Working With My Favorite Knife

Working With My Favorite Knife Carolina Elena gouache on board 9X12 2017


Working With My Favorite Knife 2017. gouache on board 9 x 12

Sorry folks, no time to write. I have been painting, but other responsibilities and the wicked flu, that has been going around, have prevented me from getting on the blog. I am not so sure about combining my painting blogging with my cooking blogging. I will figure it out. You can always find me on Instagram @carolina_elena_

Until next time,

breath easy.

oops! almost forgot - what's my favorite knife to work with in my kitchen? The Wüsthof Classic 7" Nikiri Knife. It makes me sing while chopping vegetables.




A friend, via Facebook, was intrigued by the gouache I used. I wrote a long response to her. I thought someone else might benefit from what I wrote, so I am copying it here, below. Hope it is useful to you.

Thank you Sheri, Sherri, & Lara. I appreciate your comments. Gouache is a medium that I, too, am intrigued by. My first few tries at it made me feel like it was under the guillotine - I am serious. It was the death of me. The first few tries at it where 100% flat and dead on arrival. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING worked. I came to the conclusion that it was a medium for illustrators, fabric designers, etc. and that it was the gouache paint, itself, that gave their designs that flat 70's look. It was not a medium for me. Then I saw the work of Mike Hernandez (I now follow him on Instagram) and I saw, for the first time, gouache with luminosity. I was stunned. I thought- " It is possible? I will just go to the source and take a 2 day workshop from the man and have him show me how the hell he did it." Easy, right? Not so fast, little grasshopper. The workshop, itself, was not that expensive, but after calculating costs for flights, hotels, rental car, meals, etc., it was out of the question. I was stuck with my flat results and "shelved" the gouache in a box... but I kept seeing this man's luminous work. Again... how the hell does he do that? It would not let go of my brain, then I saw the work of an illustrator called PixelPChan (I also follow him on Instagram.) His work actually looks almost pixelated... it was like a broken down Mike Hernandez gouache painting. This got me thinking on how to treat each brush stroke as an individual layer and make each answer the "call" to what I was seeing. Was the color just a color, what value was it that I was seeing? How to do that, and NO MORE, was the challenge I was facing. I had to let go of the "shape," or, rather, I had to let go of trying to paint the shape, and only paint the value in the hue I was seeing. This forced me to "sculpt" the shape into existence, but remain firmly entrenched in the goal that the value/hue had a higher priority in my attempt than the likeness. And so, I kept at it. The paint dries so fast, that it can be layered easily, just like watercolor, but since it is opaque, I can "correct & sculpt" as I go along. This was a negative when I first started working with it... now it is a positive. The fact the paint, in my palette, can dry to a crusty lump and be brought back to life with a spritz of water, is very forgiving- there is zero waste.

Gouache palette


The fact that I can paint on any piece of paper or board is a Godsend when I am concerned about how much money I spend. These past couple of paintings with gouache have been painted on canvas art board from Canson ( essentially a compressed paper board that is meant as a practice surface for oils or acrylics.)

Gouache materials

These boards come in a pad that I can either paint directly on and remove the top layer after I am done (as I do when I am painting plein air, or I remove a board and place it on my easel when painting a still life indoors.) I really like that one surface allows me to paint in any medium I want; it makes me feel like I am not wasting the material, it forgives me if I screw up and want to switch mediums. The gouache paint I use is like all gouache paint- a water-based medium that is opaque. This means that, like watercolor, you use water to mix colors with and for cleanup. The brands I can usually find are Windsor Newton (Designers gouache,) Holbein (Artists' gouache,) and M. Graham (Artists gouache.) All three of these brands, in my opinion, are interchangeable as far as quality goes. The reason I choose these three brands is the density of the actual pigment in each tube is high (think luscious color!) I use fairly short handled brushes with a synthetic fibers by Escoda (Versatíl.)

Gouache paint tubes and brushes


I have two flats (sizes 16 & 18 nearly identical in case I want to switch colors with out washing the brush) and a cat's tongue brush in size 16 that gives me a bit of a point, also from the same brand. I have to admit, though, that I bought the three brushes not really knowing which one I really needed, but find that I can paint an entire painting with only the 16 flat. Those sizes are a fairly large brush ratio to the board size, this keeps me from getting too precious about the shapes I am trying to paint. Talk about a weight savings when I am out there en plein air. So the canvas board pad, the 16 flat, an old plastic peanut butter jar with fresh water in it, a cheap plastic palette that comes with it's own cover, and a handful of paper towels... where the hell was this when I was spending $$$$ along my path of learning how to paint? Going forward, as I learn to paint, I get the fact that what I am really learning is how to compartmentalize each brush stroke into a layer of color and to use those layers of color to sculpt the object I am trying to portray. Sherri... I hope this helps. The lack of a bazillion pieces of equipment is beginner friendly. All you have to do is get past the fact that the guillotine phase is normal. I am not like Lara, who has a talent beyond talents, but I am sure she would attest that her skill has come from repetition and not inborn ability... that is the how it is with most painters. I feel like I am on my way to being a "club member," despite not having anyone show me how it is done. If you can afford to take the workshop, by all means DO IT, it will get you "there" that much faster. If, like me, the money or the flexibility to fly off somewhere to take a workshop, just "ain't happening" for you, don't let it deter you from figuring it out on your own. Face the damn fear, and realize that there is, actually, life after the guillotine. It only takes acceptance of the fact that failure is an integral part of mastering this thing we want to be able to do. Good luck. Let me know if you try it.

My gouache palette set up


and like I said before... breath easy.

Painter Of Dirty Skies

I have been wondering how you all are doing. Are you back into the swing of things now that the kids are back in school? Did you get your oldest one off to college? Have you been hiking the mountains pondering your next move? Well these are the things I have been doing. Image

I have hiked with and without friends... somehow, though, my chubby little self is ALWAYS last and lagging far behind. Makes for good photos, though. I spent the first couple of months blaming it all on the altitude, but I have come to face the music and realize that anyone, in my "well padded", chubby state would be panting along side me. Those kind of people don't seem to exist up here, so I just take my place at the end of the line and am grateful to be up there with the FFs (chubby girl code speak for the "Fit Folks.".)


The other day I went up Vail Mountain... good thing I have a year round pass for the gondola... it would have been a very long day without it.


Now, on some days, I will hitch my pack on and give it a good hike before settling on a spot to paint.


But on this particular day, I am telling you about now, I only made it 50 meters beyond the gondola landing zone to where the viewing deck is located.


Now, you have to understand, this view, from the viewing deck is spectacular. In the distance I can spot the peak where I nearly had a heart attack a few weeks back. Up there, looking out at the Sawatch Range, it feels like THAT is the view to paint. But it isn't. It is almost too daunting. Maybe some day I will tackle it. Anyways, on with the story. I clicked in the plastic buckles of my backpack and turned to begin my hike to find a more "reasonable" painting location. I think I took only four or five steps and stopped dead in my tracks. There it was- the ugliest part of the entire mountain, the top of one of the lifts, showing itself off to me in all it's glory. How many times had I dismissed this view? But I was unable to shake it. I walked a few feet more and then returned to my spot near the viewing platform, unpacked my gear and began.


So what was so different this time? The CLOUD. I had to paint it.


I made a sketch in my sketchbook and, when I got home, painted it with my pastels. As I told you a few posts back, I have fallen in love with the pastels. However, I must admit, it is a love/hate relationship. The pastels are heavy to carry with me on my hikes. That would be bad enough, but they also have another drawback - once you are done with the pastel painting, you just can't fix it and forget it. Spray fixative does nothing to prevent it from smearing if you rub up against them (or stack them, even.) so the ONLY solution is to frame them... read "EXPENSIVE". Being that this whole living-in-the-mountains experiment is only temporary, I can assure you that none of my artwork is going to get framed. Packing that, at the end, would be cumbersome to say the least. So I have started to do two things: one is to take my little sketchbook along with me (definitely lighter load) and then do the pastels back at the house, but... BUT... it is a rental... I would freak out if I ruined the floors so I have to be uncharacteristically careful when I paint. So the other thing I have been doing is learning how to paint with oils, en plein air, out there in nature, on the spot.

This one, above, is oils done on paper (read:"cheap, cheap"), it is about 12"x12" and is of my favorite rock (don't you have a favorite rock?) If a rock could smile, I think this rock would have a really wide grin as the sun comes up in the east and warms it to the point of being hot to the touch, no matter how cool the day. Now I know that oil painting is not my "thing." My mother (bless her heart, I love her more than she can imagine) thinks I should just stick to what I am finally seeing some success in - that is pastels. My husband (I love him too) thinks my pastels "have more subtleties" to them. Granted. But what about the 80/20 rule?
The 80/20 rule states that you should do what you are good at 80% of the time! but that 20% of the time you should push yourself way out of your comfort zone otherwise progress is not only slow, but you risk screeching to a standstill without noticing it. This applies to everything. Cooking - 20% of the time you should be cooking something that forces you to learn something new, wether it is a new technique, a new cuisine from afar, or a simply new vegetable. If you are an athlete (I am speaking out of supposition, here, OBVIOUSLY), if you just run around the same track over and over again, you will get exercise, but your progress will be stunted. Changing up your routine just 20% of the time forces your muscles, and your muscle memory, and of course your brain, to LEARN... and that is what life is all about, isn't it?

Sure, we can say that life is all about those we love... true... but is that all there is to life? When we were little, we grew by leaps and bounds. I am not talking about physically. Everything we did, every moment, was a learning experience. We need to keep that up... until our last breath.
Ok. I am getting a little too deep, perhaps, let's lasso it back in to the title of this post - Painter of Dirty Skies. So, this morning I went out on a hike... backpack, easel, water bottle, & cowboy hat... all the gear my little pack mule self could carry and I risked all self conscious thoughts and painted down on the Miller Ranch trail. I must have had more than twelve people come right up to my easel and look between it and my view and then (hold on tight) ... comment on what I was doing. Tonight, in my prayers, I have to remember to thank God for making them all such gentle folk. Bless their hearts. At one point a pack of elementary school kids on an educational outing appeared out of nowhere. They were an energetic and inquisitive bunch, but oh so unexpectedly gentle.


They brought back good memories of my teaching days - children, of all ages, are so generous in their spirit.
So this is the painting I did:


So why am I thinking I might someday be known as the "painter of dirty skies"? Because when I was finally done cleaning up and re- packing up my stuff...

Yup. I could have kicked myself. In fact, I am pretty sure all those sweet little children, who were by then quite a ways down the trail, heard the "painter with the cowboy hat on" cussing and swearing like a drunken sailor. GRRRR. You can't imagine how mad I was. All that glorious morning painting out there in heaven-on-earth ended in me cussing. The bad part, I must confess, is that this is not the first time this has happened. I have no idea why I was first in line when they were handing out the klutziness genes, but trust me, I was the first one up for the doling out. So here I sit, staring at my dirty painting waiting for it to dry so I can attempt to fix it. I don't think the worst thing in life is to drop a painting in the dirt after all that effort. The worst thing would have been to never try to paint it in the first place.

Love to all of you, hugs and kisses too.

Your painter of dirty skies,


Does Daily Exercise Make A Difference?

Painting Is Easy

This little watercolor I made, above, is of one of my favorite quotes. Edgar Degas said this - and I never would have believed him until now. Now that I am getting deeper and deeper into this painting ride, the more I know, the harder it gets.

My studio is a great space for me to create when I have a big project going on.

Studio 5:30:2013

Sometimes, those big projects take days and weeks to complete. And SOMETIMES THE REST OF MY LIFE TAKES OVER. You know what I mean. I am talking to all the mommies out there who want to do art and those artists that have not yet taken the step to push everything else aside because they now can make a living from of their art.

I have discovered that I am not capable of balance. Nope. I am completely inept at it. However - I am getting a WHOLE lot better at juggling. I have found a little secret that helps me.


Keep a journal.

Journal 5:2013

Keeping a journal is a way of keeping the wheels greased.

So how many times have you been on the web, determined to take up visual journaling again, drooling, as you oggle the mind blowing journals that some artists keep? Or when you are in Barnes & Noble you pick up yet ANOTHER blank journal - promising yourself that this one is going to be different, THIS one you are going to keep at it ... this one (insert sigh) is going to be gorgeous  ... one that will be vibrant, full of juicy colors, wild and freeeee and that if you create it the way you invision it, well then, years after you are gone it might be discovered with the answers that unlock the questions from your greatest finished masterpieces?

There is only one weeeeee little problem nagging you... even as your credit card goes swiftly through the card reader.

You know, deep down inside, that you are BALANCE-CHALLENGED and you have failed, miserably, at keeping an art journal way too many times to admit to another human being.

"Oh no! Carolina has been reading my thoughts!"

Not quite.

I am guessing you and I might not be all that different and unique.

So what to do?


Secret For The Balance-Challenged: 


That is it. The key. Your journal is YOUR journal. You can cherry pick your entries in the distant future and share "the good ones", but if you don't just have at it, yucky goofs and all, you will never really reap the benefits of what is most valuable about keeping a journal - that is that the daily exercise of doing little snippets of creative work in your journal keeps you connected to the creative core of you, it keeps the wheels greased so that when you do finally get your dedicated chunk of longer art time, you are able to zero in and access the creative you instantly. By keeping a journal, you and your creative self have been in dialog, you are comfortable with each other. There is no more looking for The Muse. In case you haven't noticed, there is a change in my banner title and now you can access me at , The Muse of The Day is gone ... for I get it now, I am the muse. My daily entries in my journal prove it to me.

