Category Archives: creativity

Photography Class. Eek!

I didn’t know if I would blog about my photography class. I’m a little embarrassed. Why would I take a photography class?  I don’t want people to think that I think I’m some kind of photographic whiz kid.  I have no illusions of being a professional photographer or some kind of artist or anything.  I just want to have pretty pictures of my pretty kids–photographs that are good enough to frame on my own walls and maybe pass to a grandparent.  Nothing more.  Oh…and maybe spruce up my blog a little bit.

As a sort of Valentine present, my hubby gifted me with the opportunity to take an online photography class with the photographer and teacher, Nick Kelsh.  The course began on March 4th, and it runs into mid-April.  It’s been a lot of fun.  I’m pretty comfy with how to operate my camera already, but I’m learning plenty on how to look for good, natural lighting.  Here are a few shots that I’ve taken for class:

Kiss

sillyboys

Jinatree2

charlottevanity

 

What Hands Can Do

I marvel at the beautiful things that human hands can create, especially when those things are made with love.

Over the weekend, my baby daughter and I had were able to participate in a very special ladies tea.  The place was bustling with pretty little girls in their twirly dresses.  A great many of the dresses were made by a talented woman who hand-stitched the dearest frocks for the girls (daughters, granddaughters, and nieces) in her life.  Some of the dresses were around 50 years old!  The details were amazing.  The fabrics were lovely.  The program for the tea was a “fashion show” during which each dress was modeled by a girl and commented upon by the seamstress herself.

I was so pleased to be asked to dress Charlotte in one of the amazing creations (although I was terribly nervous about standing up on the stage so that everyone could see the dress.).  The hand smocking was incredible.  And the color was perfect for my sweet Charlotte’s eyes.

Thinking about Writing…

I love a new notebook.  Have I mentioned this before?  I get really excited–unreasonably excited–by a fresh, clean, untouched notebook.  I’ve felt this way for, well, forever.  I know I’m not alone in my passion for empty pages.  I guess I open a new notebook with the expectation that I will craft the greatest novel of all time or finally perfect the Shakespearean sonnet rhyme-scheme.  Or at the very least, I’ll make an awesome to-do list that actually gets done.  Imagine.

This blue beauty actually belongs to my three-year-old son, and I am proud to say that he is pretty excited about it.  We’ve been having writing time after lunch.  He makes big, happy swirls on his pages while I’m working on some brainstorming in my hot pink composition book.  (Does it get any better than a composition book?  Truly?)  Some time this summer, I realized something exciting and scary:  the itch to write has returned.  Now, don’t let me lead you to believe that I stopped enjoying the written work.  No, no.  But to be honest, seven years later, I am still recovering from MFA burn-out.  The tremendous pressure of the whole MFA atmosphere left me to question (again and again) the role I want writing to play in my life.  I do not have an answer, but I do know that I want to be more deliberate about including writing in my life–giving it value, giving it time.  If my life were a pie chart, the nifty little wedge for “writing” would be just a bit bigger than microscopic…at least lately.  It would be bigger than, say, computing statistical proofs, but it would not be as big as doing laundry or picking up socks or changing diapers.  Laundry must continue to be done.  Diapers certainly need to be changed, but I want writing to show up on the chart.

I want to do more than just-about-weekly blogging and more than e-mailing.  What role will writing play in my life?  If the writing wedge in my hypothetical pie chart grows, which portion will necessarily shrink?  Not laundry.  I need to think about this, and then I need to do more than think.  I need to do.  I need to write.

Winter Playscape

Even before I became a mom, I was very curious about the Waldorf tradition of education and child rearing.  I’ve read a lot and learned a lot from the internet and books.  When son #1 was born, I knew that I wanted to embrace the concepts of seasonal rhythms, creativity, exploration, and natural playthings.  Although we are not hard-core Waldorf, we’ve have fun incorporating some of the concepts in our daily life.  Yet, we have never had a seasonal playscape.  Finally, as part of our Groundhog’s Day fun, the boys and I made a winter playscape.  It has been a big hit!  Our little one, in particular, can be found enjoying the little family on our window sill.  He especially loved “decorating” the poor wooden doe who is now…well…abstract, shall we say.

(I used “felt” made from rcycled bottles for the ground and skating pond.  The snow is pulled cotton with glitter in it.  The cave, gray scarves, and the baby’s cloak are made from actual wool felt.  The woman is wearing a scrap of fabric held with a “glue dot.”  The trees are scraps of our Christmas tree and our Christmas garland poked into mounds of Play Doh.  I actually knit the man’s red scarf from light weight 100% wool yarn.  I always tell people that only knit small projects.  Well, this was really small!  The wooden figures, sled, and broom came from Casey’s Wood Products.)

