The new season of the Get Messy art journal challenge started this week, and this time around many of us have committed to posting pages from our art journals each Thursday (hence the Get Messy Thursdays). You know I love a deadline, so count me in.
Rather than sharing a whole bunch of pages at once, I’ve got just one to share today.
Get Messy Thursdays | Adventure, Week 1
Materials used: Small sketchbook: Faber Castel Pitt Pens (1.5 and XS), Sharpie pen, Liquitex Professional heavy body acrylic in light blue violet; Art journal: Golden liquid acrylics, Winsor & Newton gouache in permanent white, Le Pen in periwinkle
This new phase of life (like any other new phase of life) feels like an adventure of its own. I had a mini identity crisis earlier this week when updating my LinkedIn profile. I’m not what I used to be before (in terms of a job title, at least), so what the heck am I? I felt much better (and less melodramatic) after taking a nap.
Anyway, I felt like that internal adventure was a good place to start, so I grabbed my paint and brushes. A quick sketch of the human body resulted in some webbed hands, a wonky knee and an arm shaped like an hour glass. On the upside, I think I captured my broken toe quite beautifully. If you can’t tell, it’s the one that looks broken… in other words, it could be any of them.
The quote is from one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, 5 AM in the Pinewoods. I like the idea of swimming inward. I’m sure I’ll get around to actual adventures (and real swimming!) in future weeks. Until then, happy Thursday, friends.
I spent a quick 24 hours in Birmingham, Alabama two weeks ago, wrapping up my final few days of work with a visit to one of the city’s middle schools. I was able to fit in a bit of exploring between meetings and thought I’d share a few highlights.
First and foremost, people in the city could not have been more warm and welcoming. We tend to stay out each other’s way up here, so it always takes a minute to realize that when someone in an elevator wishes you a nice day… that’s all they’re doing. They’re not trying to get you to donate to Save the Whales, or sell you something, or steal your handbag. It’s a refreshing change. (Though I do sort of prefer keeping to myself.)
Oh hi, Boston College.
I stayed Downtown at the historic Tutwiler Hotel, which is now owned by Hampton Inn (love thatfree breakfast and wifi). It was a quick drive to the school and airport (less than 10 minutes to both) and was within walking distance of the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Civil Rights Institute, the Board of Education, and the Birmingham Public Library. It was the perfect home base for my short visit.
The trail includes more than 200 detailed signs (each featuring photographs, historical information, and quotes from Civil Rights leaders) and connects 70 places of importance to the 1963 Birmingham Civil Rights Campaign. The trail begins at the Civil Rights Institute, which was just a few blocks from where I was staying, so I made sure to check out a number of the signs after dinner — really moving and beautifully designed.
Being a vegetarian (and a rather choosy one, at that), I am not always the best person to make restaurant recommendations. And in fact, I wouldn’t recommend the place where we ate dinner the night we were in town (can’t win ’em all!). But, a bit of Southern hospitality at its finest: a gentleman overheard me and a co-worker chatting about dinner plans our connecting flight from Atlanta to Birmingham, and tracked me down at the baggage claim with two recommendations, Bottega and Hot and Hot Fish Club. He seemed to know what he was talking about (which is more than I can say for myself).
We stopped at Arlington on our way from the airport to our hotel. The house is open for visitors most days, but I believe you need to schedule a tour in advance if you’d like to have a guide with you. We picked up some information at the visitors center after buying our tickets and toured the house and gardens on our own.
Arlington is the only former plantation home still standing in the area. The gardens were pretty, and the magnolia trees on the property were extraordinary. Most of the furniture has been replaced and it seems like a number of outbuildings (including a reproduction of the original kitchen house)were added for weddings and other special events hosted on there. I am not sure what I was expecting (and perhaps we caught things on an off day), but there was sort of a weird commercialized, scrubbed up vibe there.
One of my favorite places to go when visiting a new city is their art museum. I was so impressed by the Birmingham Museum of Art and how accessible it is. Both museum entry and parking are free, and the museum itself is bright, airy and really easy to navigate. It was perfectly unpretentious (Detroit Institute of Arts is similar — I am obsessed with that place), which is how I like my museums. The African ceramics pictured above are from the collection of Birmingham artist Dick Jemison. I just love how they are displayed; it struck me as a room full of personalities.
