June 30, 2009

First Love

My love of poetry started with this poem:

Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B. Yeats

Ahhh, still beautiful after all these years. Don't ya think?

June 27, 2009

Some pics from Ireland

Yummy scones

A 99 from Teddy's in Sandycove

Lily finding flowers

Catching up on sleep at odd times in the day

A talent show in granny's back garden

laundry drying on the line

We have packed in so many things in our few days here so far: eating scones at Avoca Handweavers, Teddy’s ice cream in Sandycove, skipping stones into the Dublin Bay, some walking, going to the park, watching a ‘talent show’ in granny’s back garden, visits to 2 bookstores, watching a little Wimbledon on the TV, enjoying lots of flowers, jet lag induced sleeping all the while living a normal life here – going to the store for food, doing laundry…

that only brings us up to Friday....

June 25, 2009

First day of our holiday in Ireland


The flight to Ireland went really well. We flew American Airlines to Chicago, took the train from terminal 3 to 5, and checked in with two hours to spare. I was all prepared with puzzles, a DVD player, coloring books, books and toy bags for the little girls. We ate and did some coloring and reading before getting on Aer Lingus flight to Dublin at 7pm. The kids, being seasoned travelers did really well. The flight was 7 hours, which was broken up into dinner, 2 movies and then sleeping time. Matthew and I were the only ones who didn’t sleep, Matthew played some games on the inflight entertainment screen and I listened to my iPod until it ran out of juice. Everyone else got 2-3 hours sleep.

Everything was very smooth until we got to passport control in Dublin. There were 3 workers for about 2000 people who arrived on the 3-4 international flights that landed at the same time. It took an hour to get through passport control. It was 3am our time but the kids were still happy, buoyed by the idea of seeing granny, who I am sure was wondering where we were!

It was lovely to finally get through passport control, get our bags and see granny. We picked up our hire car and made it home by 11am Irish time, 5am central US time.

Chapter one

The first thing that always strikes me when I get to Mum’s house is the color! Everything is so lush, green and the flowers bright. My Mum has a lovely back garden. Lily loves flowers so much I am afraid she will want to live in Ireland one day just to have a pretty garden! Somewhere in the day we all slept a bit and ate, it seems a bit of a blur now.

Chapter two

The next day (Thursday…today?!?) we waded deep into jet lag territory. The kids were wide awake at 3:30 am Dublin time, granny needed to sleep so we went down to Wicklow for a walk. We hiked up Rocky Valley. The sun was coming up – days are short here in summer, the sun goes down at 11pm and comes back up at 4am. It was lovely to be up to see the dawn move in so slowly.

For the rest of the day we all slept at various times, the little girls almost until dinner. I think it will take a while to adjust to the time difference. Mark worked (his work day starts at 2pm here), Matthew and I went to a book store, their cousin came over to play, we went to Dun Laoghaire for ice cream, when the big kids went asleep we took the little ones to the beach (at 10pm – hopefully they will sleep all night tonight). All in all we are blessed to be here and enjoying the lovely cool Irish summer.

I will be posting photos of our trip here, so check back in for more.

June 23, 2009

Poem for Moms

I love this poem, it is simple and real: I Stop Writing the Poem by Tess Gallagher.

June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Your wife and children love you very much.

(I made this frame with some Photoshop Elements brushes, technique here)

June 20, 2009

Vacation preparation

We are off to Ireland for 5 weeks on Tuesday. I didn't get too much made this week by way of art as I have been cleaning like a crazy woman. A family headed by 2 artists will be staying at my home while we are away, and I wanted the place to look a nice as possible for them. Their own home is lovely, artistic and always neat and clean so I have a high bar to meet! But it is good for me, I love a deadline and each year when we go away is when I get my 'spring cleaning' done.

I am taking some art supplies with me, just the minimum:
Some ready made scraps - ie. gessoed and painted
A few printed and trimmed photos
Some unmounted stamps and an acrylic block
My favorite water soluble oil pastels
Paint brush
Poetry journal
I am also bringing a moleskin sketch book and 2B & 4B pencils, I would like to do some sketching while in Ireland.

