Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Checking In, 6.29.16

Did I actually say in my last post that I would have more free time now that it's summer and that I would have time to write the many blog posts that I have in my head (and jotted down on random pieces of paper all over the house and filling my "notes" in my phone!)? Yeah, I think I actually did say that. Well, all of those ideas are still there, along with new ones, but I have to say that, so far, this has been one of the busiest summers I've had in a while. I've been very focused on getting work done around my house, going to birthday parties and dinners and spending lots of time with my grandkids. So, other than spending a week fighting off a kidney infection, it has been a very good kind of busy.

At this point, I am still trying to pull together some of the many ideas that are bouncing around in my head to create a significant post that won't bore you to death. So now, in the meantime, I will just share some photos of what has been going on around here.

At my house:

I've been focused on painting my kitchen, living room, hallway and stairway.  It was a ton of work, but it is finished now, except for the new countertops, which have been ordered. Yay! I am also continuing to delete anything that is unnecessary and really think about how I use each space in my house. I am definitely not an expert in the area of decorating, but I think it's always interesting to know how other people deal with the concept of "home" and how they make a home, so I'm sharing my thoughts here. Decorating and arranging my home was my only creative outlet for many years. And decorating on a budget (always and forever!) requires even more creativity. So, definitely not expert words (or pictures) of advice, just sharing what I know.
Clearing clutter, adding another seating area and storing all of my ugly dishes out of sight has been the focus now that the painting is finished. Now, just waiting on those countertops!

M. suggested I lighten up the paint color in this room as well, so I went with the same color as the kitchen. Also, rearranging is definitely my thing and  I'm pretty happy with these cozy little areas in my living room. For me, it's all about balance. If a room doesn't feel balanced, I can't sit still until it does. I'm weird like that!
And, just to keep it real- photos of the studio and my living room after having my grandsons for five days this past week. haha!

In the studio: I've been gathering works in progress to finish, making art with Peanut and Baby G. and re-working a finished project that has been bugging me (explanation below).

Yes, that is a razor blade you see in the bottom left photo. The larger multi-media work I finished a couple of months ago was really bugging me. I was never truly happy with it. But, I liked certain areas of the painting, so I cut out two of the best pieces, which will be re-stretched and possibly re-worked into two smaller paintings.

And family time: 1st birthday party, 2nd birthday party, 31st birthday dinner, Father's Day breakfast, Shakespeare Festival, grandson time, granddaughter time- LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

 I was going to share another collage here, but, honestly, these two photos say it all.

Oh, my. I can't get enough of those baby fingers and toddler toes!

Have a great rest of the week!   Juli 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Lately, 5.28.16

So much going on around here, lately:

Making: Lots of nesting going on. Having lots of busy days in a row puts me in a sort of "hibernation mode" where I just want to stay home and clean, rearrange and basically just "piddle". Love days like that. Here are the end products of my piddling days:

Extending the life of my mother's day bouquet- keeping all of the still-fresh blooms, cutting the stems much shorter and placing them in a few handmade pottery pieces I have in my kitchen. I think I enjoy this stage of a bouquet the most. Also, (middle pic) I had these soaps sitting on the bathroom counter, along with a necklace with beads in the same color blue and was so inspired by the color...

 ... that I  painted all of our exterior doors that same color blue. This specific paint color is called Voyage by Behr :)  LOVE it!

And, finishing the tray I started a few weeks ago with some metallic gold touches and the quote,"The ordinary arts we practice, everyday, at home, are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest"- Thomas Moore.

Drinking: iced tea, 6th Sense Syrah (very good!), and expanding my summer horizons at Starbucks with Coffee Light Frappuccino instead of my regular rotation of Americanos and Flat Whites.

Eating: this healthier recipe for Buffalo Chicken Wings is so good.  A couple of tips from the reviews that were helpful: dry the wings thoroughly with paper towels before coating with the flour and bake them a little longer and at a higher temperature if you like your wings a little crispier (we do!). I baked them at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes. 

Watching: The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon- Yay! for summer, when I get to stay up late and watch this :). I also watched an interesting movie about Mother Theresa called 'The Letters' (check it out on Netflix).

Reading: I signed up for a summer reading challenge at school as a way to motivate me to read more. I have to read at least six from the following list:  a book that has a color in the title, a book that is or will soon be a movie, a memoir or autobiography, a book recommended by a friend, a book set in a different country, an article in a newspaper or magazine, a dystopian novel, a historical fiction novel, a children's book, a book with an unappealing or ugly cover, a book based on  a fairy tale, a graphic novel
So, the first two that I knocked out here- the children's book and a magazine article. Of course! But, now I have to get serious. Any suggestions?