“Handmade Holiday” Part Two

I was born into a do-it-yourself kind of family.  We love to tell the story of my parents’ home.  My mom and dad were engaged and in their twenties when they began looking for their future home.  Dad liked the plot of land along the river.  It was a camp with two tiny bedrooms, a little kitchen, and a space that was sort of a living area with just enough room to turn around.  The realtor shook his head and asserted that they “could never actually live there.”  Dad (of course, no one called him that then!) had other ideas.  He bought the camp.  He made lots of drawings.  He made lots of plans.  They married in May, and they moved into the camp despite my Grandma’s concerns.  My mom got to work sweeping out dried leaves that squirrels used as bedding, and she sewed curtains for the kitchen window.  Dad wasn’t trained in building a house, but with books and friends and a heap of common sense, he turned the camp into a home.  He needed a basement, so he dug a hole.  He needed heat.  The furnace broke; he literally tossed it into the driveway and installed a wood burning stove.  That was just the beginning of a life of DIY.  That kind of life has definitely rubbed off on me.  I hate the idea of hiring people to do things, and fortunately, we’ve been able to avoid that so far.  (Thankfully, I have a husband who is always willing to learn and to try, a dad who loves to help, and a father-in-law who is handy as well.) 

I have been taught–often simply by observation–to value work and effort and creative problem solving.  I learned very early on that creating things with my hands  and my imagination is fun and rewarding.  Even when the cookies burn or the stitches run crooked, I love the sense of play that comes with cooking and crafting and fixing.  I especially love sharing these creative pursuits with family members–making cards with Mom (or just admiring hers), reminding my sister how to knit (even though she has decided that sewing is her thing).

When I get wrapped up in all the wonderful things that I read on other people’s blogs and I’m feeling all giddy with inspiration, I sometimes forget that this urge to create and discover and build a life of creativity came a long time before I discovered blogging or got a library card to a well-stocked urban library.  My mom and dad, along with my grandparents taught me to love doing things myself–sometimes out of necessity, sometimes just for fun.  Oh, the stories I can tell!

This Christmas demonstrated that the people who love me know what I value and support my efforts even when I fall short of the holiday perfection that I planned.  By my calculation, too few of the gifts we gave were homemade, but the gifts I received said, “We know you.  We love you.  And we know that you can do so many things.”  Thank you, precious family.

My parents gave us a cute little one-pint ice cream maker.  We made dessert on New Years Day!

Dad bought me this gorgeous Dutch oven in our extended family gift exchange.  I am totally in love!

Mom and Dad gave me Artisan Breads EverydayCan’t wait to get baking.  My sister and her hubby gave me Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table.  You can learn more about Molly at her wonderful blog, OrangetteI’ve placed her on my Links list to the right.

And the yarn.  Ah!  It’s heavenly.  My sister and my brother-in-law gifted me with this sweet, sweet cotton, especially chosen for a dear little summer baby.  I’ve been browsing patterns, and I’m looking for just the right tiny something.

I had trouble capturing the perfect, baby green of this yarn, but these shots come close.  Doesn’t it look soft?  It is!

1-1-11 and “A Handmade Holiday” Part I

Happy New Year!  Good-bye, 2010.  We had a blessed year in 2010.  My hubby completed his degree.  We watched as our sweet son turned five and successfully entered Kindergarten with barely a glance back.  We learned that we would soon welcome a third child into our family.  We’ve watch our second child grow tremendously in his speech over the last few months, and that means that we get to enjoy twice as many of the sweet (and funny) things that kids say.  I never want to forget that our two year old wished everyone a “Merry Pick-us” this year. 

When 2010 began, I had two primary resolutions.  First, I would learn to sew.  I’m still not an expert by any stretch, but as you’ll see below, I can now handle the basic operation of my sewing machine.  I love sewing, and I hope to set aside more time for it in the coming year.  Secondly, I resolved to move forward with my graduate studies with “vigor, enthusiasm, and commitment.”  That particular goal took an unexpected turn in May when I decided to postpone the final stage of my work and perhaps shift subject-matter entirely.  Well, it wasn’t completely surprising to me.  I contemplated the choice at length with perpetual prayer and a critical eye, but I think it might have been largely unexpected for many people in my life.

As I enter 2011, I have the freedom to learn new things every day.  I can practice a knitting technique or read up on the latest research on overuse of antibiotics.  I can make clay animals with my sons or sit down with my husband for a cup of Earl Grey when our little guys are in their bunk beds.  I can read Little Women AGAIN just because I feel like it.  So…given this freedom, how will I resolve to improve myself and my family in the coming year?

1.  I will keep a tidy (not perfect, just tidy) home.  Organization does not come naturally to me, so I will be putting a very specific plan into place in order to work toward this goal.  More about my plans later. 

