April 30, 2010

The Craunlets

These two stop my heart, they bring me laughter, and they remind me how precious sweet life is on this earth.

I pray they continue to be the best of friends, and that they may always find and enter into the magic of Creation.

Be Them Tiny; We have Our First Sprouts

We are playing our very first hand at vegetable gardening this year. We designed, built, and readied the earth in 5 raised beds this last fall. And just a week ago, we sowed our very first seeds seconds ahead of a torrential downpour of a thunderstorm. And in the sun of yesterday's late afternoon, we saw the most magical of things: perfect little stripes of the teeniest tiniest green sprouts. Rows of Baby Rockets, or Arugula; and we are so hopeful excited.

Although I know that we cannot live on lettuce alone, and the handful of other vegetables we hope to harvest this summer, it is a grandly rich adventure to be at last growing our own food.

For our trips to the market for the rest of our sustenance, I will keep this handy vegetable guide in my purse.

The free and fresh at-a-glance guide is available to download here, and it is sized to fold in half and laminate, to stow handily within the slots of your wallet.

April 28, 2010

Of Flight and Freedom

The many of you that are familiar with my artwork over a broad time line, know that the bird is a frequently appearing motif. I find the winged so enticing. In fact, I am reading a terrific book right now, Birdology, that is so captivating I find myself frustrated every time I need to take a break from its pages. It is a poetically woven narrative, unfolding with documentary-styled accuracy, observation and presentation of facts that manage to keep all the anecdotal bits and personal stories grounded and threaded along. And its 250-some pages are entirely devoted to several species of birds. The author, Sy Montgomery, entertains the spiritual mysteries of birds also, and she has hit spot-on both the other-worldly attraction to and the affinity of the winged that I have been captivated by since I can remember.

I have a fuzzy memory from my teen years, of walking through a densely parked lot at a shopping center with my mother. The pavement was crowded also with gulls. A pack of them took flight en masse as we walked towards our car. And though my memory is poor and often inaccurate and fallible at best, I remember my mother remarking: I wish I were a bird, I would fly away from here. Or something like that. Probably exhausted, and spoken under her breath as she exhaled. For some reason the phrase stuck with me, even though I heard it at an age of ambivalence.

I attach a lot to birds. The duality of both freedom and often caged confinement. The notion of home, and the longings to return.

Walking through a discount store some months ago now, after parking in a similarly crowded lot as the one in my memory above, I stumbled upon the loveliest of nonfunctional bird cages. My spirit sung with delight. The shiny turquoise bars, all the unnecessary frills and curlicues, the towering yet delicate height on its stand. I was certain this was just the piece for Bella's new room. The vibrant piece to finish her Creamsicle Kingdom. The creatures of the air had yet to be represented.

Placing it in her room commanded that it must have a use. Bella's room is sweet precious on space, and generally speaking, most furnishings in our home must be able to multitask. It is how we think. How we live.

So the bird cage became the structure to hang and hold all of her baubles. Her whimsical beginnings of jewelry and dangling bits and treasures. Yet, for so long it stood simply decorated with her faux jewels, but it showcased an entirely empty interior. Longing for an inhabitant. Longing for a feathered friend. Something beautiful and hopeful. Something that would dream of flight, longing to see the world. Begging for adventure, and imbued with mystery.

I culled scraps of fabric, and random buttons and ribbon from my sewing stashes, and began to work on a circular hoop originally intended for macrame. I wrapped thin torn strips of wildly patterned fabrics around in layer occasionally dotting them with glue, and then tied off occasional snippets of contrasting ribbons in knots. After adding a few buttons, the little pretend perch for our fictitious feathered friend was complete.

Clementine now perches happily on the thin edge of her circular perch. Like the rest of us. On the edge of potential great adventure. A moment away from taking flight; and dreaming of our next destination.

April 27, 2010

Eating, a Good Sport

The following conversation ensued over lunch today. We tried a new sandwich combination because we were out of chocolate. [don't even ask] Today the Craunlets devoured peanut butter honey sandwiches piled up tall with banana slices.
Bella: Mom, Nate has peanut butter on his socks.

Nate: Yep.

Bella: How did he even get peanut butter on his socks?

Finally, entering the conversation with a sigh: I don't know, I guess that is what happens when eating becomes a sport. [picking up socks laden with peanut butter, honey + banana]

Nate: Yeah eating is a sport. A good sport.

So the Craunlets aren't stellar at soccer, but they do love their food and they certainly have adventurous palates of athletic proportion.

April 26, 2010

Dreaming in the Round

The rains of spring make me antsy for travel. I begin to turn the globe, looking at warmer places far off, and yearn to pack my bags. [and run off] We have been fortunate to get a lot of travel in before we grew our Team with the Craunlets, and it is our time abroad together in Grad school that I hunger for again. Right on the heels of our Bahamian cruise. The memories are fuzzy already, and sweetly saccharine and sentimental. Newlyweds, jobless--outside of our graduate teaching positions--and traveling.

