Thursday, December 30, 2010

Now that Christmas is over, I can share one of the big secret projects I was working on.  A few posts ago I showed you the pillows I was making for my oldest daughter, Robyn.  I also created a lap quilt for her to go with them.  I FORGOT to take pictures as I went along, but I have these two of her opening it.  Around the outside border, I lettered some of the verses from I Cor. 13 -- the "love chapter" in the Bible.  Fortunately I have a book by Lisa Engelbrecht that explains exactly how to letter on fabric.  Click here to see/order the book.  And it worked beautifully!  There are 5 quilt squares that match the ones in her pillows, and 4 pictures that I printed out on special (hopefully) color fast printer fabric.  Maybe the next time I stop by her apartment I'll bring my camera and take some close-ups.  Anyway, she was thrilled!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yummy Treats

There's my latest creation -- in the pan and ready to be chilled, sliced and served.  But not for my family -- for the birds outside my window!  I found out that our little feathered visitors are extra hungry in the wintertime, so my latest hobby is making "bird dough".  This one has shortening, peanut butter, corn meal, chopped peanuts and assorted dried fruits.  And a nice layer of bird seed on top.

No wonder my husband refused to eat one of his favorite Christmas treats while it was cooling in the pan:  almond bark with pistachios and cranberries (see below after it has cooled and been broken up).  He was afraid it, too, was for the birds.  I guess I see how he could be fooled!
And below is a little junco visiting one of our feeders during a snow storm.

Monday, December 27, 2010


I like Christmas.  A. Lot.  But I was pretty physically and emotionally exhausted by the time the 26th rolled around.  And that was the 4th Sunday of the month, which meant that I had "art team" at church.  Which is a very cool thing except that it involves getting up extra early to go to church, and you have to have some creative energy.  So the rest of the day I hardly moved from the couch, and I took a nap today as well. 

So today I actually felt like doing a little creative play that wasn't Christmas card or gift related.  I started by taking a picture of the sun setting through the bare trees out my front window:
I know it looks like the moon but it was quite shrouded by the clouds.  I decided to try to add a layer, and I remembered a picture I took earlier this winter -- a close up of some ice crystals on a river:

I added a dark frame, a little gaussian blur and played with the layer effects.  This is the version I like best:
It's fun to play.  And I love perusing all the blogs I follow -- so much creativity to inspire!  I'm so glad for the blog community and the sharing that goes on!  Here's to more play in 2011!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

May the simple gifts of Christmas be yours in abundance!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Waves on Lake Michigan

I have to admit that the better photos on this blog were not taken by me, but by my son on his iPhone camera.  We were driving along Lake Shore Drive on Monday and noticed that the waves were ridiculously wild.  We couldn't resist pulling into a parking lot (which cost us $8.00 -- a bargain in Chicago!) and taking some pics.  The above one he submitted to our local tv station and it was picked as one of the weather photos of the day and shown during the evening news.  He just happened to capture two waves as they smacked together and created quite a display.

And below, look at  the great composition in that shot:
You can see the icycles were sideways from the blowing frigid air:
Lastly is my picture of Jordan, the master photographer with his iPhone:
The wind chill was below zero and it took a very long time to warm up, but what a great adventure!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Playing in the snow

Yesterday our family decided to enjoy a somewhat mild winter day by going to Waterfall Glen, a forest preserve not too far from our house. After trudging through the snow all afternoon, we came back to our house and feasted on pizza while we decorated our Christmas tree.  I was too tired to get any tree pics, but maybe another time!
 Lovely daughters staying warm in the late afternoon sunshine.
 Even Skyler was able to come with us and get a workout running through the woods.
 The sun set pretty fast and we had to move along.
Our son reflected in the frigid water.

Happy winter!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas spirit

I just watched this and it gave me chills!  How fun to have been there!

Click here for an uplifting Christmas surprise!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More Pillows!

