February 28, 2011

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XXXVIII

Crazy thunder and lightening distracted the better part of my efforts to sleep last night. And outside of sheer exhaustion, I couldn't be more thrilled about its indication of Spring. Even the flooding, cause you know what? Those Craunlets are stinking cute in their cheeky slick and rubbery rain boots. 
And all of those big-as-lakes puddles?! Them too. They ring of a soon-coming splashing and growing Spring. A spring that we have long awaited. A spring that follows a winter that has deluged us with snow 3 out of 4 days since December 1st. It is coming.

This week, I am so presently thankful for:

361. health. and the immensity of time that we have spent resting and recovering over the last week-and-a-half. And good grief, that our bodies are designed to heal. So amazing. Each of us took a round with some sort of yuck in these past two weeks, and we are all on the other side now, and feeling much restored again.

362. Team Craun's birthday season, rounding out to a close. At long last. Though the celebrations have been merry and family-full, it will be nice to have a bit of a break.

363. fabulously yummy birthday cake, baked by myself during the afternoon of my birthday. The joy of getting older, and the casual celebrations partnered with age are somewhat refreshing. Chocolate chip cheesecake; simply extravagant and indulgent.
364. terrifically long dinner dates with Dave, enjoying awesome flavorful food and delicious wines, and ones with unending and non-interrupted conversation.

365. for a house that has more dreams than we might ever realize. For all of that potential. And all of that labor of love, and creativity. For the comfortable place to anchor our family.

366. The Civil Wars, and right now, most especially their song Poison and Wine. So poetic, on repeat. Again and again. Even the video is gorgeous, see?


367. Dave. and his always-ready never-stopping unending and never-giving-up supportive love and friendship. A treasure far beyond I could ever dream. 

368. the Craunlets. For the joy they constantly fill this household with, for the friendship they share, and their adventures in play together. For their unique personalities and strengths. And for the sweet sound of their chatter.
369. fresh flowers, and the intoxicating fragrance they exude throughout the closed-up winter house.
370. the group of families we have been journeying alongside, that have become great friends through regular feasting and fellowship. We hosted the bi-monthly gathering last night, and it is such a joy to fill our lower level with a cacophony of play and conversation, and to serve up and share a myriad of pot-luck-style yummy eats. So many babes, becoming good friends. Watching the legacies of the parents' relationships unfold almost effortlessly and naturally in the lives of our little ones is such a beautiful pleasure.

February 26, 2011

Celebrating.

So far, thirty-four is looking pretty grand.
Hand-drawn card from Dave.
 Let the celebrating begin!

February 25, 2011

On the Loud and the Quiet.

Waking up to sleeping-in grown babes--learning of unexpected snowed-in snowy days--I find myself enjoying a quiet espresso in a still house alone with the husband. It is most certainly an indulgent way to start the day. This could gladly be my every day beginning. Forever.
As loud wakes up, and fills the rooms of our lower level, I again carve quiet with a cup of drip coffee, and our half-hour family time in the Word. I am delightfully distracted by Nate's loud turning pages, and Belle's sweet song of a voice reading words to herself from the page. I find myself taking notes of her reading truth, spoken aloud so sweetly.
Snow continues to fall into the afternoon. Again, the Craunlets are both found sleeping, real quiet returns and is met with my teeny tiny trimmer scissors and some paper doilies in my studio. The beginnings of new large prints, and the return to wood intaglio, once a very dear friend. So familiar to my work, it feels like coming home--or at least full circle--with this new series of prints. A most exhilarating eve of my birthday.  

Could it get any better?

February 23, 2011

All Presidential, and Such.

To ring in President's day on Monday afternoon, I decided to let the Craunlets go crazy with a little bit of shrinky dink. I saw a fabulous blip about making Kid Coins here, which further linked to the original idea here, and I was just SURE that Belle and Nate would LOVE every bit of this little afternoon project.

Probably had President's day not been on Monday, I'd have been right. Belle was still convincing herself to feel better, Nate was just being overtaken by a fierce cold, and in general, spirits at the end of the day in this household tend be be a little tattered at best.
So we eked out a set of almost-pathetic presidential family portrait coins. Belle really started getting into the drawing and coloring, when coaxed by my set of fine-line permanent markers, but remained ardently and absolutely opposed to any sort of background whatsoever, or actual reference to money. So what, I guess. 

