February 26, 2010

I received an e-mail from my sister this morning, wishing me a happy birthday in a way that only she, and Brak could. I laughed so hard. And then I wished we could spend the day together. I miss hanging out with her. And the many hours and days we would watch Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast together. Beneath the Brak picture is the message of her e-mail, and one of my very favorite songs from the cartoon.

Brak would like to sing you a song:

What day is it?
Can you please tell me?
What day is it?
I’m confused, you see!

Is it Sunday?
Is it Monday?
Is it Tuesday, blues day, better wear your shoes today?
Is it Wednesday?
Is it Thursday?
Is it Friday, Saturday, better wear a hat today?

:o) Happy Birthday Sisser.

101 in 1001, and 33

I have had my list of the 101 things to do in 1001 days on my desktop since the New Year. It was supposed to serve as a reminder to look over the list again, and to revisit and re-evaluate what still remains. And here it is, the end of February, and my 33rd birthday, and I am just getting to it. Perhaps, I should have looked at it sooner, as #72 was to have a breakfast party to celebrate my 33rd birthday. While I still want to have a feast of a brunch birthday bash, I will have to shoot for another year.

And man alive, do I change a lot in a short amount of time. Much of what remains on the list, is hardly an interest or priority any longer. I must have had grand visions of organization and order when I drew up this task list, and many points now seem absolutely stifling, and others just no longer something I would desire, for instance: print up a few styles of blank thank you’s to have on hand for written notes, learn how to french braid, make memory quilts with out-grown clothes for the Craunlets for their beds. And I sit here today, and I KNOW that I would not like those bedspreads. AT ALL. I love their eclectic artful little rooms. And french braiding. Really?! Grandma Dubs is super good at it. I think I will just let that one be her special treat with Bella, as I am pretty excited when I get the part anywhere close to straight when we do double pony tails. And thank you’s? Right. I would design a few. We would make small editions of each of them, and then I would soon want something different. I like to change all the time. I enjoy the freedom. I am too seasonal to commit to a standard, or a stock issue thank you, for the many occasions.

It’s nuts really. This whole 30-minutes a day of reading, writing or creating entirely for pleasure; it has shifted the way I think about so many things. I am making a few less to-do lists, and instead I am doing. I am longing for less specific items, and finding creative solutions with things that we already have on hand. So, I am thinking on some new tasks that I can switch onto the list.

So, what did I get done from that list? I have organized all the wrapping materials. All the papers, and ribbons, and labels, and all sorts of other random ephemera that could become gift wrap are now in one space. And it is beautiful to see the rainbow pile of folded tissue ready for use, the small gift bag teaming with ribbon left overs...so much color, so much texture, so much potential. The Craunlet’s art is also organized; each has their own portfolio for storage, and small stacking files for supplies + pieces that are still in-progress.

We spent a lot of time in the garden this summer and fall. So several tasks were hit with that time and attention, and others are close to completion, such as resetting the stones around our front garden, and planting ivy. We relocated all the bulbs, so each will be visible when they bloom, spreading out their color and timing more thoughtfully in the front gardens. We also built our raised garden beds, and will plant vegetables this Spring.

I visited Kindergartens, and Bella is now enrolled for the Fall, at Brooklyn Community School. And I am still beside myself. Now to find Nate a singing class.

My salt-n-pepper shaker collection is amassing quickly [one of my favorite sets is pictured above] and the plate installation in the kitchen consumes most of the back splash. We added a few birthday items just today, and relocated the yellow breadbox, to be closer to all the new fun. Also a birthday present, I hung some fresh and lively dish towels [appliqued by my fabulously talented sister] on the hand rail of the oven.

I got a pen-pal, and weekly, I send her correspondence. I think this one has been the most unexpected and remarkable of all the items on the list. On the official list it reads: get a pen-pal and send them amazing correspondence. When I made that list, I had no idea of how it would happen, and now that I am more than a year into the writing, I am amazed that I never expected return letters, and I had no idea that my penpal relationship would grow out of such a sad and painful place of loss. And that she would be a friend, that lives only a short drive away. And further, that penning a letter and sending it off weekly, would grow me far more than I ever could have imagined.

I have requested materials for an Art Therapy degree, and am currently pouring over the documents from Ursuline and weighing out where and when to start some of the necessary pre-requisites.

And the most exciting of fronts, and best ever of birthday presents, I have a professional website at jencraun [dot] com. And this week, I will fill it up with image and copy. But it is there, and real. And that makes me feel all grown up, and yet as excited as a child on Christmas morning at the same time. And within that site + also linked to it, I have an Etsy store, a blog and a twitter account--all devoted to my professional art. It feels like such a HUGE step. I am both nervous and excited to get them fully stocked + operational in the next week. And being more accountable to my making.