Listening to:  Spirit and Flight by Pia Jane Bijkerk, found here.

Thinking about: How glad I am to have a break from teaching, but how lucky I am to be a teacher. Graduation always reminds me of this.

Laughing at: The cutest videos that my niece sends me of her Baby G, laughing hysterically. So funny!

Loving:   Spending lots of time with family- Mother's Day, Peanut's 5th birthday party, an unexpected shopping day with Little Man and his girl and more time with them when we took an impromptu day trip to Columbia, MO

Spreading joy: With our Blue Jays! Proceeds are given as a legacy gift to a former student's little boy :)
Students paint each Blue Jay in the style of a famous artist. Do you recognize any??!

With what I have: I had two small flowers left over after planting and no container for them. Instead of going to the store to buy more containers, I made do with what I could find in our basement: a decorative tin and a small terra cotta pot that Little Man made for Halloween one year in elementary school. Both of these things were just collecting dust in our storage room and they are now brightening up our deck :)

Well, that is my "lately".  I'll be posting more often for the next couple of months, as I will obviously have more free time. Yay! I have many blog posts already in draft form and am considering a blog challenge. Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend!   Juli

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The "Crabbies", 5.12.16

I started this blog post on Monday. I thought my day started off great- I even got an earlier than usual start and accomplished quite a bit before school even started. But, it quickly went downhill and got much worse at the end of the school day. So, after work, I came home, hopped on Blogger and clicked the "compose" button. Sometimes, when I have a rotten day, it helps to come to this space to "vent". Many times I don't even hit "publish", as just typing out the words helps me feel better about a situation. But, today, I decided to finish it because after talking to M.and a few co-workers since then, I realized it's a subject we can all relate to.

Monday afternoon, I told M. about the rotten day I was having and the fact that I feel like every where I turn some kind of negativity just slaps me in the face out of nowhere. When he got home that night he said, "You know, I think the whole world just has a really bad case of the "crabbies" lately". Such a great way to describe it, don't you think? I was so glad to hear that it wasn't just me. Not that I want someone else to experience having a bad day, its just nice to have confirmation that it isn't just me, over-reacting. M. and I agreed that every time we turn around lately we encounter some sort of hatefulness, rudeness, gossip, cynicism, etc. You know, the "crabbies"! haha! And, we both agreed that to keep ourselves out the negative mindset that we could get sucked into sometimes, we have to strategically work our way around it. M. is very good at compartmentalizing the variety of things he has going on in his head, so for him, replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts is the best strategy.  It takes about three days for him to mentally work through a "problem". I'm not very good at mental compartmentalizing, so, for me, trying to stay away from the negative in the first place is a much better strategy (staying off of Facebook, walking away from drama, etc.) Sometimes that is a little hard to do, though, so it may take much longer than three days to change my mindset. But, like I've said in many other blog posts, reminding myself of the good things that are ALL around me, is a great way to lift myself up. I've been keeping up with the gratitude journal that I started a few months ago and it really helps to look back on all of the good things going on in my life. Each journal entry space is very small, though (which is kind of good, as it forces your entries to be short and to the point), but, sometimes it's nice to write things out with a little more detail. Here is my current, more detailed gratitude list:

* Working with WONDERFUL co-workers who surround me with positivity every day.
* Spending an entire weekend surrounded by kids and grand kids, my parents, my sister, my nieces, etc. for Mother's Day.
* Getting a surprise Mother's Day phone call from my boy who is away for Army training.
* Getting a sweet Mother's Day text from my step-son.
* Coming home every day to a husband who really is smiling on the inside every. single. day. (even though it doesn't show on the outside most of the time!).
* My fellow bloggers, who I can always count on to spread some joy my way with their work and  their words.
* Income tax REFUNDS! (I know I shouldn't include money on my gratitude list, but, man, it's so nice when it's unexpected.)
*Getting outside on days like today (perfect, no-sweating, 75 degrees).
*Having an Advanced Drawing class with students who were so focused in class that we were able to fit in 4 extra projects this semester! They have been a complete and total joy to have this year.

Once I got started here, I felt like I could go on and on. But I decided to stop there, as I think you get the point. If you don't already keep a gratitude list/journal, you should try it for a few days and see what happens. It really works. It's kind of crazy how effective it really is. As a matter of fact, I'm now smiling as I finish this, so I've obviously come a long way since this "venting" post began on Monday!

What would be on your list?

