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.   


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Soul Has An Interpreter (jane eyre, first art journal page)

Jane Eyre has always been one of my favorite novels, ever since that first reading at 13 when I fell in love with Mr. Rochester and shivered in terror along with Jane at the strange hollow laughs emanating from mysterious chambers in the attic.

It so happened that when I was deliberating a theme for my first art journal page that I was in the middle of yet another re-reading of Jane Eyre. One of my copies of the book (I have three) is illustrated with pictures from the movie-- the one with Charlotte Gainsborough. I have to say that's one of my favorite film versions of Jane Eyre, mostly on account of the casting, which I feel was excellent. Of course it was a disappointingly abridged version of the story, but no matter. The images in my movie illustrated book were awesome, and I decided to raid them for my would be artistic purposes.

Here is a picture of the background page I prepared. I drew some spirals and squiggles over a sheet of white water color paper with a scarlet water soluble pastel. Then I colored over this in blues, violets, and aquamarines, which I blended with a wet paintbrush. I thought it needed a little muting at this point, and so I colored lightly over it with a white pastel, and did a little doodling and scribbling with a black one over that. Then I blended those in using baby wipe, going over the whole page in a circular motion. I finished with a few more scarlet swirls in the upper left hand corner, and ended up with this.

Sorry these are not the greatest quality photos. I think if you click on them they get bigger. 

Then I used a blue glitter gel pen to line the page and cover it with handwritten quotes from the book. Being able to read these was not of primary concern; this step was more for the sake of adding another layer of visual interest to the background, and for having some recognizable (at least to me) words from the story peeking around the images I would paste in.

Here is the final product. I combined my movie pictures with some images cut from magazines and a square of book paper (not from Jane Eyre). I pasted them on with Mod Podge, did a little more doodling and some outlining with the water soluble pastels and a silver glitter gel pen, and added this quote as my main text:

"The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter, an often unconscious, though still a faithful interpreter, in the eye."

I have to admit that on the whole I am liking this. It's a little more startling than what I first envisioned, but the quirkiness of the juxtapositions suits my mood of the moment, and I even like the wildness of the colors behind all those staring Victorians. I'm not sure it would win any prizes for visual coherence or harmony, but for personal journaling purposes, and especially for a first attempt, I'm satisfied. And yes, based on my first experience I would highly recommend art journaling for anyone looking to have some relaxing fun and recover a sense of playfulness. This is awesome!

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Winter Coats for the Kids

Today I went shopping. Maybe not huge news in everyone's book, but for someone only a few days released from the personal purgatory (not to say hell) that is hyperemesis, this felt tremendous. I haven't gone out at all to speak of (aside from two doctor's visits, a hospital trip, and a couple very brief errands) in nearly two months. The world, I now observe, is very bright, very large and colorful, and it felt absolutely wonderful to be out and about in it, feeling healthy, reveling in the change of seasons and the fall air, enjoying the very agreeable and seasonal task of shopping for coats for my cute toddler and snuggly seven month old.

 For you see, it has been brought to my attention that my children are lacking in the winter wear department. Yesterday my mother in law was visiting us. It happened to be a chillier day than usual, but she wanted to take the kids outside to play and asked if Little Guy had a jacket? Ah, no, I had to confess that my son possessed no such article of clothing. (In my defense, we live in a temperate region and it's only just been beginning to be cold enough for him to require one, meanwhile I haven't been back on my feet for very long at all.) No matter, said mother in law, she would layer him in a long sleeved shirt and onesie. But did he have a hat? Sadly to say, Little Guy did not have one of these, either. At least not one that fits. She found one of his newborn hats from somewhere and stretched the inadequate article over his bald head, and that was Little Guy's fall weather costume for the day, along with his layered shirts and sweat pants. Obviously not a long term solution, although he did look cute in a thrown together sort of way.

My daughter still technically fits in her coat from last year, but I thought she could benefit from something roomier and warmer, since she's more of an age to be playing outside in the cold than she was a year ago.

So, on this fine Saturday, H and I hit the mall, kids in tow, and mission in mind. The first few stops were disappointing. At Belk and Old Navy, I could find surprisingly little in the nature of coats and jackets for Little Guy's size. Do most people not take their babies outside? The ones that I did find either lacked hoods (which he needs on account of aforementioned baldness) or were in colors that did not flatter him. He is a very fair skinned child, with light colored eyes and no hair, and all the grays and blues and browns I was seeing tend to make him look rather dull and colorless. As he is very adorable, especially when properly clad, I knew we could do better than this.

I ran into similar difficulties browsing for my daughter. Without knowing exactly what I mean by this, I vaguely prefer to buy toys and clothing for her that have a "classic look". For instance with toys, she has a Waldorf doll, a Cabbage Patch doll, a wooden rocking horse, wooden stacking alphabet blocks, a sock monkey, and the like. Plastic batter operated things with buttons and blinking lights and noise are kept to a minimum, and I try to select clothing with the same guiding aesthetic. I think that suits her style too, as she is a kid of the large eyed, small featured, wispy haired variety and anything too splashy or poofy tends to overwhelm her. And a LOT of clothing being produced for toddler girls falls into those categories.

I didn't think I was being too picky. I just wanted to find coats that were cute and looked good on my kids. But it has been awhile since I've engaged in any physical exertion, including simply walking around a shopping mall, and I found that by the time I wandered into Baby Gap I was very tired, a little dizzy, and the dreaded nausea was starting to creep back up on me again.