There are several hands-on art areas throughout the museum, as well as a dedicated art space for children, making this a great place for families to visit. They also have a restaurant on site, and a fantastic gift shop (I picked up a small sketch book and some Monks Meditation tea from Huntsville, Alabama’s Piper & Leaf).
And just like that, May is over and June has arrived. Time flies when you’re having fun. Or attempting to clean out your closets. Or making a fresh start. Or maybe just some fresh juice.
It’s been a week now since I’ve been office-less, business card-less, commute-less and fax machine-less. I hesitate to call myself (or anyone else, for that matter) a “stay at home mom” because, like… we’ve been out of the house quite a bit since I left my job.
It currently feels less like a life change and more like a vacation, but I think we’re all settling into this new way of being quite well. I’m resisting the urge to over-schedule and fill up our days, but I also don’t want us to become weird shut-ins. It’s all a careful balance (I think. Who knows?).
Either way, here’s what I’ve been up to…
Currently | June 2015
Per usual, I’m late to the party, but I’m nearly finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. There are parts that were so funny (made even funnier by the fact that they were intended to be serious) that I cried. Overall, though, I think it’s worth a read.
When my mom asked for reading recommendations, I came up empty. Because I can’t remember the last non-how-to-clean-your-house-book I read. Not good. Meanwhile, I was attempting to work some life-changing magic on our bookshelves when I came across an unread copy of J. Courtney Sullivan’s The Engagements. I loved her first two books and am excited to get started on this. Magic, indeed!
Oh, and magazines. They’re like books… for lazy people like me.
Lots of sunrises… because Grace has taken to getting up at 4:30 AM for the day, regardless of how early or late she has gone to bed. The upside? We suddenly have an extra hour or two to our day (or something). Our pediatrician recommended we check out this toddler alarm clock. At first I thought she was kidding… but she hasn’t steered us wrong yet, so into the Amazon cart it goes!
Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” It was playing in the Birmingham airport and I have been blasting it in the car ever since. One of my first tapes was Whitney — I think I need to go Spotify the entire album.
We’re spoiled with Whole Foods just over the bridge in the South End, and a farmers market just around the corner (which opened for the season today!). I can’t get enough of the early summer produce available — watermelons, berries, corn and tomatoes!
Lots of “hers and hers” meals. Grace shares my love of snacking and enjoys a bit of variety at lunch and dinner. I saw these adorable stainless steel divided bus plates on Peas and Crayons (thanks, Jenn!) and ordered a set for Grace. They are perfect for plating toddler-sized portions of whatever I happen to be snacking on.
Progress on my “stuff to do around the house” list (how domestic, I know). I’ve been adding to that list since we moved, but barely but a dent into it until this week. So far, I’ve cleaned out my closet (three bags of clothes went to the Red Cross, and fourth went to ThredUp — we shall see how that goes), hung up our new artwork from Minted, packed up Grace’s 6 and 9 month clothes, cleaned out the super-cluttered, super-dangerous (mandolins! knives!) kitchen utensil drawer, and purged most of our kitchen cabinets. Next on the list: Change our wifi network name to Hillary Clinternet (this is a major priority), recycle every single scrap of paper in the house, find a new rug for the living room, make order out of the chaos that is our bathroom cabinet, and wrangle all those books and toys.
Two posts in one day!It’s a miracle. I’m making up for the fact I’ve been MIA. Time for another peek at my art journal!
Get Messy Art Journal | Brave, Weeks 4-6
Materials used: Embroidery floss and a giant, unsafe needle; Golden liquid acrylic and high flow acrylic paint; Blick liquid watercolors; Crayola crayons; Sakura watercolors sketchbox; black paper; Sakura white gel pen; salt water in a little spritzer bottle thing; washi tape
So this set of pages is basically a mess. Which is fitting, this being Get Messy and all. It took a while to let each layer dry, so it was sort of an exercise in patience (specifically, in Nick being patient with me leaving all this art crap all over our condo, all in the name of “building layers”).