In looking at them now, I sort of enjoy their frozen quirkiness. How the isolated portraits really show off their energetic drawings, not distracted or cluttered by backgrounds and bold colors or patterns.  

Decoder to the above line-up: very top row is Grandma Dubs, next to her is Grandpa Dubs. Just below in yellow, is myself, to my right and down a bit is Dave looking quite jovial, next to him and up slightly is Belle looking way too teenager, if you ask me, and to her right, and a bit lower is Nate. All of these were created by Belle, to the right of her Nate coin is Nate's very own self portrait, with some crazy bed-head apparently. This leaves the last row, Belle drew up a Nonny, a little pink Poppy and baby Mara in a crib. And lastly, another work of Nate, is his version of Nonny. Which totally cracks me up, because Belle's is such a spot-on caricature to me, and Nate's -- well, not so much. At all.

More of This.

On the heels of a little heat wave, we have had a terrific mixed-weather storm spread out over the last few days. It has cloaked every branch in shimmery drippy dangling icicles--laid on lavishly like decadent jewelry. In addition to all of the sun-glistening sparkly, winter further iced the tops of every horizontal surface with a thick new layer of fluffy white. 
And as much as I am ready for spring, I cannot help but be dazzled by this most magically adorned winter landscape.

February 22, 2011

On Disappointment and Celebration.

Twenty-four cupcakes have again been baked and cloaked with sugary icing and this time further bedeckled with teeny tiny rainbow chips. All of them ready and in wait, once more, for kindergarten's class birthday-lunch cupcake affair, rescheduled for today.
As we were preparing many of the decorations well in advance of Belle's birthday, her and I shared a lovely conversation in my studio before we had any guess at how the weekend might unfold. I was busy covering the Disney Princess pinata with yards and yards of crepe paper, jog your memory here. We were talking about why I was covering them up, and what we were celebrating. I told her that her birthday wasn't about us  liking and celebrating these princesses, but rather an opportunity for her to be celebrated. And that her God, and her family and friends celebrate who she is, and a party is a way for us to collectively come together in her honor. To celebrate Isabella; who she was born to be, and who she is everyday more becoming.  That it really isn't about the party itself, and the presents, and the cake and such. These are just some of the ways in which we express our celebration. Belle quietly added to my little talk; that's really special. And we only get one a year. Little did I know that we would further get a very real opportunity to live these words out.
Her party was far less celebratory than we expected, though it had all of the ingredients above; the decorations, the cake, some presents even. But in our conversations then and in the  next days  that have followed, as people have phoned in, and sent along presents and mailed cards and notes of encouragement, and even her teacher has e-mailed--we are accumulating in pieces and parts the celebration part that is most important. Isabella is being celebrated, who she is, personally.

February 20, 2011

Pieces of the Sweet Six Paper Party.

Despite the disappointing circumstances of Belle's terribly-timed stomach flu bug, we did manage to eek out a wee bit of celebrating in the place of the full-on and terrifically planned Sweet Six Paper Party that we were hoping to enjoy. 
To see the full photo documentation of our quiet celebrating, click on over to our picture pages, here.

Happier Birthdays...

Being sick for your birthday is certainly the most devastatingly disappointing way to celebrate. 
What was seemingly a little bit awful on Thursday evening turned into totally terrible on Friday, and wreaked the most absolutely dreadful outcomes for Saturday. 
I am talking dreadful, to the tune of a barely-celebratory birthday party; one that was canceled to all friends, and instead included only intermediate family + grandparents, and one very sleepy and weepy sick little birthday lady.
On a brighter note, both her energies and her smile have been restored nearly in full today. And as a result of all of the unexpected canceled, post-poned, and scaled-back goings-ons on the last handful of days, Belle will be celebrating her birthday in pieces-and-parts over next week or so. Let the celebrating continue!

February 18, 2011

S I X

Sweet Heavens, Isabella has turned six today. She is such an all-grown-up little girl, with a zeal for life, an old spirit that is quite contemplative, and has a deep hunger for learning. She is so increasingly independent, that I am constantly in struggle with the intense dualities of both great pride in her, yet also the bittersweet constant shedding and peeling away of some of my need-meeter momma roles.

She's got a certain and intense look--a fiery playful seriousness--a lifting of the eyebrow, a sure glint in her steely bright blue eyes, and an almost smile. Its a confident love she shares, one that is hard won with much time, and trust. She is slow to be vulnerable and real around others, but when you gain her comfort, her companionship...she is exhilarating and smartly witty, clever and full of life. 
Six must be the right-of-passage to girlhood. You are overwhelmingly interested in the sparkly and spinny. In real jewelry, and nail polish, lip gloss, and dresses with tights and fancy shoes.  Pretty hair-do's. All the girl just undoes me sometimes. Such royal blood you already understand that pulses through your being.

