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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Discoveries


I discovered a delightful surprise a few days ago and decided it would be a great topic for my first blog of the summer.

To my surprise, June passed without my blogging even once. In the last seven years I never skipped a month of blogging and skipping June feels like the equivalent of ditching a final exam— uncomfortable! But there are times when your brain is too tired to do extra stuff. The school year exhausts me as a parent, and by June 14, I was going on fumes. So I read and rested and did stuff with my kiddos. Now, suddenly it’s almost mid-July. But the funny thing about blogging is that it’s there when you’re ready to return. If you do it just for fun, as I do, you don’t have an impatient editor breathing down your neck, so you can return to it when you feel inspired. And a few days ago I became inspired.

 


On Saturday morning I was out walking and I discovered something amazing. I was in the Bay Area for the wedding of Ian and Maia, one of my closest friends. That morning I took a walk, looking for Robson-Harrington Park, which I’d found on my phone. When I walked into the park, I was very surprised to see irregular brick walls undulating up a hillside. What was this? It looked abandoned, and I was intrigued. Immediately I thought of a book my daughter is reading this summer, The Secret Garden. It’s one of my favorites, a book I’ve read at least twenty times. In the book, a sad little girl finds the key to a garden that has been locked for a decade. She spends months working in the garden and this strengthens her body and her soul. Although the brick walls of the garden I found were not behind a locked gate, the garden still felt like a secret discovery because I hadn’t expected it.

The bricks were old and they had ceramic decoration laid into the walls. A few things were growing, like artichoke plants, each topped with colorful purple spikes. It was a surprising sign of life in a spot that looked like it hadn’t been touched in years.





I had to know more. I kept wandering through the labyrinth of brick walls, and soon discovered that there were garden plots full of living things. It was a community garden. There were sunflowers, leeks, succulents, fruit trees, tomatoes, roses, grapes, squash and flowers of every color. I saw daisies as small as a fingernail and dahlias as large as melons. Beyond the garden, redwood trees soared into the sky. Simultaneously I felt a sense of peace and excitement. This isn’t breaking news, but being in nature is tremendously healing. Surrounded by things that grow, I felt soothed and renewed.

Soon I saw two people working in one of the gardens. I asked about the walled areas that looked abandoned and one gardener said that these areas had been orchards at one point. In many ways, this garden seemed like something created in another time. It didn’t feel like a new project, plotted with square corners and precision. It felt like it grew right out of the hillside with its curved walls, irregular twisting paths and natural flow.









 

Discovering the garden recharged me. The day before I’d been a mess of nerves, stewing about the past and anxious about the future. So finding the garden that morning was wonderful timing. The plants were just doing what plants do, but being around growing things gave me a sense of hope. It made me feel stronger about things that had been troubling me. Gardens begin from tiny seeds—things that only need a little bit of water and sun to grow strong—and finding the secret garden made me feel stronger, too. (Thank you, garden.)


After I left the garden, I walked through the winding roads of San Anselmo. It was a quiet, hot July morning. I sweated and walked, sweated and walked. Wisteria vines tumbled over fences and there was a tree house nestled into tall redwood trees. Eventually I found my way back to the Air BnB we rented and before all my observations left me, I wrote notes about the garden on a paper plate, as I hadn’t brought writing paper with me when I packed. (If you bring paper on a trip, you may not feel inspired. If you don’t bring paper on your trip, you’ll have a blog post write itself in your head while you walk, and you’ll find a paper plate at the rental studio and you’ll lay on the comfy rental bed, sweating, with the fan on, and you’ll write, write, write because the ideas are flowing.)

My time in the garden helped me summon the courage later that day to get up in front of 120 wedding guests and give a tearful toast to one of my closest friends for the last 32 years. I didn’t wait until I felt 100% ready—that will never happen!—but I decided that if I walked toward the microphone, I’d do it. Getting to the microphone was harder than the talking part. I got choked up but I kept going, because close friends are gifts, and honoring a close friend on her wedding day is worth pushing myself.

What a meaningful weekend it was, being with Maia on her wedding day. And finding a community garden by chance—and finding strength in that surprise garden. Funny, I suppose you could find strength anyplace. Maybe you could find courage in a 7-11, or in a junk yard. In a dirty public bathroom. Anywhere! Maybe it just takes something kind of random to give you the extra push you need.

I’m so glad that my wandering walk took me to a place that inspired me, surprised me, and strengthened me. We all need that, and discovering it by accident makes the gift even more meaningful because it’s almost like the solution finds you. Maybe a lot of answers to problems can be found in gardens (or maybe it’s that my brain stops squawking at me in gardens and allows the answer to come to the surface). Funny, isn’t it? You fret and worry and plan and scheme and come up empty-handed. And when you’re least expecting it, the answers find you



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wacky Wednesday #92—Watermelon



Watermelon means summer is almost here. Last week I wore a sandcastle hat—which also had a summery vibe. Are you seeing a theme, here? Summer: I’m literally counting the days ‘til you begin.

The idea of a watermelon outfit has been simmering in the back of my mind for ages, but I wanted to become a watermelon in the season I associate with it: summer.


