Monday, December 12, 2011

Beware! Reading this could induce a craving for sweets.

I have been trying to get this post written and posted for the better part of the afternoon and evening.  My poor little laptop has been overwhelmed by both its age and the business of the connection today.  What will be, will be and I resolved hours ago that if the post was meant to go up that Divine intervention would help conquer all problems and everything would work out in the end.  I also wonder if the Divine Power was personally hoping for a taste of what was being stirred, in the midst of being put together or what had come out of my oven and was cooling on the counter top.

I have been baking for the past few hours after having shopped for more ingredients earlier on today as well as on Thursday.  It seems as if the flat smells like a bakery and I suspect that Molly Cat might be on a sugar high since she appears to be able to cover a lot of distance with only a few jumps during which she seemed to be airbourne, her agile little body swooping through the diningroom, on through the front room and down the hallway and back in mere moments.  The kitchen is off limits at this point and in order to accomplish this, all counters as well as the cook top have been covered with bowls, canisters and other kitchen paraphernalia leaving no open landing spot for a curious little feline who seems to have a taste for forbidden goodies.  Not to say that Molly has been denied any of the treats that she is allowed for a daily indulgence.  Fish flavoured treats were placed in her special dish first thing in the morning as is the norm in her daily routine.  But, I digress.  The preparation of holiday treats is on the agenda for today as well as Monday and perhaps even for a while on Tuesday morning.

I am not a professional baker by any means, but I do enjoy baking certain goodies and packaging them up to be given as presents during the festive season.  To be environmentally friendly, plastic storage containers have been purchased so that recipients of the goodies can bring back their containers for refills throughout the upcoming year.  This is being done in order to keep my own containers here to hold the contents of my marathon cooking sessions that result from using the PCApproach that I have learned from Julie Anne Rhodes on her web site  For those of those not familiar with Julie Anne's web site, I strongly urge you to cyber hop over and enjoy a good read of her blog and view the video on the homepage as to how spending a few hours cooking one day per week can translate into meals for the entire week and in my case, far beyond.  Using this approach, I am baking all the goodies for gifts as well as those that will be served when visitors come for an afternoon of tea and treats through the next few weeks.

At this point, brownies with a chocolate cookie base and rocky road squares are cooling and two bowls of cookie batter are almost ready to be baked off.  Toffee brickle cookies as well as the usual chocolate chip cookies are on the agenda; peanut butter cookies and likely some butterscotch brownies will follow, but will likely have to wait until Monday morning.  Once everything has been baked, I will divvy them up amongst various containers and pop them into the freezer for safe keeping.  By safe keeping, I actually mean that I want to keep temptation at bay and keep myself from nibbling.  Truthfully, I have been known to crack open the containers and gnaw on frozen treats when I feel a dire need for something decadent and sweet, but I am hoping that the old adage of "out of sight, out of mind" will prevail and I will forget the existence of these sugar
laden goodies.

Visitors are expected on Tuesday evening, the two young gentlemen that I refer to as "my boys" and I suspect the young lady that I think of as the daughter I wished I had.  This trio lands in on a regular basis and I would never want to disappoint them with a shortage of treats, both to nibble on while we visit as well as a container or two or more to take home with them.  On Tuesday, I plan to bake up a couple of other treats, cinnamon rolls and Black Forest tarts being the likely choices.  These items I always feel are best baked on the day that they are to be eaten, hence the delay in making them.  Some miniature mincemeat tarts are also planned for a later date when another visitor is expected.  I find that those who enjoy mincemeat tarts are diminishing in their numbers, much like those who truly enjoy a nice slice of fruit cake.  I also plan to bake up some mincemeat muffins as a take home treat for another friend, which will ensure that the entire jar of mincemeat gets used up and no little leftovers are pushed to the back of the fridge only to acquire that fuzzy coat of green that would surely catch my eye by the start of the new year.

All of this activity does not count as artistic endeavours even though all this baking does take a fair amount of time and energy.  But, art is still very much on my mind and new projects dance about in my mind much like sugar plums are said to dance in the dreams of the the younger set who are on Santa alert at this time.  I have some blank journals sitting on a shelf in my studio that seem to be whispering to me and suggesting a new way to use them.  Author Danny Gregory has written a few books, one entitled Everyday Matters, about drawing each day to make note of happenings much the way you would write in a diary.  Quinn McDonald is an advocate of Raw Art Journaling and I am making my way through her book of the same name.  So many ideas are floating through my mind right now and I am making notes about these thoughts lest they elude me later when I try to put them into action.  I am determined that 2012 is going to be the year that I make major progress in my artistic journey.  No more delays, I have to make myself progress and the only way will be to settle down and take what I am doing seriously.  Having fun is still mandatory, if I do not have fun while I am working on an artistic project, then maybe I am not meant to be working in that particular medium.  I do believe in what I am trying to accomplish, but maybe I am not going about it in the right manner.  I think by putting all my thoughts down in a journal using both words and mixed media, then maybe I will find my way and be able to produce a completed version that embodies what I see in my mind and the words that I used to describe or elaborate on what I hoped to achieve.  But, despite the importance of art in my life, right now, my focus is on holiday baking.  That is not to say that I am neglecting art, but rather, I am taking the time to seriously determine where my focus should be taking me and what elements or materials need to be used.

The kitchen looks like something blew up or that a storm has taken place.  Molly is sound asleep on the loveseat and has abandoned all hope of having a sample taste of any of the finished treats.  Shortly,  the squares will be cut into the appropriate sizes and packaged up, ready to head into the freezer.  Cookies are in the oven and will soon be on cooling racks, then on to the freezer.  When that has happened, I will be on my way to bed.  Getting up early is not an option, it is mandatory as I need to get a number of things done on Monday, picking up a few groceries being a priority as well as making a trip to the post office.  So much to do and I will make a determined effort to get as much done as possible.  There are a few new recipes to try out and taking some time to work in my studio which still needs that final tidy up before guests are allowed to wander through.  I am satisfied with how today played out and know that my guests enjoy an evening of chatter fueled by sugar, chocolate, and more sugar.

I hope everyone is making their way through these last few weeks of holiday pandemonium without too much  stress.  Life tends to get more than a little out of control at this time of year and we forget that we are supposed to be enjoying not just the food and the festivities, but more importantly, the gathering of family and friends.  Try not to stress whether or not your cookies are picture perfect.  Your guests will enjoy them even if they are a little lopsided, a tad crisper than intended or however they turn out since the most important thing is that you took the time to bake because you care about who is coming for a visit and are looking forward to the most important part of the evening, that being the companionship of all in attendance.

Have a great week!  Find some time to do something you enjoy at this time of year with those you care about the most.  The holiday season is all about family and friends getting together to connect and whilst enjoying wonderful treats is part of the season, the time spent with your loved ones takes precedence.

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Friday, December 2, 2011

Contest! Big, Wonderful Prize, Over 700 Sheets of Chiyogami Paper!

It is Friday and what better way to herald the approaching weekend than to tell you about an amazing contest put on by The Paper Place, a wonderful store in Toronto, Canada, that carries Japanese paper along with rubber stamps, journals, cards, books and so on as well as offering classes throughout the year in different aspects of paper crafting.  For the purposes of this contest, the prize consists of a package of over 700 sheets of Chiyogami paper (8 1/2 x 11).  Just think what you could do with all that wonderful, saturation of colour in your papercrafting projects.  My mind immediately goes to journals, cards, mixed media projects and so much more.

For details on how to enter, please visit The Paper Place's web site at and read their blog for all the information on how to enter the contest and how to score some extra entries.  Be quick like a bunny since you need to have your entries in by December 15, 2011.  Meanwhile, take a look at The Paper Place's online shop and drool over the rich colours and patterns used in this paper.  I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed with what you see!  Start dreaming of ways in which you will use the wealth of paper to showcase its beauty.  But, please, make me a promise - if you win, you need to send in pictures to this blog showing all of us your creativity in action.

To get an idea of the beauty of this paper, take a look at the pictures to the right hand side of this post.  I am guessing, but I suspect that should you win this prize package, you may not know what colour or pattern to go for first in your project.  That is okay!  Dream a dream or two whilst entering the contest, envisioning your favourite pattern or colour used up in a lovely Japanese themed journal, guest book or maybe make a paper quilt.  Just be sure to enter and do so right away so that you have your chance to win this extravaganza of paper heaven.

Just for fun, why not share your dream project with the rest of us.  'Tis the season of dreams for young and old alike so do not be shy about what you would like to do with all this paper.  And, if you have any artwork done with this specific paper, include a picture with your comment.  We would all love to see your dreams come to life, so upload your picture and share your inner artist with us!

Floral Chiyogami
Wishing you luck and whilst we all wait for the announcement of the winning entry, I wish you dreams of Chiyogami dancing in your head.  So much more practical than sugar plums, would you not agree?  And just to get the creative juices flowing, take a look at some of the lovely papers that will be in the prize package.  It is enough to make a grown woman have shivers run down her spine.

Now, hop on over to The Paper Place's web site, read the blog and get your entries in for the best give away of the season.  Deck the halls with Chiyogami!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Getting back on track, I hope!

Good Sunday to all!

