Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lately, 2.11.16

My "lately"...

Making: New ideas for paintings are crowding my brain at the moment. The first one, started today, is one that will not be for sale, but, hopefully, will be the start of many more to come. Building upon my more recent painting techniques, I'll be stitching text and adhering it to the canvas with gel medium as one of the middle layers. Again, combining my love of stitching and painting and hoping for a successful outcome.

Layer 1

Drinking: Americanos from Starbucks, Harney and Sons Pumpkin Spice herbal tea

Eating: Lots of turmeric added to my stews, soups, grilled chicken, meatloaf, etc. I'm convinced that it is one of the things helping with the pain in my hands :) 

Watching: A recent favorite- (even though it's an older movie) Seven Years in Tibet (LOVED it), and to honor Alan Rickman- The Song of Lunch (also really good!)

Reading:  I'm really making an effort to only read positive words, including blog posts, articles, status updates, etc. and stay away from anything that seems hateful, gossipy, sad, sensationalized, etc. I'm convinced that what you watch, read, listen to or engage in- you become. And I really don't want to be those things!

Listening to:  podcasts and NPR, as I haven't really been in the music mood lately. Boring, I know!

Thinking about: Continuing to think about my cousin and her family and hoping they find comfort and peace in the memory of their sweet boy.

Laughing at: M., laughing out loud through his latest book. It really is contagious- when he laughs, I laugh, even though I have no idea why either of us is laughing. And it happens all the time :)  I love that.

Disliking: Cutting my finger (pretty badly!) while opening a new knife with another knife (not my brightest moment). And, a couple of days later, cutting right through my new-to-me vest at school while using the paper cutter. (Another "bright" moment!) A bit of advice- always make sure the long pieces of your asymmetrical vest are swept back and away from, not tucked underneath, the paper you are cutting, when you pull down the guillotine-style blade! 

Loving: Watching my son become a dad. As I've said before, February 2, 2016 was one of the six best days of my life. These two girls are completely beautiful and perfect. And completely identical. It's really kind of crazy!

With what I have: I'll be using these in a couple of small paintings I have started. They will be similar to the one above, but different color schemes and subjects. These pieces were cast-offs of a project from a couple of years ago that I found while I was cleaning the studio.

And, I've been expanding my upstairs work space and was planning to go to Ikea for a new cabinet to store all of my hand-stitching tools and projects in, but I performed some re-arranging magic and came up with something I already had.  I pulled a wooden shelf from the studio and placed it next to the 70's couch so it is all within easy reach when I plop down to watch a movie (my preferred time to stitch). It still needs to be styled a bit, maybe with some matching baskets or boxes or something, but for now, it works.  Can you tell I'm getting used to being back in this house? :)

Grand dog, Finn, approves of the new arrangement :)
Have a great week!  Juli

Monday, January 25, 2016

On Angels, 1.25.2016

If you have been reading this blog for a while now, you know that I'm not a religious person. But I do have my own, very personal, beliefs about life and death. And one of those beliefs is that when a person leaves this world, they leave behind an energy.  Whether that is their actual, physical energy or an energy left behind in the people they affected while they were here, it doesn't really matter. All I know is that it is one of my truths, as I have personally experienced this phenomenon many times, especially over the last few years. So many times, in fact, that I can't just disregard it, blow it off  and call it "coincidence". But, I never really had another explanation or name for it, until now.

Ten days ago,  close members of our family experienced an unimaginable loss- the loss of their perfect, beautiful, newborn baby boy. I never had the chance or privilege of meeting this little boy, but since the news of his death, his family is all I seem to be able to focus on.  Sister had the best words for what I (and, I'm sure, the rest of my family) was feeling when she told me that her "heart was hurting so much for them". Perfect description. Since that day, by focusing on them and the pain they were experiencing, my problems suddenly seemed silly. Suddenly, I wanted to notice more- I didn't want to miss watching my grandsons play while I scrolled through Instagram feed. Suddenly, I didn't want to just text Little Man, I wanted to call him on the phone and actually hear his voice. Suddenly, I didn't want to put things off- I wanted to get them done. Suddenly, I didn't want to complain about anything- waiting in long lines, being on hold for long periods of time, dealing with unruly teenagers at work, etc.- none of it mattered.  I feel like I've had a shift in my brain and a renewed perspective about what really matters in this world.