I promise to show you more, but, for now, lets just take a quick peek into one of my journals, yucky goofs and all.

Here is a journal entry showing a corner in my house that has these wooden shelf holders slated to go in my daughters room - these have been in this same location on the floor, next to my hiking backpack for at least 3 months. Embarrasing, but true. At every dinner party I have had, folks ask me what they are. I call it my little corner of guilt. I will get to hanging them. Promise.

Journal 5:2013 1


Want to see a goof page?

Journal 5:2013 2

That was where I tested out some new materials. A few days later I went back at this page, you can see it on the right side of the spread, below, you can also see, on the left side, just how much I struggled at properly drawing the tea kettle :

Journal 5:2013 3


One day I knew it was going to be crazy busy and that time in the studio, that day, was not going to be a possibilty. On my way out the door I spotted a bag of corriander seeds, I had purchased at an Asian market, sitting on the kitchen counter. A quick painting sketch with my little Koi travel watercolor kit, a few notes about what I was thinking while I painted it, and out the door I went:

Journal 5:2013 4

I have been teaching an Intro. to Drawing class to some ladies in my town. I don't think I am the greatest artist, but I share, freely, what I know. One day we did an exercise of contour drawing that we colored in after we were done with the drawing part, it is in my journal as well:

Journal 5:2013 5

On the right hand side of this next image, you can see a pink page with some writing in it - I am not showing it, here, because I use my journal to scribble in my private thoughts too. Remember a journal is for you, put it all in there & later on, if you want to share your journal, you can do as I suggest and cherry pick it.

Journal 5:2013 6

This next one only brings one word to mind - YUCK. But I am including it here for reality's sake.

Journal 5:2013 7

This next one was done on Mother's Day, which almost went unnoticed as we had my husband's father go in the hospital that day for an emergency procedure. I managed to do this little quick sketch out in my garden while feeling the warmth of the early morning sun - that was more than enough Mother's Day gratitude for me.

Journal 5:2013 8

I have a few points to make with this blog post that I think are worth repeating.

Don't be so precious and worry if your daily sketch is worthy or not. Put it all in there - goofs, good ones, and thoughts.

Journal 5:2013 9

And that doing this journal keeping with sketches, paintings, testing of materials, and thoughts, will keep your wheels greased for when you have a bigger chunck of time available to you to work on a larger project.

Start your day off with it, if you can make it work that way.

Journal 5:2013 10

At whatever time of day you do it, in whatever kind of journal you have handy, with whatever materials you have, and with a definite checking at the door of all preciousness ... doing this daily exercise will make a difference. A BIG ONE.


Hope you enjoyed the peek in my journal.



Self Portrait

The words in this post are ones that I have copied directly from a posting I did on a group Facebook page where I shared my most recent painting with my fellow "Bloom True" students. I am not posting all the tons of comments & thoughts they had, but it was really great to get loads of wonderful feedback from them. I am including, here, the steps that the canvas went through so that you can see just how many "booboos" and  redirections a painting can take you through. Hope you enjoy it. These are the exact words that I wrote:

This was difficult to paint, but it is even more difficult to share. I decided to do a self portrait, not of what I look like, but rather of who I am, or better said : where I am. I chose to include words in my painting. The words cut through the middle of the canvas, separating what was once, and what is now. They are of a poem by A.R. Ammons. It is only one sentence long, without any difficult words to look up in a dictionary, but in just one sentence (the entire poem), he encapsulates it all for me. I will rewrite it, here, for you, incase you can not see it well enough in the painting.

The spring

her step

turned to

Self Portrait 4:2013


Spring  trees

Self P. #1 4:2013

Self p. #2 4:2013

Self p. #3 4:2013

Self p. #4 4:2013

Self p.#5 4:2013

Self p. #6 4:2013

Self p. #7 4:2013

Self p. #8 4:2013

Self p. #9 4:2013

Self p. #10 4:2013

Self p. #11 4:2013

Self Portrait 4:2013

There is nothing on the canvas for the purpose of decoration. The left side of the canvas is the before; more youthful in treatment of color and shapes it represents my role as mother (both the location of the seed source in the flower & and the nod to a "Madonna" type "headdress.) She, the younger one, looks at me now (right side), from behind, as if placed in the background in the "what once was", but because "she" looks at "me" it is a play on how I go back and forth to being her, the younger me is still in me. On the right side (me, now), the flower, & seed source, has been moved to my head for it is from there that all new creations, for me, are coming from. I had a chemical accident when I was living on a boat, about ten years ago, and we were caught in a horrific storm at sea. The chemicals got into my left eye and I am left with no externally visible scars, but I can see with that eye as if looking through celophane - a major pain in the neck if you are trying to become an artist. This "bad" eye, that I have is the blue one that is a sad thing I deal with and yet what is even more sad is that even with a bad eye, I can see all the suffering that goes on in this world. Having said that, one is left to wonder why is the "good" eye, then, covered? This is because I am trapped behind a wall whereby I do not have the skill set, in art, to express well enough what I want to express. It is almost as if I can "see it" in my minds eye, but it is not accessible for clear viewing. Yes, this painting is full of deep emotion for me, some of it quite unsettling as I recognize myself getting older. However, I must point to the two bright areas in the canvas - in both sides, the before side & the now side, there is glorious light in my head - that is the constant. It is not only the constant, but it is also what I choose to focus on. So if, as the poem alludes, beauty is something that slips away from us, is it not only on the outer surface that it slips away? I believe so. As Wren pointed out, just as we depend on the sun coming out the next day after the darkest night, then so to, when there is a fall it only comes as a preparation for the next spring - in all senses of the meanings of those words, fall & spring. I am luckier than most, for I am clear about who I am and where I am at - a solid platform for the years of future dedication to attaining that somewhat elusive skill set. It will be a good day when those skills catch up to all I have to say.



Until next time,

thought you would enjoy a snippet of what I have been up to,



Lesson Learned

I know it has been a more than a bit since I was last here, on the blog. Believe me, it has not been for lack of stuff to share with you. Lately, I have had a difficult time keeping up with my own shadow. The girls had Spring Break and we decided to kill two birds with one stone by going back down to Florida where they could lay out on the beach, while I worked on the rental house, painting rooms, replacing the inner workings of six toilets, changing out a million door handles that had been pitted by the salt air, etc. - yuck work - all of it.

It is a ten and a half hour drive to get there and most of it was spent wishing I was back in my studio painting. What are the chances that I would see this trailer on the highway and that it would have this as a spare wheel cover?


Seeing the pool was tempting, but there was major work that had to get done.


I almost cried at the sight of my mango tree as I made a quick check of the grounds when I got there. I planted the mango when it was only a wee foot or so high and was in a 6" pot. I could not believe how much it had grown in my absence. I don't know if the actual tears I shed where because I could see the buds that would be future mangoes and I knew I wouldn't be getting a chance to taste them, or if in fact I was crying because all of the overwhelming efforts that I have put out in a lifetime of moving from one home to another, the endless conveyor belt of one house turned into a home, to the next compilation of bare windows and walls turned into another home, just all came crashing down on me in that one instant.


The gorgeous flowers all over Florida did nothing to abate my depression.


In all the days I was there, despite the fact that the house is no more than eight minutes from the beach, I did not get to see the sea. The only only water I saw, was the swirling action down those six toilets. By the time I made the ten and a half hour trip back, here, I was absolutely convinced that my priorities are way out of whack.

The first thing a I did was order myself a new chair. At $177 I was afraid I might be wasting my money. I was even more concerned when it arrived in a small box and I realized I would have to put it together. In the box was an insignficant sized piece of paper, that I could have clearly missed, with an oversimplified diagram of how the whole thing went together. No words or other instructions where included.

Unbelievably, as I am technically challenged, the thing actually went together without any big sighs, head scratching, or orphaned left over extra parts. The seat height is adjustable as well as the height of the foot rest. The beauty of the whole thing, though, is that it actually is WICKED comfortable. I have used it daily, for 6 hours at a time, and I have to say that at $177 it is an absolute steal!


While I was at it, I reorganized my entire workspace. Now, my desk position allows me to stare out the window. Some day I am going to build myself a studio that is flooded with sunlight. It is going to have more windows than you can shake a stick at. In the meantime,this little remodeling fit that I have had will have to do.


So, Flora's e-course, is over, but the Facebook group that was formed for it, is still going strong. We have made lasting connections on it and the amount of art work being exchanged there, between me and 300 other brave folks who took the course, is downright dizzying!

This is the latest piece that I am working on - no need to make an assessment on it as it is still only in it's infancy:


I got to thinking about just how much taking her class, and connecting with others via that class, helped me make the time I spend on doing creative activities more productive. In an affort to get the most out of what is left of 2013, I have decided to fill it with other classes. I am signed up for several - all of them are so exciting that sleep, and the time it takes to recoup in a night, is seriously in question. I do have a fear, though. I would not be me if I didn't hear all those voices crowding out my creative thoughts. I worry that my time gets squandered on the never ending debate in my head about how to become a better artist and which medium or format, I should focus my efforts on. It is a lot to explain, but if you are a regular reader, here, on the blog, then you know I have discussed it with you to infinitum. I made a quick little painting sketch of what I am feeling, and fearing, for those of you who haven't been with me for long: 


So, fear, or no fear, those fears coming to fruition or not, I have signed up for a few classes that are sure to push me beyond my abilities. The first one that I am sharing with you is already in progress. I am taking a lettering class from Val Web. I am well aware that it is a total 180 from Flora Bowley's class, but I picked it because I absolutely STINK at lettering. When I made that piece about being the way the world needs me to be, I was in a total funk about my letters. By taking Val's class, I am not looking for perfection, but rather I am hoping to better define my own style of lettering.

We began by learning how to make block letters. Any thoughts from my kneaded eraser that it was not the center of my existence where quickly erased! (ha,ha, could not resist sticking that in)


I realize that all my classes, and the work that gets pushed to the surface from their assignments, are just the beginning of my journey. I must tread lightly on my judgements of my work, yet run with the force of a full-on stampede at working through the inherent hiccups of putting in the required 10,000 hours to becoming an artist.

This blog, the work I have done thus far, and the classes I have jumped into, are mere:


I must work through them from the vantage point of being a good student. This is a time to learn, not just about lettering, or what it feels like to paint as if copius art supplies grew on the trees in the forest out my window, but to learn in depth by diving deep.

Let me share with you some of the exercises I have been doing. Remember, judge lightly, these are exercises, mere mile markers in my journey.

For my lettering class we needed to choose a letter and draw/paint some pebbles with the chosen letter. I chose "E", the letter that begins my married last name. After 25 years of marriage I still have a hard time getting used to the fact that my own name has an English word in it. I wondered what I would do with the pebbles if I actually could touch them and they were real pebbles laying around my studio. I thought a necklace might be nice. And so it is.


Aside from working on my Flora painting, my lettering class, and my never ending quilt project, I have taken up a light hearted exercise I do in the studio everyday to get my creative juices flowing.

At the bookstore, I found this book about William Morris. I felt like I was getting away with murder paying only $10 for it. I have been studying the work of William Morris by reading a wonderful e-book  I learned about on that fabulous British textile blog , Design, Decoration, Craft


The work of William Morris is worthy of years of study. I, for now, am giving it a few minutes a day to grease the wheels, so to speak.


So here is what I do: I flip open the book without looking. Any page will do. The art on this page happened to be created by one of Morris' assistants, but I did not continue flipping so as not to skew the task.Then I stare at the image I see for several minutes, absorbing the entire visual feast before my eyes. Then ???


I shut the book! And I draw simply from inspiration:


Form there, and for the next few days, I let the whole thing stew a bit, everyonce in a while sketching what percolates to the surface.


I work it in to what ever I am doing, in this case you can see I ended up with blue flowers to which I added the new lettering skills I am absorbing.

As I said, I have been having a hard time keeping up with my own shadow lately. Doing all this learning is what feels right to do at this leg of my journey. Forgive me for not being here every few days. Melissa P. had the good suggestion whereby I should just send out snippets to you rather than a full blown marathon post. I really, really want to do that for you. I just can't seem to get it together. Posting a blog, as it is, leaves me wondering if all of you are really connecting with what I am saying. Are you out there?


Are you?



Let Nature Give You The Answers

This is my latest painting.

I titled it "Let Nature Give You The Answers."


Painting Let Nature Give You The Answers

Before we begin let me add a shameful disclaimer for the quality of the images. Aside from trying to take photos with messy, paint covered hands while painting in the studio, the light, this week, has been gloomy. We have spent the better part of the week cloaked in an unbearable "penumbre". What follows are photos that I took on the fly, but thought might help to tell the story. This post, then, is an explanation of how I began using Flora's process, and then how my thought process and my intuition took over, making my own process take hold.

So let's get to this.

The canvas was, again, a big one at 4'x4'. It all started out good and well. Flora's process of letting go on the canvas is so freeing, just so unbelievably connected to the way we did art as children, that it is now difficult to imagine starting a painting session without first letting go, watching the lusciousness of the color have it's way on the canvas.


