Sunday, November 30, 2008

Did you all have a lovely food filled Thanksgiving holiday? I did. Lots of family, including a half dozen grandkids all descended upon our tiny homestead, so it was also exhausting. Everyone left today and so I finally have a chance to check in with everyone.

I've heard from everyone but Meo and Barbara in the Magical Yule Swap. I popped an e-mail in the mail... er in the net?... to both of them asking for an update. And I bought glue. Lots of glue. So the plan tomorrow is to finish up the last little details of my own project and get it ready to mail. Hopefully I'll hear back by tomorrow from the other two stragglers and I'll be able to send everyone an address by the 2nd. Everyone join in and clap and repeat after me "I do believe in deadlines!.... I do believe in deadlines!.... I do believe in deadlines!" Hey, it might help.

And now I'm off to make a hot chocolate. Or maybe an eggnog. And recuperate from all the family fun. Did I mention the SIX grandchildren who showed up for Thanksgiving? Perhaps I'll make that an alcoholically enhanced eggnog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In honor of Thanksgiving, some Turkey Art. I actually took this photo for my friend Deirdre, who often tells tales of her yard turkeys. I don't think Hubby thought through the possibilities for humor when I asked him to pose with a bunch of turkeys. Hehe.

Claude Monet - Musee d' Orsay, Paris

Still no photos of my Magical Yule Swap creation although I did manage to purchase the lithium batteries for the camera when I was out and about gathering the Thanksgiving supplies yesterday. I haven't put the batteries IN the camera yet. I have, however, worked on my pretty little project.

I'm really happy with the way it's evolving. I wasn't sure exactly what it would become when I started it. I began with just the center idea without knowing where it would go from there and I've left random puttering and treasure finds and stumbled upon "what if's" and a few scary "Should I? Why not! Go for it!"'s be in charge. A much different approach then my usual pre-thought out and thoroughly sketched plan.

I've allowed myself this muse led style a few times before and each time, once I got over not being in charge of things, I've been really happy with both the process and the results. It takes the pressure off for the creation in the world to match the creation in my head (which sometimes is possible but sometimes not), reducing my expectations and allowing for the freedom of following unexpected directions. It's not that working from a more structured game plan is a bad thing, it's just different. Sort of like the difference between a vacation with a full itinerary and reservations made and the holiday that starts with a vague longing to head west, a full tank of gas, and a bag packed for any possibility.

Although I don't have any photos I can give you a hint. Glitter. Sparkle. Frosty bling. Maybe that's three hints. I just couldn't resist. Last night I worked on it again and now all the components are completed and gathered together. All that's left is putting it together. Which requires glue. Which I was surprised to find I don't have. I'd forgotten that my last project required reconstituting some old, gloppy Elmers. I think my daughter-in-law polished off the last of it when she was up here at Halloween making her handmade invitations. So. I'll be putting it all together at the last minute, after the Thanksgiving hordes have gone back home. They're on their way here as I type, getting closer and closer even as I waste precious minutes blogging that I should be spending on last minute vacuuming and bed rearranging.

Sarah from Circles of Rain has announced her swap piece complete. Yah! Barbara of Under Six Gables and Meo are left. Well, and me - Glueless in Susanville. No pressure, there's still over a half week left of the month - just checking in to see how things are going.

And now I'm off to do that vacuuming. Or better yet, delegate the vacuuming to Hubby or Teen and do some child proofing tasks before the wee monkeys arrive. I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving or, if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving, then have an equally lovely, thankful, ordinary day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I finally committed to one of my ideas and started on my Magical Yule Swap piece a few nights ago. I'm about 30% to 50% along, depending on how far I want to take it. I'm happy with the way it's coming out. I had to stop as I ran out of a key component. About the only place in town to find any art supplies is Walmart and I went last night and found something that will work.

(Momentary aside - how can someone go to buy ONE BEAD and come out of the store $38 poorer!? No, I didn't spend $38 on one bead. There were other pretty, shiny beads hanging near the bead I needed. And I was hanging out there, talking to my daughter-in-law on my cell phone, staring at all those pretty beads and some of the packages somehow found their way into my shopping cart. And then, since I was in the craft department, I found some fabric that would be perfect for a project for my Hubby even though I have plenty of perfect fabric already at home. And wandering over into the holiday department I found some other little bits and bobs that might add even more fun to my swap project. And then there were the special holiday Oreos with peppermint filling......)