Such an overwhelming list of good. And so far, a very delightful birthday. Even if it is a blizzard.

February 23, 2010


We have a habit of over-doing the birthday's around here, as many of you might of noticed, and several of you have experienced.

One of my favorite aspects about creating installation-like decor is that it hangs around for a week or so beyond the event. And we live in these sweet dreamy spaces, sort of cherishing the milestone we celebrated.

Here are the few remnants of the party. And let me just say, I LOVE our living room right now. As the rain falls today, and the Cleveland skies are plagued with a foggy gray, we have the most magical weather in here. Yesterday, we shared the last few cupcakes with our neighbor Mary, the eldest resident on the street, and brought some of our rainbow into her home as well. Sharing our hope for spring together, and celebrating life. Mary is in her nineties, and comes to animated life around the Craunlets. It is such a treasure to share this life with her.

We are down to our last party favor, and I plan to bestow the rainbow stacked crayons, and the handmade notebook upon a former student that I am meeting with this week. A student from Taiwan, who upon hearing my many stories about the many adventures of the Craunlets, fell in love with them, and continues to shower them with small presents and gestures.

I received a bittersweet correspondence this week, from a dear friend who lost her baby girl a year ago this month. Born completely beautiful, but already passed. The heart ache. She gave me such unexpected encouragement and kind words, that I know are true, but come from a very difficult hard place, and offering an unmatched perspective. They watered my spirit, and poured over me, as I reflected on the party, but more importantly the reason for the party, and as my friend put it so simply and eloquently: [in applauding our efforts in] making sure her daughter remembers how special she is, how blessed she is to have made 5 years, and that she is celebrated. What a monumental thing. To know that you are special. That you are loved beyond measure, that you are blessed. And celebrated. Isabella Marie, you are five, and as you put it, you will never be four again. And we are so blessed to share this life with you.

February 22, 2010

Rainbow Art Party, Play-by-play

We scurried around all of Saturday morning, finishing up every last party detail right up unto the wire. We trimmed the window with new fabric birthday bunting, created a last-minute table cloth with drawing paper + artist tape, iced + set the cake on it's stand, and began welcoming friends and family as they filled our home in the afternoon.

The art corner in the kitchen was a smashing hit with the little folk, and only the prospects of a slice of the spectrum cake drew them away. Bella was charmed by all the details, and was so sweet in contemplating her candles, with her efforts in making a wish and her attempts to blow out the flames. She was excited about every present, and ooohed and awed in surprise and delight -- holding each one up, after unwrapped, exclaiming with joy.

The sun poured in our living + dining room windows, and for a moment, we all dreamed of Spring together, celebrating Bella and the sweet song of her life.

Rainbow Art Party, Preview in Pictures

I am up to my eyeballs in photo processing, but here are a few glimpses into the preparations for Bella's Rainbow Art Party. Starting with the art we designed for the printed invitations, down to the cake, and the decorations. A full account of the wild raucous party will be coming soon, and action shots forthcoming in short order as well.

Hope this visual feast get's your new week going in the right direction. Happy Monday.

February 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Little Miss

I can barely believe it. The first babe turns FIVE today. Her I'm-ready-for-kindergarten, and I-will-no-longer-be-four shouting little self. I kid you not, actual quotes, and the very first things out of her mouth this birthday morning.

photo taken by Dan of Z Media Family, 2009

Happy Birthday Miss Bella. You are such an adventure. Your spunky spit-fire spirit, and zeal for life and your now-that-you're-getting-older-moments where you'll snuggle on the couch to a good book for some quiet time, and that charming old soul. Your gorgeous blue sky eyes. Your giggles, and your little face freckle. We love you bella-boo, and look forward to fully celebrating your birthday in grand Team Craun style this weekend. With rainbows and sparkles and art galore. Your very favorite things right now.

February 17, 2010

I've Gone and Done it

For a while now, I have been well aware that I spend a wee bit and more often and accurate a lot too much time online. So I resolved in this new year, that I would read/write/create something entirely for pleasure every solitary day, all three hundred and sixty five of them. And I would carve out a minimum of a half an hour, for myself. every. day. And let me tell you, Internet, I am energized and hopeful, and feeling creative and brimming with ideas. Ideas that don't just hit a to-do list, but get started...and some of them even finished. I downloaded a snappy daily triumphs calendar from the Small Object here; it is one sheet covered with a grid of teeny little boxes numbered for each day of every month in this year. And how motivating it has been to stamp my little black circle in those squares, one-day-at-a-time, after my half an hour and increasingly more often far longer. every. day. And I have only missed one day since the first of January. And I cannot remember why, but when I see that one little white space in the sea of black circles, I cannot help but wonder what was more important.

