Arts & Photography

Bling nite

It was after 3am when I crawled into bed Saturday night.  I was out late.  With the girls.

Oooooh, yes.

But that is not where this story starts.  It starts with a Girls Nite from a few weeks back.  A jewelry-making fundraiser, for one of my favorite nonprofits, sponsored and organized by some wonderful people.  Followed, later by drinks.

Doesn’t this lady look too beautiful to have three children under 5 and a big school to manage?  Let alone do fundraisers?!

Georgia at The Bead Shop donated her shops wares and the personal talents of her staff — we all made beautiful accessories and hung out.

I brought one of the cameras in our Photovoice project.  I’m so thrilled with these cameras and very impressed by the options and handling.  It’s nice having something little to pull out quickly, even if all my friends look at me as if I’ve suddenly become ill, “isn’t that a little… SMALL for you…?” they ask in a worried glance.

Well, yes, true.  But I’m practicing what I preach to the research team.  It’s not about the level of fancy in the camera… it’s how you use it, right?

Focusing is actually the most difficult part.  Maybe it’s that I’m used to my many possibly focal points and having manual focus so easily accessible — but it was tough for me to focus on smaller foreground objects (like the earrings below), even on the “macro” camera setting.

It took a couple of tries to get this, and even still, I couldn’t quite get the main focus on the first earring in the row, as I wanted.  Practice, practice.

We picked out a strand, a pendant, and some supplies.  Then we sat down and ate, laughed, and threaded until we all had new bling.

Georgia helped with the finer details.

The incredible food was donated by friends at Cochon.

Don’t ask me what it all was.  I’ve blocked it all from memory and replaced it with the word GOOD.

It was somewhere in the middle of all of this that we re-affirmed our plans (first made at our Belly-Dancing girls nite) for Indigo Girls…

Arts & Photography
Family Life in NOLA

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Last Minute Mother’s Day Idea?

All of Janine King’s MOD DOTS bags are on sale.  I’ve had a J.K. computer bag for several years and love it.  I’ve also given her purses as gifts.  Everything is wonderfully made — and to order!  She personally confirms all sizing for computers.  HIGHLY recommended.

Janine King on Etsy

Janine King’s sale items on Etsy

Arts & Photography

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Bunny Salad

Too much candy on Easter?  Try the BUNNY SALAD

Step 1: Assemble ingredients.  Pears, lettuce/spinach leaves, carrots, strawberries, cottage cheese, peppercorns.  A plate for your garden, peeling tool, and cutting board are also useful.  Note that the actual recipe calls for fully-sized carrots and cloves, which will screw you up later, so be prepared to roll with it.

Household bunnies are optional.  Note that if you take one to the store, there will be a lot of pointing and giggling.

Step 2: Contemplate safety of child’s fingers, then say, “F* it” (to yourself, please) and let them go to town with the peeler.  Consider counting fingers before he starts, just in case.

Step 3: Use a knife to cut peeled pear in half.  Keep the stem on the end for a nose, if you like.  Use the peppercorns and carrots as eyes and ears.

Damn.  The string carrots won’t work.  Substitute pear peel.

Damn.  Pear peel won’t stick.  Neither will peppercorns.  Realize you screwed up.

Get creative.  Dig some holes for the eyes.  And ears.

Step 4: Get smart.  Use toothpicks.  Let the kid cut the toothpicks before insertion, he’ll love it.

Pat yourself on the back for being such a Super Mom.

Step 5: Notch that Super Mom status up a few bars by letting the 5 year old use the KNIFE.  The emergency room won’t judge you, you creative Mom, you!

Step 6: Add strawberries and carrots to the lettuce patch.  You’ve got bunnies in the garden!

(Note: if you haven’t already realized that you need two bunnies for your two children, hurry and make a second.  Substitute whatever necessary to make it work.)

Step 7: Don’t forget to use the cottage cheese to make fluffy bunny tails!

Step 8: Have your kids pose with their salads so you can send them to Mothering and Parenting websites and magazines.  You need to document your awesomeness.

