Peachy-keen

As you probably know by now, I like to swirl. It’s relaxing and rather enjoyable (and maybe a bit addicting at times). In addition to swirling for my own inner peace, I really like to swirl for my friends and family—and am always up for swirling away at custom pieces when requested.

So, when my dear friend, ‘Peach’, said she wanted a peach-coloured swirl, I just couldn’t say no. (I didn’t want to say no!) I mean, Peach has been such an amazing friend to me over the years* and I really, really wanted to do something to repay the kindness she’s always given me.

I started this swirl in July 2012 using three Prismacolor Premier Verithin coloured pencils (Light Peach, 757; Deco Pink, 743; Process Red, 743½). It’s not the first time I’ve done a monochromatic swirl, but it is the first time that I’ve used colours that I don’t like using. And that’s actually made this a very difficult swirl for me.

You see, the two lighter colours (757 and 743) are difficult to see when I’m swirling. I really have to press hard to make the colour transfer to the paper, and really need to have natural daylight to make it visible when I’m swirling. Thankfully, the colours are easy to see when it’s done, and they transfer beautifully when I scan the image to the computer. Because of the difficulty I’ve had with seeing the colours as I’m working, I had a hard time getting into the creation of this swirl.

Since July it’s spent more time un-touched than touched. But then something happened and I became a bit more attached to the piece. I think it’s to do with the fact that I recently reached out to Peach for emotional support, which made me more excited to create this for me. And it also has to do with the fact that she was directly impacted by Hurricane Sandy, which means that I’m thinking about her more than ever these days—and as I find that my swirls are more enjoyable when I’m thinking about the recipient, it means this one finally got done!

Now, I wish that I didn’t need that emotional support and that my friend hadn’t been in the hurricane’s path, but we can’t prevent all of the bad things from happening. But since the bad did happen, I suppose I’ll take the good that can be garnered from it, and that’s the opportunity to reflect on a friendship. A friendship that I feel blessed to have found!

And now I guess I can start on another swirl. I wonder what it will look like when I’m done …

* Peach is one of my ‘make believe’  friends, and whilst I’ve never met her in person she has become a strong pillar of support in my life. She is part of my core virtual support network and her friendship is very precious to me.

Warming up with a faded flag

It’s starting to get cold outside and that means cuddling up on the couch with a cosy blanket. And for a double-dose of warmth, I like to crochet one blanket whilst cuddled under another.

So, I’m putting some of the fabulous wool (that’s yarn in American speak) that was left behind with all the beads when I moved in.

I chose to use the three large spools of basic wool for my new project since they are all the same weight and will look nice together.

I kind of think that they look like faded flag colours. What do you think?

Oh! And if you want to crochet along with me, here’s the pattern I’m using:

Start with Ch 108 (I’m doubling mine, using hook size ‘N’/9mm) then:

Row 1: 2 dc in 3dr ch from hook, *skip 2 ch, 1 sc and 2 dc in next ch; rep from * across, ending with skip 2 ch, 1 sc ch in last ch. Ch 2, turn.

Row 2: 2 dc in first sc, *skip 2 dc, 1 sc and 2 dc in next sc; rep from * across, ending with 1 sc in top of t-ch. Ch 2, turn. Rep Row 2 for pat.

Anyhow, I’m sure you’ll get to see the project as I progress and again when I finish. My hope is to finish it before Christmas. Wish me luck!

To bead or not to bead

When I moved into my new flat last weekend, I was excited to see that the previous tenant (and my good friend!) left behind a large pile of crafty stuff for me. I took a quick peek at the time and was excited to see that there were skeins and skeins of yarn and loads and loads of beads—in addition to other crafty bits-and-bobs.

Anyhow, I finally got around to going through the treasures with a bit more attention and can’t believe the amount of goodies that have been left behind.

In addition to the yarn and general craft supplies, there are beads and beads and more beads. There are beading pliers and other such tools. There are various bits of jewellery wires and hooks and doodads. And there are loads of other bits and pieces that I don’t even recognise.

Best of all—there is a box of books and magazines all about beading. Which means I might actually be able to make something with all of these goodies.

And, as those of you who knew me back in the day will recall, I do love making my own jewellery. So, um yeah, this could be fun!

Spent pennies

As you may know, I like to save all of my ‘spare’ change so that I can cash it in for something fun and frivolous. So when I am out shopping, I never give the cashier exact change, I keep those jingly-jangly coins to feed my coin jar! (And if you’ve ever wondered, that’s where the pennies I pinch from the pavement end up, too!)

Anyhow, after nearly a year of collecting, I cashed in £94 worth of coins today. (That’s about $148, if you wondered.) And there’s still about £15 left in the jar as a starter fund, since there weren’t enough to bag up in all the right denominations*.

After heading to the bank to deposit the coins, I made my way to Falkirk so that I could spend my money! (That was the first £3.50 of my money spent!)

The rest of the money was spent as follows:

A new paper cutter for making my swirl cards: £19.99 (sub-total: £23.49)

Three bottles of Washington State wines from Chateau Ste Michelle: £9.99×3=£29.97 (sub-total: £53.46)

Two pretty new dresses from the 50% off sale rack: £20 and £21 (sub-total: £94.46)

OK! You got me: I went 46p over budget. But I’m going to let that slide since the dresses aren’t really frivolous. They are a practical purchase and will be put to use starting once this week’s holiday is over. (Are you starting to feel a theme to my sometimes-cryptic posts?)

Oh! And you could also argue that the paper cutter isn’t frivolous, since I hope to put that to use for making and selling cards.

The wine, however, is purely for fun.

* In the UK they use little plastic baggies for coins instead of the paper rolls we use in the States. It makes it harder to keep them tidy, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to bag than it is to roll! 

Swirl sets

I almost wasn’t going to post anything today, but then I remembered my promise to post more often so I thought I’d best post something. And so, I thought I’d post my first ‘series’ of swirls for you.

This is the first time I’ve done swirls as a set, and I actually did these with the sights to use them for a set of three note cards for when I get my shop up-and-running. (Which won’t be for a few more weeks—stay tuned!)

These are different for me in that I’ve used rounded ends for the swirls instead of my normal pointy ends. Also, the colours are much more monotone than others. Oh, and I’ve not pushed out to the very edge of the margins and I’ve added little circles-in-circles to these.

So, what do you think?

Swirl research

As you know, I like to swirl. It’s a relaxing pastime and I find it extremely helpful when I need to unwind for a spell.

I’ve been sharing my completed swirls with family and friends on Facebook and I’ve been amazed at how many people tell me that they really like them. In fact, I’ve been amazed at how often it’s been suggested that I try to sell them.

And so, I’ve decided to try that in the form of swirl note cards. Which means I’ve prepared a stack of samples to send off to family and friends in the hope of receiving some honest feedback about the quality as well as their thoughts on pricing.

It’s weird because this is the first time I’ve seriously thought about selling something I’ve made. And even weirder because I still can’t understand why everyone likes my swirls so much. I mean, they’re just scribbles that I do when I’m bored or stressed. Still, I like to please my public whenever I can!

What does this mean for you? Well, it means that in the next few weeks you might be able to buy a set of swirl cards from me. But please know that I’m not going to push that on anyone! When they’re ready, I’ll let you know. Buy them; don’t buy them. Totally up to you!

Wow. I feel like a little entrepreneur all of the sudden. (I hope Hallmark is ready for this awesome bit of competition!)

Swirls for Amy

I recently finished another swirl drawing and I thought that I’d share it with you. (But you have to read to the end to see it!) This was more than just a drawing though. You see, my swirls began as a way to occupy my mind and my thoughts, and have actually become a great way of relaxing and meditating for me. So I decided that I would use this project to focus my mind on the recipient—and it was a wonderful experience! As I swirled, I thought about my good friend, Amy, and what her friendship means to me. And it was wonderful. Really.

It was so nice to reflect on our friendship—from meeting in elementary school to high school plays (and band!) to re-connecting through Facebook and our blogs as adults. We were never close friends in school but in the past couple of years I think we’ve developed a stronger bond and friendship than we ever could have imagined.

I documented my progress as I went along so that you can see it all come together. That may or may not be of interest to you, but, it’s there if you want to see it. (It’s less than 30 seconds if that helps.)

So, what can I tell you about Amy? Well, I can tell you that she is a wonderful person who is full of inspiration and joy. She is beautiful and has an amazing smile. She is a loving, nurturing, and fun Mom to six lovely children and perfect Wife to a very lucky man. She is thoughtful, caring, and compassionate. And she is my friend. And for that, I am blessed.

And now, you can see the lovely swirl that the lovely Amy now has hanging in her lovely entryway.

Paper bird of happiness

When I boarded the bus today, I was met by a pretty little origami crane that was perched on the seat next to me. It had been made with someone’s bus ticket and it looked very much like it was there for someone to find.

I picked it up and held it in my hand, marvelling at not only how well it was made, but at how such a silly, simple little thing could bring me so much happiness. I wanted to take it away with me but I felt that someone else might enjoy a smile, too. Then I thought that I’d take it to the library with me and leave it for someone to find there. (Even though I really wanted to keep it for myself.)

As I sat admiring the little bird, a very pregnant woman and her wee boy boarded the bus and sat behind me. The boy was in a bit of a fussy mood and his mum was trying her best to brighten his day. So I turned around and showed him the pretty bird and asked if he’d like to have it. His face beamed when his mum said that would be OK.

Of course, that meant that I was left without a bird. But, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I was able to find instructions to make my own. Maybe I’ll practice a bit and one day I’ll be good enough to leave pretty birds behind for others to enjoy.

Whisky hearts

Normally, an empty whisky bottle means a cork without a job. But not today. No, today I decided to rescue the cork from my empty bottle of Glenmorangie and carve it up a bit with my pocket knife. (A tool that every good redneck always has on hand.)

I didn’t have any ink pads (sadly, my craft supplies couldn’t make the journey to Scotland with me) but I had some cheap markers that I thought would work as a pigment, and I think the results are a success.

OK, I know it’s a bit silly and childish, but it entertained me. And it means that I have a pretty little heart-shaped stamp to add to my slowly-growing craft box. I think I’ll save up a few more corks to make some other shapes, too—stars, dots, horse shoes, etc. I don’t know what I’ll do with them all, but they’ll be a bit of rainy day entertainment at the very least.

(Other ideas for cheap and easy craft ideas are always welcome!)

Swirl-flies

So I spent the past weekend on the couch dying of the common cold. OK, I wasn’t dying, but I wasn’t feeling too great, either. However, all that time convalescing meant time spent swirling!