Yesterday, I stayed up way too late to finish reading The Help. I had to get that monster off of my back. That torturous pleasure of consuming a good read all too fast. The inevitable feeling of bittersweet accomplishment at the conclusion of a new reading relationship. When the characters are all too real; I found myself constantly entertaining their conversations in my head during the few moments I wasn't trying to read just another paragraph. For the first time, in a I-sadly-couldn't-even-take-a-good-guess-at-remembering long time, I turned 451 real pages in three days. Because it fed my spirit. Because even when I was boiling mad at much of the content, I was in another place in real time. And now, my mind is waging and wandering around the many borders and lines within my own life. Put best on the dust jacket: The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't...[characters that are] suffocating within the lines that define...

Sorry I have neglected writing, I am working on a balance of less Internet, read: less virtual distraction and more real life Intentionality. And that includes this place, I cannot imagine not sorting out and sharing our adventures and all the chatter. I plan to be here regularly again, I just needed a little break to back far enough away to see where I wanted to draw the line.

Our sweet friend who watches the Craunlets once a week, helped Nate build the bead letter message [at the top of this post] for Bella who was being re-casted yesterday, awaiting her return. I thought it was also quite apropos to this post, and sweetly welcoming.

February 10, 2010

Blizzarding and Subsequent Snow Building

To celebrate the monumental and continuing snow fall that has descended on Cleveland, we bundled ourselves up and trekked outside to build the Craunlet's first ever snowman.

After we realized the snow wasn't especially cooperative for the task, we downsized our building goal to the scale of a snowkid, the considerably smaller relation of the snowman. Two corks became eyes, half a carrot his nose, and Nate generously let him borrow his Fall cap.

February 9, 2010

In the Making

We had three parties this last weekend, and are currently up to our ears in the planning of little Miss Bella's. This mostly means that we have been a bit busier than usual in the making. As in, the dining room table has been buried with projects in various stages, as we juggled them all into completion for all the parties.

Two sweet babies turned one, and we celebrated them first on Saturday. Little boy is getting a sibling soon, and subsequently, a new room makeover. So, working within the proposed woodsy critter theme, I made a Mr Owl collage on a square of re-purposed Maple. Notice the snappy wood veneer samples I mentioned in an earlier post. What a fun project. And technically, so simple, I even opted for scissors for many of the cuts, as opposed to my Olfa knife. And ran all those little pieces through the Xyron, and then stuck them all down. A couple of them were dyed subtly with an ink pad, particularly the case of the green leaves and white-washed moon. This process was all of course quite simple, only after all the of drawing and pattern tracing. The Dave readied the maple piece--cutting it down to the square and sanding it, and he also trimmed out the edges when I was done.

For the little girl we made some artful prints stamping her hands and feet with acrylic paint [with mom + dad unknowing] whilst we watched her the week prior. Recently settled into a new home, she has a new room of white walls. Her former nursery was RED, and I capitalize the red intentionally, to emphasize it was the classic five-layers-of-red painting experience that anyone who has ever painted a room scarlet knows. I imagine most people only endure that experience once? I have certainly crossed it off my list of things to ever want to do again, as much as I am in love with our ruby-walled bedroom.

So, for her I painted these lovely little panels in countless layers of red paint. And in one take each, I kid you not, slathered little girl with white acrylic paint and stamped her hand and foot down on top of the glorious red. I am still amazed at how cooperative she was, and how opaque the single layer of white acrylic was atop the red. And no pink effect?! Next, I sealed those up real good with a glossy polymer clear coat. Once again, the Dave busted out the wood trimming around the edges, and that got painted up with red [many times] and sealed the same way as the top.

Though the project table got a little crowded this last week, it was an awesome spell of resourcefulness, and creative re-purposing of materials. And great fun to create a couple fresh wall hangings for each of their new digs. An now, on to Miss Bella's Rainbow Art Party just around the bend. We wrapped up the art for the invitation over the weekend, then set the type, and printed them in-house. This morning we put them all to post. At long last.

Taking a Sick Day

Some days certainly do not go as planned, yet they still have a way of turning out pretty sweet.

This blustery good-to-stay-inside day has been unexpectedly filled with books about fairylands + wild creatures, ballerina movies and pajamas. And there are few things as breathtakingly mesmerizing as watching your baby sleep.

February 6, 2010

The Grand Dubs

During Isabella's monosyllabic slang season, early in her vocabulary accumulation, she coined the impossibly long W-named Grandparents the "Dubs". Short for the pronunciation of W. It was quite cute at the time, but it has grown to be more apropos to their personalities and relationship with the Craunlets. Grand Dubs has a quick fun + feisty ring to it, which partners brilliantly with their personalities, most markedly my father's; or Grandpa Dubs.

