Friday, March 30, 2018

The Apple Blossom

Here are the various iterations of the apple blossom.
The original photo -- the artwork of God.
A filtered version of the photo for my blog banner:
My first watercolor, on bad paper:
My second watercolor attempt, this time on watercolor paper, without colored pencil outlining:
This soft look is much more what I had in mind, although I do miss some of the white veining I accomplished in the first painting attempt. Here are the two together, for comparison:
It's a little hard to push myself to paint something again that I've already painted once -- it's a new step in painting, re-engaging myself in a thing of exquisite beauty (God's flower, not mine). Part of the challenge is admitting that the first attempt was bad enough to warrant a second go. The watercolor paper is a challenge, but it's certainly fun.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Nurturing Peace

I spent much time today in my studio, enjoying the quiet.

This fine fellow appeared at my bird feeder in early evening. I have several pairs of cardinals who frequent our back yard. 
I shared this apple blossom before. God's handiwork is perfect.
I didn't intend to duplicate His art, but to involve myself in its beauty -- to paint it is to participate in it, to study its beauty more closely than just to observe it.
I left the flower white and began with the background.
I liked it at this stage, but like most of my watercoloring, it seemed pale an insipid.
So I outlined it using colored pencils. I think I did not improve it at all, rather the reverse.
Our church is having a Seder Supper this week (Thursday, 6:00, all are invited), and today Adam made the matzos -- the unleavened bread served with this special meal. I did a video of the cooking.

I had a couple of them with my dinner of pasta and red sauce -- made from my canned tomatoes from last summer, and with herbs snipped from the garden this evening.
When I returned from a friend's house, Trixie was so excited to see me that she gave me a little scratch. It reddened and swelled up. Scratches from pets' claws often itch and feel irritated.
Immediately I applied some of my Healing Herb Ointment. I like to experiment on myself, haha :) 
the scratch at 4:15,
immediately after scratched
the scratch at 5:15, an hour later

Below, the scratch at 7:00. The swelling is gone, and the redness nearly gone. 
I'm very pleased with it. I gave a tub of it to an elderly friend with a bad skin rash that the doctors have been unable to treat. He enthusiastically told me that it has relieved the itch and improved his skin. That makes me happy too. I'm betting by tomorrow morning my scratch will have disappeared.
(Update, the next morning:

I also made a Youtube video today while I combed and dizzed some alpaca fiber, just combing and chatting. I'm not sure if these videos are appealing or not, but if they're only good so that Adam can listen to my voice after I'm dead and gone, it's okay. I enjoy listening to a lady Youtuber who combs fleece, so maybe others will enjoy this video too: "Combing Fleece, Talking Peace"
I stay in my studio some days because it's peaceful. Peace of the body, peace of the mind, peace of the spirit -- I think they are intertwined in complex ways. Combing fleece doesn't give a peaceful spirit, but it's a little step. It gives me time --  to think, to pray, to consider others and their needs, to consider God and His plans, to remember my own life, my choices, the successes and mistakes. When I'm busy with activities that stress and deplete me, the thinking doesn't happen and the peace doesn't come.

Peace to you, dear friends.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Mother-of-the-Bride Dress, or Being the World's Worst Shopper

I went shopping alone for a dress for Anna's wedding in June. I'm a terrible shopper, friends. I suffer with chronic indecision. (Choosing a dish at a restaurant is also a nightmare.) Adam declined to go to town with me when he discovered that I was intending ... to shop for a dress.
I went to the same shop where I found dresses for Philip's and Peter's weddings, a lovely consignment shop in New Bern, Twice As Nice. Two cheerful, helpful girls patiently aided me:
 Yes, I asked to take their picture and told them they would be on a blog post. They were sweet.

Now, the dresses in the order in which I tried them on. I am about a size 16. I have a large bust, plus a good bit of hip and tummy. My poor leg veins look like a NYC road map, so shorter skirts are out. Certain necklines are also ill-advised. 
too frilly,
looks like pajamas
too snug,
must not accentuate bust!

too big,
terrible shape
not too bad,
I dislike geometric patterns.

quite frumpy,
too large
best thus far,
the cut of the bust is wrong

the dress of a 3-part outfit,
not very fancy
same dress with its jacket,
looking rather drab

now it's the skirt and jacket
(as a blouse). better neckline
Everyone prefers this one.
Nice fit. Good fabric
 At this point I reclothed, posted some photos on facebook, and asked for friends' opinions. Most preferred the last one -- the blue/black geometric pattern with the short black jacket. I confess: it makes me look my best. But I dislike geometric patterns, and I don't like skirts that fall just below my knee. So all my inability to decide kicked in! Naturally, I thought I'd try on more dresses ...