I'll be working on my project again today and then I have to set it aside for the fun and chaos that is family visiting for Thanksgiving. If I have anything left to finish, it won't be much and I'll have two calendar days after everyone departs again for any last minute touches. So, I'll feeling pretty good about it.

I'd give you a little sneak photo of what I'm making but unfortunately I also needed to buy lithium batteries for my camera while I was at Walmart and I forgot. So. Instead I can give you a sneak peek of my mom Barb's project, as she sent me some images. I think it's looking pretty wintery and magical!

So, how's everyone else doing? ( I heard from Chris at Prism's Trail! that she's finished already. Yah! And also - Show off! So, some of us aren't organized. So! Your point? Phhbt!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I've grounded myself from my regular blog until I get some work done around the house and studio, but I didn't say I couldn't blog here. I know, sort of cheating. But I was very proud of how much work I got done yesterday even if I got a late start at it. It wasn't studio work, sigh, only housework. But still, big improvement - many heaps and piles are no more.

We lost one of our Yule Swappers, Midwest Fibre Arts, who was waylaid by the busyness of life. Sniff. Well, I knew that would happen. I really should have run this swap months ago as the last two months of the year are the crazy season for most people. Next year I'll plan ahead and hostess a holiday swap that's earlier and more organized. Millions will join. And our small group from this year can feel smug and special because we weathered out the storms and difficulties of this first year's swap, just the few of us banded together. We're like the Fellowship of the Ring. The Goonies. The little band of misfits following Rudolph in the old claymation special.

I also talked to Barb, my mom, on the phone last night. She already knows what she's making for the swap but we tossed ideas back and forth on how to tweak it, to make it an even more special gift. I can hardly wait to see how it turns out. In my head, it's lovely!

I've narrowed my idea down to .... well, I think I've chosen my idea in the general sense. I'm going to make some small pieces so that the project is both portable to work on and easy to ship. I didn't take shipping into consideration last swap I did - it all worked out in the end but I realized that if I'd thought it through I could have made it a lot easier on myself and still sent something really nice. After gluing it nice and tight, I ended up having to dismantle one piece to safely ship it - argh.

What I haven't decided yet is how the little pieces will fit together, if at all? In a wee vignette? Or maybe just individual teenies to be used however the recipient so chooses.

That's all. I swore next time I posted here I'd have some studio pics. Maybe by tomorrow. But I'll give you some photos, for your viewing enjoyment. A post just doesn't seem complete without something visual. I've been in a Paris sort of mood lately, so I'll share a few random Paris trip photos.

These first two photos are from the collection at the Musee d' Orsay. Not holiday-ish, but definitely have a fantasy element going on. I don't have details on the artist or time period, sorry. I love how this one looks like he was working from a model. Hmmmm.... there are more things in heaven and earth than...

This guy looks a little grumpy. (I also think he looks like Gollum from LOTR) Like, the world is annoying and if it wasn't for his friend/pet frog, he would be glummer still. I can relate. I've been feeling a bit like that lately. So has Hubby. So has the Teenager. We've been taking turns being a bit stompy and easily annoyed. I think for Hubby and I it's just the stress of the economy, life coming at us too fast. For William it's the end of a long stretch of nonstop work, school and football commitments. (Only one week or two left, depending on whether they win the next play off game, before things get a lot easier for him. And a bit easier for us too, no more football traveling.) For all of us add in an autumn package of cold and flu visitors. I don't have a pet frog, but I do have a wee fuzzy dog that loves me even when I'm less than loveable.

Changing moods completely, isn't this just the most adorable little angel you've ever seen!? With her rosy cheeks and curly hair, she reminds me a wee bit of my granddaughter. Although the granddaughter's white gown would probably be covered in jelly, dry erase marker, and dirt and her wings would be a bit askew. This was a sign outside a little angel shop in... Montmartre I believe... and the owner of the shop was very kind to allow me to snap this photo. I wish I could remember the name of the shop as she had cards and other items with this image on it for sale inside and now that I'm thousands of miles away, I want to buy something.

