Monday, December 31, 2012

Blogging Every Day in 2013

Note that I am not committing to doing this, blogging every day in 2013. I may decide to give the idea of trying a go, though, and see what that is like. It may turn into a wonderful and much beloved habit rather than just another daily task, who knows?

I just read a post by Elizabeth Esther, where she contemplates but doesn't commit to this very idea, and I started to feel all inspired and my fingers began itching to type.

I definitely don't have time to create an art journal blog post every day, mostly because the way I like to art journal, at least currently, is a bit on the intense and time consuming side, with tons of layers (many of which don't make it to being seen on the finished product) and lots of journaling, even if most of it is covered up by paint. That's my process, yo. And I love it, but it's not something I have the time or creative energy for more than 2-3 times a week.

So, if I blogged every day I'd have to embrace more variety in my posts, or perhaps develop more of a spontaneous, off the top of my head, here is what I'm thinking about today style. That is somewhat appealing. In my real life, especially lately, I can be a bit reserved and withdrawn believe it or not. Blogging authentically is in part an attempt at changing this side of my personality, so I can connect with people better. I am hoping for a trickle down effect.

So if I forced myself to blog every day. . . hmm. It bears thinking about. It's doable. A blog post does not have to take more than ten minutes or so to write (although I have spent much longer on some of the more soul searching ones).

Stay tuned. Incidentally, I do have some art journal pages to share that I've done but have not photographed or written up posts for yet. Maybe that will be tomorrow's offering.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Books Read 2012

1. Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
2. Back On Murder, J. Mark Betram
2. A Whistling Woman, A.S. Byatt
3. Scripture and the Authority of God, N.T. Wright
4. The Orthodox Way, Kallistos Ware
5. What Good is God?, Phillip Yancey
6. The Challenge of Jesus, N.T. Wright
7. Finding God in The Questions, G. Timothy Johnson
8. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey, Jill Bolte Taylor
9. Pagan Christianity, Frank Viola and George Barna
10. The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul, Mario Beuregard
11. Surprised By Hope, N.T. Wright
12. Thinking in Tongues: Pentacostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy, James K.A. Smith
13. Justified in the Spirit, Frank D. Macchia
14. Healing the Soul After Religious Abuse: The Dark Heaven of Recovery, Mikele Rauch
15. Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church, James K.A. Smith
16. Solomon Among the Postmoderns, Peter Leithart
17. Postmodern Philosophy and Christian Thought, Merold Westphal
18. Love Wins, Rob Bell
19. Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God, Jonathan Edwards
20. Crazy for God, Frank Schaeffer
21. The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios, Dionysios Farasiotis
22. Ragnarok, A.S. Byatt
23. Pobby and Dingan, Ben Rice
24. Momma and the Meaning of Life, Irwin Yalom
25. The Gift of Therapy, Irwin Yalom
26. The Abyss of Madness, George E. Atwood
27. Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller

I have highlighted my top five of the year. It's been a good year of reading, I will say. Not a lot of fiction, as you can see, which is unusual for me, but sometimes the variety is refreshing. I've enjoyed my forays into philosophical theology and all the rest.

I expect my reading will take off in some slightly different directions in the coming year-- more memoir, more poetry, more personal growth type stuff (including whatever I can find on art journaling and art therapy).  I'd also like to find some good books on how to read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, especially the Prophets. Maybe throw in some more good novels as well.

Here's to the future!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Blue Christmas Art Journal Page

Merry Christmas.

I created this page in my art journal last night, but little did I know then how fitting my color choice would be. This is a blue Christmas. Within the last 48 hours about a third of my relatives have fallen ill with the flu, some from every household. Up until the last, the healthiest ones were still intending on a small get together, but as of this morning even more people are sick and so Christmas has been cancelled. :(

H, the kids, and I are all well and would just as soon keep it that way, so. . . guess we'll be spending a quiet day at home. Might go out to eat somewhere for lunch; haven't decided yet.

Maybe we'll see the family at New Years. I sure hope everyone gets well soon.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Goth Girl Mixed Media Collage Art Journal Page

No wordy post for today. I guess this art journal page and the little goth girl that materialized for it speak for themselves. It was fun to work on. It's one of my favorite art journal pages that I've done so far--  I have some affection for the inner goth kid, it seems. Mixed media used include: watersoluble pastels, acrylic paint, a white paint pen, black sharpie, glue, and fabric.

Entering Forever Night's challenge (just for fun, I realize this page is not all that dark).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How I Use Art Journaling as Art Therapy

I'm finding that art journaling really is a therapeutic process, especially the more so as I let go of consciously controlling the evolution of a page and just follow the flow. These days I often find myself reaching for my journal when I'm a bit frustrated or stressed, and it usually happens that by the time I've finished a page I'm feeling lighter and a measure of tranquility has re-established itself. I don't think it's just a distraction from negative emotions-- the journaling seems actually to help work them out as the frustration and negative energy gets channeled into the page via squiggles, sharp lines, energetic scribbling, or what have you. Catharsis. I like to notice how I'm feeling as I work. . . thus simply making for a very inexpensive and self directed art therapy. A win all round, in my book. :)

When I began this particular page I was regrettably a bit edgy and irritable. I picked up my journal and started writing in pencil, in different directions and handwriting fonts all across the page. After this was done I went over it again with more writing. I did this a few times. I just wrote whatever I was thinking. It was very free flowing, unfiltered, and spontaneous. (Venting, you might say. :P) Then I colored over all of it with a blue neocolor water soluble pastel. By the time I finished that layer of coloring, I was already much calmer. Swirling water over the page with a wet brush was an additionally soothing enterprise.

Once the page was dry, I was intending to doodle over it with a black sharpie and be done. However. . . my sharpie was not in my art supply box! I spent some time in futile searching all over my house, any place I thought I might have been likely to leave a black sharpie. All to no avail. This was disappointing. Somewhat grumpily, I sat down at the page again and grabbed the nearest supplies to hand, which happened to be my daughter's box of sidewalk chalk and a tube of glue.