The salesgirl found this dress.
We added a little jacket.
Still dislike geometry.

I returned to the 3 piece outfit.
The girls found a white shell.
Inexplicably, I return to the drab dress.
I now notice my hip bulges.

A salesgirl found a lovely, lacy shawl to lighten the look.
This last outfit looks better in person. The dress falls just above the ankle. I bought this one. In addition, I'll have the skirt and blouse if I want them. I'll find some comfy white sandals and a dangley silver necklace.
Before handing over my credit card, I texted Adam and asked his opinion. He knows me. He knows I won't like the geometric patterns or the shorter skirt. He knows I opt for hippie farm-wife clothing whenever possible, and little black jackets are just not me, no matter how much better they suit my body type. He recommended the long dress and the white lacy drape.
Then one of the salesgirls asked me two crucial questions:
"Which one of the dresses makes you feel pretty?"
"Which one of the dresses makes you feel comfortable?"
I can't tell you why, but I won't ever feel pretty with geometric patterns across my tummy. And I'll never feel comfortable in a skirt that shows all my lower legs. I would have to wear pantyhose, probably support hose. In June. I hate all pantyhose passionately. With the long dress, I can get by with no pantyhose whatsoever, and no one will ever know!

Why do we choose to wear things that we know aren't the most attractive option? At some point in my life did I define myself in such a way that I'm now compelled to buy dresses that are less than flattering? There's nothing wrong with the longer dress. I just have ... preferences. And they affect my clothes shopping. But it takes me two hours, two salesgirls, a host of facebook friends, and a few texts with my husband, to figure it all out.

Tra la la!! One more item on the wedding check-list is ticked off! :)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Creativity Day!

I'm tuckered out! Today I mailed off one shawl/scarf, and started a second one on my loom. I also made a batch of luscious lavender soap. Watch along with me on a video tour through the house, doing creative things:
Well! Here's the soap, poured safely into its molds:
The new shawl/scarf is coming along nicely. How did all those crazy yarns do, together?

That fuchsia-purple really jumps out. Overall, the weave has a pale green tone, and the pale orange and pinks do well. I'm pleased. Will I finish it tomorrow in time to take it to the market on Saturday?

I call it a shawl/scarf because it can be worn over the shoulders, like so:
 That's the one I mailed off to a friend this morning. It's 10-and-a-half inches wide, enough to drape over the shoulders. The new one is 12" wide.
You can also double it, and put the ends through the loop, like so:
 And ... it's a scarf :)
I used some of the same ideas in that piece -- a stripe of black, tones of pink and green, some silver bling.
The soap is curing, and I'm headed for a nice soak in a hot tub of water.

Oh -- on the video, I mentioned that Adam was making something today, and my brain got side-tracked, and I didn't tell you what he was making. He made me a wind-chime! I found this website as a guide.
Adam had some old copper piping in the barn. 
It's not quite finished. He needs to retie those strings, and put back on one pipe. I think I'll paint/color all the wood. I love the sound of wind chimes! It will add so much to the feel I want in our home. And he only spent 53 cents on it; nearly everything was here on the farm.

Cheerio, folks! Off to the bath tub!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Take a Video Tour with Me of our Herb Garden ~

I'll start out with the video tour I made yesterday of our herb garden and other yard interests. I posted this video on my farm blog, but some of you might have missed it there. It's my very first "vlog"!! I now have a Youtube channel! (I apologize for not always keeping the video on target - I was too worried about the microphone and audio. I'll get better!)
Our yard/farm is a mucky mess right now. We're only a few feet above sea level, so any good night of rain leaves us with big puddles.

