Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Greetings


Furby:  the ghost of xmas-past

Biz as Santa cookie

Biz posing in front of our tree

Bizzi says, "Get this stupid hat off me!  Now!"

So sorry it has been awhile since my last post.
A fun visit from my dear friend, Billie, and other friends in from out-of-town have kept me hopping, but in a perfect and fun way!
Here it is, 12/23, and I'm thrilled.
My 3 daughters are all finally here, even though the weather in the northeast delayed my oldest for 48 hours.
There is nothing better than seeing my entire family at the dinner table.

Two years ago Tim spent a massive amount of time transferring all our old VHS, S-VHS, and hi-8 video tapes onto hard drives.  The wonderful thing about it is that, in addition to assuring that the events have been conserved on a more reliable format, we are now watching them!  We took an amazing amount of video over the years and have never actually SEEN it.  Now it is very accessible and we love to spend time watching the old birthday parties, family gatherings, and school performances.
The girls moved the sofas a bit to accommodate better viewing and we watching many of them last night.  It was such fun!

I've been working on new cloth for several pieces at home and Art Cloth Studios.  Jane and I spent an afternoon together working on our separate projects last week, and we nearly froze!  My print paste was so chilly it looked more like jello than thickened dye.  Once I have some batched/washed cloth I'll post some images.

I have much to be thankful for during this holiday season.  I have such a wonderful family.  We all have our health and we enjoy being together.  I have the most amazing friends a woman could possibly hope for.  I have adopted them all as my "extended/chosen" family.  Someone told me that girlfriends are the family you get to choose, and I have chosen well.

I wish a peaceful, safe, low-stress holiday season for each and every one of you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Birthday celebration & more cookin

What a treat to have one of my daughters here at home on her 25th birthday!  This is the first year that we have celebrated her day together since she left home for college in 2003.  Yesterday I asked her what she wanted for her birthday breakfast (always in bed on your birthday) and dinner, as well as what type of cake.  She had been looking through my cookbooks (Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's Kitchen") and picked out a cake recipe.  She decided she wanted to try baking bread for the first time, too.

Breakfast in bed!
While Bizzi stands guard, she is served a veggie/cheese omelet,
fruit scone and apple butter, milk, and a fresh-picked satsuma orange


Her father made coffee and brought it up to her


we used  both golden and red beets for the cake.
Later, we roasted the greens and made a warm salad for dinner


She scrapes the vanilla beans from the pod
creating a wonderful aroma!


using a spoon to chop fresh ginger


Let me go on record to say that a ricer does NOT work well for cooked beets.
This was my idea, and it was a bad one.  We resorted to the food processor soon after this shot.
Think fake murder scene........


here are the finished baked goods


A birthday celebrant's serving is always on the red plate, and it blends pretty well, doesn't it?



Saturday, December 5, 2009

Humility and Abundance

Let me tell you about my day.  Keep in mind it is only 2 pm, but it has been amazing already.
I arose early (for me, anyway) this Saturday morning, threw on some yoga togs and my coat and went to Spectrum for a class.  After the wonderful hour of yoga I drove to the Pearl Farmer's market and got some gorgeous veggies, some lavender "stuff", and some freshly pressed olive oil from a local grower.

When I returned home I was greeted by our little dog, and it was clear that she knew if was "coffee time".  She loves CT because she knows that Tim and I will do one of two things:  sit outside and bask in the sun on the patio or retreat to the inside of the cabana.  Either way, she enjoys having us outside with her.  This day, it was inside the cabana as the temperature was still pretty cold, even with the bright sunshine.  Tim makes the world's best coffee and today was no exception.  I drank my coffee and mused about my disappointing attempt to prevent frostbite in my garden.  It made me sad to think about how lovely it all was yesterday and how I wanted it to be beautiful for our upcoming house guests and my daughters, who live in the northeast,  and will soon be home for the holidays.  Oh well.  I forgot that the elements are the real boss of the garden...