Anyone know what the words on the sign say?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Miss me? I've been gone too many days. Here's my excuses:

1. Football. Play off season football in fact. We (meaning by that, my son's team) won a very exciting Friday night game. Add in preparation for and celebrations afterward.

2. Stomach bug and other illnesses, both mine and other family members. Trust me, best if we don't go into detail on any of it.

3. Other family stuff. This that and the other thing.

4. Some other computer stuff.

Okay, that's enough rationalizing.

Bottom line, I haven't even stepped foot into my studio in a week. Scratch that. I went in there to check a book title on a shelf and to find a different coat in the closet. Not terribly creative though, those tasks.

I did get the Yule swap folks all listed on the sidebar though - YAy! And did you notice we picked up a couple of people? Yay again! The mysterious "Barb" is my mom, she doesn't have an internet link. I have everyone elses information except Meo's. (I'm waiting on an address and link info for you, my faery friend!) Reminder to self - Take all the swapper's emails and put them safely together in a file before I lose them in my messy mailbox.

All silliness aside, I'm frustrated that my intentions to spend the entire month of November being a superartist, holed up in my studio except for quick forays into the kitchen for more tea and snacks, hasn't exactly materialized. At best I've got a chance to spend HALF of November being a superartist. Oh. Wait. My daughter and her family are coming for a half week for Thanksgiving. Sit down before I share the rest of the story. Are you sitting yet? No, I'm serious. Sit down. Ready? Okay.

She's bringing all six of her kids. Six. SIX. Ages 8, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 4 months. Tired just thinking about that? I thought so. Add in getting ready for and being exhausted after and there's another week.

So now I'm down to ONE WEEK of being a superartist. If I start tomorrow.

First priority of course is my Yule Swap creation. I've got some ideas sketched out. Here's a few of the ideas -

Sorry, not very clear. You might be able to see more if you click and enlarge. Don't try to figure out what that darkest spot is - I think it's coffee. Maybe chocolate. Like Sarah of Circles of Rain I have a doll idea. I've got a couple of textile art ideas and a mobile idea. A diorama or two. Maybe a book? They all sound like fun but I can't get started until I commit to one. Also like Sarah, I keep sliding back into adding elements that seem more Christmas-y than Yule-y. In reality, there's so much overlap that it could work anyway, but I'm trying to come up with something a bit more unusual, less expected. This is all about fantasy, fairy tale, and magic of the season, not just the solstice celebration called Yule, so there's probably not a lot of "should's or shouldn'ts".

Mainly I'm stuck between two directions. Do I want to go all sparkly, glittery, fairy theme? HOLIDAY BLING! After all, Yule is about the return of LIGHT! Or do I go all simple beauty of nature - mossy and pinecones, elves or gnomes or such? The problem with the latter ideas is that they start looking traditional Christmas really fast. I love both directions. I think I just have to go into the studio and start messing around with supplies until something clicks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Looking ahead, it's almost time for that yearly tradition, the selection, signing, addressing, and sending of the holiday card. Although many people have cut this tradition from their holiday schedules due to time or money constraints, I still find this to be a meaningful and enjoyable ritual for me and I look forward to it. I used to also write and include a photocopied holiday letter updating everyone on our family life - although some folks scoff at that, I certainly appreciated receiving them and tried to make mine enjoyable for others to read. But now, between email and blogging, I figure if you don't know what I've been up to recently then you're living in a previous century and need to find yourself a time machine and catch up with the rest of us.

Although I still enjoy sending cards, I don't send as many out as I used to (postage is pricey!) and I usually, though not always, stop sending if someone skips me for more than a couple of years so as not to make them feel uncomfortable at not reciprocating. I don't celebrate Christmas in anything but a secular Santa sort of way, so I don't send out a "Christmas card". I send out a "Yule card" to Pagan or Pagan friendly friends and find something multi-holiday-ish or simply a scene of nature or peace for the rest of my list of friends and family which includes Christians of all kinds and flavors, agnostics, Jews, atheists, Humanists, and families with a mix of several different paths. I try to select a card for each recipient that speaks not only to me but to the person or family receiving it.