I drew frustrated marks in chalk on the page and then rubbed them in vigorously with my fingertips. Then I dotted glue all over the page and smeared it over the chalk, again using my fingers. Now this. . . was actually looking rather good. I wish I had taken pictures at this stage. Pencilled journaling was showing through the blue, which was now mottled and softened by chalky colors, and made a bit shiny by the coat of glue.

I stared at it trying to think what to do next. Taking a cue from projects I've seen on Judy Balzer and Carolyn Dube's blogs, I began hunting for "people in the paint". Lo and behold, it did seem as though a shadowy shaped couple was trying to emerge from the depths. They were even holding hands! This was better than I had hoped for. I outlined them with paint pens, highlighting them here and there with neocolors to bring out their shape a bit more. Then I fingerpainted with some acrylics paint around them, did some more journaling over this, added my words, "If you trust the process you will see life emerging from the depths", and  layered more chalk, coloring, and smeared glue to the page until I was happy with it.
I also gave the woman, "life", a glued on fabric face.

I can't really describe how satisfying it felt to work on this and what a surprise the final page turned out to be. I am so glad to have discovered art journaling! This was the best thing to have come out of the hyperemesis. The fly in the ointment is I spelled "emerging" wrong, but meh. We embrace imperfection around here! :)

Until next time,

Monday, December 17, 2012

Homemade Christmas Tree With Paperback Books

  This is my Christmas tree this year, which I finally set up today.  It's a tapering stack of paperbacks wrapped with lights, surrounded by sheets of book paper recycled from a discarded book and mini Christmas trees. The star was cut from cardboard salvaged from a box, layered with some quilting fabric scraps, and decorated with a white paint pen. Very economical as it was all made from stuff I had lying about the house, and fairly time efficient as it took less than an hour all told. I wish I had set it up weeks ago as there is now not much of the season left to enjoy it, but I will be leaving it up through New Year's at least. I haven't been terribly organized with my holiday preparations this year, so a lot is being crammed into this week.

So today I also painted a clay pot snowman to join the clay pot toy soldiers I made for the front porch a few weeks ago (may post pics later), aaaand I took my two year old daughter shopping for a Christmas dress and new shoes. At the mall, during rush hour, the week before Christmas. This is what happens to people who do not plan ahead. But we found a dress she loved, which was cute. I wasn't expecting her to have much of an opinion at her age, but when we tried this one little dress on and she saw herself in the mirror, her face lit up like a baby angel's. Then she looked up at me, eyes all hopeful, "What do you think, Mom?" 

Awww. . . that made the whole trip worth it. Of course then we had to buy shoes, and as H and Little Guy were with us and we were all getting tired, dragging through half the mall on this errand was not exactly anyone's ideal way to spend an evening. But at least she'll be suitably shod and I. . . between crafting my homemade tree, painting clay pot decorations, dress and shoe shopping for an indulged toddler on top of my usual days' events. . . am feeling fairly drained. 

But it is so nice, now everyone's asleep, to be sitting here in my living room with my lit "tree", laptop, and a hot mug of Lady Grey Tea with a slice of floating lemon. I may break out Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in a minute. "Marley was dead, to begin with. . ." 

*breathes a contented sigh, snuggles more deeply into sofa, and takes another sip of tea* 

Happy Holidays, everyone. 


also Collage Obsession's Shades of White Challenge

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Fire Behind The Questions

When I first saw the prompts for the Fall Fearless and Fly challenge 6, I knew that creating something for it would be an interesting experience for me at any rate, provided I could manage to do so. At first I was thinking I might pass on this one. . . too complicated, but yesterday I felt I was getting a glimmering of an idea, or a least of a starting point, for it so I sat down with my open art journal to see what would materialize. After all, I've inadvertently picked up the habit of religious art journaling by participating in Rebecca's  meme, so may as well go with the flow.

Here, btw, are the Fall Fearless and Fly prompts for challenge 6:

Headline Prompt: 
Divided by God:  What does "God" mean to you?  How do you access"God" or the divine or the sacred in your life?
Color Prompt:
Metallics - gold, silver, copper, bronze, or all of them!
Quote Prompt:
"This is my simple religion.  There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.  Our own brain, our own heart, is our temple; the philosophy is kindness."  The Dalai Lama

"What does 'God' mean to me?" Rather a big question, that. But I've always been particularly captivated by the fire images in the Bible-- the pillar of fire that led the wandering Israelites by night, the burning bush in the desert, the tongues of fire that appeared above the believers on the day of Pentecost. So I began preparing a background with fiery colors-- oranges, reds, and yellows. Using a gold paint pen (that's the metallic prompt, there) I drew a dotted line spiraling out from the center and over that outlined some "tongues of fire" over the page. I drew a spiraling line with a silver gel pen as well but it only shows up faintly in the picture.The background still didn't seem full enough somehow, so in between my dotted lines I began writing words from Acts chapter 2 (which contains the story concerning the day of Pentecost and the tongues of fire mentioned above) with a white paint pen. The words spiral outward from the center and here and there I got thrown off course, so it's almost impossible to read, but that's okay.

I was liking the way this looked but felt it needed a focal point and some human interest, so began flipping through old magazines looking for some inspiration. The image I chose is from 2001 Benjamin Moore ad, in case anyone cares. Something about the woman's facial expression and posture resonated with my current mood, so she was pasted in. I think of the resulting page as a kind of abstract religious self portrait. Let me explain, if I can manage it in a paragraph or two. Those who are not interested in personal autobiography may stop reading here.

