!

With each new day I shall question if my thoughts and actions are aligned with this intention. In addition to that - I hope my blog will continue to delight or inspire others.



Winter Fun

I am very grateful that the girls coaxed me outdoors yesterday.  The ice storm made our tiny little hill extra slippery and the trees exceptionally beautiful. Usually Daddy takes them out while I try to accomplish a bunch of stuff  - cleaning, cooking, shopping, etc - or sometimes just enjoy a little quiet time. Being on vacation allows me to do all that plus have a little time for play.


Christmas Break

We thought we would have to wake up early to box the cookies this morning. Turns out school was on a 2 hour delay this morning because of a nasty ice storm. I was worried that school was going to be canceled completely because - what would I do with all those cookies? Well, I would have taken them to my friends at the office, but sorry guys, I took the few leftovers to dinner with the family tonight. We're so glad that school wasn't canceled because the girls would have missed their holiday party and the whole-school-christmas-carol-sing-a-long. The weather report says more nasty weather is coming this way. Looking forward to relaxing with the family. I've scheduled two weeks off to be with the kids and my teacher hubby. So let it snow!


Cookies: Tradition or Obsession?

If you've been reading my blog for a year, these cookies might look familiar. They were baked today, but by golly they look exactly like last year's. With little deviation, I've made pretty much the same 5 or 6 cookie recipes every year for 15 years. Now, I don't think I could stop. Last year and this year I decided to give a small tin of cookie to the girls' teachers. Turns out between the two of them they have 8 teachers! Next year I think I'll come up with a small project for them to create because I am exhausted! I won't be starting over for Christmas Eve. I'm going to a cookie exchange on Sunday.

This year has become the year of the gingerbread! For Sunday's cookie exchange I will be baking the fifth batch of gingerbread this year. I've made them for the Girl Scout tree decorating event, the Daisy Girl Scout Christmas Party, the 1st grade school party, my little dinner party, and the teachers. No wonder my pop-up card turned into a gingerbread running away and then jumping out of the bushes.


Rambunctious - Illustration Friday

Two Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.

This began as strictly a paper collage, but after I photographed it – I pretty much reworked the whole piece digitally except for the bed.

Run as fast as you can!

Pop-up handmade Christmas Cards.

Last night I attended the Annual Gift Making Workshop at Uncle Freddy's Gallery. I had tons of fun making these two cards as I was forced to work quickly and spontaneously. Basic templates for a figure, a bird, or a Christmas tree were provided. Within 3 hours I had to cut, fold, design, draw, paint and assemble the cards. No time to fuss, procrastinate or get distracted as I usually do. I didn't try the bird or tree because I thought of the little girl in a snowsuit making a snow angel while I was painting the gingerbread man.


Friends, Food, Fun, Gingerbread and Origami

A lovely time had by all. We reconnected with old friends by hosting a little dinner party. Sue, Steve, and Mark like to buy Girl Scout cookies. I let them know if they ordered and drove down from the city to pick them up, I would cook dinner for them. We enjoyed vegetarian lasagna eaten off of fine antique china and the first round of Christmas cookies for dessert. Sue entertained Maya and Ellie with some dazzling origami projects and we happened to have some origami paper lying around the house. If you would like to make an origami flapping bird you can refer to this youtube link. We had so much fun, at the end of the evening I almost forgot to give them their Girl Scout cookies and collect my $16.



Everyone needs a good friend. And, Maya needed a puppy as Ellie quickly claimed the kitty for herself. I was planning on making accessories for my friends, but they found this sofa and end table in the Sweet Streets bin. I guess I won't be able to pass that on anytime soon.


Felt Fun

Inspired by Ellie and so many incredibly cute little things on Etsy - this is my first attempt at a tiny little handmade toy. I could imagine little felt friends enjoying one of Ellie's tiny treasure pies and a little house made from a cardboard box. She's only 2-1/4" tall. Two little baskets I've tried to crochet with cotton string and raffia. Neither quite what I wanted, but it's a work in progress.


The Ballet

We took the girls to see "The Nutcracker" this week. It's really something I've looked forward to for years. Going out with my little ladies who do not whine and fidget (too much). They very much enjoyed and appreciated it. What's more - they both have recently taken an interest in dance and started lessons just this summer. Maya has proven to be serious and quickly advanced to Ballet III. She informed me at intermission that by this time next year she could earn her pointe shoes!

On the way to the performance I asked if they were familiar with the story of "The Nutcracker". A little background knowledge makes every experience a little more enjoyable. Maya's vague synopsis sounded something like this...