The really dark rectangles you see on the above photo are actually pieces of fabric. When I was setting up my canvas on the easel, I could see that there was the tiniest little pinhole in the canvas. I didn't take two seconds to fret about it - I knew that the tiny pinhole had to be a direct result of all the house moving we have done whereby I have schlepped my canvases and art supplies from state to state in what would appear to be a never ending conveyor belt of moving from one house, turned into a home, to another house, a mere collection of walls, windows, and doors that needs to be turned into, once again, another home. In a former life, I am quite certain that I was a pack mule, and a very good one at that. A tiny pinhole? A minor incident compared to making friends and then having to leave them when I move again.

I gessoed the fabric onto the canvas with Liquitex Clear Gesso. There was only one tiny pinhole, but I decided to fly with it and added several large pieces of fabric. (A note to all fellow "Bloomers" out there - this fabric added to the canvas thing requires further investigation and play.)


On with Flora's process which I now just call FUN, because it is no longer a struggle to "let go."

It does get a bit messy.


But the results can't appear without the mess. With every stroke of the the brush, my hands, the bubble wrap, or whatever I use, there is absolute magic appearing before my very eyes. Layers and layers of magic that would be impossible to reproduce methodically.


On one video this week, Flora held her hands up to the canvas, cupping her hands around different sections of her canvas to more clearly "see what was working" and then it hit me like a bolt of lightening. I actually got a sensation of being taken over, occupied, if you will. I have been waiting - more patiently some days than others, trying to figure out how to express something I experience regularly. Seeing Flora cup her hands up to the canvas gave me the answer I have been hoping for.

As most of you know, I live on a mountain, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by endless nature.


From every window, all I see is nauture. Even from my downstairs studio, I see the path that takes me on my hikes.


In good weather and in bad, I go hiking. I have endless trails at my disposal. When I am hiking, my brain is in "full operation" mode, completely engaged. As my eyes jump from one visual delight to the next, the thoughts in my brain not only keep pace with the ever changing view, but at times, most times, they actually out run what is before my eyes. My brain is flooded with images, both real and imagined. Creativity seems to pump through my entire system. I have always wanted to express that sensation - of images popping up out of nowhere while I am hiking -  in a painting. 


I decided to take Flora's words quite literally and I "framed out" the best parts on my canvas that were bursting in imagery, just like my thoughts while I am hiking.


Then I proceeded to isolate them completely.

This was tough. Isolating the shapes was a whole lot more complicated than I imagined at the onset of this journey ... and I must add very un-Flora like. I wished for a masking fluid type product like they use for watercolor painting. I had none. If there is one and you know about it, I would be superduper nice to you, forever, if you shared the name of it with me.

Painting at this moment

This is the point where I really had to have a a little chat with myself. Literally. It sounds kind of crazy, but there was an internal battle going on in my head between voices that were telling me to "flow-Flora-free", and other voices to put Flora's method on a holding pattern and accept the gift of a vision that I had been given. "Paint the painting", "do it now", "you have been waiting for a way to paint the creativity that flows during your hikes". This conversation lagged for days as I meticulously covered the non-saved parts of the canvas surface.


And then I had to suffer through a major bout of:



How on earth am I supposed to go from here? I hate to confess this, but in the spirit of sharing, I will. What did I do next? I grabbed a spoon and a jar of Nutela and sat in front of my canvas. Chocolate - my go to answer.

Two or three spoonfuls later, I put the Nutella down, and pulled out my sketch book.

This is the point where the art was created.


The rest is history - the rest of the work was done in the service of the canvas.

L1010075 - Version 2

Like a massive submarine coming to the surface, I would come up for air to make a meal, grab another load of laundry, answer the door, or vacuum a few more square feet in an effort to maintain normalacy for the rest of the members that share the living space under this roof with me.

Every time I would plunge back down to the studio, it felt like the bubbles of air rippled up my arms as I my feet barely touched the treads on the stairs. I would leave the lights on in my studio, just so the painting would welcome my return ... as if it had to forgive me for leaving it.

At this point I hit a fork in the road. I wanted the trees to be pink. Yes pink. But I also wanted the trees to be a quiet element in the image. The idea of pink had to be put aside for another canvas, the word "quiet" was stronger. Sometimes it is as easy as stopping to listen.


So I needed to make them brown. How? What do trees look like? I know what trees look like, but I had to actually go out there in the woods and stare at them for a bit. If anybody had been driving by they would have seen a woman, standing in the middle of a forest, in her painting clothes, paintcovered apron, little red shoes, and paintbrush in hand, getting up close, standing nose to "nose", with a tree trunk. I ran back to the studio to paint what I saw... but I failed. I started to paint what I had seen, but quickly realized that the road I was on was the wrong one.


Out came gobs of white paint... and so did a few little words that mommies shouldn't say.


 I kept going and going, painting and painting, hoping that I wouldn't, by accident, cover up one of my "thought shapes."


As you can see, I totally bagged the idea of making the bark look like what was outside my window.

L1010099 (1)

And now it is finished - it has vacated it's turf on the easel and temporarily is next to my bed.


The last painting I showed you, here, is already on to another life. It has since been sold at an auction to benefit children in my area ... I can't think of a better place for it to "bloom" forth. This new painting, I will hold on to for a bit, even though I realize it is now no more than one more mile marker on my journey. I know that others will get their own meaning from it that might have nothing to do with my thoughts. For now, though, I want to relish in the thought that I have paid Nature back by acknowledging how many answers she has provided for me.

"Let Nature Give You The Answers" - it is a good tip, see where it takes you.



Painting Let Nature Give You The Answers

An Accurate Perspective Is Oh So Valuable

OK, so, before we go any further, and we look at the results of my latest efforts in the studio, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to watch this short video. It is the third part of a four part YouTube video series whereby Ira Glass, of NPR radio, gets interviewed on what makes good storytelling. I think we can apply what he is saying to all the arts. You name the art form: writing, sewing, painting, music, drawing, cooking; it does not matter, what he has to say is something we need to perk up our ears to, and take notice. It is vital that as beginning artist we expose ourselves to material, such as this clip, that cushions-the-blow, if you will, when our pieces of art don't quite hit the mark. We need to have an accurate perspective in order to make valid assessments of where we are in our journey to becoming better at that which we have chosen to spend so much effort on.

Watch the video.



This is called Flowers and the Red Vase. It is 2'x5', again very large.

Flowers and the Red Vase #1

I like the mark making. I am in love with the color I find in even the tiniest little bits of the canvas.

These are closeups of the canvas surface:

Flowers & the Red Vase close up #1

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #2

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #3

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #4

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #5

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #6

Flowers & the Red Vase closeup #7

I need to remember what Ira Glass said in the video. I need to remember it, over and over again. I need to keep an accurate perspective  - it is the most valuable component to my improvement as an artist. Without it, I would stop.

Flowers & the Red Vase




Drop In The Bucket

Phew! I have been cranking it out! As you know I have been working on several ongoing projects. Tomorrow I have my second quilting class and it just occurred to me that my quilt top is going to need a quilt "back". I haven't even begun to look at that, so that is what I have left to do today. Therefore this post will be a quickie.

I have always wanted to learn how to paint and you have been gracious to put up with reading my posts that deal with my attempts at painting. Thanks for looking at them, by the way. In looking back at my paintings I noticed that most of them have been done in watercolor. Why is that so? My studio is chock-a-block full of supplies and there are plenty of other kinds of paint kicking around that I don't use.


I think I am afraid of waisting paint.

You know - that much expensive paint should be "reserved" for really good paintings ... like, for when I REALLY know how to paint.

Enter Flora Bowley.

I don't want to BE Flora Bowley. I don't even want to PAINT like her. I don't want my paintings to LOOK like her paintings. I must add, here, that I would not mind owning one, or several, of her paintings. What I DO want is to be able to let go, really let go, like she does. 

This is her book:


Flora Bowley's Book


I am taking her e-course, it is all about letting go with paint. Let me rewrite that. It is all about LETTING GO. I need to let go if I am going to get over my fear of waisting paint. It needs to not matter if my painting looks like "anything". It needs to not matter if my painting is "pretty". It needs to not matter if my painting is liked by anyone, including myself. I am working my way through her book and her course. When I found out about her method, I thought it was "a little out there", but I don't think her concept of "letting go" is out there at all. This concept of letting go, with paint, is what I am working on.

Flora Bowley

What matters is letting go. Gulp. Below you will see the progression of my letting go on a very large 4'x5' canvas. That is a very big canvas for me, but I knew that on that big of a surface I could not paint tightly for long before having to face the music and just paint. Prepare yourself. There are a lot of ugly stages that I am going to show you. Gulp. I am nervous about showing you any of this.

Drop In The Bucket #1

At this point I was CONVINCED that I am a total idiot - the wasting-money-type-housewife-that-needs-to-get-a-life type of idiot.

I persevered.

Drop In The Bucket #2

Still convinced of my idiot status. Added more color ... thought that might lighten the mood, if nothing else.

Drop In The Bucket #3

Fell in love with parts of it. Just small parts of it. Thoughts of "should I cut the canvas up?" circled their way through my brain. Still felt like the rest of it was waisting paint. I did love the colors though.

Drop In The Bucket #4

I had to let go. Way more difficult said than done.

Drop In The Bucket #5


Drop In The Bucket #6

Double OUCH!! Had to keep going despite the fact that there wasn't any whif of "zen" going on.

Drop In The Bucket #7

I swear there was steam coming out of the studio. I worked for several days straight. I only came up for air when the family needed a feeding. Many, many unphotographed attempts later, this is what I have:

Drop In The Bucket on the mantel

This painting is me. It is not a painting of my trying to paint like Flora Bowley. It is a painting in which I pushed myself to use her method of letting go. Obviously, it is not my typical style of painting, but I did put aside the fear of waisting paint ... and for that, it is a success.

Now there is ONLY ONE THING that I could do at this point that would be very, very wrong. It is the very worst thing one can do when learning how to paint. I could stop.

Even taking a break is a bad idea. The slightest crack and the little brain demons will take over like a cancer. I must not waist time looking at the painting on my mantel. I must keep going and paint another one. The subject matter is inconsequential. The style does not matter. Even the type of paint is irrelevant. I must tattoo "Let Go" directly on my brain, on every cell of my being. I must let go and keep going.

I must hurry ... run, if I must, to the next painting. Any lollygagging around could be fatal.


PS. BTW, I have aptly named this painting, "Drop In The Bucket."


Drop In The Bucket painting

When You Are Little, You Know

I appreciate the break. Thank you to you. Thank you to the universe. I sure did need it. I am here, back on the blog, and will be doing so frequently.

The winter has been my constant companion during my break. It has been beautiful on the mountain.


Winter out my window

There have been sooo many projects I have been working on, that, if I put them all in this post, it would appear that I have not slept a wink. I won't share it all today, but I will share them little by little in the days to come.

The most important thing I want to say in this post is a direct result of me, digging deep, searching for my path. This photo, of yours truly, came across my email recently. I looked at it for a long time, wondering what I was like when I was little. Every day, back then, I didn't question as much as I do now. I just was. These past few weeks, of my hiatus from blogging, I have been doing the same: just being. It has been very good for me.

Yo cuando chica



In doing so, I came to the realization of something critical for my next steps:



Read it again. Out loud.

Just like I thrive on every flower on this earth being unique, the world needs for me to be the way that I am. I knew this when I was little. Then I grew up and got in my way. Now, I am working on making it a part of my daily awareness.

I need to add, here, that I need for you to be the way you are, we all need for you to be the way you are.

Having said that, then the only thing left to do is for us to be exactly the way we are, FEARLESSLY.

Talk to you soon,


PS. It is good to be back.


The All Important Three Weeks On The Other Side of The Gate

The All Important 3 Weeks On The Other Side of The Gate -

What on earth am I talking about? 

Listen up, this is important.

I am coming out of blog hibernation to share this with you because I really think it is important ... important that is if you are a bit like me ... somewhat creative, but shy of the mark compared to what you are seeing out there in the blogosphere, or the Pinterest-sphere. This post does not apply to Melissa P., or west coast Elizabeth, but I am hoping they will read it as well.

I have been over the top, busy, busy, busy since I was last here on The Muse. I miss you guys, but I also have realized that my time away from the blogging world is critical to the creative process.

For the creative process, blogging and hitting the other blog & Pinterest sites, like a lab rat viciously hooked on a drug, is, for me, like being stuck in one season. One season only. Like being forever in "Spring", with all of it's bursting beauty, but never being privy to the other all important seasons that are vital & necessary for Spring to actually occur in all of it's awesomeness in the first place.

I have been taking care of business, my creative "business". Every day the autumn season has made changes. I can see them out my bedroom window. 

Bedroom window fall 2012

They seem quite subtle, at first. Then there are riots of color that seem to be massive events in and of themselves, that permanently alter our direction. 

Glorious yellow fall 2012

The light, now at a definitively different angle than just a few weeks ago, makes me realize that everything IS different. Everything is working it's magic, full speed ahead, so that when the calendar pages get turned, and it is Spring, the hard work has been done and we are ready for it's glorious show.

Wind chime fall 2012

Although it seems like it is a time to slow down and contemplate, the reality is actually quite different. 

Living room windows fall 2012

It is time to shut up and walk the walk. In Spring, when it comes, there will be time to talk the talk.

