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Friday, December 16, 2011

Finished Projects

I've been spending inordinate amounts of time on Pinterest looking at myriad beautiful ideas, laughing at countless funny sayings, ooooing and aaaaahhhing at darling children, yummy desserts, gorgeous rooms - and getting entirely enthused about dozens of craft projects!

I wrote earlier about how those projects proliferated all over my house like VERY affectionate rabbits until I finally corralled them all into my own little craft corner. But not all of my projects are unfinished - oh no. I've finished quite a few of them - some of which cannot be shown until after Christmas (no spoilers here)! But there are some that I can share now.

I've seen so many great ideas for using magnets to make life simpler and more beautiful. I like to wear my hair up and clip flowers into it, but the basket I kept my flowers in often left them crushed. Getting my flowers up onto something that held them vertically seemed like the perfect solution.

Our bathroom has beaded paneling with molding detail above it that forms a series of small “frames” - perfect for my need! (If they weren’t there, I’d just have used a normal frame.) I priced sheet metal to fit into the frames – yikes! Too much! I went to the roofing section of Lowe’s and found rolls of galvanized flashing, but it was far more than I wanted. Then I found a roll of galvanized mesh – just right. (I felt kinda like the Three Bears: too much $$, too much length, juuuust right!) While I was there, I picked up a couple of packages of magnets, too.

The mesh cut very easily with tin snips, and also made it easy to keep my lines straight. Two lengths happened to fit perfectly inside the frames on the wall, wasn’t that nice?

We rent this house, so I didn’t want to do anything permanent, so I used four little dots of hot glue to attach each piece of mesh to the wall. Then, using a glue stick, I covered the mesh with a piece of white drawing paper cut to fit the “frame” and smoothed it out. You can’t even tell that there is anything there! When we leave this house, it will be a simple matter to remove (if our landlord wants us to), but it will stay there until then.

I simply placed my magnets and popped a flower (or two) onto each one. Ta da! Lovely, handy, and no longer crushed! I love my pretty flower holders!

(Please ignore the misplacement of my pictures.....I just can't get them to go where I want them!)

I've been AWOL. Or is it MIA? POW? no, not POW. If anything it would be POP (Prisoner of Pinterest). But I haven't been idle, oh no, not idle. I've been crafting like a mad woman!

We women often remark that we’re particularly suited to multi-tasking, while men are profoundly able to focus. I must be more masculine than I realized, because I’m prone to multi-task in a profoundly focused manner! When the creative gas begins to rise in me, I start projects. Unfortunately, I seem to produce either no gas at all, or LOTS of creative gas! So I don’t start only ONE project – I start GOBS.

Those projects begin at the kitchen table, spread to the counter, then into the laundry room, finally overflowing into the office. Oh – and cooking never seems to produce much creative gas (unless it’s a dessert or something COOL like making cheese)….so daily life becomes a little, shall we say, unpredictable when I’m in full-creative-mode.

Yesterday, when my creative-gas-induced euphoria touched the last fading spark of responsibility, it exploded in a fireball of guilt! I needed to corral my crafting to a more family-friendly portion of the house. So I found myself a corner, and….well, I’ll just show you what I did.

I started with the two ends of our entertainment center (which was too big for our living room, anyway), and a table I had for painting watercolors. I bought three shelves from Lowe’s and spanned the top and two of the shelves with them. I already had two 1x4s (unused twin bed slats) for the lowest shelf. I also had several good cardboard boxes, which I covered with some pretty Christmas Wrap to make everything look nice. (Oh, don’t tell Ed, but I also stole the lamp from our headboard.)

I went to Walmart and got some bins (and some eggnog, with which I fortified myself for the ordeal to come – yes, there was some brandy involved in said fortification). Then I sat down to do a little planning, separating my huge pile of projects and materials into rational piles. (This is always the danger point for me: sitting down and planning. It often results in more projects – and not finishing the current one! Still – planning is important if you only want to do something ONCE.) I limited myself to a simple list of generalities: Tools, Materials, Adhesives, Yarn Crafts, Watercolor, Acrylic, etc…. Then I got up and started sorting.

Here’s how it looks now – and it only cost me $27 for the bins (plus $3 for the eggnog – I already had the brandy). So for $30, I can craft to my heart’s delight in the same room with the love of my life as he works on his computer – and then get up and close the door on it and eat dinner at a beautiful table free of paint, glue, drying racks, or sanding grit. We are both very happy about that!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pictures of my papier mâché

