Monday, March 30, 2009

Project Improv Update: Finished Quilt Top

The wonky log cabin square I made for Project Improv has been pieced into a quilt top! Mine is the one in the upper left corner. Look closely, there are some really nice blocks here. They are all so unique and I'm really proud to be a part of this quilt, and this project. Visit Tallgrass Prairie Studio and read more about Jacquie's progress putting the whole thing together!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My First Linoleum Block Print

Saturday morning. Papa cooked breakfast. Children happily occupied. I could have been ________ (insert one of the following: working, cleaning, washing clothes, doing taxes). Instead, I sat in our backyard on a sunny and surpisingly windy day, developing a new obsession. Linoleum Block Printing.

I recently dusted off the blockprinting supplies Papa gave me a few birthdays ago. I have been a sucker for a nice block print ever since our honeymoon, when we visited Nashville's Hatch Show Print. Just look at these:Inspired, I sketched a simple design for an Easter card. I transferred it to the linoleum by flipping it over and tracing it, applying enough pressure to lightly transfer the design, then darkened the lines with pencil. I used a Speedball cutting handle fitted with the #3 blade (for wide, deep outline cuts) and began carving away. I finished the design with the v-shaped #2 blade and the fine #6 knife for detailing.Papa then cut me a chunk of wood to mount the finished piece, so I'd have a nice handle to apply even pressure.I put block printing ink (water soluble) onto a piece of cardstock and used a brayer to evenly distribute the ink onto the linoleum.Then, I crossed my fingers. Ta-da! It worked!
I washed the block and the brayer and tried the design with silver ink (which I love) and green ink, on all manner of paper colors and textures. The prints aren't perfect, by any means, but they are each unique and I am proud of my first attempt.

LESSONS LEARNED: The detail knife should only be used for the finest of details, no scooping. Text is tricky and next time I'll transfer the letters more accurately, and with a more uniform thickness. Toothbrushes make fabulous block cleaners. And the second print off of a fresh brayer of ink is the nicest, I think.

For a great tutorial and other posts about stampmaking with and without kids, visit Gennine's Art Blog. Simply gorgeous.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Different Kind of Treasure Map (Part I)

Yesterday was the first day of the astrological new year. After an afternoon in the sun and the healing salty waves, the Mamas and I gathered at Rose's house to set positive intentions for the New Moon in Aries. Inspired by Mama Bird's suggestion, we decided to make treasure maps for the lunar year ahead.

With every crafty supply imaginable laid out in the room, each of us got to work creating a visual reminder of our intentions for the coming year. Although I love the art of collage, Mama Bird's bagua diagram spoke to me in its color composition, and I knew I wanted to create my map with fabric. I just wasn't quite sure how. The Visionary contributed a tin of antique buttons to the crafty mix, and an idea slowly began to solidify.
I chose fabrics from my stash that corresponded to the colors of the bagua.

(from left to right, top to bottom):
1 : prosperity
2 : external recognition
3 : love and marriage
4 : family and ancestors
5 : health
6 : creativity and children
7 : knowledge and self-cultivation
8 : career and journey
9 : helpful people and travel

I love their juxtaposition, and how circles and spirals found their way next to each other. Some of these squares are pieced, some are not. After piecing the squares together, I found the perfect buttons for the center of each.According to astrologists, the treasure map should be completed before the Full Moon. To finish this project, I plan to find a piece of cork the size of the finished map, about 24" square. I will place a layer of batting between the cork and the pieced top, and sew the buttons on. I will probably criss-cross ribbons on the squares, providing a space for words, photographs, whatever pieces of beauty need to be there. Then I think will frame the corkboard and have a visual backdrop for positive intentions. Thank you, Mama Bird, for such a fun and inspirational idea!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Inspiration: Creative Living

Saturday afternoon, we rounded up Grammy and went to the County Fair. After experiencing so many people, rides, sights and calories in such a small space... ...we packed up and headed north, back to where it all began, and spread out a little bit, enjoying the fresh spring air.
Between functions on campus, we stayed at Big L and little l's dome sweet dome in the woods, where creativity thrives. Some current projects there: Uncle S is putting the finishing touches on an observatory over their glassblowing studio...Aunt S is working on a scrappy crazy quilt (and let me raid her amazing fabric stash, thank you)...Big L is painting signs and making palmetto roses for her first art festival next weekend...And little l, running so fast I can't keep up, is learning the arts of skateboarding, fiddle-playing, and trampoline acrobatics.It was a lovely excursion, where Big B and little b were able to be dirty and free, enjoying their cousins and life in the country. As evidenced by the writing on the bus where we slept, what goes around comes around. Every time I visit my sweet sister and her family, I feel refreshed, renewed, and somehow washed of complication, so that I strive to live more simply and create more beauty in my world.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Blueberry Morning Milestone

Big B cooked this breakfast.

