Sunday, July 29, 2012

Art as a way of healing your soul and spirit

I am going to be straight up honest with you right now.  June and July were not the best months for me in terms of health.  For some reason, my stomach has been acting up and the nefarious pink eye incident turned into the plural form.  In fact, looking at my eyes today, I can safely say that the whites surrounding the pupils are actually white for the first time in way over a month.  Maybe we are making some progress.  As for the stomach problems, stress and too many Vitamin C tablets may be to blame.  When you think about it, Vitamin C is ascorbic acid and too much acid or a combination of acids such as a vitamin with cups of coffee, tea, cola drinks and such probably overloaded my system.  So, I am cutting back on the Vitamin C and trying to limit my coffee consumption.  That is contradicted somewhat by my ordering coffee for my specialty coffeemaker, but I will try to behave and limit my consumption.

So, what has art got to do with all this nonsense?  Good question and I will try to answer it.  Sometimes when I am feeling really rough, I will grab a book to try and lose myself in it and work past the nausea or whatever is ailing me.  One night a week or so ago, I grabbed one of my recipe card booklets and started drawing what I was feeling, writing in words, colouring different areas of the card and so on.  It actually took me a couple of hours to finish the piece.  A small 3 inch by 5 inch piece of card stock.  Unbelievable, right?  When I look over this minute piece of art now, I am surprised by the words I wrote on it and they made me take stock of what is important in my life.

For some reason, I have been having a difficult time in terms of inspiration and motivation.  Add to that the physical problems and you have a pretty good idea why there has not been a blog for the past few weeks.  I think I am moving past this stage right now and if I can go another week without the colour pink surrounding my pupils, I just might get myself back on track.  My sleep patterns need adjusting as I slept a lot over the past few weeks.  That was probably to combat the weeks before when sleep was a scarce commodity.  Let us just say, I think the worst is over and maybe I can get back to the business of living and that means making art in all forms.

I did keep up doodling on index cards during this time as well as doing a fair amount of braiding.  Reading kind of went by the wayside for obvious reasons.  It really is difficult to read when your eye is dripping fluid.  But, this did not keep me from quick bursts of colour and patterns on the index cards. Another plus, I finished a braid last night that has taken over 8 hours of braiding.  What I have learned from that braid, measure your embroidery floss to the size you really need for an actual piece.  I thought making an extra long cord that would turn into 2 or 3 bracelets was being time efficient.  The reality of this is that I am goal oriented and I like to see results.  Consequently, I just threaded the bobbins for my kumihimo loom with shorter, bracelet length pieces of a dark blue ribbon.  I have a story about the ribbon too.

I did manage a trip to the supply shoppe to pick up some items that were on sale.  One of my downfalls is that I love ribbon and when I find it on sale and know how I can use it, I stock up.  Really stock up!
So, I was walking around the store looking at all the eye candy and a young man came up to me.  He had obviously been watching me tear through the ribbon department and was extremely curious.  He stopped me and pointed to my stash of colourful ribbons and had one question, "Why?"  I had to laugh at his face, he was obviously floored at the number of rolls of ribbon.  I explained to him that I made bracelets out of ribbon and all this would soon be wearable art.  I am not so sure he believed me about the "wearable art" aspect, but he sure had a new appreciation for how much damage one woman could do in the ribbon department.  By damage, I refer to my pocket book.  I am a responsible shopper and am known to tidy up store shelves as I shop.  Weird, I know, but I just have to do it.  Maybe deep down, I do not want anyone to think that I caused the chaos.

Anyway, I am back and starting to feel more like myself.  Or what passes for myself, some days I am not so sure.  I seem to be constantly changing in reaction to what I see, hear and feel.  I try to get those feelings down as colours, designs, and/or words on small pieces of card stock.  Hopefully, I am going to move forward enough to keep the momentum going.  I have a few ideas in mind, but I will share those with you in another post.

Have a great week!  Drop me a comment if you would like to start some dialogue on art as a way of healing.  How has it helped you or would you be willing to give it a try?

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The days of summer

It is now summer and with the longer days of daylight upon us, one would hope that there would be equally more time in the studio.  Such is not the case.  I wrote previously about having a problem with my eyes, a case of pink eye to be exact.  Just when I thought it was gone after coming back to haunt me, it has returned yet again.  I am guessing that this will warrant a trip to the doctor or at the very least to the pharmacy to see what they have that will get rid of this problem.  The problem with most medications is that you can only use them for three days and have to stop.  I suspect if I had continued for another couple of days, I might have conquered this problem.  Oh well, not to worry!  It will take a lot more than three rounds of pink eye to keep me down.

