March 31, 2010

For the Birds

Yesterday, we spent the afternoon in the sun assembling our bird nesting stations. We had been collecting all of the necessary scraps indoors for the past several days, and when the sun had finally warmed and dried the outside, we decided to complete our baskets for the birds.

We merrily trimmed some dried grass plumes, feathery and soft, some golden grass lengths, and several handfuls of twig pieces. Next we added what we had collected from indoors, cotton fabric scraps + thread trimmings from the recent set of cloth napkins we made, strings, dryer lint, and various ribbons + trim pieces. We nestled all of the goodies into our moss hanging baskets, and perched them out into the sun, at the end of our porch.

We came across this charming idea from 5 Orange Potatoes, here, and quickly began amassing one for ourselves since then. We are crazy for our birds here, so this project really resonated with us and hopefully does with our feathered friends.

The birds chirped as we worked in the warm light, watching on from limbs in all of our surrounding trees. All of us quietly singing songs of Spring, in shared excitement and celebration.

March 30, 2010

Chocolate Bunny Terrariums

We rearranged the living space again this weekend, and while we were shifting around all the heavy furniture, Nate insisted repeatedly that all of our efforts were in getting ready for Easter. So, given that Easter is quickly upon us, I decided to finish up our chocolate bunny terrariums. Thank you Martha Stewart, for jump starting the idea--though I cannot find the project anywhere on her site, something similar to what we created was included in the April 2010 issue.

Below is our completed chocolate bunny family:

Nate has already begun negotiations for when he might get to take just a nibble of his chocolate bunny. Apparently the beautiful and eye-level temptation is far too great for a 3-year old who is desperately anticipating Easter.

March 26, 2010

I *heart* Writing Kit

With the littlest Craunlet finally working on legible letter forms, we are finding ourselves writing over here as a daily activity. Making art, cards, and books, and penning letters to long distance relatives. The kids seem to have my same affinity of the mail; both the on the making/sending end, as well as the receiving.

I was recently so inspired by the young writers kit, here, that Mariah of Playful Learning put together for Craft Hope for Haiti. From the very moment I saw it, I have been wanting to assemble something similar myself, for the Craunlets as well as a few of our young-writing friends and family members.

We are quite fortunate to live relatively nearby to a paper outlet store, Hollo's. It is the card, envelope, sticker + school supply equivalent to a five-and-dime candy shop. Needless to say, the Craunlets and myself can barely contain our excitement as we meander through aisles and aisles of treasures, piling up the penny-priced papers in the shopping cart.

As a surprise to their cousin Elliot, the Craunlets helped to put together the prototype for our version of the young writers kit, the very young writers kit; the first-learning to write variety.

I am so delighted with how simply beautiful it all came together, and how it fit so snugly into a cardboard box that I converted into a little writer-enthusiast's attache'.

Writing is so much fun! I am daily thankful to have little one's that have developed a young love for reading and writing, as well as art. The doors that this will open in their minds and hearts--I cannot wait to live it out with them.

March 23, 2010

Writing on the Walls

I'm pretty sure the Craunlet's new Art Studio space needs a roll of this for the far wall.

photos are from Land of Nod, here.

I think it would really anchor their little space. And I am excited about how timely it is, that it could be the most delightful of things for them to share, rounding out their art-inspired Easter basket presents.

The Rain that Makes Way

I have been worrying through all these last two weeks of sunny days about the chance of snow that always looms over Cleveland in March, and even April for that matter, completely forgetting what the cold rains of Spring were like. I forgot about the heavy and thick gray; the cannot-get-warm and the chilled-all-the-way-through wet and windy days. These. How did I forget about these?

Trying to hold back all of my grumpiness, the Craunlets bound out onto the porch together, sharing in the sheer excitement of getting to use their umbrellas. They are beaming ecstatic about this dreary. This most fabulous opportunity. To open their bright covers; to leave the confining walls of the last couple days.