My parents were enthusiastic converts of the Jesus Movement era in the 1970's-- "born again, Spirit filled, fire baptized believers". They spent the next several years, including those of my earliest childhood, as followers of the Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity of their day. I was still very young, but old enough to remember, when they began to be disillusioned by some of the scandal, fraud, showmanship, and extremism that the movement regrettably spawned. They left the church we belonged to and began exploring other avenues of belief and practice, over a somewhat zany and occasionally bizarre couple decades of spiritual searching that would indelibly shape my own life and formative years especially. The good news is I made it out alive and mostly sane. :)

So, partly in an effort to puzzle out the import of our life stories, largely in an attempt to figure out my own beliefs, and partly out of genuine interest in the subjects, I've immersed myself in reading over the past couple years on the history of Christianity (especially in America), theology, and the philosophy of religion. It's really only recently that I feel I've emerged from the rubble of books, with a more or less intact faith and nuanced views that have now predictably become something of a hodge podge. Looking back, I have to say I'm appreciative of H's tolerance and patience during those times I was preoccupied with existential wrestling and probably not the easiest to live with! We were also visiting a variety of churches at the time, both together and separately, uncertain of quite where to place our growing family (it was important to both of us to find a church home somewhere.)

I suppose detailing the process could fill a book (and maybe not a terribly fascinating one) of it's own, but in a somewhat surprising twist of fate, we've ended up back in a church the pastor of which is a member of one of the Pentecostal denominations. It's milder and more reasonable than some of what I've witnessed in the past, but familiar enough that it gives me a not unpleasant feeling of having come full circle, at least for the time being. I think of it affectionately as "charismatic-lite", a little evangelical church in the country not more than twenty minutes from where we live. It's unpretentious, not too thinky, has good music, and the worship, prayer, and preaching style remind me of the positive aspects of my roots and earliest religious memories from childhood. The congregation is laid back, friendly and they were extremely kind and helpful to my family during my recent bout with hyperemesis. It's not where I expected we'd end up, but somehow being there for now feels natural for us, like a simple clicking into place. A relief given my historical tendencies to over complicate things. Most importantly, and perhaps partly because of these other things, I do feel a sense of spiritual connection there-- a reminder that what matters most is not the answers or the questions or even the journey itself, but being in touch with the fire glowing everlastingly behind these things.

Thanks FFF for the amazing inspiration and prompt!

Also linking to Paint Party Friday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Virgin a Day-- Reflections on the Twelve Days of Mary Event

These 12 days of Mary have meant more to me than I could have imagined starting out. I have been inspired and strengthened by the writings of all the participating bloggers and immeasurably enriched by the dazzling array of Marys presented along with their stories, appearing in different guises across all different times and cultures. Truly, "from henceforward all generations will call me blessed." I will miss the "mornings with Mary," the time spent reading and learning, and the interactions we've had around a common subject, but look forward to continuing to follow the blogs of many of the new artists and writers I've been blessed to discover through this very special meme.

Also wanted to record a couple minor serendipitous occurrences I've experienced during these twelve days. One of them was going to visit an old and dear friend over the weekend, who gifted me with a stack of books from her collection that she thought I would be interested in. One of the books is called, "Love and the World: A Guide to Conscious Soul Practice" by Robert Sardello. 

I began reading the introduction and first chapter on the trip home. These few sentences jumped out at me, they seemed so in tune with the spirit of the Mary project:

"The soul, like the spirit, is a deed we humans do. And it is a capacity, the capacity for life to be meaning, both felt and known. This capacity is realized when we have a conscious sense for images that flows through all modes of experience-- from sensing to memory to dreaming to thinking."

It just feels like the right book at the right time. I'm looking forward to delving more deeply into it.

My other serendipitous occurrence was much more hum-drum and quotidian, to move out of the heady realm of abstracting about images for a bit. ;-) It happened just this morning. I was loading the kids into the car for a play date at a friend's house, and I was feeling a bit nervous about the drive. I think I must be anemic or something (will have my iron levels checked at my next OB/GYN appointment) because I've been getting randomly weak and dizzy at times, and although I felt well enough at the time, I was scared of that happening on the road. It would be okay, I'd just pull over if I needed to, but I didn't like the idea of having to deal with that. I said a prayer to God for strength and safety, and then, very hesitantly, tossed in a Protestant's version of a petition to Mary-- "Dear Mary, could you please ask your Son to grant us a smooth journey?" I'm still not sure how I feel personally about praying to Mary, but thought it couldn't hurt to at least ask her to pray for me. If she didn't "hear" me, no harm done.

The drive was fine and once at my friend's house with the kids happily crawling about the floor, we began making cheerfully boring housewifely conversation about meal plans. I mentioned that I'd have to stop with the kids at the grocery on the way home to get split peas, if I wanted  to make split pea soup which I had been intending on. Honestly, I felt weary just thinking about it.

"Split peas," my friend said musingly, "Those would be green, I suppose?"

I agreed that this was indeed the case and she said, "I've got some that we're not going to use. Do you want them so you don't have to stop at the store? The lady who lived here before us left them in the pantry."

It's the little things, you know? That really made my morning. Perhaps it's stretching fancy a bit far, but I couldn't help but remember my request to Mary earlier. I wondered if she was smiling.

Linking to A Virgin A Day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Virgin a Day: Great With Child

I colored and splashed water over this while chattering with my two year old yesterday, supervising her coloring (which mostly consists of preventing her from eating crayons or decorating the carpet and walls with her art), and daydreaming. My, how we multitask. :) The result is a sort of melding of Mary as Mary, and as wood nymph, Tree of Life, pregnant tree, life giver umbilically connected to a source of life, and I don't know what else. Fancifully imagined and childishly executed. It's also a celebration of pregnancy-- I love the phrase "great with child", it's so much more vibrant, strong, and Mother Earthy than referring to women in late pregnancy as huge-- which I heard a number of times with both of my last two pregnancies. Haven't quite reached that stage yet with this one. I don't think of myself as a particularly temperamental pregnant mommy, but will say I'd prefer "great with child" to huge any day! For aesthetic reasons, naturally. I care about the poetry of  things.