Adam and I went to a new flea market last Saturday, across the Neuse River in Newport. It's a big outdoor/indoor flea mall.
So much stuff! And so many people who get up early to rummage around in all the stuff :) It was fun to watch.
Below you see some of my wares and other vendors' tables in the background.
It was fun to have so many customers, crowds milling about. I do hate to leave the Oriental Farmers' Market, but to be honest, the customers just don't come anymore - it makes me sad. I love Oriental, but I can't spend every Saturday morning staring at empty Hodges Street :(  We vendors don't really know why the market there has changed, but it certainly has.

We rose at 5:40 a.m. on Saturday to make the ferry across the river, to arrive at the Newport market and set up before 8:00 a.m. I don't enjoy that early bit either, haha! But Adam will come too each week, so we get to be together, which makes it all worthwhile. Sales were good for a first week. We'll go back and settle in there, and any week I can't seem to make it across the river, I'll hopefully tack myself onto the Oriental market again, if there's room.

I sold this shawl:
Now I'm making a new one for this Saturday's market:
Hopefully today I'll sew a little apron/pouch for the market to put around my waist for keeping my money in. I've needed one -- here's the remnant of fabric I plan to use:
This is today's light lunch.
A zippy Honey Crisp apple and some natural, chunky peanut butter - yummy combo!
Adam taught me how to cut an apple into pieces without having to awkwardly carve the core out of each section -- just cut around the core, instead of through it. Does that make sense? One of these days I'll do a quickie video about cutting an apple - haha!

I hope you have a peaceful day. I'm spending my day in my studio, doing little things like painting/weaving/sewing/soap business. I'll also practice the piano a bit for the coming Easter season. Doing laundry too. It's cold and rainy outdoors ... still ... and we wait still for warm days to dig in the soil.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Three Elizabeths and the Sensory Life

I've been remiss in telling you about my reading. I stopped midway in Elizabeth Shackleton's Touring Through France, and it sits on my bedside table yet. I was thick in the middle of Elizabeth Goudge's The White Witch, an historical drama set in Civil War England, when friend Lisa sent me a lovely temptation: Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte. Not many books could lure me away from Goudge, but the powerful combination of Gaskell and Bronte won out in an instant.
So many Elizabeths. 
I gave away all my books by Alexander McCall Smith because the Dalhousie book I read did not attract me, and I don't have reading hours to sacrifice to books less than what I love.

Living has changed much since I was a girl. Cell phones, computers, the internet, Alexa, GPS and Google Maps, Amazon Prime and Netflix. I, like some of you, am ironically conflicted between using and wanting these things, and missing the simplicity of life without them. Would I turn the world back? Would I prefer life with only a land line, a set of encyclopedias on the shelf, and 3 major networks on a Motorola TV?

I want a sensory life. Living in front of a screen (of any size) for hours each day seems so killing to me. I want activities that engage all my senses; screens and internet overwork the eyes, give little to the ears, and leave the rest of me -- taste, smell, and particularly touch -- starving for stimulation.

In my studio, I keep incense burning, and often a candle, for the scent. I usually have tea and some little cookie or crust to nibble. I keep Pandora or a youtube channel or my turntable going. And then I turn my face from the screen and do something with my hands, giving my eyes a rest. What relief! My desk is a cluttered mess, as is the room, but what that means is there is lots to touch, lots to fuss with and sort through. Spinning is tactile. So is painting. Washing dishes, digging in dirt, petting a dog, hanging laundry -- I find myself longing for these things. Typing, on the otherhand, is hard on the fingers, a brutal, repetitive work that tires the hands and does nothing to satisfy them. 

I am only 54, but I am too old to be wasting any time. Eternity on a beautiful New Earth awaits me, but that's no reason to neglect life here, and not make it all God means for life to be -- chock full of beauty, kindness, gentleness, joy, and life. I ask myself more often these days, "Is this activity life-giving?" Does it give life and joy to anyone else, or to myself? If not, it's time to cut it out.

When the weather warms just a bit more (next week?) I may do a little walking tour video of the herb bed. I enjoy other people's youtube videos; why not contribute some myself? We'll see.
Beginning a new celery plant

Last summer's celery plant, miraculously surviving winter
Adam's organic potato, developing eyes

Last summer's tomato sauce, being reduced now to paste

A new batch of fleece cloud, dizzed moments ago

A tomato plant I dug from the garden last fall,
 that's survived winter somehow on the front porch