Hike fall 2012

I got a chance to think about all this when on one of my hikes, a few days after a recent storm, I came upon this fallen tree: 

Gate in the woods

Bizarre, isn't it? More bizarre if you were standing there, with me, looking at the gate it had naturally created by falling down in such a position. I couldn't figure out quite how the tree ended up like that. I walked up to it and still couldn't figure it out. It almost looked like the tree had been "flipped" into that location. Anyways, while my panting breath quieted down, as I took it all in, the natural "gate",  made by this "tossed" tree,  kept demanding my attention. A gate. A gate. A GATE? All of it could have been passed off as a natural event had I just kept hiking past it ... noticing it, but not much more. What I did, though, was not keep hiking past it. I stopped. Looked at it. Decidedly went off the trail I was on, and then, then I WENT THROUGH THE GATE.

On the other side of it, my life changed. This may sound like I am being a bit too dramatic. But I am sharing it with you like it happened. You see on the other side of it, I noticed how different it all looked from there. My sorroundings looked different, the gate looked different, but more importantly my hiking path, that I walk on regularly, looked totally different - as if I had never laid eyes on it before. Everything was new. Had I not taken the time to get to the other side of it, though, it would have been more of the same old, same old.

So how does this relate to my creativity? Let's see if I can explain it clearly enough for you to get something out of it. On the other side of the gate, completely unrelated to what I was looking at in front of my eyes, came a vision ... or perhaps more accurately: a visual... of a project I have been wanting to do.

In my "normal", or "usual", "Carolina-is-getting-a creative-spark" mode, I see something that floods my brain with a visual image. It can be something as simple as some fabrics that trigger the creative spark.

Blue fabrics 9:2012

The impulsive side of me usually will purchase said object (sometimes it is not fabric or a yarn, but it is a unique thing I have spotted in a junky antique store). I come home, add it to my stash, and there it remains. On one side of the gate. It had an intial "Spring" burst upon purchase, but it did not rebloom. The project I had in mind was akin to an "annual", it never had the chance to fully perform.

On occasion, when Lady Luck is on my side, I work with it, pushing it to try and "bloom".

Blue fabrics 2 9:2012

More often than not, though, I fail. I fail because I did not spend enough time with the project, giving it it's other "three seasons", if you will, before I am confronted by another Spring moment - compliments of, you guessed it, Pinterest, or some wonderful blog post by a creative "other". The addict in me, looks back at my project as if it's lack luster appearance is THE TRUTH of it ... and that is all it ever was.

How can something so creatively juicy, like Pinterest, or some of your gorgeous blogs, be so LETHAL to my own creativity?

The reason is because I don't work my way to spending the all vital and necessary three weeks on the other side of the gate.

I will spend one week, all ensconced in the newness of my project, and never get down to the knitty gritty that can only occur in the other three weeks.

Blue fabrics 3 9:2012

It is in that knitty gritty three weeks that the gleam of magic may, M-A-Y, have a miniscule tiny prayer of shining through.

Needles 9:2012

How stupid of me to let the Pinterest Giant invade the tender and fragile moments when I am on the precipice of the beginning of the three week struggle.

Stitching 9:2012

I need to see my projects and their status for what they are - on the week-one-side of the gate. I have five big projects, that I can quickly think of off the top of my head, that seem to have remained on this side of the gate, never making it to the other side. Shame on me. 

Stitching 2 9:2012

Shame on me for calling myself a "creative", for what is a "creative, after all? It is someone who has the nerve, the inner gumption, the stupidity, call it what you will, the PULL to go through the gate and see the project from the other side, to work through the mundane hiccups inherent to all sparks worked through to completion, to spend time on the other side, to work things out, where most would not venture. The other side of the gate has one dark pit, though. This pit is what we call FAILURE. Many times we don't want to face failure for it is way easier to bask in the deliciosness of the possibility of success rather than the reality of facing harsh failure. 

A creative is not someone who had the "spark", it is, rather, only those who continously trudge through the woods to the other side and camp out there until the work is done. Those few, and they alone, have the privilege of calling themselves creatives. Those - the creatives- I think have been keeping something from us.

They have seen failure, they have stared at it squarely. They keep good company with it, for they know without that vital courtship, no real breakthrough is possible. They don't laugh at failure. They laugh WITH it.

They never share the depth of their failures (and their doubts) with us. They never share just how much of their success depends on this most delicate of courtships.

Spending one week on an ultra creative high and three weeks avoiding doom sounds much more doable in these fast paced lives of ours, no? On the one hand, I can not blame myself for taking the easy way out. Motherhood  & "housewifehood" are more complicated and difficult than I ever thought possible. On the other hand, staying on only one side of the gate means my creative sparks fizzle, creating no joy, no Spring.

But ...

here is what the creatives are keeping from us : failure is on BOTH sides of the gate. It is both in the dark pit of finding out your project, no matter how many times you reworked it, can not come to be for real logistical reasons, and it is ALSO on the side of the gate where you have done nothing with your creative spark.

Here is a question to ask yourself: how many of your truly great ideas fizzled because you never worked them out? Did you like your answer?

Here is something that might make you feel better:

If your project, your spark, fails because of real, logistical reasons, it won't really hurt, it will just be. You can handle that.

If your project, your spark, fails, because you never actually stepped up to the plate and "played ball", well ... that kind of pain can destroy you from the inside out. I don't want to find out that not making the choice to follow through on something, was itself a choice - a bad one. Do you?

So, three weeks. Why three weeks, you ask? Is that an arbitrary amount of time? No. It is not some random time alotment. I have been studying my patterns and I realize that I have about a one week creative burst per month. All the ideas during that time, flow through my brain with heightened vibrancy. On a side note - could it be affected by a natural tide of female hormones? Who knows ... maybe. The phase of the moon? I don't know. Study your own patterns closely for a bit, see if you notice anything that has a semblance of a pattern.

More importantly, think about which side of the gate your projects are on. Are they like mine? Stuck in a revolving door like stupor. Are they being squashed and dimmed by the the brilliancy eminating from your computer screen?

I have three-week creative business to tend to for several projects. They have been being stacked, back to back, for years now. I need to set up my own camp on the other side of the gate. I need to change my habit of the same old, same old. I need to do that if I am ever going to have a sliver of hope of creating my own Spring. I have gone off trail for a bit by not blogging. It has been good and necessary. I never, before, had realized I needed to walk through the gate and work on the other side of it. I didn't know that THAT was the work that actually needed to be done. I was convinced that the key to being better was inventing a new Spring, a better Spring, like those I see on the web. Silly me. It is not a new Spring I need to invent. I just need to work on the other seasons until the work blooms forth and appears to be doing it on it's own - creating the ONLY Spring I could create, a Carolina Spring.


I will leave it at that, hoping I explained myself well enough to those of you that are like me. If it is not complete enough of a thought, then help me out and add to it in the comment section. I felt like I had had a breakthrough that has been a big help to me and I wanted to share it with you incase you, too, were spending little time on only one side of the gate or if the web was actually keeping you from doing the hard work only you can do.


Well, then, that is it.

Working towards a good Spring, 




Memories on Monday: I Don't Know Why He Painted It Orange.

Before you begin to think that my mental state is slipping ... I am well aware that it is Tuesday and not Monday. Regardless, I am doing my Memories on Monday post today. I have tried to get to posting, but life has gotten in the way. In a good way. I just haven't been able to sit down and process the photos I have taken in the past couple of weeks. We had my inlaws visit for a few days. That was really nice. I actually love my inlaws. I lucked out. What really has been filling my days, though, is summer. Summer and all it's glory.

Early mornings have been spent watering the garden and being mesmerized by what I have found there.

Dahlias & pursulane


I debate shirking all my responsibilities for the day after spending sometime with the myriad of shapes and colors and think about just drawing what I see. I realize when I look back on my photos, just how much vibrant color attracts me.

I have hiked for hours on end in the past couple of weeks. Starting off on the trail-to-the-blackberries my husband made for me.

Blackberry trail 7:2012


The birds were kind enough to leave plenty for me.

Blackberries 7:2012


The sweet juicy berries are quite the gold mine. Their dark, blackness is irresistable. Late in the evening I returned to pick some more and photograph them.

Blackberries to go 7:2012


Just peering into the colander I notice just how much color, deep color, attracts me.

On my longer hikes I cannot help to stop and gawk at all that is around me.

Big tree 7:2012


The cool damp shade provided by this massive tree along the way makes the green seem to breath on me. My skin feels cooler, my eyes look up and wonder - how much more green could there be?

I contemplate the fact that I can only see 3 different colors, and 4 combinations of them, while the birds above my head have 4 colors and 11 combinations, plus ultra violet light, available to them. What would it be like to be bombarded by what they see?

Forest walk 7:2012


It is the color everywhere, that as my eyes absorb them, they, in turn, absorb me. They absorb me to the point of no return. It is useless, in the face of all this color, to attempt the pretence of indifference and get on with my day.

When I get home from the farmer's market, it is as if my Leica is an extension of my fingers, there, at the ready, to attempt to capture what my eyes have engaged my emotions to.

Saturday's purchases at market.7:2012


Outside and in. It is the color. I experimented making jam this week. Peaches were first.

Peach jam making 7:2012

I used apples for pectin. The core had to go into the pot wrapped in cheesecloth so I wouldnt have to fish out the seeds, only the apples, after 20 minutes of cooking the pectin out of them.

Apples for pectin


After making jam, any leftover peaches were slurped up with copious amounts of thick, heavy cream.

Peaches & cream 7:2012

After peach jam, came the damson plums.

Plums next?


In all their purple goodness, as if dusted with fairy dust.

Damson plumbs 7:2012

What a shock it always is to me to see their interior golden color upon cutting them open.

Damson jam making 7:2012

And then ... the grand "ta-dah" magic of the damson plum ... the raspberry hue of the finished jam. It is as if the gold married the purple in a passionate, heated, eternally bonding kiss staining everything in it's touch.

Finished damson plum jam 7:20212

So how did I grow up to be this infatuated with color?

I am blaming it all on a memory of a bench. I barely new my grandfather, tata Leland. I have no memories of him, not a one. Looking at photographs of him is almost, almost, like looking at a complete stranger - merely a historical looking photograph, were everything is an off white and black image and all the people are standing in a stiff pose. I don't remember his face, his smile, his temper, his hands .... none of it. The only connection I have to him is that I vivedly remember the bench that he painted a bright, almost garish, orange. It was placed under "la parra", the heavily weighted grapevine, that served as our dessert station after meals on his back patio at the house on Calle Carmen Silva in Santiago.

His orange bench

I must have stared for hours at that bench, because I can clearly see it in my minds eye. While the adults, still sitting at the dining table, continued their "sobre mesa", long after dinner conversations, my cousins and I, fidgety little children that we probably were, were released to the outdoors. Under the grapevine, as the golden late afternoon sun seemed to make newly forming memories cling to the air particles, with my fingers running along the curly cewed reliefs on the bench, the bright orange paint color so bright, you could probably lick it off the arm rest, my love affair with color was solidified. Now I live with it, inside of me, making me stop to photograph the color I come in contact with throughout the day, catching, like a poorly filed fingernail catching on the surface of a precious cloth. My day goes by in a stop and go motion. Do. Photograph. Do. Photograph again. Repeat. The only fluidity being the continuous observation, and infatuation, with color.

I don't know why he painted that bench orange.

I am just grateful that he did.

Until next time,




Tomorrow, As Promised

Here I am, as I promised in yesterday's post. As you know, for the better part of the last 3 weeks I have been outdoors working on creating a garden.

I have been very up close and personal with the flowers I have been planting.

The purple coneflower,

Purple coneflower 7:3:12

the little pink roses on the low bushes I planted,

Low rose bush 7:3:12

and the dahlias, with their incredible burst of color,  have all affected me.

Dahlia 7:3:12

Looking back on the time I spent picking the fabrics for the third shade, well, there was no way I could of gone with anything but these juicy fabrics from my stash.

Fabric for third shade

The only problem with them, as I could forsee, is that they were a bit too garish in comparison with the two shades that were already up and hanging in the dining room. What to do? What to do?

Gratefully, also in my stash of fabrics, was this antique - or rather just plane old or used, tablecloth. I knew, when I bought the tablecloth for a song, that it had these burn markings on it. The tablecloth must have belonged to a family where just about every family member smoked because there were burn marks everywhere. I had to strategically decide which part I was going to use for the lampshade and cut it out so I would dodge the burn marks.

Unusable tablecloth

But it did the trick. It softened the bright colors just enough so that it could hang along side the other shades.

All three shades up

Rather than cover the bright colored fabrics with the tablecloth, which in daylight would give the effect of an all beige lampshade,  it worked better to diffuse the light coming from behind instead.

I held it up to a bare bulbed lamp in the studio first, before cutting, to see which way I liked it more. I really like the way the pattern of the tablecloth comes through as a design element on the colored fabrics in addition to their original design. It almost gives a batik look to the non batik fabrics.

Fabric for last dining room shade

I really like the look of that effect.

3 shades, detail

No matter which direction I am walking from, I like to see the three shades, colorful as they are, in contrast to all the neutral colors in my home.

3 shades view towards kitchen

Just to have the three shades up, my three little ladies, as I am calling them, makes me happy.

During the day, as these photos were taken, it looks lovely ... and at night? Well, it is absolute magic to have the lanterns glowing from within. I feel like inviting all of you over for a party just to see it.

Close up shades

You could arrive in the late afternoon, check out the flowers in the garden, and then come inside. After a bit of chatter we would move on to the outdoor porch with all it's candles lit. From our position sitting in the porch, as the night darkness took over, we could watch the magic of my indoor lanterns take place. It really is such a sight that you should see it in person.