Step 9: Realize that your kids may begin to get that the salad is a ploy to distract from eating Easter candy.  Be prepared to talk up the awesomeness of the salad!

Step 10: Reward children who eat bunny salad with Easter candy.  As if it would end any other way.

Happy Easter!

Arts & Photography
Mi Familia
Special Family Moments

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Patootie Zone

Kate’s room, as seen last night while the kids were in the tub.  It is now officially Kate’s room.

We moved in furniture from our room and gathered it on one wall. Without the huge bed in the room, it feels cavernous.

The house is feeling strange. Posh, even.   There are no boxes piled in the kids’ “play” area.  Toys are displayed in places where kids can reach them and use them.  Children have separate areas.  There are places for imaginative play.  We are not stepping over drying pieces of wood trim.  Unprotected tools, wires, and other dangerous equipment are limited to a few places.

The canopy was one of Kate’s Christmas presents.  It has flowers and butterflies to decorate and hang at the top… I’ll tackle doing that with her one afternoon when I can pack up my crazies tight in a box and be okay with her going wild on those perfect little flowers…

We never painted Kate’s closet doors.  This is because we keep going back and forth on whether or not we’re going to put my Great-Grandmother’s vanity beside the closet — which would prevent the doors from opening.  If we did this, we were going to hang curtains over the door openings.  I actually have had the curtains since before Kate was born… but we can’t decide whether to actually move the vanity.

Sometimes, I seem to favor discussing the possibilities more than actually doing them. Also, I really like to move furniture around.

Now the thought is that we’re going to move the bookshelf into Will’s room and put the mirror up on the wall for Kate, with hooks along side to hang her hats and masks for dress up.

These wood pieces are from Iquitos.  A butterfly and 2 parrots are missing — they were missing anchors on their backs for hanging.  Another trip to the hardware store and they’ll join the bunch.

I finished this painting the night before Will was born… I never even signed my name!  Kate calls it “Mommy,” which I love.  The angels and moon/stars are Nancy Thomas, compliments of my Mother’s wonderful taste in fun, lively art.  (She worked for Nancy in her studio/store in Yorktown when I was in college.)

Kate has been enthralled with each and every part of the room… I was surprised she stopped for a second to smile at the camera!

The art on the door is from Will — maybe it’s time for Kate to hang up some door art?

I’m trying to think of other ways to display their art around the house… cords hanging on the walls to display pieces like a laundry line?  Other ideas?  It seems like they bring home volumes of paper from school and it just piles up in the kitchen.  With all the space in their rooms, I feel like it should have a place, too, where the kids can be proud of what they have done.  What do other parents do?

Arts & Photography
Home and Renovation
Mi Familia

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Stuff Management: The next phase of home renovation

For the past few months, we’ve been getting wonderful surprise packages from my friend, Gwen. If you follow her blog, you’ll know that she possesses unlimited energy and discipline toward anything she puts her mind to (giving up dairy at the drop of a hat? not spending a dime on anything excess for a month?) but what she really excels in is household simplifying.  I can attest to the extent to which she reduces within her home, because as she does it, she is thoughtful enough to put aside little tokens for our family. They include sentimental objects (like sunflower bags we sewed together in 6th or 7th grade), fun things (a French book for Will), and little gadgets that she makes (hair clips for Kate).

I am not so disciplined.

In fact, my influence may work in the opposite direction; I sent back the sunflower bag with explicit instructions that she keep it forever, so that when we’re sitting together in the retirement center people will comment on how cute we look with our matching bags.  But this weekend, I let my inner-Gwen reign supreme.

In a fit of energy and enthusiasm, I stayed up all night on Saturday and organized the kids’ toys. Paul had a head cold and didn’t make it passed 10 — just long enough for me to nearly kill him by making him move pinball machines with me — so I was up all night working by myself.

My catalyst was the spring Children’s Clothing Exchange, which started accepting items on Sunday. Saturday afternoon, I talked Paul into buying a small storage unit for the toys and after the kids went to bed, I started in on the work. I literally poured each and every toy they own into the center of the front room. First I sorted by theme/type. Then I went through each and purged.

