Monthly Archives: April 2014

 

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I spent the last four days in West Texas. My Mom, sister and I flew from Detroit into San Antonio and then drove the three hours to Del Rio, Texas. This is the part of the country my Mom comes from. She was the only one of five children that moved out of the state and never returned. We are the Yankees in the family. I have spent family vacations visiting Texas and some of my family from Texas has come and visited us, but we have never gotten to see each other a lot. We've had a week here and two weeks there. Letters sent back and forth with a cousin for a year until she got married and a month spent living with another until I decided Dallas wasn't for me. Despite this we share something strong. When we do get together there is a lot of talking, laughing and storytelling. We feel connected. We know the stories of each other’s lives, the good and the bad and love each other anyway.

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We went down this time to say a final farewell to my Grandparents. My Grandma died last year at 98. My Grandfather had died several years ahead of her. They had both elected to donate their bodies to science. When this happens the body is cremated and then the ashes are returned to the family up to a year later. My Grandfather’s ashes have been waiting for my Grandma’s departure from this earth so that they could be celebrated together. This seems fitting for many reasons. They had known each other their whole lives and now they are both reunited after a short period of separation.

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When the plans first started for the final farewell they consisted of spreading the ashes in Amsted Lake where they spent their final years together and then we were going to a family reunion of sorts that takes place in Langtry, Texas every year. During the planning of this, however, my mom was contacted by an old family friend that offered the family the option of spreading their ashes at his family’s ranch.

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The ranch was a place that my Mom’s family spent a lot of time. My Grandparents Buster and Angie were very good friends with Pete and Joy Baker the ranches owners. I have heard stories about the Baker Ranch since I was a little girl. Stories that I thought were quite magical. It was amazing to be able to, for the first time in my life actually set foot on this Ranch. Don’t get pictures in your head about the Ewing’s place on Dallas. They don’t even compare and quite frankly I’d take the Baker’s Ranch over that one in a heartbeat.

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The ranch is no longer used as a ranch but the spirit of the place remains, the round pen where Pete and Buster used to break the horses. The milking house and barn, the spot for shoeing horses and the ranch house that shockingly held two families with a combined 12 children. I reflected on how we all have way too much stuff.

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After looking over the place we drove across the road and down a ways and then got out and walked the rest of the way down to the river. It was an absolutely beautiful day and not too hot under the live oaks growing along the way.

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We gathered at the edge of the river and some of us waded in. My cousin’s husband Mike performed a small service while standing on a rock in the river and then the ashes were spread into the running water. Mike centered his service on five words he felt described my Grandparents and then challenged us to think of our own five words. It was a lovely service. The perfect send off for two people who loved this land.

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I’ve been thinking about this ever since. One of the words I picked was creative. I’ve always felt that my creative spirit came from them, through my Mom and then to me. I noticed while visiting with the family that we are all like this. Building, painting, sewing, singing, baking and making; all of us do this. It’s quite incredible to me especially since I so often hear from people that they could never learn to do what I do and yet I have a whole family of makers behind me.

Mike Baker and the girls

This weekend was a last gift from my Grandparents. It was a gift of connection, shared experience, love, laughter and family.

 

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The last two weeks have been difficult for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into. During this time I have found several things that bring great comfort. One is being outside. I already knew this but seem to forget from time to time and need to be reminded how important it is to maintain contact with nature. It can be as simple as taking a walk or hanging out in the backyard. My choice has been the backyard. On nice days I’ve been having coffee on the back porch. I make coffee and then out to the backyard. I sit silently without other distractions. No phone, book or laptop. I watch the dogs run around on important dog business and I watch the birds.

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Photo by Stev Sholasky

As I sat in the backyard this morning a Robin flew in to take a bath. Robins are exuberant bathers. They fling the droplets of water all over as they flutter their wings. My presence was making her a little nervous so she flew up into a tree to preen. Something about watching the birds flit around the birdfeeder, trees, bushes and bird bath is very relaxing. The goldfinches are getting more and more yellow as the weather warms up. The chickadees in the bird house are busy going in and out and the other birds come and go to the bird feeder.