To make my dress, I cut some white fabric I already had into an A-line dress so that the shape would be somewhat triangular, like a piece of watermelon. I bought some red dye for $3, and dyed the dress overnight. (It turned out closer to pink than red, but as you know, some watermelons are pink so I’m not sweating it.) I used green fabric from my stash for the rind. The earrings are made from paper, and the hat is made from cardboard, hot glue and paint. This outfit did not cost much cash but it delivers a big dose of fun for me. I hope you think so, too.





 
Red and pink are my favorite colors—so this watermelon-colored dress makes me happy. Wearing something playful brings a lot of fun, too, and I’m a firm believer that grownups need just as much silly, laughing, happy fun time as kids do. How can you not be in a good mood when you are dressed like a watermelon?
 
Of course, watermelon is available in the seedless variety, and I prefer it. But the polka dot-like seed pattern is such a recognizable feature of watermelons, so my dress has seeds.
 

 
 
This will be my last WW post until fall, as I’m taking the summer to hang with my kiddos and do other kinds of art projects. But I may blog about other things. Who knows? Either way, I’m ready for a break from schedules this summer.


Whatever this season means to you—watermelon, sandcastles, beaches, kites, picnics—whatever is good for your soul--enjoy the summer…



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wacky Wednesday #91—Sandcastle


Sandcastles…Creative fun. Breezy days at the beach. Yep, it’s almost summer, folks.



A few months ago I found some materials that instantly reminded me of sandcastle shapes. They were cardboard packing materials, and their light brown color and bumpy texture looked exactly like sand to me. So I saved them until this week, and I made them into a sandcastle hat.


 
 





I’m wearing my sandcastle today, and mentally, I’m ready for summer. As a parent, I find the school year quite intense. My kids are still at the age when they need help with homework and projects so the school year feels like a nine month marathon. Summer, I need you. I know the kids will fight, and I know the heat will get to me, but I’m still ready for a break from school. My sandcastle and I are welcoming summer today.

Parts of this outfit were taken from last summer’s ocean costume, but I believe that if you create a hat you’ve never made before, this qualifies as a brand new Wacky Wednesday theme. I altered and reused the shell necklace I made last summer, and used some of the leftover shells for my hat. The hat is made from the cardboard shapes, hot glue, origami paper and a little bit of felt—things I already had.



My earrings are intended to look like starfish, and they are made from a piece of sandpaper I had. (The sandpaper wasn’t new, but I think that the slightly worn areas give the starfish more interest…)
 

Have a happy, rejuvenating summer…



 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wacky Wednesday #90—Crayons

Yesterday I baked crayons. Well, technically I melted them in the oven. But why split hairs?
Let’s back up a few weeks. At our house I can never find a pencil but we have hundreds of broken crayons in a giant box. Unlike permanent markers, crayons don’t wear out. So after they break, I keep them, thinking there’s still tons of life left in them. As an artist, it’s hard for me to throw out art supplies that could be used again, so the collection of broken crayons grows and grows. (Again, I am not a hoarder. I’m a practical saver of art supplies.)
The crayon fragments were screaming to become Wacky Wednesday accessories. So I used some fragments to decorate a crown, necklace and sunglasses. Other pieces I melted to create larger, usable upcycled crayons.
 







Until this week I’d never melted old crayons to make larger ones. I remember someone doing  this when I was in grade school. Why I can remember this--and not remember where I put the pencils—is evidence of how mysterious our brains are…

So, let’s review. This genius plan of mine has several bonuses:

1)      I’m creating another Wacky Wednesday costume I haven’t made before.

2)      I’m using up old, tiny crayons and therefore reducing the clutter (ever, ever so slightly).

3)      I’m giving old, broken crayons a new purpose.


Once I’d melted the old crayons I experimented with making art. I dripped the liquid wax onto paper, before it cooled, and I also colored with the new, giant crayons. It’s great fun.








This week’s crayon accessories are well-timed, if I do say so myself. I’d been planning this crayon theme for weeks, and by pure coincidence, crayons were in the news a few days ago. Crayola is introducing a new crayon color, based on a new shade of blue discovered by Mas Subramanian, a chemist at Oregon State University. He discovered the new pigment in 2009--the first new blue pigment to be discovered in 200 years.

The new blue has not yet been named, and Crayola is holding a contest to name the new shade. If you’re interested, check their website. Contest ends on June 2.



I’m taking next week off from blogging, but I’ll see you all again in two weeks.

The crayons and I wish you a colorful, creative day.
Now--anybody have a pencil I can borrow?



 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wacky Wednesday #89—Maypole



May Day was two days ago, and I’m wearing a maypole today. But let’s not argue about dates, okay? My wackiness is a Wednesday thing and if May first has the audacity to arrive on a Monday, there’s only so much I can do.




Maypoles are not something we see all that often in Southern California. Apparently there are a few places in America where maypoles are decorated each spring, and some European countries set them up each May. In San Diego? Not so much.

Some people believe that the maypole has a pagan connection. There’s debate about why people decorate them. My costume has no pagan agenda or political message or anything like that. It’s just about being colorful and making something I’ve never made before.