Unfortunately, I only have photos of the finished product, taken in poor light this morning.

Please ignore that we still have to sand, paint, and repair the walls and trim in this room. It’s one of several rooms we still have to renovate. As for the paper blinds we taped up there 5 years ago?  Hmmm, well, a drawbacks for having a handy husband is that he can completely be on board with spending a year’s worth of savings on better wood to use under drywall so that the walls are straight.  And contemplate a few year’s worth of work trim.  But window treatments?  Not so much.  Don’t misunderstand, it’s not really a financial thing, since I wouldn’t know what to do, anyway.   Actually, the one room in the house that actually has something in the vein of window coverings is the kids room… because my Mom gave me old curtains she had used in a previous home.  Our paper window blinds aren’t there because we’re tacky.  It’s because we’re clueless.

Games and puzzles are in a chest in the front room right now.  Except for some hats, costumes, and stuffed toys in their room, these are their toys!  They can see everything, it’s all organized, and clean up makes sense.  Same with inside the kitchen — just a few items and all organized.  Sometimes?  I like to just open the doors and look at how plates are with plates and pots are under the stove and all dessert toys are in one bin, separate from the fruits and vegetables.

The feeling leaves a fabulous, if unnatural, calm.

And did you note that fantastic kitchen?  We’ve had it for months, as a result of my favorite manner of shopping… bottom feeding.  They are floor models from the local pottery barn that we picked up at a discount of 75% off the original price.  A little beat up, but nothing a touch-up stick can’t fix.  We also bought a bunk bed for Will this way.  It’s not a fast way to shop (we signed up for the bed about 2 years prior) and it’s not particularly convenient (Will’s bed has been in pieces in the front room since August) but it is definitely a way to save.

Oh, and that table?  With the clear tape covering the rips and tears?  We took it and the matching chairs out of a neighbor’s garbage after Katrina.  Remember!  Not tacky.  Resourceful.

Will’s room is also getting together.  We emptied the closet and put in an organization system.  All his clothes are now here:

I talked Paul into going forward with this without refinishing the inside of the closet.  We still have to paint the room… and are working to find the inspiration for doing this.  Once we paint the room and finish trimming the lights we can put together his bed — and then the kids will each have their own room.  Whoa.

With Will’s room empty, this means we’ve moved into the study!  We’re using the old stuff now and hope to put matching work tables with wall shelves above in the future.

We switched up our standard paper window hanging routine to opt for the Priority Mall box look for this room.

Note the unfinished outbuilding in the back of the last picture.  We have many more beefcake home-fix-it photo opportunities in our future…

Until then, anyone have decorating advice?

Arts & Photography
Home and Renovation
Mi Familia

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Not quite as cool as the time release camera would have been.

When Will was born, our multi-talented friend Dave (really, folks, this guy can do anything) made a pencil drawing of infant Will being held by Paul based on a photograph he took of them.  It was and remains one of the most precious gifts we’ve been given.  That feeling of seeing something handmade capturing my baby… the surprise of it, the delicate details within it, the touching realization of someone laying out each detail with line by line care… it hits straight to the heart.

So a few years ago, when I wanted to do something really special for Gwen on Clare’s first birthday, I remembered Dave’s gift.  It had been years since I drew with any regularity — and more than a decade since I had drawn my last portrait sketch.  But I decided I was going to do it, so I made a few practice sketches and worked up to a final product.

A year-and-a-half later, I drew one of my nephew.

And ever since then, I’ve wanted to do more, but couldn’t get around to it.

I knew, too, that I really wanted to try and draw from my own photographs (if possible) so that I could use the camera with a drawing in mind (not every good photograph lends itself to a good drawing).  Ultimately, though, I knew that I wanted to make one for Emmy.  At one point, my goal was to make one as a gift from the school to our director.  But I couldn’t get it together to make it happen.  Even as the thought remained, nothing clicked.   Then she had Oliver this fall and I knew.

