Sunday, May 29, 2011

Breaking the Rules

I have always characterized myself as a “rule-follower,” which has generally kept me conventionally successful and punishment-free. But how ridiculous to impose my own rules on myself for no good reason!

For example, I decided that Fridays would be my art journal update days. But then last week, I wanted to share my journal earlier in the week, and then I didn’t want to post on Friday. And I felt bad about it! I was breaking “the rules,” messing with “the schedule.”

And then I remembered:  this is MY blog, MY rules, MY schedule. I'm the one who created the restriction. Oh my, what crazy games my mind plays on itself.

So, all this to say, I will share my journal pages whenever I feel like it, and I will try very hard not to get myself tangled up in knots of my own making!  (Welcome to my neuroses!) 
One of my recent art journal spreads reflects my current thinking about my family’s new practice of eating dinner together.
Before last week, the girls were ready to eat around 5 pm, and they didn’t eat the same things we were eating, because I wasn’t preparing our meal until after they were in bed.
But I wanted the girls to get used to the idea of us eating as a family, and I thought that if they saw the way we eat meat and vegetables, they just might be more willing to add these things to their diet.
Generally, it has been a positive experience. It feels “right” to have us all sitting around the table together. The noise level is taking me awhile to adjust to, but it’s a small price to pay for a good habit. And ever so briefly my three-year-old decided she would eat vegetables so she could be “strong like Mommy.”
The journal came about because I managed to stress about this change in family dynamic. (See? Knots of my own making!) The girls were not going to suddenly dig into a pork chop or chicken casserole just because they saw us do it. So how did I make sure they got enough to eat while still encouraging them to eat what we are eating? And without abandoning my entire cooking repertoire? 
As so often happens, my mother managed to “talk me down from the ledge” and see the situation more realistically. This journal spread helped me process her advice and move forward with a more manageable mealtime plan.
I did another page yesterday that shows a little bit of what is going on in my mind:
As soon as I was finished, I thought of several other things that I am also thinking about (or should be thinking about!), but I figure I’ll do another page like this another day, and some of those things might take their places then. 

I think this could be a kind of "exercise" that I do again and again to kind of "take stock" of where my head is, and maybe help me re-prioritize or at least make sure I have a reasonable balance of good for all of the worry!  

Finally, have you seen the latest Sweet ‘n Low advertisement? It’s not a product I use, but the ad caught my eye, and led me to a fun doodle/coloring activity that has filled a good bit of time yesterday and today…colorful and zany!
Thanks for checking out my recent journaling fun!  Happy Memorial Day to those of you who celebrate this special holiday weekend.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Planning for the Summer

The coming of summer used to bring a MAJOR change to the tempo and content of my days. As a teacher, I shifted from intense workdays that started at 7:30 a.m. to leisurely summer hours that began somewhere around ten. My hours, once commanded by bells and loudspeaker announcements, were my own to fill as I pleased. My life, daily swarmed by scores of teenagers, was as solitary or as filled with camaraderie as I chose.

These days, the coming of summer doesn’t change anything at all, except for my wardrobe! I’m no longer teaching and my kids are not yet in school, so life goes on pretty much the same in the summer as it did in the fall, winter, and spring.

But it’s easy to let days slip away when there is nothing to set them apart from one another. And with daughters who are 2 and 3, I don’t want to let the days slip away TOO quickly, because I have the sneaking suspicion that I could wake up tomorrow and they’ll be high school!