I’ve got a couple of swirls on the go at the moment—including a blue one that [finally] nearing completion and one for the winner of my anniversary contest who asked that I donate the finished piece. (You have to wait for details on that, sorry!) And I will soon be starting a new swirl for an amazingly awesome woman I know.

But all this swirling got me thinking that I wanted to expand my abilities a bit. I still want to do swirls; I just want to make them a bit more… I don’t know… something. So I’ve decided to create a butterfly swirl.

Generally, I completely free-hand my swirls, but I felt that I needed to pre-sketch the butterfly to make sure each side was even. The next step will be to colour in the swirls of the butterfly before free-hand swirling the rest of the piece.

I am a little bit concerned that a symmetrical focal point surrounded by random swirls might make it a bit unbalanced, but it might work. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK because I have a couple of other ideas on how to incorporate butterflies into the swirls.

Oh yeah, I also spent quite a bit of time reading and doing academic-y stuff. I’m a good girl like that.

Hushed hooking

I started a new crochet project back in January. But I couldn’t tell you about it because it was for my friend’s birthday present. And she’s such a good friend that she reads my blog all the time. And I knew that even if I tried to talk about it without saying what or who it was for, it would ruin the surprise.

But, it’s done now and it’s been delivered. So now I can tell you about the lovely blue throw blanket that I made for the lovely Rebecca’s birthday.

Oh yeah! That’s another thing: Rebecca gets a birthday this year. In fact, she gets a birthday tomorrow. Yep, she’s a Leap Day Baby!

Happy birthday, Rebecca! I hope that you have an amazing day! (And make the most of it, since you don’t get another birthday for four years!)

Random thoughts: Simple pleasures

Random thoughts—Week 3: List 31 simple pleasures; pick one and write about it.

Last year I was challenged to write a list of 30 things that made me smile and I imagine that this list may include a few duplicates, but I will try to keep those to a minimum.

  1. Finding coins as I’m walking down the road
  2. Unexpected postcards (heck, even expected postcards!)
  3. Lunch with friends
  4. Internet chats and phone calls with my nieces and nephews
  5. Dirty Martinis
  6. Seeing children skipping down the road
  7. Skipping down the road (yes, even as a full-grown woman, I do that sometimes!)
  8. Hearing a favourite song on the radio
  9. Watching a favourite movie on television
  10. Long soaks in a hot bath
  11. Finding my favourite [whatever] on sale
  12. Smells that rekindle a happy memory
  13. Running
  14. A well-cooked steak (that would be medium-rare, thank you!)
  15. Riding on carousels
  16. Playing on swing sets
  17. The feeling of the sun on my face
  18. Flirtatious encounters with cute boys (even when I know I’ll never see them again)
  19. A quiet night in with some jazz, red wine, candle light, and a good book
  20. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning after a long week at work (or school)
  21. Finding a ‘new’ vintage handbag that I love—and can afford!
  22. Watching (and listening to) a massive rain storm—complete with thunder and lightning
  23. Seeing my friends happy and giddy with excitement
  24. Waking up dreading going to work, only to realise it’s the weekend
  25. Walking barefoot in the grass or on a sandy beach
  26. Gravy style popcorn
  27. Picnics in the park
  28. Finishing a craft project
  29. Weekend city breaks to fantastic places
  30. Finding an out-of-the-way pub that sells great beer—but that no one knows about!
  31. Hugs and kisses from family and friends

Now, I know that I’m meant to write about just one of these things, but it would seem that I had a fantastic opportunity to combine a few in one. So, here’s a wee story about something that happened when I was in Cambridge this weekend:

I woke up early to go for a run on Saturday (No 13). And after the run, I had a bit of time to waste waiting for my running partner (who’d gone off for a longer trek!). So, as I waited, I found myself (literally) skipping (No 7) over to the playground where I plopped myself down on a swing (No 16). And as I swung, I noticed some shiny things on the ground below. Sure enough, those shiny things were coins—33 pence worth of them (No 1)!

Of course, the weekend also included Nos: 3, 12, 17, 23, 29, 30, and 31. And loads of other simple pleasures that didn’t make the list.

Oh! And be sure to check out Rebecca’s blog to see what she wrote for her topic this week!

Hunger pains

I’ve been thinking about hunger for a few days now—ever since I signed up to participate in Art House Co-op’sThe Meal’ project. The project is meant as a ‘shared meal’ around the globe, whilst at the same time bringing the issue of hunger to mind, and has certainly given me a lot to think about.

Growing up, I was always starving. Well, at least I was pretty convinced that I was starving in my pleas to my parents for a snack less than an hour before dinner was served—a dinner that would have come after I’d already been fed a nutritionally balanced breakfast and lunch earlier in the day.

The fact was, however, that I was far from starving. My sisters and I never went without food for more than a few hours at a time. And when we were given food, there was more than enough to go around. We may not have liked what we were being served, but we were always provided with healthy and nutritious meals.

Not only were we provided with food growing up, but we were given invaluable lessons on how to prepare foods. Those lessons mean that I am able to feed myself well as an adult—even when I’m on a tight budget. And living in a modern, Western society means that I will always have food available to me.

But not everyone is so lucky. In fact, according to Action for Hunger International, nearly a billion people are affected by global hunger. Additionally, deadly acute malnutrition affects 55 million children worldwide—despite it being preventable and treatable. (See the ACF’s map of nations most affected by acute malnutrition here.)

So, here are some more quick facts for you:
(Source: World Food Programme hunger stats)

  • Hunger is the world’s No 1 health risk, killing more people than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis each year—combined.
  • One in seven people go to bed hungry every day.
  • One in four children in developing countries are underweight.
  • There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of the USA, Canada, and the European Union.

Let’s compare that to these facts:

There is enough food grown and produced in the world to feed everyone but, shockingly, there are many barriers that prevent it from getting into the hands of those who need it: Natural disasters such as floods and storms destroy crops. Drought and climate change have caused crop failures as well as the loss of livestock. Wars and conflicts—as well as shoddy infrastructure—prevent the transportation and distribution of food. Poverty prevents people from accessing proper nutrition. And poor farming practices leave land stripped of its nutrients—or at risk of erosion or deforestation.

Fixing the problem isn’t as easy as packing up your un-eaten leftovers and shipping them off to Ethiopia. It’s not as easy as handing someone a fish—and in many cases, it’s not even as simple as teaching someone to fish.

But that doesn’t mean we’re helpless in the fight against hunger. Action Against Hunger International offers a selection of ways to take action and help. Yes, money is great and does a lot to help the cause, but it’s not the only way to help. You can give your time by educating others about world hunger (Facebook and blogs are great tools for that!) or by volunteering at food banks or other community organisations that strive to eliminate poverty.

And now, I’m going to ask you to take action. Oh yes, I am! But I’m not asking you to give money or volunteer (though I urge you to do so if you feel so inclined!).

Instead, I ask that you think about food. Think about all of the food in your cupboards, all of the food you eat, and all of the food you throw away. Think about it and talk about it with your children. Then give thanks for all you have. Because even if all you have is a tin of baked beans and a bag of rice, it’s still more than some people have.

And if, after you’ve thought about it, you want to do something more, visit Action for Hunger International’s website or stop into one of the homeless shelters or community action centres where you live to see what you can do to make a difference.

Wow. All of that about hunger. And we’ve only scratched the surface.

(Thanks for reading!)

A winning announcement

As promised, today is the day that I’m announcing the winner of my anniversary contest. (But you have to read a bit of a ramble first. And more of a ramble when the announcement is over. I offer no apologies for that.)

Pre-announcement ramble: Wow! This was really hard. All of the entries were entertaining and all of them brought me a smile and a bit of joy. I found myself agonising over who to pick as the winner. For a while, I thought I’d select someone randomly. But that didn’t seem fair. Then I found myself wanting to let everyone be a winner because it makes me feel bad to have someone walk away empty handed.

In the end, I decided to choose one entry. And I chose that entry based on the amount of entertainment it provided, as well as the sort of entertainment. And that entry was made by Ephemera.

I chose Ephemera because I had to work for their post. I had to Google ‘F.M.R.L.’ to see what that stood for (I never did find out) and ‘Ozymandias’ (a sonnet, apparently). In fact, I Googled much of their post to see if it was all part of a poem. And all of those Google searches lead me down loads of winding paths of entertainment and information.

Yes, I chose Ephemera because their post piqued my desire for knowledge. So, I guess now I need to send them an email to see what colours they want for their swirl!

Post-announcement ramble: So, we know who’s getting the prize, but I can’t leave it at that because I loved all of the entries!

Amy: I laughed! I laughed so very much! You couldn’t have known it, but there’s been a bit of a bunny joke going on around here for a few months (I’m merely on the fringe of the joke) and after your post, I started seeing bunnies everywhere. It made me laugh so much. Really, honestly.

Mathew (mm): It made me smile to know that your daughter enjoys the Frances books so much. I read them as a child and really wish I had a set of them again. Such great books and Frances was just amazing with her awesome songs sung in cosy little hiding places. Your post rekindled happy childhood memories!

Debbie: I love Shel Silverstein! I own all of his books and quite often think of his poems when I’m writing. An excellent artist for sure! I was pleased to see your post and to learn that you found me through Frances 3.0. (Though I’m sad to hear that you had a reason to find the site.) I hope your cousin and her children continue to heal!

Rebecca: I still have trouble picturing you as chubby, but if you say so… Your post did entertain me! Partly because I enjoyed reading a memory from your childhood, but partly (sorry to say) because it took me down a winding YouTube path of funny ballet/dancing videos! Of course, your second post entertained me, too. But for different reasons!

ANT Elizabeth: I enjoyed your ramble very much! I vaguely remember your friend Joy—I just don’t know if that’s because I’ve met her or remember stories you’ve told about her. And as for liking ‘teen’ shows, I have a confession to make, too: I love teen romantic comedies! They are a hoot, and no matter how predictable the story is, they make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

OK, one more quick ramble. And that’s to say that I think future contests will be easier. I was maybe asking too much for everyone to write more than a line or two. So, next time maybe I’ll just ask for a favourite quote, song title, or joke. Something short and sweet. What do you think?

Oh! And maybe I’ll have to do a ‘progress post’ on the winning swirl drawing. Yes, that might be fun!

Blank slate; inspiration sought

I’ve spent the last couple of hours searching for inspiration. For what, I don’t quite know. I’ve found lists of daily adventures, blogs meant to inspire you to write a book, and all sorts of things that would make a prostitute blush. (Sadly, that happens with Google searches sometimes!)

