Today: 2015 Boston Flower and Garden Show

For the past four or five years, I’ve looked forward to the Boston Flower and Garden Show as sort of an unofficial start to spring.  And given the wild winter we’ve endured, I practically counted down the days to this year’s show.

I took fewer photos than past years, mostly because I had my hands full protecting Grace from flying elbows.  We didn’t make it in until Saturday (word to the wise: go during the week) and had to battle the crowds a bit, but man.  It felt good to see some flowers.  In the pretend outdoors.  

I can’t wait until spring is really here.  In the meantime, I’m dreaming up all kinds of things I want to plant and grow on our deck.  My parents gave me a tomato grow bag kit for my birthday and I plan to plant a few containers of herbs, as well.  While it will be nice to have more space to work with some day (I am swooning over the outdoor living spaces we saw this weekend), there really is so much you can do with a few square feet and some sunshine.

Here are a few of my favorites from the 2014 Boston Flower and Garden Show for your own spring daydreaming:

I love a good water feature.

How pretty are these seed packets?

Love a good living roof, too.

I think Southie could use a fairy house.  Or twelve.

 

An unexpected, but super cool sand sculpture

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Want more flowers?  Here are my Flower Show posts from 20102011 and 2012… who knows where 2013 and 2014 ended up…
  • Oh, good.  We broke the snow record.  Now please come clean off my car.
  • Happy Parade Day!

What are you looking forward to this spring?

Today: Get Messy Art Journal | Weeks 3 + 4

Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement on my last art journaling post. I’m playing a bit of catch-up, but most of my pages were at least in some way inspired by the Get Messy membership prompts for weeks 3 and 4.  (You can learn all about– and join!– the program here.)

Get Messy Art Journal | Weeks 3 + 4

Real talk: This has been a bit of a challenging week.  In a good way, but also in an exhausting, nerve-fraying way.  I knew spending some time making crap would help.  And it did.  

I worked on most of these pages in one sitting.  And that sitting happened to be on the sofa, with a bowl of peanut butter cups, after Grace was sound asleep, with our temporarily disabled Frenchie snuggled close, while Nick watched the CrossFit Open live announcement.  

I didn’t want to break out all of my art stuff, mostly because I didn’t want to give up any space already occupied by Clark.  Or the peanut butter cups.  Limiting my materials proved to be surprisingly helpful.  I spent less time thinking about what to use, and more time using what I had in my lap.  Also, using permanent black ink while sitting on a cream colored sofa?  This is me living on the edge, people.

One of the prompts was “What would the world be like devoid of love?” I can tell you, I wouldn’t want to live in that world.  I worked quickly on this one, to avoid getting depressed (just kidding… kind of).  I used black and grey watercolors (I’m obsessed with this travel set) with a water brush, a white paint pen and a red Micron.

I mostly stuck with black watercolor and black ink.  The result: most of these pages look tense and moody.  Which, frankly, is how I’ve felt lately.  Until the sun came out on Wednesday… and I became a normal person again, along with everyone else in Boston.

I started the backgrounds for these pages a few days ago before having a clue what I wanted them to become.  I used a thick coat of white gesso on the left side and added very watered down acrylics along with a spritz of watercolor while the gesso was still wet.  On the right side, I used a more aggressive spritz of that same green watercolor and doodled a bit with a grey sign pen.  I used black ink and a detail brush to paint the abstract-map-ish design on the left hand page, and used strips from a Chanel ad for the right hand page.  I believe the letter stickers are from a Studio Calico kit, but my mind is full of Raffi songs at the moment, so I could be wrong.

One of the prompts for Week 4 was to describe the greatest act of love.  This time of year, a lot of my work centers around families and clearly that’s on my mind (see the crop top photo below).  There are so many different ways a family can come to be.  I knew the second I heard Grace’s heartbeat that we belonged together.  But I also know you don’t need a biological relation to belong to someone.  This may not be my final answer, but I think that giving someone a place to belong, and being open to belonging to someone else, takes tremendous love.

 

 I like how the hand-stitching from the previous page peeks through on the lower left.  The stamp is from A Beautiful Mess, and I used black archival ink.  Which never. Comes.  Off.  The ripped paper on the left is a e.e.cummings poem (supplied as one of the prompts).  I can’t really decide if these pages are done are not.  I’ve been trying to let them be, rather than over-work them.  Perfectionist habits die hard (that’s a movie script Bruce Willis and I are currently co-writing.)