I remember actually complaining once, that we had barely unpacked and had time to wash our clothes before we were off again for another week, to some fabulous strange and new city. That frantic problem then, seems like such an exhilarating one now. Spending a week at a time in a new place, refreshing back to our apartment in Florence, to depart again within a fortnight. We played in Paris, in Rome, London, Berlin, and explored most of Tuscany by train on the weekends. We hiked our Spring break in Cinque Terre, and got stranded there--to both our dismay and delight.

It is rainy here in Cleveland, and I find myself spinning the globe in the studio space. Dreaming in the round. This small world, so accessible, and at times so far away from home.

April 25, 2010

Weekend On Project

The elephant in the room is finally being addressed.

We stretched some yummy soft orange fabric around two layers of circular high-density cushion foam that I sculpted into a dome shape with scissors. We stapled the fabric taut to a large plywood base that the Dave carefully cut out and sanded round. Covering the raw fabric edges and the millions of staples on the underside, we added a piece of smooth masonite slightly trimmer in diameter, and attached it with a round of screws. Turned upside-down, the cushion now doubles as a table surface.

Here is Elephant's current look:

Though progress on the project has been slow, we have moved pretty far from here, and then here and re-proposed again here. Now I think she needs a wee bit of her make-up back, or potentially an all-over creamy coat of light orange, and most certainly her big dreamy eyes.

April 23, 2010

Bringing in Blooms

Yesterday we brought an armload of purple lilacs indoors.

We trimmed the large and mangly bush that stretches out over our fence. And we gathered up her many blooms and nestled their tangled and bumpy crooked branches into a jar of cool and clear water to enjoy inside.

This morning I woke up enveloped in the scent of heaven.

Did I mention how much I love the Spring?

April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

May we get better and better at taking care of our planet. May we be good stewards in our lifetime, and pass down this same care for creation to our children. May we enjoy long life on this earth, and daily appreciate the most beautiful gift we have been given.
Happy Earth Day.

Image credit, here.

April 21, 2010

Plantable Paper Project

We pulverized a pitcher-full of paper shreds with several cups of water in our Vitamix, and ended up with a nicely-sized tub of pulpy green. The Craunlets were excited about dipping their hands and little screens into the tub, though the thought of this goo ever resembling paper again was far outside their comprehension. Bella must have asked a hundred times, in the ten or so minutes of her active participation, when this stuff was going to turn into paper.

The day prior, we made our wee little screens out of small embroidery hoops and plastic window screening. Next, we started gleaning our paper from the recycling bin, our construction paper scraps, and some cotton rag paper pieces from my art piles. We spent half a morning tearing the paper into bits, and filling the pitcher with the pieces. And, like magic, with a little water and a few minutes on high speed, the bits of paper completely disintegrated into a pulpy pool of green.

We marched outside in the afternoon sun, setting up our papermaking facilities on the driveway. We piled up a few old towels, and topped them with a yard of wool felt for absorbing all of the water and also to provide a soft and smooth carpet for the paper to begin to dry in the sun. We also brought out several packages of Columbine seeds to sprinkle into the wet paper, before we pressed it, and left it set to dry.

I was so excited about making plantable paper for Earth Day, that I sort of neglected imagining the final outcome. Pale green sheets, black-flecked with tiny seeds. I must admit the rough deckle is quite charming on the circular sheets, but the otherwise plain milky green circles were a bit unattractive to look at. We didn't have any pressed petals on hand, or any other quick-grab inclusions to try.

While the paper dried, now stacked under weight in piles, on top of the heater vents in the living room, I scoured the web for some map images. I lucked upon this site, and found several globe-view line drawings that would offer the perfect fix. I decided upon the North and South America map, as the Craunlets are most familiar with this view, but I downloaded all the versions, and think a full worldview set would be a charming future project.

With much help from the Dave, and his mad photoshop skills, we had the circle part of the image separated from its background, and scaled to print just larger than our green handmade sheets. We printed them up with our laser printer onto some snappy water-blue colored cardstock.

Then we got busy with our scissors, cutting them out, and removing the majority of the land shapes, leaving out the intricacies, so the green paper could been seen behind the water through the land-shaped windows. We finished them up with a small hole punch and a snippet of knotted green ribbon. The back side of the blue card also provided us space to pen our Earth Day notes, and let our recipients know to plant the green sheet, and to expect Columbines.

Now we are off to deliver our small worlds, just in time for Earth Day.

Project idea, originally from the long thread, here.