I am still braiding using the kumihimo loom and I seem to be addicted to this form of weaving.  In fact, I keep two of the round looms threaded up and ready to use so that I can  always be doing something with my hands even when listening to a newscast or some music.  End caps seem to be an expense that I am not really willing to think about and so I have ordered some wire from a beading supply company.  Using the wire, I should be able to make my own end caps and then be ready to make up the many pieces of cord that I have made thus far.  I am quite excited by this and looking forward to moving on to the next stage in production using the braids.

Jewelry has always been something that interested me.  I never really wore any whilst working in florist shoppes.  Since I was usually plunging my hands into buckets to retrieve my knife or working to prep a mountain of roses for the display case, wearing jewelry just was not practical.  Even when I worked in an office, I still refrained from wearing anything decorative so that it was not in the way when I was typing, doing inventory, or any of the other duties my position entailed.  But, at this stage in my life, I find that I want to wear interesting pieces that stand out from the norm.  At this point, I have only made bracelets and have cords ready for necklaces.  But, I want to get further into the discovery of what might be possible and have been doing a lot of reading and viewing videos on YouTube.  Rings seem to be a logical next step as do earrings.  There are so many things to learn and it seems daunting on one hand, but on the other hand, I cannot wait to try new techniques.

Patience!  That has never been a virtue that I have had in any quantity.  I want to learn everything and try every technique as soon as possible.  Learning to do things properly is making me take my time and proceed with caution.  My budget is also making me take my time learning since I can only allow myself to spend a certain amount on beads, wire, books, and all the other items needed to proceed with the making of jewelry.  I want my jewelry to be fun, alive, but at the same time show that I know what I am doing.  I want to think that what I make will be something that someone might want to wear.  So, a certain amount of refinement will be necessary in the creation of all things bejeweled.

Refined, that word makes me smile.  No one would ever accuse me of being refined.  For the most part, my daily wardrobe consists of one of the few pairs of track pants I own, paired with t-shirts that I inherited from a friend.  The t-shirts all have stripes on them, for the most part shades of orange with a few with blue stripes just to add a little variety.  My friend loves stripes and that is okay with me.  She gets tired of her shirts and knows that there is a good home for them.  I wonder if the fact that the shirts are all striped might be the reason why she gets tired of her collection so quickly.  Just a thought that I am putting out there.

Back to the subject of jewelry!  I should be working on end cap tutorials later this week, once the wire arrives.  So, that will take me to the next stage in the process.  Once end caps are mastered, I am on to closures and that entails a lot of different styles.  Yes, you can purchase pre-made closures, but what is the fun in that?  I want to learn how to make my own just because it is something that I should know how to do.  Once I get past all the learning stages, I might take some short cuts and use closures that I purchase from a craft shoppe, but for now, I plan to take every chance that I can and learn by doing all these little bits of the craft.  I know that I will never work in a jewelry shoppe or be considered a jewelry artist, but at least I will have another skill to put down on my mental resume. 

For now, my artistic pursuits seem to be scattered all over the map, much like my thought process.  My mind flits from one subject to another much like the bees in the garden making their way from one flower to another.  I am just hoping that the ideas I pick up from so many places will gel and take on some formation or shape.  Whether it is on canvas, worn around someones neck or some doodles on an index card, it is all art.  I can be happy with that and satisfied that I am making progress.  Maybe a little slower than I would like, but as long as I am learning and having fun on the way, I am okay with the speed.

How are your artistic pursuits coming along?  Has summer inspired you or slowed you down due to the many social activities all taking place during this short span of time?  It is okay, take your time, but try to be true to yourself and find just a little bit of time to be creative.  Baking cakes, cookies and other goodies count as being art, edible art.  Just look through the many web sites showing amazing cakes decorated with flowers, borders, and other interesting ideas.  Anyone who can put a show piece together that looks like a master baker was in their kitchen is definitely artistic.

Have a wonderful week! 

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Starting up again slowly

So, it has been a couple of weeks since I last wrote to you about what was happening in my life and in my studio.  I dropped out of sight, leaving dust to accumulate in the studio and my beloved books, art supplies, and paper to sit in the storage closet.  I knew something was wrong, I just was not feeling the drive I would normally feel when contemplating new projects.  Feeling down, I just let life move on whilst I tried to catch up on sleep which never seemed to come.

Well, this past week, I found out what was brewing in my body when I woke up one morning to find my right eye running fluid with the white area a nasty shade of pink leaning to red.  Oh yeah, pink eye in all its glory.  Just to make the day even better, my sinuses decided to add to the symptoms and by late day, my left eye had joined the right one and I had a matched pair of running red eyes and I looked somewhat like the zombie from the other world.  Pretty, not so much!

