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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Keeping it simple, 12.14.14

On my way home from work Friday night, a bit of panic set in. I realized that Christmas is thirteen days away, but what I didn't realize is that MY Christmas (Christmas with my kids) is actually only 8 days away. (When you have an empty nest, then more family members, you have to get creative with the timing of your gatherings!) Anyway, at this time of year, 5 days less is HUGE! So, I took a detour, and instead of heading home, I headed out to get some shopping done. But, when I got to the VERY crowded stores, my Christmas spirit fizzled. So frustrating. So, I headed back home, took a bath and settled in with my computer to get some shopping done my favorite way- on my couch, with a cup of tea and a Christmas movie on TV (The Santa Clause). Talk about stress free shopping! I love it! Online shopping (and Amazon Prime Two Day Shipping) is definitely one of the upsides of the online world we live in now. Especially for people, like me, who absolutely hate to shop.

Online shopping is just one of the ways I'm trying to keep it simple (while still trying to enjoy every minute of this season. It is, and always has been, my favorite time of the year). Here are a few more:

1) Switching it up from NPR to Christmas music in the car. Instead of hearing about riots, racism and war, I get to hear about peace on earth, joy to the world and silent nights. Much better to get into the holiday spirit, don't you think? Along with my old favorites like  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, I've discovered a couple of new favorites: Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson and for some reason I'm really noticing John Lennon's So This is Christmas, even though it been around for years.

2) Watching my old standard Christmas movies: One Magic Christmas (first watched with Sister when she was four years old and watched every year since), The Santa Clause (one of Eddie's favorites), Christmas Vacation ( as Little Man would say, "Classic!"), Prancer (LOVE Sam Elliot reciting Yes, Virginia), Saturday Night Live Christmas (yeah, I know it's not a movie, but we always have to get our Schweddy Balls fix!) and, of course, It's a Wonderful Life ( M's and my Christmas Eve tradition, every year since we've been married).

3) Less baking. For the past few years I've gradually scaled back on my baking and now just make an Albers family tradition-Apricot Pastry. The kids have kept up their dad's tradition of taking them to several of his mom's friends on Christmas Eve, so making them is well worth the effort. For all of the other baking that I used to do... well, I just don't do it anymore. I'm not ashamed to admit that bakery cookies are my new standard.

4) Putting up a smaller tree. Last year, I thought going the artificial tree route was a good way to simplify. It just wasn't for us, though. This year, since we have a small place, we have a small (live) tree. And I love it. Easier to put up, less space needed, less ornaments needed, less lights needed,etc.

5) Reducing the decorating.  When the kids were little, I wanted the whole house to be a magical place, so I put up a lot of decorations. Then, over the past few years, little by little, I've cut back. And since I've been in downsize and simplify mode, I've given away a lot of decorations. Now, I feel like I don't have enough! Since Peanut is getting to the age of really noticing and realizing more, I want my house to be that magical place again. Oh, my. Now I have a situation. If I want more decorations I either have to buy more or make more. Hmmmm...Oh, well. I'm sure I'll figure out the right balance, eventually.  Pinterest  helps :)

6) Trying to really focus on the joy of giving. Since joining the Art Abandonment group, I've secretly abandoned 12 pieces of art so far this month. It feels so good to do this. As far as buying for the people that I know- I'm really trying to be thoughtful and consider how this will affect the person that I'm giving it to. Will it just be another burden of another thing in their life? If so, I won't buy it.

Well, this has become one long winded post! So, I'll leave you with a video of another one of my all time favorite Christmas songs, Little Drummer Boy by Bob Seger (who I got to see in concert last night and it was AWESOME!).

Have a great week! Juli

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thankful and Thinkful, 12.01.14

Yeah, I know "thinkful" is not a word, but there are so many things to think about lately, that's how I feel- think-ful! So, besides thoughts about work, Christmas, etc. here is something else that I've been thinking about...

