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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Stress Busters- Part 2, 10.29.15

Have you ever had to deal with a stressor that was so ridiculous that you can't even wrap your head around how it even started in the first place? And one that is so affecting that you feel like someone has come up from behind you and hit you in the head with a baseball bat?  (Weird analogy, I know. But sometimes it does feel like I've had the emotional wind knocked completely out of me.) Well, this is my life for the past 6 months. SO crazy! But, you know, having lived almost 50 years of this life, I am now fully aware that things can change in an instant and you can really never let your guard down, completely. And, I've had a lot of opportunities to practice various coping skills to deal with these changes, for example- 32 years of motherhood, 11 years of teaching teenagers, a divorce and the unexpected death of the father of my children have given me a pretty decent range of practice. So, I'm pretty proud that this recent stress is only having intermittent effects on me. Don't get me wrong. It is way up there on the "stress-o-meter", as it has been a roller-coaster ride (bad, then better, then worse, then WAY worse, then a little better, etc., etc.) and it is affecting something that I've spent most of my adult life nurturing. But, if I am nothing else, I am very determined and stubborn! So I will ride this out, too, because I won't let it ruin something I've worked so hard for.

Letting go is not an option in this case, so I have to be willing to be dragged a little. And, that's okay.
Image found via a simple life afloat

So if you can relate at all to going through a roller-coaster-stress-ride, I thought you might be interested in some new stress busters that have been helpful to me (in addition to the ones I mentioned here a few months ago).

Here they are, in no particular order of importance or effectiveness :). 

1.) Brag on yourself, to yourself:   For me, my biggest and proudest accomplishment is raising three kind, loving, respectful people, who now have the opportunity to pass that along to their own children. And that is huge. And to top it off, I get to spend every working day until retirement helping other people's children become more kind, loving and respectful. (Well, at least I can wish for that!) Sometimes, when something is making you feel crappy, you have to pat yourself on the back a little, you know? :)

2.) Do some yoga: Sorry! I know I sound like a broken record on the yoga thing, but you have no idea how good it feels to force yourself to breathe and balance and the same time. It is incredibly calming.

3.) Go to Starbucks: Or any place where you can get a little treat for less than five or six bucks. Yes, I know this is a little thing. But sometimes a little treat (a grande, decaf, Flat White with coconut milk, please!) makes a big difference when you're having a rotten day.

4.) Listen to uplifting podcasts: This is my new addiction. I love podcasts! My favorites are those featuring Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene' Brown or Kelly Rae Roberts. Although their topics are mostly about creativity, just hearing their positive voices makes me feel better. Actually, if I have to find a silver lining in this whole mess, it has to be that it has taught me yet another way to cope- with excessive positivity. Even if you have to fake it, it makes you feel better.

5.) Force yourself to think about happy things:  In my case, spending time with my grandsons and looking forward to my granddaughters. Because how can you be negative when you are with a four year old, a one year old or newborn babies?

6.)  Make a to-do list: Keeping my mind busy is my best medicine. It could be things as mundane as paying bills, cleaning out a closet or giving my dog a bath. But the best lists are the ones that remind me to work on creative projects like stitching or painting (or writing a blog post!). Hours go by and it seems like minutes. Working with my hands always helps my head.

Having works-in-progress like this (my latest fiber piece) is like medicine for me.

7.) Read articles related to what you are dealing with:
When something is bugging me, I read, read, read- trying to find any kind of advice or solution to my dilemma. In this case, the perfect article showed up in my blog feed at the perfect time. To summarize, using a line from the article,

"We are not terrible people, even though we may have said or done some pretty hurtful things. In the end, we all want the same thing: to be happy, to feel loved, and to know that we matter."

This article reminded me that any kind of negative behavior is always driven by fear. And the best way to deal with it, even if you are the one affected, is with forgiveness and compassion. So that's my plan.

8.) And lastly, but I think most importantly, spend time with someone who is ALWAYS on your side and ALWAYS willing to listen. In my case, that person is my husband, M. Meeting him 12 years ago had to be divine intervention of some kind, on some level (if you believe in that!). I'm very lucky.