Here is the site model for this year's Anthology. As you can see, it takes up my entire dining table. This covers an area about 1000 yards by 750 yards. The mottled areas are the primeval forest. The blue is the Great River Ouse (in England). The cliff is where my Baron's Keep will be. (That little wheel-looking thing there is actually the curtain-wall around the Keep and 2 other large buildings. The tiny things that look like sheep are actually the cottages of the village of Woadsbury. The landscape is taken directly from Google Earth (there is actually a bend in the Great River Ouse just like this at 52° 01' 39.74" N and 0° 52' 52.43" W.) The cliff and the forest are pure invention, as is the village and name of Woadsbury. But my Ed actually lived along the Ouse (pronounced Ooze) for several years!
This is the view from the edge of the cliff looking down on the bridge and the village. I didn't spend much time on the cottages - I really just want them for placement so that I can decide who lives where and what they do. As I develop my story, I'll be adding stone walls to contain sheep and goats, further defining each cottage's "yard" and putting in small gardens. I'll put in trees, too, of course, in scale so that I can determine "views" from various vantage points. I had intended to put in painted Q-tip "trees" for the whole forest to give it the 3D effect I wanted (yes, serious overkill! That would have been thousands of trees!), but our story covers several thousand years and the forest will disappear over time. I didn't want to limit my model to only MY story - so my solution is to cut material to lay over the open areas, painting it to show what the landscape looks like in each different time. It'll be rather like playing paper dolls with the landscape! :)
There are two bridges over the river, the one above services the roads that lead to the NW (towards Segontium in my story's time, and Liverpool today) and to the SW towards Winchester and Somerset).
This second bridge services the roads leading NE towards Cambridge and SE towards London.

Our little village has a thriving woad industry, thus the name Woadsbury. (Woad is similar to henna, coming from a plant and used to dye the skin - only henna is a reddish/brown/black hue and woad is a lovely blue color.) This industry produces goods dyed with the lovely woad and in demand all over England in the time of my story in 500 AD. This third picture shows where the road drops right into the trees from the bridge, but it doesn't show how. Hopefully, I'll get the 3D forest overlay done soon. That will really make this effective! I plan to use batting (for depth) but that will be rather difficult to paint. Of course, I supposed I could make it a winter scene! LOL

Anyway - there are the first pictures of it so far. It has already proven invaluable in working out many details for my story and for Ed's. The group seems to really like it, too. We'll be carting it back and forth to all of our Writer's Group Meetings because it's just too helpful in working out the early details as we weave our many different stories into one glorious whole!

My Baron Woadsbury is the founder of the line, receiving his title and lands from Arthur himself. I'm having so much fun writing it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It Scent Me Back

I like having growing things around me, so it was a natural thing for my girls to put a couple of packages of bulbs into my stocking at Christmas. But they couldn't stop there, of course - no way. Being the funny girls that they are, they also included a small ceramic cup shaped like a Santa head. With it came a compressed "coin" of soil, and grass seeds - the idea being that the soil fills the Santa head, the grass is pressed into the soil, and the grass grows, looking like Santa has a spiked, green hairdo...rather like a chia pet, er, without the chia.

It was a joke, of course, so, also of course, I put it all together and placed it on my kitchen windowsill. The sight of that silly thing gives me a smile every day. And in the middle of winter, it's always nice to have a little green, too. But today it gave me something extra.

Santa was looking pretty ragged and wild, so I pulled out my scissors and gave him a haircut. He looked immediately better - and rather like my father in the 60's and 70's when he had a flat-top. Of course, Dad never went for green hair, so the likeness was fleeting. But then I lifted the little guy up to my nose and took a sniff.

Now, my daughters and husband, and just about anyone else who knows me, will find nothing unusual in that. I sniff just about everything - food, leaves, books, paint, sticks, squished ants (don't ask) - smell is a very important part of my life experience and I include it purposefully in my memory imprint. (No, really - quit wondering about the squished ants. I'm not going to tell that story.) So raising that small plant to my nose wasn't surprising. But the result did surprise me.

The first whiff transported me to the house I lived in until I was ten. I was upstairs standing at the window and our neighbor was cutting his grass just below me. I don't know why the smell took me there. I've lived several decades since then and, I assure you, we cut our grass at all of the places we lived! Perhaps this was the same variety of grass as that growing there in Detroit. But, for whatever reason, that smell took me right back to eight years old. What an incredible power! I could feel the screen pressing into my nose, the windowsill under my hands, hear the whirr and catch of our neighbor's push mower and the birds twittering in his cherry tree. It was like magic. All of that from one little whiff of just-cut grass in my kitchen in California in the middle of winter.

So, today's beautiful thing is the delightful way that scent can spring a memory (especially when it doesn't include squished ants)!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Extraordinarily Ordinary or Ordinarily Extraordinary

Today was such a lovely, lazy day. We had our son here with us for an extra day because of the holiday and we slept in late, sat around and played video games, laughed, ate fun food off trays in the library (my project is still taking up the whole dining table), and watched a new sport (team handball - very cool). We didn't do anything special (though I did finish my big project - that was really nice); we didn't even go outside. In fact, we never even looked out a window so I have no idea if it was a beautiful day outside. It was just a nice, lazy day.

So, when I asked myself - what was my beautiful thing for today - there wasn't anything that really stood out to me. It was just an ordinary day spent with loved ones. And, of course, that was it.