I think I’ve shared this before, but I am weirdly in love with my own handwriting. Not normal. And not at all humble. But true. The quote is from composer Mohammed Fairouz’s recent interview with Krista Tippett on (my favorite podcast of all time) On Being. You can read or listen to the full episode here, but the text I include comes from this exchange:
MS. TIPPETT: I read somewhere that you were — you began composing music at a very early age. And I read somewhere that you were setting the poetry of Oscar Wilde to music at the age of 7. Is that right? I…
MR. FAIROUZ: Yeah. It’s a song on a poem by Oscar Wilde that is called “The True Knowledge.” And it’s a beautiful poem. I took a stab at it when I was 7. And I have to admit, I didn’t understand the poem at all. But I gave another go at sort of trying to revive it. I revisited it in, I think, 2002 or something as an early piece and tried to fix it. And I’ve since stopped doing that because I realized that as a composer, we leave very important traces of who we are spiritually in the pieces that we compose. And so it’s actually best not to tamper with who you were ten years ago to be who you are today. Accept and perhaps even try to love who you were ten years ago. And be kind to yourself. But also look forward to who you want to be in a year.
Beautiful, right? Every episode is this good. I often listen on my commute to work, and have been forgoing safety and wearing headphones (always be aware of your surroundings, people!) between the parking lot and my office, so as to not have to stop listening.
Materials used:Tissue paper; black gesso; Instax photo; Faber Castel Pitt pens; magazine clipping; scrap from one of Grace’s daily day care reports; label maker
For this spread, I incorporated the shapes and household objects (tissue paper, aluminum foil) prompts from Get Messy. I used aluminum foil to apply black gesso… but it didn’t pan out very well, so I ended up going back over it with a palette knife. With so much changing (and so soon), I wanted to capture a bit of daily life in these pages. We’ve been having so many fun adventures now that the weather has improved, including a recent walk around Houghton’s Pond. The scrap is a note from one of Grace’s teachers and includes details from her day.
It feels scattered, but that’s the kind of week I was having.
Per usual, I saved my favorite pages for last. This spread was the result of several happy accidents. I’ve been reading a lot of Hafez lately and this poem was floating around in my brain, so when a blob of black gesso smudged from one page to the next, I immediately saw a bird. And I got to work adding feet and feathers.
The letters were originally all on the same page, but kept falling off… that’s how I realized the reverse side would look sort of cool on the opposite page. Plus, YO + BIRD = Kind of fun as a stand alone page. Here’s to happy accidents. And birds. Or whatever.
This time last year, I was wearing a very unattractive, very orthopedic boot thing, having tripped over Grace’s bouncy chair and subsequently broken a toe… just an hour and a half before my family showed up for Mother’s Day brunch at our condo. (Also: My parents were trapped at an airport somewhere, so the guest of honor wasn’t there to be showered with praise and gifts and affection… and to listen to me moan about my toe.)
Ready to party. Or something.
In addition to being temporarily physically crippled, I can’t say I was in the best shape mentally, or whatever, either. I had been back at work (after a not-so-work-free maternity leave) for a few weeks, was getting up to nurse Grace every couple of hours, couldn’t find anything that fit (nor that matched the boot), and sort of had no idea what I was doing at any given moment. Having people over to a mostly-clean home, serving mostly-edible food, and not having an entirely unexpected crying episode provoked by a diaper ad, or a cheesy song, or a faint, passing breeze felt like a major, major accomplishment.
This time last year, I was second-guessing every decision I made, and agonizing over the longterm effects those decisions would have on Grace. Was she eating too little? Was she eating too much? You’ll notice I wasn’t asking myself if she was sleeping too much, because… well… neither of us were sleeping.
I worried I was falling down (no pun intended… but sort of yes, pun intended because I really still can’t believe I tripped over that darn chair) as a wife. I had no idea how I would manage my work responsibilities and my family responsibilities. And how, on God’s green earth, was I ever going to get all the laundry done? Would my body always feel so foreign (and lumpy)? What would my first work trip away from Grace be like (Fortunately, I didn’t have the capacity at the time to imagine myself using a breast pump in a bathroom stall at the Detroit airport… but now I do. And you do, too. Sorry.)? Would I ever see my friends again (this would likely require staying up past 7 PM)? Would I ever have anything to talk about besides diaper pails? Would every single drop-off at daycare feel so heartbreaking?
It’s taken some time (and I don’t think my toe will ever be the same), but my goodness… What a difference a year makes. I’m not perfect (you should see what I’m wearing) and life’s not perfect, but so much has changed for the better. It’s amazing what a little time and confidence (and SLEEP!) can do.