Now, how could one little boy, whom I never met, have such an affect on me? The only explanation I have is going back to that energy. That little boy left such an energy behind-in and around all of us- that the only word that comes to mind to define it, and him, is "angel".  And I know that if his short life had such an effect on me, his life will have an exponentially more powerful effect on his parents, his brother and sister, his grandparents, etc. for the rest of their lives. So, today, I have a new way to define this energy and a new definition of "angel". His name is Hunter.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My word(s) for 2016, 1.13.16

As an attempt to start this year off on a positive note and hopefully, keep that positivity going strong all year (and beyond!), I've been carefully considering my word for the year. Last year my word was legacy and, at the time, it felt very appropriate. I was looking forward to a significant birthday at the end of 2015 and "legacy" was a great choice to keep me focused on the choices I made and the legacy that those choices will leave behind. And, looking back on it, I followed through with that thought in mind all year long. I definitely had some breakthrough "Ah-ha" moments regarding my art, this space (and Olive and Ash in general) and my role as a mother. I'm not gonna lie, though, it was a tough year. But, there were many lessons learned, so it's all good. I'm very certain that any negative memories will become, and stay, very distant memories.

 Here is a little mini-review of my 2015 (similar to my post last year):

Best conversation: An hour and a half long phone conversation with Eddie in the Home Depot parking lot in June.

Most memorable moment in pop culture: I honestly can't think of anything memorable as far as pop culture goes. What the heck?! most memorable personal moment(s) of the year is watching Eddie watch his wife walking down the aisle at their wedding and three weeks later, at Baby G's first birthday party, when they announced they were expecting a baby (or two!). And that same day, capturing this moment, releasing balloons for Ruben J.

If I had to pick a photo of the year, this would be it.

Biggest lesson learned this year: Forgiveness is mandatory.

Favorite song this year: Beautiful Boy by John Lennon. Obviously not a new song this year, but newly discovered  ;)  

Best piece of advice I got this year: From my mom, "Time to count your blessings".

Day that I would live over and over:  A sweet, simple day, like this one

So, now, my word for 2016. Well, there are two, because I couldn't choose just one. They are:

                                                    Courage and Compassion

I was going to choose 'forgiveness' but that seemed to carry many negative connotations. Courage and compassion are completely necessary for forgiveness, but feel positive. Pretty good words, I think.

And I also decided on a mantra for the year... "Simply begin again"- chosen after another "ah-ha" moment listening, again, to this.

So, expect some writing about 'courage', 'compassion' and 'simply beginning again' in future blog posts, because they have been heavily on my mind lately and, I think, will be the best guiding words for me in 2016.

I'll leave you with some images of what I've been up to lately. Basically, it's all about organizing my house and getting ready for those two new grandbabies who will be here in 3 weeks. What a great way to start the year! Can't wait to meet you, baby girls!

The making frenzy has begun!

Couldn't pass up these adorable little India-inspired dresses and leggings. So cute!

And, inspired by this, I set up a little home office area in our living room, between two windows. It's still a work in progress, but I'm kinda loving it already. Great place to blog!

Perfect spot for my Kelly Rae print...

...and my new tray (I have a thing for trays-love them!)- a Christmas gift from my mom and dad.

And, now, I'm hoping for more of these:

Yes, a few snow days would be great right now. My studio is in dire need of some TLC and I know there are a few pieces of canvas in there that are waiting patiently for some paint and stitches.

Lots to look forward to and I'm hoping you have the same. Have a great week! Juli

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome to the Second Half, 1.1.16

Wow! Just realized I haven't posted since the 7th of December! Lots and lots going on this time of the year, as I'm sure you all know. Our holiday "schedule" seemed especially disorienting this year, as several of our holiday traditions had to be put to the side for various reasons, one of them being an exact repeat of my dad's health scare from earlier this year. But, he is on the mend again, thank goodness.

And, since I last posted, I had a milestone birthday- 50! At one of our many family gatherings, one of M's cousins came up and wished me a happy birthday and then said, "Welcome to the second half!". My immediate thought was "Oh, crap! It's half over." But, on second thought, it was "Oh, wow! I have another half!" (as I fully envision living like this to age 100 :) ) I am so glad for second thoughts!

As the year 2015 ends and 2016 rolls in,  and as I enter my 'second half' ', I have been thinking about what I've come to know as being true along this 50 year road. So, if you're interested, this is what I know:

1) You must take care of yourself. No, it's not selfish. It just makes sense and it must be a priority.  As I'm sure you know, you only have one body and if you don't take care of it, it will eventually crap out on you. For me, as my kids got older and more independent, I began making the time to get healthier. Reading about nutrition, making the time to exercise on a daily basis and knowing when it's time to visit the doctor has changed my life over the past few years. And because of this, this year, especially, has been a good one as far as my health is concerned. And if my health is good, I'm able to be a better mom, grandma, wife , teacher, etc. I just wish I had made it a priority sooner.

