Monday, October 31, 2016

I have a secret...

I am no good at decorating.  There, I've said it.  It's one of the reasons that I found blogging hard for so long.  All of the bloggers I visit seem to have this wonderful decorating gene.  I just don't have it.  I know what I like and am comfortable with, but when it comes to taking a room and seeing what it needs to really come to life ...well, I just keep staring.  Even with bloggers and Pinterest for inspiration, I am still stymied. This is where my amazing mother comes in.

Last year we wanted to redo our downstairs den so that our grown-still-living-at-home-children would have a nice place to escape.  The walls with NO windows were papered in a navy and burgundy giant striped wallpaper.  With a dark red brick fireplace and dark green carpet that needed to be removed, we had some challenges.

I know what you're thinking... the sofa completely clashes with the walls.  Yeah, I figured that one out all on my own. He he. The walls were that way when we moved in to the house, and this was the 2nd tier sofa and loveseat so they just ended up together.  Can't imagine why no one ever wanted to use this den!?!?

Well, we wanted to do something creative with the room, with a little bit of adventure thrown in.  My (adult) kids had some ideas of what they wanted to do, but weren't quite sure how to make it come together on a budget.  So, I called my wonderfully gifted and creative -- especially when it comes to decorating -- mother.  She immediately said, "Oh, what you're wanting is a British colonial look with a hint of jungle."  OK, but still how to accomplish it?

She began to brainstorm, and then she started to search the web and pin things to Pinterest for us. We thought about function (for the kids to be able to camp out down there and even bunk down if they wanted to). We thought about light (because there are no windows). We thought about furniture (because we knew those old sofas were going to have to go).  We thought about flooring (because we knew that awful green carpet had to go).  We thought about what we could do with the dark brick fireplace.  We thought about the "adventure" theme that the kids were wanting... and suddenly a plan began to come together.

First, (after priming the wallpaper) we painted the walls a creamy, almost-yellow, off-white color so that we would have a neutral backdrop and open the space.  Next, we chose a chocolate brown color for painting the cement (which also had to be stripped of all the glued down strips of carpet tacks and primed...  yuck!)  Once the floor had been painted and had time to dry, we came up with the idea of stenciling something around the edges because there were many rough spots where the carpet tack strips had been pulled up (you can see these in the top left part of the photo).  Keeping in mind our adventure theme, I came up with a rope trim and made a stencil from a plastic file folder.  We also wanted to add bits of intrigue and so my son made up an East India Trading Co. logo for stenciling also.   The result of all this is the photo at left.  I loved the way the stenciling turned out.  We painted the rope in the light tan of the baseboard trim color, and then stippled back over it in the darker brown for an antiqued flair.

Next, we had to tackle the fireplace.  We decided to paint it, too, as it desperately needed to lighten up.  I wasn't sure how this would go, but we took a deep breath and plunged in.  We were going for a sort of faux stone look, so I Googled how to do that and found that cutting a sponge with large holes to the same size as the bricks, and using a couple of shades darker paint, while leaving the grout the color we painted it, would imprint a stone look onto the bricks.

We painted it first in the same color as the walls (above). And we came back in lightly with the sponge adding the darker color onto the bricks.   At this point we could see that we were actually getting somewhere, and we were ready to start adding some furniture.

We knew we had just enough money for a couple of key purchases, so we chose an affordable futon so that there would be something to sleep on down there.  I had a wicker rocker that had been in our first nursery that would work.  We found some great throw pillows -- some were given and some were purchased.  We found a "rattan" chair that was a floor model and was very reduced in price.  We found a throw rug that virtually matches the floor.  We even found a couple of other accent blankets and things.  We were also given an old trunk that really goes well with the decor.  We found a great mirror that functions much like a window for the room.  And here is the result:

We love how it turned out, and best of all the kids have gotten a tremendous amount of use out of it.  Amazing how far a little inspiration can go with someone as creatively wired as my mother is.  I am blown away by her gift for this because while I did get some creative genes, I certainly didn't get this one!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Just sent off the latest commissioned piece...

I just shipped out my latest commissioned piece -- the one I mentioned that the groom is giving to his bride for a wedding present.  I can't wait to share it with you, as it was such fun!  But since it is a super secret surprise, it will have to wait until after the lovely bride has laid eyes on it...

I wanted to give you a little peek into my drawing room and table. I have a few commissioned pieces that I could share since I last posted about them on this blog, but here is one that was a pleasure to do.  It is on our local historical register and the current owners purchased the home in the 1970s.  This house turned 100 years old in 2015.