3 shades in the late afternoon

Well, that ends the posting of the the dining room lighting task. Another check mark on my list.

We still have one more thing to discuss, though, the title of yesterday's post, Instructions Needed, But Not Included.

While my husband and I were working from the little photo of the pergola on his iPhone, we thought about just how much easier the whole project would have been had we had instructions and not just a little, tiny image. We worked through all the problems and hiccups, tackling them, one at a time, as they surfaced. I had to do the same thing with my lampshades as I did not have a template, instructions, or even a beginning light fixture to start from. I had to figure out every part of it - how it would attach to the ceiling, how long the electrical cords would be, even the color of them, then the thingamajig that would be where the light bulb got screwed into also had to double as the apparatus to hold the shade. Then I had to find a factory to make the wire frame to my specifications. They could do the outside ring, but not the part that came in contact with the fixture. I had to find a metal smith, bring him the wire lamshade and the fixture and a schemtaic of what I wanted him to reconstruct on the wire shade. Just like the pergola, I was flying solo as they say, without the backup of instructions. It was a lot of head scratching, but in the end I came up with exactly what I was after, not anyone elses lampshade. While I worked in the garden doing manual labor, I thought about all the steps I had needed to learn along the way to accomplish the pergola and also the shades. The more and more I thought about it all, something began to dawn on me that I want to share with you.

My life, like yours, didn't come with any instructions. I am flying solo. It didn't come with any instructions even though there have been many, MANY, times that I wish it had. People try and give you instructions on how to live ypour life, it is called ADVICE. Advice is nice ... but if all you do is follow someone else's advice and never strike out on your own, working through the hiccups as they surface, all you will end up with is a life similar to the one of whom's advice you followed. It is good to hear advice, ponder it, and debate it in your head, but you must come out with your own solution if you are going to be an original - if that is important to you. Is it important to you to be an original? Will it be important when you are 80 to have spent your life striving for that?

It is to me. I got to thinking, while I was out there sweating my *%# off, heaving the maddock at the solid, ungiving earth, that I like to make and take care of. Let me repeat that.

I like to MAKE and TAKE CARE OF.

These are the two things that fulfill me. The only two. They are my very own set of instructions. If I manage to continue to make and take care of things for the rest of my years, I will reach 80 as a true original. And a happy one at that. Who would have "thunk" it, that the process of making, or taking care of something, fulfills me to the max, and that that would have been discovered while I was digging and digging in the yard? I dug all the way to finding my instruction manual. Money is not a driving force. Power can go to others. I need to continuosly be making things and continuosly be taking care of things. Happiness and bliss is mine to be had.

I am sure you can figure out your instruction manual. If not, go dig in the yard. It worked for me.

I love you all.

Until next time,




Breaking My Back And Breaking The Rules

Hi there. Did you think I have been having difficulty with the shade and that is why you haven't heard from me? Although I have encountered a few hiccups that made me do and undo parts of the shade, I finished the shade several days ago.


1st of 3 shades dining room

It took less time to finish the actual shade than it took to get the ladder out to put it up there. Do you ever get caught with a project whereby you have done the hardest part and yet one more little hiccup, like bringing the ladder up from the basement, stops the entire event from reaching it's culmination? You would think I would be so excited, once I finished it, to see it up and hanging, illuminated in all it's glory. Not so. It happens that way sometimes. I finish the bulk of a project and I am on to the next.

This time, the next project has been my garden ... well, "g-a-r-d-e-n" is kind of a big word for what I have so far. Two days ago I had this:

Pre-garden front bed

Pathetic as my planting bed may seem, this is the photo AFTER I spent several days on it.  I have been walking around like an old lady with severe hunchback because of it. The soil that is there is an amalgam of construction debris and poor quality fill. I have dug up all kinds of things that were probably tossed off the house from different vantage points, flung from scaffolding or the roof, during the construction process and now lay in this house-parts graveyard that I am calling my garden. I remember there were lots of delays around the time we installed the five toilets - most of them went in, but without seats so they would stay pristine until the build-out was complete. When, nearing the end of the project, we finally turned our attention to putting actual toilet seats on the toilets, only four of them could be located. One had gone MIA. I personally searched everywhere for the missing toilet seat. Now, as I dug up this bed with my maddock, I wondered every time I flung it into the soil and it was met by a hard surface, if I had actual finally made contact with toilet seat #5. No such luck.

One day ago, my husband and I went poking about Mary's Greenhouse. It is a very dangerous place to go when back home your planting bed is as sparse as mine. How dangerous, you may ask? Fifty greenhouses, yes 50 greenhouses dangerous. That kind of danger sparks double, and even triple, trips up and down the mountain with the back of the pick up truck totally maxed out.

Pick up loaded with plants

Now, this garden bed has become my ball and chain. I have a long way to go to reach completion.

Task for today

It exhausts me just to think about it, but I have been chipping away at it. When it is closer to looking like a real garden, I will rephotograph it and show you what madness 50 greenhouses can do to a person.

The meals around here have been ... mmm, lets say "sufficient". We had a Memorial Day weekend full of get-togethers with friends, and even had unexpected, but very welcomed, out of town guests come for dinner and stay last night. All this has made the progress on the second lampshade quite a bit less feverish than the first, but I have been working on it.

I had this beautiful blue batik in my stash that I could resist no longer.

Templates for lampshade #2

But if I paired it with another batik, which would have looked cool, it would not have gone well next to the other lampshade in the dining room. The three shades are all in a line so they have to look good together. I have heard  a rule at the quilting store that I know makes sense - put batiks with other batiks, otherwise something about it looks "off". Granted I can see when that rule applies - and for good reason. It just wasn't enough reason for me not to do it in this next lampshade. Florals and batiks are a no-no according to some fantastic quilters I have met.

These are the fabrics in the next shade:

Floral & batik

We are just going to have to pretend I never heard them. I can take breaking a rule once I fully understand the rule. My friend, Reed Arvin, says that "Expertise means that we know the rules of a domain so well they've become unconscious. Once we reach this point, we're free; the rules serve us." I fully agree, and I am continuously working towards this in all aspects of my life, and although I am not claiming that I have a full command of anything, especially what fabrics go with what other fabrics, I do know the MOST IMPORTANT rule. That one is simply stated like this:




That is what I am doing with this shade because when it comes to projects like this - ones loaded with twists and turns and a myriad of different options, one can get bogged down in the rules and you can end up quagmired without any F'n lampshade at all - and that is not my goal. I might fail. Sure. But that is the risk I am willing to take. The only real risk is TIME, you know, and I have coddled that long enough. I could sit here, in my studio picking this fabric and that fabric, changing my mind a million times over, believing that in just pinballing myself from one fabric to another and spending time in the studio I am actually being creative when in fact I am not actually creating anything, I could do that in hopes of ending up with the ultimate combination of fabrics for the world's most awesome shade, but I am not there yet. I am not at that point. I am at the point whereby I need to stay focused on more doing (not doing more, there is a distinct difference if you think about it). You can look at it another way: the NEXT shade, combination of fabrics, painting, etc. (insert your "next" here) is the best one because it still exists only as a possibility. In that frame of thinking, well, sweet cheeks, the world is your oyster ... obviously those things that sit in our imagination, only, are engulfed in absolute perfection. The ones that attempt an escape from imagination into our reality are the ones you really have to look up to - those are the ones you had the guts enough to bring to life. Those are the ones that are trying to out-run failure, those are the ones that are knee deep in problem solving shit (excuse my language), but those that are "THIS one" and not "the NEXT one", are the ones I am charging after. Those are the ones that are the steed, I am the knight, if you will, and the rule to follow my gut instinct is my jousting lance. Are you creating the right mental image? If I fail, my armour has to be tough enough to protect me so that I may live to try again.

For heaven's sake, you might be saying to your self, all this from a choice of fabric for a simple little lampshade? Well, it is what is in my head and this is where it chose to come out. Do with it what you will. Break the rules, follow the rules. Those are choices for all of us. The only thing I don't think we really have any choice in, if we are to have any chance of succeeding in our goals, is to follow your gut instinct. Are you with me on this?



My Mistakes Are All Mine

Each of the members of our family had things to do today so I had the luxury of the house to myself for a bit. I spent it all in the studio. I can't remember the last time that happened, so I shoved my to-do list aside and made a sincere attempt at some progress on the shade I talked about yesterday.

Cutting the doily was scary ... all those loose threads... open and exposed. Yikes! Like my pouring my guts out on the blog; there is serious concern that the whole darn thing will become unraveled and one will permanently reside in the Land of No Return.

Cutting the doily

My mind was still happily full, from all the creativity that rushed in yesterday, as I tackled the knitty gritty of the project and got down to business. Getting down to business is always the difficult part. While I worked, I enjoyed hearing the "Ping!" of my computer with all of your emails coming in. I tried to answer most of them (I still owe you one Susan, a long one), it was good to have them coming in - they gave me food for thought while I worked on the project. Melissa had also posted about "process" and she and I volleyed the emails a bit this morning.

I had left her a comment regarding the process and how Charles Eames (of Ray & Charles Eames) viewed it. I am paraphrasing but essentially he said "that he spends 1% of his time coming up with a new, creative idea, and the other 99% of the time making sure the product stays true to that original idea. I think that is how it went, perhaps he said it more like he "spent the other 99% of the time chasing the idea and not letting it get away." He was talking about the non creative part of everything Ray and him made as being mostly responsible for the object coming before our eyes." Coming up with the idea is always the fun part.

I thought about this while I pinned my doily to the fabrics so I could sew it into place.

Pinning the doily

Things didn't go so well. The doily must not have been that "antique" because it had some give to it, almost like as if there was lycra in it. After a couple of hours work, I had a nice wobbly mess.

Doily gone bad

The mess was an obvious mistake. I had no intention of spending the better part of the day with my least favorite tool in my arsenal: the  bloody seam ripper.

Seam ripper in action

As I worked, I remembered something I had read in the book Art & Fear. It said: "... vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue." I think I have got the "vision" part and the "uncertainty" part figured out (although the uncertainty part always fools me, perhaps I'll talk about this next time we meet here). What is for sure, and written in stone, is that I have a ways to go on the "knowledge of materials" part, no matter the medium. The mistakes are all mine, if I had found the answers as to what to do and what not to do in this situation, well of course I would have attempted to avoid my blunders. But where do you look for answers to solve mistakes when you haven't even an inkling that you are going to make them in the first place? Mistakes are a given when your knowledge of your materials is flimsy, at best.

I worked through the problem, trying out several options to find one that worked.

So I made mistakes. Big ones. Lots of them. But had I not made them I wouldn't have what I have today. I worked on the process and now I have progress. Or rather, Progress, with a capital "P".

Progress on the shade 5:24:2012

I will continue on this quest for knowledge and realize that my path to succeeding in the realization of my visions is paved with mistakes. My mistakes. For that is where my growth will come from.


From Warped To Right

Life has been so warped lately, it is time to get back to normal. School is FINALLY done with and so is my wacko driving schedule. Did you hear me hootin' & hollerin'?

Today I set about making things right again. I want to get back to being me again and doing my creative stuff. It was either that or have a total meltdown. Last night, just before falling asleep, I promised myself that today I would get back to my art. I started off, today, like the good little procrastinator that I am, and cleaned the house top to bottom. Just to vacuum and wash the floor takes me about 4 hours. Mental note to self : "next house, make it small, really small." ... "and make the studio big, REALLY BIG." By the time I was done with the cleaning, the Ellis family needed a feeding, of course. I "threw" down a meal and made a bee line to the studio. If there was even the slightest delay, something might have gotten in my way and I would never be here, in the studio. Let me show you what I have been doing:

I walked around and around the studio in circles. Not quite sure where to begin. I figure I may as well begin by fixing problems.

Remember this?

Shade before warping

As I tested different bulbs, going up in wattage, it started to warp.

Shade after warping photo 1

At first it wasn't too bad, but when I got to 100 watts, the shape of the shade seemed to have a life of it's own. When the light was off it would harden nicely, but as soon as you turned on the heat, well sugar, it was a sad sight indeed. I thought my eyes were tricking me - I would turn around for just a minute or so and when I looked back up at it I could swear it was a different shape.

Shade after warping photo 2

The entire history of this shade seems to mirror my own life. Well ... all of it needs attention. This amount of warpage, whether in my shade or in my life, simply won't do.

This is were we are at now:

Lamshade, just washed 5:23:2012

I just gave the shade a major bath. I am cleaning up my act as well. I want to get back to my projects, and I figure that the worst lampshade I can make is the one that never gets done and sits there in a pathetic heap of fabrics. The ugliest painting I can paint is the blank canvas. The worst sketchbook I can work out my drawings on is the one that never gets cracked open. Right? I will discuss this topic, of doing vs. not doing art work, as I putter along on my projects in the upcoming weeks.

Back to fixing problems.

Enter Meliisa P., I won a giveaway on her blog. She has a new website to go with all the fame that is coming her way now that she is hanging with the big dogs of the fabric and quilting world. A note to you - she has loads of free patterns and project how-to's on her website.

This is what I won:

Gift from Melissa P.

Crazy awesomeness or what? Thank you Melissa!!!

So what am I waiting for I thought? Lets fix that lighting problem. While the old one was drying I pulled out a few of my fabrics that always seem too precious to cut into.

I found a beautiful antique crocheted doily that I can't bare to get rid of just because it has a hole in it.