Have a great weekend!  Juli

*all quotes and illustrations are from the book Think Happy, Be Happy- art, inspiration, joy -by Workman Publishing Co.

p.s. For fellow teachers out there :))

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lately, 5.4.16

Wow. It's been a while. Time is definitely getting away from me lately, that's for sure! It's been "go, go, go" around here lately and I don't see it letting up until the official end of the school year, which, thank goodness, is just around the corner. So, here is what I've been up to lately...

Making: Creating has been taking place in different ways around here, lately. I'm a little more focused on getting this house in order and painting and stitching have been put on a bit of a back burner for the past couple of weeks. And more home projects are in order for the summer, so stay tuned for that!

New flowers in old pots. Love this color combination.

Refurbishing a vintage metal tray. This shows layer 2- a collage of magazine images. The next layer will be more paint, then a final glossy coat of sealer.

Drinking: iced tea, coffee infused vodka

Eating: too many sweets, such as this famous mile-high-meringue pie from Cowan's Restaurant in Washington MO., taco stuffed green peppers (new recipe- so good!)

Watching: The Revenant (just "okay"- sorry, Leonardo, but I liked you better in What's Eating Gilbert Grape), and re-watching the beginning of The Sopranos series (I miss James Gandolfini!)

Spreading Joy: In this case, the joy came back to me, which was so great! One night last week, I got a phone call from a woman who found one of my abandoned paintings in Joanne's craft store. She later noticed my name on a sign at the Art Walk and tried to thank me in person, but I wasn't there at the time. So she grabbed my business card and called me. Imagine that. She actually picked up a telephone and called me. It was SO nice! She said that she, a painter herself,  had heard about the art abandonment group and thought it was such a cool idea, but never thought she would ever be a recipient. She was so excited to find my painting and told me she was in the process of finding a frame that was just right for it. That pretty much made my week. Art abandonment is not about getting a "Thank You", but when it happens like that, I'll take it!

Listening to: The Lumineers, Chris Stapleton

Thinking about: The great time we had in Excelsior Springs, helping to host a wine dinner at Willow Spring Mercantile. Great food (made by the owners, Jim and Daphne Bowman), great company and great lodging at The Elms historic hotel.

We loved staying here and plan to come back soon. The Elms has a pretty interesting history, which you can read about here.

Willow Springs Mercantile bistro.

M., giving a bit of history of the vineyard/grapes/wine before each course.

Cute little town :)

Laughing at: The look on two of my students' faces when I told them they could build a Lego stadium (of their own design) for their final project.
Both boys brought in their many bags full of random lego pieces and have been completely focused on their project for the past week. This is the first time that has happened all year! So funny!

Disliking: Sweating. I'm sorry. I know it's good to sweat, but I just don't like it. At all. It just makes me feel gross. *See the next section for a partial explanation :)

Loving:  These bobby pins from Mindy Renee on Etsy. They are perfect for my baby fine hair, especially when I'm trying to grow out my bangs as the weather gets warmer. One thing I can't stand is my hair sticking to my forehead when I'm sweaty!

And... having our first family dinner night in way too long and having all of my kids and grand kids and my parents under the same roof for a few hours. HEAVEN!! This shot of my mom and her 7th great grandchild pretty much says it all, don't you think? LOVE this.

Great Grandma Joanne and Lyla :)

With what I have:  Hmmm...Well, we have a tie wall that is literally disintegrating at this moment and since we aren't handy people and are having a hard time finding someone to fix it for us for a reasonable price, I've resorted to disguising it. Just for now. One day soon, it will cave in and we will be forced to fix it. Seriously. It's bad. But, for now, I spent a little time in the garden department at Lowes and digging through our basement stash and came up with a good combination of plants, bushes, flowers and plant stands that are working out perfectly as a disguise until we can replace the wall. No photos- sorry! It doesn't look THAT good, it just looks better than 'awful', so I'll just let you use your imagination!!

Well, there is my lately. Hopefully the blog posts will be more frequent once summer break begins. Just 2 1/2 weeks away!! Yay!!  Have a great week :)    Juli

Monday, April 18, 2016

Eat, Pray, Love- 4.18.16

Just a short blog post tonight, as I am in "making" mode once again- just two days after I told M. that I would be taking a break from making any kind of art. Basically, I was sulking because the Art Walk was disappointing, to say the least. But a few kind and very encouraging words from a few (of the very few) people who made their way back to my little corner of the shop, have finally started to sink in and now I feel better. I just needed a few days of pouting, I guess.

One of the plus sides to very little traffic that night was the fact that I was able to get some work done on this fiber piece. I brought it along, just in case it was slow, and boy was it ever slow! Glad I had it with me or I would have gone out of my mind.