I thought I would share the process for this one.  It is pretty much how I work on all my commissioned pieces.  Here is the original photo that I was sent by the person who commissioned the drawing.

Original photo:

This is the first step (below) in how I work, lightly laying in the beginning sketch.  This is really the crucial point of the drawing and sometimes the longest step, as I must get the perspective right, the house straight, all the angles relating to the horizon correctly, etc.  There is a lot of sketching and erasing happening in this step! ;)

Once I am satisfied that the house looks correct from all angles (and doesn't look like it's falling over to one side or the other) and is proportionally correct (the porch isn't too large for the house, the steps are proportional to the door, the windows aren't too large or small, etc.) I can begin to fill in details.  This is where the fun takes over. 

Filling in details is about texture, shading, and all the architectural nuances that make a house a house... the boards on the wall next to the windows, the stonework on the porch, the little architectural details under the eaves, etc. When filling in, I work as much as possible from left to right and top to bottom, as the graphite will smear while I am working (right-handed) and rubbing back and forth over the areas.  I also use a piece of parchment to cover areas that I have already filled in, so that they are protected from my (very active) hand and arm.

Some of the most challenging details about some houses are the windows, especially if the surrounding trim and wood is white, as the ones on either side of the front door here.  It is difficult to get the panes all uniform and straight lines without distorting the white trim around them because the white part is the negative space.  It's much easier if the trim is darker than the panes.

I loved doing this house because there were so many different textures and features. It is really amazing to me how much this makes me appreciate what architects do.  To think this beautiful thing was designed and built in 1915 and is still so beautifully standing and giving shelter to this family today just amazes me.

With all of the house finished except the roof, I get to thinking about the landscape.  I have to be sure that the house is covered with parchment during this step because this when my fingers fly.  Shrubs and grasses and trees and flowers are a lot of fun.  As you have probably gathered by now, I really enjoy doing these.  I am thankful that people continue to ask me to do them, and each one is unique and special.  And so we've made our way back to where this post started, the finished product...


One thing that I do while I draw is pray for the families who are represented by the homes... those who live there, those who have lived there and have moved on, those who are giving the gift to the ones who live or lived there.  It is a privilege to be able to touch a family in this way. This is just a little taste of my commissioned work, but I also still love to paint and take the opportunity to "play with color" in between my commissioned drawings.

Wednesday blessings,

Monday, October 24, 2016

Chicken, Kale, and Wild Rice Soup

I love soup. Especially THIS time of year. Just as the weather begins to have a bit of a chill, we are in need of something to warm our bones. Soup to the rescue!

I had a broth bowl at Panera Bread a year or so ago that I absolutely loved and wondered if I could come close to it at home. I have to admit that I never would have thought of putting kale into a soup.  So, here is what I came up with, and while it is not exactly the same it is every bit as tasty.  It can easily be adjusted for more or less soup as you go.  I wish I had a picture of it to share (I found one that I cropped... looks very similar to mine), but trust me on this one... it is delicious!

Chicken, Kale and Wild Rice Soup
  • 1 to 2 boxes organic chicken (or bone) broth
  • 1 to 2 qts. water
  • 2-3 medium chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 can mild Rotel tomatoes, drained
  • 2 whole lemons
  • 1/2 cup wild rice blend (I use Texmati with flaxseed, black lentils, couscous [pictured])
  • Fresh kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • Greek seasoning (I use Cavender's)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring broth and 1 qt. water to a boil in 2 1/2 quart pot.  Add chicken breasts and cook until tender.  Remove chicken breasts and set aside to rest and cool. When chicken is cool, cut into bite-sized chunks.

Add Rotel tomatoes (if you can't get Rotel, most any petite diced tomatoes will work) to broth and reduce heat.  Zest the 2 lemons and add zest to the chicken broth.  Seed and juice the lemons, and add juice to broth.

Bring broth back to a boil.  Add Greek seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Add rice blend, cover, and reduce heat to simmer until rice is done (appx. 15-20 minutes depending on blend).  Add chicken chunks.  Add kale pieces and simmer until tender.


NOTE:  This recipe can be chicken-less... and if no chicken is available, it is also good with a whole boiled egg (this is how it was served to me at Panera). 

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Blessing for You

So, because my last post was a little on the negative side, I am posting something encouraging today.  Here is a scripture we memorized in our ladies group a while back, when we were making our way through the book of Ephesians.  I am posting it here as encouragement for you.  Always remember that you are uniquely special and dearly loved by the One who created you!  There really is no way to truly comprehend His love... and feel free to copy and use this graphic if you'd like to.  We used it to help us memorize, but use it however you'd like.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Speaking of Spinning... and Not Being Antisocial

Does social media make your head spin, or is it just me?  