It has been more than a difficult time for me over the past three months.  I am telling you this not to get a sympathetic nod, but rather to explain what has been going on in my life.  Early in September, I caught what the doctor called a lower intestinal gastric bug.  Translated, that means I had a bout of the flu that took me down for just over eight weeks.  Not impressive, nor was it a productive time.  Just as I recovered somewhat from that particular ailment, I managed to catch a cold that has been more or less with me until this week.  While I am now finally feeling better physically, I have to own up to the fact that I have been more than a little depressed.  That is a difficult statement to make, much less post for all to read.  However, in the hopes that my being open about this problem, maybe it will help someone else know that they are not alone when they have what is truly more than a little case of the blues.

There was a time when a person feeling that little case of the blues was told that they should just go out and treat themselves to a little shopping spree.  Sounds nice, but the reality of that is that in today's world, most of us cannot afford to go on such a spree and it really does not help cheer you up long term.  Rather, once you look at your budget and see what chaos you have caused, you sink deeper into despair and the whole viscous cycle repeats itself over and over.  Being fiscally aware of the limitations of my budget, I refrained from shopping for frivolous items and only allowed myself the necessities plus a few pouches of treats for Molly Cat.  No matter how dark things may seem, Molly will always be able to depend on there being a dish of treats set out for her each morning along with her regular bowls of kibble and water.  Should I be late in getting the treat dish filled, Molly has been known to drag the pouch of "cookies" into whatever room I am in and sit there looking at me with a look in her eyes that clearly tells me that I had better not think of making a pot of tea until I take care of this essential part of our morning routine.  And, I perform this task immediately, apologizing profusely to my little feline telling her that I really thought cleaning the litter box to be equally as important, but I now realize my error in judgement.

Such was my case of the blues that tidying up my studio was a hit and miss task.  More miss than hit I am afraid.  Finally, last evening I forced myself to go into the room and was determined to make a dent in the clutter with the goal of everything being pretty much back in place for Monday morning.  I sat in my much loved rolling office type chair and started sorting out items and returning them to their appropriate boxes and disposing of empty tubes, rolls from tape and other such items into the refuse or recycling bin.  Deciding that some music might make the task a little more enjoyable, I looked through my collection of CD's and chose one that I thought might be medicine for the soul.  The disc was by an artist named Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, the name of the disc being "Facing Future."  How appropriate!  The male vocalist goes by the nickname "Iz" and the playlist definitely gives you a taste of Hawaiian type music.  But, on this wonderful CD, there is a rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" that really speaks to the heart and soothes the troubled soul.  I had to stop working when this selection was playing in order to pay attention to just this piece of music and allow its healing properties to permeate my body.  Result:  I felt so much better after listening to this CD, but more so that one particular piece of music.

Thanks to Iz, I am feeling much more like the me that enjoys life, but more importantly can get back into the business of art and start getting colour back into my life.  I was up earlier this morning despite going to bed much later than I had planned.  Somehow, as I was heading off to bed, my sketchbook, a stash of coloured markers and my case of regular sketching tools ended up being brought along with a tin of soda and I spent a couple of hours working on some designs that I have been thinking about for a long time.  When I looked at the time, it was just after 3 a.m.  Yikes!  I set my alarm for 8 a.m. wondering if I would be able to pull my body out of bed and to my surprise, I was up just after 7 a.m. and heading to the kitchen, with Molly Cat in tow, and got our Sunday started.

The therapeutic value of music cannot be denied.  Find the right music and banish the blues, sometimes even the most stubborn case of depression will respond positively.  As I sat with my first cup of coffee of the day today, I realized that music had been lacking over the past few months.  If I had the radio set to my favourite classical program that I normally enjoyed each morning, it grated on my nerves and I would develop a major headache.  Consequently, I banished the radio and all forms of music from my life.  When my cleaning lady commented on the lack of music each time she came (on alternate Fridays), I knew I was not my usual self and that something was amiss.  A day without music is just not acceptable to me.  Even when I worked in an office, I was known for always having music playing quietly in the background.  The music kept my work day moving along, smoothing out the inevitable bumps along the road that happened every day.

I am feeling physically better today.  Whilst I still have a stubborn cold hanging on and making its presence felt, I know that I can deal with it.  The studio is looking pretty good and once I dust and hoover it Monday morning, I will be back in the business of making art.  Hopefully, some art that captures not only my emotions, but also reaches out to others who see it over the next month.  Thursday is the first day of December and whilst that month is not my favourite one of the year, I will be able to work my way through it.  I am getting back on track.  I am making plans for art projects that I want to work on over the next few months.  This is all progress in my eyes.  I will not allow myself to go into that dark corner to sit and worry.  But, I will make the most of each day and be sure to listen to my music and let it help me find my way on this artistic journey.

Getting back to tweeting this morning and posting my status on Facebook proved to me that all is well.  Setting up a display of the holiday wreaths made for friends makes for a splash of colour in my front reception room.  One wreath will go with me for my appointment with my doctor tomorrow.  He has just moved into a new office in a newly built medical building and I suspect holiday decorations are the last thing on his mind.  He usually makes a point of decorating the office, making it quite festive.  Hopefully, the wreath I bring will kick off the holiday season for the doctor and his staff as well as thanking them for all their help over the past year.  I am grateful for their many kindnesses.

The illnesses that pulled me into the feelings of depression are moving on and I have diverted myself from that particular detour on my journey.  Amen to that!  I much prefer pathways that add a little colour, excitement with the knowledge that I am adding to my treasure chest of art techniques.  Now, back to the studio for me!  And, Iz is going to sing those soothing songs once again as I gain control and order takes over what was chaos for so long.  It is a good day for me and I hope an equally good day for you.  Celebrate even the little victories such as cleaning stamps that have been inked.  Even little victories are still just that, victories.  With every little victory you celebrate, the momentum gains and soon you will be feeling pretty fine.  There will always be those days that take me down, but as long as the good days out number the not so good ones, I will consider myself to be on the path where I belong on my artistic journey.

Have a great week!  Hopefully, by next Sunday, I will have some new art or works in progress to share with you.  That is the plan and my aim is to stick with it.

Sincerely,   Rutheemac 


Sunday, November 20, 2011

So many ideas, so why am I not progressing?

It has been a couple of weeks since my last blog post and I really do not have a good reason as to why.  I love to blog, it feels very much like I am having a chat with you about what is happening in my studio.  Maybe the truth is that I seem to be at an impasse artistically and not able to decide which way I should be heading with what I am doing.  Or, maybe I am trying to go in too many directions at the same time and am not able to focus clearly on any one thing.  I suspect this last thought is the one that is most accurate.

So, when I find myself in this situation, I sit back and look around the studio hoping to find some divine direction and when that fails to materialize, I decide to gut the room and rearrange it.  And this is what I have been doing for the past two weeks.  First the storage area got a good tidy up, but that meant that a lot of boxes ended up sitting on the floor of the actual studio.  It was then that I knew that the whole set up in general needed tweaking.  Bins have been moved and still have not found their way to their permanent placement, boxes are still scattered about, but a new six foot table has been put in place necessitating my moving another table and two storage towers to new locations.  I am bruised, but the feeling that I am getting closer to having the room set up so that it better suits my varied interests keeps me motivated.

Hopefully, by the end of the day on Monday, I will be organized and ready to tackle some of the many ideas floating around in my mind.  I know that I need to focus on one project at a time, but that never seems to work out for me.  I tend to move from one area to another and work on different artistic endeavours on a whim rather than out of an organizational method.  I try to justify this telling myself that while one piece is drying, I can work with some clay, beads, ribbon and whatever else draws my attention. That in turn draws me over to the bookcase to get some information that might help with what I plan to do, but then I get interested in reading something and before I know it, a few hours have passed by without my being aware of the fact.  The same holds true whilst I have been organizing the studio - I start going through a box of stamping materials and get distracted only to find myself setting up a box of stamps to use in another project.
Seriously, I have major issues with committing myself to one and only one project at a time.  I say this with a smile since I cannot take myself too seriously when it comes to organizing my room.  My little furry assistant, Molly Cat, does not help matters when she jumps out of boxes at me or runs about the room with small rolls of ribbon, decorations, paint brushes or whatever else captures her attention.  I suspect I would get more done if I were to close the studio door with Molly left to roam around the rest of the flat.  But, it would not be near the fun that we have together in the room.

This will be the week that I get organized.  I am determined to accomplish a few mixed media pieces over the course of the week and hopefully have something worthy of submitting for a competition wherein I show that stamping is far from passe and that it does have a place in art pieces today.  I can see in my mind one of the pieces that I want to capture on canvas, but whether this translates well in the final piece is still debatable.  Fingers crossed, I will make this happen and be satisfied that I have achieved what I set out to put together.  Somehow, I always change elements of the design at the last moment, but maybe this time I will leave well enough alone and see what comes of it.

I hope you have been working on something artistically satisfying over the past few weeks.  I would love to hear your suggestions as to how you keep on track and not roam all over the map trying too many ideas at the same time.  I suspect I am not the only one who finds this a problem, at least I hope I am not the only one with commitment issues. 

Have a great week!  And, I will commit to letting you know how the studio turns out and if anything of merit was put together over the upcoming week.

