Saturday, April 30, 2011

Glorious Colors of the Day

This afternoon the weather was picture-perfect so I thought I'd share some of the spring colors here. The trees in flower and newly leafed out made for gorgeous contrast against the clear blue sky. It felt so good to finally see that color and feel the warmth of the sun on my back as I worked in the yard!

Here is a glimpse of my neighbor's front yard. She has put a lot of time (and money!) into landscaping in the last few years and it really shows! I'm a little bit jealous of how neat and clean it looks, but I'm glad I get to enjoy the view!

I noticed a lot of lovely lavender-purples everywhere, from the periwinkle on the hillside to the grape hyacinths near the front door and the violets that are springing up just about everywhere.

The andromeda and bleeding hearts are two of my favorites with their little dangling bells and hearts.

The daffodills I planted on the slope in the backyard have been blooming beautifully for the last few weeks. I got to really enjoy them today while I planted the ferns I ordered earlier this month. Here is one of last year's ferns already pushing through all the wood chips I spread around. So nice to see them reappearing!

Before I got a chance to plant all the new little roots I got, my mischievous dog grabbed the bag they were in and ran off with them! As much as I've practiced "come" with her (and I even had a treat in my hand!) she refused to put them down and ran around the yard ripping up the bag and shaking the little plants all over the place! Luckily they were packaged with a small piece of yarn that kind of kept them together and made them a little bit easier to spot in the yard, but it took me a while to gather them all back up and get them in the ground.

Needless to say, she is now on my Very Naughty list, although you'd never know it from the look on her face here, would you? Bad dog!

Now that most of the yard work is done for the weekend (I'm going to let my husband take over tomorrow), I'd like to spend some time on my underwater WiP. Here is a shot of the coral pinned to the background that I painted, with two of the fish I've made. The sand and formations all around the coral at St. John's were grayish white - not a lot of color - so I kept the lower portion of the background pale to resemble the real thing. But it looks to me like the aqua water color crept too far down - I'm thinking of taking another shot at it with the second piece of fabric I have.When I painted the one pictured, I found it to be quite challenging, partly because I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to paint, and partly because the piece of fabric is so large. Since I wanted a really watered down wash, I sprayed the fabric first. I ended up with a huge piece of soggy fabric, which was impossible to keep smooth. I ended up wrinkling the fabric on purpose, in hopes that the rusulting lines and variations in color would look like underwater shapes and forms in the background. I'm not sure if I want to try that approach again, but I do know that I wanted some better paint and ink, as well as sponges to apply them. I did some shopping this week, so I now have everything I need (I hope!) to really get moving on this project. Now I just have to get up my nerve again to dive in and paint...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Easter Miracle!

I am very surprised and honored to share that the piece pictured here which I call "Affirmation" has been juried into the Sacred Threads 2011 show! I've never shared this piece with anyone because I made it purely for myself. A while back (several years ago) I often caught myself thinking negative thoughts and began to make a conscious effort to change that. I started a routine of walking and read various books with positive affirmations. I came up with this four-part affirmation based on something in a book by Shakti Gawain. It reads "The Light of God surrounds me; the Love of God enfolds me; the Spirit of God dwells withing me; the Power of God flows through me." I used to chant it during my neighborhood walks, to lift my spirits and promote a more positive attitude. I decided to make a sort of illustration or visual representation of it, and this was the result.

I entered it into the Sacred Threads this year because it seemed like a good fit, but only yesterday I revisited their website gallery and felt like maybe it wasn't up to the caliber of work they accept, and maybe my photographs were not professional enough. I was bracing myself for another "declined" but today, after a very busy week preparing for Easter and an even busier day pulling off a big family holiday dinner, I finally had a chance to sit down and check e-mail and lo and behold, an Easter miracle! My first acceptance into a juried show!
I don't have a lot of photos of my preparations over the last ten days - it's mostly been food shopping, planning, making lists, cleaning, and baking. Yesterday my daughters helped me frost and decorate these fun spring cupcakes and on Friday I baked the coconut macaroon bird nests with jelly bean eggs. Together they made a colorful and delicious finish for our Easter dinner (along with some chocolates and a sublime cheesecake baked by my sister-in-law!). Happy Easter, Alleluia, alleluia!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tryin' to KEEP UP

We're finally getting some spring color around her, and a little sunshine, but it seems like we've had more than our share of April showers already! I don't know if I can blame the weather or my hormones, but I just haven't had much ambition lately, beyond anything Necessary (eating, sleeping, going to work, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, throwing in a load of wash etc.). I did manage to get my oldest daughter packed and off on her long-anticipated 8th Grade Trip To Washington. She's been talking about it and shopping for it for what seems like months now, so this weekend we pulled out the Large Suitcase (not the little airplane carry-on size) and packed her up with all her necessities. We heard from her last night, they arrived safely, and I'm sure she'll have a great time, especially since the weather is cooperating.

In addition to getting that job done, I was able to add a little color to a few spots around the house. I picked up these lovely lavender pansies last week and was able to get them into various containers to add a spot of color here and there. I especially like them in the window boxes (below) because they really bring the Outdoors In, as the magazines always say. I like looking out the living room window...

...or my daughter's bedroom window, and seeing their cheerful little purple petals, even if the sun isn't shining.