This girl named Clara has a godfather who is a little creepy because he wears and eye patch and has wild frizzy hair and a peg leg - or maybe a bad limp with a cane. He gives Clara a nutcracker for a gift on Christmas Eve. It comes to life and has to fight the king of the rats in a sword fight - oh! and the rat king has three heads! And I can't remember what happens next. ... ... ... Oh yeah. When the Nutcracker wins the sword fight he becomes a prince – and Clara become a princess – and they go to candyland and all the Christmas Eve goodies dance – like sugar plums – and coffee – and chocolate. [Mmmm. Coffee and Chocolate... My inner voice sometimes sounds like Homer Simpson]

Side note: The godfather in the performance we saw did not fit Maya's description at all. Although, I have seen that guy before. This guy looked like a very young Nicholas Cage.

It was a delightful evening. It inspired this attempt at an illustration. And with that, the realization that I am inspired to illustrate the little joys in my life, but I seriously need to develop some discipline and drawing skills so that I may become proficient.


Bird, Bear, Cheetah

I have become Ellie's assistant as she has recently been inspired to design and cut out animals from felt. She hands them over to me with a little stuffing and asks me to sew them up for her. She gifted the bird to me and the Cheetah is for a friend at school. She made a great dolphin for Daddy, but he promptly took it to work with him before I could photograph it.


Jolly Squirrel

Please do not feed the squirrels.
It may lead to squirrel obesity.
She does make us smile, though.


Expression of Gratitude

Pie. Pie. Pie.
Happy Thanksgiving!

with help from my little apprentice


The Tree

The girls and I decorated the Girl Scout Tree at the Visitor's Center today. It doesn't look quite as lovely as I had imagined. I think it's not so much the decorations, but my hasty and haphazard decorating technique.


O Christmas Tree

Remember this post from November 2?
Even though I am completely overwhelmed by trying to manage two Girl Scout troops, I volunteered to take on this project. I organized a Girl Scout event in our Service Unit (two neighboring towns) to decorate a Christmas Tree at the Lake County Visitors Bureau - Indiana Welcome Center. As an artist I dislike the typical, buy-in-bulk craft foam kits that most people use because they are "craftfuly challenged" (not my words). The overuse of them is what inspired me to step up and say I think this is my area of expertise.

All decorations are made with recycled Christmas cards (and a little bit of ribbon). The ornaments are an old fashioned project I made as a kid. My brownie troop loved making them 2 years ago. I invented the garland using fun, fun craft paper punches. The stars are glued back to back and the scalloped circles and flowers are threaded on to the ribbon.

I had a great turn out of almost 50 people and everyone loved the projects. I let them know that it's not just about recycling - to me there is magic in making something out of nothing. We will decorate a whole Christmas tree with about $6 of ribbon and a little glue.


baby radish

Why is it that anything tiny is just so darn cute?
I love radishes.



Ellie and I checked out the clearance bin at the scrap-booking store next to dance class. I found some cool cardboard letters. I told Ellie we could buy an "E" and she could collage it with magazine photos. She wanted to spell her whole name, but they didn't have an "I". When we got home she made her own letters. All she asked for was 3 magazines and completed the entire project with no help from me. It hangs from her loft. On the top of the first L it says "Life is Good."


Time to Breathe

I only worked until 11:30 today. The girls had a half day of school. It's hard to believe I don't have to be four different places today. I can't remember the last day I didn't have run, run, run, go, go, go. The girls made two more cookie deliveries today, but the rest will have to wait. They both have colds and we all need rest. I've got the cookies all sorted out and somehow we made a mistake. Someone must have gotten the wrong cookies? I was short 2 Trefoils, but had an extra Thin Mint and Do-si-do? I better get back to painting soon. This is not the sort of blog I would like to read.



It's been a very long day. Tonight I am opting for Chamomile rather than Merlot. No art to post because I still haven't found the time. I can't even find any older work to post.



A beautiful weekend. We went to Wisconsin for my little cousin's wedding. Congratulations Annie and Dave! Everything was beautiful! I especially love the cupcake wedding cake with lego bride and groom and beautiful children in beautiful clothes giggling and twirling. Congratulations to John and Rhonda on their beautiful new home. Glad we got to see it on our way home from Appleton.



I strive to simplify my paintings
as I strive to simplify my life.