Last weekend I had the chance to celebrate Mother’s Day with my parents and family on Saturday, and with Nick, Grace and Clark on Sunday. And I felt calm. And relaxed. And happy. And grateful. And I couldn’t help but notice that life is sort of following the seasons this time around. Not only is it actually (finally!) Spring, but I’m in the middle of my own transition of sorts. And it’s full of (I almost said “blooming with”… but I stopped myself) promise and excitement and optimism and a “who knows what might happen?” sort of thing.
At the end of this week (though it’s been in the works for months… aren’t I a good secret keeper? Tell me everything!), I’ll be stepping down from my role at an organization I’ve been with for eight years to be home with Grace.
I sort of always thought I would work (in the capacity I’ve been used to working, like, in an office). And I am realizing now, as I make this transition, how much of my ego and self-worth have been tangled up in being busy. And important. And in charge. I’ve also come to see, though, how much of my last eleven or so years have been spent moving from one mini-crisis to the next, closing out the day with just barely enough energy to be a semi-normal, non-awful person. The good has far outweighed the bad (truly), though, I have loved my work. I have loved the people I have worked with. I have loved the people I’ve had the privilege of serving. I have loved the challenges and the lessons and the surprises.
I know there will be pieces of all this that are not easy, but I also know how lucky I am to have options. It took a lot of confidence and courage to make this choice, but I wouldn’t be able to make the choice if I didn’t have options. I know this is not always the case. Meanwhile, that new boss of mine? She’s pretty cute.
My favorite meals are snacks. A little of this, a little of that. While I’ll (almost) never say no to chocolate, I tend to prefer salty over sweet.
Check out Clark’s sweet new handbag.
I was finishing up my grocery shopping a few months ago when I spotted Pearls Olives to Go on the shelf. I love green olives, and thought these little cups would be the perfect salty addition to workday lunches. The mess-free, single-serve cups are easy to open and don’t contain any liquid, making them perfect for snacking on the go.
Just a couple days later, my friends at Sweat Pink/Fit Approach reached out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the product. I had already whipped through the first package I bought, so saying ‘yes’ was a no-brainer. Pearls Olives to Go are gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, cholesterol-free, vegan and contain no trans-fats or GMOs. Most importantly (kind of): they’re really, really good.
Snacks for Lunch
I’ve been pairing a cup of Olives to Go with some of my other favorite lunchtime snacks to round out the meal. A few standbys:
Cut vegetables: peppers, carrots, cucumbers and snap peas
Baked or roasted sweet potatoes
For those of you in Boston, you’ll find a coupon for Pearls Olives to Go in the Globe, Herald and other area newspapers on Sunday, May 3rd. Pearls Olives to Go can be purchased locally at Shaws and Demoulas/Market Basket, and at many nationwide retailers including Target.
As a Sweat Pink Ambassador, I received product and compensation for this post. Thoughts, opinions and snackiness are all my own. As always, I am grateful for the opportunity to partner with brands I love. And I appreciate your continued support. For real.
I wish I could say I’ve been busy doing super cool things, but mostly I’ve been either at the office or the dentist or reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to a very hungry fifteen-month-old. I’ve neglected the Internet, my weekly manicure ritual, and routine art making. Can’t win ’em all.
Get Messy Art Journal | Brave, Weeks 1-3
I finally carved out a little time last night to finish up my art journal pages for the first three weeks of the Get Messy Art Journal program’s new Brave season. While the topic itself is plenty inspiring, I couldn’t get out of my own way. When we were challenged to make a zine, I reached out to the group for ideas on how to get started (and got plenty!), but I just couldn’t get past the feeling that this one just wasn’t for me.
I eventually yielded to the ol’ “nothing ventured, nothing gained” thing and made something more akin to a booklet (Is it okay that I just hate the word zine? I hate the word blog, too. And when people can San Francisco “San Fran,” I get unreasonably annoyed.). I tried to experiment with different materials, techniques and styles on each page. I don’t love it, but I think it was still worth a go. I’m tempted to photocopy it in black and white (to eliminate some of the here/there/everywhere-ness that’s bugging me) and see if that helps. Plus, I want to see what sequins looks like when it’s photocopied. Obviously.
Bubble prints made with soap and tempera paint (I will share a step-by-step soon — it’s so much fun), a magazine clipping of an open window, a bit of washi and a watercolored c.s. lewis quote.
I am much happier with how these other pages turned out. I’ve enjoyed mixing it up a bit with both materials and techniques and have already come a long way in forgoing perfection. Things really have gotten messy. (And I’m not just talking about the floor under Grace’s high chair.)