Cheered up a bit by their grassy green frog + rosy red lady bug umbrella's, I haunch over them into the car to get them buckled into their seats. Mom's know that this cannot happen fast enough when it is raining. The back half of your body is being pelted + drenched with with heavy drops, as you work as quick as your fingers can. Only to circle the car, to get the other one in secure. Now hopelessly wet. I don't like umbrellas. At all. And carrying them around all wet is really awful. But, I don't even think this task could be done whilst holding one anyway.

My favorite part of this morning, is that we are leaving our house only for a little pick-me-up. The Craunlets had been cooped up inside since Sunday, and were antsy as all get out. And selfishly, I wanted a cup of coffee. One that would be made for me, with chocolate, steamed milk and whipped cream, and available through the drive through. Also, one that would provide us a little ride time to uplift our spirits.

Off to a good start mom. So wet + grumpy.

So they are all buckled in. Snug. Secure. All dry because they used their sweet umbrellas. And Nate bolts out a near-stutter proclamation in honest excitement: Mom!! The flowers are growing!! All of this rain -- the flowers are growing so big! They are going to be beautiful when this stops!"

That's right. This makes way for something beautiful.

Such sweet and necessary perspective.

March 22, 2010

A Little Local Fame

A while ago I received an e-mail from the Cleveland International Film Festival that extended me an invitation to be a part of this year's CIFF trailer. Having enjoyed many a film festivals in the years past, where I found myself always loving their fresh graphics [via TWIST] and their creative and celebratory trailers, I knew immediately that it would be fun to be engaged in any way that I could.

The proposition was to e-mail them a sentence. Any sentence, that ended with ...because of the Cleveland International Film Festival. So, after almost no thought, I fired off a few of them. I wondered how they might use all of the text responses, sort of forgetting the trailer is generally film, not just words. Then I thought very little of it. Well, until I got invited to the "because of" trailer shoot.

Of course, given my quick response, and stellar absent memory, I all but forgot every single sentence I sent out over the Internets. In panic, I confirmed my shoot time, and inquired if the submitted sentences might be available. I was assured that it would be on hand at the time of the shoot, and that going off the cuff would be an advantage. And somehow, I had an unfamiliar sense of confidence that I just wanted to be a part of this. Even if I had no idea of what I was doing, or what I might be getting myself into.

Several Saturday's later, I show up on location. Having no film experience whatsoever, and generally being uneasy around the camera, nervous and embarrassed were the emotions duking it out inside of me and threatening to kick my butt, as I sat there--pretending I was calm--getting my make-up done.

They call my name, I slip into the expansive [but quite dark] room that is filled with a few busy strangers. I stand firmly on the tape mark that is stuck to the concrete floor, and then I discuss potential lines with who I gather is the Director. Which further made me nervous. We settle on the line "I know that everyone around me is a friend..." and we begin. When I say we begin, I must mention that my face is inches from this hugely invasive and long barrel at the end of a dauntingly large camera. I am told to be comfortable, natural, and to speak my line slowly. again. and again. and again.

I'm sure it is pretty easy and quite comical for you all to picture me in this dark room full of strangers, repeating "I know that everyone around me is a friend..." I was pretty sure that I was having some sort of mental intervention. And forget about trying to be natural, comfortable, and to speak slowly. It was a heck of an awkward self-affirmation type of experience, and that though it was a fairly private filming, it felt at the time [and is now] incredibly public.

I am glad I took the risk, and did something entirely unlike myself. That alone has been exhilarating.

Check out the official 34th CIFF trailer, and look out for my couple-second spot.

I love the line now that I am not repeating it, swallowing back all of my nervousness, and alone with no friends around me. But really, in the light of community, and social networking, the word "friend" is such an interesting one to me. And when I sit in the crowded theaters later this week to catch a few films on the big screen, somehow all of these people will be like friends. Brought together in the energy of this Cleveland, and yet International, film festival.

There are several versions of the trailer. I also made the Director's Cut, and Grrrrl Power, if you are feasting for a couple more of the 34th CIFF trailers. I quite enjoy Passport as well, though I am not included. I think it's the subtitles; I love them.