So, in the interest of making memories with my girls and making the most of our days together, I decided to plan some activities for the summertime. I was inspired by Tammy of Daisy Yellow. She put together the most impressive—perhaps even a little daunting!—list of summer projects she hopes to complete with her children. I spent a couple hours one day looking through all of her suggestions, as well as some toddler art books I have and my “On the Road” file folder with ideas for outings and day trips. The result was a spread in my art journal with some fun summertime plans:

In case it’s hard to read the fine print in my journal, and you are interested in some ideas for your own summer projects and adventures, here are my ideas for Places to Visit & Explore (local to Philadelphia):
  • Franklin Institute
  • Hagley Museum
  • Magic Gardens (mosaics by Isaiah Zagar)
  • Rose Tree Park
  • Bartram’s Garden
  • Chanticleer
  • Arboretum (Jenkins, Morris, Haverford College, Scott, Tyler)
  • Mt. Cuba Center
  • Winterthur
  • American Helicopter Museum
  • National Constitution Center
  • Insectarium
  • Fort Mifflin
  • John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
Many of the projects I plan to try with the girls were found through The Artful Parent.  Others came from the book Toddler Art by Susan Hodges.  The list I wrote in my journal includes:

  • Library (try a new one!)
  • Delaware Museum of Natural History
  • Music class or music at home
  • Craft projects
  • Shopping mall
  • Craft store
  • Pet store
  • At-home playdates

For sunny days:
  • Longwood Garden
  • Philadelphia Zoo
  • Picnic (in the backyard or at the park)
  • Playtime in the backyard (water table, kiddie pool, sprinkler, sandbox, basketball)
  • Explore a new playground
  • Take a walk
  • Linvilla Orchard
  • Sidewalk chalk

As we fulfill some of these plans, I will post about it. In our first week, we’ve already made it to one destination (the Delaware Museum of Natural History) and completed one art project (decorative paddle fans)!

Coming up with these ideas doesn’t make me feel pressured to keep the girls on the run all summer. Instead, it’s a little reminder not to waste any of our precious time together. The journal spread is a quick reference for me as I think about my To Do list for each day.

What do you have planned for the summer, and where do you get your ideas for places to go and projects to try? I’d love to hear some more ideas; there’s always room for one more item on the list!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Three Things

I have Five Things posts, so why not Three Things? Sometimes there are only three things to talk about!

I am in the throes of a babysitter search.

I’m just looking for a few hours a week, when I can grocery shop alone (the value of which should not be underestimated!), get a cup of coffee (ahhhhhh!), maybe even sit in front of the sewing machine and actually work on a project (!).

To make the search easier (ha), I joined It’s kind of “eHarmony for the babysitting set”. Only the stakes feel higher now. When it’s a matter of dating, you know enough to schedule the test date in a public place, and if the guy turns out to be a wacko, you walk away—a couple hours lost, but no harm done. But with a babysitter, you must determine wacko status well in advance of exposing your children to her care.

The pressure is on!

Having said that, the experience has been mostly positive. Twenty-two applicants in two weeks, many of whom live right in my own township. Most are college students looking for summer work; many assure me availability into the fall. Lots of nursing students and elementary ed. majors.

I was ready to hire one applicant who lives less than a mile away, but she backed out when she determined she needs work four days a week to pay for rent on her new apartment. Hmmmm, I was offering five HOURS a week, she needs four DAYS a week. A little forethought might have saved us all some time there.

My “second-runner-up” (only behind the first girl because I had to pick someone) is now my frontrunner, and I feel very positively about her. The “test date” with the kids is coming up soon. After that, I just hope I can count on her reliability.

I’m a stay-at-home-mom; aside from a few (very few, she thinks with a sigh) date nights, I’m not used to entrusting my children to the care of others. No one does it quite like Mom, right? But I think Mom is going to do it that much better when she gets a little mini-vacay on a weekly basis! Playing the babysitter version of The Dating Game is worth it for that!

Participating in a second postcard swap, this one hosted by Danielle at A Love Affair With Paper, has brought two beautiful pieces of art to my mailbox last week. I was hoping to receive all four that would have meant full participation, but I think the two I received are a worthy exchange for the four I made. Look at these beauties:

First, from Danielle, the swap hostess:
I have told her that it includes all of the elements I love: a vintage photo, a scrap of music, a text stamp, and a meaningful quotation. It’s a beauty!