April 20, 2010

It's Pretty Easy Being Green

I think sometimes the whole green movement seems overly complicated, lofty and absolutely unobtainable. And its moments in gearing up for some Earth Day activities and new action goals, like we are in the thick of this week, that help me to both realign our household systems and measure our personal progress.

I stumbled upon the 2010 Earth Day Campaign Headquarters, in trying to confirm the actual date of the big day; April the 22nd. It is a fantastic site, with tons of informational resources, but what I found surprisingly most uplifting, was the exhaustive + growing list of this years "take action" submissions, here. In perusing the list of action items, I was comforted by their ordinary and small-step simplicities, but I found myself also quite encouraged, that in our household, we are close to implementing just about all of the action items I scanned. I spoke the affirmative proclamations aloud as I read them, and they resonated with me this morning, and further pushed me forward in my thinking about what more we can do in partnering and building on the changes that we have already put into effect:

I will grow my own food.

I will bring my own bags when shopping.

I will no longer buy paper towels.

I will eat less meat.

I will plant a tree.

I will pick up trash in my neighborhood.

I will pick up litter whenever I see it.

I will pay more attention to turning off lights in rooms I am not in.

I will pay my bills online.

I will not let the water run while I am brushing my teeth.

I will take shorter showers.

I will recycle.

I will compost my kitchen waste.

I will use environmentally friendly cleaning products.

I will unplug electronic devices that are not in use.

I will cancel paper + print subscriptions that I do not read.

Today, the Craunlets and I spent a good chunk of time tearing up thousands of paper pieces claimed from the recycle bin. We also scoured our construction paper scraps, and the cotton rag paper recycling bin at the print shop. We will blend them up into a pulpy mess, and attempt to make small sheets of plantable handmade paper this afternoon out on our front sidewalk. [and I hope the curious neighbors stop over to see just what craziness we are up to, and they can make some along with us] We got this project idea from the long thread blog, right here. Image below, by Ellen, the author of the long thread.

We bought several paper packages of columbine seeds that we will embed into each of our sheets, and I think we will tag + string each of our little cards with an affirmation or task item like the ones listed above. Something that we are already doing, something that we can get better at, or something that we can provoke our friends and family in taking a step towards.

Momma and Family readers, a snappy sweet site Inhabitots, offers a slew of fun Kid-friendly Earth Day Activities, right here.

Next year, perhaps we will grow our own Postcardens, here. What a sweet mailable and growable concept. I Love the City version pictured above.

So much beautiful + inspiring green. What are you up to for Earth Day? Anything to add to your action list? I would love to hear from you.

April 15, 2010

How our Garden Grows

Something new is happening out there every single day; pushing through the soil, and craning towards the sun. The first of the blooms, now crumpling, are making way for the next.

Every awake moment, I long to be in our front yard. Sitting on the edge of the porch, doing nothing other than enjoying life; watching the Craunlets on all of their imaginary adventures and wild explorations. Not working; just being in the moment. In the sun. Welcoming Spring with wide open arms. And sharing in life with our neighbors, and the uncountable many passer-by.

I am convinced our garden grows on mostly love and luck.

And surely, that it is the single only thing that pulls us out of Cleveland's forever-long winter.

April 14, 2010

In the Racks

I'm still working on my Suburban Paradigm print series here...

I recently introduced a new color to my palette -- orange. And I must say, I LOVE how these are turning out so far. Two full studio days this week; which looks like piles and piles of doilies; snipped, trimmed + modified, and line drawings of housing developments that echo equally extravagant and curvy repeating patterns.

Hip Hip Hooray!

* * *

Local peeps, One of the framed prints from the series, in a lovely cool aquatic blue is currently on display as part of the 4 OHIO COOPs exhibition at Zygote Press. The four independently-run print cooperatives located in Ohio are convening at Zygote for an exhibition, discussion, print sale, and a mix-and-mingle. Free to the public, and you can enjoy all that art with some food and drink. Check it out, here.

April 12, 2010

What is Real

I see this poster twice a week, at the school I am currently bringing printmaking to through a fabulous artist residency program. [The same school I shared about before right here.] And it breaks my heart. Beyond measure, I cannot figure these little people out, and their crazy complicated lives.

I just cannot even wrap my brains around all the statistics. The hunger. The homelessness. The violence. The human beings. The children.

* * *

And I had a sweet conversation with one of my first-grader's today about gardens and flowers. She has a lot of yellow flowers in her yard. Daffodils, I pictured. How very dumb of me. Through her most magical descriptions of these prolific blooms, I quickly realize how foolish I am. Her flowers are bumblebee yellow, and almost fuzzy. They pop up like buttons, and are round like flattened balls. Dandelions.

Because the only thing that grows in her yard is accidental.

And that, at first, infuriates me. Until I entertain her perspective. And I realize their magic. The same magic that this little girl shares with the Craunlets. The belief that these things grow just for her. That they also grow in our yard, just for them. And I correct my thinking. Not just from daffodil to dandelion, but from accidental to intentional, and even sweetly hopeful.