Local peeps, the film festival goes all of this week and through this weekend -- get out and catch a film or few on the big screen! You can get your tickets here.

March 19, 2010

Like Mother, Like Daughter

The saga and stress of watching your child grow up plagued with your same attributes and shortcomings ensues around here, and on a near-daily basis. Genes are so relentless.

Bella has been slowly plowing through all her new art presents from her birthday, and most recently, decided to attempt the Shrinky Dink. Being keenly observant, she knew her momma had a fabulous necklace whereas she made herself by drawing a magnolia, cutting it, baking it, etc., and hanging it as a pendent for a yellow beaded necklace. A simple, clean summer bit of lightweight brightness. She wanted something JUST LIKE THAT. Only more princess-imbued. Which translates to PINK. Every shade she could locate for the task.

So, we found a line art image of a rose online. Something spectacular like the unfolding beauty of the rose that opens before Belle's eyes in the Beauty and the Beast. So, we got to work tracing it with a steady hand onto the plastic film. Bella meticulously colored in every petal with a different pink, making only a few exceptions for an occasional almost-red. And all was moving along just swimmingly. That is, until we baked it.

Apparently, somewhere along the way, I forgot to mention the really amazing and exciting truth of what magic happens when a SHRINKY Dink bakes. Hello, disappointed princess, THEY SHRINK!!

After Bella was calmed into accepting the so-small trinket that she had immediately chucked across the room in devastating and quite dramatic disappointment, she has made a full 180 on her initial verdict, and is now quite fond of her very-big-enough new pendant.

March 17, 2010

The Craunlet's Art Corner

The sun was pouring into the kitchen art studio this afternoon, so I decided to snap a few shots of the crowded corner, minus the Craunlets, but chock full of evidence of their various makings.

If I didn't already know just how much time the Craunlets could spend on art per day, I would be beside myself in how much use their new space is getting. On a daily basis.

I must admit that it is also really great that the Craunlets now have a space to let things set out in-progress, without the constant pick that up, and put that away conversations; it's time for dinner. That freedom seems much and mostly appreciated by the Miss Bella, our constant little meditated maker, as well. I catch her frequently stealing away glances and moments back there, as her many projects gestate.

Nate is more of the whirlwind maker; fast and furious. And then he leaves his projects out and up for display like little monuments of his accomplishment.

This Insistence

Relentless Spring, I do thank you. So timely you arrive.

Army of Crocus, pushing your way through the dense and fierce bark mulch...tenaciously trumpeting the start of Spring. Notes of hope, in the song that is March; this quite unpredictable month in Cleveland. Enjoying almost two weeks of sun, I am admittedly holding my breath for a potential return of the snow. But in the meantime, I am soaking in and appreciating the most welcome of hues in lemony yellows, royal purples, and a variety of striated combination.

March 14, 2010

Picture Pages, Picture Pages

I have fond memories of watching Bill Cosby's Picture Pages with my sister Anna. I am not sure how often the program was on, but it seemed like we watched it near daily on Nickelodeon. That magic pencil, and the enticing way that ideas can hit + cover blank pages like grand possibilities and adventure. We inadvertently learned about shape and color and composition through the humorous shorts.

I watch the same enthusiasm fill the Craunlets as they burn through multiple art activities daily. And I find myself humming the tune, and singing the familiar lyrics that I still remember from the program:
"Picture Pages, Picture Pages,
Time to get your Picture Pages,
Time to get your crayons and your pencils..."
Nate has really come into his own, in terms of coloring, and the arts. Though he has far greater abandon with color and craft than his older sister, I am watching him excel with the scissors, cutting out shapes, and spirals, and is getting more adept in is folding skills. He also makes a great effort to manage directional coloring, and is interested in drawing people, and trees, and legible letter forms. Bella is taking patterning to town, furiously coloring in complicated shell and gemstone forms with colorful + detailed precision. She is writing words, and creating wild compositions of adventure within her drawings. It is a daily delight to watch them so engaged with art making. Creating with their hands. Thinking and dreaming on paper.