This photo is of me and my mom (I am the one wearing the hot shorts and crop top.  That’s not something I get to say every day.  Or, really… ever.) I am not sure if my head is actually shaped like that, or if I am scissors-challenged.  The full quote is “We are born of love; love is our mother.”  Preach it, Rumi.  When working through many of this season’s prompts about love, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am to have come from such a loving home, and to have such a solid foundation. I love this photo and owe so much to my parents.  

I’m already itching to sit back down with my sketch book.  But I think I will stick to the table going forward.  I’m certain I’ve jinxed myself with the ink on the sofa comment.

Also On Tap for Today:

What kind of mood are you in this week?

Today: Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls.

This post is sponsored by Stonyfield.

Spring is 20 days away.  That can mean only two things:

  • Winter is almost (finally) over
  • It’s time to stop thinking about frozen sidewalks, and start thinking about frozen treats

Unless you never stopped thinking about frozen treats.  (And if that’s the case, please add this to the list of reasons why I like you.)

Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls

I’ve just about reached my limit of frozen temperatures, but frozen treats? Never.  So I was excited to have the opportunity to try Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls, an innovative collaboration between Stonyfield and Cambridge-based WikiFoods.

Was it love at first bite?  Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to think at first.  Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls are like nothing I’ve ever tasted before.  Each bite of organic frozen nonfat yogurt comes in an edible, washable wrapper made of organic fruit skin.  

These edible wrappers were developed by Professor David Edwards and his team at WikiFoods and were named one of TIME’s 25 Best Inventions of 2014.  They’re a huge step towards reaching Stonyfield CEO Gary Hirshberg’s dream of eliminating waste and creating the “edible cup.”

Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls

I had the chance to meet Professor Edwards at Cafe ArtScience in Cambridge earlier this week, and the more I learned about (and… let’s be serious, the more I tasted) Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls, the more I found to love about these delightful treats.

Yes.  I said delightful.  Much of what I eat is routine, ordinary, even boring.  So when I find myself eating something that feels entirely new and different, and even thought provoking — that’s a delightful shakeup.  Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls are fun to eat and they’re fun to share.

They’re kid-friendly. Grace doesn’t eat many (or really, any) sweets, but I gave her a taste of a peach and vanilla pearl the other day and she loved it.  The edible wrapper was easy for her to hold (she wants to do everything herself these days) and less messy than a regular scoop of frozen yogurt (I imagine… I’m not quite ready to give that a try).  Plus, I love watching her try new flavors, textures and temperatures.  I bet these would be a big hit with older kids.

I can’t be the only one who has sat down to enjoy a bit of frozen yogurt, only to find myself minutes later wondering where the rest of the pint went.  Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls are currently sold in single-serve packages (one serving is two pearls and totals 40 calories).  In other words:  built-in portion control. The packaging itself is made from 100% renewable sugarcane.

And they’re, well… pretty.  These pearls look as good as they taste, and make a wonderful presentation whether served whole, sliced… or kabob’d (I am pretty sure I came up with that idea in my sleep and had to make it happen).  From backyard cookouts to elegant dinner parties, I have a feeling Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls would be a hit at any gathering.  

 If you would like to try these deliciously exquisite treats for yourself, please feel free to use the coupon below.  Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls are currently available in Whole Foods Market stores in the North Atlantic.

I recommend you treat yo’self to one of each flavor.

Also On Tap for Today:

What has you feeling delighted this weekend?

Today: Get Messy Art Journal | Weeks 1 + 2

You know how I feel about making time and space for creativity.  (And if you don’t: I think it’s, like, important.)  When things get busy or frenzied or it snows seven feet, I forget to take my own advice.  I do laundry instead of doodling.  I do more laundry instead of painting.  I do even more laundry instead of writing.

When I imagine my ideal day and my ideal life, though, I somehow manage to get the laundry done and then I have so much fun creating that I get ink of my pants and that’s why I end up doing more laundry.

Making time to get a little messy helps me maintain order in the rest of my life.  It helps me process things and come up with new ideas and solutions.  There’s something about making, creating and producing that just makes me feel… well, proud.  Satisfied.  Energized.