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Holiday Madness

Well, it appears the holiday madness has started if the shopping frenzy I witnessed on Saturday is any indication.  I went for a little journey to my favourite craft shop and people were definitely in a mood to be purchasing items.  With all the holiday decorations out on the shelves and displayed temptingly thoughout the shop, it would have been easy to fall victim to the insanity and buy items which I doubt would ever be useful or decorative in my flat.  It is sad that some people go to all the trouble to decorate their homes with all the latest pieces and fall victim to the colours dictated by all the chic interior decorators.  Whatever happened to showing a little creativeness and decorating your home to suit the colours you favour along with the type of pieces that suit your particular and individual type of decorating?

I have not got a clue how I will decorate this year.  Other than a wreath on the door and a few little decorations sprinkled about the flat, I really do not allow myself to buy into the premise that if I were to decorate every room, deck the halls with festive boughs and have a miniature Dickensian village winding its way around a holiday tree, that the holidays would be all the better for my efforts.  I am not one to get too wound up over the holiday season.  It is a nice time of year to visit with friends who may have landed in the vicinity to visit other family and friends.  Of course, I will bake a number of goodies and have little gifts for guests who are expected to drop by.  But, I cannot and will not be held hostage by a season in which one can easily spend much more than they budget and still be paying off the debt come the next holiday season.

Maybe I am sounding a little dour and not trying to play nicely with the holiday crowd.  But, when people get so wrapped up in their shopping that they are grabbing things wildly off of the shelves and not really thinking about their purchases, I have to wonder about them.  Are they buying gifts that will really appeal to the recipient or are they purchasing gifts that they think will make them appear to be in the know of what the hits of the season are this year?  Far better to take a little time to think about the person for whom the gift is intended and maybe make all or part of the gift.  Purchase a pretty container and fill it with homemade cookies, candy or whatever.  Maybe a pretty glass jar filled with scented pinecones with a festive bow tied around the base might be just the ticket.  I am just saying that sitting down with pen and paper in hand and making a list of ideas along with a plan of action as to how to proceed this year might save a lot of time, money and prevent the inevitable mental letdown.  You know, the one where you feel that you cannot do anything right, least of all, pick out a gift that the intended recipient will enjoy.

Back in the craft store, people were loading up with all sorts of tree trim, figurines, chargers, strings of lights and filling their carts with candles, bolts of ribbon, and premade artificial holiday arrangements that were marked to half price when we have not even reached the first of December.  What does this tell you about the pricing?  Maybe I am a tad cynical since I once worked in the floral industry.  But, if a store can afford to mark down items this early in the season, then perhaps the items were massively overpriced to start with and even at half price, still command a hefty investment.  Premade bows are displayed in all their splendour with a rainbow of colours, patterns and designs parading down the length of the bolt.  But, again, the cost of having a designer make these ribbons had my heart rate racing.  Four of these lovely bows would feed a small family for a week.  Seriously, it is time that we stepped away from the displays, put our credit cards back into our wallet and walked out of the store, went for a coffee and gave serious consideration to how we tart up our homes to show our holiday spirit.

My vote is that we all look at the decorations that we have collected over the years.  Some of them are truly past their prime and need to hit the dust bin pronto.  Other decorations could be spruced up with a few less expensive additions and some reasonably priced ribbon.  Another thought might be to have a holiday swap  and get all your friends together along with their used but still attractive decorations.  Maybe if everyone traded off their old and brought home some gently used decorations, everyone would be happy and feel good about decorating hearth and home.  I would love to hear what you have to say about this idea and what you think about the holiday madness in general.  Do you fall prey to all the insanity or are you able to remain clear headed and stay on target budget wise?  I suspect that this is all a matter of priority.  Many would rather die than use the same decorations year after year and feel that if they did not follow the colour trends, that they would end up being on the worst decorated home list.

I enjoy seeing certain decorations year after year.  They remind me of holidays past and bring a sort of tradition to the day spent putting out a few much loved treasures.  I do like to see a different wreath up on my door each year and since I am able to put one together myself, the cost is minor.  Add to the fact that someone generally buys my used wreaths, I do not feel too badly about this little indulgence.  A wreath on the front door or in my case on the door of my flat, welcomes people to the home and says a lot about the person who placed the wreath on the door.  You can easily spot the homes that bring in a decorator to put up the decorations and follow a dictated theme each year.  When you come to visit me, you will see what intrigues me this year and how I incorporated these ideas into my way of decorating.  I do enjoy decorating, but I just do not feel the need to go overboard and have my entire flat become a Winter Wonderland with flashing lights, moving figures and holiday music played nonstop from mid November until the dawn of the New Year.

There now, I have had my little rant and I feel much better for it.  Just to show that I am not a total heathen to the decorating gods, I have put up a little Hallowe'en decoration and incorporated it into my autumn wreath.  We do not celebrate Hallowe'en, but some of the neighbours, myself included, like to take part and see who puts up an innovative display.  One door down the corridor sports a wicked witch in black with the body made out of straw strands and hangs low enough that Molly Cat on one of her sojourns into the corridor, runs past and tries to grab a piece to bring back home.  I must admit that I do chuckle at this, but get Molly home sans any little souvenirs.  I did not spend much on my little decoration, but it suits the purpose and since it will be taken down on the first of November, there really was not any reason to be outrageous and have a towering Frankenstein hovering outside my door.  I mention this because someone I once worked with got into the office early one year and when I turned on the lights as I entered the room, the over sized Frankenstein was hovering over my desk area and I have to admit I was quite taken aghast and uttered a few unladylike words which no doubt made their way back to the culprit who arranged this little vignette.  Consequently, I do suggest to keep in mind whether or not your display is age appropriate or the type which might necessitate the use of an AED to jumpstart one's heart.

Artistically, I am working on holiday cards, some wreaths for friends, along with a few other things that friends have asked me to make for them.  Since I am the one at home with some time to spare, I can easily make up little decorations, place marker cards, along with other requests.  I enjoy doing these little things to help out.  But, I also have a stash of canvas that is calling out to me to open it up and get messy.  This will happen, but may have to wait a week or so until I finish off my own holiday cards so that they are ready to send off at the appropriate time.  I have decided on a colour theme, but not the actual scene to be portrayed on the card front.  That will come to me as I look through my treasure trove of rubber stamps and my collection of pretty Japanese papers which I promise to make use of this year.  Well, a little of it.  It is just too pretty to use and yet to keep it in a drawer is pointless, no one gets to enjoy it and that is not why it was made in the first place.

Have an artistic week!  Share with us how you decorated for Hallowe'en if you did and what your plans are for decorating for the upcoming holiday season.  You just might inspire one of us to try something new and get out of a rut or maybe show us that it is possible to decorate and stay on budget.

Sincerely,  Rutheemac 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Autumnal decorations fill my flat, autumn meals bubble in my kitchen

I know this is late going online today.  I promised myself that I would be up early and moving at the speed of light or at least fast enough to keep up with Molly Cat.  Such was not the case.  I seem to get a series of nights where I am unable to sleep and life goes awry with me trying to play catch up.  I firmly resolve to get back on track this week.  Knowing that I have to be up early tomorrow to take Molly for her appointment to get  her annual vaccines along with a check up, should help to get the day off to a good start.  The appointment is for 9 a.m. and so I will need to be up no later than 7 a.m. to get ready and then capture the little rascal to get her into her carrying cage will keep me moving at a good clip.  I am already praying that the kindly vet will proclaim that Molly is a healthy little imp with all her vitals being normal.  The only problem we might be scolded on is that Molly has an appetite for popcorn as do I.  Generally, most nights I make up a bag of microwave popcorn and my little companion holds me hostage until I dole out a handful of the fluffy popped kernals of goodness that she so enjoys.  How bad can a little popcorn be for a cat?  Well, I suppose that tomorrow we will both find out.

I  made up a series of autumnal wreaths for some friends this week.  They purchase the materials or have me do this and reimburse me the cost plus a little extra for making up the decorations for them.  Generally, the cost to my friends is less than what they would pay if they had a shop make up these wreaths for them.  The plus side for me is that I get to keep my hand in the floral industry which I love and I work with materials that I very much enjoy.  Set me lose in a shop containing ribbons and you might not see me for days.  Every piece of ribbon is used, none goes to waste, just as my treasure trove of Japanese papers is utilized to the max.  I have even found paper punches in various sizes of flowers that I use on scraps of paper and ribbon so that I have little decorations for greeting cards, but that is a whole other entry for my blog.  Suffice it to say that I am frugal and make the most of every piece of material going into my floral pieces.  Little strands of grapevine can be wound around gourds, miniature pumpkins or worked into another piece as accents and painted a contrasting colour.  Autumn is a time of colour and I make full use of all colours, mainly darker hues, to show the best that Mother Nature has to offer at this time of year.

I am also getting back into cooking heartier meals.  My soups tend to acquire handfuls of barley, rice, beans or other additions that make a bowl of hearty goodness into a full meal when a piece or two of crusty bread are dipped into the broth.  I love soup.  It makes me feel warm, happy, at peace.  When the day has gone along in a manner that does nothing to soothe the soul, there is nothing like a bowl of warm, homey goodness to bring you back to your happy place.  I firmly believe that if everyone sat down to a bowl of soup every day, there would be much happier and healthier people out and about.