2) You must "Let it be". So, good year for my physical health, not so good for my mental health. This year has been a real test for my mental stability and a few times I've felt like I was losing ground. But, recently, with a little help from this and my mom, I had an ah-ha moment. I realized that if I am wallowing in self pity and whining about the unfairness of life, other people in my life are going to be dragged down with me. And you know what? Whining and wallowing doesn't change a thing, anyway. It won't make people nicer, it won't give you the long or even the equal end of the stick, it won't bring about a 'thank you' or an 'I'm sorry' and it won't suddenly turn a situation from crappy to good. You just have to let it be. Sometimes things just have to work themselves out and it may take a while. Let it be. Letting it be is the only way to get past a tough situation, because very often, whatever has happened has nothing to do with you, so it's out of your control. It's a hard lesson. Can you tell I'm still working through this one?  :)

3) You must live your truth.- Don't live your life according to someone else's rules- whether those "rules" are from your spouse, your parents, your kids or your best friend. For me, getting an education is what gave me the tools to make my own rules and live my own truth. The experience forced me to think outside of my own little world and make connections. Getting an education led me to a career that I love. I believe I am here on this earth to be a mother and being a teacher allows me to extend that role beyond my own kids. It is my truth. Getting an education enabled me to form my own opinions about politics and religion- topics I was really confused about for most of my life. My parents never forced their beliefs on me and my siblings and that left us free to form our own opinions, not just follow their lead and their "rules". My opinions on these topics are definitely not popular opinions, but they are my opinions, formed over many years, through many experiences and after much thought. They are my truth. And knowing them can only be likened to standing on a piece of very solid, unshakeable ground. And that comes in handy sometimes!

4) You must practice gratitude. Over the past four months, I have been to three funerals. In two of those cases,  the people who passed away had committed suicide. The most recent was a woman I have known for many years and I would say that our lives were parallel in many ways. It affected me in a huge way, as I know how it feels to go through many of the things that she had gone through. So, I had a rough few days grappling with this in my head.  I mentioned it to my mom and she responds, "Time to count your blessings". Those words are what it took to get me out of the funk I was in , as I realized how right she was. Practicing gratitude, counting your blessings- whatever you want to call it. It's huge. When things seem to be spinning out of control and it seems like nothing is going your way, stop to remember everything good about your life.  Chances are, it will be a pretty long list.

5) You must live in the moment (words from my 20 year old) and look forward, not backward. Looking backward often involves regret and regret can be poisonous. I know first hand about this. Forgiveness in general is important in life. But forgiving yourself is even more important and probably, for most people, much harder to do. Everybody makes mistakes and some of us are harder on ourselves than others. M and I have had many conversations about this.  And I know, now, through many trials and tribulations, that moving on from the past, forgiving yourself and appreciating what is going on right now and looking forward, optimistically, to the future is the only way to have a peaceful mind.

6) You must hold space for the people in your life. This has been a biggie for me since I've had an empty nest. I wrote about it here, last year, and thought I was succeeding in this area, especially where my kids are concerned. But, I found out that everybody has to be given their own unique level of "holding". The space you are holding for one child might not be the same amount of space needed for another child. Lesson learned (from my child whose motto has always been, since the age of two, "I can do it myself!"). I realize now that the "holding space" concept may take some practice, but it will be well worth the effort.

Wow. That's a heavy list. So, to lighten it up a bit, maybe just remember the words from 95 year old Maia, from the link above, " ...simplicity and work and enjoyment" are the keys to a long, happy life. Good advice, don't you think?

So, that's what I know. For now, at this moment, anyway. I'm sure I'll know a lot more after the second half! And, although I know these things now, it still takes a lot of practice to live them each day, so I am in no way claiming to be an expert on any of it. It's just what I know. That's all :)  I'll leave you with some images from the last few weeks. Happy New Year!
The Kristkindl Markt at Blumenhof was the unofficial start of the holiday season for me. I shared a space with MK Designs and Photography and had a great time.

 It's not Christmas until I spend some time with my mom, dad, brother and sister. It's loud, chaotic and crowded, but so much fun you don't even notice. The highlight of Christmas for me this year is my sister's reaction when she opened the Toot-a-Loop radio I gave her, (original- found on e-bay!) just like the one she had when we were kids. Priceless!

Our humble, little tree.