Then I come home, tired. A full day of printmaking with first-graders. Hungry ones; tired ones. Crowded classrooms of them. And I find a big bouquet of flowers has been left for me on the porch step. With a welcome home message scrawled in chalk on the stone sidewalk. A golden pile of blooms. Swollen with love.

April 9, 2010

It's Friday, and I'm All Done

It's been one of those crazy way-too-much-to-do week's here. One's with morning-hour bedtimes, and long hours of clicking and clacking on the keyboard and mouse in various design programs.

I am so glad that this morning brought us Friday.
And that my to-do list is all done.

To celebrate, I cleared off my to-done spindle.
And I recycled all those stress remnants.

Now, on to the weekend! Enjoy!

April 8, 2010

This Brief Intersection

Every Spring I am amazed with the moment whence everything in our front garden is blooming. The overlap of that which is about to fade, and that which is just stretching open in the sun. This brief intersection where at once, we enjoy the greens of the crocus still growing beyond their expired flowers, a low curtain wall in front of rows and rows of stretching tall yellow daffodils and dense swaths of creamy orange hyacinth.

Chasing down our stone sidewalk and adjacent to the raised garden is a fiery long stretch of red, orange and yellow tulips, majestic and tall, crowded with the leaves of the dark purples and the light pinks that are next in the cue. The raised garden floor boasts a small army of wee grape hyacinths, with a backdrop of trimmed and fading greens of the paper whites that accidentally bloomed in December. Behind them, the purple allium are starting up, just behind the emerging salvia leaves.

Adjacent to the glowing golden forsythia blooms, the fierce iris greens are also forcing their way through the soil. The tallest of all that is currently flowering in the garden, are the rosy pink + creamy whites dotting the Magnolia, hovering on the tips of its few young limbs, and the nearly-lavender blushing little petals that are clinging to and covering every branch of the Eastern Redbud.

And then there's those little blue somethings that meander in front of the stone garden path...I am not sure what they are, but they are lovely little songs that dance between the grass and the stones of the garden's edge. [*edit: these are scilla, I have learned].

Much like the Craunlets. Growing. Too quickly. Blooming in the Sun of Spring. Taking in the magic of the garden. Singing their parts in the Song of Creation. Heaven opening up to us, and giving us the tiniest glimpse here on earth.

Yet, of all of this grand garden, the Craunlet's most coveted and collected blooms, however, are our yellow yard flowers. The little golden bobble heads that relentlessly creep in everywhere. The only ones they can pick with abandon. The Dandelions, the ones that spring up seemingly every day in Spring and all through Summer, like sweet surprises just for their daily picking pleasure.

April 5, 2010

Easter Weekend

The most restful weekend on recent record. We leisurely paced our Good Friday, and meandered through Saturday getting ready for Easter Sunday. We colored eggs, assembled small baskets for the Craunlets, and we even baked some Easter Egg Bread.

Sunday morning we had a quiet indoor scavenger hunt, and the Craunlets enjoyed their puzzles + pinwheels in their pajamas. We baked a half dozen cinnamon + buttermilk doughnuts, and iced them with a chocolate ganache.

After church, in the sunny afternoon, we sought out hidden eggs high and low at Grandma + Grandpa's back yard in our Easter clothes, and shared a nice dinner family-style.

Check out our weekend in pictures, here.

April 2, 2010

We Play All Day

Out for the weekend, to enjoy our sunny temperatures, Easter egg hunts and family meals.

We have updated our picture pages, and you can take a looky-lou right here. Happy Easter!

More For the Birds

This sun is something we could surely get used to. The front gardens are thriving and flowering all over. The grass is greening, and the birds are crowding in with their happy tunes.

Inspired by Aesthetic Outburst, here, with a great idea for some more fun birding goodness, the Craunlets and I made a quick set of birdie seed shakers using empty spice containers.

It was another sunny afternoon, and we had so enjoyed creating the nesting stations on the day prior, that we decided to further welcome our feathered friends back with a festive fun outdoor dance party + shake down. The birds were restless as well, and flitting from limb to limb, moving in closer and closer to all of the scattered seeds. We rested a moment from all of the raucous fun dancing, and the birds descended en masse as if on cue.

What a delight it is to share in creation.

How observant and understanding of the birds, immediately knowing our efforts were entirely for them, without a shared language outside of love. Spring is so magical.

The Girl who is Growing up too Fast

Bella took her very first step into Kindergarten yesterday morning. Merrily skipping down the hall away from her momma for a little what-do-you-know session with one of the Kindergarten teachers.

She flashed her excited eyes towards me and walked away in haste, no longer a preschooler, but an official Kindergartner. A most enthusiastic and proud one.


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