...that it's time to overhaul the Etsy shop-again!  The purpose of the shop is to make a little money on the side, but it doesn't seem to be working that way. I'll be removing  most of the fiber pieces from the shop because by the time I buy them and/or make them and then stitch them (each one takes about 3-4 hours) I'm really not making more than a few dollars. I love making them, but I'll be saving them for friends and family. So, you're probably wondering what I'll do with all of those fiber pieces that I have in my shop. Here's the story. On Saturday,  Sister and I were the proud "finders" of a piece of art, (a handmade fiber doll) left by one of the members of the Art Abandonment group, on a bench in Troy, MO. So cool!! The first thing Sister said to me was, "Mom, you should do this!" And so, I will! All of the fiber pieces and maybe a few small paintings will be removed from my Etsy shop and abandoned in various places around Washington, Wentzville and Troy, MO.  Sister will be helping, starting off by passing along the art we found to Millstadt, IL. I'm really excited about it. We will be passing on some good cheer and giving my Etsy shop a fresh start for the new year :) (Expect to see more paintings and painted 'ware', as I will be rejoining Daily Paintworks in January.)

 Well, that was my "Thinkful" list.  And this is my "Thankful" list (a slightly delayed "Thankful" list in honor of Thanksgiving):

Of course, I'm thankful (always!) for family, friends/coworkers, health, happiness, etc., but to be more specific, lately, I'm thankful for:

*Thanksgiving spent with family.

Grandpa M. with Baby G. on Thanksgiving day.

*A very unexpected one day extension (a snow day) of our Thanksgiving break. It was like an early Christmas present for me! I brought so much work home with me over the break that I feel like I didn't really have a break. And on top of that, I didn't get all of the work done, so I felt like I was going to be starting the week already behind. But, not anymore! Man, I got a lot done today. It feels great!

*Spending the entire day with 3 of my 4 favorite boys this past Wednesday. Eddie was working/sleeping at home and came over to say "hi", but Baby G., Peanut, and Little Man were all here, all day!  Loved it!
Little Man has been learning to play the piano at school (in this case, a keyboard). He's getting pretty good. Here, he's showing Peanut what he knows :)

Peanut and his painted chalkboard/school desk.

Happy Baby G.

...with Grandpa G's eyelashes!

Peanut loved watching it snow.

He spent a lot of time at the window that afternoon.

A new toy at Bibi's house.

Asher's and my afternoon project. Never again!! Time consuming and sticky!

Peanut wore himself out watching the snow :)

*Having a nice weekend with M.- an overnight stay at a nice hotel, dinner at a nice restaurant, breakfast at our favorite coffee shop and pretty much the entire weekend at the Missouri History Museum for the opening of the Utopia exhibit and documentary.

M. and Peter Roloff, the director of the Utopia movie and project.

A perfect museum day.

The view out of our hotel window. Very seldom do you see this out of a hotel window!

Dinner at the Cheshire Inn Restaurant. Nice!
And our room at the Cheshire- one of our favorite places to stay in St. Louis.

*Coming home from our weekend getaway to find out that Eddie got to come home after 5 days from his duty in Ferguson with the National Guard since he was needed at work. SO THANKFUL FOR THAT!

*The person/persons who broke into my car only took an old camera that doesn't work very well and didn't steal my car!  Well, they didn't "break in" because I left it unlocked. I know. Very stupid.  I'm stuck in "living in the country" mode since that's where I've lived for most of my life and I'm having a really hard time developing that "door locking" habit! I think this car incident has cured me, though.

Also, so thankful for Christmas movies, homemade kettle corn, Christmas music, yoga pants and tunic sweaters, my ability to sew and mend clothes, the girl who does my hair and knows exactly what I want every time, a garage that is now clean enough for my car to have a spot away from the thieves, etc.
I really have a lot to be thankful for :) But, I think that's it for now!

 I'll be updating you soon on our Art Abandonment project!  Until then, have a great week!  Juli

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lately, 11.16.14


Eating: too much sugar! I found some really good gluten free chocolate chip cookie and brownie mixes at Aldi's and I've been having some every day. Not good! My hands have been hurting more lately and I'm blaming the sugar. It's got to go!

Drinking: tea, tea and more tea. I just left Target with 4 boxes of tea in my bag and they will probably be gone in a week or so. It's definitely the time of year when I start craving more hot tea. Also drinking:  Utopia wine, made by M., for this  project.
M. is very happy and honored to be a part of the Utopia project:) Here, he's opening the first bottle of Utopia wine for the reception held by the film maker, Peter Roloff and the historian, Doris Keeven-Franke.

Utopia wine (Blumenhof's Plan B) with a custom label for the project.