I am looking much better today!  My eyes are returning to normal, but I am on high alert and ensuring that all hard surfaces are sterilized and that I keep my hands away from my eyes at all times.  I use paper toweling to wash my eyes, put a fresh towel on my pillow each night and just in general try to observe every rule of staying healthy.  I am sharing this with you for a reason.  When it became clear to me what was happening, I e-mailed friends advising them to be on the alert for pink eye.  The next day, one friend e-mailed back saying that he had woken up with one eye swollen shut and oozing clear fluids.  Well, on the bright side, he knew what had happened to him in his sleeping hours and was able to pick up the required meds on his way into work.  I am just saying, it is always good to be aware of what "bugs" are out there and ready to strike during any particular season.

The good news is that not only are my eyes looking and feeling better, I seem to have gotten a fresh look at how I need to proceed artistically - slowly, but with determination.  Quinn Mcdonald has written a wonderful book, Raw Art Journaling, which helps by giving you ideas on creating prompts to help you get your thoughts, dreams and such into a journal by using creative prompts and the use of art.  You do not need to be an artist to start journaling!  You just need to have a desire to put your ideas down on paper in some form, whether it be using paints, coloured pencils, cutting out words from books, magazines or other publications you have handy.

Quinn also writes a wonderful blog and somehow manages to put up a post every few days.  I am so impressed!  I struggle to write something that I hope gives you ideas of what I am trying to accomplish once a week.  To get a post up more often would have me struggling to find the words.  And maybe, that is where my problem comes from.  Maybe I need to focus on just putting marks on paper and let my inner artist out to play.  A few words to prompt a thought or idea would be the icing on the cake!  So, I need to set my sights on smaller pieces for the moment until I get my feet wet in the artistic waters again.  By the way, you really should sign up and read Quinn's words of encouragement.  Read up and sign up for her blog at:

In a blog this past week, Quinn met up with Tammy Garcia, another creative soul at the Great American Scrapbook Convention that was being held at Arlington, Texas.  Tammy told Quinn about something she called the ICAD Project --> Index Card a Day Project.  In this project, you use index cards to build up pages to put together for a journal.  Take one small card a day and decorate the border.  Tammy's idea is that a blank card even as small as an index card can be as much of a block to  someone as a 16" x 20" inch canvas or a standard 8.5" x 11" piece of paper.  What do you draw on the paper or index card?  Tammy's idea of starting by decorating the border and corners of the cards and maybe come up with a colour theme for a series of cards.  Once you have the borders decorated, it will make it easier to come up with ideas on what to put in the center of each card.  This makes so much sense!  Quinn suggests putting your scrapbook ideas in place, use your coloured pencils, pens, markers, add some other paper accents and grab your paper punches.  Get your series of cards together and see where they take you artistically.  That is so what I need right now and I am eager to give this a try today!  Seriously, read Quinn's post, take a good look at her examples and ready, get set, get rocking a new look for a small journal of manageable proportions.  No intimidation!  No stressing!  Just simple doodling, making interesting marks and add some embellishments.  Then, you are so ready to write something interesting or provocative on your pages.  Whether you share your journals with others is up to you, but half the fun of journaling is sharing ideas with others working with the same medium. 

One of my nagging fears with journalingDonley and DeAnn Singh.  In this book, the authors encourage us to use anything to make marks on paper, try forming your letters in different ways.  Not to worry!  There are a lot of samples to give you some ideas and the letters are formed on grids so that you can duplicate these and learn how to work on each pen/marker stroke.  At last, I just might be able to come up with a style of lettering that means something and is personal to me.  I feel empowered at this point and think that making a small journal is doable over the next week.  I will not pressure myself to decide on a topic at this point, I plan to enjoy putting coloured strokes together to make interesting borders and perhaps even work a few stamps into the designs.  Once I get a supply of the index cards decorated, then I can progress into what words I want to add to the pages.  Hopefully, by next week, I will have a journal or two to share with you.  I am so hoping that this is what happens!

Meanwhile, yes, I am still deep into the kumihimo braiding and it appears this is going to be an all consuming form of art for me to work on and learn to work the braids into pieces of jewelry, bookmarks, lanyards and so on.  I am so hoping to be able to work on a bracelet with beads worked into the braids.  I know I need to be patient, but this is consuming me and even when my eyes were at their watery worst over the past few days, I still managed to braid for a few hours each day.  I am determined to make an amazing bracelet, but I will be patient and get my speed up on the braiding and then start working on the beading aspect.

I hope you are finding some time to be creative and pursue ideas that have been percolating in the back of your mind.  Take a chance!  Try something that you have always wanted to work on and go for it!  Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do this, just go for broke, put your supply kit together and find a quiet spot to work on your dream.  You just might surprise yourself.  I hope you take a look at Quinn's book "Raw Art Journaling" to get some amazing ideas and then let your creative juices get flowing with Marci's and DeAnn's book, "Hand Lettering."  I think you will forget your fears and be able to ignore that nagging voice in the back of your head that tells you that you cannot be creative.  Drown out the voice with some wonderful music and start making your marks, letters, your own creative way.  Just start with the borders and work your way inward when you feel ready.  It really is that easy!