Antique piece of crochet 5:2012

Added it to a few fabrics I thought might go with Melissa's gifted ones:

Crochet pieces with fabric for shade 5:2012

And while the old shade is drip drying in the sink, I have started to work on an all new shade.

Process lampshade 5:2012

That is as far as I got today. I figured I would spend the rest of my studio time, while I still had the energy, writing this quick post. Let me add here, that even the simplest of little posts, like this one, takes a long time to do. It is no small feat and I am high fiving myself for still HAVING a blog and still hanging in there, writing to you. I hope you liked what I shared with you today. I will be back sooner rather than later because I am going to try a new blogging tactic. I have had this feeling that I needed to show you only my finished projects. Ridiculous. I had to go back to the beginning, when I wrote my "ABOUT page" and see what my "mission statement" was. If I wait to show you only the finished products, then it is like Kindergarten "Show & Tell" time. This makes it longer between posts. Since I don't make money from my blog, I need to be clear what I use it for. I am here to share my process of how I go about progressing as a creative person and get closer to that mission statement. I need to focus on process, not the products I make, for the "product" is me, the creative me. Staying focused on showing you the process will take me "from warped to right."

I want to be a "Creative". EVERYDAY. That is all. This, this blog, is where you can see the steps I take along that never ending path.

See you soon. Real soon.



PS. my husband, who can screen share our computers, just called me from the other room saying his "stomach is warping and it needs to go from "warped to right" and he is wondering if my mission statement has any mention of what is for dinner." That is my life, ladies!

Three Paintings From The Past

We have had a patch of rough weather - tornadoes, driving rain, and the unit that heats my studio and the rest of the bottom floor has gone on the blink. I had done everything in my power to insure that Sunday would be a sewing day. I had cleaned the house, top to bottom, on Thursday, I had gotten all the food shopping and errands done on Friday, I had a cooking marathon all day Saturday so that there would be plenty of leftovers, and all in all I was ready for my sewing jaunt on Sunday. Now I am sitting in my studio writing this, I am dressed like I belong inside Dr. Zhivago's house. I am waiting for the little portable heater to heat up the room, every possible light bulb is on, and we have put in a call to the heating people. I thought I would share some color with you today since I so enjoyed my Sunday morning spent perusing your blogs. Below you see three paintings I have in my "stash". 

This is one of my daughter, Nica May, the egg shaped rock above her head was a recurrent them in a series I once did. The theme was based on issues of being born, or rather reborn, into who you will become. The painting (30" by 40") sits on one of the shelves now of my studio. I like to see it every time I leave the studio.


Nica May


Next up is a three piece painting ( it is about 8 feet tall) on motherhood. I often feel that as a mother and artist, if I may be so bold to call myself that, you are split, physically, mentally, and emotionally, but you must still walk forward towards the light. You feel like your creative self (represented by the bowl) never gets filled and is in a permanent state of being empty. 



FInally I am showing you a painting of the tea accoutrement and my pencil box that I used to keep in my studio when my studio was not located in my home. I loved this little painting (24" by 20" if I remember right.) Somebody bought it and gave it as a gift to a friend who was dying of cancer. The friend died a month later and I wondered if the painting ended up in a garage sale some where. I take solace in the fact the painting was most probably one of the last gifts they got to open in their lives, hopefully it brought a little smile to them.


Golden tea pot

All this cooking and driving I have been doing makes me miss painting. Of course, I can't just blame it on the cooking and driving. Maybe one of these days I will burst and go back to painting. For now there is a sewing project waiting to be tackled. I am going to go sew.

Have a good Sunday.


Believing In The Difference A Day Makes

Below is a photo of the Christmas ornaments that do NOT go on our family tree. Every time I see them all together, like this, I get this magical feeling of anticipation inside of me.

Pink tree ornaments

These ornaments go on my pink Christmas tree in the studio. In the studio I have total say so of what I want, so I have a very pink, and very different, Christmas tree for this space.

Pink tree in the studio

I have lots of favorite ornaments that hang along the white "feathery" rings. 

Pink tree ornaments #1

The colors are scrumptious and bright. Some of the ornaments remind me of events, like this one with the tree being transported on the top of the car like we bring our tree home:

Pink tree ornaments #2

But most of the ornaments on the studio tree are about the magic that is all around us on a regular basis.

Pink tree ornaments #3

 There is only one ornament with a word on it.

Pink tree ornaments #4

And "BELIEVE" is what I want to talk about today.

Day before yesterday, in the afternoon, we had our first "real" snowfall of the season.

12:8:2011 photo #1

It struck me just how different things appeared in the very same places I see every day. From one day to the next, a change had occurred - a real, palpable, obvious-to-everyone kind of change. It was almost as if winter just "suddenly" showed up, when actually I know that isn't so. I have been watching the light of day get shorter and shorter since the day after summer solstice, and have commented many times on daily changes, shifting position of the sun, and speed of the impending winter. Yesterday I had to go for a hike in the snow.

12:8:2011 photo #2

As I hiked I thought about how to share what is on my mind in regards to your comments a couple of posts back. To be fair to all of you, I had to get to the core of figuring out what it is that motivates me and why it seems like I am hopping from one path to another. I have come to realize that I am not motivated by money, and even less so by fame. These two things don't get me to move on anything. So what is it that actually makes me get up and take action?

In one word : Knowledge. If I could do two words, then it would be Knowledge & Curiosity. I am as curious as to why only one side of the Mekong eats with chopsticks as I am about how a sleeve goes on a dress, or how to paint a spoon or a face. Have you ever stopped to think about what really motivates you to do stuff? I'm not talking about handling your responsibilities, here, we all take care of our responsibilities because they are just that: ours. The question we need to ask ourselves, and be brutally honest about, is what motivates us? Once I figured that out, I could see why I was hopping all over the place. Had it been money, I would have stuck to one thing until the money started rolling in.

Back in June, I did a post on food & the Mekong River. I didn't get a whole lot of response to that post, but it struck a deep cord with me. I  have been wanting to delve into other people's kitchens. Not just your kitchen, but kitchens around the world. Hence why I started the  I'll Take The Scenic Route blog - to get into shape enough to be able to travel in remote locations and find out what people are eating where and how they prepare their food. My ankle misbehaved badly and put a serious dent in my progress.

How does this all tie into the word "Believe?" Well, I have 4 and a half more years to go before my youngest is done with school. Most of the time I feel like the day will never come when I can get to go on those adventures. I have a hard time "believing" it is actually going to happen, but that is exactly what I must do. Believe. After uncovering what motivates me, and reviewing my ridiculously busy schedule, I have created a plan. I am going to go on an all-out-learn-everything-I-can mode so that I am ready for my adventure when the day arrives. Although you still will see me knitting & sewing, I am going to let my focus be on learning about food. Many of you, who actually have been to my home, think I already know how to cook, but I am going to dive in deeper and really learn the what & why behind the magic of cooking. I need to be able to really know my stuff, so that when I am "out there" in areas where I don't speak the specific language of the country I am in, I will at least understand the language of cooking, and understand it well. I want to also keep learning how to paint. I enjoy it immensly, but have decades to go on it. I would like to see if I can focus the painting and drawing on the food I am learning to prepare. Having two different blogs gets tricky for me. I am not sure which one I should write on so that we "keep it all together". Any input on how to do that would be helpful. My main focus then, at the moment, is to learn everything I can about the kitchen and keep working towards that change. Every single day needs to nod towards that change. My biggest hurdle to overcome is to learn to BELIEVE that little by little, one daily layer upon the next, that change will come and not only will it be obvious and palpable to everyone, but it will be also obvious to me. I will don on my backpack and set foot on my adventure one day. I want to look back on today and think "that was my solstice day", the day I started to BELIEVE in the difference a day makes.

Until next time,


12:8:2011 photo #3


Dear Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,

I got your message on Facebook. You are so thoughtful. I am sure you aren't the only one who has been wondering where I have been this past month. I must say it has been a challenging month.

Fall leaves

The colors around me have been spectacular, but it has not been the autumn I hoped for. I have had little time for anything remotely related to this blog. There have been times where I have considered dropping it all together.

#1 ride to school

I have been putting my fair share of miles on my poor old car and have more than exceeded my carbon footprint this month. My oldest daughter has been quite sick. An ultrasound revealed concerns for her kidneys. The long version: we have been driving back and forth between school & hospitals in Nashville. Several CAT scans, ultrasounds, blood tests, etc. later, we are all still here. The short version: She is going to be OK.

#2 ride to school

All this driving from place to place has, in a way, been very therapeutic for me. It has been an incubation period of sorts. I got this blog to narrow down a direction for myself. There are times I feel like I have made zero headway with the whole thing, but I can see three possible roads to take. With the little time I actually have to dedicate to my "path", I feel I need to narrow it down NOW. I can stay on the sewing & knitting route, I can paint, or I can cook. You have seen me do all three paths. All I need to do now is pick one to focus on. Got any input?

#3 ride to school

Melissa P. thinks that things will work themselves out, my husband thinks I just need to focus on getting healthy and losing the weight, my good friend Melisse, from Michigan, feels I ought to get back on the Ill Take The Scenic Route blog, I am certain that my friend, Alicia, has been swallowed up by her new employer and hasn't been able to participate in this dilemma, and to make matters really bad ... my mother just keeps telling me I am doing too much as it is. Ahhhhh. It all just drives me crazy. How can it be that at 47, I am not bright enough to figure this out? I am serious, here. How can that be?

#4 ride to school

Every day I drive by this house. We have had a few days of wind and rain since I took this picture. This morning I noticed that all the leaves were on the lawn. Nothing was left on the branches. Winter is here. Autumn, my favorite season, passed me by because I was too busy wrapped up in my life.

I obviously am not making progress, here, today on the blog with my decision. I will end it here. Frustrated.

Frustrated until next time,


PS - the only question I have to contend with right this very moment is  -  do I just send this to you, Elizabeth? Or do I go ahead and press the "publish now" button and publish my guts out on the blog, on the internet, for everyone else to see as well?

I Had Oranges For Breakfast

Yes I had oranges for breakfast.

An orange slice

I have started a new on-line course in hopes of learning how to find my groove and sketch daily in a journal. The course is Sketchbook Delight, and it is being taught by Alisa Burke. I am taking the virtual class with a virtual friend, Melissa P. of the blog 100 Billion Stars. Although Melissa says she doesn't draw or paint, she does absolute wonders with fabric and I think that will carry over to her sketchbook.

Here are the results from this morning's first attempts:

1st day on sketchbook course

It is a very dark, rainy day outside, otherwise I would have photographed this with daylight. Even though it was dreary and depressing outside, I was glad I could start my day out with something colorful instead.

Sketchbook page #1 4:26:2011

The Year The Easter Bunny Couldn't Get In

Although some may think that it is Santa Claus that is the "big dog" in our year, the Easter Bunny has always held equal favor. Ever since the girls were little, preparations and festivities abounded to welcome our soft spoken, furry, little token of Spring. There were lavish teas, pink of course, spread out. All the girl's special tea china was set just so. Every available tea pot filled with different colored "tea" that instantly brought back memories of Mary Poppins and how she helped the medicine go down. Each tea pot holding delicious, sweet concoctions that tasted like a child's dream elixir. Our grand chocolate bunny always held steadfast his position at center stage. In one serving dish, perhaps heavenly Mexican wedding cookies, another real fruit jellies, of course there were petit fours, and pastel colored Jordan Almonds strewn about. The last touch was the golden swan which was delicately passed around the table so that everyone could reach for a pink rock sugar stick to stir their tea with.

Easter tea table

Little girls here, there, and everywhere. All festooned in ethereal pink tulle.

Girls at Easter tea

All this to send a message to our Easter bunny that we were ready. We were waiting. Our baskets had been carefully adorned with fresh sweetheart roses. I only had ONE very important job - to remember to leave the door unlocked so that the Easter bunny could leave us a few treasures in our baskets. Oops!

A big Oops! I fell asleep. I didn't forget, I just fell asleep. There was no way the Easter bunny could get inside and make the delivery we had been praying for. The doors had remained locked throughout the night. I just fell asleep just like you do...

Laela asleep with laptop

Panic ran through our house early the next morning. "Mom, Mom, wake up." In between breathless panting I heard my precious little ones, their voices full of disappointment ... "The Easter bunny didn't come". It was obvious - their baskets were empty, only the drying little roses were there. When suddenly, just by chance, one of the little ones spotted something out by the pool. An egg? Could it be? In our nightshirts we flung the doors open and ran to investigate. Once there other colors caught our attention. "Where?" "Out there ...Look" Where?"

Easter by the pool

 "In The Trees." The Easter bunny HAD come after all. Upon realizing there was no door left unlocked, the Easter bunny waisted no time and put all the treats for the little ones in the garden.

Girls at Easter tree photo #2

Sun-drenched colored dresses hung from every branch, vintage purses wedged in every crook. Chocolate eggs and jellybeans in pastel egg shaped containers lay in and amongst the bushes. Bejeweled crowns sparkled as they caught the first rays of sun. Where tulips were popping up there were also lollipops in their midst standing just as proud greeting the early morning sunshine.

Girls Easter tree
All I can say is that the Easter bunny new that moms get tired sometimes. Perhaps the Easter bunny was a mother herself.