Anyway, it took me a while to decide what this piece was supposed to become, but I finally settled on another movie theme. This one will be based on another fave of mine- Eat, Pray, Love. Yes, it is a major chick flick (M. and Little Man love to make fun of me for liking it so much!) but, it is also really inspiring. I read the book first (and, of course, it was better), then saw the movie (maybe a couple of times, maybe 20 or 30, but who's counting). So, now I am a huge Elizabeth Gilbert fan. (Her latest book, Big Magic is on my summer reading list and I love listening to her podcasts.

Anyway, the fiber piece features Tree Pose, so I originally thought it needed a quote about being strong,"like a tree". But, after much searching, nothing jumped out at me. Since my other fiber pieces are movie themed, I began thinking along those lines and came up with Eat, Pray, Love, as it has a bit of a yoga/meditation theme throughout.  So, here it is, so far (embroidery hoop and all).

My plan it to incorporate three sheer pockets on the left side, sewn with red thread, to insert another quote from the movie, divided into the three sections.

Here are the quotes I've decided on- from Elizabeth Gilbert and the movie:

" True power comes from standing in your own truth and walking in your own path."

"If you're willing to give up everything that you know and go on an adventure...and then treat every person that you meet as a clue to your future...then the truth will be yours." 

I love those so much, don't you?

I'll leave you with those thoughts :)    Have a great week!   Juli

Monday, April 4, 2016

Lately... 4.4.16

When I'm absent from this space, it probably means I've been busy in the studio, so it's all good, right?! Anywho... my "lately"...

Making: Having a deadline, I've come to realize, is a very good thing for me. My new deadline is April 15th, for the Art Walk in Washington, MO., so I've been a busy bee in the studio.

Finishing my latest painting. This one took a while, as it was a continual push and pull with the layers. I'm pretty happy with it, although some nights I wake up thinking about it, still, which means I won't be surprised if it gets another layer before April 15th. By the way, the quote says, " Be grateful for the sanctuary within you"- Elena Brower. An eye-opening quote for me, lately.

Planning fiber pieces (in this case, pillows and a wall hanging) begins with sketches, cutting patterns and planning fabric colors.

Then, transferring the sketch to fabric, using a light table.
Finally, choosing thread colors and beginning to stitch. This is where I pop in one of my rotation movies (or two or three!) and stitch away. Love this process.

Also in the works- planning the basic composition of this layered wall hanging with random scraps of fabric, in my favorite color scheme-blues, browns and whites.

Drinking: orange and passion berry herb tea to help fight off a nasty sinus infection. "Yum!" for the tea, "Yuck!" for the sinus infection :(

Eating: Salmon salad at Old Dutch, too much Easter chocolate, deviled eggs with an accidental sprinkling of cayenne pepper instead of paprika (oops!)

Watching: M. and I are back on our Breaking Bad kick. Always entertaining, in a creepy and disturbing kind of way.

Reading: I'm not a consistent reader (other than blogs and art history books for lesson plans) especially during the school year, so I'm going to replace this section with one called Spreading Joy (or, "Pimpin' Joy", in the words of Bobby Bones, Sister's fave! Who, by the way, had a photo op with her fave, recently):

So, how have I spread joy lately? By abandoning some art, of course! Can you guess where I left these?

Abandonment #1

Abandonment #2

Abandonment #3

Listening to: Recently, I had students in one of my classes write down some of their favorite music on post-its and leave them on my desk on their way out of class. So, each day since then, I've been choosing one from the lists and, so far, so good! Iron and Wine is one of my top picks.

Thinking about: Starting our family dinner nights again, so I can see my kids and grandkids at the same time, in the same house, at least once a month. Sometimes you just have to schedule those moments, you know?

Laughing at: The silly-face photos that my son sends me of his two-month old twin girls. No matter what is happening at the moment, those photos make me laugh.

Disliking: Not being able to shake this sinus issue that has been coming and going for about six weeks now.

Loving: Seeing and visiting with former students. By far, the best part of my job is knowing that I've made a lasting connection with some of these kids. It really doesn't get any better than that and it's what makes the occasional crappy days, totally worth it.

With what I have: Using bits and pieces of my fabric stash for the above fiber work, rather than buying new.

So, there is my "lately". How has your "lately" been?? Leave a comment and let me know! I would love that :)    Have a great week!  Juli

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On Meditation, 3.16.16

A few days ago, M. mentioned to me that I've seemed more stable over the last year than I've been in the last ten years. My first thought was, "Hmmm... I didn't really think I was "unstable!". But, on second thought, I knew exactly what he meant.  Just a few days before that, I had this random, passing thought, basically realizing that "Hey, I feel really good lately." Nothing precipitated it. It was like, suddenly, the sun was shining every day, no matter the weather. Crazy, I know! As you probably know by now, I am a worrier. And I had gotten to the point where I worried about everything- health, family members, family member's health, money, my job, what I said, what I didn't say, what someone said to me, what someone didn't say. You name a worry and I had probably already ruminated over it obsessively, many times over. And the worrying often led to feelings of depression. Nothing major. Just a generalized "down" feeling. Frustrating to say the least.