In the end, I found the inspiration I was looking for in the hall closet. Yes, I was inspired by a piece of light-weight cardboard that sat peeking out from the top shelf.

Or at least I found just enough inspiration to know that I want to use it as the base for a collage. But I don’t know what the theme of the collage should be.

And that’s where you, Dear Reader, come in. Yes, I would like to hear your ideas of what to place on the board; ideas of a theme or a medium to use; ideas of anything, really.

So, what do you think I should do for my collage? Feel free to give multiple suggestions, and I will let you know what I’ve decided to do once I’m fully inspired!

[Here’s the blank canvas. It measures approximately 16.5 x 9.5 inches. Or 9.5 x 16.5 I suppose, depending on the final orientation.]

Thankful swirls

As you probably know by now, I’ve found a lot of solace in creating swirls. There’s something relaxing and peaceful about them. I have to admit that my first-ever swirl drawing was rubbish. No, really, it was. But from the time I realised that swirls were my sunflowers, my skills have improved. [See more evidence here, here, here, and here.]

Of course, the problem with enjoying something so much is that I want to draw lots of swirls. But I really don’t have that much use for a ga-zillion drawings of swirls. So last summer, when I completed a swirl drawing that my niece was admiring whilst in-progress (she thought it would make a great tattoo!), I wrote a letter to her on the backside. I understand that she’s since hung it up in her bedroom.

Since then, I’ve used swirls to illustrate a blog post and even made a swirl drawing to wrap a friend’s birthday present. And after Christmas, I used some blank greeting cards to make swirl thank you cards for some friends. And now I’m working on a special swirl for a friend’s baby girl.

So, I guess that I’m thankful for my swirls because of the enjoyment I get from them, but I’m also thankful that my skills have improved enough to use them as gifts and cards for people I love. Otherwise, I’d be lost in stacks upon stacks of therapeutic swirls!

Getting better

For a few days now, I’ve been feeling the dreaded claws of illness tightening their grip on my immune system. In fact, by yesterday I wondered if illness was winning, as I found myself suffering on the couch with a fever of 39.1°c (102+° f) and a niggly headache. But—12 hours of sleep later—today I seem to be winning.

I am still fighting off whatever this may be, and am still hoping that it doesn’t develop into a full-on cold (or other illness). But at least I’m feeling better today that I did yesterday.

Of course, being a tad ill has not helped me to get over the down in the dumps feelings I’ve been dealing with since New Year’s Day, but at least it’s not made it worse. In fact, in some ways it’s made me feel better because I get to sit around and sulk in my pyjamas without feeling bad about it!

And, in an effort to get over (or stave off) being sick, I’ve gotten myself some supplies: Crisps and dip and cookies and orange juice and fresh fruits and veggies. Oh, and some pretty daffodils to look at. Or at least I hope they’ll be pretty once they bloom.

So, now I’m just sitting on the couch eating yummy food, hydrating lots and lots, watching whatever looks interesting on iPlayer, and swirling. I hope by the end of the weekend I’ll have not only finally won the battle of this cold, but that I manage to win the battle of the sadness, too!

A spirit found

I’ve been struggling to find my Christmas Spirit since the season began and was starting to wonder if it would be found in time. I haven’t had the energy or the inclination for baking Christmas cookies or writing Christmas cards. Yes, I’ve been feeling deflated and sad and lonely and tearful.

But it’s nearly Christmas so I’m not going to whinge on and on about the sadness and tears. Instead, I’m going to tell you about my renewed joy!

You see, I went through to Edinburgh yesterday to spend some time with my friend, Joanne, and her family. And when Joanne picked me up at my bus stop, I was greeted with excitement not only from her, but from her 4-year-old daughter, Miss E, who was in the back seat full smiles. When we got to the house, I smiled as I watched the baby running around with smiles of her own, and laughed when Joanne’s 7-year-old son told me stories of his day at his friend’s house.

This morning I hid in the guest room until the kids made their way to school (no sense in me interrupting their morning routine!) then I enjoyed a nice coffee and chat with Joanne. Yes, I was feeling myself cheer up with each passing moment.

However, it was when Miss E was finished with nursery school that my Christmas Spirit made a solid appearance. You see, Miss E brought home all sorts of Christmas crafts—including a stocking just for me! And then, when Joanne went upstairs to tend to the baby, Miss E and I made some homemade cranberry bread whilst we talked about America. (A place that Miss E is quite fond of!)

After baking cranberry bread, there was drawing to be done. And I’ll just say I was very honoured (and flattered) that Miss E wanted to draw the exact same thing as me!!
Yeah, it was a bit sad to say goodbye to everyone late this afternoon, but I’m so pleased to have found my Christmas Spirit again! And with just enough time, too, since I need to make some truffles tomorrow so that I can get ready to head out of town for Christmas. (Don’t worry, I’ll tell you more about my Christmas adventures later!)

You know what? I think I need to make more of an effort to visit Joanne and her family more often. I know it’s an hour’s train journey, plus a car or bus ride from the station, but I always feel so happy once I’ve been for a visit. Yes, maybe regular visits with friends should be part of my New Year’s Resolution!

(Oh! And now that I’ve found my Christmas Spirit, maybe it’s time I enjoy some mulled wine?)

Chalk it up to intelligence

Since the beginning of June, I’ve been a bit remiss about organising my digital files. I think I got a bit crazy with my foster daughter moving, followed by quitting my job, leaving my house, moving to Scotland, starting school, and well, just life in general!

But the point is this: Tonight I got around to looking at some of the photos that I’ve taken over the past few months* and I found one of the sidewalk chalk drawing my foster daughter made for me a couple of days before she left. She was so excited to drag me out of the house to see it and I was so excited to see her so excited about it!

Yes, the kid thought I was pretty awesome. When we’d go into town, she insisted on introducing me to everyone as her ‘awesome foster mom’. She failed to acknowledge, however, that I couldn’t have been an awesome foster mom without having such an awesome foster kid.

Anyhow, I just thought I’d share the kid’s artwork. I miss seeing her drawings every day (I miss seeing her every day!), but at least I know she’s still happily drawing away in her new home. In fact, when we spoke on the phone last week, I asked if she needed/wanted anything and her only request was a new sketch book with the Loch Ness Monster or a Scottish flag on it.

I wonder what I’ll find the next time I flip through my photos …

* Don’t worry! I’m not one of those people who keep photos on the camera for months and months at a time. I’ve been transferring to my computer and backup drive; I’ve just not filed all of them in their respective folders.

Cutting out the middles

So I’m working on a new design project for my parents. Just a little something that will make Mom smile—and me. (Likely others in the family, too, but I can’t be sure yet.)

Anyhow, part one is underway: Photoshopping a photo of me and my sister, Celeste. Together, we share the ‘middle child’ position in our family. We also share a birth month, but not a birthday, as I was born two years and six days before her. I know this is all more information than you needed, but I felt it was warranted to explain the silly title of this post. But I digress…

It’s a bit tedious because I have to cut out the two of us from a busy airport scene—and I have to do it without trimming too much off of our shoes and hair. It’s hard, especially since I’m self-taught on the software.

But this is where I am so far. Now I just need to clean up the edges a bit and figure out what the background will be. (No, it won’t be green.)

There is a lot more work to be done and I don’t know when it will get finished, but I’ll be sure to share the finished design when it’s complete!

Happy Friday!

Ripples for me

For the first time in my life, I am crocheting something for me. Yep, I’m making a pretty red ripple afghan throw for the couch in my new flat—with a goal to finish the throw before I move in toward the end of October.

OK, that first part isn’t 100% true because I was once working on a queen-sized ripple afghan for my bed, but later decided I would make it for my Mom. And that didn’t get finished before I left for Scotland so I left the project in the hands of my baby sister, Royann, who is only just learning to crochet and will be taking over my left-handed project with her right-handed stitches as her first-ever project. (Royann: Remember you can Skype me or go see ANT Elizabeth for help if you need it!)

But I digress…

When the throw is completed it will be the width of a twin blanket and about 4 feet long—or longer. But at the moment it’s about the size of a scarf. So, um, more hooking is needed!

I know that one little throw isn’t going to be enough to make my new flat feel as much like home as the home I left behind did, but it’s a start. And I like the idea of having something that I made in my new flat.

Note to self: Don’t become that crazy lady who spends every Saturday night at home crocheting lace doilies for every surface of the house and knitting tea cosies for everyone in her address book!

Wakey culture

I made my way down to Wakefield, England, yesterday to visit with my sister-in-law, Ann, for a few days. I’ve made several trips here over the past eight+ years and have always enjoyed it. But today was a different sort of day out in Wakefield because I went to my first art museum here—the newly opened Hepworth Wakefield.

I generally love museums and such, but I think that I was more impressed with the architecture of this one than the stuff they had inside. As we approached the grey mass of concrete (the largest purpose built exhibition space in the UK outside of London) I was struck by the building’s stark and utilitarian design. The angled, multi-layered roof line seemed so oddly placed in juxtaposition to the Chantry Chapel across the way—the brutal architecture seemed more fitting in a dock yard than in the heart of a medieval town. But I think that David Chipperfield’s vision works. (I especially loved the look of it against the blue sky!)

Inside of the museum I enjoyed the variety of paintings and sculptures, but I don’t think I was in the right mindset for a museum trip because none of the works really called to me today. I did, however, find it fascinating to see some of the displays explaining the process behind making some of the massive outdoor public sculptures that I see all over the place.

Of course, after seeing the arty cultural stuff, it was time to spend some cash. So Ann took me to a couple of shops where I found myself a new dress and a pair of ballet slipper kind of shoes after we popped into the Wakefield Cathedral’s gift shop and a Costa Coffee.

Tomorrow will be a bit of a lazy day (after, that is, I get a quick training run in for that bloody marathon!) then we’re heading back to Billingham on Friday. I realised the other day that I’ve been living out of a suitcase for nearly two months now, and I have to admit that I am ready to get settled in up in Scotland! (Though I also don’t quite know where I’ll be staying long-term there, so it will be a while before I’m truly settled, so stay tuned!)

Fun with maths

[Please note that the ‘S’ at the end of maths was intentional, and not an error. It’s part of my attempt to use that funny British English stuff, since that’s (almost) home. However, I’m not quite ready to add the ‘S’ to words such as toward, forward, and backward. One day, I will completely acclimatise myself to the extra and replacement ‘S’s though. I think. But now onto the story.]