Speaking of picture pages, we have at last and again updated our family picture pages. Click here to see what we have been up to in these past two weeks of early Spring.

March 12, 2010

Amount You Are Responsible For

I have been repeatedly reading, nearly in disbelief, the good news that was delivered to us yesterday via mail. The letter came from our health insurance. It was the response to our appeal, and request to apply our recent victory--the lift of their out-of-network sanctions--retroactively to our outstanding medical bill for Bella's casting that happened at the close of 2009. And with that one letter, a simple yes, and likely the subsequent click of a few buttons, we find ourselves reading the following and most delightful of statements:

Amount you are responsible for [$]

$ 0.00

Instantly, that pending multi-thousand dollar medical bill has been absolved entirely.

The glorious confirmation that arrived with this note has been most unexpected to me. How we have continually fought for the care that we believe is best for Bella. Looking back, it has been a long fight already, and it surely promises to continue if not even longer. It stuns me to think of the sweetness of the grace of our God in this. His slowly straightening of Bella's spine. His provision. His peace.

We were scared to death with her initial--and so early--diagnosis. Daunted by the approach and demeanor of the doctor and his medical team. Her organs will not sustain her into adulthood, spoken coldly and casually over our little girl's life. It will forever ring in my ears. Frightened worst by the surgical treatment plan that he prescribed and pressured us with, we were afraid to even take the time to think, to get a second opinion; and then to give ourselves permission to wait.

At that time, we had the luxury of an entirely flexible and accommodating health insurance; we could see doctors at will from either of the two nationally-renowned care systems in Cleveland without their preference or penalty. So we switched. We got a second opinion, and along with that came an entirely different perspective on the severity of her situation. We were met with intelligent patience, generosity of heart, compassionate and full explanations and attentive staff that was available at every ask. Further, an exactly opposite treatment plan was proposed, involving casting. Surgical intervention was relegated to a last approach.

Through this process, Bella's spine has been slowly shaped towards straight. The first x-ray that announced a curve of 56 degrees, is now buried in a pile of scans, with the top one reading in the low 20s. Through this process, Bella has met the love of a most generous surgeon and countless compassionate nurses. Doctors that know and love Bella as a fiery little girl first, and as a patient second.

Our insurance changed at the end of last year, and we were faced with sanctions and costly penalties if we wished to continue Bella's care. The way to avoid the financial ramifications of the newly imposed restrictions was to return to our starting point. Armed with a lot more courage, we decided instead that love always wins out. And there was no way that we could come to consider surgery, especially in the midst of such success with the casting. And as many of you know, several weeks ago we were awarded a lift of sanctions, and our convictions about Bella's care were both supported and confirmed. And yesterday, to learn that our argument for retro-active application to an unreasonably high bill also garnered a yes, was such a victory.

It is so difficult on the mother's heart to be helpless. To be presented with situations so impossible in our own strength. As parents we believe, and often tell ourselves, so many lies about what we are responsible for.

And I find myself overwhelmed in reflection of that today, and again reassured that our God never gives us more than we can handle. And I keep re-reading the most glorious of statements:

Amount you are responsible for [$]

$ 0.00

March 10, 2010

The Latest Trade

My most recent barter, earned me a lovely set of pot holders.

I remember these from back in the day; I don't know what we were stretching around our much smaller looms, but these are a lovelier version than what I recall. They are yummy thick and vibrantly colored cotton. The small stack of pot holders is both sturdy and lovely, and quite nicely sized.

When I saw the rainbow potholder in the proposed example pictures, I immediately requested one to coordinate with the new kitchen make over, and then I left the rest open for surprise. My two favorites, after the rainbow one, are the punchy peach mix and the ocean floor pattern.