So there it is. Positivity, forgiveness and compassion are the words of the day, today. I hope it helps someone out there, in some small way. 

Now, I'm hoping this negative situation takes a turn for the positive very soon. Maybe you could send some positive vibes our way? We need it. Thank you in advance!  Juli

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bittersweet October, 10.15.15

Bittersweet October... 

I guess it's fitting that October ended up being a bittersweet month for us. If you think about it, it's just the nature of October- everything  is dying off- leaves falling, everything turning brown- yet, for some reason most people are energized by it all- the cooler weather, the approaching holiday season. For us, over the years, October has definitely become a month of ups and downs:

October 11th- Sister's Due Date Day- For some reason, I always remember my due dates and try to remember to tell each my kids "Happy Due Date Day!" (I know it's weird!) But, this one was especially significant because Sister was my first baby and I was only 17 years old at the time. You have no idea how much I did not want to be pregnant anymore, as I watched my due date of October 11, 1983 come and go.

October 12th- Miscarriage day. At ten weeks, in 1994. Yes, I still remember it every single year for the last 21 years. (And yes, I know this seems kind of weird, too.)

October 15th- Ruben J's birthday. In my entire life, I haven't known anyone who gets as excited about their birthday, no matter their age. By the time he was in his late 20s, I thought to myself that he really should get over it. You know, he wasn't a little kid anymore. Everybody enjoys their special day once a year, I know.  But Ruben J wanted to take off work and throw himself a party every single year. I'm not kidding. One year, on his 30th birthday, we took a trip to Colorado so he could spend his birthday elk hunting, but he was disappointed because he didn't get to have a party! Oh, my! It really used to bug me. Now, looking back on it, maybe, deep down, he knew he would only get about half as many birthdays as he should, so he'd better make the most of every single one. And now, looking back on it, I wish I would have been more patient about that. Today would be Ruben J's 55th birthday.

Photo courtesy of Tracy Schmidt

October 17th- The day of Ruben J's death, in 2011. He had just turned 51. I remember, on his 50th birthday, sending him a Happy Birthday e-mail saying "Here's to 50 more!". His response, "Yeah, right!". Very unfair that he only got one more.

October 25th- Sister's birthday, in 1983.  Yes, if you are calculating in your head back to the beginning of this post, it is exactly 2 weeks later. Believe me, by then, I was one crabby, pregnant teenager! But, man, was she worth the wait. This girl. Oh, my. Someone was looking out for my seventeen-year-old self when they gave me this girl. She was the most happy, laid-back, easy-going baby. And she grew up to be the most kind-hearted, caring person I know. There is no doubt that I am a better person for having the privilege of being her mom.

Me and my girl.


October 25th is also my parents' wedding anniversary. Sister was actually born on their 25th Anniversary. Pretty good gift we gave them, huh?

Mom and Dad on their 50th Anniversary

And, finally, October 25th 1980 was Ruben J's and my first date. Well, if you call a ride home from a New Melle Community Club dance, a date, that is. In any case, it was just the beginning of one wild, 32 year ride.

Hunter S. Thompson Inspirational Travel:
Ruben J's favorite quote. This print available here

Hoping your October is more sweet than bitter - Juli

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Lately, 10.10.15


Making: A second canvas from the Kelly Rae Roberts course I started over the summer, a banner for our newest Baby G, and currently focusing on finishing my latest fiber piece. Pictures posted soon as I progress a little further.

Layer 1 of the latest multi-media painting ( a little larger canvas this time). I'm really loving the color on this one.

Layer 2. This is definitely where it goes through an "ugly" stage.

And then it gets pretty again! Detail of layer 3. Love this section. I'm planning on keeping it visible through the next several layers. The little shot of yellow really stands out.

Drinking: the usuals :) I really need to try something new.

Eating: not the filet mignon from Aldi's! I bought it and M. realized it is full of MSG, disguised by the name 'autolyzed yeast extract'. Close call! That would have cost me a day of work, for sure. Sister recently shared this article with me, though, so at least Aldi's is headed in the right direction.

Watching: the movie, Philomena- SO good!

Reading: this blog, with tons of good ideas, tips and tutorials.