I will make a few cards and alter whatever I can while away. I plan to take lots of photos and Mark & I are taking a creative writing class together at an art school that is close to my Mum's house... it will be a week long date. Can't wait!

Matthew and I are starting a new Mom and me project - Keri Smith's 'Wreck This Journal'! We got one for each of us. Matthew had been dying to start, so we did the first few 'activities' the other night. It is going to be fun. It is a perfect boy art project.


On the book front: This week I received my first author's review of my book. It is a mock up of the book so far, with the text laid out on the pages, but only a few photos for placement purposes. It has to be completely edited before the designer gets it. It is due to the designer, Marissa Bowers, on August 16. The book is 128 pages and has lots of orange highlighted notes from my editor, Liz Casler, so I have lots of editing ahead of me. I am super impressed with the level of attention Liz has given to this text, her notes are super helpful and insightful.

A close friend, Erin Lichnovsky is going over it today to give me her opinion of the feel of the book so far. It was Erin I talked to about the vision I had for this book last year before I spent a few hours in Starbucks writing my proposal. She is always willing to help out (despite being super busy with her 7 kiddos), brainstorm and be honest, which is just what I need. Erin, you are a precious friend. Thank you for your love, time and support.

June 18, 2009

Life changing

I am 19 weeks into my fifth pregnancy now. I am in that middle phase where I am showing a belly which gives me an excuse for all the weight I have put on :), I am no longer desperately tired and hungry and am cruising along happy to be carrying a healthy baby.

We found out the sex of the baby Monday and are delighted that we are having a little boy. I was going to be happy with either. If it had been a girl I would have looked forward to more years of wings, crafts and pretty things. Now I know it is a boy, well who knows? Will he be like his big brother, an avid reader, super active, with an intense drive for justice and knowledge? Or will he be influenced by the 3 girls directly above him who will twitter all over him in an artsy and maternal way? In the next few years he will demonstrate his own personality and interests, it will be fun to see where his style of being takes our family.

Being pregnant is one of those life changing experiences, the world will never be the same, this little guy will bring with him something that is unique and special, like all little people do. I feel so blessed to be a part of this creative process.

June 16, 2009

Places to hear poetry

As a mom of 4 little ones I don't have much time to read. I end up doing a little bit of reading here and there. To make sure that I am putting something artistic in my brain daily I need easy access to reading material or honestly it is not going to get done. I have a bunch of poetry books about the house, but sometimes I find it even easier to listen to a poem online. Here are some great places that I go to to listen to a poem a day. The poems are a mixed bag of course, sometimes I like them, others not so much. Here are two:

The Writer's Almanac usually has poems that are very accessible and easy to read. And you get to hear Garrison Keillor's wonderful voice.

The Poetry Foundation is a little more contemporary. I subscribe to their paper magazine also and have found that sometimes they have some edgy and difficult to follow poems. But it is still a great resource and I have listened to a wide range of poets at their site.

The trick is to make poetry reading a daily habit. That can be a difficult to maintain given the busy and often distracting life of a Mom. But these poetry sites makes it a little easier, you just have to remember to bookmark them and then take 2 minutes for a daily visit.

June 12, 2009

Stamping with photoshop & handmade books

I have used stamps for a few years. They are a really quick and simple way to add dimension and decoration to art work. I love to use them to stamp over my photos, but sometimes I get frustrated at how I am limited to the size of the stamp. I have some stamps where I have big and little versions of the stamp, but for most of my stamps it's one size fits all.

Well there is a way of expanding the options! It is found in photoshop. I have only Photoshop Elements 4.0, if I can do this technique with this ol' program anyone who has bigger and better versions can probably do so much more!

You need some version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, a scanner and a printer.

Here are the steps:
1) stamp the image onto a piece of white paper
2) scan images into your computer
3) open the image in photoshop
4) highlight the image with a marquee tool
5) in Edit choose 'Define brush from selection' give it a name and viola: you have a custom made brush.