A Grandpa that will pick them up and toss them onto the couch across the room, chase them with tickles, and ride them around on his Harley--pretending that they are driving. He knows and loves them deeply, jokes with them, and fills the house with ornery playing when they visit. One of the Craunlet's favorite shared attributes with the Grandpa Dubs is his love of sweets. So this year, to ring in his birthday, we decided to send him a box of one of his favorites: chocolate covered caramels with pecans. We bought a big box at our local chocolatier, wrapped them up, attached some hand made cards, and sent him a package of sweets, much like the ones he typically sends the Craunlets.

Happy Birthday Grandpa Dubs!!! We hope you enjoy the sweets, and have a grand time celebrating!

February 5, 2010

Ground to Live on

One of my biggest struggles is in staying put. I constantly flit around between tasks, and find my efforts to be efficient almost disabling at times. And distractions. Well, let's just leave that there. That tangent would require a full post all on its own.

Dave's work, an architectural firm, was doing some Spring cleaning this week, and had a sizable pile of samples that they wanted to discard, but couldn't bring themselves to heap it all into the trash. Our local Zero Landfill, which they usually donate to, cannot accept + store materials off season, so they had quite the conundrum on their hands.

So, the Dave extended an invitation to the resident artists of Zygote Press to come to peruse and pillage the treasure. In my efforts to reduce my current art stash, I decided to go as a liaison, and resist every urge to stock up on all the tempting goodies. Goodies like grout samples. Anyone ever seen these?? I mean, really. They are so charming. Little metal channels filled with a variety of toned grouts...nestled into plastic cases, and perfectly ordered + lined up into parallel rows, like a full spectrum of chalk pastels. Surely, these beautiful little objects have a greater purpose, beyond distraction.

But what I truly could not resist, was a little patch of turf *.

This sweet surprise took me completely off guard; what a delightful signal of the promise of Spring. I couldn't stop running my fingers through the 4 x 6 sample of plastic grass. Something so lush, so fake, so green. So steeped with irony. I figured this would be a great reminder of my resolutions for this year. To be more conscious of consumption. To buy less, and to make more. To be more green. To spend a lot less time online. And to spend at least 30 minutes a day [or more] reading, writing, or creating for pleasure.

So, I brought home my little patch of green grass, and nestled it into the crowded space next to my computer on the desk, and perched my first note within the gleaming green blades of grass. And I am delighted to have such a lovely reminder of what I should be doing.

*I must amend, in full disclosure, that I was also enticed by a small set of wood veneer samples, backed with a very thin woven cloth. Maybe a dozen 8 x 10 sheets in total, of a variety of woods--their subtlety shifting colors and grains...thin and smooth. And ever so timely for a currently in-progress project that was at an impasse until I found them.

February 3, 2010

Smitten with Ideas

And now that we have mastered the heart crayons, and nailed down our Valentine cards...I want to make these cuties:

Thank you Ellen, from the long thread, for these fabulous how-to's. The snappy great picture above is hers as well.

Perhaps the pencils can be created and given as our party favors, for Little Miss Bella's upcoming Rainbow Art Party...Now, to just make a little felt rainbow, and a happy birthday banner.

February 2, 2010

Recently, a Round Up

In the last week [or so] I have been on both the giving and receiving end of bartering, something I hope to do a lot more of. I donated a print, which subsequently raised dollars for Doctors Without Borders working in Haiti. Then, I packaged up that print and shipped it off to Rome, Italy.

The Craunlets and I made over 3 dozen heart-shaped crayons, and we wrapped up a handful of them--tied them with pink satin ribbons--to give to Bella's fellow ballet classmates, celebrating their first performance and final class. The remaining are in wait to become our Valentine's, using a free print out + tutorial from the Long Thread, here.

We hosted two Sunday Sabbath feasts--on both sides of this week--with family friends. At the first, we signed our wills. And the second, we shipped off some baby stuff for more use. The bassinet will soon harbor its 5th babe. I spent two full days in the studio, making great progress on my current series of prints. And lastly, I finished one printmaking artist-residency with preschoolers, and started the next with the lower elementary ages.

It has been both full and fun. What have you been up to?

February 1, 2010

The First of February

Today I was delightfully surprised by a first [and very early] birthday present.

A thoughtful sweet friend came over this morning, only hours into the first day of February, bearing this breadbox in yellow. Tied so simply beautiful with a white grosgrain ribbon. Thank you, Donna. What a sweet surprise, and a lovely beginning to this day, this week, and this month.

So this evening I baked an extra loaf of bread, and it is already resting in grand style for some toast in the morning.


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