It might be fairly observed that my tree girl is hardly identifiable as Mary, but I hope that the quoted phrases  snatched from biblical stories about her make up for that. (Well, "in the fullness of time" is actually from a verse in Galations: "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman. . . " ) And I was thinking of Mary, at least partially, when I colored her, so maybe that means she counts. :)

Linking to a A Virgin A Day

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Virgin A Day-- heart ponderings

I love how in the biblical narrative, sandwiched right between the shepherds visited by angels and the prophecy of Simeon, there is this very human line, "But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." It makes Mary seem more relateable somehow, more like every woman. Because in spite of the celestial visitations, the miracles, the words of prophecy swirling around her-- she was mulling over the import of her life events like we all do, watching her story unfold. There were things to ponder, interpret, and later be shaped into a narrative.

It's a task we all have, deriving meaning from the collection of experiences we acquire as we make our way, often haphazardly enough, through life. Certain things strike us as significant and are stored as memories, woven into the changing tales we will tell and retell ourselves and each other.

I filled this journal page with ponderings of my own-- "dear diary" style ramblings on some things that have been on my mind lately, which I then painted over. Some of the writing is still faintly visible but not legible. I like that effect. Then I added an image cut from a magazine and the Mary quote. Sorry about the glare obscuring the bottom right corner of the picture and the word "heart." This was the best photo I took before my camera batteries suddenly died on me. The magazine image, btw, does not represent Mary for me-- just a generic woman, tying in with the theme. Although she is probably somebody famous I'm not recognizing, because I cut her from a page advertising Nashville tourism. If someone knows, feel free to enlighten me. :)

And speaking of my heart ponderings, I want to say thank you to all of those who commented on my post yesterday. Your words-- of such warmth and feeling-- meant more  than I can say.

Linking today to A Virgin A Day and Balzer Designs.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Virgin A Day-- A Sword Shall Pierce Your Own Heart

 It seems the conditions of life are such that being open to love means being open not only to pain as well, but to the possibility of agony. I look at my babies and think of the littlest one growing in my womb feel such a surge of protective love for them all. And then I think of Mary, holding that baby that she would live to see crucified. There really are no words for these kinds of contemplations, but I have been meditating a little on the depth of the love and pain that must coexist in the heart of the Madonna, and of God himself.

Constructing yesterday's art journal page was a straightforward process. I had an image and quote I wanted to use and prepared a simple background for them. I feel that this Mary's long black robes and austere expression are a suitable match for the biblical quote, which indeed was one of the first things that came to mind when I saw her.

This is my third journal page done in participation with the twelve days of Mary at the Recuerda Mi Corazon blog.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Virgin a Day-- Magnificat and 12 stars

The Holy Virgin is taking over my art journal. In a way, this is so funny. I was not even intending on participating in "A Virgin a Day" more than that one time. I am not even Catholic! lol. But when I sat down at my art journal yesterday, this is what happened.

I think it is because I have been so captivated by all the inspiring tributes I'm finding on blogs participating in A Virgin a Day. As a result, the Magnificat has been kicking around in my head for the last 24 hours, and when presented with a blank white page in my journal, that is what demanded to be written. And that's what art journaling is all about, right? Go with the flow, go with the flow. In a way, it can be like a spiritual practice of it's own. So I scribbled down the ESV rendition of the Magnificat with a red gel pen, which forms the text you see behind the painting, writing the words "blessed" ("all generations will call me blessed") and "forever" ("to Abraham and to his offspring forever") large. Then I did some doodling with a led pencil, just for a change, and painted/colored the rest with neocolor pastels over that. (It's a little bit greener in real life than it is in the picture. My photographer is at his day job this morning so I had to take the picture myself.)

There are twelve penciled stars in the upper left hand corner. I was thinking of the twelve stars from the stunning passage in Revelation:

"And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his head seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished 1,260 days." 

Revelation 12:1-6

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Virgin A Day-- mixed media Annunciation collage

In my cruisings through blogland the earlier this morning, I came across a truly fascinating event being hosted at the blog Recuerda Mi Corazon. It's called "A Virgin a Day" and it's an invitation to all for an artistic celebration of the Virgin Mary (idea, symbol, or reality it seems, I'm loving the variety I'm finding on participating blogs) for the first 12 days of December. The blog's author describes the meaning and intention of the event in terms much more eloquent and graced than I ever could, so I would urge you all to make your way over there and visit. You will likely return feeling as intrigued and enchanted as I am. It's not about religion; it's about inspiration and sharing. This may end up being my only contribution, but I know I will enthusiastically continue reading along and following the links from the project.

Anyway, when I came across this this morning my mind almost immediately began suggesting an idea for a mixed media collage of the Annunciation, which predictably took off on it's own once I started working on it. I enjoyed doing this. I mixed together more elements and media than I have before, including book paper, fabric, tissue paper, an image from an old art book, caran d'ache neocolor pastels, acrylic paint, and an assortment of paint pens.

Some may look at this and say, "But Leah, it can't be an Annunciation, because your Mary is holding baby Jesus and that doesn't happen until after."

Well, I am a postmodernist (er, somewhat), and today that means it is the elements of the story that matter, not getting the order right.

But enough chatter, here are some pics. I took a lot this time.

First I pasted in some pieces of book paper and doodled over the page with swirls in red and orange neocolors.

Then I added some coloring with yellow and ochre neocolors and painted with water.

Added collage elements, angel wings drawn with a brown paint pen, and black acrylic paint.

And, finally, here it is with a lot more "stuff" added-- lots more drawing and outlining with paint pens, more neocolors, more water, and some relevant words from Scripture in gold, "You have found favor with God," "Behold the handmaid of the Lord," "Do not fear, Mary," "Rejoice," and "All will call me blessed," (I coudn't fit "generations" in, this was a regret).

A close up of the angel:

A close up of Mary (unfortunately I got some white paint on the Christ Child's face).

I'm entering this one in a few challenges, just for the heck of it.