I have to give equal time to our daughters, and I made pillows earlier this season for our youngest.  So Robyn helped me choose fabric for some pillows for a window seat in her new apartment.  They aren't exactly a surprise, but they are for Christmas, so I'm going to try to make a lap quilt to go with them. 
The ones that are diagonal are paper-pieced, which is a lot of fun to do.  But now I must get back to my sewing machine.  So many ideas -- so little time before Christmas!
Blessings to you on this Advent season!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I read these verses this morning and wanted to do something to impress them even more deeply on my soul.  I get way too wrapped up in the puny little details of my life and forget that there is a much bigger picture.  I especially love the reminder that on the inside (of each of us), "not a day goes by without God's unfolding grace".   May you experience that grace today and every day!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Depth of Field

A few weeks ago I was reading Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit, which I had requested from the library.  It was one of the few books that, when I had to return it, I bought my own copy.  And began to read it again, marking it up with my own notes and observations.  Chapter 3 is called "Your Creative DNA", and Tharp talks about paying attention to the ways that we creatively see the world.  She mentions focal length, like that of a camera lens.  We can either focus best on the big picture -- landscapes and big, sweeping scenes, or small details. 

It didn't take much thought to realize that I like to zero in on the small details.  Like the photo above.  I'm taking an online class with Barb Phillips on how to do more than just point and shoot with my digital camera.  It's called Photo Basics Online Photography Course (click on it for more information).  I'm finally learning what all those settings on my camera mean, and what things like "aperature", "ISO" and "shutter speed" are all about.  And I got to play with depth of field, like in the picture above. 
I wonder if our creative DNA has anything to do with how we generally respond to life.  My husband likes to look at the big picture -- "Let's make a master plan, create a budget and plan accordingly."  I tend to focus on one part of the picture -- "Oh, look -- a sale on carpeting.  Let's redo the bedroom!"  Well, maybe I'm not that bad, but it's something to notice.

How about you?  Are you a "big picture" person, or do you like to hone in on the details? 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Walk with my Camera

It was so beautiful today that I just couldn't stay inside.  So I took my camera (and dog) and headed out to find beautiful things.  It wasn't hard.  These back-lit leaves really glow.  This pic is not manipulated in any way.
The milkweed was ready to fly.  When I was little, we would catch the little seeds and make wishes on them.

And dear Skyler had a wonderful time pouncing on critters and terrorizing the geese at the lake.  I missed a great picture of him bounding into the water and the geese scattering.  I guess I was too busy with the milkweed.
If you are in the Chicago area, I hope you are enjoying the weather this week.  We all know what is going to follow shortly!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Autumn Fun

Every year our family goes to a corn maze in October.  We've gone to the same place almost every year for the past 6 or 7 years.  You can check it out here:

So today was the day, we had teams of two, Don and me vs. our kids and their boy/girlfriends.  All week they predicted rain for today, but we only had two brief showers that didn't dampen anyone's spirits.  Here's the energetic group before we entered the maze:

Don and I (the old folks!) always come in last, but not today.  We thought we were first, because when we finished, none of the other teams were waiting.  But it turns out that Jordan and Nicole (far left) finished it in record time, and went back in to get some of the bonus checkpoints.  They actually made second place on the record board posted in the barn!  And we came in second!  Not bad for the oldsters of the group.
Then we found our perfect pumpkins in the pumpkin patch before coming home for stuffed pizza!  A great day!
Happy fall, everyone!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Gift

The surprise party was today (he was surprised -- yay!)  And I had a surprise this morning.  Apparently the birthday boy's son (who helped me get the pics) nonchalantly asked his dad this morning what color he planned on painting his Model A when he was done with it.  "Maybe green?" he asked.  His dad shook his head and said, "Oh, no.  Not greeen!"  And I got the word a couple of hours later.  He thought a blue-grey would be nice, but this is the best I could do on such short notice:
 And this was the front of his card.  The inside says, "That's one reason you are so special" 
He liked it!  It was worth all the scrambling!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gift for a friend

A family friend of ours is celebrating a birthday and we are invited to his party.  (Shhhhh -- it's a surprise!)  He has a Model A that is his pride and joy -- I don't know how long he has been restoring it, but it actually runs and everything.  His son helped me take some pics of it secretly, since I thought he would enjoy receiving a nicely framed photo of it.  His son told me that his dad wants to paint it a forest green color when he is finished restoring it.  So I played a little with Photoshop and came up with a couple of possible photographs.  Please tell me which one you like best!