2.  I will listen to more music.  Okay, this might sound like a silly goal, dear readers, but I have some real reasons.  I promise.  Sometimes, even a house full of the sounds of two very active little boys seems too empty, too quiet.  I find myself turning on and leaving on talk radio or random podcasts even when I don’t have a real interest in the topic. My recent pattern is the masked return of an old habit that I thought I had broken.  I used to put on the television…not to watch, just to have sound…when my husband wasn’t around or he was working in our home office (a.k.a. the attic).  My brain would feel frantic without sound.  Once my kids started paying attention to the TV, I made myself turn it off.  But little by little, I’ve noticed that I’m giving into the need for sound again.  Pretty harmless, right?  Probably.  But sometimes I find myself placing more attention on the radio show than the play of my kids.  I become disengaged from the learning and fun right in front of me, and my mind heads into thoughts of politics, religion, and other assorted topics.  The solution?  Music.  Good music that lifts my spirits and exposes my children to new, rich sounds.  I can have the sounds I need without being distract from the present.  And if the music gets us up and dancing, even better!  I’ve been in a music rut for years, so I’m eager for your suggestions!

3.  I resolve to appear in more of our family photographs.  I will not stay behind the camera!

On to Christmas…

Way back in the summer when Christmas felt like forever away, I promised myself that I would have a “Handmade Holiday” this year.  I would make gifts for loved ones, and the gifts that I didn’t make would be handmade by another crafter or would support a private business.  In the fall, I made my commitment official by signing up here .  (But I see now that I’ve been deleted.  Hmm…I was there a couple of weeks ago.  I guess I didn’t update my blog enough.)  Anyway, as Christmas approached, I was disappointed that I didn’t have as many handmade gifts as I had hoped.  I felt sad that the end-of-semester rush kept me from making some of the projects I had planned, but throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the aesthetic of “handmade” that I so love kept coming up in small but inspiring ways.  I’ll share our bits of “Handmade Holiday” in several posts.

On Christmas Eve, the boys and I made salt dough ornaments inspired by this amazing post by Katy Elliot. 

Wow.  This project certainly brought back memories.  My sister and I often played with salt dough at Grandma Kitty’s house.  I clearly remember a dough birthday cake that we painted pink with watercolors.  We poked holes in the top of the cake so that we could stick the required number of candles in it.  So much fun!

That’s my sister’s pretty little hand putting one of our ornaments on our parents’ tree.

“O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by…”

I’ve had this owl pennant on the list of potential gifts for months.  I found it here at Moonstitches.  I have no idea how I came across this blog or its 2007 post, but as soon as I saw these spunky little owls, I knew I had to make them for my sister.  Then, I grew so fond of them that I decided that my mom needed a set as well. 

The original pattern calls for linen for the belly pieces, but I chose to use wool felt to avoid fraying or any need for ironing.  I hate ironing.  I just slipping the jiggle bells over the twine, so my sister and my mom can easily remove the bells if they want their pennants to be year-round decorations.  “Joy” isn’t only for Christmas, you know.

I’ll have more to share soon.  Wishing you a healthy, happy, and creative 2011!

A Productive Sort of Scatterbrain

I’m feelin’ it.  I know that back-to-school time has arrived when my mind starts spinning with projects, ideas, and an undeniable urge to get involved.  I love summer.  I love its more relaxed pace, the time to be playful and creative with my family.  No denying that, but I also get a blast of energy and enthusiasm as I anticipate the return of school days.  I’ve gotten myself in trouble during more than one August by starting projects, organizations, businesses, and new volunteer responsibilities before the hectic busyness of the school year truly begins, and by October, I’m overcommitted and struggling to get out!  (If my sister is reading this, I know she is giggling.)  I would like to say that I’m not going to do it again this year, but alas, I’m already on that bumpy road.  In the past two weeks, I’ve signed up to be a library volunteer at my son’s new school, signed up for a 5K run in early September (I don’t even run!), agreed to help with a pro-breastfeeding campaign that is just getting started, reconnected with a group of mommy friends in the hope of pulling together some regular play dates, and made some preliminary plans for a new business (I can’t wait to share more about that!).  Yep…I am decidedly in the danger zone.

So, I’m trying to clear my mind, clean my house, and get ready for a shift in schedule and seasons (and maybe prepare for that 5K).  I’ve got plenty to focus upon right here in my own home.  We are in the process of redecorating my older son’s bedroom in order to transform it into “The Boys’” Room.  My sweet little co-sleeper is going to make the big journey to the neighboring room.  Of course, we are going to let the toddler take the lead.  He used to cuddling with his mama and daddy, but he also adores his big brother and asks to sleep in his room almost every night.  We are putting in bunk beds on Sunday after (hopefully) painting the walls and adding a few homemade touches.  This bedroom project is tough (How do you spackle and paint with little ones underfoot?), but it is an exciting milestone for all of us.  I am thrilled with the “up-cycling” of an old dresser that we acquired from my husband’s brother.  It was just an ordinary bureau, but now…Little Boy Chic!  Didn’t my hubby do an amazing job?