While I was still thinking about all this, several things happened.  The first was opening and reading Virginial Spiegel's new book, "Wild at the Edges:  Inspiration from a Creative Life", self-published on Blurb.  I recommend this lovely little book to everyone, artist or not.  Virginia and her sister travel to the Boundary Waters and spend 10 days twice a year canoeing, hiking, camping, journaling, photographing & drawing, and reconnecting.  Just the two of them in the middle of a vast wilderness.
Think about that for a minute.  Then go to Blurb and purchase one of these lovelies for yourself.  I can't decide what is more beautiful:  the words or the photography.  Virginia's thoughts, poetry, and her visual sensibility resonate deeply within me.   I see my garden as a metaphor for my life:  it gives me joy, beauty, the occasional sorrow (hello hard frost!), and a continual cycle of renewal.  Just like life.  Just like art.  Is there really a separation of these things?
Here is the cover of the book


A sample of the beautiful words and images of Virginia's book....


Virginia writes about the Beauty in the Details, looking and really seeing, working in a series and finding the joy & passion that comes with digging deep and exploring the meaning of an idea in a body of work.
Here is where you can order a copy of her book:  http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/987247

All these thoughts were rolling around inside me as I went back into the house.  Just as Tim was preparing to leave for work he spied some packages on our front porch and brought them inside.  Ahhh.
More "Santa boxes", and I started wondering if it was one of my eBay acquisitions, or just what had arrived.  I looked at the return address on the first one, and was startled to see my stepmother's name.  What was this about?  I have a reasonable relationship with her but we don't communicate regularly, other than the annual holiday letter and maybe a couple other exchanges through the year.  I tore open the box and literally gasped for air:  inside were pieces of memorabilia that I had never seen before.
My father was a Naval Aviator in World War II.  I knew about it, but not too much:  he never talked about it.  Some guys talk a lot about their experiences of the war.  Not my father.
Out of the box came a lovely 11x14 hand-tinted portrait of my young father in his navy uniform.  Two boxes emerged:  The Distinguished Flying Cross and The Air Medal.


inside were his wings and a couple of his ribbons.
I know there are more, but I don't know where they are.
The wool shoulder epaulets are all that remain of his uniform.


Rex J Tucker
1921-1980

I lost my father suddenly in February, 1980.  He had been a diabetic for 30 years but you would never have guessed it:  he was a healthful, active man.  His death was unexpected and too soon:  he was only 58 years old.  Next February will mark the 30th anniversary of his death.  I always miss him, but I've had  a lot of time to get used to his absence.  Today, when I opened that box, my loss was fresh and painful again.  I don't know any other way to put it.  I stood in my kitchen and cried out loud and for a long time.  I can't remember when I felt such a deep stab of mourning for him.  It has been a very long time, indeed.  It is time to pick up the phone and call my step-mother.  I need to thank her for giving me a few morsels of my father.  I needed them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cookin'


Toasting the spices & chilis for the curry mixture
(it went thru the food processor later)



my laptop sitting next to the cooktop so I can view the
one of the recipes



I sure had a lot of veggies to prep

I cooked two new recipes tonight, and they were both good:  saag paneer and lamb curry.
I found the saag recipe on the Food Network website.  My lamb recipe is in one of my low-carb cookbooks.  The best discovery was the ingredient list for the curry spice.  I wish I could create a "smell-o-vision" link to my jar of newly created curry spice because it is amazing.  Nothing like toasting the spices a bit to really draw out the flavor.  Once toasted everything got thrown into the mini food-processor and ground to a fine powder.  I used it in both dishes.  Yum.

Here's the saag paneer recipe in case anyone wants it (worth it for the curry powder alone):


Ingredients
2 pounds fresh baby spinach, washed and stems trimmed
1/4 cup ghee, recipe follows
1/2 pound cubed paneer cheese
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder, recipe follows
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
Salt


Directions
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, toss in the spinach and blanch for 1 minute until very tender. Dump the spinach into a colander and press firmly with the back of a spoon to extract as much water as possible, set aside.
Heat the ghee in a deep skillet over medium-high flame. Add the cubed paneer and fry for a couple of minutes until light brown on all sides, gently turning to avoid breaking up the cubes. Remove the cheese from the skillet and set aside.
Return the skillet to the heat and sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger; cook and stir for about 5 minutes until soft. Sprinkle the mixture with the curry powder; continue to stir to marry the flavors, about 1 minute. Fold in the chopped spinach and give everything a good toss. Shut off the heat and stir the buttermilk and yogurt into the spinach to incorporate. The mixture should be creamy and somewhat thick. Gently fold in the fried paneer cubes, season with salt, to taste, and serve with steamed basmati rice and/or flat bread.