Artists in Blogland's Fall Fearless and Fly Challenge has the following prompts to choose from:

Headline Prompt:  Lifelong Fan:  What or who have you consistently valued or looked up to in your life?  What lessons have you learned from people you admire?
Color Prompt:  Your favorite color now or from childhood or both!
Quote Prompt: "Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator; but among those whom I love, I can:  all of them make me laugh."  W.H.Auden

This fits the first two prompts. I think it's fair to say I value and look up to Mary :) and have since I was a child, so I suppose that makes me a "lifelong fan"! Additionally, I find value in mulling on the Nativity and surrounding events during this time of year, and paintings of the Annunciation have always been among my favorites-- this could be considered a very humble tribute. 
My favorite color-- orange-- also plays a star role here, and fitting two out of three prompts is not bad! But next time around I may try for all three. I can be obsessive like that and it would feel more complete. :) 

I'm also entering in Frilly and Funkie's A Light in Darkness Challenge. I think this collage fits that theme both symbolically and literally, and I hope my image of Mary counts a vintage element, in keeping with the spirit of their blog. 

Also using this as as second entry in Simon Says Stamp and Show's Project With Heart Challenge. 
 My angel, you may have noticed, is sporting a turquoise heart, and there is a tissue paper heart pasted behind Mary as well, forming her "wings".

Random Crazy Pregnancy Dream

I had the cutest, silliest, most fun and most evocative dream about the baby the other night. I liked the dream so much that I wanted to record it on my blog, so this is going to be a slight break from my normal blogging-about-my-art-journal routine. Apologies in advance to those who dislike reading long winded accounts of other people's dreams and interpretive reflections thereon. Now would be a great time to stop reading if you number among that dreary camp. ;-)

To begin. . .

At the start of the dream, I was hugely pregnant and knew the birth had to be near. I wasn't exactly in a hospital-- my location in the dream felt rather nebulous, but there was an attending nurse of sorts who kept flitting in and out to check on me.

The next thing I knew I was holding this tiny (it must have been only two or three pounds) but perfectly formed, healthy, and beautiful baby. It was still connected to me by an umbilical cord, but it had seemingly simply appeared. I had no memory of labor or giving birth. I stared down at it in awe and it blinked these shining, dark blue eyes back at me. *cue maternal heart flutters*

The nurse appeared and I looked at her in puzzlement, seeking explanation, "Oh!" she exclaimed, "You already had the baby! What an easy birth! Well, you won't be needing me any more."

"But I feel fine," I said wonderingly, "I guess this means I won't need much recovery time."

"You won't need to recover at all!" she said cheerfully.

* * * * 

Now this is where the dream gets kind of silly. I decided that since I was feeling fine I might as well go shopping, and I took the baby along with me. (It was a little girl, btw.) Once in the store, it dawned on me that she must be a Cabbage Patch baby (I suppose because she materialized the way she did, lol), and I thought the least I could do was shop for some Cabbage Patch dolls for her so she would have something to play with. I toted her through the store, but couldn't find any. There were all these Cabbage Patch knock off sort of baby dolls, but we couldn't find the real thing.

By this time we ended up at the grocery section of the store and I thought rather frantically that since this was a Cabbage Patch baby, I had better find some cabbages to buy so I could juice them and mix the cabbage juice with her formula! But I was rooted in place by this point, and friends and relatives that I hadn't seen in ages kept appearing out of nowhere to talk to me and inquire after the baby. I felt so proud of her and happy that she had been born, but there was this sense of guilt that I was standing around talking when I ought to have been finding cabbages for her.

* * * *

Interpretive reflections:

This is the second time this pregnancy I have had a dream about a painless, unassisted childbirth. I would like to hope this is a sign of good things to come for when I do go into labor, but from a psychological point of view, it is probably more indicative of me being about to give birth to some new aspect of myself. The fact that in the dream this is an easy and joyful experience and that I am very proud of and affectionate towards the resulting "baby" feels awesome! However, there is a darker, more anxious side to the dream in that the baby is seemingly born into  a world where it is unable to find the things it needs, and I am either unable or unwilling to provide it the food it requires for nurturing. I stand rooted to the spot in the grocery store, hemmed in by a sense of politeness and obligation to the expectations of others,  mindlessly chatting while I should be finding food for my hungry infant.

All in all, an interesting dream and one worth remembering, I think. I don't really have an idea as to what it could be about specifically, but I believe in the value of paying attention to these things and taking note. It was also just so cute with all the Cabbage Patch themes. I've always loved Cabbage Patch dolls. I think I could do some fun journaling pages based on themes from this dream. That might be my next jumping off point for inspiration when I actually get another chance to sit down and doodle. Not sure exactly when that might be as I have been having a busy weekend and also-- it's time to decorate for the holidays! Some postings on porch decorations and other Christmas-y crafts may be soon to come.

Thanks for reading! :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Painting Circles For Relaxation (an art therapy exercise for my art journal)

Even though it is has been nearly three weeks since the hyperemesis began to fade away and I am  functional again, I find I still get exhausted so easily. I am bone tired right now and all I've really done today is take care of my kids. I'm trying to be patient. I guess it takes a little while to gain one's strength back. Little Guy (my seven month old) has been sleeping poorly the last few nights and that may also be part of it.

But enough of my moaning. I will write about my art journaling adventures, which is what this online meta journal of mine is at least loosely about in any case. Yesterday both babies (I still think of the two year old as a baby) took blessedly long naps, and I spent a happy couple of hours resting, curled up on the sofa with my laptop and a mug of chamomile tea. During this cozy and silent interval, I did a lot of blog surfing, reading, and sprinkling of comments of good cheer across the blogosphere. It's incredible-- all of the amazingly talented and sensitive bloggers you can find just by following links for part of an afternoon. :) One blog that I paused at for awhile was Art Therapy Reflections by Karen Wallace. I felt very pulled into the idea of an art therapy exercise for de-stressing she suggested to someone in a comment on this post.

 "Take a large piece of paper. Have lots of paint. Start by doing some deep breathing and centering. Standing and moving the whole body, make large arm movements and paint large circles. Work big until your body feels relaxed and stretched, then start coming in smaller by making smaller shapes while saying out loud or to yourself things you want to release about the day. Keep working smaller until you reach the size you want to continue working at. Then paint one thing that you enjoyed about the day. This painting usually is abstract with lots of colors and feelings. It is a good stress releaser, try it. Whenever you need to release and de-stress."