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The dogs love going to the backyard in the morning. They wait for me to start the coffee maker and out they go. The older dog, Libby, finds a place that she likes to lay after checking things out all the time keeping her eye on me in case I go off someplace. The younger dog, Luna, thinks that it’s her duty to chase off anything on the ground. Her antics crack me up, running around at a quick pace like she has very important business to take care of. Then when she’s done she comes and sits in my lap. She has been taking good care of me while I’ve been home. As I write this she is curled up in the crook of my left arm. The big dog takes care of me too but she is too large to sit on my lap. All three of us do curl up in bed together after my husband heads off to work at 3 am.

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Lately after my coffees done I work in the yard for a little while getting the beds cleaned up. This week I need to move to the front yard to get to those beds. Soon I will be planting my containers. This year they will contain herbs but I’m moving all the veggies to the front yard. The backyard just doesn’t get enough sun for vegetables.

So if you are feeling stressed or a little low get outside. Spend some time in nature. I also highly recommend a dog for company.

 

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I’ve been very scattered for the last week. Flitting from one thing to the next and forgetting what I’m doing half way to the next project. The forgetting part is the worst, it makes me mad. So I have taken to writing lists. As soon as I remember something I write it down. This has helped tremendously but it also calls into stark focus just how off I am. Here’s a list just to give you some insight.

Body Scrub, vodka, 750 milliliters, clamps, paperwork to school, truvia and vanilla coffee mate, planting garlic and lunch 2:00.

Explaining the list.

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  1. I’ve always had terribly dry skin and lately it’s been horrible. My little body scrubber just wasn’t working so I wanted to make some sugar scrub. Of course I couldn’t remember this until I was getting in the shower, too late. Because of my list I made some yesterday morning. This was handy because I’m not sleeping and I was up at 3:00 am. Pinterest is the best, if you haven’t tried it you need to. Looked up sugar scrubs and chose from about a million hits. Happened to have all the ingredients and got it done. Jumped into the shower and used it right away. Life saver!!! My skin feels wonderful and for the final touch, some coconut oil lotion that my Mom makes. Again a recipe from Pinterest and I’m good to go.
  2. The vodka is still on the list. I want to try and make Lemoncello. Have you watched the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun? I tried going to the store but half way there I turned around and came back home. For those that are confused right now the brief explanation is that I’m currently suffering with anxiety and depression. The anxiety is keeping me home bound many days. It sucks but I’m working things out and this too shall pass. Going to the store some days is just out.
  3. My wonderful husband has been helping me out. He is a great one for running errands. Never minds jumping in the car to do something for me. He also calls every day on his way home from work to see if we need anything. His assignment today was the Truvia and Coffee Mate. Plus when he got home he took the paperwork up to the Districts Central Office.
  4. Yup, I need to remind myself to eat. I’ve taken to writing it down since I’m gaining weight. I can’t figure out why I’m gaining weight when I can’t remember to eat, another thing that sucks.
  5. Lastly the garlic plating. I found out you are supposed to plant it in the fall like other bulbs. It’s still sitting on the counter. I’m going to plant it any way since its already sprouting.

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Along with this I’ve also been felting, working in the backyard and a variety of other things that I don't forget. Here’s the lovely new bag I’m in the process of finishing. The colors are so pretty and I changed the shape of my pattern a little. I think I might have to test drive this one to see if the size and shape work. This contains the alpaca fiber from Hazzard Alpacas, my Cousin Patti’s farm and some more fiber from Bricolage Studios, my friend Emily’s business. I love including materials from other small businesses in my work. Especially when they are people I know and love.