Left: I took this photo in Detroit (fall 2013) — there was something about this house that really crushed me.  I’ve seen it a half dozen or so times since, and it always makes me feel… well, feelings.  I felt like the little guy needed some protecting, so I laminated the photo using these self-laminating sheets.  And then I became obsessed with laminating and sealed a bunch of my favorite ribbons to use as bookmarks and/or added flair.  Right: I split one of our engagement photos so that it could be opened like a door and tucked a little message inside. The background is gesso with watercolor.

My mom is a talented artist.  When we were little, we’d ask her to draw all kinds of things.  She’s quickly sketch these wonderful drawings on yellow legal pads, or napkins, or whatever we’d hand over.  I think there’s still a “coloring drawer” in my parents’ kitchen, filled with crayons and pencils and paper.  I love that this– the opportunity to play with art–was just a normal part of growing up for us.  I want that for Grace.

Detail of second page: Peek-a-boo! Or whatever.

So.  Anyway.  I recently learned about and joined the Get Messy community (you can learn more about the program here – and sign up to join! Do it!).  I’ve written plenty of sappy journal entries (oh, how I wish I had saved my middle school diary — what an ego check that would be) and filled countless sketch book pages, but I’m totally new to the world of art journaling.  So in most ways, I have no idea what I am doing.  Which is terrifying. And also, kind of fun.

It was -600 degrees when I worked on these pages, and was clearly channeling summer.  I used some scrap paper to back a photo of Grace and me in happier warmer times and then wove pieces of washi tape through the remaining paper.  The background is a random grid of watercolor with some black paper hearts I punched out when I probably should have been doing something more adult.  Like vacuuming.

The week before I learned about the program, I was listening to an interview with Mary Oliver and she talked about the need for writers to be disciplined. That you need to set aside time every day and just write.  That you’ll make plenty of mistakes.  But you need to be disciplined.

 Materials used: magazine clippings and scraps of paper, heavy body acrylic paint in silver (applied with a brayer), paper punch, micron pens, washi tape, needle and thread…. and glitter.

My main reason for joining the program was to work on becoming more disciplined when it comes to drawing and painting (and creating, in general).  I’m excited to see how a daily or weekly or weekend-ly practice (workdays sort of fill up on their own) will help me develop and grow.  

But beyond that, I am quickly seeing that the process is its own reward.  All that opening up and letting loose and forgoing perfection and putting whatever comes out down on the page?  It’s touchy feely and hippy dippy and good.  It’s good.

Did I mention my obsession with laminating pouches?  YOU GUYS, I LAMINATED GLITTER.

The program’s weekly prompts (the current theme is love, which is hopefully obvious — the theme changes every 6 weeks and new prompts are issued each week) and link-ups provide both motivation and accountability.  Each month there is a public link-up, complete with its own prompt — this might be a good way to get your toes wet if you’re interested.  

One of the art prompts for this week was sewing.  I swooned over the stitch work of the other participants before deciding less is more (especially when me + needles are involved).

After two weeks, I’ve already learned a great deal from the tutorials.  I’ve experimented with different materials and techniques.  And I am working up the nerve to share a bit more of what I’ve thrown together.

Left side: Another laminated ribbon bookmark thing, a list of 100-ish things I love, gold gouache (applied with a brayer, which is sort of like a miniature handheld steamroller… sort of), a Polaroid notecard (Target coming in hot, per usual), label maker, and gold glitter washi.  Right side:  One thing I like even more than laminating: reading Rumi. Materials used: black cardstock, detail brush and black watercolor, random stamps, yellow watercolor, micron pen, letter stamps with pan pastel.

So before that nerve disappears… I’m sharing some of my pages from the first two weeks of the challenge.  If this isn’t totally weird and/or boring for you (and please tell me if it is), perhaps I’ll share a peek each week.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • It only took 13 months: Grace finally slept through the night!
  • Such a smart idea: Watercolor pencil paint palette
  • Hoping Clark has a speedy recovery — poor little dude had to have surgery last night :(

Did you keep a diary as a kid?

Today: Scenes from the snowiest winter in South Boston.

snowy South Boston

I am not sure which is more unbelievable:

  • It has snowed 7 feet during the last 3 weeks here in Boston
  • I am about to quote a Florida Republican and member of the NRA (on the topic of winter, of all things)  

It has come to this.  My ability to use my own words is buried, along with my car, under all that snow.  However, the former Congressman’s words (in this instance, at least) felt spot on.

After Nick cleared out the SUV and picked up some iced coffees (always iced, even when the thermometer iPhone weather app thing reads 4 degrees), we bundled up Grace and took a quick drive around the neighborhood.