In order to make sure I’d follow through, I TOLD a few people.  Then I started.  Checked on what supplies I needed, dug out my old sketch pads, and dove in.  After a few passes during my work and commenting on the progress, Paul finally commented that I should be taking pictures of it step by step.  Here is what I took:

This is my set-up… a few versions of the same photograph in black and white, three graphite pencils of differing softness, charcoal sticks, blending papers, erasers, tissues, a rag and (not pictured) a lamp.  I try to use tissue paper under my hand so that the oils from my hand don’t smudge the rest of the piece.  The rag is to wipe occasionally in case my hands get hot or cramped, the lamp turns on and off to help me see things differently, and I use a ton of erasers because I’m still not convinced any of them are my eraser of choice.

In the picture above, you can see that I’ve filled in some hair, part of an ear, an eye, and his nose.  You can just barely make out the lines of faint charcoal that mark the features I’ve yet to fill in.

Below is another view.  Note that the tissue paper lifts off the charcoal as I go, which is a bummer.  I freaked out a bit when I got to his lips and they were almost completely gone.

Here I’ve filled in the other eye but still have a lot of detail work to add.  I think I ended up re-working this eye three times.

I was most nervous about his lips.  They are so full and puckered — a prominent part of his features.  I knew that this was the make-or-break part of the picture.

This is getting close to done, or so it seems, but really there was still a lot to do.  Filling in the rest of the facial features, shading in the whole face so everything balances.

Almost there!  Can you see any of the detail difference?  Or, better said, do you FEEL the differences?  I feel them before I see them, which sounds a bit out there but is completely true.  Or maybe it’s evidence that I don’t use my words well.

Here is the FINISHED version.  I knew I had to have a frame on hand immediately — lest I would be pulled into messing around more with it and risk ruining it with too much.  (This is one of my greatest weaknesses when I work on a piece… I can’t pull myself away.)  I’m bummed I didn’t think far enough in advance to get a mat.

I gave it to Emmy this morning.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t there when she opened it, but I know it meant a lot to her to receive it.  And maybe this sounds a little trite and Pollyanna-ish, but it meant so much more to me to give it.  I know what it feels like to receive something like this and can say without hesitation that it feels even better to know you’re passing that feeling on… so it makes me all awkward to say ‘you’re welcome,’ when I’m just so happy to have done it at all.

And now?  Now I’m bummed that I just agreed to teach this spring because I want to draw more.

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Arts & Photography

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Progress, maybe.

Three more days until the two week holiday break.  Paul and I had lofty goals.  Or, rather, I had lofty goals.  My dream was to surprise the kids Christmas morning with PROGRESS.  In the house.  My dreams included finding the Christmas tree, putting down the floor in the back room, and putting together Will’s bed.

Instead, I get home this afternoon to find this:

The boys are hard at work, all right.  ON THEIR MAN PALACE.

I know, I know.  Who can resist a man putting up siding?  All by himself?

**Okay, honey, forget about that building that we actually live in!  I support you in doing whatever you think is best!**

I’m a wuss.

But then again, look at that assistant.  How can I deny him time with wooden planks and hammers? Especially when it’s 70 degrees outside.

Behold, The Man Palace.  Looks a lot like it did before, huh?  Progress is SLOW, people.  S-L-O-W.

The good news is that Paul only has 12 more hardie boards to move from the front to the back.  (Remember that pile in the snow?)  Six more trips and the neighbors will start talking to us again.  But the improvements to the front hasn’t stopped there!  We also un-stuck the stuck shutter.  We do, however, have some old college-style furniture donations on the porch for the Vets to pick up.  What can I say?  We can only gain so much class per day.

Not to be outdone, I went to work in the kitchen.  My helper was not photogenic today.  She was busy making me coffee on her stove.  Coffee served in a bucket with koosh balls inside, which is really the only acceptable way to drink coffee.

Between buckets of joe, she was helpful enough come around to lick a spoon.  Or three.  But who can blame her?  These grasshoppers are yummy.  Chocolate, butterscotch, noodles, peanuts.  All for teachers and staff at the kids’ school.