When a day spent with people I love, laughing, eating, and playing together, is so common that I think of it as "ordinary" - that's a beautiful thing. When my life is so filled with love that sneaking kisses in the hallway with Ed is "ordinary" and laughing with Drue over something that his girlfriend said is "ordinary" - that's a very beautiful thing. I'm so grateful for a life full of ordinary days!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Out of the Blue

Sleepovers, youth camp, duets, choir cantatas, these are only a few of the memories from growing up in Detroit with my best friend Sandi. We both sang well and were just beginning to find our way in the area of music in high school. She had an older sister, Joy, who (I think) intimidated us both because she had already made a place for herself and was widely recognized for her beautiful voice. Sandi was far more confident than I, but I suspect some of that was bravado that I wasn’t wise enough, yet, to recognize. She had lost her mother already, too, and her relationship with her father was much more mature than my own. I remember very conflicting emotions of awe, competition, envy, and affection. Then my dad accepted a job offer in California and dragged me kicking and screaming all the way across the U.S.

The next time I saw Sandi was when I was pregnant with Emily. I’d lost several pregnancies already, but was quite secure in the successful end of this one. Out of the blue, I heard from Sandi, saying that she was in town and wanted to visit. When she arrived, she had a photo album full of pictures of the child she had just carried to term and lost in the first few weeks. Her whole life was still consumed by the grief she was both wallowing in and trying to crawl her way out of. I didn’t hear from her again.

Twenty-nine years later, I sent a friend request on Facebook to old friends with whom I’d sung in college out here on the west coast. Joylin and Jeff had pastored a church for 30 years and were now “retired” and working a regular job. When Joylin accepted my friend request, I happily sent her a short here’s-what’s-happened-in-the-last-30-years note, then took a quick look through her friends list to see if there were any other old friends in there. Imagine my surprise when I saw Sandi’s name!

I eagerly clicked on her icon and was overjoyed to see that she allowed friends-of-friends to look at her pictures. I clicked on old pictures of when she and Joy were little kids with goofy hairdos and clothes that were all too familiar to me! I have pictures with those same hairdos and old-fashioned clothes! Then I clicked on more recent pictures and felt my eyes sting with tears as I saw beautiful children, now grown, standing by her and her husband. All of these years, I’ve been so afraid that the last view I had of her had remained her only reality. But I see that she’s had all of the wonderful breadth of experience that comes with having children...all of the stinky diapers, hilarious sayings, bumps and scrapes, teenage angst, and tearful passages into adulthood that come with that marvelous thing called parenthood.

I sent her a friend request, of course, and I haven't heard from her yet - but I know I will, and I'm looking forward, so much, to reconnecting with my old friend. Today's been a good day, but the most beautiful thing was finding an old friend out of the blue and knowing she was whole.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Another Beautiful Thing

I spent all morning today changing settings and organizing my Facebook. I found I had four requests from people who wanted to see my paintings, which was wonderful — but my website was down, which was a real bummer. Fortunately, my daughter, Kate, had made a profile for my watercolors on Facebook long ago, which I realized I could use until my website is back up. So, I went and looked at it.

I read through old postings and followed links, realizing more and more just how much work Kate put into it for me. She didn’t just set it up and post my pictures; she also looked into art groups where she then registered, responded to people who posted nice things about my work, and generally did what she could to make my page a success. I was so touched by some of the things she wrote, so grateful for the effort she put into my page, so humbled by how she did it all behind the scenes without even letting me know what all she was doing for me.

I’m terrible at maintenance. I’m a good organizer (initially) and I know what needs to be done, but I’m terrible at doing it. I always have such good intentions about checking things every day, dealing with things NOW instead of, well, whenever, putting things on my calendar, being responsible – but I stink at all of that. I’m easily distracted, curious, prone to enthusiasm. I love big undertakings, extravagant projects (like, um, the model I’m working on right now), and often jump from one to another. Strangely enough, I also love tiny miniatures, perfect details, authenticity. And I’m pretty good at those things. When I start an ambitious project, it usually works out pretty well. But please don’t ask me if a bill is paid, or what I did with the message I took for you yesterday, or if I mailed the registration and fee for the art show where I’m supposed to show my work. I’m likely to say, “Bill? Message? Art Show? Cool! I’ll put together a really great display for it. Maybe something with pillars....Let me go get my sketchpad!”

Kate, however, is much more well-rounded. She’s creative, like me, but somehow she’s also responsible, dependable, and thorough. I can only assume she got that all from her father, because I know not a single one of those chromosomes came from me! She’s beautiful, too, and slim, which I think is just a little bit unfair, but I won’t belabor that point because she’s also one of the most generous people I know. (Both of my girls are, actually, which is a constant joy to me.) Her unsung work on my page was a surprise, but not surprising: it's just who she is.

I started out intending to say that today's beautiful thing was the joy of being part of a team -- working together with differing talents toward a single goal...but it turns out that the most beautiful thing I found today was the quiet, loving generosity of my girl.