A now-six Isabella; I can hardly believe it. My very first babe, born on what seems like just the other morning. I am so lucky to be your momma. These photos seem so appropriate to this post, and the Sweet Six theme to your party that is planned for tomorrow. They are nearly two years old now, you flipping through the perpetual calendar, not willing to hold 4 for a single minute, but rather ironically interested in 16, and 21 instead. 
Every day I pray to the Lord to slow this down. To slow this rapid growing up. Our bedtime prayers; they sometimes make you giggle so. More importantly, to increase my ability to savor and enjoy the every right now if it cannot be slowed. This relentless time. Growing us up, growing us closer.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Belle. You are every bit of S I X.

February 16, 2011

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XXXVII

It's a good week here. One that is off to a nicely slow start. I've enjoyed many days in the studio, and much merriment and feasting on sweets.

This week, I am thankful for:

351. the small spree of sunny days that we have experienced, and all of them markedly warmer than freezing. And the green new shoots of life pressing through the soggy soil of our window box planters. Truly the herald of Spring's coming.

352. a group of mama-friends that gather weekly with our babes. Just sharing life; both in our victories and struggles. And our children becoming great friends. Such a sweet reward of relationship.
353. letters, and books. The love of reading and writing, and all things alphabetical. This book--in the works since this summer--is a true feat of Miss Belle's, and the beloved chosen object for her share time this morning at school.
354. days of play with my little guy. His zealous overtures of life and laughter--always seeking adventure--and negotiating possibilities in every circumstance is a constant, though exhausting, delight.
355. being included in the Monumental Miniature II book project. Even if my name is spelled incorrectly, FOUR TIMES. Including in the bogus link that goes nowhere due to the misspelling. Check out the lovely picture, here. And then peruse them all. What a fun collective.

356. a new scarf. In my favorite color, and all sorts of curly fringy offshoots to twist between my fingers.
357. cake mixes and canned frosting. And on sale for just over $2 total. It's been a flurry of baking activity around here, and I am so so glad that I resolved to just let myself buy some help for Belle's school birthday cupcakes. I rationalized that her peers likely wouldn't have appreciated those red velvet's I was planning anyhow. WIN.

358. birthday weeks, fun parties planned with festive all-over household decorating, and weekend visits from the Grand Dubs. We are really looking forward to this weekend! Now, to un-pink and de-clutter my buried studio desk.
359. morning devotions. And the joy and fruits of my quiet time that begins every day. Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

360. change. That we are always moving. That every day affords new grace. And that our actions are loud, and they demonstrate our choices. There is so much hope in this, and the legacy that this writes upon the Craunlet's lives is absolutely overwhelming.

February 15, 2011

Sleeping, a Study in Blue.

I looked over my shoulder this afternoon to see this:
All the blue stripes, and my Prince so peacefully asleep. I had to pull over and capture this shot. He who is trying to quit his nap.

Another Shade of Crazy

Each of us armed with a small lidded-jar, the Craunlets and I just spent the better part of the last half-hour shaking up some crazy delicious heavy cream. And I am still amazed by the outcome.
Good Lord, after witnessing a myriad of stages between liquid and solid--all viewable through the glass jar like a simple science experiment--we have the most amazing slightly-salted butter right now.
And I have two children begging for butter slathered on a slice of my also-homemade fresh bread. Food is so incredibly make-able. That just continues to stop me in my tracks.

YUM.

February 14, 2011

On Celebrating Valentines Day.

We don't really do much in the way of celebrating Valentine's Day around here. 
But, I do get into baking quite a bit -- and when I saw all over the Internets in early February, countless enticing photographs of Oreo cookies on sticks, all cloaked in chocolate, and many further decorated with sugary goodness, I simply couldn't resist. I also very much enjoy the elementary school approach to Valentines. Bring one in for everyone, or don't bring any at all. That I like. Everybody included, little cards, handwritten notes, stickers, etc. Afternoon parties with a sweets-emphasis. That I totally get into. It speaks to my crazy love for parties, and the chronic inclination to over-do things. All. the. time.
So when Belle's teacher sent home the "how might you like to help" half sheet of paper, I checked off cookies without hesitation, and raced to turn that form in to get the opportunity to go crazy over some treats for the Kindergarten Valentine party. It's a crazy compulsion I have. I needed to make these cookies. They also needed to be completely over-the-top. And I was is just a nuts enough mood, to further insist that both Craunlets should help me make them. 