I’m not a betting girl, but if I were, I’d say there will still be snow on the ground come Marathon Monday. [Side note: our friend Sarah is running Boston in support of the MGH Emergency Response Team.  If you’re wondering what marathon training during this historic winter is like… welp, she’ll tell you.]

South Boston Emergency Transportation Reconfiguration

With no room for both cars and snowbanks, driving around here has felt a bit like living in a (mostly super-dangerous) video game.  Last Thursday, it took me two hours to get from the South End to Southie.  I was an hour late for daycare pick-up (fortunately, Nick was able to get there in time).  Most of those two hours were spent in my own neighborhood, trying to navigate too narrow streets, while attempting to neither hit a pedestrian nor get hit by a bus.

Hopefully this weekend’s Emergency Transportation Reconfiguration (doesn’t that sound so… serious?) will help.  Most numbered streets are now one-way (odd numbers head east, even numbers head west), through April 1st.  Ahh, April. That sounds nice.

While I lose my mind keep busy with glamorous things like laundry and pretend a heat wave is moving through, a few photos from our tour of the neighborhood:

Sully's Castle Island snow

Oh.  I saved the best for last.  How awesome (and unsafe, yes, but awesome) is this tunnel at the corner of K & 8th?  I like when people make the most of things.

snow tunnel south boston

With more snow on the way, that’s really all we can do.  Make the most of things.  Hang in there.  And be grateful that we’re warm and safe.  We’re going a little stir-crazy, sure.  

But spring is coming.  Eventually.

Also On Tap for Today:

Share something bright, sunny, warm, tropical, pink, lovely and/or Mean Girls related.  Please.

 

Today: Snowed in take-out (+ a Blue Dragon giveaway).

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Blue Dragon. I received product samples and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Unless you’re living somewhere especially remote (and maybe especially tropical), you know that it’s snowing in Boston.  And not just in a normal, Oh, it’s winter! sort of way.

Snowed in take-out and a fabulous Blue Dragon giveaway

We’ve run out of places to put the snow, but it keeps on falling. Our public transportation system effectively shut down at 7 o’clock last night (a few buses are running, but no trolley, subway or commuter rail service) and hasn’t reopened.  Schools are closed.  Again.  My office building is closed.  Again.  Day care is closed (I’ll take all the family QT I can get).  And there’s a happy Yeti roaming the streets.

All things considered, we’re faring pretty well.  [Side note: I think this article, A Blizzard of Perspective, is well worth a read.] We have a safe, warm home, reliable tank-like transportation (snow tires 4 life), a stockpile of necessities (diapers, water, hot pink MagLites and batteries, tea and salty snacks), and, you know, one another.

Snowed in take-out and a fabulous Blue Dragon giveaway

Oh and food. This weather just begs for comfort food.

Is it me, or does being snowed in make us all extra hungry and a tiny bit lazy?  Forget the Freshman 15, I’m working on the Snowmageddon 15.  Just kidding.  Kind of.

With the roads so messy, we can’t really order delivery in good conscience, so we’ve been enjoying some take out favorites at home, thanks to Blue Dragon and the generous package of goods they send our way.

In addition to the Chicken Pad Thai with Blue Dragon Pad Thai Stir Fry Sauce pictured above (how cute is that little take-out box?!), our Sunday night snowed in take-out menu also featured:

Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls with Blue Dragon Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce (vegetarian)

Snowed in take-out and a fabulous Blue Dragon giveaway

Stir fried tofu and vegetables with Blue Dragon Szechuan Pepper Stir Fry Sauce (also vegetarian)

Stir fried vegetables and tofu with red pepper sauce

I think this was my first time cooking with a wok, which Blue Dragon kindly sent me along with their delicious sauces, noodles, and rice paper wraps.  Whipping up dinner was so quick and easy. I know we’ll be coming back to these recipes and sauces for busy mid-week dinners.

Blue Dragon giveaway

Blue Dragon is named after the Chinese symbol of good fortune and was founded thirty years ago to help people create authentic Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese dishes at home. Their sauces are available in several flavors including Szechuan Pepper (my favorite), Chow Mein and General Tao.

Sauces that are vegan and vegetarian are clearly labeled (this lady appreciates that!), and include a really helpful shopping list and suggested recipes (which can easily be made vegetarian) on the back. 