Once again, I’ve had a couple of great, fun-filled days. And much of the fun has included numbers. Like:

3+9=Golftastic!
Three friends came to visit yesterday and we were given the opportunity to play nine holes of golf at Rope Rider. The course isn’t open to the public for another three weeks, so it was a rare treat. It was also quite interesting to play since the course isn’t marked so we didn’t know where the tee-boxes were or what par was on each hole. Additionally, we didn’t have a course map and the pins weren’t out on the greens so we didn’t actually know where to aim! But we all had a great time and the course was absolutely amazing!

12+1+3+1=Runtastic!
So this morning I woke up bright and early (like, 6 a.m.!) for a 12-mile training run (12+1). I’ve been feeling a bit lazy with my running the last few days, so wasn’t about to bail on it! Thankfully, my Dad woke up early, too, so that he could ride along with me on his trike (that’s the 3+1 part, if you wondered).

NieceX3+Yakima=Funtastic!
After cooling down from my run, I grabbed three of my nieces (Flik, 14; Cassandra, 13; and Ivanna, 13) for a quick trip to Yakima. We loaded into my car and turned up the tunes (500 Miles by The Proclaimers was the first song request) then just sang and laughed on our way to ‘the big city’ (population 91,000 that’s big to us!). Our first stop was Target for some new running tops, then it was on to Miner’s for burgers and fries. After an enjoyable lunch we stopped off at the art supply and book stores before making the return drive to the homeland. It was really fun to be out with the girls, and I especially loved chatting with Ivanna about her dreams of being a tattoo artist when she grows up. (I doubt her mom enjoys hearing that career choice!)

36+Colours+Tin Case=Drawtastic!
Of course, I also managed to invest in some future fun! Yep, when we went to the art supply store, I noticed that they had a 50 percent off sale on premium coloured pencil sets. And since I have been frustrated with my $5 cheap-and-cheerful set intended for elementary students, I broke down and purchased a set of Prismacolor pencils. There are just 36 in the set, compared to 72 in the cheap set, but they are meant to be much better and come in a handy tin for carrying with me. And since we all know that I find joy (and therapy) in drawing swirls, it just seemed like $30 well spent!

And since we’re talking about maths, here are some more figures for you:

  • 7: Number of sleeps left until my flight
  • 39: Number of sleeps left until the first day of classes
  • 59: Number of sleeps left until I run/walk the Loch Ness Marathon

(Not bad for a woman who hates maths, huh?)

[That’s a photo of today’s burgers. Yum, huh?]

Pieces of noon

Once again, I’ve become lax in my efforts to reclaim my lunch hour. In fact, the last time I made a deliberate effort to do so was back in March! OK, in fairness I have taken a couple of lunch-time trips to Moscow for optical appointments but that’s just not the same. But I digress…

Last week I noticed that the WSU Museum of Art had listed a few summer concerts, so I decided to put them on my calendar right away so that I could be free to take the five minute walk and get out of the office. I’d completely forgotten about it, but then my handy-dandy gadgets started beeping and flashing reminding me that I had a noon appointment—one that I almost cancelled because I wasn’t really in the mood. But then I realised that not being in the mood to relax was exactly why I needed to go and relax.

So, it was off to listen to the WSU faculty jazz ensemble, Nighthawk, and look at the pretty art stuff. After all, what can be more relaxing than a bit of jazz and art on a late-spring afternoon?

And now comes the part I know you’re all waiting for: My impressions of some of the art! But don’t worry, I’m only going to give my thoughts on four of the many pieces I saw.

First up, I was drawn to an Andy Warhol painting called Siberian Tiger (1983). Now, please forgive me for my first thoughts about this painting, but it reminded me of the tigers and lions we used to draw as children. Well, the outline part at least—the rest of it was very much outside of my ability! The colouring and texture on the tiger’s eyes and facial features was beautiful. Truly the work of an artist and not that of my childhood drawings! But, the memories it brought me of my now-passed thoughts that I could be a famous artist made me smile.

The next piece that struck me was an untitled piece by Cheryl Laemmle. It was oil on canvas painted in 1978 depicting a monkey and a horse in an outdoor scene. (Where else would a monkey and horse be, right?) The overall piece wasn’t something that spoke to me, but I was so taken in by how realistic the fur on the animals looked. The white fur on the horse was especially realistic and I had to resist the urge to feel it. On looking up close, I could see the individual brush strokes that made the fur, but even after that, it still looked all 3-D(ish) when I stepped back again. So, yeah, this piece made me smile, too.

The third piece that made me stop for a closer look was probably the most pretentious one in the place. (Yes, I always try to pick out the one I think is the most pretentious.) Anyhow, it was by Nancy Burson and was titled O.I.C. (1980; screen print) It was in a simple, minimalist brushed silver frame with a white matte. And inside the white matte was a white square screen-printed on white paper. If you looked very closely, you could see the faintest pencil-scrawled signature. (I would have been embarrassed to sign my name to it as it seems as silly as signing a blank cheque if you ask me. But what do I know about art?)

Finally, I was struck by a piece by Joseph Goldberg titled Pieces of Noon (1986; encaustic on linen over wood). The overall piece looked rather distressed and flaky and consisted of several ill-fitted bits of something-or-other stacked on each other—with a very tenuous looking base and a more stable looking top bit.

And now I’m going to get all self-reflected and stuff because it’s my blog and it’s all about me and that last piece made me all reflective and stuff so: I found it amusing that, in an effort to reclaim my lunch hour, I found enjoyment in a bit of art called Pieces of Noon. Further, I enjoyed the symbolism* in the piece being distressed and flaky—just like I’ve been feeling lately. And I found it interesting that—despite the tenuous-looking base—the overall image seemed stable and solid. Almost as if the weight of the top bits were stabilising the rest of the stack. (Yeah, I’m not the best at interpreting art, but these were my thoughts and this is my blog so that’s OK.)

Oh! And one more thing! As I sat there scribbling my notes with one of my Just Frances pens, a member of the museum’s staff approached me to let me know that using ink pens was not allowed. He requested that I use a pencil instead (and kindly handed me one). I have never heard of an ink prohibition in a museum before and from the sounds of it, neither have my Facebook friends. Have you? Or was this just a one-off little quirk?

[The image with this post is my own rough sketch of the Pieces of Noon piece. It’s not nearly as good as the original, but I’m not really an artist so that’d OK!]

* Symbolism, much like horoscopes, makes me laugh in cynicism often because we can all interpret whatever we want out of things. It’s all about the spin. But, as I said, this is my blog and this is my interpretation! You are, of course, welcome to share your own interpretations in the comment section.

Monday swirls

It has been an emotionally and physically exhausting couple of days. From an out-of-the-blue emotional crash on Friday, to marking the anniversary of my marriage on Saturday, to a long day of preparing for The Big Move on Sunday, I’ve just been feeling battered.

Then, I spent much of this Monday in meetings, meetings, and more bloody meetings.

So when I got home from work—to a peacefully quiet house, thanks to my foster daughter’s burgeoning social life—I took the opportunity to swirl a bit. In fact, I managed so many swirls (and dots!) that I finally finished this piece that I started way back in January!

Oh! And I also spent a bit of time this evening on Facebook brainstorming some awesome names for a potential freelance communications endeavour I’m considering. That was fun and I hope to have more to share with you on that sometime this summer…

And now, I’m off to read in bed for a bit before I call it quits for the night. Nighty-night!

The fairy’s new digs

My foster daughter got a fairy garden set for Christmas that included a little fairy cottage and toadstools for her to decorate along with loads of other sparkly and wonderful things to make the fairy’s home and surrounding garden a place of wonderment.

And on Sunday, she finally got around to opening the box.

She painted the things that needed painting then spread the soil into the flower-shaped container. After a considerable amount of time placing all of the gem-encrusted paths and other bits-and-bobs in just the right place, she finally planted the seeds in the two back quadrants. Then she watered it and spent the rest of Sunday adamant that she could already see something growing. (She was mistaken, as whist there were beans in the seed mix, they were not magical ones that sprouted in less than three hours.)

Monday and Tuesday she looked with excitement when she woke up then again when we returned home. And each day she was a little sad that there were no green sprouts.

But this morning when we woke, we noticed that the soil was bulging like crazy in the two sections she’d planted in. And on closer inspection, we could see that several of the seeds and beans were, in fact, beginning to sprout.

I suspect that the fairy will need to get out in the garden for some weeding in the next few days!

(Oh, and you can expect another photo or two of the growing process because the kid is adamant that this project will make for a good read on my blog and I think she’s right. I hope you agree!)

Lunch with Claudia

I’ve been quite lax in my determination to take back my lunch hour so decided that I’d take some me-time today because the stress of the world has been getting to me and I needed the respite. So I had lunch with Claudia Fitch at the WSU Museum of Art. (OK, I ate lunch then went to the museum because you can’t take food in. And not so much ‘with’ Claudia as with her art work.)

Fitch is a multi-media artist who creates sculptures from, essentially, rubbish. I generally like this sort of work, but I have to admit that I wasn’t overly taken by this exhibit. Now, this isn’t to say that she’s not a good artist—it’s just that most of her work wasn’t to my liking. Or maybe it was that I didn’t like seeing so much in one place because I think I’d have enjoyed seeing one piece tucked away somewhere in someone’s home. And I certainly enjoy many of her public art pieces.

However, there were three displays that piqued my interest today.

The first to catch my eye was ‘Backdrop (granite)’. Essentially, it’s three large chunks of brown butcher paper pieced together with a life-sized(ish) gray and white painting of a human(ish) form. I smiled when I saw it because it reminded me of when I was a young girl in Camp Fire and we did life-sized drawings/tracings of ourselves on butcher paper. (I wonder if Mom still has ‘me’ rolled up in a corner somewhere…)

The next one that caught me was ‘Floating Mechanism (nightshade)’. It just seemed as if it belonged on the set of a science fiction movie. One where an evil madman had created an army of evil robots (in this case, female breast looking robots) which were standing in ridged formation waiting for their activation orders.

Finally, I was bemused and amused with an untitled installation that consisted of several pieces ranging in size. It was created with re-bar and other metal bits and had glass and fiberglass globes and bobbles here and there. I didn’t care for the display with everything lumped together like that. But it’s just the sort of whimsy I’d have loved to see interspersed throughout a botanic garden or something.

So, would I recommend checking out the exhibit? Absolutely! You never know what you’ll like until you see it. And if you’re not around to see it, maybe you should check out the museums in your neck of the woods. It’s a great way to spend a rainy day and you might just find a new favourite artist!

Swirly tree Ts

Right! Remember how I posted a couple of weeks ago about a project I was working on for His Majesty? Well, I can talk about it now. Yay!

Firstly, His Majesty is my Uncle King. (Uncle Joe to my sisters, but for some reason I started calling him Uncle King as a child and I am his Princess. But I digress.)