That sounded so good, I thought, so relaxing, the idea of just painting/coloring/drawing circles to relax and unwind. I filed it away in my mind as something to try someday, and today (again during nap time, oddly enough) I actually did so.  I tweaked the idea a little bit, as I didn't have a very large piece of paper on hand, and I never got around to the "something I enjoyed about the day" part because I became so engrossed in my circles. But anyway.

Using water soluble pastels, I started with drawing turquoise circles, then filled them in with concentric circles in reds, blues, and yellow. I painted over these to bring out the color. Then in the background I drew soft wavy lines in dark blue, lightly colored over the background with yellow, and added water to make it blurry and greenish. I loved the way the background looked. My circles seemed a little boring, though, so I kept adding layers of paint and water to make them brighter. Then I painted their outer rims in red to give them a little more oomph, but something still felt lacking. Impulsively, I started to circle one with a black sharpie marker, and, wow, it popped. "Where have you been all this art journal pages life, oh black sharpie?" I thought, and it kind of took off from there-- outlining, circling, dotting. Below are pics of the end result, this time taken by H, who is better with a camera than I am. I will say this was a great de-stressor, and I was quite happy feeling by the time it was done. It's a happy page.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Don't Forget To Tie Your Heartstrings

I am sleepy so this is going to be a short blog post! I filled another page in my art journal today. This one was inspired by the Simon Says Stamp and Show Heart Challenge as well as the Frilly and Funkie Chipboard and Metal Challenge.

I pasted torn pieces of bookpaper into my art journal and colored over them with a water soluble pastel, then painted with water, you know the drill. I machine stitched the heart together with more book paper and left the threads long, then I tied these to little heart embellishments I cut out of chipboard and aluminum foil. I journaled over the whole page with a silver gel pen, which only shows up a little, so it was something in the nature of "secret" journaling. It smudged a little, too. Then I wrote with a sharpie: "Remember: Don't forget to tie your heart strings."

For me, this page is about taking the time to nurture emotional connections with others, rather than simply skimming the surface of life by settling for superficial relationships. It's also about tying my heart to things that matter and that have meaning-- whether literature, art, music, a place, cultivating a sense of place. I had in mind the concept of an emotionally anchored heart.

(Edit: Eek, just came and looked at my post and photos again this morning. These pictures are really terrible. In real life, the colors pop much more, you can clearly see all the sewing machine stitching and dangling threads, and there is visible texture and layering in the background. The quality of my photos seems to be very hit or miss; I must figure out how to get a better handle on this soon.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bella Toscana, (fifth art journal page)

Recently I have reached the point of realizing that if I knew even some rudimentary fundamentals of watercolor technique and design principles, I could likely create more variety and interest in my art journal pages. I feel like I have ideas that are prevented from being born into being by my lack of skill.

The library in such cases is always my first place to start. So, Saturday afternoon, I hauled my pregnant self to the local library and up it's curving staircase to the second floor stacks where the non-fiction section and art books lay waiting for me.

I selected four books on watercolor, replete with gorgeous illustrations, step by step examples, and helpful beginner-speak (most of them).

  • David Bellamy's Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting
  • Brush with Watercolor: Painting Watercolor Landscapes the Easy Way (vol. 1 and 2), Terry Harrison
  • No Experience Required: Watercolor, Carol Cooper
  • I also picked up a novel by Carol Goodman, The Drowning Tree, which looks to be excellent but I suppose that is neither here nor there so far as this post is concerned. 
I spent a few hours poring over the watercolor books after the kids went to sleep Sat. evening and during their naps Sunday afternoon. By Sunday evening, I was itching to actually try painting a landscape myself. I have saved in a little drawer of keepsakes a 2007 National Geographic calendar of gorgeous photographs of Italy. H picked it up as a "just because" present for me, back before we were even dating. I knew he liked me, though. ;-)

Anyway, I flipped through it and quickly located one of my favorites of the pictures: "Country Foad, Tuscany. Bingo. Out came the art journal, Caran d'anche Neocolor ll watersoluble pastels, pencil, a cup of water, and brush set. Yes, I was excited. I marked off a square for my landscape and left a strip of blank space on the page, which I would later brush over with a light wash of ocre and inscribe with the Our Father, written in Italian. I think it is so beautiful that way, a million times lovelier than in English. And in my imagination (never having been there in person) the beauty of the Tuscan countryside is a natural background for the peace, serenity, and timelessness of the prayer.  I liked the idea of placing them together for my art journal page.

Here it is, my first landscape. If you click on the image it gets bigger. I think it looks a bit overworked in some places, a few of the trees lean a little crookedly, and I'm obviously new at this shade and lighting stuff, but it was fun and it actually looks like the original photograph. . . you can tell what it is! :-) Ah, bella Tuscany. Unfortunately I got a few words of the Padre Nostro backwards, but that's all right! Imperfection is okay around here! :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Thanksgiving Turkey (brined and overnight roasted)

One of my Thanksgiving guests requested turkey roasting instructions and my brine recipe. Needless to say, I was flattered, and I also thought that while I was typing this up I could make it a blog post as well. I need the record for my own purposes, too, because I'd like to repeat the brine next year and by then I may have forgotten. Most likely.

Sooo, for the brine:

1 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
generous handful oregano
smaller handful black pepper corns
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
1 1/2 tsps Italian seasoning

I came up with this particular combo myself, but not entirely out of my own head-- it was synthesized after reading and comparing several brine recipes online. The idea was for the oregano to predominate and the other flavors to act in a supporting role.