Along with Utopia, we also got to try this: a hard liquor from Norway. It's really different- in a good way. You notice the anise flavor right away and then caraway in the finish. It's very strong- but good!

Reading: Great articles on Brainpickings about Georgia O'Keefe.

Listening to: NPR on the way to work and on the way home. I know it sounds boring, but it's how I unwind and it's the only way I get the news, so it's a good thing. Soon, though, I'll be switching it up to Christmas music :)

Watching: Our last episodes of Bill Maher and Anthony Bourdain, since I'll soon be canceling the cable. Tooooo expensive considering we only watch those two shows and there are very seldom any decent movies on. Netflix is a much better option for us. Recent winners (as far as I'm concerned!), Happy and A Year in Burgundy.

Making: Two custom order pouches/wristlets. Yay! And making over Peanut's little school desk, with a chalk board top and, soon, paintings of  some of his favorite things on the wooden seat and back.

Thinking about: How to stay in "simplify" mode with the holidays coming up.

Laughing: At Peanut and his potty training apps on Sister's phone. Oh, my! So funny!

Disliking: That Eddie has to work 12 hour shifts, 12 days in a row because of this Ferguson insanity. But, they are paying him well, so as long as he stays safe, it will be worth it to him.

Loving: Oh, my. Lots of things. And I'm grateful for every single one.

I'll leave you with some Sunday scenes:
Our cozy little "fireplace".

And our first snow in the new place. Definitely not as picturesque as our old place, but that's okay.

Have a great week and thanks for reading!  Juli

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sunday, Monday Studio Scenes, 11.10.14

Busy times around here lately- going out for good dinners and wine, going to movies, celebrating birthdays, Peanut and Baby G. time and some serious studio time on Sunday. It feels good to be busy. I'm just hoping it doesn't get too busy. Probably wishful thinking with the holidays coming up. But, oh well, I can wish. And try my best to keep it simple. With that thought in mind, I wanted to pass on a really good article written by Leo Babauta (which you can find here). He has great ideas about keeping your life simple and it never seems to fail, when I'm getting away from the "keep it simple" mindset, I get an e-mail from ZenHabits. And then I do a little self-check to get back on track. It's a good thing!

Anywho, back to my busy-ness! A few 'scenes' from the past week and weekend:

Beautiful flowers from M. for our 10th anniversary :)
Finished pouches/wristlets, heading to Blumenhof...

...with my outdated cards attached. I know! Much of the information needs to be updated. But the important info. is still relevant, so I went ahead and used them this time. I'll be looking into some new ones soon.

My re-located and re-arranged painting space ...

ready for some painting time!

 And, at the end of the day, Sunday, this is what you would have found in the 'studio' aka the loft...
My vintage t.v. tray- looking worse for the wear since it has been my go-to side table when I'm working on sewing projects. It's small (ish), lightweight, portable, foldable and has just the right amount of lip around the edge to contain everything.

Display and packaging material on another table.

And, finally, my messy, messy sewing table- a loaner from my daughter, who inherited it from her German, hair-stylist Grandma, Agnes. It feels good working on it :)

 As you can see, I'm a messy worker.  When I work, everything I use is everywhere. When I'm sewing, there are bits of fabric and loose threads all over the floor (and me!) and when I'm painting, I get paint everywhere- my hands, my clothes, my hair, the floor. It's really kind of ridiculous.  That was the main reason I moved the painting space to the loft. Before, it was just off of the kitchen and I was really nervous about contaminating anything food related with oil paint or turpentine. That would not be a good thing!

 Well, I know it's a short post tonight, but now that I've revealed my mess to you all, I feel the need to go tidy up! I'll leave you with some images of the awesome stained glass pieces that my Fine Craft students are working on. I really stressed paying attention to the contrast (of light and dark, low intensity and high intensity colors, complimentary colors, etc.) and they are turning out to be some of the best stained glass pieces in the ten years that I've been teaching. This is also the first stained glass hamburger in my class ;)  I love it!