Don't Give Up

Another little sketch from a year and a half ago. This is from my outdoor landscape painting class. I'm digging up old work in the effort to renew my interest in painting. Now I know how Tom feels when I tell him I am not painting or that I'm just going to put it off a little longer. Today Mike said he's thinking about quiting writing. "What!?" I said. "You can't" Don't give up Mike and I won't either.


Fall Fun Foiled

Yesterday I noticed the girls were across the street in the neighbor's yard. I went out to check if they had knocked on their door and asked permission to be in their yard to rake leaves. Maya proudly said "Yes, they offered to pay us, be we said 'no'. They insisted and we said we would rake for 1¢." After a short while I realized the kids were really not interested in doing a thorough job of cleaning up the neighbor's yard, but they only wanted to bring leaves from across the street into our yard so that they would have a larger pile of leaves to jump in. I can imagine their disappointment when they get off the bus today only to find out the "leaf sucker truck" came by.



Four days before Election Day, when Barack Obama rallied in my town, I was surprised by fearful comments people made about him and about his race. I have not discussed racism or prejudice with my daughters yet, because – why fill their heads with that when they are so accepting and innocent? It was that day, five days ago, that I mentioned to Maya - regardless of the issues or what he believes in, some people will not vote for Barack Obama just because he is black. Maya said "But when Obama wins, people will see that a black person can be a really good president." "You're right, Maya."

Until last week I thought it was a non-issue. Race did not play a big part in the campaign. People voted for the best candidate. Many first time voters showed up at the polls because there was someone worth voting for. We voted for HOPE and everybody wins.


United States?

I've recently joked that we are so polarized that we should just divide the country into two parts and live our own separate lives. But, could the left side of the country all be liberal and the right side of the country all be conservative? No. We need everyone and we need balance.

I think many people are pretty scared right now, on both sides. I've never wanted to talk politics, but in trying to remain optimistic and in trying not to offend anyone I'll say this... This is an exciting election and I think it is all good. This country has never seen a time when so many individuals have felt that voting was an important responsibility. Sadly, many people I've talked to seemed extreme and fanatical, were not educated, and were only voting out of fear. At least they felt empowered by having their privilege to vote. We are still living in a democracy even though it doesn't always feel like it. I am looking forward to this day being over so we can get past the rhetoric, call ourselves "United", and start building a future for this country. I feel that McCain and Obama are both good candidates. And for the first time in a long time I didn't feel like I had to choose the lesser of two evils. Both candidates know that this country needs change. Maybe that's why voters are worried. How many times have we maintained comfort with a horrible situation because we did not want to face the unknown?


Denying my Spirit

This is not a recent work. It is a little playful watercolor sketch from 5 or 6 years ago when I considered myself to be just a beginner. I had to make a conscious effort to loosen up. It seems here that I successfully did that, but instead of continuing on in the flow, I went right back to my obsession to control and organize.

Lately I have felt that not much has changed since then. I still feel like a beginner and I still feel like I have to begin again, and begin again. Not just with paint, but in life. 

I am described as a spiritual person and I don't want to be. In denying my spirit I have recently (consciously and subconsciously) tried to ignore everything that I know I need to do. For months I have been indulging in caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and meat, watching TV, not exercising, not painting, and allowing myself to become angry and bitter towards others. As you can guess - it's not going well.

Currently I am living in a vicious cycle of feeling stressed out and calming my stress with a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, mindless television. All of these things are adding more stress to my life. All of this has made me conscious that it's time to let go and loosen up. Not with a glass of wine, but by giving up my obsession with trying to control and organize the world around me.


On My Desk

Halloween has passed, so must we immediately immerse ourselves in Christmas? I must. This is the beginning of a big tree decorating project that - while I am completely overwhelmed by over extending myself - I am thrilled to be doing something inventive, creative and yet quite repetitive. Look for the final result around Thanksgiving. I may be going over the top a bit, but it's one of those ideas that I just want to see executed. I've had a much longed for surge of energy with the thought of what I might be capable of creating.

Still toying with the idea of participating in NaBloPoMo [National Blog Posting Month], but I did already miss the first day.

If I did find the time to post, I was going to show you this...

Yesterday, on November 1st I officially picked the last of the harvest. The garden has been neglected for over a month now. Every once in a while, curiosity would lead me to the back of the privacy fence to see if anything was still alive. Just the occasional green chile pepper. I had completely given up, but while the kids were out there playing, they shouted "Izzy found a great big cucumber." It was a little bitter, but I had to eat it. November 1st! I added lots of salt and a little sour cream.