Ghee:
1 pound unsalted butter

Put the butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, swirl the pot around to ensure that it melts slowly and does not sizzle or brown. Increase the heat and bring the butter to a boil. When the surface is covered with foam, stir gently and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Gently simmer, uncovered, and undisturbed for 45 minutes, until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan have turned golden brown and the butter on top is transparent. Strain the ghee through a sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth. The ghee should be perfectly clear and smell nutty; pour into a glass jar and seal tightly.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Curry Powder:
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 dried red chiles, broken in pieces, seeds discarded
1 tablespoon turmeric

Toast the whole spices (coriander, cumin, fennel, cloves, mustard, cardamom and peppercorns) and the chiles in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan often to prevent them from burning. Toast for a couple of minutes until the spices smell fragrant. In a clean coffee grinder, grind the toasted spices together to a fine powder. Add the turmeric and give it another quick buzz to combine. Use the spice blend immediately, or store in a sealed jar for as long as 1 month.
Yield: about 1/2 cup

Friday, November 27, 2009

Anniversary and a visit to Iowa

November 27th was our 27th wedding anniversary.  When we married we were living in Topeka KS at the time.  I worked full-time as a Labor & Delivery RN, and my husband worked repairing video games and electronic instruments while programming on the side.  Our married life has been full of wonderful things:  our 3 amazing daughters, the adventure of starting and growing a business, and all our loving family and friends.  I have an amazing life partner and I don't take it for granted.  Ever.

Today we drove to Belmond, Iowa, my husband's home town and the home of my parents-in-law.  We were looking forward to spending time with them.  Between the conversations and ongoing Scrabble games it was an enjoyable visit.  We even saw the Belmond Holiday Parade!

Our two youngest hug their grandmother


One pats her grandpa's back while another hugs him.
The third, on right, hugs her grandmother



Thursday, November 26, 2009

Beautiful Thanksgiving sunset


Sunset on Keller Lake

What a lovely day!  A fine gathering of family, wonderful food, and plenty of time to savor the moment and reflect upon how great life really is.  The only sad bit was that my mother and father-in-law were unable to come to Minneapolis due to a recent illness.  We were sorry about that.
All the Jenison/Benjamin cousins were together and having fun!

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Heartland: A Personal Landscape"

This is the first in what will be a series of very personal pieces.  Ha!  All my work is personal.  This piece is a landscape.  It represents where I came from and how it shaped me.  The words are  autobiographical, though not readable by the viewer.  It is constructed from silk habotai and disposable cotton facial wash cloths which were screen-printed with procion dye, machine-pieced and quilted.
It is mounted on a stretched canvas that I painted with acrylic paint, gold leaf, and puff paint.
I still need to finish the back with some black felt before it goes to the gallery.
Finished size:  textile construction 10 inches by 10 inches, canvas size 12 inches by 12 inches.


"Heartland:  A Personal Landscape"



detail



detail

My understanding is that Copper Shade Tree Gallery intends to publish a small book of each juried artist's small landscape piece.  The 12x12s will be assembled collectively at the front of the gallery during the show, which opens in February.  Here is a link to the gallery site:  http://tinyurl.com/ykcbcr9

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Observations

Here are a few things I've been looking at:  ornamentation and intervals of birds sitting on power lines:


chair arm



...and foot

I caught sight of a throng of birds while sitting at a stoplight today, near twilight:






I missed life-drawing last week because of a migraine.  Here are two drawings from the previous week:


this is a 3-minute drawing



...and this is a 5-minute drawing

Last week it seemed like the shorter drawings were more correctly proportioned than the 10 & 15 minute ones.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Architexture

I am pleased to report that my quilt, "Edge of Information:  A Cityscape of Paper & Cloth" is part of a mini online gallery exhibition at the SAQA website!  Please take a look, as there are some wonderful pieces with an architectural-theme, curated by Ann Anastasio:
http://www.saqa.com/galleries/mini_gallery.aspx?galid=60

Red(der) hair & a new construction-in-progress

I went to the salon to get some highlights in my hair today.  I go to an Aveda salon and I love most things about it, but one thing that isn't up to par is their red hair color tones.  They just aren't as good as the product they used before (Goldwell).  Well.  My stylist "smuggled" in some of the color we used a long time ago and she applied it to my highlights.  Whoa.  It is seriously red.  This photo doesn't really do it justice.  I'm very happy about it.