Listening to: Still stuck on the original, "Please Come to Boston". Enjoy this oldie-but-goodie, below :) And this song by Need To Breathe.

Thinking: that I am in yoga heaven right now since I found all of my DVDs that have been missing since our move 18 months ago. I only kept a few standards with my computer when we moved and packed the rest away in a box. I have been looking and looking and finally came across them a couple of days ago. Can you tell I'm a Rodney Yee fan?!

Laughing at: Peanut, showing me his new Lego guy and telling me he, "looks like PawPaw M. with a happy face"! If you know M., you know why this is funny :)

Disliking: I'm keeping "Positive Vibes Only" and choosing to skip this section :)

Love my new print from A Beautiful Mess.

Loving: My students this week. They have been SO well-behaved. Maybe they sensed that I've had more than my fill of disrespect lately. What a relief to enjoy them so much. And today, I loved seeing a former student at a stop light, 50 miles from where I teach, with half of his body hanging out of the window just to get my attention and wave to me. Little things like this make me love my job over and over and over again.

Also... a little update on my plan to possibly teach some classes/paint nights/workshops, etc. at Blumenhof. I've decided that my heart just isn't in it right now, as I already spend 35-40 hours each week teaching art and barely have time to work on my own art. BUT, the good news is, someone else is going to do it! An experienced "paint and sip" instructor contacted M. recently, and since I had already decided not to do it, I readily gave him my blessing to invite her in. I'll post all of the info on it later, but I've heard good things about her, as she has been holding classes at other local wineries for a while now. I'm hoping it will be a good thing for the winery.

Well, that's my "lately".  Have a great week!  Juli

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Inspired by..."With What You Have", 10.3.15

Over the past few months, I've been inspired by a series titled "With What You Have" on the Assortment blog (one of my favorites),which began with this  post.  It's a subject I'm pretty familiar with, as having to be content with what I have seems to be a running theme in my life. When I was a kid, money was always tight in our household, so I would often make do with what I had- turning my closet into my own "room", turning boxes from the grocery store where my dad worked into "stores" or "kitchens" or "cribs" for my dolls and, of course, wearing hand-me-down clothes from my sister. As a younger adult, money wasn't quite as tight, but Ruben J and I didn't really know how to handle it, so in the midst of raising three kids, we often, inevitably,  had to make do with what we had. And now, with M. and I both working in professions that are not quite known for their high incomes, we know how to handle money, we just don't have enough of it to handle! So, here I am, mid-life, still finding myself making do with what I have. And, you know what? It's okay. The trade-off ,at this point, would be M. and I changing our careers and not spending every day doing something we love. For us, that is not an option.

I used to kind of resent making do with what I have, but now, I consider it a creative challenge and I'm pretty proud of finally being satisfied with it. As a result, almost everything in our home has a story. A few of which are shown below: (Please excuse the poor quality Iphone photos- photography is not one of my talents!)

This 1960's Ethan Allen daybed is what we use for our couch/sofa in the living room. The "70's couch" (what the kids called it before we knew it was actually a "60's couch!) used to be in the basement. Everyone would fight over it because it was the most comfortable couch to lounge on. I kept it in the basement because it was a bit of a quirky piece of furniture and had ugly cushions. Now, I embrace the quirkiness and I proudly display it upstairs  (with some linen fabric covering the ugly cushion!). It was a hand-me-down from M.'s dad and step-mom and it's kind of cool to look back at old pictures and see his family members (some of whom are no longer here) sitting on our 70's couch!

This console stereo has been in my family for several decades. I'm not quite sure when my parents purchased it (probably with Eagle stamps!), but I know that it has been around for as long as I can remember. It was always the backdrop for my sister's and my annual Easter picture. And I remember my mom having it on almost all the time and hearing songs like Joy To the World (aka-Jeremiah was a Bullfrog), American pie and Horse With No Name. And of course, my favorite, the Andy Williams Christmas albums. Tons of memories here. But now, in our home, it's main function is serving as a T.V. stand and it's doing a wonderful job :) 

My Grandpa Albers' chair. It's made of luxurious "pleather" (haha) but it is in absolute perfect condition. Again, a quirky piece, but it's part of my Grandpa's story, so I'm embracing it.  I'm not sure how old it is, but I'm guessing over 50 years. They took very good care of things, obviously. (Actually, most of his and my grandma's furniture was covered in plastic, which I always thought was super weird!)

