Today we prep for a roast beef + Yorkshire pudding dinner, and bake breads for the neighbors, then frost a cake for baby Jesus. My large Nativity has a Mary who is holding the baby, so we resort to another infant Jesus who lays in a straw manger, made of plastic, to be set in a ring of candles and sung to Christmas eve. It belonged to the kids so they could play with the Holy Family. We used to make a cardboard stable, and pretended to act out the famous story....with the kings arriving after following the star. There were several years where couldn't locate the plastic Jesus and frantic-ness ensued to get him recovered and placed on the cake in time to celebrate his birthday. I began the tradition when our oldest was just over a year old. Getting gifts on your birthday is something we all grow up with, so it was the perfect way to explain Christmas to our children. So we don't lose Him, plastic baby Jesus spends his non-birthdays in our silverware drawer. He's never far away to visually remind us of His presence.....and today we honor Him as we exchange our presents.
My favorite track from the Very Special Christmas album series is by Stevie Nicks, with guest Robbie Nevil. This is the best video I could find. To see the 'making of', click HERE.
The final report card came in. Fallon's highest marks ever. Pretty good considering some seniors tend to slack off as the year winds down. At college orientation we learned that parents aren't given access to grades. ??? You'd think that signing your name on tuition checks might give you some privileges but it's time to let them fly, and trust that they'll continue to do well and communicate with you. I'll be filing away this last report, with some of the other remarkable items I've saved over the years. Onward we go!
We are so proud of you Fallon - bravo!
Had a great time with family last weekend. Mom and Dad, John and Renee, and my nieces Morgan, Mackenzie, and Meg joined us to celebrate Fallon's graduation. We spent a day at the shore, rode some terrifying rides, got in the ocean, and enjoyed walking the refurbished boardwalk. As the slogan on the airwaves keeps reminding and reassuring us: We are stronger than the storm. There's still alot of work to be done following superstorm Sandy but it was wonderful to see the crowds filling up the beach.
Summer is here! Be well and behave ;)
It was an action-packed weekend! The rain shut down the opening ceremonies Friday night for the Special Olympic Summer Games, but the remainder of the weekend was perfect for the event. Many athletes and their families enjoyed two full days of competition and awards. Thank you to our Piscataway Chiefs coaches, and the hundreds of volunteers who make this such an amazing experience.
It's been quiet here on the blog. I've been active in the studio wrapping up the last phase of an overhaul by clearing up piles, putting things back into drawers or on shelves, and bagging lots of old stuff - unused supplies that will be donated, unwanted clutter that is clogging up the space, and unfinished projects I'm releasing by discarding. It feels good to see the bags fill up by the back door. I've accumulated a small stash of debris that will go in my journal - clippings that I can't part with because they are part of a narrative of my creative journey. While I dislike blocking off time to devote to getting organized, I love the results. More space opens up on my table and in my mind. The process allows me to experience closure. A re-evaluation takes place, and I am clear about the direction I'm heading. I can part with materials that used to hold value because they no longer fit with what I'm interested in doing.
As we wind down the final weeks of school, I'm feeling a mixture of nostalgia, completion, and pride. There are lots of activities - like tonight, where I accompanied Fallon to the Art Show at the high school. She had several pieces hanging up from her Graphic Design class and her Photographic Design class. The exhibit was amazing - I love seeing the efforts of all the students, and got to thank the teachers for encouraging my daughter's creativity. This Friday is prom, then graduation on the 20th. This precious little thing, who arrived last to complete our family, is gliding right into this milestone with grace and charm and old-soul-wisdom.
The bags below are holding the dresses she'll be wearing to the two events. It's a very special time, made even more exciting as she has registered for her first semester of college classes. I'll be back with prom pics in a few days.
I've been saying it for years....even had a ring made that says it: I'm a Lucky Girl. And now we have one! Yesterday we adopted a little female kitten. She is precious - still very shy and skittish as she gets used to our home, but she is very loving and a cuddler. We are crazy about her already. Her name is Lucky.
I didn't think I would ready for another cat this soon as we are still mourning our Winston. But one day when I was driving in the car, sobbing to myself as I was thinking about him, a black cat ran across the street and I almost hit it. Swerving over to the side of the road I said to myself, 'that was lucky'. And for some reason it felt like a sign that it was time to visit the shelters and see if we might fit with a new friends, and open our hearts and our home to another black cat. It's commonly known that black cats are the hardest to adopt out, maybe because people think they are bad luck? I've only had two cats and they are both black. I guess, like this bowl of jelly beans, the black ones get left behind. Lucky for me, I love the licorice, and I will gladly invite a black cat home. So with the help of the kind ladies of Second Chance for Animals, and the Franklin Township Animal Shelter, we brought home our girl. They think she was born sometime in March 2012, so we are claiming today as her birthday. Fits, right?