Christmas at home with my kids and grandkids, minus one, who couldn't make it this year :(

Surprise 50th Birthday party given to me by my kids. Loved every minute of it!

Have the very best start to 2016! I'll be back soon with some "making" posts, updates on my Etsy shop and my new word of the year :) In the meantime, I would love to hear from you! What would your "What I know" list look like? Do you have a word of the year? Thanks for reading!  Juli

Monday, December 7, 2015

Lately, 12.7.15


Making- More layered paintings and some small fiber pieces (in preparation for the Kristkindl Markt!).

My latest mixed media piece. Needs another layer, otherwise finished.

Drinking- Hot chocolate with almond milk
Eating- Homemade chicken vegetable soup- in the crockpot today and making the house smell awesome!
Watching- the movie, Brooklyn. Highly recommend. So good!

Reading- Not reading now, but wanting to buy and reread the Little House on the Prairie books (hopefully with my granddaughters one day!). I loved them when I was a kid.

Listening to- Christmas music. Of course!

Thinking about- How I keep getting all of these signs, letting me know that we are supposed to be back in this house. Sign like this:

2 deer in the front yard...

and 2 deer in the side yard
As I pulled into the driveway Saturday afternoon, I was greeted by four deer, who just stood there for the longest time as I slowly drove up to the top. Pretty cool.

Laughing at- I honestly haven't been laughing enough. I'll work on that.

Disliking- Not having anybody around to eat the little treats in my advent calendar. Last year, I ate all of the candy myself! This year, I'm just moving the mouse each day- no treats :(

Loving- This new soap I found at Whole foods. I LOVE it!

And a new "lately" section (again, inspired by the series on the Assortment blog), "With what I have". I thought this would be a good addition, as it's a way to continually think about how I can use what I have, rather than buy "new" all of the time. So...

With what I have- Last year, we had a teeny-tiny Christmas tree and not much room for decorations, so I gave away a lot of ornaments, decorations, lights etc.  My Christmas tree skirt was among the giveaways, so last year I used some burlap. This year, I'm using some remnants of an old chenille bedspread that I found in my fabric stash. I'm kinda likin' it!

And, I was going to go out and buy one of those necklace trees, as I was really getting tired of untangling my necklaces every time I wanted to wear one. But, instead, I had this small coat hook that we used in the entryway at the townhouse, but weren't using in this house,so I put it to use for my necklaces. It works perfectly.

If you look closely, you'll see some original designs by Laura Blumenberg and MK Designs :)

So, that's my "lately". Thank you so much for all of the positive vibes sent to my mom on her birthday, following my TbT birthday post last week! That post reached over 400 people, which has never happened. I guess I need to honor my mom more often :)

Have a great week!  Juli

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Laughter in the house, 11.25.15

Lots of laughter, playing and giggling fun in our Little House on a Big Hill, lately, and you can't even imagine how much I've enjoyed it. Our empty nest is usually very (almost creepily) quiet most of the time. Especially lately (just coming out of harvest time), when M. works unusually long hours.

Friday and Saturday were spent having a little slumber party with my grandsons- where Peanut excitedly led Baby G. and I  from one activity to another- sitting "cross-cross applesauce" while he played "teacher", puzzling, game playing, playdough-meal-making, Lego building, car racing, etc. and multiple rounds of the "clean-up" song between each one. We settled in for a little Max and Ruby before bedtime, then woke up to SNOW! Not a lot, but enough to completely thrill them. So much fun!

Baby G in his Great, Great Grandpa's chair.

Cozy, sleepy boys on a bed of blankets and pillows in a cool, dark room. Can't get any better than that!
A little snow made this boy very happy!

On Sunday, I actually had a moment straight from the old (1988!) Folger's holiday commercial when Little Man and his girlfriend (I need to come up with a blog name for this sweet girl) showed up at the house. They only live and hour and a half away, but man, I miss them when weeks go by until I see them. The little things that used to really bug me when Little Man lived at home - laundry everywhere, towels on the bathroom floor, dirty dishes, etc.- actually make me a little giddy now. Funny how that works! More giggling, playing and laughing ensued with them- trivia games, meals together and multiple topics of conversation ranging from wine to movies to "remember when". I loved every minute of it.

And, Sister had the day off today, so I got some bonus time with her and the boys at our neighborhood playground.

Having a neighborhood playground, pavilion and walking trail is another bonus to moving back to the Little House.

Happy Holidays are here, for sure! I hope they are for you, too :)  Now I'm off to work on some paintings for the Kristkindl Markt. Here's a little sneak peek at a couple of new ones I started today.