I was so happy, though. I found a light pink corduroy coat there for Bear (my daughter's nickname) that is just perfect. I love it! I love corduroy in general. I just adore the texture, the warmth, the coziness of it. My own winter coat (which I actually sewed myself back when I had time for such things) is an eggplant purple corduroy trench coat (with silver colored buttons shaped like bicycle wheels). But back to Bear. This coat we found has simple lines, is warm enough, fits her comfortably, and the shade of pink is ideal for her coloring. I wish I could post a link or a picture, but I tried to find this coat on Baby Gap's website and oddly, it doesn't seem to be there? There were so many of them in the store. Do their online stores and brick and mortar stores carry different inventory generally, or is this some fluke?

Also while at Baby Gap, I found a little zippered jacket with a hoodie for Little Guy. It's in a cheery fall red, is cuddly, and looks very fetching.

My only regret is I can't give myself any points for bargain shopping this time around, but I settled for the convenience of clothing I liked ready to hand, especially considering that by this time I was exhausted and the children needed coats, like yesterday. Literally.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why me? Why a blog? Why an art journal?

There is something uniquely exciting about writing that first post on a brand new blog. At least for me there is. Like many in my generation, I've started and maintained a handful of blogs in my time before now. I've had a couple private diary style blogs, a keeping-up-with-my-friends-and-chatting-about books blog, a blog on spirituality and personal growth (did not get very far with that one, hmm. . .), but that thrilling brand new start feeling of opening a first post returns in all it's inspiring potentiality and original freshness. . . ah. Like opening a new box of crayons when you are a little kid.

This is my first time blogging about art or anything crafty. I am also a complete newb to the world of visual journaling and art journaling. I am not even an "arty" person. I've never taken an art class, had an art lesson, or ever troubled myself to learn the basic rudiments of sketching and painting, something I theoretically believe everyone should do. That is okay. My life is not over yet. Why blog about it then? I simply thought it would be fun to have a place to chronicle the journey, and if anyone wants to read along so much the better. I anticipate I will be writing about a variety of other things as well, once I get into the flow of blogging again. It may end up that the art journaling adventure expresses itself as one of several interweaving thematic strands.

A little more about me-- I am a 20-something mom to three children under three. That is to say, I have a two year old and a seven month old and am pregnant with a third. Yes, I wonder about my sanity at times too, but on good days we have a blast and I wouldn't trade my little growing brood for anything. :-) In some ways it feels like this is an odd season of life to begin a new hobby as well as a new writing project (this blog), but at the same time, I feel this is a season of life in which I could more than ever benefit from carving out a little time and space to nurture my self and creativity. I think if I can make time for this a couple times a week I will be doing myself and my family a favor in the long run.

In a way, it is my current pregnancy that led me to consider beginning an art journal at all. You see, I had hyperemesis for the first months. It's an awful condition that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, and I really don't want to write about it. I'm trying to put those days out of my mind, but if anyone is curious, you can google and read some of the horror stories that have been posted online. I had a moderate case, was on home health and round the clock medication via subcutaneous pump just to keep me out of the hospital. I don't know what I would have done without the help from my family, church family, friends, and very supportive H. For weeks I spent the better part of many days nearly bedridden, and it was good day if I didn't actively want to die. During my better moments, one of the things I ended up doing to pass the time and distract me a little was to look at blogs on art journaling and watch art journal tutorials on youtube. At first I was just curious, as a life long journaler, to learn what was this thing called art journaling? Soon I became fascinated and the hours were passing more quickly. I remember thinking, wow, if I felt better I would like to try something like this! And that thought led to, hey, I will feel better someday! Maybe I should start thinking up some ideas and shopping online for supplies!

Supply shopping was fun, I will say that. I kept filling up my cart on Amazon, being horrified at the total and how quickly things added up, emptying the cart, and starting over again. I ended up streamlining quite a bit in comparison to my initial heady impulse to extravagance before placing my final order, which in the end consisted of:

Caran d'Ache Neocolor 11 Water Soluable Pastels (set of 15)
Strathmore Watercolor Visual Journal
Old Masters Brush Set-- Set of 8
(I had, and still have, absolutely no idea of what to shop for when it comes to brushes. I chose these because I needed something, didn't want to spend too much, and was scared of ending up with garbage if I spent too little. I hope these were a good choice, does anybody know?)
Mod Podge
Sargent Glitter Gel Pens

That's it. I thought it would be enough for a basic start and if this catches on for me I can acquire more things later. I also asked my mom to bring me a stack of old magazines so I "could make collages". This puzzled her a bit until I made her read an article on art journaling and look at some pictures of the amazing things people have done with a bit of creativity, some clippings, and glue. She was duly charmed and now I have quite a happy assortment of National Geographics, Country Livings, and Better Homes and Gardens to scavenge through.

And you know what? Eventually, I did start to feel better! I was one of the lucky ones who became functional again at 13 weeks, and a little before then I placed my order. The wonderful box of supplies arrived a couple days ago, and today I completed my first art journal page. It definitely has beginner stamped all over it (a pun! lol!), but it felt relaxing to scribble and experiment (not to mention fun just to be doing anything!) and I enjoyed trying out all my new stuff. I will post about creating this page tomorrow, complete with pics (oh boy. . . ).