I haven't had time to mess around with graphics to create a St.Patrick's Day greeting for you, so I am pulling up the one from 2009. They say you have to make your own luck....done!
A departure from talking about loving art, to talking about the art of loving. On this calendar day when we honor and celebrate those we choose to love, I want to share our sweet boy, who gave us so much joy. It is a sorrowful time for us and I don't mean to bring down the day by sharing this, but want to ackowledge him, and that he matters. Blowing kisses to all of you, especially those who have embraced me at this time to share my grief in an attempt to divide it. Thank you. Loss is painful, but I loved loving him, and always will. I read a quote by Hilary Stantin Zunin, "The risk of love is loss, and the price for loss is grief, but the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love." Here's to us risk-takers, who love loving both people and the creatures who enrich our lives. Happy Valentine's Day.
I'm still wrapping. Are you? I thought I was on a good pace....numerous trips to the post office shipping gift packages and orders, nearly everything on the to-do lists is done but I'm still writing out cards, and still wrapping and baking....and tomorrow is Christmas Eve! No matter how much I try to be organized I am always down to the last minute with holiday preparation. I could ask for help, but that would take away the surprise and sneaky selections I've made as gifts. No, I am happy to be the chief elf. I am lucky to have that role. As I write out each gift tag I think about this great position I'm in to continue making Christmas a magical time - even though our kids are no longer little. It's the lights, the sparkle, the surprises, the LOVE....and tomorrow night at church we will pause, pray, and lift our voices in song. I'm rushing to beat the clock, but I'm grinning through it. As you enter into final-preparation-mode, like the rest of us, think about how lucky you are to be the magic-maker for your family.
I've mentioned this before - one of our family traditions is to collect souvenir spoons on our travels. Brought out each December, it is fun to remember places we've been together as we hang each spoon on the tree. This year we get to add a few new ones. I think this makes at least 6 from England, and now we have two from Italy. One purchased, one stolen (gasp!). If you sift through the box you'll see a newish one from New Orleans, an old one from Traverse City, several from Boston and Minnesota, and a special one from New York when the twin towers were still part of the skyline.
I would ask you to share with me some of your unusual holiday traditions....but you should be wrapping! We will talk about it another time.....for now, I'm raising a glass to toast you, the magic-makers.
First, let me wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. There is so much to be thankful for, especially this year as we reflect on all that has happened in our neck of the woods. I am grateful for the walls and roof of our home, with full power restored to cook a turkey and all the trimmings. I am grateful for my family - my parents are arriving soon to celebrate around the table with us. I am grateful for an entire trunk full of memories visiting family and friends in England, and seeing the glorious sites of Venice. I'm a lucky girl.
With all that went on recently I wasn't able to share this news. My latest Somerset Studio column came out November 1st, Make It Your Own: Nutcrackers. I love nutcrackers!!! It finally occured to me to put my own spin on them. If you think you want to try it I recommend shopping Hobby Lobby - they have a wonderful unfinished large nutcracker this season. My store is sold out and they aren't re-ordering :( You could also buy a cheapy one from the dollar store and sand off all the cheesey sequins and add your own handsome bits to it. Here are three of mine...the Royal Guard was described, but the photo was inadvertently left out of the article, so I will share here.
And if you don't want to go full-out with embellishment, you can always just spray paint a solid color. They look cool too.
Again, Happy Thanksgiving! And since tomorrow is 11/22, I have to wish my favorite rock star Hyvää Syntymäpäivää.
Since our theme last weekend was all about suns, moons and stars, I can’t help but rely on celestial terms to attempt a description. It was almost like being on another planet, a mini universe of unique features, that you can visit for just a short time, embrace all there is to offer, then carry the experience forever. With many familiar faces, and some not-yet-known, we embarked on a journey to this place where the environment shifts and the routines of daily life are quickly forgotten. Our destination appeared friendly, inviting, even domestic with its farmhouse, red barn, and fading garden....trees lining the perimeter of the property and colorful fields framing the panoramic view. Valley Ridge may seem no different than scenes from the next country road, or the previous one, but those who arrive know better. All cares of the outside world blur for three days and participants become immersed in discovery, play, and community as they contribute to the collaborative spirit and energy that visably multiplies. It is indeed a privilege to observe the process of creativity that emerges and to witness enthusiastic artists stretch their zones of comfort and ripple wider the rings of friendship. Upon reflection of departing from this enchantment, we realize that the material evidence of what we expressed together on paper is only a portion of what transpired, while the remainder can only be seen with the heart.