From start to finish, from egg-cracking and stirring to mixing and pouring, from blueberry-ing and flipping to setting the table. This is not the most photogenic blog post by any means, but I am so proud I am giddy and just had to share it. Big B did this all by himself. I am thinking of all of the possibilities...
1/2 c. white flour
1/2 c. wheat flour
1 T. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 T. canola oil

Mix all of the dry ingredients together, make a well in the center. Mix all of the wet ingredients together, stir. Pour wet into dry and mix just until combined. Add a bit of butter to a large frying pan and pour batter into pan (over medium heat) in 1/4 c. scoops. Add a LOT of blueberries to each. Flip when bubbly, cook another minute or so. Enjoy with syrup!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Planting Seeds for the First Day of Spring

Although it has felt rather spring-ish here for a few weeks now, there is something about this Equinox that feels especially rejuvenating. There is a real sense of 'out with the old, in with the new' in our house: the phrase 'spring cleaning' has never resonated with me so deeply. Things are being purged and organized, our plants and trees have new growth waiting to burst open, and we have all been spending most of our afternoons in the backyard.

To celebrate, Big B, little b and I got our hands a little dirty and planted a child-sized pot of marigolds. We placed our marigolds on top of our Freecycled playground (next to our bubble machine, which has been getting daily use).
We are excited to watch them grow, and to plant the seeds of our creativity this spring. Little b is embarking on the most exciting world of hand held artistic implements......and Big B, ever the consummate storyteller, gets more creative and expressive with each new day.
"Just as we plant seeds in our gardens during this time,
so we can plant the seeds of our creativity over this whole period,
in whatever sphere of our lives requires them."

-Lara Owen, astrologist

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Inspiration: Irish Blessings, Old and New

This morning, as I was dressing my babies in green--a great color for them--I read Big B my favorite traditional Irish Blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.

On the way to school, he came up with his own version. I asked him what he would wish for people to have happy lives. His answers were:

1. That they always have their toys with them.
2. That they see the signs.
3. That they always not make a fire.
4. That they always not bump into people.

The first wish needed no explanation. I was, however, a bit confused by the latter three. I asked him what he meant by 'seeing the signs,' and he answered, matter-of-factly, 'you know, when you need directions, so you can know the way.' Aaah. Another wish born. The third and fourth wishes provided sturdy platforms for a morning grammar lesson, and I challenged Big B to turn those negatives into positives. He did, beautifully, and now we have a perfectly sweet Irish Blessing of our own, to celebrate the day.

May you always have your toys with you.
May you always know the way.
May you always be safe, and
May you always be nice to people.

Doesn't that about sum it up?

Yoga Night Crock Pot Recipe: Corned Beef Brisket

I am not Irish by any stretch of genetics, but I absolutely love this St. Patrick's Day tradition. I've switched it up a bit, as we all agree that brussels sprouts trump cabbage, and added beer to further celebrate the day. I can't wait to come home to this tonight!

1 Corned Beef Brisket with seasoning
1 large potato, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced
a pound or two of brussels sprouts
one can of beer

Place the carrots and potatoes in a ring around the bottom of your crock pot. Place the brisket, fat side down, on top. Sprinkle seasoning on brisket (if your corned beef didn't come with seasoning, you can make your own with any of the following: peppercorns, thyme, minced garlic, pickling spices). Place the brussels sprouts around the brisket. Pour the beer over the whole thing, turn the crock pot on low, and relax--dinner is done! I check the brussels sprouts about halfway through the day to make sure they're not too mushy (if they are, you can always remove them and add them back in for the last hour of cooking). And, as always with slow-cooked meat, slicing the meat an hour before you turn off the crock pot seems to tenderize it all the more deliciously. Slainte!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Take Me Out to the Softball Game...

Papa joined a softball league about three years ago. We were both knee deep in career building and early parenthood--Big B was just a toddler--and I freely admit that my first reaction to this was less than supportive. I envisioned single parenthood two nights a week, at a time when I had not yet learned the value of filling my own well. But from the first game I attended, I saw the benefits of this healthy outlet. Papa works hard and plays hard, and he is very good at recognizing what his soul needs. He has taught me much in this department. Softball provides him with exercise, teamwork, camaraderie, machismo, strategy, fresh air, release. I did not realize then what a supremely enjoyable activity it would be for the rest of us. The boys absolutely LOVE it. We pack a picnic for every game. They have a wide berth of open grass and dusty clay to explore. There are always other young children there with whom to toss balls and play tag. And they, like me, truly enjoy cheering Papa on. I will also freely admit that I have a sneaky bit of schoolgirl-esque pride every time he gets a hit, or makes a good play. Big B and little b look forward to leaving the games almost as much as arriving. They get to run the bases, and then catch a ride on the strong and steady shoulders of their Papa, their hero.