Anyway, back to instructions. Fill a pot with about a gallon of water and all the ingredients above. Heat until salt and sugar is completely dissolved, but not until boiling. (I brined my turkey in an ice chest and it required another two gallons of water to cover him adequately. I kept him in the brine for 12 hours.) For safety purposes, it's important to make sure he stays cool, so if you won't be brining in the refridgerator, make sure to use plenty of ice. After brining, give a thorough rinsing inside and out to remove excess salt. Also remove neck and bag of giblets if you haven't remembered to do so already. :)

Now it is time to roast your turkey! I did mine following a technique learned from my aunt: heat the oven to 500 degrees F (yes, you read that correctly) and blast the turkey (in a roasting pan, uncovered, breast side up) at that temperature for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, turn the turkey breast side down, lower oven to 250 degrees F and cook uncovered at that temperature for 40 minutes per pound. Another way to calculate this is 2/3 of your turkey's weight in pounds will equal the number of hours needed to roast. For most turkeys of any respectable size this will be an overnight process plus. My fifteen pounder took ten hours. This long, slow roasting time, with the turkey breast simmering in it's own juices, ensures a moist and flavorful result.

Well, the end, I guess. Happy roasting!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

4th Art Journal Page

Yesterday H took the kids off for the better part of the day, and I spent some time hanging out with my friend Brittany. We went shopping, had lunch at Olive Garden, and then came back to my house to scribble in our art journals. Because whatever else I may have failed to accomplish in this life so far, I have succeeded in inspiring Brittany to begin this art journaling thing.

I suggested she pick a theme that we could both work from, and she decided on "Lord of the Rings." Why was I not surprised? :)

However, I am not myself so much a LOTR girl, so although I knew there were potentially about a million different directions one could take this, I was stumped for a bit as to what I could do. I kept mentally running over scenes from the movie trying to see if one "spoke" to me enough to make me want to use it as a starting point for journaling. My imagination settled on the scene where Gandalf is trapped at the top of a tower, eventually to be rescued by a friendly eagle. It's one of the scenes that stays with you-- the solitary banished wizard alone on the towering height, mercy and rescue in the form of an unexpected winged visitor. I thought I'd do a loose creative interpretation of the tower. I seemed to remember it was very narrow and spindly, with a cup like open air "room" at the top. I ended up getting some Jack and the Beanstalk and Alice in Wonderland spirit blended in there. That's actually more my speed than this Middle Earth stuff, but don't tell Brittany I said so. :)

The picture of my art journal page above is not the exact one I did yesterday, but rather a reworking of the idea on a new page. Yesterday's background was a bit of a disaster-- I had too many colors going on and it was too runny. But I liked the general idea so I tried it again this morning while coloring with my daughter. I stuck with a more focused color scheme, added some text made of pasted in magazine words and letter squares, and drew a border with a black Sharpie and white gel pen.

The text reads, "At times, we all need rescue." Even wizards, right? Celebrating vulnerability, a la Lord of the Rings and Brene Brown. ;-)

Friday, November 23, 2012


I created this page for Simon Says Stamp and Show's "Thank You" challenge.

You know, being new at all of this, I had to think a little bit about this matter of participating in blog challenges before I could decide whether or not I was okay with doing so. Was this in keeping with my purposes for my art journal and blog? Would creating pages here and there around themes for public  challenges somehow take away from the journal-y-ness and spontaneity of my little project? Would I become more stressed and self conscious about creating? I decided that really, there was no reason this should be so. No reason I couldn't just take a theme as a jumping off point for inspiration and just do whatever I felt like with it. Indeed, maybe that is part of the point of these things. There is also something nice about participating in things in general. Human beings like doing that. I figured that by staying realistic about my expectations for myself, I could manage to link up without losing my soul.

That orienting attitude worked out for this, my third art journal page, which turns out to be the most personal and journal-y one I've done so far-- I think partly because I used some of my own words instead of sticking with literary excerpts, and also because this page was very much a spontaneous evolution. I didn't plan out any of the steps ahead of time, I just went with the flow.

I was in a different sort of headspace when I worked on this page than I usually am when I work on art journaling or do anything hands on and creative. For one thing, I was feeling really sick and was very discouraged about that. This was yesterday evening. I had had a fabulous Thanksgiving day and had been feeling very well, but somehow that evening my pregnancy nausea came back and hit me nearly full force. I thought I had eaten carefully and in moderation, but who knows. It almost felt like hyperemesis starting all over again.This discouraged me more than usual, because I have so enjoyed feeling better the last week or so and had ardently hoped the debilitaing ill feelings were entirely a thing of the past. I started to feel depressed about this, and I suppose fatigue, post holiday let down, and good ol' fashioned pregnancy hormones may have been contributing to that feeling.

So, after the kids were settled, I propped myself up in bed on some pillows and parked my box of art supplies next to me, hoping to distract myself from the nausea and pull myself out of my low mood by working on my gratitude page. It took a little while, but proved effective on both counts.

I forgot to take photos of this page in progress, but will describe what I did here. Using gel pens, I loosely traced some quilting templates of flowers, from Elise M. Campbell's book, Winning Stitches. I colored their centers and added some doodled accents with the gel pens as well. Then I came in with my texts. I chose a quote from Alexander Schemman that has been kicking around in the back of my head for the last few months, "Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy." I was happy to have such a timely opportunity for using it. I also wrote, "Humility and gratitude form the gateway to spiritual peace and all blessings," which is a Leah original, I believe. I had jotted it down in my journal (my other, non-art, pen and paper journal) awhile back.

Then I thought I'd personalize the page a bit more by moving from the general to the particular, so I wrote: "I am grateful that hyperemesis ended in time for me to enjoy cooking and eating Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends." I also dated the page. A prosaically phrased little sentiment, but really that is the one thing I felt the most grateful for this Thanksgiving. Then I remembered my kids and that I was also thankful for them, so added their nicknames, scribbled in spaces here and there.

I colored over the whole thing with a sky blue pastel, then painted over the page with water. The ink on the flowers I had most recently drawn and on the wording began to smudge, but I decided that was okay-- smudgy was okay for this one. I even liked the way it made the words look. When the page had dried a little, I colored in the flowers and then painted the page with water again,  letting the colors smear and run together. After it dried I did this a second time, coloring some in the spaces between the flowers as well.