Are you at a loss for some wonderful soup recipes?  Not everyone has a family collection of soups and so my suggestion is to turn to the most wonderful and gracious Julie Anne Rhodes who runs a personal chef operation in Los Angeles, California.  Known on Twitter as @JulieAnneRhodes, she also has a web site where you can read her blog and join in a community of people devoted to making good, healthy food.  Check out and read her blog accompanied by a recipe suitable for the season.  If you choose to go one step further, you can become a premium member for an extremely nominal price and have access to weekly menus that include shopping lists and details for freezing the meals.  The Personal Chef Approach teaches you that spending a few hours on a weekend in the kitchen can translate into 8 - 10 hours saved on weeknights since when you get home from work, you have a meal ready to pop in the oven or microwave instead of starting from scratch or resorting to the take out menus.  You not only save money, but time.  That time is better spent with your family, catching up on the goings on of the day or even supervising the inevitable homework.  Think about it, go to Julie Anne's web site and read her blog.  This lady is immensely sensible and can help you get your act in gear and get eating healthy meals without a horrendous expenditure of time.

What else am I up to?  Besides cooking, I am making up some holiday tree ornaments, each of them hand sewn.  Gingerbread boys, houses, and angels are being cut out of felt and stitched lovingly together.  Each year, I like to come up with a new theme for my holiday celebrations and I suspect that these handmade treasures will be part of the homespun theme for this year.  I like to make gifts for people that I know will enjoy them.  There are always those whom I know to be more enticed by a store bought ornament or gift and I try to accommodate them, but sometimes it just cannot be done.  I like to give things that friends or family will enjoy and can use and so in some cases when I know that someone has more decorations than necessary, I resort to baking mountains of cookies, treats and so on.  Sadly, fruit cake is no longer enjoyed by many.  I love fruit cake, but it is not worth making it for myself and my friends are those who do not enjoy a slice of this rich treat.  And so, I generally purchase one from a shop, but it never really tastes like the ones from my childhood.  Maybe this will be the year that I find a recipe that makes just a loaf or two and tastes like the fruit cakes of my childhood.  I remember my mum starting her baking in October so that the fruit cakes would have a chance to mellow.  She would soak the fruit in some sort of liquor and then blend it in the batter.  After the cakes were baked, she would wrap them securely and freeze them until the holidays.  I somehow think she may have wrapped the cakes in brandy soaked cheesecloth, but cannot be sure of this as it was many years ago, the early 1960's to be exact.

So this is how my week has played out.  I anticipate more holiday decorations over the next week along with cards, tree ornaments and a few other surprises.  Meanwhile, I will put up some pics of the wreaths that were made along with a picture of my mum circa the late 1930's.  I do not look at all like her.  I remember her as being tallish, slim, elegant - none of these words describe me in the least.  She was a lady and I am more often a nondescript middle aged woman wandering about in track pants and a hoodie.  While I do clean up well when there is the need, in my lifestyle, the artist in me requires old, washable clothes that can go the distance.  Mum would frown, but maybe she might have a smile on her face, watching the youngest of the brood happily splashing paint about, getting her hands covered in ink, glue and other artsy elements.  I really hope that this is what she is thinking as she watches over me.

I just picked up a copy of a new book -  Raw Art Journaling by Quinn McDonald.  I am just getting into this and will let you know how it is changing my thoughts on the way I usually journal.  Quinn is also on Twitter so check out her tweets and follow her blog.  I think you will find her information interesting and perhaps decide that the art of journaling is something that you might want to try.

That is it for me this week!  I hope you got some inspiration, some ideas or thoughts to ponder from this post.  I would love to hear from you and definitely want to know what you think.  Do not be shy, I read and ponder every comment and reply to them all.  Take a moment to jot down what you liked or didn't like.  Maybe, I can persuade one of my friends to take on a guest post to give another side of the artistic journey, give another perspective and let us get this journey into high gear.  So much to learn, to practise, to do.  I must be getting my second wind as I am feeling excited by the thoughts of all I want and need to get working on.

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Monday, October 17, 2011

Life is getting back to normal!

Okay, life is getting back to normal after having been ill for the past six weeks.  Just when I thought I was feeling better, I was body slammed by the flu bug, landing me right back into bed.  That is all in the past and I am gradually getting back to full strength and able to participate fully in life.  Amen!

Suffice it to say that all things art related were left to gather dust in my studio.  Molly Cat spent more time in there than I did.  But, now that I am up and moving again, studio time is gaining momentum and with any luck, I should be able to make up for the lost time.  I have some fall wreaths in progress with one of them decorating my front door to welcome visitors to my flat.  I have plans to alter it a bit to bring in a bit of a Hallowe'en theme and spice it up just a little.  I know that Hallowe'en is really not celebrated so much, but being the quirky woman that I am, I like to push the envelope and bring a little of the supernatural into daily living.  Enough said!

I am also going full tilt in the production of making greeting cards.  One special batch that is in production right now is some that I am giving to a group who raises funds for breast cancer survivours.  The cards have a holiday theme with a little angel dressed in pink, decorating a sparse little holiday tree with pink ribbons.  This is a design of my own making and I am happy to donate packages of these to the group to sell at a bazaar that they are holding in a few weeks.  Time is the biggest element in the making of the cards, time well spent.  I can totally lose myself when I am making cards and have looked up to find that I have lost all concept of time and that the clock on the wall reads very late into the night or very early in the morning, depending on how you view the actual time.

Whilst I was down with the flu, I spent my time watching movies on my little DVD player along with some old time television programs that have been brought back to life with the new technology.  The hands down favourite of all I watched was "Julie & Julia."  For those who have not seen this movie, it is about a young woman, Julie, who needed to challenge herself and decided to work her way through Julia Child's cookbook on French cooking, recipe by recipe, and to blog about the experience.  Meryl Streep played the part of Julia Child and her performance was amazing and so true to life.

What a wonderful way to challenge yourself!  I was so impressed with Julie's way of approaching each recipe and sharing her ups and downs of the process with the readers of her blog.  Julie told her readers the ups and downs of her methodology and in the end, transformed herself into a true foodie with a great appreciation for the art of cooking and an even greater appreciation of Julia Child.  Cooking is truly an art, but it is one that each of us can master if only we put a little time and thought into what we are preparing.  I spent a few days thinking about this movie and actually watched it three times in one week.  Cooking is the way we express our love to others.  Whilst we eat because it is necessary for us to survive, cooking can be a way of expressing feelings, a way to challenge ourselves to learn new methods of preparing something that we have only ever eaten in one particular way.  It was interesting that in the movie Julie gained a new appreciation of eggs.  She had only ever eaten them when they had been incorporated into a recipe and never on their own.  And so, Julie learned to poach eggs and after hours of practice, she poached the perfect egg and savoured the simple taste of a food that we all take for granted.

Cooking for many of us is something we do, but we do not really enjoy the process.  We think of cooking as being the means to an end.  We are providing nutrition and not really interested in challenging ourselves to try different ways in preparing them.  Finding time to cook is getting more and more difficult with our lives being held hostage by jobs, time spent commuting, finding time to do laundry, tidy up our homes and spend time in a relationship with a significant other.  Consequently, we hang on to the tried and true methods of cooking our meals and do not look for ways to bring in new tastes and keep the prep time to reasonable blocks of time.  Enter Julie Anne Rhodes (@JulieAnneRhodes on Twitter) who can teach us all her Personal Chef Approach to getting meals on the table and having time left to spend doing things we really enjoy.  Julie Anne's approach is to make several meals in the course of a few hours, package up the meals into the appropriate portions and freeze these and bring them out as needed.  To learn more about the PCApproach to preparation and cooking with the bonus of having having healthy meals on the table in minutes each night.

Take a look at Julie Anne's web site, and you will see that she writes a wonderful blog about cooking, life and so many other things.  There is the cyber living room where premium members can connect and talk about problems or successes they are having with their meal prep.  If you decide to join the community, for a nominal monthly fee, you have access to a library of recipes, menus and advice.  What more could you ask for?  This is just like having your own personal chef standing beside you, helping you prepare meals ahead of time and safely storing them to bring out when needed.  You are able to sign up and receive just the weekly menus, but I strongly urge you to sign up as a premium member in order to get the most of your membership.  You can sign up for a trial three month membership and see how it will help you change up your meals, learn how to prepare foods that you may never have tried before and connect with other members who share the same challenges on a daily basis.  Thinking ahead, a trial membership might be just the gift for a special someone this holiday season.  We all have a few people on our gift lists that we can never think of what to buy for them.  What could be better than to give them the gift of time which is what the Personal Chef Approach is all about.  By following this approach, you can take a few hours on the weekend and translate them into meals for the upcoming week.  Take a look at Julie Anne's web site and see how she can help you make meal prep into a time that you actually look forward to and most of all, enjoy.