Thank you Katherine for being such a gracious hostess, and thank you artists for linking arms with me and each other on this dynamic, remarkable waltz across the stars.
After being productive in the studio, we enjoyed social hour in the community building on Friday, then a spectacular special dinner prepared by our dear friend Jennifer in Katherine's home on Saturday.
They came from near and far. They rose to amazing heights. Truly cool stuff. I love that while we all started out with a planned format and distributed set of images, every artist made it their own. Each nearly-completed journal so personal and unique - exactly what we hope for. I love that my mom comes along each year and is warmly welcomed into the studio - seeing me in the role of instructor and *getting* what it's all about - the passion for putting our hands to work in a way that nudges us forward on our creative paths and ultimately feeds our souls because we choose to plug in and make it happen. As much as I hope to give, I always end up feeling like I am the one who receives. As I said in the introduction circle, Valley Ridge has helped me become who I am....I believe that's a truth for many of us. While Katherine is changing the process of presenting events, I am happy to learn Valley Ridge will be an available space for workshops in the future....because we don't want to stop the momentum.
Until we meet again, *blows kisses*.
My suitcases are packed. One will be marked HEAVY...it's filled with paper, paint, stamps, and lots of punches. Circle punches. I'm really looking forward to this last workshop at Valley Ridge. I know these girls will rock the circles with suns, moons, and their own personal flair to make a unique visual journal. The results will be celebrated, but it is just a small part of what we get from participating in an event like this one. Of course I hope that the 'process' will expand the vision and perspective of each artist as to how to approach art-making in journals, and in general. And I hope that they leave with enthusiasm to keep the momentum going. I do know this: it's impossible to leave unaffected by the experience. That's not a reflection of me...I'm simply the ambassador for creativity on this particular weekend, at this location. When eager creatives gather, and open their hearts and heads to embrace What's Possible, magic happens. We all learn from each other. Discoveries are made and shared and the energy in the studio multiplies. Confidence grows. Efforts validated. Authenticity recognized. Art celebrated. The circles of Friendship widen.
In July 2003 I prepared a handful of projects for With one Palette, found in Somerset Studio Jan/Feb 2004. I look at this album and cannot believe it's been nine years...tucked inside the front cover is a Sun-themed soundtrack, which started me off as I collected tracks for the Synchroncity workshop playlist. Thanks to my media device I am able to present over 50 songs and I'm not limited to what will squeeze onto a cd. So that has changed, but my use of favorite images and default colors has not evolved much. I'm fine with that - I think it's not a bad thing to have go-to crutches in our process - not to rehash but to stretch how we use them.
A new Sun song on the list, reminds me of this past summer. Energizing and fun....
And an old favorite. It actually will be a New Moon on Monday.
See you next week. *waves*
The class of 2012 has left the building. Proud families and friends cheered and waved. There is so much to reflect on as we turn the page on high school for Sam and usher Fallon into becoming a senior, where we will do it all over again next year. The calendar keeps speeding by, and we are rolling with it as best as we can.
Lots of activities filled the weekend with my parents visiting....we went to the shore, only to be met by a random raging storm. The boardwalk emptied out and we had great seats for a fun lunch and a lightning show over the ocean. No swiming or amusement rides but the salt-water taffy is always good. Then we spent a day walking around the stunning campus of Princeton. The Art Museum had a special exhibit of the college's Gothic Revival architecture - pages of beautiful renderings and plans for the construction of the famous university were on display. On another day we camped out in Brooklyn for the flea market and Renegade Craft Fair. Pilss of cool stuff - fun to walk among like-minded people with appreciation for handmade goods. It was fun to be near the water and see the Manhattan view from the other side....and it's always nice to spend time with family.
We survived the heat and are bracing for next round. I'm wrist-deep in a very fun project, chasing another deadline. I'll be back when I'm done. I'll pass out the popsicles. What's your favorite flavor? Mine's cherry.
I am so filled with pride, and gratitude after a very incredible weekend at the summer games. On the global scale it was amazing to see the entire production beginning with the Opening Ceremonies, followed by two full days of sporting events, with lots of extracurricular activities for teams and families. There were literally hundreds of volunteers who offered their help and hearts to host these summer games. It looked effortless which is a tribute to the preparation and dedication of the amazing Special Olympics organization. They were depended upon, and delivered, the tasks of staging, escorting, directing, supporting, congratulating, awarding, and many other important roles.