This weekend, I also worked in the backyard a bit. One of the drawbacks to living on the lake is the heavily sloping backyard. When we moved in, everything was just planted with grass, but it was too steep to mow, so we've been slowly getting rid of the grass one section at a time, and replacing it with ground covers -something that doesn't require much care. I began planting the area below with ferns two years ago and last fall I put in some bulbs. All winter, a Huge Pile of wood chips sat just to the right of where that row of stones is. We intended to get them spread out before the winter came, but never got to it (it made a great mogul for our sledding run this winter!). Anyway, I got a lot of exercise this weekend filling a large bucket with the chips, hauling them up the slope, and spreading them around. It still looks fairly bleak in the photo, with only one lonely daffodil blooming right now, but I hope it will look a bit better later in the spring and summer when more flowers bloom and then the ferns come in. I ordered 2 dozen additional ferns to plant, which should be here at the end of the month.

In addition to all the yard work, I also did a little work on my undersea WiP. I decided to start with a plain white quilt top, paint it to look watery, and add the coral and fish as appliques. I debated for a long time about how exactly to go about painting the fabric, or maybe I was just stalling because i didn't want to make a Hideous Mistake and ruin the fabric and have to start all over. But I realized I had double the amount of fabric I needed, so I screwed up my courage and just Dove In! And the results are actually okay! Not really ready to photograph and post yet, but okay!

Then I debated for a while about what to do about the sand beneath my lovely large piece of coral. I debated about using sandy-looking fabrics, or going with paint again, when it finally dawned on my that Hand Stitching may be the way to go. So now I think I'm finally ready to begin making some fish and deciding where to place them, then hopefully really begin making some progress on this piece!

However, I can't work on it tonight because I'll be back at the library with the Creative Playgroup. We'll be altering children's board books. I procured a bunch of used board books from our Book Barn (volunteers collect donated used books and sell them for $1 or less) that were in mediocre shape (or were mediocre quality books in good shape), roughed up each page with sandpaper, and then gave them a coat of white acrylic paint. I created two books myself as samples. In the first (one at right and below), I stamped various flowers, birds and things on each page, then added family photos that I printed on regular printer paper. I added some corresponding captions for each picture. It ended up reading like a child's storybook or a narrated scrapbook or photo album. It's very cute!
In another book (at right), I tried various simple surface design techniques. I painted some pages with a wash of watercolor paints. On other pages, I drew designs with crayons to create a resist, then painted with watercolors. I glued some printed papers onto some pages and stamped others with various images. This one would make a nice personal journal or place to keep your own collection of poetry. I wonder what the ladies will come up with for themselves?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Free Stuff!

I made a quick run to K-mart this morning before work to pick up some odds and ends: snacks for my daughter's trip to Washington D.C. next week, Easter candy, some cleaning supplies, toothpaste, shampoo. I went to check out and gave the cashier my "Shop Your Way Rewards" card, which I show every time we purchase something at K-mart or Sears. I knew I had accrued some major points, since we bought the refrigerator at Sears, and I figured I may as well use them towards this purchase. All the stuff above came to about $43, but I didn't have to pay a dime! My points covered the whole thing, and then some! It sure is nice to get something free! Made my day!

Yesterday I also rambled on over to Kohl's to use my $30 Kohl's cash I earned after spending a hefty sum on spring clothes for the girls. Look what I got for myself:
It was marked $90, discounted to about $54 and I got it for $24. Not bad! I'll wear it for Easter and other special days this spring (we have a First Communion in May and two "moving-up" days in June). I hardly ever wear dresses anymore, but it's nice to get a new spring dress once in a while. Now I have about 3 weeks to firm up my upper arms so I don't look completely flabby (I should be able to tone up and drop a few pounds in 3 weeks, right? If not, I have a pretty cardigan sweater I'll keep handy...)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weekend Melange

The weekend started out chilly and snowy - it snowed on and off all day Friday, although it didn't amount to much on the ground. I was feeling a little under the weather so I started the day by baking some Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins. Two of those, with some cream cheese, a cup of hot cocoa, a couple of "cold remedy" zinc tablets, and a nap after the girls got off to school helped me rest up for the weekend ahead.
These muffins are really delicious, by the way. The ingredients are 1/2 C of cooked pumpkin, 2 eggs, 1/2 C brown sugar, 1/4 C vegetable oil, 1/4 C applesauce, 3/4 C molasses, 1 1/2 C whole wheat flour, 1 t baking soda, 1/2 t salt, 1 t cinnamon, 1/2 t nutmeg, 1/2 t ground ginger, 1/4 t ground cloves, and 1/2 C raisins. Mix all the ingredients together, put in muffin cups, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. They really smell like Christmas or Thanksgiving, with all the spices. I baked some in the winter and had some leftover pumpkin in the fridge that I wanted to use up. Actually, my ulterior motive was to clean out the fridge, to make room for this:
Wow! We finally decided to join the 21st century and spring for a new fridge! Nothing was really wrong with the old one, other than we got it 15 years ago, when it was just the two of us, and now it was just too small for our family. It was always a challenge and a bit of a frustration to fit everything in after a big trip to the grocery store (not a bad problem to have really, so much food that we had no where to put it!). But we took the leap to get this Kenmore Elite model with the French Doors, freezer on the bottom, and built in water and ice maker, all huge steps forward for us! It was delivered Saturday morning and already I'm thrilled! Tomorrow I'll make a grocery run and really get to fill all the shelves and door pockets. It will be so much easier come holidays too!

Aside from the big fridge switch, I pretty much played catch-up again this weekend. I helped the girls with some school projects and they helped me get the house clean. I also caught up on ironing, mending, reading, and sleep! Right now, we're going to watch the rest of Gone with the Wind, which we got from Netflix. The girls had never seen it and are actually enjoying it. It's funny how the acting seems a bit sappy and melodramatic compared to modern films, but ol' Clark Gable is as charming as ever!