I even got all Martha-Stewart and put together little baskets with notes.  But here is the really amazing part: THERE ARE STILL THREE DAYS BEFORE THE END OF TERM.  I finished them early.

Arts & Photography
Home and Renovation
Life in New Orleans

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The start of a masterpiece

“I want to write books and make them all myself.  That’s what I want to do when I grow up.”

So announces Will toward the end of the trip back from Mobile.  He makes the declaration while producing the Ipod touch, where he has been typing for a solid hour… or so it seems.  It did not read like Hamlet, but I’m willing to bet that three monkeys with typewriters could have re-produced it.

“That’s great, Will” we said.  Paul added that I could help him write and make illustrations, that I was in to that sort of thing.

“Yes, Will,” I added, “I’ve kind of been writing a book online for the past 4 years… on The Blog.”

“I’ve been writing a long time, too, Mommy.  Since we left Granna and PapPap’s house… a REALLY long time.”

When we got home, Will asked to start his book.  This is what he wrote and drew.

Not to be left out of the fun, Kate made a picture, too:

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Hit-or-Miss Holidays

Strange things are afoot in our household. Sure, everyone has been trading viruses for a month (there’s the 8-hour vomit one, the lingering fever one, the sore throat one, and the head cold one), but still, things seem… unseasonably calm. The last two weeks have been difficult with Paul working around the clock (literally) to get the outbuilding weather-proof before it rained, added into the whole Will’s-party thing, a week’s visit from Paul’s Mom, ongoing illness, school stuff, and job deadlines… but still, it’s been okay. I’ve even been getting work done and met a deadline today with relative ease and no late nights. Then I realized.

I said “no” to teaching this fall.

I must remember how good it feels to say no to things every once in awhile.

Except caffeine. I’ve lived life without and ooooh my, it feels good to be back on the wagon.

Tonight I started to inventory all the things I’ve collected this year and am very close to being completely done with the holidays. (Except for Paul, who is most likely getting a yet undetermined bacon-related something for spoiling the Wii surprise.) Last year, we sent out Mardi Gras cards because we were that behind. Today, our holiday cards arrived (I’m not happy with the color Shutterfly added to them, but hey, the price was right). I feel like I’m mellowing into a ‘this is what the season is suppose to be about’ place and it feels all starched and ironed, way too Norman Rockwell to fit my one-step-away-from-nervous-breakdown mode of operation. The question is, then, what in the world am I forgetting?

Don’t be surprised if our house burns down tomorrow.

Here is a holiday that we sort of missed, though. Halloween. That was when I kicked off our family’s month of illness by ruining Halloween. No carved pumpkins this year! But a few weeks before, I tried to be crafty… and even have proof.

Aren’t they cute? My favorite part is Franken-pumpkin’s bolts sticking out of his head. Please ignore the trash behind him that I obviously didn’t see when I took the picture. And the fact that the flowers are… ahem… not blooming. When I finally got around to taking this picture, they’d been out a month. (That’s why the bat’s eyes are falling off.)

Actually, they were suppose to be even cuter. Will and I spent an entire Saturday peeling oranges and limes, which we cut into nose and eye shapes and dried in the oven for 3 hours. Will took some pictures of me cutting. (Will did the peeling.)

I think this one has a cool artsy quality. One that comes from expertly putting the camera on the counter top and randomly pressing the shutter because “the camera is too heavy” to hold.

Here are the eyes and noses. I help him aim a bit before he pressed the shutter for this photograph.

Will painted pumpkins to make the bat. Initially, we were going to make three and hang them on the porch.

I don’t think he cared a bit that we only managed to get wings and eyes on one.

Arts & Photography

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Coming soon to a pretentious gallery near you…

Baby Bite Art.

Kate’s attempts at apple-eating.

Is it Art: playing with the positive and negative space of ordinary objects, testing our comfort with smooth edges and defined space?  Or, a Political Statement: exploring waste and the ease with which we throw away perfectly good, nutritional, and wholesome parts that sit right in front of us?

The Artist’s Collection of Bite Art currently includes 2 apples and 1 pear (not photographed).  The banana did not last.

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