Watching Julie & Julia made me think a lot about Julie Anne's approach to cooking, but most of all the enjoyment in making real meals that are healthy and taste amazing.  I have been following her approach for a few months now and knowing that dinner is only a matter of minutes away from being on the table frees me up to spend more time in the studio.  The approach really made sense when I was ill for so long.  I had made a huge pot of soup, some meatloaf, and a few other mains which were all stored in my freezer prior to becoming ill.  Thank goodness I had prepped all these meals and the soup was my main stay over the past few weeks.  I defrosted countless bowls of a hearty vegetable soup, and that along with some toast, was just what I needed to warm my body.  I am planning a morning of cooking and prep for this upcoming week in order to fill up the freezer again.  Every Wednesday, Julie Anne posts a new menu with five mains, side dishes, recipes, cooking and reheating directions and how to package up your meals safely.  She has a grocery list done up for you and other bits of information that you need to make meal prep a breeze.  You have nothing to lose other than the wasted time and money spent on take out meals which never really satisfy you.  Take out a premium membership on a trial basis and use the approach to simplify your life.

Julie followed Julia Child's approach to cooking and gained a whole new appreciation of what had been a daily chore.  Her blog inspired countless others to take on cooking as a challenge and learn to enjoy meal preparation as a way of expressing love to their family and friends.  Julie Anne's approach simplifies meal prep and in a few hours, make meals for a week leaving you time to spend with your family and friends.  Involving your family in the meal prep is such a great way of teaching life skills, a way to connect with each other and so much more.  For the single people in the community, think of getting a few friends together and spend a morning cooking together with everyone taking home a week's worth of meals.  However you use the approach, it's a win/win situation.  You will save time, money, and eat healthy meals.

So, that is how my week played out last week.  A little art, some cooking, and some time spent enjoying movies.  This week, I plan to spend more time in the studio, but I also plan to devote one or two mornings to cleaning out the fridge and refilling it with lots of nibbles.  I hope you take the time to wander over to Julie Anne's web site and see what it has to offer you.  With the holiday season coming up, you will be in good hands and have a personal chef helping you navigate through family dinners, both casual and formal.  The best part of it all will be that you will have the time to enjoy the family gatherings because you will not be tied to your kitchen, you will be the hostess enjoying the pre dinner chatter with your guests or just be able to sit down with a cup of tea and catch up with your own family about what happened during their day.

Well, I am heading into the kitchen to make a cup of tea before heading off to bed.  I will be in the studio for most of the day on Monday prepping cards for the holidays, making some more autumn wreaths and hopefully get a few holiday decorations made.  It is a welcome thought that I have enough energy to do the things I enjoy.

Wishing you a healthy week!   Rutheemac

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dang, that flu bug took me down big time!

I am not sure what is happening to me right about now.  One moment I think I am feeling okay and getting over the vile flu bug that took me down two weeks ago.  Then, I get a not so subtle reminder that I am not quite in control of my body just yet.  The worst part is over and I am now just not feeling strong enough to do all the things that I normally enjoy doing, such as blogging, tweeting, playing in my studio or playing a rigorous game of peek and hide with Molly Cat.  Seriously, this bug is ruining my life and I am about to go to war to regain control and get my life back on the gentle but enjoyable path that I try to follow.

I did manage to get out briefly today to pick up a few essentials but had to head home before a couple of hours had elapsed.  No lingering over a coffee and a bagel, no stopping by to sniff at some fragrances, have a boo at some new metal wall art at another shop I love to stop by for a browse.  I did not even stop at the kitchen supply shop to look at the white dishes that are on sale.  As much as I love a good sale, my head and my insides told me that heading home for some tea and a nap was the wise thing to do.  And so, Molly Cat and I joined ranks and curled up for a quick snooze before trying to put the studio in order for getting back to the business of making art. 

I have not held a paint brush for a long time and the last creative thing that I did was to send in the exhibit piece in late August for the September show.  I have since heard that I did not place and no one has inquired about purchasing the piece.  I am not discouraged, nor do I feel that I need to stop making art.  I make no apologies, my art is evolving much the way that I feel that I am changing with each day.  Whilst I seem to be fighting an uphill battle at present to regain some semblance of normalcy and live life the way I choose to, I am going to commit to spending the better part of the upcoming week in the studio.  The flu bug needs to get packing and move out of the premises pronto.  I will not tolerate another week of lethargic movements, taking a few nibbles of toast to see if I can quell the unsettling feeling in my stomach.  I want to be able to drink a few cups of coffee each day in addition to my usual quantity of tea and diet cola.  I will even substitute diet ginger ale for the diet cola and did purchase said ginger ale again today.  I picked up more crackers and bread to make into toast to quell the queasiness that seems to have made itself at home in my body.

The point of this little rant is to make everyone aware that we are heading into flu season quickly.  Prepare yourselves now and keep essentials on hand just in case you are not able to get out of the house.  Wash your hands frequently and keep hand sanitizers in your pocket for when you are out and about.  Eat healthy meals, keep yourselves hydrated and well rested.  Cough into the crook of your arm or into some tissues. Dispose of the tissues properly. And did I mention to wash your hands?  Do not underestimate how important it is to wash your hands properly with soap and warm water.  I am not being an alarmist, not in the least.  Every year many people contract the flu virus and some are not as lucky as I have been.  And, I have been lucky.  Despite the duration of this bug, I know that things are looking up and I should be back to what passes for full speed in a matter of a few more days.  I will see my doctor this week just to be safe and I will ask when he thinks the flu shots will be available.  Likely not for another month or so, but I will be one of the first in line to get my shot.  I have had a shot every year for many years now and I know that things could have been a lot worse even with this brush with unpleasantness.  Not everyone is as lucky when battling the flu.  An elderly neighbour told me that she also was down for a week with the same bug and is just now getting back on her feet.

Life will return to normal soon, of that I am confident.  I will get back into the studio and get the paints out, start making the copious quantities of cards that I seem to go through, and work on some other artistic endeavours that are part of a project I need to get moving on to meet the submission date.  I have so many things to do and I will be working on them this week.  But first, I needed to let you know that I have been thinking of all of you and wishing I could once again be part of the cyber world where I have the best friends and meet new people all the time.  The tweets will once again start flying out as quickly as I can queue them up.  I will be back on Facebook

For now, I am calling it an early night and planning to be up with the birds tomorrow.  After a quick run to pick up some fresh fruit and veg, I will do the daily tidy up and then go online briefly before heading into the studio for some quality time with my treasured supplies.  Molly Cat will be her usual chatty self and we will spend several hours working on something fun.  Mind you, I will make time every so often to play little games with my furry friend.  Molly Cat has been be a trooper and has taken very good care of me over the past two weeks.  I plan to return the favour and keep her amused and intrigued with little games of chase, peek and seek, and reward her with her favourite little treats.  That is what fur baby parents do and I am no different.

So, for now, I am saying good night.  But, I promise to be more of a presence in the various social media venues where I usually post each day.  I will be thinking of all of you as I putter around the flat and work on artsy pieces.  And I will be hoping that all of you to stay healthy. 

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Miniature pieces, but major effort!

Sorry for being MIA for the last while!  Life got a little out of control and I had to stand back and let the chaos settle for a bit.  I try to do too much at one time and consequently, put a little too much pressure on myself causing me to withdraw into myself and figure out what it is that is troubling me.  There is something about the start of September that pulls my stomach into knots and I have to slow down to a crawl, get myself together again (mentally and physically) before I can resume a somewhat normal schedule or what passes for one in my life.  Once again, my body has made me realize that putting too much pressure on myself to produce is not healthy nor is it productive.  Lesson learned, I will slow down the pace and be creative when I am rested and feeling that I want to unleash the artistic self in me.  Enough said!

I have been playing with the idea of making miniature art pieces for a while now and for the past week have been cutting, pasting, stamping, adding embellishments and so on.  I have found that although the pieces I have been working on are tiny, the effort that goes into them is major.  I am working on sturdy cardboard arches that measure 4 3/4" x 3 3/4 ".  Finding images for such a tiny "canvas" and adding other elements to complement the main image takes a lot of time, more than I had ever imagined.  Deciding on the colours to use in the background and for making the stamp impressions means doing test runs on scraps of paper and then try to coordinate a colour of washi tape to use as an accent before moving on to the actual piece of cardboard being used.

I have been thinking a lot about old photos, images of the past, stamps of antique light fixtures and days long past in general.  There is something about the early 1900's that is appealing to me and consequently, ladies sporting fashions from around the 1920's have been finding there way onto my pieces.  Finding decorative paper accents to work along side of the images is an endurance test because once you find the right paper you need to decide on how it will appear on the finished piece without taking away from the main image.  In some cases, I find a piece of interesting paper for the background, add some other colours in the form of ribbon or tape before I actually decide on what will be the main focus of the piece.  This sounds like a very backward approach to making a miniature piece of art, but, it seems to work for me.  Once I see what the accenting colours and images are going to be, I can focus with a clearer mind on what I am trying to put down on the page.  I use the word "page" loosely, meaning whatever I am using to build my mixed media piece upon.  I guess in a way, you could say that I am making a collage of an earlier time.  I picture this time as being dark and consequently use blacks, bottle greens, dark purple and some sepia or brown tones.  I have put up three images to the side for you to have a look at.  