And from April in California:
Don’t you think she could illustrate a children’s book in this style, a la Eric Carle? It is so charming, and I love the way she uses elements like masking tape and a paint sample to create her composition. Check out her blog here! Not only does she share her own beautiful artwork, but she shares amazing links to inspiring blogs and web sites every week.

Need I say more? How cute are these little boys? I traveled to Atlanta this past weekend to meet my two little twin nephews, nearly four months old.

I just hope these adorable boys bring you a little smile as you move forward into your week!

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Art Journal Every Day: Friday Update!

Every field of arts and crafts has their “rock stars”—the folks that newbies look upon with awe as masters of their trade, and that seasoned veterans recognize and admire as ‘one of their own.’ To me, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer is a scrapbooking/art journaling rock star.

I wish I remember how I first came upon her web site; it was only a few months ago, as I was starting my own blog and art journal at the beginning of this year. I now visit Julie’s site daily for a dose of beautiful art and inspiration.

Today, I’m excited to be a part of her amazing web site, as she is presenting weekly profiles of some of the people who are signed on to her Art Journal Every Day challenge. I hope you will hop on over to her blog to read today’s post!

Now for an update of some of my most recent art journaling!

One of my favorite spreads commemorates my recent weekend vacation in Cape May, New Jersey, with my family.  I glued down a map of the town, and gessoed over the top of it.  Then I used a few shades of blue watercolor over that.
Things started out a little rough, as you may notice that I used the wave stencil at the bottom of the page UPSIDE DOWN from the direction it is meant to be used. I actually “owned” that mistake pretty quickly, and liked the effect of the wave stenciling anyway. And, I reasoned, my “error” makes my page enjoyable from multiple directions!
I used pictures from brochures, as well as business cards I picked up in restaurants where we ate.
And, best of all, I used adhesive photos using my new Pogo printer! I love their small 2x3 size—just the right size to make the page really personal, without turning it into a scrapbooking spread, where the photos would dominate.
Another issue arose when I drew lines around my photos in thick marker, and wrote some journaling with the same thick pen. I couldn’t stand how it looked, and the journaling seemed superficial and boring. So, I took the word of all those journaling experts I keep reading, and I painted right over the parts I didn’t like! Then I had a clean slate to re-draw my lines and re-write my journaling with an ultra-thin black pen, which is very much my preference. Catastrophe averted!

Another spread I completed reflects my thoughts on indulging in a little TOO much introspection:
My long-necked girl (learned from Violette’s Journal Bliss) didn’t come out quite as attractively as I might have hoped, but I like the bold lines, dots, and lettering on the rest of the spread. You have to make confident lines if you’re going to use Sharpies on gesso!

My Mother’s Day spread used my stitched butterflies, which I posted about earlier when I used them on a card from my mother.
On the opposite side, I used collage, stamping, and journaling to tell about my special day.

Of course, I had to have at least one page with some tangles.
The difference here is that I used a chisel-tip Sharpie instead of my usual ultra-fine tip…a different experience altogether, and kind of fun!

Thank you for checking out some of my art journaling progress! If you would like to see other journalers who are participating in Julie’s Art Journal Every Day challenge this month, you can find a list on her web site.  There are 101 participants for May!

Have a great weekend.  I’m off to Atlanta to meet my three-month-old twin nephews, while my husband stays home to watch the girls. I expect we’ll all be a little worn out by the time Sunday evening rolls around!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WOYWW/Hitting the Paper Loot Jackpot/Announcement!

What's on Your Worktable? Wednesday:

I took “close, closer, closest” photos of what is on my worktable this Wednesday.
Here's the general work space in my living room, tucked between
a toy box and shelves full of my kids' books.
Aside from working in my art journal, I’ve been cutting papers from discarded books for projects inspired by Playing with Books: The Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book by Jason Thompson. Just go take a peek at the cover, and you'll want this book!  Some people cringe at the thought of cutting the pages from “perfectly good books,” but I have defaced and disemboweled books for collage images for years.  Jason includes 28 projects and an artists' gallery that will send you to the very next library book sale you can find!
These circles are intended for a particular Dimensional Circle Ornament project in Jason’s book, but as I was cutting them, I was getting ideas for art journal pages as well. Frankly, it’s just kind of therapeutic to mindlessly cut out circles for awhile!