They should definitely help as I utter all sorts of inappropriate frustrations under my breath, as cookies shatter, and break, slide off their sticks into the goopy and now crumb-cluttered chocolate. They should certainly place the pressed sugar hearts on the gooey almost-set soft chocolate, centered and right-side-up. And, yes, all those little sprinkle balls?! Those too. In fact, I should vacuum those up for weeks in the kitchen. As they just keep turning up. EVERYWHERE.
And after all of the impatience. The grumbling. The nerve-wracking counting of the casualties piling up with increased frequency and ferocity. The  just-barely-having-enough-for-the-class anger-invoking experience.  Once nestled into their individual cellophane treat sacks, they looked pretty darn cute.

I'm a Winner, YEAH!

Look what I won??!! What a Happy Valentine's Day over here!!
It is such a lovely surprise, I feel giddy like a little school girl; I'm gonna get a sweet Valentine in the mail! Abbey, over at Aesthetic Outburst, has been hosting a 20 in 20 festival of handmade!!  She opened up her Valentine making as a giveaway to readers; and beyond being daily inspired, I won one of my favorite's! YEAH! I follow her blog regularly, as I relate to so much of her writing, also being an artist, maker, wife and mommy person. She has a keen eye for design, and shares a daily visual feast.

Thanks Abbey!!

February 13, 2011

For the Love of Paper

It seems everything party-wise is becoming lovelier and lovelier by the minute, and all decked out and dressed up with crepe paper and tissue festooning. It's a gathering and tucking, layering and fringing sort of initiative underway here, as we are less than a week out from the Sweet Six celebrations.

It started with these terrible awful paper party blowers, an 88¢ find I couldn't pass up. A deal yes, but all sorts of graphically ugly. Enter my fondness of reward ribbons, yards and yards of crepe paper--pleated and tucked--and a little vintage polka-dot cabochon for each of the centers. 
Next, the relentless insistence by the little Miss to have a pinata. Any ideas how ugly pinatas come? It was pretty much an assortment of bad to worse to some unimaginably awful. Again, yards and yards of crepe paper, and the addition of a bit of tissue paper festooning. And the sweet sense of victory as all of the details came into line.
Where to put the birthday cake + cupcakes, and still maintain the paper theme? Enter the cardboard cake stand + tiered cupcake stands. Hello, lovely sweet and simple solution.
Now in the final stretch, I just have to finish up the paper favor baskets, and string several strands of gumball pearls. That leaves only the hanging of the tissue paper fiesta banners + and the many paper spheres all piled up and ready in wait. In keeping with the usual tradition, installation and the full household transformation will happen on the eve of the festivities.

It's a fun week ahead! 

February 11, 2011

To Quote

"There's something in the soul that cries out for freedom."
–– Martin Luther King

On Pulling the Plug

I want a better legacy of relationships. 

I am tired of watching the parade. Tired of not wanting to miss out.

I pulled the plug on my twitter account last night upon coming home from a wonderful and warm evening at Zygote Press. It was a fun little Book Trade Benefit Mixer between us [Zygote Press] and The Lit [Cleveland's Literacy Center]. It was people co-mingling, conversing, trading books, and listening to several poetry readings. And it struck me, as one among rows of people whose bodies were warming an otherwise very cold industrial space downtown--our collective warmths--sharing the gallery space, listening rapt to poets read aloud their words. And I began to think between the readings, how lovely, and vulnerable, transparent and even voyeuristic--but real--this experience was; authentically heart-warming and uplifting to my spirit. I heard a colleague of mine laugh, his raspy real voice unmistakable in the crowd--and a transparently telling window into his divorced past. A laugh at a line delivered, relatable to his personal experience. To his own lived history. And he shared a small piece of this reality with all of us in that laugh. And I thought--my heart stirred--YEAH. We are sharing this. Us people gathered here, in this quiet real space in real time. It wasn't translated into characters in my twitter feed. Or in his updated location via foursquare. We shared that. And it couldn't be parsed down to a necessary small digital blip. And a sister lost to cancer, another poet reads, and I look across the room, as other friends are holding back salty round tears--the same as mine--in their watery eyes. Many of us know that loss, or similar. And we share that also. Together.  And the loud clapping, the real sound of hands coming together. Of eyes meeting eyes. And telling faces. Sharing in life experience.

