Thursday, August 30, 2007

lifestyle choices in miniature

Recently I've been indulging, every now and then, in a small addition to my surroundings. It started with a lovely detailed conservatory, just a single room with beautifully proportioned window walls and a tall peaked glass dome to let in the sunshine. The central French doors open to the evocative space inside. Gradually, after enjoying the simple pleasure of just looking through the windows, I began choosing a few things to eke out a rather blissful lifestyle. With an easel here, a chair there, I imagined myself painting long satisfying hours in the gentle light, before taking a well-deserved break for tea.

Although the conservatory will continue needing a lot of personal attention to reach its potential, now it seems I want to invite my friends to share a golden afternoon with me as the weather turns. These chairs beckon outside where the garden will be. Of course, more storage for all the painting and gardening supplies will help with the upkeep.

And then there's this chair, found at Uncommon Objects in Austin. In the dusky interior of the store, amid all those piles of people's past passions, this (handmade?) oddity was begging for a home. Do you see the red seat and red beads? Of course, it made itself mine. Now for some creative maneuvering to make it feel at home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

time on my hands

Time weighs heavily on me today. Rainy skies tone all the air colors to gray, slowing down the pulse. Recordings of the zither, one of the earliest stringed instruments, transport my thoughts to other times. My old Dutch landscape paintings stand quiet and still in their captured moment of reverie, while I contemplate the fragmenting of time when you look backwards.

Looking backwards has its appeal. Against reason, we believe time was slower then. But time, implacably slippery, glides by even when it seems at a stand-still. My hands, made of heaviness, cannot move quickly enough today to grasp it and mold it to my needs. Instead, I twiddle, tugging at the options, hoping for the motivating outcome. Time and hands, partners in the pace of my life.

Learning to live in the present moment is part of the path of joy. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Photos show two of my garden sculptures and an old iron hand found recently in Austin.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

last week's delivery

I'm not sure, but I think we're still keeping secret what we've created for Club Little House till all the sweet little collections arrive at Amy's house. But when I delivered mine last week, Amy let me peek at the carefully piled boxes that have taken over her whole dining room. Now I can't wait till she names the day (we thought tomorrow, but at least 2 collections are still on their way) when Lorraine and I help her sort and package up all the little treasures. Meanwhile, I guess just a tiny glimpse won't spoil the surprise.

Monday, August 13, 2007

monday musing

The temperatures here in northern Virginia keep hovering in the low 90's, too hot to sit out on the deck very long in the mornings with my new laptop while I catch up on various connections and chores. The breeze sighing in the heavy branches is very soft, moving only the occasional leaf. Much louder are the insects and birds sheltering in the woods while they comment ceaselessly, sometimes raucously, on the day's events. The herb garden seems happy in the hot sun, but the azaleas and rhododendron sit quietly conserving strength in the shade. Even under the fan in the screened room, the blanket of heat soon wraps itself around me, forcing me to scuttle back inside, sweating drink in hand, laptop and new books hustled under my arm, screen door banging shut on the deck room, storm door to the family room securely closed while I reluctantly seek air-conditioned relief.

But on summer days during elementary school, when I roamed and explored around my country home in Pennsylvania, the heat was a factor to monitor in a different way. Each day it was my responsibility to check the salt blocks we put in the pine groves for the deer. The pines were planted in broad rows, with long angled vistas out to the horizon. My feet crunched across the layers of old brown pine needles, releasing their sharp stringency. Then I'd scramble down the nearby shale cliffs to note the water level in the Manatawny River, sometimes low enough near the rumbly old one-lane bridge to see the rock-strewn bottom. Crossing the bridge to drive up to my house on the steep winding road, shady under the summer evergreens but treacherous in winter, took you past a low whitewashed house where the elderly woman grew potted African violets on every horizontal surface, whether outdoor tables, windowsills, tree stumps, or front door sill. Ever curious to know what she knew, still I never visited her without my grandfather present.