On the local level I am touched by, and impressed by our coach, his parents, and his team of assistant coaches. We are blessed to have these individuals in our lives as they care about our kids, and believe in encouraging and celebrating their abilities. Many hours have been spent planning, practicing, and preparing for this event. This weekend wasn't just a commitment of showing up at the track - it was much much more. Each athlete was required to spend the weekend in the campus dorms with their coaches and chaperones. For many of us it was the first time letting go of our child for an overnight away from family. Imagine handling that? There was alot of responsibility placed on their shoulders as they managed everything morning through night - bedtime, dressing, showering, eating, travelling, and finally, performing. I'm certain I can speak for all the families of our team when I say we are never going to forget what our coaches have done, and what a gift it was to participate in such a memorable event.
And we're off! Heading down to the Summer Games for Special Olympics New Jersey. The Law Enforcement Torch Run began early this morning, winding its way through the state, meeting hundreds of runners in many townships, then arriving to light the cauldron tonight at the opening ceremonies where we will watch our team parade into the stadium. We are so excited! Pray for sunshine. LOTS of photos to follow.
It couldn't have been more perfect. A handsome young man and a pretty young girl going to their high school prom. They didn't know it, but their moms were sitting nearby watching all the dates parade in, then enjoyed a few hours in the lobby restaurant getting updates via text message from the guardian angels on the inside. From a distance they looked like every other couple, but we know it was much bigger than that. These are memories we will cherish always - as a family. How cute are they?
Peter couldn't be with us to see Sam and Brianna as he had to work but he got to see the tuxedo'd Sam before the carriage turned back into a pumpkin. His prom was three years ago, photos HERE.
Look at that sweet face. Seems like yesterday that I set up the sheets, and wrangled the boys into the linen coat and saddle shoes, then took photos with real black and white film that I actually had developed.
Today I will be a photographer again....how many rolls of film would it take to cover this day? This month? All the memorable moments will be captured on a small piece of plastic inserted into my camera. How is that possible? And how is it possible that this little one will depart in a dapper tux, with a lovely girl, and attend his senior prom? I am a wreck. Full of joy but a bag of nerves for this big day. I was worried the fancy attire would be an issue but Sam tried it on and modeled for me like it was no big deal. Even the shiny shoes. I am wagering he might be the first on the dance floor. Yes, really. Crossing fingers that the chaperones text me every ten minutes as I sit with Brianna's mom in the hotel bar, anxiously waiting for reports. It's good to know the insiders.
Prom tonight. Special Olympics track meet next weekend. Graduation on the 21st. Milestones that fill us with pride. And happy tears. Pass the tissues.
I'll be back tomorrow with photos!
I'm back from the north woods of Minnesota, where you can lean back on your chair around the bonfire and see satellites move through the clear black sky with your naked eye, but you can barely get cell service, and certainly not wi-fi. But it's good to be unplugged...that's when you get to tune in to the things that really matter. Like spending time with family. We will all head home later in the summer but this trip was a special treat....treasured time on my own with Grandma.
I've had some solo outings with her in recent years, like a lunch out, or an afternoon at home (photo below from 2009). She has taken me to some fun and fascinating places - like museum exhibits in my teens, or an architecture field trip during a college spring break. She's visited me at some of the places I've lived, and I always make time for her on visits home. But I have never had five full days with her like this past weekend. What a privilege to spend time with her at her favorite place, the cabin at Rock Lake.
The only sign that hangs at the gate to long road down to the lake says No Trespassing. A new sign on the wall says What Happens at the Cabin Stays at the Cabin. I'm sorry to say you aren't invited, but I will give you a peek....
Below, she's directing Dad as he makes dinner.....which is only allowed as she's a really good cook (hey, she taught him!). I tried to impress her by making Yorkshire Puddings but I think she'll me more impressed when Graham makes her the requested jambalaya in July. Maybe if I attempt to make her famous strawberry jam I can win back some points in my favor.
We saw a baby fawn take her first steps. Had visits from the hummingbirds and other colorful feathered friends. Heard the loons. Spotted my favorite - the great blue heron. Found some new fronds. Prayed for a fresh fish dinner but none were caught. Enjoyed the familiar views from new settings - a sun room added last year. The little hunting cabin that got most of its attention every fall has become a hub of activity in the summer. Even fishing has taken a back seat to other more athletic water sports, especially with my brother's family living nearby. She hasn't been on the jetski, but loves to tour the perimeter of the lake on a pontoon, spotting the nesting eagles.