And I returned home. A husband waiting. And Craunlets all tucked into bed and sleeping, warm cheeks ready for their promised goodnight kisses. 

I had conversation with a handful of friends following the readings, and here we landed on social media again. "I miss your updates" a colleague started...gone immediately, with this remark I was back into thought. And I quickly--dutifully--countered with my usual apologetic "I am far too compulsive..." explanation... "I couldn't stop feeding the monster..." And I stopped. In introspection, I found a bit of sadness in this half-truth. In no way was it a lie; I am too compulsive to continue with facebook, etc. I couldn't stop myself from a few more clicks, a few more minutes of looking, reading, I couldn't regulate my time...that is all true. But what is also true is that when I am staring at my screen, I am not investing in any real way in any measure of real relationship or deepening of friendship. And as I navigate though profiles, and pages, and updates and photos, my children have no model of what a real relationship is; what conversation looks and sounds like. The give-and-take. When my fingers pound against a keyboard; when I hmmm, or laugh to my screen, I am alone. I am not in company. I am not in a small warm room surrounded by people and engaged in conversation. The physical, that which is real, has been removed. A filter has been added. I am left instead navigating projected personas--myself guilty also of these projections--not people with all of their relatable nuances and shortcomings and insight.

After I am all settled into my evening, kisses dispensed, and the highlighted details of the event I just returned from were shared, my e-mail alerts me that another stranger wishes to follow me on twitter. It is some organization that trolled my feed for buzz words akin to their group. And I sighed over the maintenance of even twitter. To need to log in to manage followers. To block yet another organization looking to connect to me, to use my feed as an opportunity for self-promotion. Why? I wonder...I have 37 followers. Not a super huge list. I am guessing most of them do not need a baking tip, more sewing supplies, etc. And this is my growing-smaller window of time where Dave and I have the couple-hour nightly opportunity to have conversation alone at the end of our every day. And this is how I am spending this time? And Dave replies to my frustration; "how is twitter really any different than facebook?" We are not even making eye contact. This conversation, where he is pouring over design drawings unrolled on our dining room table, and I am engrossed in the screen and the managing of social technology. I am in my profile settings. And again, I click a very mind-settling button, twice now, and I deactivate.

So, no more Twitter. No more tweets--quips and updates--in my sidebar. No more distracting twitter feeds. No more checking. No more long and distracted quick minutes.

It is quiet again. And we go back to talking. Eyes meeting, and exchanging what is real.

February 10, 2011

Superhero Mama Mojo

Probably I should stop buying jeans on clearance in the juniors department of Target, if I expect them to hold up. Sincerely. I should. However, this somewhat recent pair has frustrated me beyond reason in a whole new way. The jean rivet buttons. They just give up occasionally, one at a time, and pop completely off. Right when I am somewhere important. Boing! And the little metal cap ricochets off of a loud surface somewhere, announcing my embarrassed self standing there in cheap jeans. Which, by the way, on incidents where I have not been embarrassed directly by them, have garnered several compliments.  

They are a lovely deep indigo color. Super long and wideleg, but lean around the low-rise waist,  and they boast a generous seam on the bottom of the pantlegs, which I prefer. I love all aspects of them. Expect the quitter buttons. I have actually been wearing them around missing two of their five buttons lately, fuming mad that I should have to buy some buttons to fix something that is so prematurely breaking. I know, my mature self does this from time to time. Trying to prove myself a point, or something. Somehow winning.
Until today. I stumbled upon this cheeky pair of buttons. And I am not entirely sure what aspects of them have me so insanely head-over-heels, but the little girl in me reached out and snatched them up, knowing that they were exactly the just right button for the show-me-off side spots of my missing-buttoned jeans. The other three more functional and less prominent positions could be refurbished with a simple grown-up navy blue, I decided, and I merrily changed them all out this afternoon. Not to be undone by my errant jean buttons again.
It's those intense eyebrows, her tiny lips, and that power patterned headwrap. It's superhero mama mojo, and I am hoping these buttons help me keep mine.

Sugar on a Stick.

Found this little tub in the store today:
So, you all know I am making these over the weekend:
I spotted these sugary sweet Valentine's cookies on Ohdeedoh earlier this week -- the idea and image is from Decorated Cookie--so terrific!

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