In an ideal world I would be all artsy and make my cards. The problem is, I went through a "buy it all on sale for next year!!!" stage where I bought a lot of boxed cards several years in a row. I've managed to collect an entire box (and by this box I mean one of those mega-sized, lidded, plastic storage crates!) of boxed cards and I just can't bring myself to toss or donate them and start anew. Second problem is there's only so much time in a holiday season and so it's probably a good thing I don't add to my already unrealistic holiday expectations.

Still, it's rather fun to drag in the box from the garage late every November and dig through it to choose a card or more likely several collections of cards that has the right feel for each year. There's usually one or two cards left from previous choices and it's like a museum of holidays past. I can see my "bringing home the tree" image stage and the "cat in front of a blazing hearth" stage and the "teddy bears and little kids" stage and the "retro" stage. There are a few quirky finds and some that are surprisingly traditional.

I probably won't be in the market for cards for many years to come - maybe never again if I follow through with designing my own cards some day. But if I were gonna buy some cards for this year, I would soooooo want to buy these! You can find them at Ophilia's Art.
Don't we all look forward to the annual bringing home of the Yule tree? Does anyone ever stop to think that it doesn't really end well for the poor tree? LOL.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Here's the image. The linked image will be in the sidebar. Doesn't it look lovely! Thanks Deirdre!
** A Magical Yule Swap **

It's still night - SOMEWHERE! Not here though. Although, by the time I get this sent, it will be probably be night again. Forgive me please, I had a tummy ache last night and took to bed early instead of blogging. I know, I'm losing points more quickly than Wall Street.

Moving on...

It looks like there's five of us. Which, if it works like any other swap I've ever hostessed or been a part of, means there's probably three or four of us. But let's pretend that magically (it is a magical swap!), there is five of us. That's an uneven number. Yes, I saw that immediately cuz I was really good at 'rithmetic in skool! I thought and pondered and twisted my brain in all sorts of odd and painful ways and couldn't figure out how to swap us out evenly with an uneven number. I could have switched folks around so you receive from someone other than who you give to, but then I worried about someone who had sent off a lovely gift ending up without one and that made me sad. But then I had a magical inspiration! Dropped into my head by the faeries themselves, I'm sure of it.

We will be a magical circle of swappers! Everyone start working - hurry, hurry, as your fearless leader left you with little time - and make one beautiful gift. When you are finished, check in and let us know it's ready and waiting to be shipped. When everyone has checked in by December 1st (I might fudge on that one or two days but no more, so everyone gets their gift in time) we'll all mail in a circle.

This way, if we lose someone, no one is left out. This way, if someone sees how much fun we're having and wants to join in still, that will be wonderful. Too, it doesn't have to be a secret, feel free to post about your creative progress on your blog. It will be fun to watch all the studio magic and wonder which will be our very own! Or not, if you just love the mystery. Remember, one beautiful handmade item is what is required.

We all hope that this will be handmade with your own creative fingers, and considering the swap theme, that might be the only option. But if it comes down to the wire, a handcrafted but purchased item is an acceptable alternative. Better that then dropping out. I once had a lovely swap partner who got stuck in weeks of unexpected business travel and couldn't follow through with her original plan. She sent me a lovely handmade gift that she bought from a friend at a local craft fair. Not that the faeries would let any of us get ourselves in that sort of time squeeze, I'm sure. And if we did, the wee brownies would probably come out at night and help us in our workshops. But I just wanted to put it out there, just in case trolls trash your stash or gremlins hide all your glitter and no amount of bribes, threats or tears convince them to make amends.

Send me privately - I've put my email in my Blogger Profile - your full name, mailing address, and e-mail (which, duh, I'll have when you send the other two). When everyone is ready to mail, I'll send you the name and address of the person who you will send to and someone will be sending off a package to you. Have your package all wrapped and ready and so all you have to do is address the box and go down to the post office with it.