The first picture is of a lady from the past with a very curious hair style and hat.  The word "Haunting" appears on the right side of the piece.  Some textured paper in blue and black with white outlines of petals making up daisy like flowers works in with the darkness of the piece.  Black foliage works its way around the perimeter and an old fashioned chandelier is stamped at the top.  But, there is no light in the chandelier and so the art piece is left in its darkness.  Looking at this image, I feel haunted and try to discern a meaning to what I have put together and why.  I suspect the darkness of my mood when I was working on this is making itself apparent to anyone who looks at this.  Strangely, while my mood was dark, I cannot truthfully say that I was in emotional turmoil at the time.  Frustrated, annoyed, introspective would be adjectives that more closely described my mood, but never fear, I had not gone to that dark place that we all have within ourselves.  I was just not my usual complacent self.  Is it not amazing how you can look at a piece of art and immediately know the artist's frame of mind when he or she was working on the piece.  This miniature evolved over a three day period, taking many hours to think about and put together to my satisfaction.

On the flip side of the first piece, I have stayed with the dark colours and you see a bird sitting amongst various bits of greenery.  The foliage is black and the stamping of the bird's image came out lighter despite my having used the same onyx ink pad.  The background colour is the same as the first piece, a golden olive colour, drab, but at the same time giving a shimmering effect.  The daisy pattern on the paper is brought through to this piece as is the bottle green washi tape.  I really do not feel that this is a particularly cheerful piece, but that is the way life is in reality.  We cannot be perpetually cheery or at least I cannot pull that one off successfully.  So again, we have another bleak image, nature not showing its wonderful colours, but at the same time maybe I have put down an authentic depiction of what I was feeling when this came together a short while ago.  I feel that the look of the piece is almost as if the bird is in camouflage, hiding itself (or me) from impending danger.  Do not be alarmed, I am not in any way in danger of anything other than using my mood to help me put out a piece of art.  Maybe my psyche is in turmoil because I should be making some decisions about how my life unfolds over the next few years.  If so, I have got a lot of thinking to do and might as well use the well of emotions as subject matter in different art mediums.

The third piece is again done on an arch which is in the process of becoming an accordion book.  Again, dark colours - purple, deep gold and black stamping.  The background is from some paper that I happened upon that has lovely little sentiments from a love letter of many years ago, elegantly inscribed on ivory paper.  The stamp of two little birds, obviously in love as depicted by the hearts, makes me smile.  Both the birds and four of the hearts are done in black ink.  The elegant flourish stamped at the top of the piece is done in black.  I wonder if this is my inner self showing cynically how I feel about romance.  I guess it is pretty obvious that while I will acknowledge that romance does exist in some form, it just has not made itself present in my life this time around.  This is a statement of fact, not a cry of a wounded soul.  I actually feel that romance does not have a place in everyone's life.  So be it, get over it and get on with the life you currently inhabit.  Maybe in my next life, there will be romance, but I strongly doubt it.  Chaos seems to be a constant for me and something that I deal with rather well. 

So, this is what I have been working on for the past two weeks along with a few other pieces that are still in production, but in many pieces scattered around my studio.  I need to do a major tidy before I go any further with anything art related.  Wiping down the flat surfaces in the studio might put some positive energy into the air and spark some bright colours to be coaxed out of their tubes.  I have some lovely sandalwood incense that I can burn and hopefully that will permeate the air with a sense of anticipation of things to come.  Autumn is here and although it is sad to say goodbye to the summer, autumn is a wonderful time of the year, special in its own way.  It is up to me to find the excitement in the change of seasons and I will.  It just might take a few days.

I hope you are all involved in amazing artistic journeys right now!  Have a great week.

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Holidays are on the horizon!

After finishing my piece and getting it sent off for the exhibit, I felt a sense of loss.  It was as if there was nothing to look forward to with the completion of that piece.  I wandered about the flat trying to think of something that would provide a challenge and be interesting to work on.  It was not long before I thought about trying to submit a piece to a magazine to see if it had a chance of being used and then I realized that the holidays were not that far off and it would be wise to start prepping cards, gifts, and other tokens of appreciation along with pulling together the magazine submission.

With all this in mind, I set about putting the studio back in order and tried to put all the items I had been using, back into their rightful places.  Making progress, I had some table tops cleared and a working area designated as well as an area where pieces would hopefully be safely left to dry.  Molly Cat has a bad habit of thinking that she can roam at will where ever and when ever she wishes.  While I am generally an easy going person, I do get a tad worked up when Molly starts moving my artwork around, especially if it has not completely dried.  I am trying to break her of the habit, but it is going to take some time.

Truthfully, I really am not sure what I plan to make.  At this point, I know that I will make holiday cards as well as a stash of generic ones that will fit almost any occasion.  I feel comforted knowing that I can reach for a card at any time and write a brief message in it and send it off to a friend.  So, between making the generic cards along with a few special birthday ones since I know of a few birthdays in the not so distant future, I will go full force and get the holiday cards designed and with a little luck, get the envelopes addressed.  I got the idea that I would like to make some special cards out of chip board which would make them more of a keepsake.  With that in mind, I found some interesting tri fold pieces that are reminiscent of an altar or little shrine.  I have done one up with a generic theme, one that could be sent to a woman on her birthday.

The small shrine has been painted a light shade of blue and has some floral accents added to the front two pieces which open up to reveal the stamped images of ladies from years gone by accented with bottle green washi tape and stamped images of flowers on either side of the main image of the women.  The caption at the top reads "To an amazing woman."  I can think of many women that this would apply to and think it wise to make up several of these cards.

In addition to the cards, I have also been working on the template for a calendar to be given as part of a holiday gift.  I do not have a completed one, but have included a picture of the calendar blank that I will be using.  I have a stamp of a calendar page which I will use on the lower portion of the page and then stamp an appropriate image on the top page to coordinate with a holiday during that month or something seasonal.  While the one I am showing you is made up of blue and green shades of card stock, I also have some blanks put together of more vibrant citrus colours, shades of pink, spring colours and one of reds, oranges and yellows that I hope to tie in with an Asian theme.  I forsee a lot of work over the next month or two, but it will be time well spent and will hopefully get me in a position of being ahead of the game come the early days of December.

I have already tucked away a few gifts for the holidays, ones that I happened across unexpectedly, but knew that they would be perfect for the individuals for whom they are intended.  I am gathering some recipes together that I will put together a little closer to the big day.  Once again, I will do a few days of intense baking that will not only fill gift tins for friends, but fill up some containers for me to keep in the freezer and brought out when I hear of friends coming over for a visit.  With all this in mind, it would be wise to start picking up items needed for these recipes, so best I go through the cupboards, organizing as I go and making note of what items I am going to need.  I would like to make shortbread, but find that it is easier to purchase it.  None of my recipes yield the perfect shortbread cookie and that is what I really long for during the holidays.  The other treats are fine, but a shortbread cookie along with a cup of tea just makes the day seem more festive.

What are you working on artistically right now?  Are you prepping for a church bazaar or charity sale?  Will you be making something crafty or will you do some baking?  We would all love to hear what you are up to as it will jump start our own thought process and hopefully bring to mind something that we can make.  I will put up pictures of my own creative attempts to show you where I am heading artistically.  Gift tags, cards, calendars and decorative place setting markers will all be in production over the next month.  Hopefully, I will have enough of each item made that will carry me through the holidays with a few to spare.  It never hurts to have a few extra items in the cupboard for an unexpected guest who arrives along with the ones you had planned for to attend an evening's festivities.  The more the merrier and since I generally bake more items than necessary, the refreshment table will not suffer from a shortage of goodies.  Suddenly, I feel much better about the impending season now that I have plans in place.  Now, as long as I hold firm on my resolve to stay on top of things, not only will I get my submission ready for the magazine, I will have the freezer stocked with sweet treats and little gifts wrapped and ready to disperse.  Now, that is a good thing!  Even Martha Stewart would have to agree.  ;)

Have a great week!

Sincerely, Rutheemac


Monday, August 22, 2011

The making of an exhibit piece

It is the start of another week and I have just now finished the art piece heading for an exhibition.  This piece has been in the making for a long time.  Prep work started in June when I was sketching out ideas hoping for one to capture what I hoped would be the best of the best in my sketch book.  Time passed on and I knew that I had to get working on this lest I leave it down to the wire and barely get it submitted before the September 01 deadline.

Well, I finally decided on a simple Japanese scene that I titled "Serenity - A Zen Feeling."  What I thought would be a simple piece to put together turned out to be anything but that.  I started the actual piece last week after deciding on some modifications to the original design.  By Wednesday I had progressed and had most of the background done.  But, I was not happy with the way it was going together and I scrapped the whole piece leaving me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Maybe I was not going to make the deadline, maybe I would not have a piece worthy of showing, especially at an exhibition with 200 artists all working on the same sized piece - 6 inches by 8 inches.  You would think that with such a small sized piece of paper to work on, it would be easy to put together a mixed media piece of art.  Well, it was not as easy as I had originally thought it would be, but with a bit of perseverance and a lot of labour, I have completed one of the most arduous pieces I have done to date.

Working with strands of embroidery floss, I painstakingly laid one piece after the other to form the scene.  The background went down first and I thought I would never get my eyes to focus normally after that.  Each piece of floss had to fit tightly against the previous one so that no paper could be seen.  I spent at least 8 hours on that part of the piece alone.  Then the trees were the next to be laid out.  To make them look at realistic as possible, I use different colours of embroidery floss and built up layers of bark just as one would see on a real tree.  I am quite pleased with the way the trees turned out considering that I had never worked with this type of mixed media prior to this.