By this time a couple hours had passed and I was sleepy, feeling better, and both more content and more relaxed. Yay for art journaling! Therapeutic, yes? I did not think I was done with the page. I wanted to color some more in the flowers with orange or pink, or both, but I was then nearly asleep, so decided to put if off until the morning. I happened to wake up early today, feeling pretty refreshed, and with my art journal page the first thing in my thoughts. H and the kids were all still sleeping, so I got up and went and sat in the guest room with my art journal, intending to complete my handiwork before they woke up. But when I saw the page again, I felt oddly hesitant to alter it. I just wanted to let it be what is was. That feeling won out and so I spent the morning lull surfing the internet instead of tweaking the page. It's very smudgy, watery, and random, but I think it is one I will take pleasure in remembering creating. It will remind me of Thanksgiving 2012, my third pregnancy, and hyperemesis recovery.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Favorite Sweet Potato Pie Recipe

Yay for holiday baking! Today in celebration of the day before Thanksgiving I am going to post one of my favorite seasonal recipes. I'm even being all organized about it and posting early, so I can have the rest of the day for all the cooking and cleaning that still needs to be done in time for tomorrow. There is something so festive about Thanksgiving preparations; I love it. This year we thought it would be a bit too much to travel back home for my huge extended family get together (I am still pretty subject to motion sickness and it's a long drive), so H and I are hosting a small gathering here tomorrow, just our immediate family and some close friends who found themselves similarly stranded from far off relatives this year. I think this will be fun, and Lord willing I'll see the fam at Christmas.

Yesterday I made sweet potato pies in preparation for Thursday. This is a happy recipe for me because it has pleasant memories associated with it, and because it is so dang scrumptious. Being southerners, my family of origin and I have always looooved sweet potato pie, but somehow lacked a perfect enough recipe for it. I remember several holidays in succession, as a young child, with my mother experimenting with various unsatisfactory sweet potato pie recipes and then grumbling about the inadequacy of the results in one aspect or another-- too runny, too sweet, gummy crust, whatever. Then one year she found the recipe I am about to post here. I can't remember if she found this in a cooking magazine or in the Times Picayune, but at any rate it is from Leah Chase, who owns (or owned? I must google this in a bit) a well known and liked restaruant in New Orleans, the Dooky Chase Restaurant.

After we first tried this sweet potato pie,we were hooked. We tend to make it several times a year, and my mother has never tried another recipe for sweet potato pie since. Neither have I for that matter. It's just per-fec-tion, in texture, consistency, sweetness level, and subtle blending of yummilicious flavors. It's also quite simple and fun to make. Without further ado. . .

Leah Chase's Sweet Potato Pie

4 lg sweet potatoes, about 3lbs, peeled
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 T butter, melted
pecan halves
2 deep dish pie shells

Preheat oven to 375. Bake pricked pie shells for five to ten minutes (I usually settle for seven~ Leah). Remove and let crisp. Boil potatoes until soft. Drain and mash well. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Then whisk in eggs, milk, and vanilla. Finally whisk in butter. Spoon warm potatoes into pie shells. Layer pecans around edge. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. Bake around 45 minutes or more. Serve with whipped cream.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Spring and Fall, 2nd art journal page

"Spring and Fall: To a Young Child" 

Márgarét, are you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah!  ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins

This is another Victorian favorite of mine. I am sensing a theme here, hmm. . .  I first read this poem as a highschool junior or senior. I think it actually happened to be fall at the time, although maybe my memory has artfully distorted the original event to better honor the poem. . . it could have been summer or winter for all I know. At any rate, I can clearly relive the mulling over it I did then and that never to be forgotten moment when the meaning burst on me, with a shock of recognition and a shiver of appreciation that made me know Gerard Manley Hopkins was a genius. I have been an ardent admirer ever since. He is my favorite poet. 

In this poem, a little girl is wistfully contemplating an autumn scene and lamenting the dying away of the leaves. The poet observes this tenderly, and then notes that it is the intimation of our own mortality that gives the chill and the melancholy to the dying away of the seasons and the decay of nature. 

It's an awesome poem. It is sad, but I do not believe it is depressing, because it's message is simply true. We know this even if we do not choose to think of it very often, but I am existentialist enough to feel that it is the very awareness of our own finitude and mortality that gives life part of it's meaning. So, I genuinely enjoy this poem. I often muse on it when looking out a window at falling leaves, it's a kind of  private autumn ritual

It naturally suggested itself as a starting point for my next art journal page. I was a little bit overwhelmed by the um, excessiveness of my Jane Eyre page, so decided on this one to be a bit more spare. I first copied out the whole poem with a black glitter gel pen directly onto the white page. Then I thought it would be fun to make this a kind of practice paper for pastel techinques. I decided to try and color some leaves with the pastels. I just brought in a handful of colorful ones and attempted to copy them. I kept layering colors and blending with water here and there. Doing this felt very relaxing and meditative. I did not have perfection as my goal (lucky thing, lol) or really anything as my goal other than the act itself and losing myself in it. My approach to this art journaling thing, in case it isn't obvious, is more like art therapy in that the purpose is more about creative therapy and unwinding than about art. (And I suppose part of my purpose in blogging about this, well, aside from my own narcissism, is the idea of encouraging other would be beginners at anything to just jump in. It's fun and nothing is going to hurt you.) However, I did at least attempt to make these look something like the original leaves and I do intend to keep my eyes out for advice and tutorials as I go with all of this-- might as well try to gain some skills while I'm at it. :) After I finished with my leaves, I added a little color to the bottom and top left corners of the page and  pasted in some leaf shaped book paper cut outs to fill things in. I doodled some swirls. . . I think in hindsight the page may have been better off without these. 

There are obviously a few oopsies on this page. I somehow manged to smudge one of the swirls, and my two year old attacked with a gel pen near the top of the page before I could stop her. This was even though I had given her paper of her own and allowed her to use my supplies. All I asked was that she leave my page alone. . . sigh. Here is a close up of her handiwork:

And here are some more pictures of my page. I tried to take better photos this time, hope it makes a difference.