Wishing you and your loved ones a magical Easter,


Just So You Know

Crochet & tea on Monday 2:21:11

Just so you know, it is not like I have forgotten to blog or that I haven't been working on anything. Life gets a bit full and I think that I have to have the project "done" before I post - this is the reason for any delay you have in getting a new post. I bought this jar of Chilean honey for my Dad. My intent was to put up a post titled "Honey, You Know I Love You" for Valentine's day. I was going to make something in the shape of a honeycomb and send it to my parents along with the honey. Obviously that didn't materialize, Valentine's day is long gone. 

Honey & crochet on Monday 2:21:11

Here I am now, the hexagons are now circles, and I have only had a few minutes to work on this project. I, too, like some of you, have debated about not blogging any more since the tug away from blogging gets downright depressing. The frustration I feel from not getting enough of my own time to do my creative work is my biggest personal challenge at this time.

Teacup & crochet #1 2:21:11

This has brought me to face my issue straight on and find the answer to the question "Why do I blog?"

I blog because I notice things and I want to share them with someone whom might also feel they are worth noticing. This is why I love to read your comments so much. I get caught up in how the sun makes the tea in my cup glow from within, it makes me want to paint it. I love to see pattern in nature and bask in the beauty it offers me. My craft tastes ebb and flow like the ocean tides as the waves lap onto the shore on a lazy summer afternoon. Only you can I share this with. My children seem to be on "speed" and think it odd that I so often stop to notice things, and even worse that I want to talk about it. They try their best when I attempt to force the topic, but they are more interested in other things. My husband, bless his heart, focuses most of his time on making it possible for me to put food on the table.


Saucer & crochet 2:21:11

So, my blog, then, is more of a conversation that I am having with you. Perhaps, once the education of my children is not as pressing, my blog will be a space for me to showcase my "wares", but for now, it must remain a place for sharing the things that catch my interest. I, then, need to work on my conversation skills a bit. I need to worry less about the "final product", and simply share with you whatever I am into a bit more often. Until next time,   Carolina.


Crochet close up 2:21:11

Growing Younger - the plan for 2011

I was going to title this post "Expansion, Contraction & Completion", but it deserves to be known for what it truly is - the key to the fountain of youth. So I renamed it. This entire post is about my plan on how I am going to end up younger by the time 2011 is done with, and even younger if I live to be 80. I have floated many thoughts out into the universe regarding the process of aging, and I think I have a plan. I am sending it to you via this infobahn so that you get it lickety-split and can grow younger too. Aren't I thoughtful?

Get your coffee or nice cup of tea and let's begin. There are 3 keys to the process - all fairly painless, give or take a bit on key #2.


The quickest way to get old is to do nothing and wait for it to happen. It will happen in the blink of an eye if you are not proactive. The opposite of nothing is something. It is in that "something", though,  that therein lies the key. You have to EXPAND. There are many ways to go about this, one fun way is to go traveling. Nothing will expand what is in your brain like travel. I back-packed through Europe by myself when I was twenty, honeymooned on a three and a half month walk the length of Chile when I was 25, traveled through Asia adopting kids, and lived and traveled on a boat with them and my husband for two years while I learned the ropes of homeschooling.

Travel books

Unfortunately traveling can be time consuming and costly, two things that seem to be in permanent short supply for all of us these days. The closest I am coming to traveling this year is going to be a trip to the post office. I will be sending a copy of The Ultra-Metabolism Cookbook to Natasha, who lives in the southern part of Australia. She affectionately goes by the name of ChaCha, and I will be calling her that from here on out. She left a great comment on the last post. I am very excited that she ponied up to help me and I will let you know more about her as I get to know her better.

Map of Australia

So, what to do if you can't travel? You have to EXPAND your brain. All of our days are hectic, but what are you doing to expand on what you know already? The point here, is to not only get better at something you already have knowledge on or are good at. For example, this year I am taking a class on The String Quartets of Beethoven. I know nothing about classical music other than when I was younger I had a minor education on opera thanks to my father. He used to drive me to school in the morning with the opera BLARING. It was so loud he couldn't even here me yelling telling at him to turn it down. My Dad was ahead of his time - that old car was ROCKIN! So much so that even with the windows of the cars next to ours at stop lights would vibrate. The drivers would always look over at us as my Dad, practically conducting the entire orchestra and singers, would wave an imaginary conductor's baton while I shrunk meekly in the passenger seat beside him. So this year, for me, I will learn about this Ludwig guy and see if I can learn a thing or to beyond my pea sized knowledge of the man. I have no grandiose thoughts of picking up a violin or anything like that. I just want to do "something" that will help with the EXPANSION.

Beethoven course

Next on my list of brain expanding actions will be to learn how to draw. If you don't want to be privy to all of my results from my practice sessions, I suggest you take a long break from The Muse of the Day. Without some special tricks up my sleeve, I am afraid I am always in stick-figure mode. The course below is from Art Academy. The tools are a pencil, an eraser, paper, a marker, and a piece of Plexiglas. We will see how I do. This should be quite the brain squeeze.

Art Academy Dvd's

I know the crafty ones who read this are always learning something new in quilting or sewing. In order to give Maggie her due, I will be learning the art of Draping from this book (below), if you are interested you can go to the sewing link when you click here

Draping Book

That is where key #2 comes in - CONTRACTION. In order to fit into what Maggie does I have to make my health a priority. I have done a week of phase 1 in that new cookbook and I have lost six pounds already. Today I added on the exercise - yuck. In order to grow younger you have to baby your body. There is no other way. Age will trump your health unless you fight back with all you have. That is all I need to say, right now, about contraction.

This brings us to key #3 - COMPLETION

The only thing that makes me feel like I am not making progress is seeing unfinished projects laying about. To actually complete something makes me feel good ... not only good... it makes me feel like I have finally accomplished something that would otherwise have remained in it's unfinished state forever. I will be dedicating a great portion of my personal time in  2011 to the completion of projects I once thought I just HAD to do. I, CAROLINA, WILL NOT BE PURCHASING ANY NEW SUPPLIES IN THE YEAR 2011. gulp, let's make that a double... gulp, gulp. Breath in, breath out Carolina. I will add one exception to that - if I need a zipper, thread, or other item to complete the project which otherwise without that must-have piece it would remain unfinished forever, I can purchase that piece. (let's not get crazy here). I can see my husband entering a total state of shock if he ever read this declaration - he would probably faint.

One of these completion projects is figuring out how to quilt on my machine so that I can finally finish that quilt that I started a ways back . Below are my first efforts at learning how to do that.

Learning to quilt samples

Aside from craft projects and house projects, I intend to get to the end of Tolstoy's 816 page book that I started when we took the girls to that marine science class in Georgia back in November. If you want a little more than a little romance in your reading, Anna Karenina is a must read. I listed it under the category "other" here.

Cover Anna Karenina

It is important to emulate "the greats" of this world. Anna Maria Horner had a fantastic post regarding everything she completed this year. I plan to do my best, in the same way, next December after the holidays. I truly believe that acknowledging what you have done and completed in the past year is a ticket to staying young - it proves to you what you are capable of even if when you started you felt too tired and exhausted to do anything, let alone "something".

So 2011 will be a year for kicking some major butt on the process of aging. How to do I do that? Well I needed major-butt-kicking boots to do that with. Here they are. I am going to put my boots on and start kicking butt on all my "somethings". Wish me luck.  Carolina

Boots for kicking some  major butt


Location, Location, Location

Location, location, location ... is that not what I learned was THE key ingredient to making a business successful? 

When one of my daughters was very little, the entrepreneur in her began to come through. We were visiting Martha's Vineyard Island and she thought she would make some money selling shells. Her shells were special, for she had painted them. She told me they would bring in "good money". She set up her "booth" at the end of the driveway. Just like most moms when they see their kids selling lemonade out there, I thought she was the cutest thing ever.

Laela and shells

An hour went by and she had yet to see any action.

Laela selling shells at the end of the driveway

She is a smart cookie, it didn't take her long to realize her problem : location. In the van we loaded all her stuff and the whole family, grandparents too, and we drove into town. We parked the van across the street from her desired business location and watched her from across the street. In no time she was reeling it in.

Laela selling shells

It wasn't long before we couldn't control ourselves in the van any longer and we burst out of it and booked it across the street to ask her how she was doing.

Money from sales
She made a hefty chunk of change in no time flat. $40 in under a half an hour compared to the nickel she had earned after a long, hot, paltry morning at the end of the driveway. That day we all learned the lesson of location, location, location.

That was then, this is now. What is now? The INTERNET is now. The internet is your new location and if your web presence "bites the dust" so will your business in no time flat. I am sure that my blog says "Stay At Home Mommy" all over it, but that won't be forever. As my girls grow up I hope to go into business someday. When that day comes (meaning when I finally decide on a product to sell), I want to have a polished presence. I saw this bit on the web about advertising and I didn't want to forget it when that all important day arrives - this is why you are seeing it here on my blog. I am killing three birds with one stone. #1) I am sharing it with you #2) I am archiving it #3) I am recreating my blog to showcase everything that goes into my head that I find relative to my 5 year goal of someday having my own creative job. This way, when my girls go off I can easily scroll through the past 5 years and get to the information I need rather than searching page by page through my sketch books and odd scraps of paper with notes jotted down on them.

So  ... below you will see a screen shot from an American Express Open Forum session on refreshing your brand.

Project RE-Brand

If you press on the link ,Project RE:Brand, it will take you right to it. I HIGHLY recommend watching ALL 3 episodes if you are at all interested in this topic. They follow a specific company in all three episodes of the link I am sharing with you. The company is Art Yarns , they dye yarns that are positively dreamy. The company that takes them through the process that is nothing short of a rebirth is called OFFICELAB, or rather the Office of Language and Beauty, an advertising firm in New York. These people are AMAZING. If I can afford it I will have them on my team when I am ready. I honestly don't think I could afford NOT to have them. Look at what they did for Art Yarns and you will see what I am talking about. Here is a peek at what they came up with for their advertising layouts ... totally captures the essence of what I want to be enticed with when I am shopping for yarn and projects to make with that yarn.

Art yarns mohair

Don't you agree?

Can you say "D-R-E-A-M-Y" ?

Art Yarns red

Or how about this one?

Art Yarns multi

Money well spent. It hints at the magic I can create with their yarns rather than confining me to a specific preordained project that may or may not suit my tastes and needs. Thumbs up to Art Yarn. The beauty of this is that Art Yarns has the quality product to back it with. 

If location, location, location, is where it is at ... then that location better be ready to go because on the net, there is another business that IS ready and to get there is effortless. All you have to do is "click". I learned the location lesson already, I don't want to forget it even if now it is under it's new name, "Branding".


While Nobody Is Looking

Here is a quick run down ... I am supposed to be homeschooling the girls. I was waiting on one of them to finish their math work so that I could correct it and I saw that my computer had a few more emails to check. I couldn't resist seeing what they said. Emily of Ravenhill had sent me a quick note. While no one was looking I had to, HAD to, get a quick glimpse of her blog. My parents have been visiting for a week and I have been completely blog deficient. If Emily's blog wasn't so darn PERFECT, I probably would have been able to wait. She had this post about making paper dolls with her kids while they were home from school for a quick vacation. It brought back memories of projects unfinished. I immediately started to dig for that project to share with Emily.  The girls are busy, busy homeschooling so shhh. I figure I may as well show you that unfinished project while the girls take a test. I took it out to the wood pile we have been working on expanding in preparation for winter with my husband's new toy, a log splitter.

Log splitter

It is kind of a yucky day for shooting blog photos ... but the girls are busy and I am scurrying around like a little mouse trying to get this post in for you.

So, anyways, a LONG time ago when my nephew was a little boy he drew a drawing of his "new" cousin, my daughter Nica.

Drawing by little Michael, age 5

Like all kids' drawings, it was precious. Here I am fourteen years later and I still have that drawing kicking around together with copious others my own kids made. I am getting off track. The point is I copied the drawing and colored it in.

Drawing by little Michael, age 5, colored in

And then I cut each "piece" out of fabric and appliquéd them on to the backing fabric.

Quilt of drawing of Nica made by little Michael

That is it. That is as far as I got.

Close up quilt of Nica

But I actually have a point here. My point is that "while nobody is looking", our children, the world's children, are making beautiful art all around us and it is our responsibility to "be looking". I love it how Emily shares how much she loves her children, and I absolutely admire her for the fact that she always IS looking.

Lots of love and hugs to you, Emily.

Close up quilt of Nica, heart

Bottle Project Homework #2

Progress on my homework project has been slow to materialize due to my time constraints. I have been thinking about it, however, and what you see below is phase two. I colored one of the bottle inspirations from last week.

Looks like snowflakes bottle homework project 

I have had Christmas on the brain quite a bit lately. I am not quite sure if coloring the above drawing made me think of Christmas, if the cooler weather did it to me, or if I can blame Melissa P. for sending me into a state of shock by letting me know that Christmas is less than thirteen weeks away. However it came to be ... I have Christmas on the brain and have been eyeing my stash of Christmas music. I am still holding out on the music, but the bottle bottoms made me think of snowflakes. Here is my first card

Card #1 homework bottle project
 and that led me to this

Card #2 bottle homework project 

In a way, the last one is a true reflection of how I feel about Christmas. It is a quite, gentle time that blends both my love for the magic of Christmas and my latina roots. I think I "kinda" like it.



You Missed The Big Party

Yup ... you missed the big party. What? You didn't get an invitation? Don't feel bad, the music kind of bit the dust, the food was tasteless, and I actually was the only one that showed up. You see it was my party, my very own pity party. I throw myself this pity party every year at the end of the summer. It is standard procedure for the first few weeks of homeschooling. It was what has kept me away from sharing with you, here, on the blog.