When I receive all the info, I'll put up a list in the sidebar of links to everyone's blogs under the Swap Button, to make it easy to visit each other. And about that button - my own personal graphic artist (that would be my very dear and patient-with-me friend Deirdre) is working on it at this very moment. I'll add the button later tonight so I can get this post up right now. But, it will look something like this, with a title:

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Quick self flagellation - I know I have a couple of Swap Participants who I didn't even have the courtesy to acknowledge yet - it was one of those things where I remembered I needed to shoot them off a quick e-mail only when I couldn't and I forgot every time an opportunity would have existed. I'm sure this raises everyone's confident level in my swap hostessing abilities - yes? Not. I've actually pulled off many successful and sometimes large swaps. Which this will not be - large that is. Successful, I sure hope so. It will be a warm and cozy little swap, just the right kind for a hot cocoa, snow falling sort of winter season. It's just that I got caught up in... well, there's really no excuse. But, if I stay online right now I'll get NOTHING done again today, so stay tuned. I promise to rectify my bad manners by this evening. Pacific Standard Time. Night Owl Time. But still - TONIGHT.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A Magical Yule Swap

I'm not a big swap joiner but I've joined Kari's Sweet and Sinister Swap two years running now and had a lot of fun creating a box of treasures for my partner. I was thinking of joining another swap for the upcoming winter holidays and I realized I knew exactly what kind of swap I wanted to join and since I couldn't find it amongst my fellow bloggers, I decided to hostess the swap myself. I hope even just a few of you will want to join in and create something magical.

Although I celebrate Christmas in a culturally secular way, the heart of the winter holidays for me is Yule. The celebration of the return of the sun on the winter solstice, the promise that the darkness and cold of this time of year always gives way to the warmth and green of another spring.

But in this case, I'm using the words Yule and Magic in the fantastical fairy tale sense, a place where faeries decorate the forest with glittery frost and rainbow colored orbs of light.

Gnomes gather round the hearth on a cold dark night with tiny mugs of ale and tell tales of ancient treasures.

Elves (not Santa's elves, I mean the woodland kind) throw a winter party, singing and dancing with brownies and sprites, squirrels and owls, and the occasional magical teddy bear.

Witches decorate the Yule tree with the help of a green willow wand and brew up fragrant pots of spiced cider. Even dragons might get into the act, helping to light the Yule log with a small snort of flame.

You'd think it would be easier to find some photos of all the amazing swap ideas I have filling my head, but alas, I haven't actually made any of them yet. I'm imagining a shimmering snow faerie doll. A wee elven house set in a diorama of snow and ice. A wall hanging of elves dancing 'round a Yule tree. A witch's Yule Ball - maybe some Hogwarts alumni will show up? A red capped gnome wife baking holiday cookies.

What can you imagine in this land where all the magical creatures of the world - even the humans! - have joined together to push away the darkest month of the year?

Here are the mundane details - sign up through the first week of November. I'll assign each of you a Yule partner and the two of you can swap information that might be helpful to guide each other in personalizing your gift. Make your partner one magical doll, vignette, painting, decoration, wall hanging or whatever magical object you can imagine. Your idea might indeed be one beautiful object. Possibly it might be a small set of things. I'm sure you'll be walking along a snowy path or a foggy winter forest trail wondering what to make when something small will flash by, faster than you can see it, and suddenly, through a golden haze of faerie dust, you'll know exactly the perfect gift to make! To give you a helpful parameter, think of something that would cost about $25 if you saw it waiting for you in a shop of wonders. Of course you are encouraged to use your stash of ribbons and glue, fabric, paper mache, stones, paint, glitter, inspiration, elbow grease, (and even your magic wand if you've got one of those) to whip something up for only the cost of love and time and postage. Feel free to toss in a few glittery gumdrops or mossy acorns as well if you are so inclined (swappers tend to be on the enthusiastic side), but know that just the one gift is required and to be expected. Deadline to mail your package - December 1st - to assure time during the busy holiday mailing season for your package to arrive before December 21st.

Sign up by leaving your name and e-mail here in the comments of this post.

P.S. I can't find an image I like for the swap button. Which of the images above do you like best? Or do you have an even more magical image to share?