After the trees were finally in place, the little bridge had to be put down on the paper.  Cutting toothpicks to the size needed was interesting.  I found that I had a nice little pair of cutters that could cut through the toothpicks nicely but found that I was chasing bits of wood as they scattered through the studio.  Finally, I had enough pieces cut to build the bridge.  Thank goodness I only wanted a small one, I am quite certain I would have gone quite squirrelly had I tried to build a larger one.

Now, I was making progress!  I could actually start work on the cherry blossoms, the bush and last of all the geisha.  The cherry blossoms went together quite nicely and did not take too much time.  The bush was the easiest piece to put down on paper.  Taking pieces of yellow and spring green embroidery floss I managed to pull them together at the base of the bush and glue that in place.  I had really wanted to have three trees, but there just was not enough room on the paper.  The main element was to be the geisha and I wanted to ensure that there was sufficient room to give her the proper placement so that she would stand out.

To put my lovely little lady together, I drew her on a separate piece of the etchu hagaki paper and started to form her kimono out of purple floss with a pink floss forming her inner kimono.  The obi was made out of a lighter purple embroidery floss.  The black floss made up her hair and white floss her face.  The piece was finally done or so I thought.  I sat looking at it for quite some time and felt that something was amiss.  I just did not like the look of the kimono, it looked so plain.  Rummaging through my stash of Japanese paper scraps, I found the perfect accent piece that I added on to the kimono.  The difference this little piece of paper made was incredible.  How could such a small piece of paper have so much impact?  I think with all the solid colours laid down on this small piece of paper, the bit of pattern stood out and made the geisha seem more authentic.  At least that is what I think and I am sticking to that theory.  At this point, there is not a moment to spare for second thoughts.

I look at this small piece of art that I so carefully put together and have mixed feelings about it.  While I am proud of it, happy that it was completed with plenty of time to get to where the exhibit will be held, I truthfully cannot say that I am totally happy with the end result.  I know that I put a lot of effort and time into this small piece, but it still seems raw, not fully thought out and executed to the level that I had hoped to make it.  Maybe I am being too critical, but there is always room for improvement in every piece.  I will try some more Japanese scenes done on the same paper with embroidery floss with some paper accents.  I would really like to make a series of these pictures and place them in a handmade album that I construct using some wonderful Japanese paper on the cover.  The inner pages will likely be black cardstock in order to show off the pictures to their full advantage.  But, that is a project I will start on another day.  For now, I plan to tidy up the studio, bin all the scraps of embroidery floss, bits of paper that are of no further use and just generally get ready to start my next major project.  That will be a story for another day!

Let me know your thoughts on my art.  I am posting pictures here  of the different stages it went through and then, the end result.  I am open to all critiques, good or bad, as they will help me grow into a better artist and show me where I might have finessed the piece a bit more.  You know how to hit the comment tab at the end of the post and it will open a window for you to key in your thoughts.  I will be looking to see what you have to say.  Be honest, be sincere, that is all that I ask.

Have a great week!  Take some time for some artistic moments of your own doing.

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

So many ideas, not enough hours in a day!

I feel like I am running full speed and not getting to where I want to be right now.  My mind is overflowing with ideas, images, colours and so many other things that I am not sure which pathway I should follow.  This is not as dire as it may sound since I consider it better to have a surplus of ideas rather than go through a dry spell when I am not able to muster up a single concept or idea of what type of art I should be pursuing.  This past week was one in which I found myself flipping from one idea to another, from working on templates for an exhibit piece to making clay beads and pendants.  Add to that a mix of ideas for something that will likely end up as a mixed media piece done on a fabric like burlap and intended to be hung somewhere and you might be able to understand why my mind is feeling like it is being jumbled about with an overload of images coming at me rather like laser beams or bolts of lightening causing me to move frantically about. 

This blaze of activity both physical and mental is very much welcome since I enjoy working with a diversity of  subject matter and art mediums.  The only problem is that right now, the exhibit piece needs to be front and foremost, the tentative drawings need to be translated into the finalized version and done on the specified paper with the exacting dimensions of 6 inches by 8 inches followed precisely.  I posted two of the unfinished samples in last Sunday's post.  At this time, I am thinking that both the tree and the bridge need to be part of the final version, but that I need to inject a little more of Japanese culture onto the sheet of paper.  How such a small piece of paper will allow me to put all my ideas onto it is beyond what I see in my mental sketchbook.  It is almost as if there is a film running in my head with fleeting images of Japanese culture, the day to day life and zen like scenes begging me to put them down on paper.  How can I possibly do justice to all these scenes?  Then my muse jumped into action and made me sit still and think about what it was that I felt should be shown.

The concept of the portrayal of a zen like moment came to me as being what I should be striving towards in my work.  Simplicity should be the key element of what I hoped to display.  To put everything that I saw in my mind down on a small sheet of paper would be wrong on so many levels.  Keeping the idea of creating a zen moment would mean that I needed to whittle away at all the "extras" that kept showing up in my sketches. I need to pick a key image and keep it simple, not overwhelm the paper with too many images.  I still plan to finish the two templates that I showed you.  But, I will keep them simple and true to what I hope to be simple, but elegant images.  I know what I need to do to get moving on what I hope to be the final sketch that will be put to paper.  But, will I know when I have captured enough of the spirit of a culture that I love so much without losing balance?  Keeping it simple is much easier said than done.  Knowing when too much is just that, too much, is difficult for me as I tend to want to put everything from my notes into play.  Restraint is something that I need to learn artistically as well as in other areas of my life.

With all this in mind, I will proceed with caution, but not lose my enthusiasm for the project.  All the extraneous material will not go to waste meaning that all the ideas that have come to me will translate into ideas to be put onto subsequent portrayals of Japanese life.  The piece that is sent off for the exhibition will be one of many pieces that will come to be a series.  With that in mind, I am thinking that I will make a special album to contain all my ideas and thoughts of zen moments in life.  I will share these with you as they come to be, but know that it will take a while to capture all those moments.  But, for now, the first piece has to be put to paper and the next few days will see me spend more hours in my studio than outside of it.  I will live and breathe art, but saying that, I know that I will more than likely take little breaks where I will spend some time on my obsession with jewelry and other odd art forms that I have not previously given serious thought.  The idea of wall hangings done on fabric is terribly tempting, but I will not start on such a piece until I have completed the exhibit piece and it has been wrapped and sent on its way.  At least that is the plan as of now.

I do have to show you the jewelry that made it from just a fleeting idea to actually being made in the past few days.  A few ideas for upper arm bracelets found me playing with paper which became the base for several pieces.  For some reason, I felt that a collection of three bracelets worn collectively could be fun to make.  A few single bracelets also were made, but again the idea of wearing them on the upper arm found me making them larger, having more impact than a delicate band might have.  I have put up some pictures for you to see and I would really appreciate your thoughts on these.  Would you wear this type of art?  Would you rather wear a collection of three or just a single band?  Realize that the bracelets have not been embellished with any stamping or wrapping of cording on them.  They are pure naked pieces which will remain that way until I decide what I want to put on them.  I realize that they still need to be refined quite a bit as they are very raw in their execution.  But, I will refine the process and see if I can make the bracelets into a nice line of jewelry for gifts.  At least that is my hope!  I have also put up pictures of a couple of pendants that were made in addition to the two necklaces and the bracelets.  Let me know what you think as I welcome all opinions both positive and negative and learn from them both.

Now, it is back to the exhibit piece!  For the next few days, I will spend a great many hours in the studio working on this and with a bit of luck, it will be in priority mail by Saturday.  I may not be a presence on Twitter, but know that I am thinking of all my friends over there.  Julie Anne (@JulieAnneRhodes) has her daughter visiting, Cate (@shardArtist) is working on a new mosaic, Elaine (@elainefrenett) is always working on something fun in her journals or in the classes that she teaches.  So many wonderful people to get to know and I hope you take the time to follow them and read what they post.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention a lovely artist, Liza (@LizasArt).  Liza does the most wonderful faerie art work and the resulting pictures are breath taking.  Take a wee break to follow the faeries and they will steal your heart just as they have stolen mine.

That is my week in a nutshell!  Once again, I have company for a few days and so, studio time will be stolen moments, likely far into the night.  Teresa and friends will be heading north in a few days to spend time with relatives in Scotland.  As much as I would love to join them, traveling is not something that I do easily.  So, I will spend my time in the studio, working flat out to complete my project and so I shall!

What special projects are you working on right now?  Will it be on display at a fair or competition of some sort?  Send in a comment and let us all know what you are up to these days.  We would all love to hear about it and maybe it might inspire some to try something new.

Here is to another productive week!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Japanese paper, jewelry, and firemen

Oh yes, it has been another day for Molly Cat and myself.  I set the alarm for 6 a.m., determined to be up and taking on the day as early as I felt possible.  Obviously, my muse decided otherwise or at least I am blaming her for the resulting chaos.  Somehow, I managed to turn off the alarm when it went, rolled over and promptly went back to sleep.  When I awoke somewhat later, confused and not knowing what time it was, I realized my folly and dove into action.  First order of the day was to get Molly her bowl of kibble, a saucer of treats and nice big bowl of cold water.  The next order of the day was to turn on the coffee pot so that it could heat up whilst I had a quick shower and dressed appropriately for a day in the studio.