Sharing talent feels like hitting the lottery, folks. And it is such a sweet thing to be filling the house with all these gorgeous tactile reminders of friends and family. Amassing a collection of beautiful and useful objects, fabulously hand made, feels so wonderfully incredible and community building. I have treasured every exchange, as each one has been unique to the relationship.

March 9, 2010

If the Sun Shines, it is Surely Spring

For several days in a row here in Cleveland, the sun has shone. And I mean the brilliant warm light, all-day-long kind of sunshine. Today's forecast is announcing temperatures hitting the 50s.

We have decided, it is surely Spring. And we are celebrating all over our sidewalks.

March 8, 2010

Moving Towards the Sun

We have been hitting the Spring Cleaning early and hard around our spaces, re-organizing all of their respective bits and pieces, and eliminating the piles of unnecessary clutter that accumulated over winter. The sun that is pouring into our windows and drenching all of our rooms with light is both making me stir crazy for some change around here, and highlighting the coat of dust clinging to all the stuff that has stayed put for too long.

The plant in the window is craning towards the sun, and the bulbs in the garden just on the other side of that same pane of glass are already peeking up as well.

Everyone chasing the sun. Leaning in for more. In a hurry for Spring, and the promise of the new life it brings.

March 7, 2010

Sick Day + the Craunlet's New Art Space

We ended this last week with a bit of a movie-marathon-pajama-day, as Nate took his turn being sick on Friday, actually Thursday evening, which inadvertently set a new course for the weekend. And I am so glad. Not so glad about all the vomming, and the 3 year old who is plain lousy at being sick. But ever so happy at the slowing down, and the mostly staying at home part. Though he continually reminded us that he had a hurting belly throughout the weekend, Nathaniel was pretty much all better by Saturday morning.

I think he was finally coming around to understanding the service-advantages to being under the weather. He completely missed these opportunities, and actually flat out turned many of them down on Friday, when he actually was sick, to all of our astonishment. So, I think he was trying to recoup his losses with Saturday and Sunday. I mean, really--turning down snuggle time on the couch, saying no to having sips of water brought to your thirsty lips, or getting to sleep downstairs in the nest made of our two couches and all of our special blankets, and even denying movie time and books. He was nothing short of stir crazy an hour into being sick, desperately trying to convince his sympathetic parents that he really was all better, and that he just wanted to sleep upstairs in his own bed. The kid just loves normal. He was at a total loss with all this extra special; he just couldn't process the advantage-part of all this accommodation.

We were glad to have the little bear feeling better by Saturday, aside from the hurting belly, so we launched into stay-at-home project mode. Together, we tackled the kitchen. We spend a ton of time in there, but had never really taken the time to make it our own, and moreover, to make all that wasted space a bit more useful.

We removed the bulky awful pantry. Replaced it with open shelving, and modified the lower shelf for art canisters for the Craunlets, as it hovers over their little work table in their new art studio space. We emptied out most of the cupboards to the open shelving, the cookbooks and baking canisters, trading the pantry items into the cupboards. It looks + feels great to finally be capitalizing on that odd wedge of kitchen space. Next up, we need to paint those kitchen walls, construct a slim kitchen island that will attach to the Craunlet's play kitchen, and finish that hutch project in the dining room, to complete our kitchen reorder.

More pictures of the art space in action on our flickr page, here.

March 5, 2010

Of all my sides, I love my better half the most

I have been meaning to give the Dave a hearty I-appreciate-you shout out since Christmas. And then Valentines Day, and more recently my birthday. You see, I married this most amazing guy. One who is over-filled with patience and compassion. One who continually puts my needs, and now the needs of our family in queue before his own. All my craziness. The clutter of on-going projects and ideas, all the strange items that I pick up from the curbside or resale shop with grand plans. All my frazzled impatience, my super poor memory and somehow oddly paired confidence in its reliability which I know to be false should I stop to breathe a moment and think. He somehow lives with all of that.