Here's the car without any help from photoshop:
And here's one after I played with it:

 I kind of like the old feel that the black and white background give it.  But my daughter thought the green leaves set off the color better, and I liked this shot of the car a little better, so I tried this one.
I can keep on playing for a few more days.  Please let me know what you think!  Thanks!

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Ventures

Last week I heard about a juried photography exhibition taking place in October.  Submissions were due today.  I've never taken part in a juried show before, and I wasn't going to enter at first.  There was a $20 entry fee for 2 pieces, and I wasn't confident enough to try.  But my family convinced me, so I dropped off my pieces tonight.  Below are the raw photos -- they look a little better framed and matted.  I'll find out by Friday if they have been accepted, and then next Thursday the show opens.  So that means I have 3 calligraphy pieces at the local library in an open show and these two potentially at another show.  Wow -- I feel like a real artist!

 I titled the above piece "Waiting".  While in Rome two years ago, we were staying in an apartment on the 5th floor.  This woman was on the 4th floor across the street, and I happened to catch her in a very pensive pose.  (There are NO window screens in Rome!  It makes for easier picture taking.)
This one is called "Summer's Over".  I had a chance to play with some Photoshop filters to get that effect.  I hope they make it into the show.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Piece

Each October our library hosts a community art exhibit, and each resident/artist may show up to 3 pieces.  I was pleased to see that I had created two new pieces this year that I liked enough to exhibit, but I wanted to do another.  Sunday's sermon was the inspiration for this piece:
Our pastor was talking about the power of God's word in our lives and how important it is to take advantage of that source.  I know several individuals who are struggling with feeling really defeated lately, so the sermon inspired me to create this piece.  I know it helps me remember where I can go for power and strength.

The exhibit will be up during the month of October.  If you are in Woodridge, IL, feel free to stop by the library and see this and other pieces by talented artists in our community!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Look at the nerve of this little guy!  This is the first time all summer that he's tried this -- he's usually content to sit on the ground and clean up after the birds have dropped their little bits and pieces.
He's quite the gymnast.  And he didn't move a muscle when I opened the window and yelled at him.  So I did the next best thing -- I got my camera.  And THEN I let the dog out, and did Mr. Squirrel ever scramble in a big hurry.  Maybe he won't be quite as bold next time!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mining the past

One of my fellow bloggers (I think Laura from Lone Crow Art) mentioned that she was reading a book by Twyla Tharp, called The Creative Habit.  I immediately ordered it from the library, and I think I might buy my own copy - it's that good.  She shares a lot about her own creative journey (if you don't know -- she's a world-reknowned dance choreographer.)  And her book contains creativity challenges that are unlike anything I've done before.  The one I did yesterday was called "Mining for Memory in a Photograph".  She shares a photograph of herself when she was 3 or 4 years old, and then tells all that she learned about herself just from studying the photo and letting things spring to mind.  I was very surprised to read all that she learned about herself from her picture, and even moreso when I did the exercise.  Here's my pic:

It was the first one I came across in the drawer, so I tried it.  The first thing I noticed is that you could probably crop me out of the photo and still have a fairly decent picture of my parents.  Yet, there is no mistaking that I belong there -- smack dab in the center.  I wasn't going to let anyone leave me out.  And that has been my M.O. for my whole life.  If there was something I wanted to be a part of, no matter how improbable, I pushed for it.  And usually succeeded. 

Another key thing in this picture is the way my mom is holding my hand.  See how her hand is in front of mine -- almost pulling me forward in order to let me know that I could succeed.  Yet I also sense her holding me back a bit, as if saying, "don't try to conquer the world all at once."  That represents an emotional dance that she and I participated in until her death in 2003.  And I still carry that on inside me with new things -- wanting to push forward, yet having to deal with that internal voice telling me not to rush to try to do it all at once.   

Try this exercise, and see if you mine some nuggets that teach you about your creative journey!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Project

Transitioning from summer to fall is, for me, a bit like turning a big ship around.  I seem to have trouble getting moving on anything creative for a few weeks.  But I think I'm feeling motivated again.  I've been spending time at my sewing machine. 