Blue Dragon giveaway

Blue Dragon products are available locally at Roche Brothers, Shaws, Market Basket and Stop & Shop.  Several stores are hosting tastings this month, including the Demoulas/Market Basket in Revere on February 14th and 23rd.

Blue Dragon Giveaway

Blue Dragon giveaway

Looking to make your own take-out at home?  I’m thrilled to be hosting a Blue Dragon giveaway today.  One reader will win a fantastic cooking kit that includes:

  • Samples of Blue Dragon sauces
  • A wok and spatula! 
  • Take-out containers and chopsticks
  • … five feet of snow not included

To enter, please comment below.  One winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, February 17th. 

Contest entrants are only eligible to win once per sweepstake, per household as part of a campaign sponsored by Influence Central.  To learn more about Blue Dragon, you can find them on Facebook and YouTube, or check out their online cookbook, Chop To Chopsticks, for authentic Asian recipes and inspiration.

And now, back to shoveling.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Getting started on the Get Messy Art Journal Challenge <3
  • Thinking spring (it’s not really working…)
  • Teaching Grace how to High-5 Clark (I can’t stop laughing)

What is your favorite take-out inspired meal to make at home with friends or family?  (Feel free to share a link!)

 

Today: One year of Grace.

Technically, it’s been a year and five days, but hey.  

Grace turned one last week.  And what a fast, happy, wonderful, challenging, beautiful year it has been.  I snuck into her room at 12:16 last Thursday (she was sound asleep, a rare occurrence) just to see her and watch her and think about that first time we met her at that very same time, on that very same night.

Happy Birthday, Grace!

Yes, that barrette is for real.

 

Becoming and being a mother has been overwhelming in the best possible way.  It has made me tougher and it has made me softer.  It has made me infinitely more in love with the Universe, and it has made me infinitely more worried about things I never paid attention to before.  Like electrical outlets.  And the measles (don’t get me started).  Being Grace’s mother has made me so proud of myself, but it has also put my ego firmly in check.  

Being a parent has made me appreciate my own parents in a way I wish I could have before.  Because I would have been a more grateful, more delightful, better behaved (maybe) child.  I am hopeful that whole “better late than never” thing applies here.  My parents are just the best.  

I used to wonder why people called their children 13-month-olds and 17-month-olds and whatever.  Mostly, I have no idea how people keep track (so math challenged).  But when I think about how much Grace changes each day, let alone each week or month, I kind of get it.  When you’re nearly 33, you really shouldn’t give your age in months.  Because whether you just turned 32, or you almost 33, you’re pretty much the same person developmentally.  In my case: still bad at small talk, still pretty great at color coding, still hate most pants and cooked vegetables, still love checking the mail and taking naps on my yoga mat.

Our 1 year old/12 month old, on the other hand, has become such a person since being the born.   All the changes are both amazing and a tiny bit bittersweet.  

She started talking a few months ago and seems to know new words every few days.  Right now the b-words (not the b-word,  not ever I hope) are her favorites: bath, bubbles, books, baby, and bye.  We’ve practiced some baby sign language (this book has been a great resource) — Grace has mastered the signs for more, eat, milk, all done, and book.  

She has 3 teeth (and 4 on the way), 900% more hair than even two months ago and the teeniest, cutest feet that fit in precisely zero pairs of shoes.  The only thing more confusing than women’s jeans sizing is baby’s shoe sizing.

Grace is starting to let go of our hands and the furniture when standing up, but hasn’t started walking yet.  She likes to dance, climb, crawl, and sneak her way over to the printer and cable box.  She can point to people when we say their names, turn pages in her books, nod when she says “yes,” and wag her finger when someone says “no” (I still don’t know where she learned this — it’s both hilarious and kind of strange). 

She is obsessed with Clark and recently started feeding and kissing and hugging him… and trying to take naps on top of him.  He likes the first three, and tolerates the fourth. 

Grace loves to eat.  She likes being fed, and really enjoys feeding herself.  She has mastered drinking water through a straw, and will soon stop taking a bottle at daycare. I am still breastfeeding her in the morning, evenings, at 2 AM or 3 AM or 4 AM (or whenever Grace feels like it) and on the weekends, but I’ve stopped pumping at work (hallelujah).  I never imagined we’d make it this long (and it hasn’t been easy), but I am grateful.    

We chose to name our baby Grace because we loved the name, but she really is such a grace in our lives.  What a year it has been.