Photo credit: Hali Newberry Photography
My first foray in the social media world was Facebook.  Ahhh... what a great tool for connecting with all those friends from different eras of my past.  I really do love that aspect of it.  And, now that I have a 3 month-old nephew whom I never get to see in person (seriously, have you ever seen a baseball that cute???), it is a great way for me to "virtually" watch him grow.  But, Facebook really is so here today and gone tomorrow... and even though it saves my things, I have a hard time going back and finding something my friends have posted.  When I check Facebook, one minute something is there and the next it is gone.  I think to myself, "Wait, I wanted to read that."  Have you had a conversation with someone you wish you could go back and reread? I sure have... but, the posts just keep on scrolling ...and scrolling ...and scrolling by.

Then Twitter came along, the place where you can say whatever you want to for the world to see -- or at least your followers -- in 140 characters or less.  I think we can all plainly see why this one didn't work out for me...

Next there was Pinterest... what a great concept: a great visual representation of a link that I want to save.  And, I am such a visual person that it was perfect for me.  You know, the instant recipe keeper for all those delicious looking recipes you see in images all over the internet.  
It was also a great tool for organizationally challenged people looking to improve their organizing skills (me!)  And it was the perfect spot for curating a whole bunch of loveliness in one place.  However, three years down the road half of my image links no longer work.  So that recipe I put off trying for so long still looks great in the image, I just have no idea where the recipe is.  And the organizational site went "poof!" just like my organizational skills.

And then there was Instagram.  Visual instant gratification... "Hey family and friends, look at me doing this or that right now!" ...but with no real conversation (unless you count hashtags... don't even get me started on twentyhashtagsononepicturethaticannotreadbecausetheyallruntogether!!) And again, the images just keep scrolling and scrolling.  If I want to see something from 3 weeks ago I have to 1. remember who posted it, 2. find that person's username, and 3. go look through all their images until I see it.  Too much trouble... I'd rather just move on.

Which brings me right back to where I started ever having conversations online.  I am back here hoping for some meaningful dialogue (or even monologue, should no one care to read it!) interspersed with images and links that hopefully will be more (or less) permanent.  And I am thankful that there are still a number of you who feel the same way!

Not really antisocially,

Friday, October 14, 2016

Spinning Right On Its Axis...

So, has it really been three and a half years since I last posted? It's just hard to believe that, but in some ways it seems even longer. With my children grown but not gone, I am still in a very busy stage of life.  Yet, I miss the blog world, my friends made here, and the writing and photos that go along with storytelling.  So, I am going to make a renewed effort and try to not be hard on myself when I go for (what seems like) ages between posts. I can hardly believe that when I started this blog over eight years ago, I posted every day! Whoa, I don't know how I managed that and everything else. But, realistically I know that I have too many things going on right now to post everyday... but I can post sometimes.

Since that first blog post in May 2008, so much has happened in our lives as well as in the world of technology.  We have a lot of visual "instant gratification" these days through Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and all the other social media sites.  Yet, my writer's heart longs for a space like this to just ramble on about whatever is on my heart... and for something that's not here today and gone tomorrow.  I love being able to look back at the old posts here and see what God was doing in our lives then and how far He has brought us and our families.  I am using the word "our" because as I look back at the comments, I was not doing this alone. I have tried to stay connected to a number of you by popping in every now and then to read your posts and comment (sparsely, I know.) I am thankful that some of you faithful ones are still at this blogging thing!  It just makes my world feel that it is spinning right on its axis to be able to go visit your beautiful blog homes on the web.

I am still doing art along with graphic and web design, all of which keeps me quite busy.  I am currently in the midst of a very interesting commissioned piece of art for a young man who is about to get married... the piece will be a wedding present for his bride as a remembrance of the spot where he proposed to her.  It is such fun getting to be in on secrets like that.  I just rolled out a brand new website last week for a local small business in town.  I also took on the role of president of one of our local art associations this year, which has added to my already long list of tasks.  But, it has also given me the opportunity to become immersed in the local art community, to get to know some local artists whose works I have admired, and to learn many, many things about techniques, materials, shows, etc.

For those of you still connected here, THANK YOU for not giving up on me. I have always felt like our blog community was a bit of a "small town" on the internet, as those of us with common interests found one another early on.  For now, I am jumping back into this blog with both feet!  There is so much loveliness to be shared, and I want to be a part of the sharing.  I hope to see you around this great big world (wide web)!