Grey and blue acrylic paint applied with all kinds of things (q-tips, an empty TP roll, large bubble wrap and a piece of corrugated cardboard), giant black card stock letters (you know I love when crap spills off the page), hot pink and black ink, a photo of Grace with some washi tape, and a magazine clipping of flowers
I’m still sorting out my personal aesthetic, but I tend to gravitate toward more white space than less. This was sort of the opposite of that. Lots of layers. Covered with more layers.
Left side: Laminated pages from Combray (from my college days), complete with my notes in French in the margins, vinyl mailbox letters from the hardware store; Right side: clear jewel stamps from Studio Calico, black archival ink, watercolors
These were my favorites of the past few weeks. The left hand page felt really personal, without being revealing. I like to keep a bit of mystery around here (quoth the lady talking about the mess under her child’s highchair). When I think about being brave, those first few years of college are front and center. Without getting too particular, or too depressing, I will just say that I am proud of myself and the courage I showed.
Also, I’m glad I hung onto some of my textbooks and novels. Most are in French, and the rest are about art. I was much more interesting as a younger person. Semi-related: I still regret selling back both my volumes of Jansen’s History of Art (although I remember feeling especially rich once I did) at the end of my senior year. If you’re in school and you’re reading this: keep those books. Be brave. And don’t do drugs.
We had such a lovely Easter with our families this weekend. Grace was in her glory, snuggling up with her grandparents, aunts and uncles and following her cousin where ever she went. I didn’t take many photos (I had my hands full of candy), so I thought I’d share a bit of what’s On Tap currently, instead.
One of these days I will make time to read an actual non-children’s book. It seems like it’s been ages since I read something that wasn’t on my phone. In list form. Involving baby animals.
Similarly, The Art of Eric Carle has completely captured my imagination. The section of letters written by children to Eric Carle is my favorite.
This weekend we watched Mile… Mile and a Half from the Muir Project, which follows a group of artists hiking the John Muir Trail in California. It’s available on Netflix and is worth a watch for the breathtaking scenery alone.
We are taking a music and movement class on Saturday mornings in the South End and received a CD of all the songs at the first class. When Grace and I are in the car together (and I am terrified to listen to the radio now that she’s in a repeat everything phase), we usually listen to Raffi… but every once in a while you need to give the ol’ guy a rest. Our current jam is a song about a dog finding a cell phone on the way home from the dog park. (The second I drop her off at daycare, however, it’s back to sports radio or Morning Edition.)
Also… My current position is that Taylor Swift can do no wrong. I reserve the right to change my mind, but for the time being: can’t stop, won’t stop.
100 days of something. I signed up for #The100DayProject (which starts today) and plan to roll that into the new season of the Get Messy Art Journal challenge (the new theme is brave). You can follow along on Instagram to see what I make each day. Many of my projects will likely be drawings or paintings or letters, but I am planning to count carefully crafted, non-Cheez-It meals as an accomplishment as well.
I picked up a new frame and some acrylic paint to make a memo board (similar to the one I made for Grace’s room) for our kitchen. I am hoping it will help me remember important things like renewing Clark’s dog license, or upcoming appointments, or like… wearing pants.
I’ve been putting off spring cleaning (and Lord, do those closets need to be addressed) for weeks, but now that it’s finally warm enough to open the windows and let some fresh air in, I’m running out of excuses. It’s time to step away from the spring cleaning Pinterest boards and actually, well… do some cleaning.
Unless, of course… I come up with some other way to procrastinate. The lovely folks at Minted reached out at the perfect time with the opportunity to do a little window wall art shopping. I’ve ordered all kinds of holiday cards and invitations from Minted, but hadn’t ordered any prints or photos from them before.
After a few minutes, it became clear I could spend hours scrolling through their art section. And maybe I did. Instead of washing windows.
Spring Spruce-up with Minted
We’ve been adding to this little collection of photos and prints here and there, and I’m excited to add a few new pieces this spring. Minted offered me a credit to my account to do a little shopping and sprucing up, in exchange for sharing some of my favorite items here.
I’m eyeing the constellation and birthstone prints for Grace’s room. I like that they’re personal, without being childish. So many of their art prints would make lovely gifts for spring birthdays, weddings and showers. Oh, and Mother’s Day (hint, hint).
Alright. Time to clean. Just kidding… it’s time to decorate Easter eggs. And then make up 900 other things to do when I’m done.