Oh and P.S.: If you’re in the early part of the first year of parenting (or really any time, but especially in the beginning), be gentle and kind with yourself.  You are doing a great job. 

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s changed for your this year?  How many months old are you (just kidding… unless you know…)?

 

Today: Game changing snacks.

Our hometown team is playing in the big game this weekend and all this talk of, well… deflated balls has distracted from what really matters: the food.  

My friends at Blue Diamond Almonds recently sent me two of their tastiest flavors to incorporate into some game-worthy snacks.  Whether you’re heading to Arizona (please take me and all three feet of snow with you) or hosting friends at home, I hope you’ll enjoy these simple, but delicious snacks.  

Smoky almond and black bean dip

I had never thought to add almonds to my favorite vegetarian dip, but I love the warm, smoky flavor they add.  

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of organic black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup of Blue Diamond Smokehouse almonds
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Um… put everything in the blender and pulse.
  2. Garnish with a few chopped almonds and serve with fresh vegetables or tortilla chips.

Vegetable dumplings with Wasabi & Soy Sauce almonds

This recipe is a tiny bit more involved, but still easy (I promise).  It makes 6 dumplings and can easily be doubled… or tripled… or whatever.  I chose to quickly pan fry my dumplings, but you might consider baking or steaming them.

Ingredients:

  • Wonton wrappers
  • Your choice of finely chopped vegetables (I used what I had on hand: shredded carrots, sugar snap peas, mung bean sprouts, red bell peppers, green onions), approximately 2 cups
  • 1/4 cup of Blue Diamond Wasabi & Soy Sauce almonds, chopped
  • Splash of liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil (or olive oil)

Directions:

  1. For the filling: in a bowl, combine vegetables, almonds and liquid aminos
  2. Add a small amount of filling to the center of each wonton wrapper
  3. Carefully fold each wrapper in half and seal the edges with water
  4. In a hot skillet or frying pan, cook dumplings (two at a time) in coconut oil, flipping until each side is browned.
  5. Serve with liquid aminos or soy sauce for dipping.

Simple, easy and uncomplicated.  That’s how I like my game time snacks.  As for the game itself, well… complicated is interesting, right?

This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. For more Game Changing Snacks, visit Blue Diamond Almonds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Also On Tap for Today:

What are you whipping up for Sunday?

Today: The best case scenario.

I’m a worrier.  And I have an overactive imagination.  It’s not a great combination.  The last thing you want to ask me is, “What’s the worst case scenario?” or “What’s the worst that could happen?” Because I will answer.  In exhaustive detail.  

It might be in my genes, or it might be a little bit by choice.  I’m starting to think it’s the latter.

I was traveling for work earlier this week when bam!  It hit me.  Or more accurately, bam! Another car hit my crappy rental car (and I’m sorry for saying crappy, but… it was crappy).  

When it comes to car accidents, what happened to me would certainly be considered the best case scenario.  I am fine (truly… I think my hairdo got flattened a tiny bit, but that’s really it), the other driver is fine.  Neither car had a speck of damage.  

And yet, long after the shock wore off, I found myself dwelling in what could have been. 


 What if one of us did get hurt?  What if the cars had been damaged and needed costly repairs?  What if I didn’t make my flight home?  What if I hadn’t left 9 car lengths between me and the car ahead of me (safety first, my friends), and then I hit that car?  And what if one of us were going somewhere really important, and we didn’t get there on time?  And what if when I got out to inspect our cars, I slipped in all that snow because I was wearing ridiculous shoes (which I was) and broke one of my legs and also lost my phone at the same time and maybe got amnesia and therefore couldn’t remember any phone numbers, and then wasn’t able to get in touch with Nick to tell him that I had a broken leg, needed to get a new phone, had forgotten my entire life story, and was stranded in Detroit? 


I’d like to say that falling into such a spiral of interesting, yet unproductive thoughts was a rare event.  But it’s not. While I genuinely believe in the good, I often catch myself expecting the bad.  The annoying.  The frustrating.  The ugly. 

I think it would be easy to point to all the proof around us that things aren’t perfect.  And there is so much we cannot control, and can’t choose.  But just like I can choose between boots and sparkly flats, I can choose my outlook.  I can choose my attitude (as challenging as that can be).  Having choices is a grace.  Having choices means we’re still empowered.  It means that we’re still doing okay.