In the meantime, I am finally satisfied with my small prototype that combines silk habotai and my recycled facial cloths.  I'm planning to make a series of autobiographical "landscapes"with these.  This is the first of what I hope will be a series.  I'm very pleased with it so far.  The quilting is coming along but these photos were taken prior to any being done.







Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Lavender

I purchased 2 roses yesterday while on a field trip to the Antique Rose Emporium.  I lost one old rose this summer due to the extreme drought, and decided to replace it with 2 because there was a large gap in my rose bed.  In addition, my recently ordered assortment of agastache plants arrived from High Country Gardens.  Since we are expecting rain tonight I used part of the afternoon to dig out the old rose roots and plant my new items in the butterfly-rose garden bed.
I'm sore from my first-ever yoga class yesterday and mucking about in the garden is a good antidote.  Plus, I'm fighting a migraine and I needed to keep moving to see if I could shake it off.


I took this photo while sitting on my garden stool & planting the agastache.
The lavender is experiencing a 2nd blooming period!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting on with it

Yesterday I was getting many things done other than the thing I needed to be doing:  sorting through my mixed-media ephemera, paint, and other "stuff" that was stacked on my work table and making me crazy.
It is humorous (now) to me how long I will procrastinate about this.  Eventually, I had to face the music because the clutter was impeding my ability to be productive in my work-space.  I finally buckled down last night and worked for a number of hours (and into the wee hours, I might add) to get things sorted.
Too bad I didn't take before and after photos.  I don't think the workspace, to the casual observer, looks very tidy at all.  But to me it is transformed!  I've already messed it up a bit but that is because I am working again, so that doesn't count!

walking down the hallway toward the studio
sorry about the less-than-ideal lighting for the photo
note my head vase collection on the window sill, each sporting brushes



the table in the foreground is used for mixed media work



same table, different angle
the clear plastic bins residing on top of my rolling drawers are a new addition
(If you zoom into the photo you will see some of my daughters' artwork:
the painting on the wall of my hands at my sewing machine was done by my oldest daughter while she was still in high school.  A self-portrait of my second daughter leans against the wall on the floor, as do paintings that my two oldest daughters made of one another).



another shot of the work table and my new storage
I am using my photography lights for everyday lighting because my room lighting is so poor



my other work table, reserved primarily for textile cutting
the area behind this table masks floor chaos-this is the next area that must be addressed

I got up this morning and went to a yoga class for the first time in my life.  I belong to a health club that offers many different exercise classes, and I haven't taken advantage of them.  I really liked the class:  flexibility does not come easily for me, even when I was a young thing and dancing 5 days a week in college.  I think this class might be a good addition to my exercise routine and I like the instructor (also a Leslie).  I felt great all day, even knowing that my buns will most-certainly be sore tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good News, Garden, & avoidance tactics

I can come up with some pretty interesting things to do when I am avoiding something I don't want to do.
Take, for instance, my studio cleaning.  The truth of it is that I'm having a storage crisis here and I don't know how to go about reconciling it.  To do it properly I should really take every single thing out of here, figure out some realistic storage solutions for both mixed-media supplies and textile/quilt-related supplies, then bring things back into the designated location.  That is probably not going to happen again until I redo my floor.  Soooo.  I went to WalMart at the recommendation of Laurie Brainerd (the most organized quilt maker I know) and purchased 3 sets of clear plastic storage drawers.  I am now considering what should go into them and where they will reside.  I have to get a handle on the mixed media supplies, in particular.  I am finding that my lack of organization is leading to lack of accessibility, and that is NOT good.

While ruminating over that, I started playing with my most recently-acquired set of metal repose milagros.
I coated the surfaces with clear gesso, and today I decided to begin experimenting with them as the substrate for some mixed-media collage.  I have no idea if this will work, but it is an interesting way to avoid working on studio cleaning!