But, a little over a year ago, I read this book called 10% Happier (which I wrote a little about here). I thoroughly enjoyed the book because it was written by a 'self-proclaimed skeptic' of anything that seemed a little too "out-there", just like myself.  Even though I have been practicing yoga on an almost daily basis since 2009, the meditation part just seemed like a waste of time. But the book sparked some deeper thought on the subject. Then, the 10% Happier App became available. Now, I had the chance to pay $20.00 for two weeks of my own personal meditation coach and access to daily, guided meditations. I was in. I would try it for a couple of weeks, just to see how it would go, and if it didn't make a difference, no huge loss. So I did. Here are the highlights, according to me :)

Dan Harris, the author of 10% Happier, compares meditation to a kind of calisthenics for the brain. And Joseph Goldstein, who led the guided meditations, had, to me, some magic words... "Simply begin again". What they were referring to is that moment when you try to quiet your brain and just focus on your breath and then randomly start thinking about your conversations at work, what you'll make for dinner, what color you should paint your kitchen, etc.. If you "simply begin again' each time that happens, you are actually strengthening the "muscles" of your brain and teaching it to focus only on the breath, only in that moment. Those three words were, really, magic to me.

In the meantime, I also became very aware of what I exposed myself to on a daily basis. I strictly limited my time on my personal Facebook page (even deactivating it for several months) and just focused on my business page. I knew that through my business page, I only follow pages that lift me up with inspirational, positive messages,  not drag me down by exposing me to someone's rotten day, political rant or some random pimple popping video (that really is a thing!!). After several months, I knew this was good for me.

But, then...more magic.  I began following Elena Brower on Blogger and Facebook. Through her posts, I learned about the DVD called 'On Meditation'. You guys, seriously, this was a game changer for me. I can't recommend it enough if you are even remotely interested in the subject. Without hesitation, I ordered the DVD. I could go on and on and on about how affecting this DVD was for me, but since this post is already getting pretty long, I'll just share a few thoughts.

The video contains "portraits" or profiles of four people who are considered experts in the field of meditation. They are all good, but I could relate, mostly, with three of them. Here are some quotes from what I consider to be the best parts of their portraits.

Elena Brower:
Elena says a meditation practice will make you "more receptive, more amenable, more flexible and just more sweet."

And, it will make you "grateful for this sanctuary within you to which you can retreat at any time and just be yourself". (Who wouldn't want that in their life??!)

And her explanation/definition of the greeting "Namaste"..."The light in me recognizes the light in you". I've heard this before, but for some reason, it took  on new meaning in this context.

Peter Matthiessen:
I have to be honest here- everything this man said resonated with me. (You should really watch the video to hear it all.) But to sum it up, briefly, " The purpose in our lives is to help others through it". Love, love, love everything he had to say.

And, Giancarlo Esposito (yes, he plays one of the "bad guys" in Breaking Bad :)): He says, when you meditate, "Think of your breath as if it is moving in a circle." This doesn't seem like a very groundbreaking piece of advice, but it WORKS. And that's all that counts.

View the trailer here .

*All photos in this blog post are taken from the book 'Think Happy, Be Happy', a gift from my Little Man :) You can find it here

Finally, music. For me, music sets a tone for my mood. And, when you are trying to quiet your mind and focus on your breath, music becomes even more of a necessity (at least for me) to set the appropriate mood and help you relax. Obviously, this won't happen while listening to Black Sabbath or Thin Lizzy or really any kind of music that you consider to be nostalgic, because then you are going to be thinking of past experiences and how good or bad they were or how much you miss them. You will definitely have a harder time focusing on your breath. (Believe me, I know from experience.) The music I found to be the most helpful for meditation (and yoga) is music by Rick Batyr, who describes himself on his Facebook page as a " sound medium/healer, music producer using vibration to help others heal and transform". I wouldn't be able to do his music justice by trying to describe it, so I highly recommend listening for yourself, here.

I hope I didn't bore you to tears with this post. But, if it helps one person out of a "funk" or "pit" or whatever anybody wants to call it, then I'm sure you'll understand ;)

Thanks for reading and Happy St. Patrick's Day, a little early! Now, I'm off to do some breathing :)