And our table. This table has been in Ruben J's family for several generations.  I believe his uncle acquired it from his grandparents. (When Ruben J and I were dating, we used to spend many Friday nights, sitting around this table with his uncle, talking for hours. Very fond memories for me.) When his uncle passed away, it was given to his mom, when his mom passed away it was given to Ruben J and when Ruben J passed away it was given to Little Man. So I guess I'm really just holding this piece for Little Man, but that's okay. It's kind of crazy to think about how many memories were made around this piece of furniture.
So, there you have it- stories of just a few of my hand-me-downs and how I make do with what I have. Exciting, I know! There are more, believe me, but I wouldn't want to bore you even more than I already have!

I'm off now to work on some art, as I have the rare weekend day with nothing planned and nothing to grade. Have a great weekend!  Juli

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lately, 9.16.15


Making:  I'm finally settling into a routine now that we're back at the Little House on the Big Hill, which means I've been making time to work on some long overdue art projects. I finished the multi-media collage painting and have two more in the works, using my mantras from the summer. (You can read about that here, in case you missed it).

Be Steady. Be Still. Be True. Acrylic, cotton, gel medium and paper on stretched canvas.

And I'm slowly plugging away at the fiber piece from the summer. I'm thinking I'd like to add a lot more layers to this one, but my hands can only take stitching through very thin fibers. So, that is my challenge right now. Trying to brainstorm through it.

Drinking: Decaf Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee coffee and my standards- green tea, red wine and water.

Eating: Just finished the last of the bruschetta, made with the only homegrown tomatoes I've had all summer, thanks to my co-worker (the "M" of MK Designs and Photography). Thanks, M.T.!

Watching: the movie, A Walk in the Woods. The book, by Bill Bryson, was one of the few books (maybe the only book, now that I think about it) that both M. and I have read. (M. is an avid reader, me- not so much!) Anyway, it was fun to watch this movie together. But, I do have to say that the book was so much better than the movie. Don't get me wrong, the movie was definitely worth seeing, but the book was over-the-top good. SO funny! A definite plus for the movie, though, was Robert Redford. I'm a huge fan ;)

Reading: Love the work from an old high school friend, who recently started writing again.  Check it out on Instagram @begreat_a3k

Listening to: Podcasts. I love listening to podcasts in the car- mainly art, art business or art education. I've recently added The Slow Home to my list, though, so I'm looking forward to that.
I've also been in the mood for country music lately and this is my current favorite:

Thinking about: New blog content. As I mentioned earlier, I have two more mixed media collage paintings to start, and I've decided to document each step, along with my thoughts about each one as I progress. That way, if anyone out there wants to try it for themselves, they can. (The original content comes from Kelly Rae Roberts, I will just be writing about things I changed up in order to make it my own.)
Also, I just signed up for an online meditation course (actually an IPhone app) by Dan Harris. I loved his book, 10% Happier, so I'm anxious to see how I like this. The book is all about meditation, but I have yet to actually practice what he preaches. Anywho- I'll be posting a few reviews about the meditation app as well.

And, I've really been interested in the routines of creative people and how their motivation is affected by their daily routines and their physical environment. I've been reading posts on a couple of different blogs, Daily Routines and My Morning Routine, and plan to put some of these ideas to the test for my own motivation. As I've mentioned here before, I've become a much more routine-oriented person over the last few years and I think having a specific routine for my "making" days will help me be more productive. I'll be reporting on what works and what doesn't. ;)

Laughing at:  Hmmm... M. and I were just talking about my lack of the ability to "play". I have a hard time letting go and just "playing". Even as a little kid, my idea of "play" was "playing house". And since the age of 17, I've been doing that every day- for real. Taking care of my babies was really all I ever wanted to do, even before I had real babies! So, I'll be working on playing. And laughing!

Disliking: Lack of communication and the resulting, misunderstanding.

Loving: Everything about my life right now. Feeling very content :)

Have a great evening! Juli