We’re having an awesome Eberle family reunion in July and one of the cousins posted something about shirts on Facebook so I offered my design services if they were needed/wanted. As I’m not one of the family elders, I’m not in on the planning, so hadn’t realised that Uncle King was already working on something. But, the cousins mentioned to him that I should be working on them so he asked me to design something.

Of course, by then he’d already come up with a design with the help of his friend. So he sent that to me as a starting place.

This was the starting place:

Now, it’s not that I’m a snob, but this is not a shirt that I would wear. So I tossed together two basic designs for Uncle King to see if he liked them—telling him that it was perfectly OK if he wanted to stick with the one he already had.

These were my first two designs for him:

I was a bit surprised when he seemed to like the tree, and was more than happy to re-do the tree with the family names. Please note that the tree is hand-drawn. (Yes, I have an ego and I’m very pleased with my swirly tree!)

So, this was the next design I sent:

A couple of tweaks later, and this was the final design:

I also created a couple of simple ones, just in case:

Oh, and I used green for the background on my designs because, well, I like green. But the actual shirts will be blue. I know you’re anxious to see photos of all of us Awesome Eberles wearing our shirts at the reunion, so I’ll share those later this summer. Yay!!

It may never be done…

Shortly after moving into our new home, I started working on a queen-sized afghan using the bits and scraps of other projects. Paul and I were looking forward to having loads of handmade afghans and quilts to keep us warm. Then when Paul died I stopped stitching because I just didn’t have the heart for it.

But about nine months later, I picked up my hooks and started to work on the afghan once again. I even put out a call to friends for any left-over yarn they might have—and was pleased to have people respond with bags of the stuff!

Then summer hit. Then I took in a foster kid. Then life’s stresses hit. Then the holiday season’s depression hit. Then I needed to concentrate on finishing my foster daughter’s [now late, but finally finished] Christmas afghan.

Which meant this lovely queen-sized afghan was neglected and neglected and neglected. (Though there were periods between neglect where I’d hook a couple of rows.)

Anyhow, I guess it’s about half-way done now—nearly three years after it got started! But all of the sudden I’m moving back to Scotland. And it seems silly to take a half-finished project this size with me, but I can’t ditch it now because I’ve put in too much effort.

And so, I am now stitching for my mommy! Yep, I’ve decided that I will attempt at finishing this sucker before I fly out to Scotland this summer and I will give the finished afghan to my Mom. I think she’ll like this plan.

Of course, in taking a photo of the project so far, I spread the blanket out on the floor and quickly noticed that it’s getting wider as I go. I think it’s a combination of me loosening my stitches as I get faster and the different, softer yarns that I’m using right now. So Mom, I’m very sorry but you’ll be getting a crooked afghan.

Right. Time to stop blogging now and start hooking…

It’s done!

When I began stitching my foster daughter’s Christmas afghan back in October, I really thought I would be able to finish it. But with the holidays came a bit of depression, which—added to the fact that I could only stitch when she was sleeping—meant that the project was slow going.

Since I showed her the partial gift on Christmas day, it meant that I was able to work on it in front of her finally. Of course, the post-holiday depression was still there and I wasn’t quite as motivated as I thought I’d be.

However, a couple of weeks ago I got my mojo back and started hooking at warp speed, which means that two months after Christmas, it’s finally done.

And the best thing is that the kid is super happy about it!

Oh, and she happily pointed out the other day that it’s purple and green so she’ll always remember me because purple is her favourite colour and green is mine! (Aw, bless her little cotton socks!)

Swirls by commission

I am working on a secret project, which means that by Royal Decree, I am unable to tell you what it is. Or even that I’m working on it. However, I don’t think that this picture will give enough away to cause my banishment from the kingdom.

I shall unveil the entire scope of this awesome thing I’ve been asked to create as soon as HRH gives his blessing.

100 random things

My friend posted a list of 100 random things her daughter wrote about herself out of boredom and I thought I’d give it a shot and create my own list. So, if you’re not already bored, this should help…

100 Random Things about Just Frances

  1. I am the preantepenultimate Cook Girl.
  2. I enjoy showing off my vocabulary skills.
  3. I cringe when I see incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But I only correct errors when I’m being paid to do so. [To clarify: I generally correct the errors in my mind, but only tell people of the errors when I’m paid or otherwise requested to do so.]
  4. I think that demonstrating the ability to change a vehicle’s tires and oil should be a compulsory part of passing a drivers’ license test.
  5. I wear glasses and will never get eye surgery because I like that the glasses obscure the fact that I don’t wear makeup.
  6. I’m a distance runner. (Well, I dabble in the sport at least.)
  7. I am Catholic.
  8. I joined the school cross country team because the coach asked me after church in front of my dad and the priest. How could I say no?
  9. I have never felt at home in my hometown.
  10. I am proud of my small town red neck roots.
  11. I found my true place of belonging in Scotland nearly 10 years ago.
  12. I am returning to Scotland later this year!!
  13. I am rubbish at math[s] and I don’t care.
  14. I am correct handed (also known as left handed).
  15. I believe that there is a conspiracy in the works by right-handers who are jealous of us amazing lefties. Even pens are made with righties in mind! (But not all of them!)
  16. I have hazel eyes that are more on the green end of the spectrum, but wish that I had truly green eyes.
  17. I pretend to be happy even when I’m sad.
  18. I can’t fake tears; I’ve tried.
  19. I am dyslexic. (Yet I edit things for a living. Ironic!)
  20. I had speech therapy as a child.
  21. I am the co-inventor of the term SUBS Syndrome and hope that one day the term is widely used to describe the condition of sudden, uncontrollable bursts of sarcasm.
  22. I honestly believe that the media is helping to perpetuate ignorance in our society. The biggest culprit being the “news” media.
  23. My master’s degree will be in media and culture, so I’ll get to do a lot of research on this very issue!
  24. I once sang on stage with Pat Benatar who was opening at the Gorge Amphitheatre for the Steve Miller Band. Really. True story.
  25. I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll all at once.
  26. I like candy, but I could live without chocolate.
  27. I love to fly!
  28. I prefer the aisle seat on airplanes.
  29. I say a prayer asking God to guide the hands of the crew and to keep us safe in our journey; and I ask that if His plans don’t include our survival that He comfort our loved ones. I do this for every take off and landing because something compels me to.
  30. I try to order low-sodium meals on the plane and drink lots of water so that I’m refreshed and non-puffy when I arrive. I even wash my face 2-3 times on long flights to/from the UK. I think it helps the jetlag. But that might not be true.
  31. I can’t decide which movies I like better: The Godfather series or the Monty Python movies.
  32. I have polycystic kidney disease. It’s a genetic condition with no cure. But some smart people are working to find a cure!
  33. I have a blood disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura. Even the haematologists who study it don’t know much about it. Which sucks for me.
  34. Despite my medical maladies, I think I’m mostly healthy.
  35. I dream that my doctor will one day say “To live a long and healthy life you must eat lots of good steak and salty, deep-fried foods, drink lots of wine, and smoke.” Of course, if I hear those words I know it’s time to find a new doctor.
  36. I cry myself to sleep at least once a week.
  37. I recently ended a friendship that I didn’t want to end. I’m sure it will be one of the reasons I cry myself to sleep over the next few weeks.
  38. I haven’t slept through the night since Paul died.
  39. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever sleep well again.
  40. I thought that I was ugly growing up because one of my sisters told me over and over again that I was. (Funny, we all look alike!)
  41. I thought that I was stupid growing up because a couple of my teachers said I was.
  42. As an adult, I’ve learned to love myself and know that I’m good looking and intelligent.
  43. One of my Paul’s friends told me that I’m a great person and I’ll find someone new when I’m ready—but that I’d have better luck if I’d dumb it down a bit. (Said person has likely never been married for a reason.)
  44. Several of Paul’s friends have become my friends and I don’t think I could have survived the world without him without them.
  45. I didn’t go on my first date until I was 20 years old.
  46. I married my first true love.
  47. We were a month shy of our 4th anniversary when he died.
  48. I try to be happy and enjoy life because I know it’s what Paul wants for me.
  49. I sometimes think that I’ll meet someone new and fall in love and get married again and I know that Paul would be OK with that. But I can’t be bothered to date because no one is good enough for me.
  50. Thinking that no one was good enough for me is what gave me a reputation for being an overly-picky dater in my 20s.
  51. Being an overly-picky dater meant that when I did land a man, I got the best one on the market!
  52. A stupid woman once told me that the reason I can’t have kids is that God thinks I’d be a bad mom.
  53. I have been a foster mom for a little over six months now—so at least the State of Washington thinks I’d be a good mom!
  54. Paul and I planned to adopt two adorable children before he died.
  55. Sometimes I’m heartbroken that I may never get to be someone’s mom.
  56. I have 17 nieces and nephews and 2 great nephews.
  57. It irritates some of my sisters that their children want to be so much like me.
  58. I’ve had green hair. And pink, purple, blue, yellow, orange, jet-black, and bleach-blonde. Sometimes multiple colours all at once!
  59. My favourite colour is green.
  60. My first car was a 1978 Ford Granada.
  61. My friends and I sanded it down, primed it black, and then painted a big yellow smiley face on the hood and flowers and peace signs all over the body. It was awesome.
  62. I passed my driving test on the first try.
  63. I taught Paul how to drive.
  64. I’ve taught some of my nieces and nephews how to shift gears. (But please don’t tell their moms!)
  65. I have a fascination with butterflies and have since I was a young child.
  66. I have a butterfly tattoo.
  67. I played clarinet in the school band.
  68. I am training for the Loch Ness Marathon.
  69. I am a Pisces.
  70. I was born in the Year of the Tiger.
  71. I don’t believe in astrology stuff.
  72. I will be 37 years old on Monday.
  73. I don’t really like to make a fuss about my birthday.
  74. I have read dictionaries and encyclopaedias for entertainment since I was in junior high.
  75. I don’t like romance novels because they make me uncomfortable.
  76. My friends think I am a prude.
  77. I try never to use profanity because I think it’s vulgar and shows a lack of respect. (But sometimes it slips out in a heated moment of upset.)
  78. I taught myself how to knit and crochet but can only make basic things like scarves and afghans.
  79. I like root beer.
  80. I don’t really care for Coke or Pepsi.
  81. When I was in my late-teens and early-20s, I’d hang out at the local 24-hour diner with my friends drinking coffee and eating cheesy fries with ranch dressing. It was awesome!
  82. I am considered a computer and gadget geek by my family and friends.
  83. I love Doctor Who, but I hate SciFi.
  84. I define SciFi as anything I don’t like.
  85. I always like to have the best gadgets in the room. Sadly, some of my new friends are gadget geeks with better incomes so this is hard to do now.
  86. I love my family.
  87. I am going to miss my cat, Schrodie, so much when I move to Scotland.
  88. I am going to miss my family so much when I move to Scotland.
  89. I used to have Mork & Mindy suspenders (braces) when I was a kid and I wish I still had them now.
  90. I loved Weebles as a child. They were awesome they way they weebled and wobbled but didn’t fall down!
  91. I always wanted tassels on my handlebars when I was a kid. But not so much that I got them as an adult.
  92. My favourite toys growing up were a telescope, a microscope, a rocket kit, and an electric circuit board kit.
  93. I don’t like gold-coloured jewellery.
  94. I like dirty martinis with extra olives.
  95. I drink my coffee strong and black with no sugar.
  96. I am excited about starting grad school in September.
  97. I am afraid that I am ruining myself financially by going to grad school.
  98. I am convinced that going to grad school will fix me emotionally and mentally.
  99. I am excited about my future for the first time since Paul died.
  100. I feel guilty for being happy about this new life, even though I know Paul would be happy for me.