Layers 1 and 2

Layer 3

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Juli

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lately...and an announcement!, 11.18.15

I'm so glad to finally have some time after work to get a few things done at home and in the studio. I actually started this blog post nine days ago and am just now getting back to it. October, November and December are jam-packed around here with lots of birthdays and anniversaries mixed in with the craziness of the holidays. And this year, I added to the craziness by agreeing to participate in the first ever Kristkindl Markt at Blumenhof Winery. I've never done anything like this before, so my anxiety level is increasing as December 12th gets closer. I've had my Etsy shop for four years, but actually gathering my work and putting it out there for people to see IN PERSON is making me very nervous. But, it's a good kind of nervous. (So far, anyway!) Find all of the info here and please join us that day. It should be a lot of fun!

A sampling of the things I'll be bringing with me to the Kristkindl Markt. I was really anxious, thinking I didn't have enough to actually display, but after I put everything together, it was more than I thought. I  have 14 paintings and about 20 textile and fiber art pieces and have plans for a few more of each in time for the event. And I'm hoping to do some painting while I'm there, if the weather holds out :)  

 So, that was my announcement! Now, on to my "Lately"...

Making: Finished the top of this fiber piece:

Now I just need to sew the back fabric piece on, along with a dowel rod pocket for hanging. Oh, and there will be a little stitched message in the round pocket on the left side. All of the quotes are from the movie "Unbearable Lightness of Being", my second favorite movie of all time :)  Love, love, love it. My next fiber piece or painting will include another quote from this movie.

And I am so glad that I actually have several ideas for paintings in my mind. I'll be starting on the base layers for those tonight. Really looking forward to some painting time, for sure.

Drinking: I've really been in the mood for beer (IPA, Porter, Stout) lately (not sure why) and chamomile and lemongrass tea :)
Eating: Since I found out that I have no sensitivity to dairy, I've been trying to eat yogurt again. (I honestly can't stand the flavor of plain milk anymore, so that is out as a source of calcium for me. So gross!) But, I'm getting used to the yogurt again and have found that if I eat the blended yogurts (not the 'fruit on the bottom' kind) I can digest it much easier. And, if I blend it with plain yogurt, it cuts the amount of sugar way down. So, that has been my lunch lately and I'm kinda likin' it!

Watching: I just watched the documentary "First Comes Love" and it was really good. Check out the trailer here. I am a sucker for any kind of movie that has anything to do with having babies!

Reading: Okay, I have to skip this part because, once again, all I have been reading are blogs! I know! There are so many good books out there (many of them in my own home since I am married to a bookworm) and I really just need to pick one up, open it and start reading. Dang. Okay, I'll put that on the 'to do' list.

Listening to: I'm not gonna lie, I have already been looking for new Christmas music to download.  I am also a sucker for Christmas music. Always have been, always will be.

Thinking about: Getting by "with what I have". As I mentioned before, I was greatly inspired by a series of blog posts found here. So my latest 'with what I have' came the other day when I realized I needed frames for a couple of prints that I ordered. So, instead of going to the store to buy them, I pulled out my bin of framed photos and found some to re-use.
My Kelly Rae Roberts print. I love this and feel really good about the message- "Your beautifully messy, complicated story matters (tell it). It is now on hanging on the wall right above me, where I always sit to write these posts. Appropriate, I think. (Cloudy day = bad photo. Sorry!)

The bad thing about going through framed photos to find a frame, is that you are then sucked into looking at the photos in the frames. And you know what happens then, don't you?! Yes. Reminiscing. So here ya go- the two photos that I now feel compelled to share after my moments of reminiscing.

Since Eddie is now married, with twin daughters on the way, I figured I would take his senior photo out of the frame and put it in a folder. (Man, I miss this kid!)

And another framed photo got the boot- this one from Little Man's baptism. Since Little Man (the infant in the photo) is now a Junior in college, I thought it was time to retire the photo- from the frame to the folder.   

Laughing at: The crazy phone call I received on Sunday night- on speaker phone with my brother-in-law (actually, the man to the far right in the photo above,only with much darker hair!), my nephew-in-law, my uncle and Little Man- all staying in a hotel room together, preparing for deer hunting the following morning. Oh, my, what a phone call. They were having WAY too much fun! These guys are so funny. I'm so grateful that my boys get the chance to spend time with them.

Disliking:  Hmmm... feeling better about a lot of things this week, so I am, again, going to skip this section. Keeping it positive!

Loving: Being home. Right now.

Have a great rest-of-the-week!  Juli