Grandma, the matriarch. She loves to shop for good bread. She eats bacon with black coffee every morning. The usual Scotch at five has diminished to a few sips when she feels like it. She is quick to laugh. Is still so styling - just got a new watch, and likes to dress smart...even has Uggs. (As a child I used to love to browse through her closets, touching her dreamy evening gowns and fancy shoes in plastic boxes). She reads the paper and knows a little about everything. Loves conversation about the past, but delights in the present and takes it all in stride. She listens, and remembers, and takes interest in every detail of her very extended family. We had a huge family reunion at the lake last summer - to celebrate HER.
I went to her alma mater, intending to be a legacy by pledging her sorority. I chose a life that was much different than hers, and never became a Kappa, or a hunter, or a cook. But she pays attention with authentic curiosity and enthusiasm as I tell her about my family, my activities, and my art.
Five days. A gift to have, carved out from ninety-nine years. I am so lucky.
Whether you say Always Remembering You or Remembering You Always, it simply means you never stop thinking about someone. Especially when your heart is so filled with love. And sweet memories. And sister secrets. Especially because you are missing her. The day she left for heaven is significant, but the day she was born is the one to celebrate, especially if your share that same birthdate.
Roses fill the gardens. Roses fill the vases. Piles of cards and packages. Lots of joy here. I'm a lucky girl.
*blows kisses* xoxo
OK, so it's not a real tattoo, and it's not a real albino pumpkin either. I opted for the fakes this year. Spent most of yesterday's free time working on this one. There is something so relaxing and rewarding about drawing, especially when there is no agenda, just random markmaking.
We had an increased number if trick-or-treaters this year! Love when the neighborhood is filled with children, wagons, parents, teens...all happily navigating the streets and sidewalks around piles of fallen branches and trees from the recent snow storm. Not much white stuff left. Just memories of another fabulous holiday, enjoyed by our family. It was the year of big hats.....
*waves* Hello! It's been a while. When we last spoke I was on my way to Valley Ridge. We had a terrific time - a full class of enthusiastic artists who painted and played for three whole days! It was rewarding on so many levels and filled my well for a long time. Love being in the studio and feeling the energy that gets generated when artists gather.
One of our assignments was to walk the gorgeous property in search of new shapes to inspire hand-crafted tools (stencils and stamps). It was a perfect break from the work, to take in the scenery, breath in the not-quite-fall-air, enjoy the sun, and observe all that was before us. I found my way to Katherine's garden - very much in hiberbation and decay, with amazing shapes. The once vibrant flowers and plants presenting themselves as dried pods and other interesting stages of non-life.
I later learned these were coneflowers - typically adorned with violet petals. My impression upon observing the dried evidence, was that the flower had possibly been a black-eyed susan, with golden petals. I am so glad I didn't know they were once purple, as the darker rustier color served as my inspiration for this painting. I used the river rocks stencil by Mary Beth, adding in a few larger stones to make it my own for the section of ground. I made my own stencils for the flowers, and included roots since my attempt at pulling a few to photograph came straight from the earth with entire stem and roots.
Some evidence of our walk around the perimeter of the VR property....Mom is there gathering weeds and avoiding coyotes. (Actually, we only hear them at night....haven't seen one there yet.)
Here is the group - thank you ladies! I loved seeing your individual perspectives, and your fabulous work. So much fun to see old friends and make new ones. I had a great time Raising the Bar with you :)
And just days after arriving home from Wisconsin we road tripped up to Canada. It's been a few years since we have been there and promised the kids a return visit to see our beloved friends, the orcas. You can read about our previous memorable visits in a past post HERE. It was so heavy with rain on the first day that the park was not even open. Drats. Luckily it cleared enough by the next day that we headed straight for Friendship Cove at Marineland, Niagara Falls, Ontario, to see Kiska and Ike. A happy ending.
On Father's Day ~ a call to my Dad, some gifts for my husband. Feeling like a lucky girl for the men in my life. A hug for my brother as we met him and his family for a few days in Washington, D.C. In the land of our forefathers, stacked with history....we walked past the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and here....where we have been before, but not quite like this. At first I was stunned by the quantity of roses and remembrances, written letters and lilies....standing at attention, beautiful and proud.....then I recalled, it was Father's Day. Like Memorial Day, and Veteran's Day, THIS was another occasion to visit the wall, offer a prayer, give thanks, and nod in respect.
The next day we visited Arlington National Cemetery and the nearby Marine Corps War Memorial. More nods of respect. Honor. Gratitude. So much history to learn and relearn as we visited many locations in the city. So many reasons to return another time.