It was the perfect day.
Went to school to help with the parties.
Straight to the office from there for
desk-to-desk trick-o-treating.
A great time for employees to have some fun
and see each other's families.
Stopped at Grandma and Grandpa's house on the way home.
Turning into my neighborhood was exactly as I had hoped.
There were barricades to eliminate traffic.
The neighborhood buzzed with only trick-o-treaters.
After that we headed for the action.
The walk was pleasant.
Security was tight but efficient.
The crowd was huge and beautiful.
And even though he was at a distance,
I could see Barack as he addressed the crowd!

Halloween Excitement!

I could not believe my eyes when I read the announcement that Barack Obama was coming to my neighborhood! This is the park where I run my three miles! This is the park where we play with our children!

I told Maya yesterday morning as soon as she woke up. Her jaw dropped and she looked as completely stunned as I was. She seemed to be feeling what I was feeling. But, while trying to look at the world through my children's eyes - they can't possibly comprehend the improbability of this happening. Not only being in such close proximity of the next President of the United States - but also one of the greatest leaders we have had in a long time! I know I'm getting ahead of myself - that is my honest prediction.

Of course, the timing is a little scary. The town notified us there will be restricted parking. So far there are not enough signs to restrict my neighborhood. The park opens at 6:00 and trick-o-treating is from 5 to 7. I called the police department to express my concerns without expressing my political preference. I was told they did not feel they could check everyone closely to see who was driving in and out. After hanging up I thought they probably suspected I was paranoid about what kind of people would be in my neighborhood. Then I thought about the 3 people I promised a parking spot on my driveway. Of course, they need to be let in.

If it were any other day I would be happy to have my neighborhood crawling with this much excitement - even if it were a Republican - just not during trick-o-treating.

Time will tell. I'll let you all know how it goes. Look for me on the 10 o'clock news. Have a safe and Happy Halloween.


Backward Glance

I haven't had much time to create or blog lately. Thought I would look back at a few small accomplishments from the last 6 or 8 weeks and share. [1] Kids decorated their own cupcakes at Ellie's birthday party. [2] Made a little tote for my niece and filled it with birthday goodies. Of course Ellie wants one just like it, and I think I might have to make myself one, too. [3] The s'mores on a stick were a big hit at the Girl Scout bake sale. [4] Ellie made tiny treasure pies from bottle caps, felt and beads. I guess this is not my accomplishment. [5] Harvested many tomatoes from my little garden. [6] Painted 5 very small mandalas – about 2" in diameter. [7] Canvas: I thought this was an underpainting, but perhaps I should explore minimalism and call it done. [8] Planted our little fairy garden. Ellie wrote a note to the fairies to let them know that the pie is not real, but maybe they could use their magic on it. [9] My first little pumpkin I ever grew.


It's in the mail.

I thought after I mailed off my giveaway I would start selling online. But, it took me a little over 6 weeks to get this one piece in the mail. Maybe I'm not quite ready for that.


History, Architecture, Art

Fabulous Fifth-Grade Field Trip. It began at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago and after lunch we were led on a walking architecture tour down Dearborn Street. Check out all the photos on flickr.



(click for larger view)

It wasn't long ago that I thought I would never be able to afford "REAL" art. To me, this is a true sign of prosperity.

I acquired the Dunes landscape over two years ago and finally splurged on the cost of framing. Tom Torluemke is the most prolific person I have ever known (and probably will ever know). I justified the cost of this piece by comparing it to an evening at the theater. I've seen a few "Broadway in Chicago" shows and they are a distance memory. On the other hand, I feel this painting has already appreciated in value. And, I get to enjoy it everyday.

The little birdie by Geninne is perfect example of manifesting that which you focus your attention on. Everyday I would watch her blog and I knew I would own one of her paintings some day because I love them so much. Detach yourself from the "how" and you may be surprised by the possibilities. I won this piece in a give-away.

The collage by Amy Kalisher is from a large series of small works. I had a difficult time choosing one. Each time I looked at them I found a new favorite. Her intention (partly) was to create affordable art. I appreciate that, but I feel like it was a steal. The framing cost more than the art - that can't be right!

I can whole-heartedly say, the presence of original artwork in my home has greatly improved the quality of my life. I highly recommend it.


The Start of Something Big

2 canvases 30x40 •  Water Garden Diptych • Acrylic
The first canvas will be painted conventionally
 - background with leaves on top.
The second canvas will be painted in reverse
 -  leaves with water around.