I am using Circle Cutting Patterns and Blade Cartridges from Making Memories. I’ve had them for years, and absolutely love them for cutting circles for scrapbooks, cards, and all kinds of paper projects. I’m sure the blades should be dull by now, but I have yet to replace them, and they are still working for me!

So, there wasn't a whole lot going on in my workspace until....

Hitting the Paper Jackpot:

My friend Sue sent me an email yesterday to find out if I was coming to our church’s Women’s Association Spring Dinner last night, because she had some crafting things she found at a yard sale that weren’t really her style; she wanted to pass them along to me if I was interested. Figuring she had found a box of rubber stamps with a few in a vintage style that she doesn’t prefer, I told her “sure!” and looked forward to seeing her that evening.

Talk about understatement!  This is what I came home with:

This amazing bag of loot included....
vintage flashcards...
modern collage packs...
a collection of vintage Thanksgiving postards with handwritten
greetings on the back... 
a selection of vintage-style pins and magnets...
an issue of Somerset Studio Gallery from 2007 and some old
publications about motherhood...
and (from my perspective the very best "find" of all)
the most amazing array of handwritten letters and documents from
the early-(1910) to mid-(1959) 20th century. 

I can't believe my amazing good fortune that Sue thought of me when she found these items, and gave me such a wonderful gift for my art.  I may just sit around and look through the bag a few hundred more times before I do anything with them!


The talented and inspiring Julie Fei-Fen Balzer has begun a series of features on her web site about participants in her Art Journal Every Day challenge, and I am excited to announce that this Friday (May 20) you will be able to learn a little bit more about me on her site! I hope that you will visit her (every week day—she is amazing, inspiring, and talented in so many artistic fields), and I will link to her site from mine on Friday morning as well!

Happy, creative Wednesday to you!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Weekend in Cape May

My husband and I took the girls to Cape May, New Jersey, this weekend to enjoy a little pre-season getaway and celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary.
We stayed two nights at the Montreal Inn, with a beach front balcony and a bedroom/living room/kitchenette suite.  What a luxury!  
This is the first time the girls have ever been to the beach, so it was total joy to watch them discover sand and smooth rocks and seashells for the first time.
Of course, they had the requisite sand pails and shovels for castle-building!
I was delighted to find a little white heart-shaped stone on one of our first walks on the beach!
Shortly after the photo above was taken, both girls took a tumble at the edge of the water when the swirling surf made them dizzy.  Mommy had to run up to help Daddy with "the rescue."
This cuddle with Bayla just might be my very favorite part of the weekend.  It was naptime, and she seemed to know it.  She curled up in my lap, and laid against me to rest--and this is one little girl who doesn't usually REST willingly!
Other weekend highlights include flying a kite on the beach...
...visiting the Cape May Lighthouse...
...finding out just how strong my husband really is (heehee)...
...and commemorating our least until the tide came in!

As you can see, it wasn't a beach visit for swimsuits and suntanning--which is really just as well!  It's kind of fun to enjoy grey, windy days by the ocean before the summer crowds start piling in over Memorial Day weekend.

The only art supplies I took with me were a 4"x6" Strathmore drawing notebook and a black Uniball pen.  I also took L.K. Ludwig's Creative Wildfire to read.
It was kind of heavenly to sit on the sofa at night in front of the open balcony door, listening to the waves roll in while I read or doodled. 

I heard a woman talking on her cell phone beyond our screen door, saying, "I can't wait to get home so I can RELAX." 

My, oh my, did she ever miss the point!