It all started when I was zooming along on my quilt project and hit a couple of stumbling blocks. One of them required a purchase of this

New feet 

They are feet - feet for my sewing machine. How was I supposed to know that whatever came with my inherited sewing machine couldn't do the job? The whole thing got me kind of deflated. I procrastinated in a couple of different directions, but everything pointed to one word - RESPONSIBILITY.

No matter which way I turned, I faced that nagging feeling of wanting to escape the major task I have taken on, that of educating my children.

Laela's 7th grade reading books 

I would love to spend my days ONLY working on my creative projects and blogging. You see, if I don't put the information into their heads - it isn't going in there by way of any another teacher. There is no other teacher. My studio has terms like "negative numbers", "Circumference = 2 π r" "Photosynthesis", "the nitrogen cycle" "Multiplicative something or other", "the 10 Amendments to the Constitution" and so on being bounced around on a daily basis now ... all very uncreative. Their experiments take over my kitchen counter too.

Bio experiment on kitchen counter

By now, a few weeks into it, we are once again finding our groove. I have finally jerked my priorities back into place. Priorities? In this blogging world, which I am so enthralled by, I have to keep reminding myself exactly just what my priorities are - they are my girls. I have to keep reminding myself that my priorities are just that - MINE.  

Girls walking in the woods:red dress
Like a teenager, I would love to focus on me, Me, ME, but it is their turn right now.

Nica w:guitar on dock 
The BIGGEST creative project I have going right now IS my girls. I get jerked around a bit by listening to what others say. It all just gets me into an emotional quagmire. What others, you ask? It is THEY ... the ones you hear yourself quoting ... "THEY say mothers need their own time". "THEY say it is best if the children go to school", "THEY say a woman should make her career stand on equal footing with the other demands of life". The only problem is that THEY don't know me. THEY don't know that when I am on my death bed I want to be there without any regrets about how I raised my two girls that I went halfway around the world to get. THEY, the ones who say the thoughts that linger in my mind, say the things they do because it works for THEM. I don't know them, and they don't know me. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life is stayed true to myself. I have always been an independent sort, not a loner, just very self assured. Some who know me would say I am an out-of-the-box type of thinker. At 46, I know myself, and yet it is still a difficult thing to do to follow my own path. Sure, I would love to have my creative thoughts turned into something that got more than monetary reward - the biggest payoff would be acknowledgment. But the stars are aligned differently right now. Soooo, in a nutshell, the pity party is over with. 

I folded up my quilt, ordered the new "feet", dove head first into our new homeschooling year, and picked a different project. I picked a project that required less of everything - brain cells, cussing, and table surface area. I made my oldest, the musician in the family, a new dress, a red one. I worked on it at night while the rest of the United States kept up on the episodes of Big Brother. 

Nica in new red dress 

It is an Amy Butler pattern. I guess a part of me felt like making replacements for the dresses that I had cut up for the quilt. Dad wanted it longer. She wanted it shorter. I ended up making it the way way I felt it looked best. She must have approved because she actually wore it to church on Sunday. She is a teenager, and as she takes these last few steps while she is still under my wing ...

Nica's cowboy boots 

 I don't want to miss any of it.

Nica red dress #2

Procrastination In Action

A Forest Of Stories book cover 

Welcome to a peek at how I procrastinate. I am the QUEEN of procrastination. As you know, I am supposed to be making the back of that quilt. Do you see a quilt here? No, of course not, that would be out of character. I am in the midst of doing what I do best - pushing aside what I am supposed to be working on. My friend, Alicia, sent me this wonderful book, A Forest Of Stories . In our facebooking back & forth I filled her in on a quest of mine to see ten trees that I have on my "bucket list" before I die. She saw this book and thought of me. 

Border book:Forest 

Both the story & the illustrations are captivating and magical. Even the borders are beautiful. So beautiful in fact ...

Blue border book: Forest 

that I had to copy them. I folded up the quilt and carefully placed it on my husband's pool table - I knew it would be safe there. I pushed aside my quilting supplies and made room for my paints. I haven't painted in a LONG, LONG time. I had to reacquaint my self with my supplies. No worries, though. When one is procrastinating any extra work is no work at all, as long as it doesn't have anything to do with the project I am avoiding.

  My copy of orange border 

I had so much fun. I kept right on going. I expanded a bit on the border and ended up with this:

My design inspired by orange border

Which then, of course, made me do this: 

Carolina: green poncho 

Can't you just imagine an ultra thick polar fleece green poncho with an embroidered 3" ribbon down the front? And while we are at it why not get those boots and legs like the ones I drew on her?

As my fellow procrastinators in this world know, it never ends there. It is like a bacteria that keeps on growing.

Beyond copying the border


For Brandy

Desk, white

Brandy wanted to see the finished white desk. Here it is, Brandy, and I can't properly describe how happy I am to have this much desk space. All I can say is - what took me so long? The fix was cheap & quick so I don't have an excuse for not getting it done sooner. It is kind of like cleaning the house - I gripe about it for days, when I finally get around to cleaning it I feel so content with myself. But, like a patient that has suffered memory loss, I completely forget that feeling when the house gets dirty again and I go right back into the pattern of complaining & procrastinating. Having this much desk area gives me enough space for the IMPORTANT things in life - like this bug I caught outside the other day.

Bug in a jar 

Although it was dead, I had visions of it coming back to life in the middle of the night and crawling into my craft supplies so I made sure to put it in a jar with a tight fitting lid. I unscrewed the lid off the other day to show the bug to my kids and I just about was blown away to the other side of the studio. The stench was putrid ... & POTENT. Apparently it has been decaying - YUCK - but I can't bear to throw it out, you see ...I love the bug.

My desk area also affords me the space to keep other things that don't belong here like these peppers.

Green peppers on a plate 

They too are in a state of decay at the moment. They are Habañero peppers. The old man at the dump, Ron, gave them to me. I guess he figured by way of association with my Latina background I would use these. These peppers are so hot it would make it impossible for me to speak after ingesting them. Do you think, Brandy, that he is trying to tell me something?

I like how my studio is coming along. I keep Alicia's painting in amongst my brushes as a reminder that she is painting just about a painting a day. (Alicia- YOU GO GIRL !!!). I have been starting to paint a bit myself. Most of it is the kind of stuff only my mother would compliment.

Alicia's butterfly painting & brushes 

I thought, Brandy, you might want to see this too (below). Although I have an embarrassing 72 linear feet of shelf space ... somehow it was not enough. I took these super colorful bags that are being sold in all the bookstores now, and hung them up from hooks on the wall. They are holding everything from embroidery hoops to popsicle sticks ... you know ... stuff that never sits on a shelf well.

Colorful bags for crafts supplies on wall 

And so here I am, finally doing my work & homeschooling the girls in an organized environment. It almost feels surreal. I like having all my things around me. I have finished piecing the quilt top, but I will have to wait to reveal it. I am hoping to get the backing done before I take pictures of it all. I can say with a great degree of certainty, though, that you will have to wait until NEXT YEAR before you see it actually quilted. Lord knows what I was thinking when I decided to make the size it is turning out to be. Hope you enjoyed the tour, Brandy. If you are ever in Tennessee, do stop by. I promise not to serve you anything made with Habañero peppers & I will do my best to sweep the porch free of bugs before you arrive.  Carolina

Studio:Schoolroom with white desk

Could I Have Gone To The Mall?

Sew Serendipity Tunic Dress Front 

Ah... the dress is done. I can sit back and admire it. I will wear it tomorrow to the farmer's market. It's the kind of dress I could wear wherever and whenever I wanted to. It fits me perfectly, and making the dress, instead of buying it, suits me just fine. Sure I had to work hard at making every detail perfect, and perfectly finished, so that no matter what I choose to do when I am wearing the dress, if it gets dirty, I can just toss it in the washer and dryer and know that it is going to hold up. This is the kind of dress that I can multitask in, literally. While wearing it, I can simultaneously breath, sit, and eat. It doesn't pinch or pull me anywhere. These are inherent bonuses in sewing your own clothing, but I could have just as well gone to the mall and bought myself a dress. So why didn't I? 

Sew Serendipity Tunic Dress close up top 

As you already know, I followed Kay Whitt's advice and made the muslin first. By doing that, I was able to make the necessary adjustments to the pattern before cutting my nice, colorful fabric. I increased the length of the arm bands at the edge of the sleeves and I also lengthened the dress by an entire 6" (that is almost 15 cm., for my foreign readers). Making the muslin first was like driving into the downtown area of a city I had never before been to; I was a bit unsure of myself. When I finally got to the fun fabrics, though, I felt like I knew the roads and the signs already. I had "been there before". I did encounter the equivalent of road construction detours with one of the sleeves, I had to make a U-turn and do a redo. If I happen to grow that third arm I have been praying for, I am ready with an extra third sleeve.

Sew Serendipity tunic dress sleeve detail
 So why didn't I just go to the mall and buy myself a dress? It was a tough week, and as a mother of kids on summer vacation, the week was a busy one. I felt torn between what I had to do and what I wanted to do.  I really wanted to spend the entire week sewing, but life has it's demands that can't be pushed aside. So I did the best I could. When I wasn't working on the project, I was thinking about the project. I thought about it while I was weed whacking the yard, while I was making toasted ground cumin seed butter to drizzle on the fresh squash & potato buttermilk soup, while I was driving to pick up the frozen equivalent of half a cow that had spent it's life grazing on the beautiful green pastures of the Tennessee countryside. I thought about the project while hiking around the lake, while I was on my way driving to a homeschooling conference; I thought about it a lot. I wondered what you thought too. I imagine you have thought about making yourself something and decided against it because it would just be easier to drive to the nearest mall, buy it, and be done with it. I could have done the same, but I would have missed out on so many things that have occurred in these past two weeks that have serendipitously made my life richer, let alone having the dress fit me to a "T". Before I share with you those things let me begin with the word, serendipity, since after all it is in the title of the book, Sew Serendipity, that I followed for the past couple of weeks. I got this off the internet:


  1. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
  2. The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.
  3. An instance of making such a discovery. 
Once upon a time there was a fairy tale named The Three Princes of Serendip. Serendip was the old Arab name for Sri Lanka. As their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity of things which they were not in quest of.

Horace Walpole coined the word serendipity, and I am grateful to him for it. Examples of inventions made because of serendipity include cornflakes, Post-it notes, the Slinky, the microwave oven, and one of my favorites - the chocolate chip cookie. To find out how they came about look under "inventions" here. In the past couple of weeks I have been living the word. Here are a few serendipitous things that happened to me while I was trying to learn how to sew a dress:

  1. Margaret became a new follower of my blog at my last post, by visiting her blog I learned about the beautiful Watts Towers by Simon Rodia in L.A., California. His work is worth exploring in depth. If you click on the highlighted words (above) you can see a short movie about him and his project.
  2. I went to buy fabric at a quilt shop that had lots of fabric by Kaffe Fassett. I was so impressed with his fabrics, they seem to ooze color out of every weft and warp, that I went home and researched him. On his website I found a short movie about him and his thoughts about living with lots of color. After seeing it, I can tell you with a certain degree of certainty, that I can feel a learning-how-to-quilt project coming on. His explanations of why he is happy living with lots of riotous colors, vs. decorating with a more monochromatic, minimalistic decorating scheme, is a part of an ongoing internal dialog I have been having with myself for years. I was shocked when typing back and forth with Alicia, on an unrelated subject, she brought it up to me on her own. It is a subject I plan to explore in depth and you will be reading about, I hope, on your subsequent visits to my space, here on my blog.
  3. I practically wore out my keyboard typing back and forth to my new friend, Alicia. The constant messaging back and forth with her has resulted in a deepening of our friendship beyond what I could have hoped for. I received, via snail mail, a beautiful watercolor painted by Alicia (see below). She has been sewing the same project and blogging about it on her blog, Possibilities. It wasn't until my dress was all done, and I was composing this post, that I realized my dress has the same colors that are in her painting. If the vast expanse of land between her home and mine were fabric, I would sew a running stitch through it and pull on the thread as hard as I could until, like the fabric in the dress, we were gathered together.

Watercolor by Alicia Armstrong
But that is not all that happened this week. Louis Pasteur, the French scientist who invented pasteurization and the vaccine for rabies, said "In the fields of observation, chance favors only the well prepared mind". This week I realized why I sewed the dress myself instead of going to the store to buy one. It is not because it is cheaper to sew it myself. It is because when I go through the process of making, I grow. I grow in a way that cannot be forgotten tomorrow, and in a weak moment the dress will remind me of that growth. I need that inner growth because it sustains me through all my busy, multitasking days.

Sew Serendipity Tunic dress back view

Doodle 'til I Drop

Doodle 1

We all doodle. We doodle while we are on the phone, when we are bored, when we are frustrated, when we are waiting ... we doodle. We throw away most of these doodles, at least I do. But what if I did a doodle to keep?

Doodle sassafras leaf 

So what would happen if you took doodling a step further? ... and doodled on different paper...

White stamp & ink on black paper 

or on something like a paper bag ...

Doodle on paper bag 

or with a different tool on something else entirely ... something more ... permanent...

Adirondack chair back closeup 

Something you could actually sit on and doodle some more ...
 Adirondack chair by Carolina 

Would you doodle 'til you dropped?

I did.