Wow! That was hard! Are you still reading? You deserve an award for that!!

Edited to add: Since folks have been asking where/what their award is, I feel it’s fair (OK, not fair but cheap) for me to say the award is knowing me that little bit better. Sorry it’s so lame! (But thanks for reading!)

Too much

Sometimes I try to do too much all at once. And sometimes, that means that my coffee table suffers and becomes covered in half-finished projects.

Currently, it is straining under the weight of my nail file kit (I love French Connection UK!); a stack of note cards that I’m sorting through; my drawing supplies; an on-going practice page for my swirl drawings; a couple of journals and notebooks; my embroidery floss case and partially-finished friendship bracelets; yarn and the half-finished afghan it goes to; and all sorts of other bits-and-bobs—only half of which actually belong on top of the coffee table.

Thankfully, my sister and nephew are coming over for the weekend so that my nephew and I can participate in the Partners in Pain 5K. Company means I will put stuff away, which is a good thing. Though if I wouldn’t try to do too much at once, it would never get this bad in the first place.

Friendship bracelets

My foster daughter was given a friendship bracelet making kit for Christmas. I remember thinking it was a silly thing to sell as a kit. I mean, all you need is a bit of embroidery floss and a safety pin, right? But she seemed happy about the gift, so I wasn’t about to tell her what a silly thing it was.*

Fast forward to last night, and I found her in her room attempting to use the kit for the first time; and hating it. She decided—on her own—that the kit was worthless. Instead, she decided that she would just braid the floss together. Of course, braiding wouldn’t have the same look as a friendship bracelet from the kit with the fancy ‘weaving wheel’. But she decided that something was better than nothing.

Seeing her disappointment, I quickly rounded up the floss that came with the kit, grabbed a pair of scissors and a safety pin, and sat her down next to me on the couch for a quick lesson in friendship bracelets.

I was very pleased with myself because after not having made a friendship bracelet in 20+ years, I actually remembered how! And I must have been an OK instructor because the kid picked it up immediately and has already made two bracelets since last night. She is practicing with different patterns and types of knots and should have the skill mastered by the end of the weekend. She even managed to take my left-handed instructions and reverse them for using her non-left (wrong?) hand.

Me? I attempted at one this evening and realised two things before giving up: 1) I have too many other projects going at the moment to get wrapped up in a new one and 2) I don’t know if my friends would wear one if I gave them one anyhow. (But after my afghans are done, I think I might make some bracelets for my friends anyhow. I bet they’d smile if I gave them one, even if it never got worn.)

[The top photo is my foster daughter working on her third bracelet. The bottom photo is what I did before giving up for the night in favour of blogging and crocheting.]

* In all fairness, it was a very nice, very kind gift from a community programme that gives gifts to foster children. It’s just that I grew up making bracelets by hand and sort of thought that a kit that does the weaving for you is cheating. But maybe hand-knotting bracelets is one of those traditions that doesn’t get passed from one generation to the next?

Ripples

So, this is my foster daughter’s Christmas present. Not for next Christmas but for the one just past. Can you believe that I’m still working on it? I seem to be a bit slow in making these ripples.

The good thing is that now that she knows I’m making it, I can stitch when she’s still awake. The bad thing is that I haven’t felt the urge to stitch the past few weeks.

I think I’m about a quarter of the way done, which means I’d best get hooking!

No sleep for the artist

My foster daughter has just brought me a lovely drawing that she made last night when she couldn’t sleep. She proudly proclaimed that she hid her signature underneath some of the sketching so that I could scan it and share it online (because she knows I won’t use her name on my blog).

As always, the kid has some real talent!

Of course, after admiring her art work I started to worry that she wasn’t sleeping but was instead up all hours of the night drawing. (No wonder she’s tired this morning!) Her insomnia worried me for a few minutes, then I remembered that she had a Christmas visit with her Mom last night—a visit that included loads of sugary treats and fizzy drinks. Which would explain her inability to sleep. And maybe even her slightly sore belly today. (I’ll note here that I’m all about the sugary treats and fizzy drinks for special occasions!)

But, I digress…

Here’s The Kid’s amazing drawing for you to enjoy!

Not finished!

Yesterday I shared the finished scarf for my foster daughter’s Christmas present. Today, I’m sharing the unfinished afghan!

Thankfully, she is off mucking out stalls in a neighbour’s horse barn right now. (Really.) I’m taking advantage of the free time to get a few rows done. At this rate, the afghan will be bigger than the scarf by Christmas morning.

Yay!

A cartridge in a bare tree

Growing up, one of my favourite Christmas decorations was a small twiggy, leafless branch, planted in a little pot and standing 6-8” tall. Hanging from one of the little stick-limbs was a spent bullet casing.

Very obviously, this was a “Cartridge in a Bare Tree”.

It made me giggle as a child and it makes me giggle as a grown up.

I wonder if my parents still have that silly little tree.

And I wonder if I can find one for myself.

Wait! What am I saying? I’m a redneck hick chick from Small Town America. I’ll just go shoot a gun, pick up the spent shells, snap a twig from a tree, and make my own!

Yes, that sounds like a fun weekend art project. But maybe not one my foster daughter should assist with …

Image courtesy of The Forestry Forum

Twee tweety tenement

I was give a little bird house the other day by my foster daughter. She came home and rather unceremoniously handed it to me on her way to her room, whilst I was in the middle of a conversation with the woman who’d driven her home. So I set it down on a side table, finished my conversation, then went to check on the kid who was getting ready for bed.

Two days later, I notice the birdhouse sitting there. I picked it up and asked the kid to tell me what the deal was with the birdhouse.

She told me that she painted it special for me so that I can take it to Scotland with me next time and hang it in a tree. Then, I need to take photos of all the birds that come to visit it to send to her because she wants to know what Scottish birds look like.

So this is the way we do things I guess. When I leave the country, I am bound by duty to send photos of something to her. On my trip to England in September she wanted airplane photos and on my up-coming trip to Canada she wants pictures of my friends. And as I like to travel and take pictures, I’m totally OK with these requests!

But don’t be fooled. She always wants real presents—and real candy—from my travels. But she’s a sweetie, so I’m happy to oblige!

Clay play

As part of my on-going mission to relax and find a bit of silly joy in life, I broke open a box of coloured clay this evening. I didn’t do much with it today, but I’m inspired now and have a great idea for some fun time with my foster daughter this weekend.

I’m sure you’re totally excited to see what we might create so here’s a wee flower to tide you over until I have something more artistic to entertain you with. Yay!

 

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Feeling dotty

I’m still struggling with the sadness that came over me yesterday. Not in an “I’m still sad” way but in a “Big episodes of grief really wipe me out” way. So I decided I’d take it easy and doodle for a bit after dinner.

The evening’s doodles are really more dottles; which is about right since I’m feeling a bit dotty today.

Which makes me smile because dotty is a British slang term for mentally unbalanced, eccentric, or amusingly absurd—all terms that could be used to describe me most days.

Just a doodlin’

I love to doodle. So today, as I sat waiting for a meeting that took forever to get started, I found myself doodling a bit. The meeting’s theme of social media use seems to have come across in my doodle, too.

Of course, thinking about doodling makes me think of one of my favourite songs from childhood, The Doodlin’ Song by the Statler Brothers. So I’m sharing the song with you. Yay!

Blue hearts

So there is was a great big, blue 2,800-pound bronze heart sculpture on campus that I totally love. I noticed it on my first trip to WSU for a job interview and was instantly drawn to it. But it wasn’t long until I started to hear about the great controversy surrounding it. Apparently, my love for the challenging sculpture is a minority opinion.

Anyhow, I began a new type of journal the other day where I will combine traditional journal entries with poems and prose as well as drawings and whatever else I feel I need to add to work through some thoughts and emotions I’m dealing with right now. My first drawing? You guessed it! The big blue heart! It just seemed fitting with the journal entry I’d just written.

Well, less than 24 hours after my creative release, the heart was removed from campus! But (yay!) it will return next year. It seems that the controversial piece will be on loan to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich., until next year as part of a Jim Dine retrospective.

Maybe I’ll manage to sort out my thoughts and emotions before its return to campus. Wow. Maybe if I draw a big picture of stress, that will be taken away in 24 hours, too … ?

Trees

Just for you, some pretty trees that I drew this evening. Yay!

Trees
by Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Copy bird

In the evenings, you will quite often find me and the kid in the living room not talking*: Her on the love seat reading or drawing; me on the couch crocheting, blogging, or—most recently—sketching and drawing. And you can bet that at some point she will come over and start snooping at what I’m doing with great curiosity.

After she goes to bed, I will sit and continue my evening’s project for a couple of hours and by the time I wake up the next morning, I’ve almost forgotten what I was working on the night before. But not the kid. No, the kid will ask several times as we’re getting ready to leave the house if she can see what I’ve been working on. And when she finally gets to (after, of course, she gets ready for school) she is full of enthusiasm for what is, at best, mediocrity at its most average.

I’m always so pleased that she enjoys my creative outputs, but it never truly dawned on me how much impact I have on her until this weekend. As I sat working on my silliness coursework she came and looked over my shoulder and commented with awe at my water painting before asking if she could break out her watercolours and do some painting of her own.

To the left is my painting. To the right is the kid’s.