Open up any photo and then choose either the eraser or brush tool and pick your new brush, adjust the size, color, opacity etc and 'stamp' it on your photo. This way you can add your stamp to your photo at any size you choose!

I like to print my 'stamped' images and then use those in other artworks. I like to use Printworks Premium Matt Photo Paper best. Yeah, versatility!

Stamps are from the new Lynne Perella 'Heart's Desire' collection for Stampington & Co.


Handmade books

On a different note, Tracey over at Mermaid Beach has a wonderful tutorial for making little books. I have made books like these before but my technique was slightly different. Tracey's technique is neat and so I followed her directions for this one.

Take 10 minutes to watch her video and enjoy the lovely music she has playing.

June 11, 2009

Have supplies will craft

Half the battle of getting any art done at all, for myself or with my kids is having the supplies, and having them handy. I had done some altered clothing a while back for Stampington and had invested, OK, that is too strong a term, I purchased a bunch of fabric paints. I tried the out a bit but found the paint too sticky and unyielding to get excited about. So the paints have been in a basket on my shelf for a while.

At the Target dollar spot I picked up these little fabric pink purses, 3 for a $, and some ribbon for the girls to decorate - it is summer which of course means less school, more crafts, you know? As they were getting ready to launch into the craft I remembered the fabric paints. These paints are perfect for kids to use as they have pointy tips so you can squeeze the paint out and draw with them. Lily decorated a few purses for her friends, Laura made 2 for her granny.

I am glad that I have tried so many different arts and crafts in my time so that I have pretty much any of the supplies I may need for the kids to do crafts whenever it takes their fancy... which with my girls is a daily thing!

June 09, 2009

A poem that knocks you sidewards

B.H. Fairchild is a master of language. Case in point: his poem 'Body and Soul'. Beware - this is a long poem. But brilliant. I am in no way interested in baseball, but I am a lover of understanding human psychology. How Fairchild lays out such complex thought processes while relaying a story is beyond me. Simply masterful. My husband periodically reads this poem to me in the car, it never fails to move. So set aside 5 minutes or so to be dazzled.

June 06, 2009

Family Art Project

Lily loves cats but Matthew is allergic to them. To make up for the fact that we can't have cats last year my husband wrote a children's story for her called 'The Cat Family'. It is an adventure story about a family of 17 cats each with their own unique personalities who discover elves living along side them in their house. It is all set in the magical land of Kalevala and some of the cats activities mysteriously resemble my human children. It is a lot of fun!

I printed out the story and made it into a book. Mark read it to the kids last year when we were in Ireland at Powerscourt Gardens. We moved to different parts of the garden to read each chapter. The kids loved the story and for a touch of serendipity as he was reading chapter 4 in the Japanese Garden a cat came to visit us!

Over the past year Mark and Matthew continued on the story and have written a second story about the cat family, this time about an adventure the grandfather cat had when he was younger.

I made a book for it and we plan on reading it to the kids this year at the same place. We are off to Ireland in a few weeks, I will post pictures of this years 'read'. The book I made this year is not as elaborate as last years, as I am running out of time and I have a bunch of other things to do before we go. But I reckon that it is better to have made something rather than nothing at all.

June 04, 2009

Reading, always reading

Annie 'reading' at Barnes and Nobles

Everyday. Every morning. Every evening.

Each of my girls chooses books off the 'literature' shelf: a shelf with the books recommended by educational catalogs or friends, books with awards embossed on their covers, for me to read aloud. Matthew will usually depart to another room to read his bigger kid books without interruption.

Reading is part of our way of life. So it makes sense that we regularly spend Friday evenings at Barnes and Nobles. Usually my kids will gather lots of colorful cartoon books to read, books that are not on the literature shelf at home, and browse for an hour or so alone. That gives me, perched on one of those impossibly low green painted kid size chairs, the chance to read the latest mixed media magazines or craft books. Gotta take the time to be inspired when I can!

June 01, 2009

Real life poetry

Ok, challenge: Try reading this poem without getting choked up - John Updike's 'Dog's Death'.


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