For months now I’ve been thinking about how to make a maypole costume. I have a piece of bamboo for my pole, and six bright shades of ribbon. Apparently, I also need a handful of leprechauns or fairies to help me make one, since I have only two hands and there are many ribbons that need to be woven under and over one another simultaneously. Since all the leprechauns and fairies I know are at real maypole celebrations this week, I’ll have to do it myself. But as you may have noticed, I like a good challenge.



(Update: I tried twice to wrap the ribbons around the pole, under and over, with an alternating clockwise and counter-clockwise pattern. After two tries, my brain was in knots and the ribbons were not woven. So I did some ribbon arranging instead and I’m calling it good enough.)



And if my maypole falls down later, we’ll just start a limbo contest instead…



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wacky Wednesday #88—Plastic Bottles



Today’s outfit of the day definitely involves strange accessories—even stranger than some of my other Wacky Wednesdays. Some WWs have a colorful look or have sparkly aspects. This one is much less colorful and sparkly than some. But I’m taking a break from the sparkly to explore the untapped potential of plastic bottles as accessories.

Pro: they’re very lightweight to wear.
Con: I look like I fell into a recycling can.
Pro: the scrunched-up surfaces of the bottles makes for a lot of visual texture and variety.
Con: empty water bottles make me thirsty.
Pro: this outfit will be entirely recyclable when I’m finished with it and won’t add to my clutter.
Con: my art pile clutter is at such a state that a few extra bottles won’t tip the scales.
I broke down and added a little bit of water (dyed with food coloring) to some of the bottles for a pop of color. Turns out I am not good at wearing clear, uncolorful accessories and I had to remedy the lack of color.
This week’s accessories fit with a theme I often visit: taking something from everyday life--something most people don’t think of as beautiful or interesting—and giving it a chance to be in the spotlight.
To a lesser degree, I’m also promoting recycling, which is something I do on a daily basis. Recycling isn’t necessarily limited to plastic bottles and aluminum cans. It could mean cutting up an old sweater and turning it into a capelet and giving it new life. But I’m not here to preach (a lot) so let’s get back to the wackiness and just enjoy the fun of turning something forgettable into something unforgettable.

And don’t forget the sunglasses…


I’m not quite at the point of plastic bottle underpants but if anyone out there develops some, let me know!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Do I have Egg on my Face?



Egg-blowing is the new Pilates. You heard it here first.

It’s Easter season and I decided to decorate a few eggs. So I poked holes in the ends of five eggs and started blowing the contents out. Have you tried this? It’s an alternative to using hard-boiled eggs. This way, you empty the egg shell so that you can decorate the eggs and keep them displayed without having to refrigerate them overnight.

It’s been a year or two since I blew out the insides of eggs and I’d forgotten that it takes quite a bit of force to get the goo out. By the time the fifth egg was empty, my exhausted cheek muscles felt like they’d been pinched by a hundred grandmothers. And my abs felt like they’d done a million crunches. I realized I’d conquered new levels of multitasking: working out my core and prepping for Easter. And that’s why I’m promoting the newest exercise trend: egg blowing for fitness and home d├ęcor.

Mid-way through the egg blowing I thought, “I’d better take a photo of this.” It seemed like a good idea, since I sensed a blog post in the works. But maybe it was the lightheadedness speaking. Because I’ll tell you: I did take two photos, and they are possibly the least flattering photos I have ever taken in my life. So I’ll spare you the horror and I will assure you that a close up of me, forcing air into the egg clutched between my tired lips is bad enough to picture in your head. You don’t need the visual. But the effort was worth it. My body may be tired but the eggs are empty. This is what we artists call suffering for our art.

I need a nap.

Anyway, I now have five empty eggs and I want to decorate them with supplies I haven’t used before on Easter eggs. One year I tried a silk transfer method. The pattern from your silk fabric transfers onto the eggshell for beautiful, colorful results. Other times we have used the PAAS egg decorating kits, which are fun. But please—I have a studio (crammed) full of delightful (and random) supplies and I thought it would be fun to decorate eggs using some of my craft stash.


 
 
 
I ended up decorating the eggs with decoupage. I used a clear product I already had to stick paper to my eggs, but you could use glue if you had some at home. Once I had my adhesive on part of the egg, I pressed small pieces of tissue paper onto the surface until the tissue was flattened against the egg. Then I secured it with more glue. This is so easy and because tissue paper is translucent, you get cool layers of color. On a few eggs I added a little bit of ribbon, pieces of paper doily or tiny silk flowers. I also gave makeovers to a few eggs I’d saved from previous years—adding tissue paper to the color already on the eggs. Keeping previous years’ hollow eggs in a Tupperware box in the garage is a good way to protect them from year to year, and to add to your collection. In related findings, keeping previous years’ eggs in a Tupperware box in the garage (alongside tons of other decorations and many bikes and boxes of random stuff) is not a good way to deal with the garage clutter. But hey, I’m only human. And egg decorating is much more fun than garage mess sorting.








Whether you celebrate Easter or Passover or simply the magic of spring…Whether your eggs are plastic or dyed or bedazzled or scrambled…

Happy Spring!