Our youngest daughter headed off for her sophomore year of college, and she now has a small apartment on campus.  We bought her a black futon/couch for her living area.  To add some color, she asked me if she could take a very colorful lap quilt I made a few years ago.  I wish I had pictures of it to show you, but I did manage to find some strips of fabric that I had used for it.  So I sewed them into a couple of pillows, and I'll put them in the mail to her tomorrow.  I think she'll love them!  Here they are:
I made them as pillow covers, so they can be washed.  I found these sweet buttons in my button jar, and I think they make the back opening look really cute!
I feel very accomplished!  I didn't have to buy anything for this project -- I even had the pillow forms in the house.  And I can't wait to send them off.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Watercolor Class Wrap-Up

This morning we had our "Experimental Watermedia Techniques" wrap-up class at the Arboretum.  We all brought the pieces we've been working on since we created backgrounds a couple of weeks ago in class.  Above is my whimsical piece.  The technique was dipping cheesecloth in watercolors and then placing it on the paper to dry and create a textured background.  But as mine was drying, I kept thinking of a fishnet.  So I glued the cheesecloth to the paper, drew some little fish, and this is the result.

Below are a couple of backgrounds that I decided to try to calligraphy on.  With the rough (coldpress) watercolor paper, I'm not really pleased about my letterforms.  But I like the quotes.
And finally, this was the hardest piece to work on.  We put fresh leaves down on wet presentation board (I think that's what it's called), and then generously dabbed watercolors all over.  We put plastic wrap over the whole thing, smooshed it around a bit for effect, and let it dry.  After peeling off the plastic wrap and leaves and letting the paint dry thoroughly, it was up to us to decide how to finish.  I decided to use opaque white paint to highlight the areas around the three main leaves.  I don't think it's done yet, but this is as far as I got with it so far.
There were lots of other very creative pieces by my classmates as well.  What a fun class!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Words of Wisdom

For some reason, August is usually a difficult month for me.  I don't like saying goodbye to summer with its long, leisurely days and wonderful growing things.  I read this a few days ago, and it helped alot.  It's from Caussade in his Sacrament of the Present Moment:

There is not a moment in which God does not present Godself under the cover of some pain to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed.  All that takes place within us, around us, or through us contains and conceals God's divine action.  It is really and truly there present, but invisbly present, so that we are always surprised and do not recognize God's operation until it has ceased.  If we could lift the veil, and if we were attentive and watchful God would continually reveal Godself to us, and we should see God's divine action in everything that happened to us, and rejoice in it.  At each successive occurence we should exclaim:  "It is the Lord," and we should accept every fresh circumstance as a gift from God.  

And here are a few pictures from a beautiful day at the Chicago Botanic Gardens:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Watercolor class piece 1

We have two weeks to create some pieces from the backgrounds we made at our Watercolor class last week-end.  I started this tiny piece by wetting the paper (140 lb cold press watercolor), setting three small shells on top, adding some sand-colored watercolor, and sprinkling it with table salt, to try to get a sandy effect.  When it was dry, I spritzed the blue on with a toothbrush.  There were white blobs where the shells had been, so I added to shell texture with colored pencils, then added the text around the edges.  I had to really squeeze to get it all to fit!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Catching up

Oh my -- it feels like I've been out of the blog loop forever!  First there was our mini-vacation to Galena, Illinois.  Three days of relaxation, shopping, and doing as little as possible.  Here's a couple of pics from our time.  First, a vineyard where we did some wine tasting.  It overlooked a lovely valley:
This is one of the B&B's we stayed at.  We had a private hot tub -- in the cupula on the top of the house.  Really fun!
This was one wall of the dining room of another of the B&B's.  Most of the clocks kept the correct time!
Following our trip, we hosted several family members who took Amtrak all the way from Sacramento, CA to Chicago.  The kids had never been to Chicago before, and they really had a great time.  They visited Millenium Park and the "Bean":
And the Museum of Science and Industry has a lot of great interactive exhibits.  This is a screen with computer-generated butterflies that will land on you if you hold still:

And then I was at a class playing with watercolors for the past two days.  Here's an unfinished piece that I think I'm going to like.  I didn't get a picture of it with the leaves off, but we peeled them off, and the next step is to manipulate the paint so you get a nice composition.  Mine has really nice colors, but doesn't look like anything yet.  I'll post pics when I get it finished (we have another class in two weeks where we do "show and tell") and I'll tell more about the process.