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I’ve also just finished reading a book, Like a Tree, How Trees, Women and Tree People can Save the Planet by Jean Shinoda Bolen. This book is going on my list of most influential books in my life. I’m already thinking about rereading it. Do you have a list like that? One of the other books from that list is Creativity by Matthew Fox. I threw that in too because Bolen reference the author. I had been thinking about this book recently and then it is referenced in the book I’m reading. On top of that I suddenly realized that a book I read about a month ago was also one of Bolen’s and I had ordered another of hers as well. Synchronicity.

Now I’m going to write my list so that I will remember what I’m doing. Until next time, Peace.

 

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I have been thinking about this topic for quite awhile. The idea started a number of years ago when I ran into an acquaintance and used the typical greeting that most of us use, “How are you?” The person I was addressing launched into an admonition that I wasn’t expecting. She explained that she hated when people asked her that. She had recently lost a child and that she wasn’t well and wouldn’t be so for a long time and why do people ask how you are doing? I apologized for using the greeting but felt off balance about the whole encounter. I understood where she was coming from but I didn’t have an answer. How are you? Do we really want an answer to the question? At the time I felt that it was really just a figure of speech, something we say in a greeting, expecting people to reply with, “Fine, how are you?”

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My circumstances have changed recently, however, and I find myself on the other end of that question. I don’t know what to say when people ask me, “How are you?” I’m not fine and I don’t want to say I’m fine. In my head I know that it’s really just a greeting but when you aren’t fine it’s a conundrum. What do I say? I’ve taken to saying, “I’m coping.” Honest, short and no explanations needed.

Where did this form of greeting come from? I googled it, my answer to anything I don’t have an answer to. I found an entry that said that it comes from the phrase, “How do you do?” This was originally used by English upper classes. Everyone else would just say hello. They also didn’t expect a response other than a How do you do back. No one really answered the question. Somewhere along the line we started answering.

So when you see me and ask me, “How are you?” I’m going to answer with, “How are you?” No answer required.

 

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Felting is one of the most satisfying things. You take loose fiber, water soap and minimal pieces of equipment and create a beautiful object. I spent the weekend felting. I finished one bag and started another plus I created some felted soap, which is fun to use because it’s not slippery and just feels nice in your hands. I also retook some pictures for my etsy site because I wasn’t fully satisfied with the way the white sterile background looked. I talked the photos over with a friend and when he stated that he thought they would look better outside, which was exactly what I was thinking, I knew something had to be done.

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The bag above was created using brown merino as a base and then I use a lovely blend of fiber that I got from my friend Emily Wohlscheid at Bricolage Studios. Emily is a jewelry and fiber artist, I own some of her jewelry and I buy her fiber because she has a beautiful sense of color so I love adding her work to mine. Using other artist’s craft materials and wool from the small farms adds a deeper meaning to my work personally. At this point in the felting process I’ve just been rubbing the wool while it is sandwiched between two pieces of bubble wrap. The wool is wetted and soap is applied. I do this until the fibers are sticking together. Once this happens I roll the entire thing and wrap a towel around the roll.

Then I roll it in the bundle, unrolling and flipping it to roll it from every possible side and direction. I like to tie the roll up with knee highs to keep the bundle from coming unrolled. Not everyone has to do this but something about the way I roll makes them come undone to easily so this method works for me. Rolling is causing the fiber to tighten up and begin to shrink.

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You can then cut out the resist. I’ve laid the wool on top of the resist so that you can see how much the wool has shrunk. I then cut the wool to create a flap for the purse and a handle. No sewing needed!

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Don’t ask how long this takes because I don’t really know. It is a long process but I love the work. It feels very satisfying to be able to make something from a pile of fiber. I still need to seal the edges where the shape was cut and do a little more fulling to finish up. I will put this up on etsy when I get the chance. I want to get a picture of someone carrying it so that people get a feel for the size.