 Till next time~ Juli

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday Scenes- Inspiration Found!, 11.2.14

Well, since winery season is slowing down, I actually have Sunday scenes that are not of the inside of my house! Man, it was nice to get out and do something. It seems like it has been a long time. And maybe that's what I needed to do to find some inspiration. Because inspiration was found :)

M. and I went to two of our favorite places- the St. Louis Art Museum and Sasha's Wine Bar in Clayton.
Here are the scenes:

The works of Nick Cave (there were many more than these) were the most interesting that I've seen at the art museum in a long time. I was disappointed that there wasn't an artist's statement (or one that I could find, at least), but I could have stayed there all day looking at these multi-media sculptures. They were a combination of crochet and other found or re-claimed fiber pieces, along with miscellaneous found objects such as metal toys, ceramic bird sculptures, beads, buttons, etc., attached to sculptures of the human form. Very cool.

This caught my eye because it was made of the same plaster impregnated gauze that we use for many of the sculptures we make at school. After seeing this, I thought it would be cool to challenge one of my more advanced students to try something like this. We've never attempted more than the upper torso and head.

A 3-D Lichtenstein- something I've never seen before.

Wayne Theibaud's food paintings. I know I've probably shown this here before, but I'm showing it again, because I like it!

Native American cradle board. I've always been fascinated by cradle boards (or papooses, as I have always referred to them) and wonder why we don't still use them. Moms (and Dads) could get so much more done in a day, don't you think? I guess the baby sling is today's version of the cradle board. But they don't look nearly as cool and could never pass as a work of art.

One of my all-time favorite artists (just behind Edward Hopper) - Georgia O'Keefe.

If there was one person, living or dead, that I could meet and have a conversation with, I think it might just be Georgia O'Keefe.

And onto our favorite wine bar- Sasha's, in the historic DeMun district of Clayton.
It's the first time I've been handed an IPad for a menu. Weird.  
I had another, really cool photo to show you, right here, and then I accidentally deleted it from my IPhone. Dang! If I can recover it, I'll post it on Facebook.  It was a photo of  a man who looks exactly like Vincent VanGogh who hangs out at Sasha's all the time. He has been there, sitting at the same table, every time we've been there, for the last couple of years. So funny!

Okay, so the following scenes aren't from Sunday, but they're just too cute not to add them.

Baby G.'s first Halloween

My dad's first time wearing a Spiderman mask (I think!).

And Peanut's first time wearing a Spiderman mask... and costume! 
It was a Happy Halloween and a very inspiring Sunday afternoon.
Have a great week!  Juli

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Taking stock , 10.26.14

Oh, motivation and inspiration, where have you gone?! I'm thinking I need a little getaway or something, but I know that is not happening in the near future, so I thought 'taking stock' again would kick start or jump start something...anything. So here it goes:

making... baptism banner for baby G., more Blumenhof goods
cooking...comfort food-chicken stew, ham and beans, soup, cornbread
drinking...flavored decaf coffees, lemon green tea, some great old wine
reading...about formative assessments (I know-BORING!) and soon to be reading this be motivated and inspired
looking...back (too much, as it's that time of the year again)
playing...with Peanut and baby G.
deciding...where to set up my easel, as I'm feeling the need to paint again (just not sure what)
wishing...for motivation and inspiration
enjoying...the company of my family
waiting...for motivation and inspiration routine
wondering...too much
pondering...too much
considering...too much
hoping...for motivation and inspiration
coveting...Eddie and Falicia's engagement pictures- SO good!
helping...with Peanut and Baby G. when I can; my students every day
feeling...unmotivated and uninspired- but otherwise, pretty damn good :) cat meowing (after 12 long days of being "lost" in the basement, surviving on toilet water!)
needing...motivation and inspiration (do you see a trend here?!) and new shoes (still!)
following... this artist, love her work
noticing... more and more of Peanut's perfectly clear words :)
knowing..."every little thing gonna be alright"
thinking...always, too much kids- always, comfort foods
wearing ...warmer clothes, layers, socks, boots

Twill tape labels on my Blumenhof goods. Love them!

Baby G's baptsim day with his godparents, Eddie and Falicia

My girl and her boys.

It only took 4 months for Little Man to hold him for the first time!

This part of a baptism always gets to me.

Baptism banner

This crazy cat, Marty McFly.

Can't wait for this day.  photo by Abi Elaine Photography

My girl turned 31 yesterday :)

This made our Thursday night last week :)

Yeah, it's that time of year again. A very melancholy week. But balanced,this year, by some great things to celebrate :)

Well, hopefully 'taking stock' will do the trick and kick start that much needed motivation and inspiration. Wish me luck! And have a great week!  Juli