  

I am flattered and humbled. And a little afraid to think that there is another child who’s life is being impacted by me. (I think I do OK. I’ve yet to completely screw up any of my nieces and nephews at least…)

* It sounds like we just ignore each other, but we don’t. By this time, we’ve endured a 30-mile drive from town home where we chat, chat, chat. Then we enjoy a nice, home-cooked dinner at the table where we chat, chat, chat some more. Then, we chat when she goes to bed, right before our prayers. So we talk. Just not at this point in the evening.

Papier-mâché pumpkins; Part 2

Yay! One week later and our fabulous papier-mâché pumpkins are done! This was a fun and inexpensive project and requires absolutely no talent what-so-ever. Plus, most of the supplies are probably things you already have in your home which makes it even easier. (Supply list below.)

The kid ran the camera for most of the project, including the video segments, so check out the step-by-step photo gallery to see 1) how you can make your own pumpkins and 2) what an amazing talent the kid has with a camera.

(In the photo: My pumpkin is on the left; the kid’s is on the right. And that’s Schrodie sniffin’ around.)

Here’s another video for your enjoyment. And if you missed the first set of videos you can check them out here or visit my YouTube channel. Yay!

Supply list for two pumpkins:

  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • 2 cereal boxes (or similar weight material)
  • 1 paper towel cardboard roll thingy
  • Stapler and staples
  • Duct tape
  • Masking tape
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Paint
  • Paint brush
  • A fun CD of your choosing
  • A fun attitude! (This can be faked to start out if needed and at some point in the project, it will become genuine!)

A bit sketchy

I signed up for The Sketchbook Project a few weeks ago. It’s a great art project from the Brooklyn Art Library where thousands of sketchbooks will be exhibited on a cross-country tour at galleries and museums. After the tour, they will all be part of a permanent collection at the library where they will be available for the public to view.

My sketchbook arrived in the post a couple of weeks ago, right in the midst of my gloom, so I’ve only now started to work on it. I chose the theme “Make Mine a Double” and decided that I would use it to practice my real-life sketching and drawing skills. (Skill seems like an extreme exaggeration, but my hope is that each page finds me improving so that maybe at least the last sketch will be done with skill.)

My first sketch was (of course) a martini that I enjoyed after the kid went to bed last night. My second sketch was a cup of coffee yesterday morning. I’m not sure what my next sketch will be, but I hope it’s an improvement on the first two!

Check out my work in progress here or click on the Silly tab at the top of my blog!

And remember: The show is coming to the Pacific Northwest and I’ll be going. So if any of my amazing fans want to go to the exhibit with me, I’ll be sending out a reminder as we get nearer June. Yay!

On a happier note

To counter last night’s less-than-happy post, here’s something I’m super happy about!

First, the background:
Just as I was starting to remember how fun it was to draw, a friend in Scotland sent a note about participating in an online art course called The Art of Silliness2. So I signed up thinking it would be fun. And it was!

[Side note: The course finished last week, but I must admit I’ve fallen behind in my silliness because of my sadness. I am pleased to say that I am starting to be silly again, however, and will be posting the rest of my course work for you to mock very soon. Yay!]

Anyhow, at some point during the silly course, I noticed an advertisement for The Sketchbook Project and decided that it looked fun, too. So I signed up for the project with the theme of “make mine a double”. But I was a little sad because the tour didn’t include my neck of the woods.

But then, happily, today I got an email from the organizers announcing the addition of more stops on the tour and it includes Seattle! Yay!

So for my lovely friends and family in the lovely Pacific Northwest, you can head out to the Form/Space Atelier art gallery June 10-12 to check out my awesome sketchbook (and the awesome sketchbooks of many others who are likely more talented than I am!).

For my amazing friends who live elsewhere, you can check out the tour map to see if the show will be coming to you, too! And more dates and locations will be added, so keep checking!

Yay! I’m going to be part of a traveling art exhibition! This makes me super-duper happy!

Paper flowers

As part of my self-actualization process rubbish I regularly search for creative inspiration. One form of inspiration I turn to often is writing prompts, which help motivate me to write (and think) about things I might not have otherwise.

Today I stumbled upon the following prompt:

List 10 things you can do with tissue paper. Pick one from the list and write about it.

But I don’t really fancy writing about what I can do with tissue paper. So instead, I’ve just done one of the 10 things and am sharing a photo of my creation for you now.

Yes folks, I’ve spent an exciting Tuesday evening making paper flowers.

A bonus to this is that I promised myself a while back that I would cut back on my spending in an effort to save money for my postgraduate tuition. And now that I have a pretty vase of paper flowers, I don’t need to buy any for quite some time! (Yay!)

Oh! And here’s my list of 10 things you can do with tissue paper:

  1. Make pretty flowers to make you smile
  2. Make a piñata to fill with candy
  3. Wrap awesome presents for awesome friends
  4. Decoupage a cool tin to store yummy cookies in
  5. Line the bottom of your socks and knickers drawer
  6. Make paper hats for inside Christmas crackers
  7. Make stained glass pictures for your mommy
  8. Wrap fancy sweaters before storing them for the summer
  9. Wrap a nice bottle of wine to give to an awesome friend
  10. And, finally, blow a snotty nose into it

Papier-mâché pumpkins; Part 1

Yay! We’ve been busy making papier-mâché pumpkins for two days now. I’m using a new technique (no balloons for this gal!) and it seems to be working out pretty well. I had to buy some orange paint, but other than that everything is either recycled materials or general household junk (staples, duct tape, flour, etc) which is pretty cool!

The kid is running the camera for this project (mostly) and has decided that we should share the videos of our pumpkins in progress right away, instead of waiting for the whole thing to be done.

So, here are some fun little videos for you. Check back next week for step-by-step photos of the whole project so that you can make your very own Papier-mâché pumpkin! [[UPDATE: See the photo gallery here!]]

Making the goop:

Pumpkin building:

The kid’s turn:

Fired!

A week and a half ago the kid and I went to Wild @ Art to paint ceramics but we had to leave the painted pieces behind so that they could be put in the kiln and fired. And today I went to pick them up.

The kid chose to paint a dragon. She wanted to paint one that was much more detailed and ornate, but it cost several pretty pennies and I felt that she needed something a bit simpler as this was her first attempt at painting ceramics. I think she was happy with that choice when she realized just how long it was taking to paint the simple one! In fact, she mentioned at one point afterward that she should have painted the very basic horse for her first project!

This was my second attempt at ceramics painting (as a grown-up) but, still, I chose something practical and simple. My little bowl was painted knowing that its sole purpose would be to hold candy. Because I like candy. I’m a bit disappointed in myself because I wasn’t able to stop painting so it looks a bit like an Easter egg now. Next time, I will remember that simple is good, too. In the mean time, I have filled my pretty bowl with Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts. Of course, by the time you read this the bowl will be empty because I do love my Liquorice Allsorts!

[Here’s more information about my first grown-up attempt, if you’re interested.]

Scarily unexcited

Halloween is less than four weeks away and I am anything but excited about it. In fact, there is this niggling feeling of apprehension about what once was a favorite holiday. If I had my way, the day wouldn’t happen; the kid wouldn’t trick-or-treat and I would turn off the house lights so that no one came to the house for treats, either. Yes, I know how sad that all sounds.

Two years ago I was giddy with excitement. I was busy planning and creating costumes for Paul and my niece. I was decorating the house and the yard. I was buying candy. I was planning a ‘scary’ dinner menu of witches’ fingers, bloody eyeballs, mummy brains, and (of course) bloody Marys to wash it all down.

Two years ago Paul and I spoke excitedly about the following year and about how he would get to take the kids we planned to adopt trick-or-treating whilst I stayed home to hand out candy to kids coming to the house. We were both excited about that future.

But instead of the plans Paul and I had for last year, I turned off the lights and drove to Spokane to spend Halloween with my aunt and her friends who were all going out to dinner. The only way I knew it was Halloween was that everyone (including me) was dressed up. I wasn’t excited about Halloween, but I did enjoy it for what it was—a night away from reality.

This year, I just can’t get excited.  I’m trying to, really I am. But I can’t. So I’m trying to fake it. I’m trying to pretend that I’m excited about costumes. I’m trying to pretend that I’m excited about decorating the house. I’m trying to pretend that I’m excited about trick-or-treating. And I’m trying to pretend that I’m OK with doing all of this without Paul. I’m trying to pretend that I don’t mind living this new future that is so very different than my old future.

I’m afraid that if this is how I feel for something as simple as Halloween that it will be even harder when Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around. I’m afraid that my sorrow will ruin the holidays for the kid, who deserves a happy and cheerful holiday season. I’m afraid that I may never really enjoy the holidays again—that I’ll have to slap on a fake smile and pretend for the rest of my life.

In an effort to not worry about too much at once, and because Paul always said you have to finish one holiday before planning for the next, I will hold off on other holiday stresses until after the ghouls and goblins have finished begging for candy.

In an effort to keep faking it, I am planning a way-fun papier-mâché pumpkin-making project with the kid and am even thinking about possible costumes for me. And if all else fails, I will just keep reminding myself that I get to eat all the left-over Halloween candy.

I just hope that I’m able to fake it well enough so that the kid doesn’t know its all smoke and mirrors…

Crafty chick

I’d like to tell you that I’m completely over my blue mood, but that would be a lie. I have, however, been having an enjoyable weekend despite it.

My original plan for yesterday was to have a relaxing afternoon at the spa, but since the kid’s plans got cancelled, so did mine. So instead, the two of us went into town to pick up some craft supplies and to paint some ceramics at Wild @ Art. We ended up spending most of the day out-and-about but it was quite enjoyable. In the evening, we both worked on our silliness worksheets and after she went to bed I re-learned how to use watercolor paints.

Today we were going to spend some time doing some crafts together, but instead she abandoned me to go play with her friend. Which is cool because 1) kids should spend time playing with other kids and 2) I got some time alone after all!

So, instead, I’ve spent the morning coloring silly little picture frames and baking banana bread. Soon I will start making lunch (fried egg sandwiches, anyone?) then a big pot of split pea soup to re-stock the freezer.

The best part about getting all of this done so early in the day? There’s still plenty of time for an EastEnders omnibus and maybe I can even get started on my new Ian Rankin novel. Oh… and maybe I can even sneak a nice, long soak in the tub into the day somewhere. Yay!

Relearning the art of childhood

A while back I picked up a piece of bond paper and a box of crayons to illustrate a silly little image to go along with my goals posting. A few days after that I grabbed a couple more sheets of paper from the printer then borrowed my foster daughter’s colored pencils to illustrate each individual goal. By the time I was done I realized how much I missed drawing and coloring—despite the fact that I’m not the artist I imagine I am.