After refreshing my skill at skipping stones in the sparkling river, I'd climb back to wander across our strawberry fields, where snacking was too short-lived, to the jaunty apple orchard, or the maze of Concord grape vines, or the cherry or peach trees ranged outside the kitchen, each in their turn yielding warm juicy finger-staining bliss. Depending on the story I'd most recently read, my rambles would mimic adventure after adventure, many of them requiring climbing up my favorite trees to look out for the highwaymen galloping down the quiet perimeter road. And eventually I'd take my peanut-butter-jelly sandwich out to the cattail field, where I'd lie on my stomach long after lunch to examine the cracks in the baked-dry clay and watch each insect crawling and hopping around in the tall green blades that seemed so out of place without a longed-for swamp. Overhead, crows drifted on currents of hot air in the vast blue sky while I wove the blades into various misshapen baskets.

On days when the large sloping lawns were mowed, the sweet grass scent lingered in the heat until the last bit of moisture evaporated from the heavy air. From my favorite reading post high in a sturdy old tree, I'd breathe these perfumes of summer, unaware of how deeply they were seeping into my soul.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

previewing Debby Schuh class samples

Meeting the super-creative Debby Schuh a couple weekends ago in Houston was a delight, and especially fortuitous because she would also like to teach her Anna Griffin paper classes at Scrapbooks Plus in early December.  Since I made samples of two of the classes she proposes to teach, I previewed them with my students all day Sunday. Kitty made the great suggestion that I share them here with you, so you can share the same preview and start marking your calendars.

Based on a 7Gypsies album, "Uncommon Treasures" uses the latest gorgeous Anna Griffin papers with lots of tags and folded pockets, ribbons, rub-ons and 3-D stickers. This envelope album will be the perfect place to store your photos and memorabilia from your most treasured moments with family, friends, or your travels.

The "Fabulous Framed Layout " uses the black and ivory papers from Anna Griffin's Dorothy Collection to create a beautiful framed layout to display in your home and coordinate with any decor.  The photos can easily be changed with the seasons.  A second page allows you to put both layouts in your scrapbook when you wish to reuse the frame.  (Please excuse the bluish glare on the front of the frame -- the silly camera lady (me) was not standing in the best light.)

For her third class, Debby will offer a mini album using Anna Griffin Christmas papers and embellishments.  This one is still a surprise.

Would you like to take any of these classes in December? Or use Debby's kits to make some super holiday gifts? Please share your interest with our Debbie at Scrapbooks Plus so she'll know whether to invite this special guest teacher to our area. Or leave a comment here, and I will be pleased to pass it on.

Monday, August 06, 2007

a is for . . .

. . . little Amelia's anticipated arrival.  Her grandmother Debbie has already assembled many pages for her granddaughter's scrapbook to make sure no early photos are overlooked.  For the baby shower, she requested this altered A with ribbons and flowers and a little sparkly bling.  And pink!

Friday, August 03, 2007

playing catch-up

So grateful for a day to catch up! Finished baking goodies to mail to my birthday son in Baghdad, whose birthday is tomorrow but who knows the mail is not the only slow boat around here.  Sent off batches of class instructions to last-minute students who are now overfilling my Anna Griffin classes at Scrapbooks Plus this Sunday.  I'm so pleased we were able to accommodate these extra students, a mother and daughter and two friends new to the classes.  Cleared away all the flour dust so I can spread out again on the large kitchen table and continue working on the 12 little sets of the artist's trade for Amy's Club Little House.  For an artist used to working on a large scale, this is tough love.  Even my abstract pastels were 5 by 8 feet!! Lucky I am that Amy lives close by and I can SOS these packages to her in the middle of some dark night, if necessary.   The large monogram A that Debbie at my LSS has asked me to alter for her first granddaughter needs to be done today so it can be prettily wrapped BEFORE the baby shower!!  A client's wedding album is holding its breath in anticipation of the last two pages.  Have to pick up hubby at the airport this evening on his return from San Antonio -- weren't we both in Texas just last week?  Need to dash to the post office with . . .

Who am I kidding?  Does one ever catch up?  Mostly I just keep juggling whichever deadline looms soonest or with the biggest lobbying group.  But I also try to take moments to simply breathe and appreciate the joy of being busy.  Last Saturday in Houston, my new friend Sandy declared that she is looking forward to retiring this year and "recreating" her life at 65!  Since I became freelance at 60, I hoped to do the same --  and look!  Two years later, and I'm loving my new friends and endeavors! But I really need the simple pleasure and comforting reassurance of unheralded moments, when all I need do is sit among my flowers and watch the busy bees (click photo to enlarge - can you see one exploring the scented oregano in the center, below) and butterflies. Hope you find pleasure in a few beautiful moments today, too!