This is my long winded way of telling you that it’s time for me to start focusing on the best case scenario.  The one where we all get home safely.  The one where our ridiculous but beautiful shoes serve us well.  The one where we treat each other kindly, even when our cars crash into one another.  The one where I have an empty seat next to me on one flight, and a nice person sitting next to me on the next (And yes!  That really happened!).  No amnesia, no broken legs, no missed flights.

What a nice place to dwell.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s the best that could happen for you today?

 

Today: My favorite online classes.

I spend a lot of time in schools for work, which often makes me miss… being in school.  It also probably explains why I’ve had a cold for six months.  I’m pretty sure I always loved being a student.  Even in middle school, when I had a broken ankle and braces and glasses and an uggo haircut all at the same time.

My favorite online classes for art, photography and creativity

By the time I made it to college, got my math requirement out of the way (dark times), and had the freedom and flexibility to take classes that actually interested me… that’s when things got really good.  I studied French and Fine Arts, which means I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing, a lot of memorizing facts, a lot of dissecting other people’s artwork, and a tiny bit of drawing.  I went to museums and starred at microfiche.  I learned how to translate contracts, took a semester of Arabic, recited poems, and yes… performed a puppet show in Medieval French (probably both the worst and best moment of my years at BC).

As grown ups, there are plenty of opportunities to take classes in person (the BCAE comes to mind), but I really love the flexibility of online classes.  Here are a few of my favorites for those of you looking to infuse a bit of creativity into your day.  Or night.  Or train commute.  Or whatev.

Nicole’s Classes

You may remember my posts from last winter (here and here) when I took the Floral Arranging 101 class through Nicole’s Classes.  While I worked quite a bit while I was on maternity leave, I also found myself with both time to fill (namely, those 2 hour stints when Grace was sound asleep… and yes, I know, sleep when the baby sleeps) and a desire to keep my brain as engaged as possible.

 Their classes include photography, design, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign, and each class runs live for 2-4 weeks.  For the 4 week floral arranging class, for example, we worked through one lesson and assignment each week.  What sets Nicole’s Classes apart, is that it is an app that you download and install on your computer.  Within the app, you’ll find the course(s) that you registered for, video lessons and a gallery to share your course work.  There is a high level of engagement in these galleries from both instructors and classmates, and I found the feedback on each project I posted to be so helpful.  

Classes range from $125-325, but there is also a lot of great free content on the Nicole’s Classes website, including these great tutorials.

Craftsy

I’m currently taking a self-paced DSLR basics class on Craftsy.  They roped me in with a New Year’s sale– I believe I paid $25 for Basics of Digital Photography, which includes 9 lessons and hours and hours of video instruction.  After years of shooting in manual (and… having lost my camera manual, despite downloading it, like, six times), I am trying to step up my game a bit.

In addition to photography classes, Craftsy has self-paced classes in:

  • Art (painting, drawing)
  • Cake decorating
  • Food and cooking
  • Home and garden
  • Jewelry
  • Paper crafts
  • Yarn and fiber arts

All classes are web-based, and you can jump back into your lesson whenever you have time.  I’ve found the class to be very user-friendly and love that, like Nicole’s Classes, there is a lot of interaction with other students and the instructor (there is a chat area on the class’ home screen) and a dedicated project gallery for the class.

Craftsy also features a community marketplace where you can buy patterns from independent designers, view projects from other classes and read articles on their blog (two recent posts: create a custom wirework heartbeat necklace and vegan caesar salad with roasted chickpeas and almonds).

Alisa Burke online classes

Alisa Burke is one of my go-to ladies for creative inspiration.  Her classes are fun, accessible and inexpensive and cover everything from technique (lots of watercolor and ink), to sketching prompts, to sourcing unexpected tools and materials. 

Alisa releases new classes each season (many of them with seasonal themes such as summer sketching) and each class includes video lessons, text and visual examples.  While most of her classes are for visual artists (of all levels, truly), she also offers several classes for those who own creative businesses.  

Oh, and her blog is definitely worth a visit — lots of stunning photography of the West Coast, tutorials, family art-making, interviews with other artists, etc.

Recommended reading

If an online class isn’t in the cards, here are a few of my favorite books that might help you make room for creativity:

You know what they say.  You’re never too old to get an awful middle school haircut to learn.

Also On Tap for Today:

Have you ever taken an online class?  Favorites/Wish list classes?