That enjoyment led me to purchase some nice drawing paper and a set of 72 colored pencils and a little carrying case for all of my new art supplies. Since then, I’ve found a lot of pleasure in sitting on the couch drawing and coloring. And in recent days, I’ve been drawing and coloring even more thanks to the way-fun silliness course I’m participating in.

All of this has made me realize that I really like to be artistic and has made me start to think about all the other forms of artsy stuff I used to do as a child. Which brings me to the point of the post: Today I purchased an inexpensive set of water color paints and a cheap little box of modeling clay. My first attempt at a water color painting is really quite rubbish, but I enjoyed re-learning how to use the paints and am excited to do some more.

With a bit more practice, I’ll be ready to go out and paint the amazing sunsets on the Palouse. In fairness you might not be able to identify the painting as a sunset when I’m done, but as long as I’m enjoying my childish fun, it doesn’t matter what the end result looks like.

So I’m still feeling a bit down, but at least I can multitask by being miserable and happy at the same time.

Yay for painting!

Thanking the anonymous

When I arrived home from England last week there was a happy surprise waiting for me in the post. It was a simple gesture: A short note and some cash directing me to do something nice for myself as a way of ‘paying forward’ the loving reach of a foster mom a couple of generations ago.

Since opening my home to my lovely foster daughter a little over a month ago, I have experienced much generosity from the fostering community. Volunteer groups called to see if we needed school supplies or new clothes. Others have offered to care for the kid for a few hours here-and-there so that I can have some much-needed time out. Still others have offered to have ‘baby showers’ of sorts to make sure that the kid has everything she needs*.

I’ve had countless people let me know that they are praying for us and I am continually amazed at the care and concern shown by the kid’s social worker and school administrators. Certainly, at every corner along this journey there is help and support available to ensure she is well. It’s extremely heart-warming.

So why has this gift touched me so much?

Well, I suppose because it’s not about the kid, but about me and the difference that I am making. It’s about acknowledging all of the successful adults in our society who were once foster children themselves—and whose lives were positively impacted by the caring reach of a stranger.

My first thought was to bank the gift because who has time to do something nice for themselves when they’re caring for an 11-year-old on their own? But that would have gone against the spirit of the gift and I’d have felt guilty.

But as luck would have it, the kid has plans for a few hours on Saturday which means I am on my own; free to do as I please. And what I please is to go and get a massage—a lovely, relaxing, hour-long massage.

Lucky for the kid, there’s enough money left for me to stop off at the craft store to get some art supplies for a fun art project for the two of us to do on Sunday afternoon. I’m sure that the giver of such a wonderful gift would allow for me to spend some of it for fun with the kid.

And so, dear anonymous friend (if you’re reading this), thank you from the bottom of my heart. Not just for the gift but for taking the time to thank me for my small role in this amazing child’s life in such a lovely way. Knowing that there are people out there who are so kind and supportive of me really is an enormous gift of its own.

How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it!
~ George Elliston

* The kid has everything she needs and more! And seriously, if we were the same size I would totally be borrowing from her way-awesome wardrobe!

God’s Eyes

On the drive home from the airport Friday evening, I started to think about Ojo de Dios (God’s Eyes). I don’t know what brought the thought to mind, but I’m sure it was a winding road of completely unrelated subjects. (A regular journey in my crazy little mind.)

By the time I got into town, I realized that I really wanted to make a God’s Eye. And luckily, I had almost all of the supplies needed: Yarn, scissors, and hands. Of course, I was missing the ever-important supply of popsicle sticks. So I needed to travel to the next town to purchase a box of popsicles.

Sadly, the kid managed to lose all privileges for the whole of the weekend which meant that she couldn’t help with the chore of excavating the sticks from their frozen prisons. Which meant that I needed to eat two popsicles after she went to bed on both Friday and Saturday nights* so that I had the required four popsicle sticks for today’s crafting time.

After the kid was finished with her chores (her room is amazingly clean now!), I got dinner started (homemade beef stew), we had lunch, and I did my chores (working on my personal statement for graduate school), we sat on the couch together to make some God’s Eyes. Of course, this was after I spent some time online re-learning how to make them since I’ve not done it since I was the kid’s age! (Wow! That’s 25 years ago!)

If you’re wondering, this is all a part of my life goal to be blissfully happy. Doing these simple little things is enjoyable and I’m finding that the more crafty stuff I do, the more I seem to smile, which is also why I’ve just signed up for the Sketchbook Project. Look for more on that soon! And don’t forget to check out my coursework from my online class The Art of Silliness2, too!

* She knew this was happening and was disappointed but also knows why and accepted this fact with very little argument. She managed an entire weekend of removed privileges along with extra chores with very little argument as part of our “every action (or non-action) has a consequence” lesson plan. I’m a mean foster mommy, yet she’s an amazing kid despite it!

Being silly

Right, I promised a more cheerful post the other day and I’m pleased to say that I don’t even have to be fake cheerful! You see, a few weeks ago my friend in Scotland sent me a link for an online art course called The Art of Silliness2 and yesterday was the first day of instruction. Yay!

I sat on the couch last night to start working on my warm-up exercise (a short story) and the day’s first proper assignment. My foster daughter is often interested in what I’m writing and drawing in the evenings and I’m (almost) always happy to show her. When she asked about last night’s projects I told her about the silliness class and she very plainly let me know that I am already the silliest person she knows and that she didn’t think I needed a class to learn how to be silly.

Ah, bless…

Anyhow, I am looking forward to spending the next month being that little bit more silly than normal. I promise not to bore you with all of my course work* via daily posts, but I will scan them as I go and include them on my “Silly Page” linked at the top of Just Frances.

* To be clear: This isn’t to say I won’t share some of my assignments, it just means I won’t blog about all of them.

Art?

I wish I was an artist. You know—a really good one. I wish I could draw things with ease and make them look pretty. In my mind I can see myself standing there with a paint palette creating these amazingly-beautiful landscapes or amazingly-accurate portraits. But in reality, I’m actually quite rubbish. Not only that, but it takes a lot of time to create that rubbish*!

But I enjoy using crayons and colored pencils, so I tend to just kick back on the couch and draw swirly things. And even they aren’t all that great, as you can see below. Now mostly I like this, but the top center(ish)-right-hand side has a really out-of-place looking swirl that I feel ruins the whole thing. However, creating this little piece of art kept me entertained for two evenings, and now I’m sharing the results with you! Yay!

(Sorry, this is what happens when you have no cable, a load of colored pencils and paper, and a state-of-the-art color scanner. Expect more silliness in the future. Especially since I’m going to take an online class on The Art of Silliness2! Yay!)

* I know I draw “OK” things and am not looking to have my ego bolstered here. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of my ability, it’s just that my imagination has a very different appearance than reality!

A stitch in time

Well, I was meant to be starting my summer holidays this weekend but have decided to put them on hold. Which is a good thing because the weather certainly doesn’t realize it’s summer and there’s lot of work to be done at the office.

As part of my holiday preparedness, I planned to spruce up the house and tidy things away that really had no business being out and about. One of those items included an afghan that I’ve been working on for more than a year and a half. It’s a queen-sized ripple afghan that I’m stitching with all of my left-over bits of yarn from other projects.

Because it’s so large and needs to be spread out over my lap and legs whilst I’m working on it, I figured it could be put away for the summer. After all, with normal summer temperatures in the 80s and 90s, I wouldn’t want the project draped over me!

Thankfully, I never got around to tidying before my holiday plans were scrapped because with “summer” temperatures in the 40s, 50s, and, on a warm day, the 60s, I’ve decided that it’s time I break out my hook and get to stitching. I’m enjoying the extra warmth during this record-cold month of June.

Of course, since tomorrow is the first official day of summer, and since I’m now planning a busy week in the office instead of enjoying the great outdoors, and since I’m happily hooking away, the weather is going to spike and we’ll have record heat the rest of the year! It’s Sod’s Law…

Next attempt at holidays: An October trip to Auld Reekie. At least if it’s cold and rainy there, it’s to be expected.

Happy birthday to me

Today is my 36th birthday and to celebrate, I’ve opened a bottle of bubbly and I’m feasting on caviar, wild salmon, and Alaskan king crab. The house is empty, save for me and the cat. There is soft jazz playing in the background and I’m admiring the way the light glistens off of the lovely ring I’m wearing; a birthday present I purchased for myself at Macy*s.

It seems that the last year went by so quickly. On my 35th birthday, I sat right here in this very living room with Paul. It’s strange to think that I only had Paul with me for about two months of my 35th year. And it’s sad to think that I won’t have him at all for my 36th. If he were here, he’d have left a card on the mantle place for me to open when I woke up and he would have bought me the perfect gift – he always did. We would have argued over what to do for the day. I would have wanted to stay home and cook a nice meal; he would have wanted to go out somewhere to celebrate. “I’m not having my wife cook on her birthday,” he would argue.

I had all intentions of sitting around the house doing “nothing” all day but had a last-minute change of heart and instead went to Moscow Wild at Art to decorate some pottery. This was a positive decision for several reasons: 1) It’s not good to sit around and sulk on your birthday; 2) Arts and crafts are great therapy; 3) Spending at least part of your birthday with other humans is always a good idea; and 4) The delay in popping the cork on the bubbly means there won’t be as many Mimosas (Buck’s Fizzes) throughout the day, which means less of a headache tomorrow.

Of course, since my pottery piece of choice was a cat food bowl, and I did a really lousy job at it, Schrodie will not be too pleased that I went and did something. (Goodness, the last time I painted pottery was more than 20 years ago. I feel so old!)

Up next: I’m going to put on my jammies and curl up on the couch for a six-hour EastEnders marathon, enjoyed with a gorgeous piece of mascarpone cheesecake and maybe a big bowl of popcorn. Because it’s my birthday and I can do whatever I want on my birthday.

Still stitching

I started crocheting this baby blanket last February. I’m still a beginner(ish) hooker and wanted something simple and small to work on while Paul and I traveled to England for a Ryan family reunion. A couple of days after we got home we adopted Schrodie so the project was put on hold because young cats and yarn aren’t the best mix. It was only a couple of months ago that I decided to pick up my hooks again, but have been working on a larger blanket, saving this one for my next flight.

Mom and I will be traveling to the UK in a few days for the Ryan family reunion and I’m planning to take this project with me to keep me occupied on the long flight. My excited hope is that I can finish it on the way there and start a new one on the return journey because it seems several people I know are due to have babies this spring and summer. Keeping that optimistic hope, I will pack a couple of extra skeins of yarn. However, I am a realist and think that I will be lucky to finish this a year after starting it!