Feeling somewhat annoyed at myself for wasting time, I got to the business of making art.  Paper out, acrylic medium ready and then I started chopping up toothpicks.  You must think that I have truly lost my senses and maybe I have, but the toothpicks were destined to become part of a bridge in my latest idea of something to try for my exhibition piece.  My line of thought is that if I do up enough pieces to see what can be done on such a small piece of paper, then I can pick elements from each partially completed piece and incorporate the elements into the final piece which has to be in its final destination by September 01.  I am committed to having this piece of art in priority mail no later than August 20, so I do still have a little time to play with ideas and see how the ideas transition themselves onto the etchu hagaki paper which is only 6" x 8".  Trying to put an idea onto such a small piece of paper is not as easy as one might think, or at least I find it difficult to reign in my ideas and put just one down on the final piece.  I keep thinking "what if this other idea turns out better and I can execute it better?"  I have to leave the "what if" and move on to "this is what I am doing."

At this point, my flurry of activity came to a grinding halt as their was a loud knock on the door that echoed through the flat.  This was not the knock of a neighbour wanting to borrow a cup of sugar, nor was it a tap to see if I wanted to join someone for tea.  This was the kind of knock that makes you immediately start to worry and portends of trouble somewhere in the building.  I got to the door and opened it to find a fireman in full gear with several of his co-workers all on the floor knocking on the various doors.  I have to admit, I was somewhat concerned and already thinking of how I would capture Molly Cat and get her into her travel cage and then make our way down the stairwell.  The fireman asked if I was cooking something, no I was not.  He asked if I could smell the smoke in the hallway, yes I could.  I was told to close my door and there was no need to evacuate as yet.  The other firemen seemed to have found that the smoke was coming from a certain unit and were pounding on that person's door.  There appeared to be no answer.  I opened my door to talk to the fireman that had been questioning me as one other said that they needed to find a key for the unit.  I volunteered that I had a key for the unit.  The occupant had been ill a few months earlier and had asked me to hold onto a spare key in the event that I needed to get in to help her.  Key in hand, the fireman unlocked the door to find something burning on the stove or in the oven, I am not sure which it turned out to be.  The occupant was home, but had dozed off forgetting that she was cooking.  Luckily, she was fine, the fire detectors had not been set off and it was another neighbour who had smelled smoke and had called for help.

So, a word to the wise - if you are cooking, it might be wise not to decide to get too comfortable and hence, fall asleep.  Not only do you ruin your dinner, you make a lot of your neighbours nervous.  As the fireman returned my set of keys to me, he said that the lady should be grateful that they had not had to kick her door open.  I quite agree!  Note to self, make extra sure when I am cooking to stay right around the kitchen in the event that something boils over or more water needs to be added to a  pot of rice.  I always set timers when I am cooking and carry the timer with me wherever I go in my flat.  I know how long it will take to roast a chicken, bake a cake or brownies.  I err on the side of caution and deduct a few minutes and check to see how my cooking project is doing.  Burning down the flat just would not be something I would want to consider and so I am cautious, very cautious.  It was nice to know that someone was on the alert and smelled the smoke and knew that it was not something to be ignored.  I will have to find out who that person was and thank them.  Evacuating the building with a cat in a traveling cage is not easily done for me and I am very grateful that it did not come to that today.

All week my thoughts have been jumping around from jewelry to paintings and then on to writing.  Somehow, I need to incorporate all these elements into one.  And, so was born an idea that I plan to execute which will satisfy all my needs into one very energy laden project.  All the partial art pieces, that have been made to give me an idea of how they would translate onto the specified paper, will be completed once the actual piece destined for the exhibition is complete and on its way.  These sample pieces will be part of a larger series, all with a Japanese theme and become part of a album of my works done using this theme.  No bought journal would be what I need for the completed pieces and so I will make my own album using wonderful Japanese paper with each 6" x 8" piece on its own page.  Hopefully, I will come up with a title for each completed piece which will be ever so carefully inscribed below the artwork.  I am hoping that I will come up with at least 12 to 15 pieces of artwork all using the Japanese theme.  A spot will be left for the exhibition piece in case it comes back to me.  Artwork sent in for this exhibition will be on display for a month or so.  Judges will pick a first and runner up to win a gift certificate.  Artists are able to set a price on their submission in the event that someone wants to purchase it.  That would be lovely, to actually have someone want a piece of my work badly enough that they would actually pay for it.  But, let us see how the piece progresses before I even think about such an airy thought.

I love texture in my work and I really want to work some texture into my submission.  I have two partial pieces to show you at this time.  To the right of this column, you will see two pieces which I have been working on.  I know that they look quite simplistic, but I was amazed at the length of time it took to execute each.  The first piece shows a mature tree in the far right hand corner.  I used various shades of embroidery floss to get the effect of bark on a tree.  I envision some leaves towards the top of the paper, perhaps a lovely geisha strolling along a pathway with her paper umbrella ready to unfurl.  There may be a butterfly or two in the sky with some flowers lining her pathway.  That is the joy of being the artist, I get to create the story and plan how best to depict it using various materials besides my paints.  I am not sure how the idea of embroidery floss came to me, but I feel that it worked out well when I was putting the tree together.  One simple little tree took almost 5 hours to put together, piece by piece of the coloured floss, side by side and then on top of each other in places to build up the texture.  The picture is a long ways from done, but I will get it done, along with all the others that I would like to see in the series.

The second piece of artwork shows a bridge with some trees in the background.  The trees are all done in acrylic paints at this point, but will be covered with embroidery floss Monday morning.  The bridge is made out of sticks with with one stirs their coffee as well as toothpicks.  There will be a pond added to the scene along with water lilies, their leaves and maybe a curious little koi fish poking his head through the water to see what the day might be like above the water.  This piece of artwork is far from complete, but I can see what I am imagining in my mind.  My muse is quite clear about the colours that I need to be using.  A few bright notes to catch the viewer's attention are required.  I am adamant that each picture have bright colours, that the pictures are bold, in your face and not tentatively asking you if you might like to see them.

I am hoping that people will be drawn to my show piece and ask if it might be one of a series.  The answer will be a resounding "yes" and maybe I will need to take pictures of each to send off to a prospective buyer.  These are all dreams at this point.  How cheeky of me to think that someone might be interested in a series of mixed media pieces all pertaining to Japanese life, but I still am hoping that people will be interested in what I have put down on paper and the different mediums used to bring life to trees, bridges, kimonos and all other things Japanese.  I have a little trick up my sleeve for one piece that may or may not turn out to be an element in the art submission.  I will have to see how it will turn out and if it is impressive enough that others might find it interesting.  I have a lot of work to do over the next 10 days and I suspect there may be some late nights.  But, I am up for the challenge!

Realistically, I just need the one piece for the art exhibit.  The other partial pieces, plus the ones still to be developed can be done over the next month or two.  I can work on other types of art in between each Japanese piece.  I am hoping to spend a lot more time making pendants for necklaces, bracelet, beads to be strung for necklaces.  I will be making cards, lots of them, for the holidays.  But, I also want to make up extra birthday cards, cards for new babies, some with get well wishes and a lot of cards that impart the idea that someone sent the card just because the sender was thinking of the recipient.  That is the best reason of all to send a card.  I am hoping that others, maybe those reading this post, might take up the challenge to send more handwritten notes to those they care about.  These days, we are more apt to send a quick e-mail to someone on their birthday or when they are feeling down.  I remember the days when I would go to my mailbox and find that someone had taken the time to write a note in a card and send it to me.  The feelings that came over me while opening the greeting are difficult to explain other than to say, I felt so happy, so very happy.  I would love to send a card to someone hoping that they might capture that feeling.  And so, that is why I make greeting cards.

This is the way the journey played out this week!   I hope you had a wonderful week and got to do something that you normally would not have the time to do.  Enjoy these last few weeks of summer.  Summer never lasts long enough and so it is up to each of us to make the most of these last few weeks.  A few more barbeques, time in the park to sit and read or maybe one more trip to savour a dripping ice cream cone.  You decide!

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

P.S.  Whilst rambling around the internet looking at some of my favourite sites and looking at some new places, I found a great e-zine.  Nuno Magazine is published digitally and has just put out their 4th edition.  Go to for a taste of what you find in each edition.  Nuno writes about craft work that you might want to take on with your children and other pieces that are strictly for the adults.  The craftwork uses repurposed supplies you might have on hand or might find on an evening stroll in your neighbourhood.  Have a look at the web site and see the sample craft for making a pendant and necklace.  You can subscribe to the magazine for a nominal cost, well worth it considering the ideas you will get for other crafts.  Digital magazines are the way of the future - trees are not cut down to make paper, you will not be looking to find where someone may have stashed the magazine since you just have to go to your computer, where you have downloaded the current issue.  Check into Nuno and I think you will be excited to see what they are all about!

By the way, Omiyage is a fantastic place to do some browsing and shopping as well.  I got my first shipment of goodies (stamps, origami paper, notebooks) and am dreaming of all their wonderful items.  Marisa writes a chatty blog which she updates frequently.  I do not know how she does it all!  She has such amazing information and reading her blog will take you on a tour of many wonderful items.  Check her out at