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For a taste of what's coming up here is a pile of lovely fiber that comes from a variety of sources. The fiber on the right comes from my cousin Patti's alpaca farm in California, Hazard Alpacas. The fiber is lovely and super soft. It actually makes the merino feel rough. The colored wool is from Emily of Bricolage Studios and then the merino on the left is dyed by me using avocado pits. I continue to try my hand at natural dying, which I'm sure I will be sharing a little here, come summer. I'm so excited to see how this turns out. Time to get to work.

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When I was growing up we moved from living in town to living in the country.  At first it was just property, 45 acres on a dirt road. Across the street were wet lands and in the distance a lake. The nearest neighbors were in walking distance but because of the lay of the land you couldn’t see them. Traffic on the road was minimal and usually we knew who drove that particular car. Nature was literally at our doorstep. We walked through woods and played in streams, skated on ponds and frozen channels, rode horses, watched wild life and learned how to identify birds and flowers. I spent time, a lot of time, walking the woods and fields. Once when I was out walking an area that was heavy in trees and had a little stream running through it I felt a presence. I looked up just as a great horned owl flew right over my head. He was so low I felt that I could have reached up and touched him. Owls are silent in flight, which added an almost spiritual quality to the experience.  Living out there gave me a deeper awareness and appreciation of nature and once you are tuned in to her you have new eyes to look at the world with.

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Now I live in town and have for many years, but my connection with nature hasn’t changed. I have made our backyard into my sanctuary and have seen amazing things back there.  Last year a toad laid eggs in my pond and we got to watch them develop into teeny tiny toads before they all emerged from the pond and went off into the world. There is a Coopers Hawk that flies through on his way to the neighbor’s bird feeder to pick up a snack. My feeder is too protected for him to have much of a chance with. Two winters ago a Screech owl showed up and hung out in a protected area of roof on the back patio while a snow storm raged around him. We also have a variety of backyard birds like chickadees, nuthatches, juncos, and the normal assortment but every once in awhile we get some rose breasted grosbeaks and cedar wax wings.

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I love the crispness of those early spring mornings and the promise that warmth is truly on the way. The quality of light with the grayness of the end of winter is beautiful. What a gift Mother Nature gives us if we only slow down to see it. Nature also helps to heal. It isn’t just helping me now but has helped me in the past.  Recovery from difficult times has always involved being in nature, now isn’t any different and perhaps more vital.  Making time to get out there and work or just sit in the yard calms my mind and comforts my soul.

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So I’m going to take my own advice and get a little girl time with Mother Nature, maybe a walk in the woods with the dogs. Sounds like the perfect medicine.

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Viewing life from a different perspective.

 

 

IMG_0363   During my recent time off I had decided to make time for being creative, which had fallen off as my stress levels had increased. My motivation had ceased to exist. My first attempt needed to be something that I wouldn’t  have to use too many brain cells to accomplish.

LIttle nest and bird at the top.
LIttle nest and bird at the top.

I’ve had this wire tree that usually spends most of the year in the basement with the Christmas decorations. This year I decided that I was going to try and find other ways of using this tree. During February I created little felt hearts. When the first day of Spring was coming I decided the tree needed an update. I went to JoAnn Fabrics to see what I could find. I ended up finding some plain brown paper eggs and in the flower section some mosses and fern leaves. I also thought that a little glitter never hurt any thing so I picked up some green glitter too. I spent about 3 days glueing the moss, fern leaves and glitter to the eggs. I also drew a spiral design on a few eggs with a gold sharpie. When I was done I was very happy with how things turned out.

Close up of a few eggs.
Close up of a few eggs.

After completing this small project I decided that I might be able to take on something a little more challenging and began laying out a purse for felting. I’ll update you as I go.

 

In the mean time it’s actually a beautiful day outside and I can finally see my daffodils poking their heads up. Spring is taking a long time to get to Michigan this year but the birds and the plants are telling me it is definitely coming, we just need to be patient. I think it’s time to soak up a little Vitamin D.