For Christmas, he surprised me with the loveliest of books. A reference book that I poured over in Grad School whilst making the prints for my Thesis Exhibition. Dave's memory is so far-reaching. And his expression so thoughtful. A familiar book he titled his note with the above image of the cover [left]. So supportive of my passions and commitment to my work. A little nudge to make that studio time more important again, to carve it out of our always full calendar, and to fight for it. He is on the front lines for me constantly. It is The Home Book of Proverbs, Maxims and Familiar Phrases. You have seen photos of its interior pages intermittently here and here used as a backdrop to a few photographs. I find myself constantly in her pages.

For Valentine's Day, though we don't celebrate the holiday in any extravagant measure, he took to Craunlets to a local chocolatier and selected a dozen of their handmade flavor favorites. He surprised me with the beautifully packaged sweets, the same number of our shared Valentines to date, and a lovely handmade card.

Ringing in my 33rd, he lavished me with gifts to encourage more relaxation and less work. I received some delicious items for the desk; including a restaurant order rail, a ticket spear, and even a bell. Seeing my exhaustive pile of to-do's hanging from the stainless steel rail, all the frantic suddenly becomes beautiful. And the pleasure + satisfaction of piercing the completed task lists on the spoke, and ringing the victory bell to celebrate. Oh how he knows me so well! The crazy intricacies and idiosyncrasies of who I am. And he delights in them, encourages them even. I am so fortunate.

The supportive husband. The boss. The amazing dad. The designer. The household repair man. I could go on forever. The best friend. The landscaper. The serious. The licensed architect. He loves first. And he never quits. And for that, I am so lucky.

March 4, 2010

Creamsicle Kingdom, in Preview

Aside from the half dozen painting projects slated for Bella's new room, we have managed to arrive at a preliminary finished stage. Or at least, a reasonably completed stopping point until Spring temperatures officially arrive, and we can haul a few pieces of furniture out to the back porch for some painting. And, believe-it-or-not, even that elephant. Yes, that elephant in wait. It will get a new lid, an orange velvet upholstered cushion top, specifically. And yes, I am beside myself with excitement. On slate for a fresh coat of paint is a charming old wood vanity set that we recently inherited from a friend, and the giraffe nightstand that we picked up from a wacky garage sale benefit party that Zygote Press threw way back when Bella was a babe. Her room has been a long time coming.

As her birthday has come and gone--the proposed deadline for room completion--I figured the least that I could do is provide a sneak peek into the goodness that is to become her Creamsicle Kingdom.

After two different oranges, we have finished the painting of her walls [the final, and lighter orange, is pictured on the right above], and re-installed the majority of the art -- with a few pieces that are still waiting for their frames. Her new orange atlas bedding, sewn by Grandma Dubs, is fantastic and finished. And the pillows I snagged on Etsy, look stunning on top the duvet and against the maple headboard. The babushka doll, a Cleveland Handmade purchase, just sings in the arrangement.

Also a birthday gift, Bella received the turquoise bird cage pictured above, surely a bit over-the-top, but it was love-at-first-sight when I saw that beauty. I knew Bella's room could make a good home for it, and I was sure it could serve some important function aside from simply looking sweet, and providing a focally interesting bit of height to her low wall attic-carved space. Perched beside her bookshelf, it now houses all her new real jewels. Now that she is five. And all grown up.

March 1, 2010

hello, March

With nearly a foot of snow falling this weekend to close out a most percipitous February, I am so pleased to welcome March's arrival with wide open arms. Eager to push forward towards spring, I flipped all of our calendars over to March before turning in last night. And so far, March is looking quite bright.

I taught printmaking to four classes of first grade today. Made a tub of new dough for some Olive Oil bread. Rosemary will be in tomorrow's loaf. And now I am off to my half hour of reading, in the new book that I picked up with some birthday money: A Perfect Mess. Followed by some yummy savory dinner; I am thinking mandarin orange chicken over rice. And lastly, on slate for tonight's after hours is a how-to-use-your-website meeting/training session so I can get some image and copy up there. finally.

Goodbye February, and hello March.


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