I used acrylic ink here, and I doubt it is a good idea.
Old paperback pages, as well as a segment from an old boarding pass on the bird's tail
(these are unfinished BTW)

....and later, a bit of progress on two milagros:

 

This morning I walked out to the cabana for my cuppa.  It got chilly last night (high 30's!  brrrrr) so I wanted a little wind-protection.  I opened the cabana doors, sat down, and thought about how lovely my garden is and how much I wish that dang post was absent from between my doors as it blocks my view!
In the future we hope to open the front of the cabana, extend the roof-area, and create an outdoor kitchen.  My idea is to put Nana doors out here so we can use the cabana more like a covered porch...

Bizzi, our miniature schnauzer, is on "squirrel patrol"


I stood still for a long time in an effort to catch a shot of
the lesser goldfinch at the feeder (no luck this time).
My camera with the good zoom is elsewhere for a while, so I am using my little Canon these days.

And now the really exciting news:
"Wish You Were Here:  Postcards From The Road", a mixed-media quilt created by Frances Holliday Alford and I, has been juried into the 2010 "Form, Not Function" exhibition!  To say that I am thrilled and honored would be a massive understatement.  Here are 2 detail shots of our piece, which is 29 inches wide by 40.5 inches long:






A little background on this collaborative piece:  Frances and I discovered that we both enjoy mailing ourselves postcards while we travel while we were at the Houston Quilt Festival in 2008.  Frances brought some of her cards that had been mailed while she was traveling in Korea as well as some others  she was working on.  I was thrilled to discover yet another common thread (ha!) that we share with one another.  As time passed we began discussing how we could integrate these richly textured cards into a textile construction.  Late last year we began exchanging cards with one another, sending them through the mail and adding additional layers of ephemera with each sending.  The resulting cards have a wonderful, "beat-up" quality that comes with repeated mail-processing and transit.
We met numerous times to decide which cards would be used in the quilt blocks, then constructed blocks and appliqued the cards to them.  Joining the blocks was, er, tricky, to say the very least, because of the stiffness of the postcards.  I have never wished for a longarm machine so fervently as I did when joining these blocks!

One question I am frequently asked is, "Why do you mail cards to yourself?", and my response is that I enjoy finding a postcard in the daily ritual of getting the mail, usually long after I have returned from my trip.  It is a little "freeze-frame" moment of joy for me.  I sometimes do small watercolors if I have time, but I am more likely to collage ephemera from the trip:  museum ticket stubs, boarding passes, train tickets, restaurant receipts...you name it.  It is a way of preserving what my friend Billie refers to as
"exquisite moments" forever.  The beauty of the postcard is the size, which can be subsequently collaged into a journal, framed, or saved in a travel book.  What fun way to look back on a pleasurable journey!

It is quite simple to bring a few supplies for collaging while traveling:  a moleskin notebook & a pad of 4x6 watercolor postcards, double-sided tape and a small container of gel medium or acrylic varnish (if you carry-on only be sure your container is within TSA guidelines...grrrr), small scissors, a permanent marker, and possibly a small travel-size box of watercolors and a brush or two.  I generally put these items into a small plastic zipper bag for easy portability.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Walking the Garden


Goldfinch are flitting between this birdbath and feeder
(when I'm not standing so close)



The purslane look really good!  They have filled
in nicely under one of my live oaks



my small crop of Satsuma oranges is beginning to "turn"



this fossilized rock was discovered during a landscaping project
What is the curved-area?  Initially I thought it was a tusk!
Tim thinks it is some sort of plant.
I should have it evaluated by someone who can tell me...



close-up of the cool fossil rock



another view

I ordered some additional plants yesterday from one of my favorite purveyors:  High Country Gardens
http://www.highcountrygardens.com/.  They specialize is xeric landscape plants with a special focus on the southwest.  They are located in Santa Fe NM.  I have had good luck with their products:  they are shipped very carefully packaged and the plants are especially healthy, with vigorous root systems.
I cannot recommend them enough!  The drought, coupled with our summer heat, was brutal on my garden despite the fact that I have a very tough, mostly-xeric, environment.  I intend to replace a few things and augment a few areas that need more filling-in.  I am in love with all of the agastache varieties because they attract both hummingbirds and butterflies, and have a nice minty fragrance.
This is one of my favorite varieties:  
                                                         'Ava' hummingbird mint