Have a wonderful week!  Let me know what you are working on, I would so love to hear.  But, at the very least, make a start, even if it is a small one, but it will lead you forward.

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A challenging week leads to another

So, last Sunday, I decided to run out and visit a craft supply shop and dropped a bit more cash than I had really budgeted to spend.  Sadly, that is not uncommon for me when in the midst of art nirvana and after getting back home, I decided to issue myself the ultimate challenge:  go the rest of the week without spending any money.  Right, we know where this is going, do we not?  Well, actually, we, the "royal we" not only managed to follow through, but it really was not as difficult as I thought it might be.

I was very frugal for years and years, never buying unless I could pay for something up front.  Whilst I would put a purchase on my credit card, I would then go to the bank and transfer funds to cover the statement within a day or two of the purchase.  Once I got a computer, I could transfer funds from the comfort of my home.  I did go off the tried and true path at one point and that caused me several years of hellish nightmares.  Mea culpa!  I did it to myself in order to preserve the image that all was well when that was really far from the truth.  My mobility was getting from a slight problem to moving into being a major issue and traveling to work was my nemesis.  Suffice it to say, through the help of a concerned sister, I managed to work my way to solvency and swore that I would never end up in such a position again.  And I definitely will not!

So, I put the brakes on my spending last week and aside from the scheduled payments that automatically go out of my operating account to pay the mortgage, condo fee and such, I am happy to say that I did not make any purchases through to and up until this very day.  I am not deep in despair at not going out and buying as I normally would and found the week a good time to use up what was in the fridge, items that were in the studio and so on.  Molly Cat had her requisite treat dish filled daily, but perhaps the treats were doled out a tad more carefully.  That is not a bad thing!  Both our girlish figures will thank us for being careful with treats and when we do indulge, we will enjoy them more.  At least that is my thought, Molly may not be quite as content with a simpler life, but she will survive, as will I.   

Thinking that the week would be a bit of a doze, I really did not set an agenda for myself and found that my mood was a bit off.  But, it was not the lack of spending, it was more the lack of going out and doing something or meeting up with a friend at the coffee kiosk.  So, in order to continue such a challenge, I would have to come up with some creative ways of socializing and motivate myself to spend more time in the studio.  I am still working on these two issues, it will take some time to work out the bugs and implement a plan of action.

Meanwhile, I did not purchase any books, resolving to read what is already in my personal library, either in physical presence or loaded on my e-reader.  I did not buy any goodies from the online art supply vendors that are my normal budgetary vices.  Not one thing was purchased.  I do feel that I accomplished something by challenging myself in this way.  I will look at items differently now and decide whether the purchase is emotionally driven or a true necessity.  How long this lull in purchasing will last will be determined by my resolve to eliminate unnecessary items and stick to putting only truly needed items in the shopping basket.

I am not going to eliminate my coffee kiosk visits too dramatically as that is my outing for the week in many cases.  Where I need to watch myself the most is when I am online looking at web shoppes.  Be very wary of purchases made after 11 p.m.!  I can attest to the fact that most of my online purchases are made late at night and my new plan is to make a note of what I want to buy, then go back in the light of day, preferably in the early afternoon and review what I was looking at and determine how much I really need those items.  Sound like a plan!  Now, I will have to see if I can hold myself to it.

So, how is your week playing out?  Are you ready to try the no spending challenge?  Let me know how you make out if you give it a try.  It really does make you look at your spending in an entirely different way and can help you recognize the signs of emotional spending.  Not pleasant to acknowledge, but it really is a wise person who can sit down and put a stop to it.  I wish you well if you give it a try and can give you some pointers if you contact me.  But, the first thing is to put your mind to it and put the credit card/debit card away in a safe place.  Meaning one that you have to work on to get into.  Eventually, you will hit your stride and not have to go to such lengths to avoid spending, I promise!

Have a great week!

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Another month bites the dust

Can you believe that the month of May is almost done?  That makes me sad in some ways as I do enjoy the spring weather.  But, it is more truthful to say, that any month in which I can escape outdoors without a jacket or sweater is a month to be savoured.  So, I will not allow myself to be sad that the month is coming to a close, but will celebrate that a few more months of lovely weather will follow.

May was a good month for - a  me in terms of getting things done or learning new techniques.  The kumihimo braiding was something that I had wanted to try for a long time and now that I have mastered the basic steps, I find myself braiding at any and all hours of the day when I just need to sit down and refocus my mind for a bit.  I found a few balls of crochet cotton in a bin in the studio and have set them aside to try on the loom in the upcoming week.  One ball is a glittery gold colour which I think could be turned into an interesting braid to wear around the neck once a suitable pendant is found for it.  I have a package of black lacquered bamboo tiles, about an inch long and half of an inch wide, that could become a pendant once I either paint a pattern or decoupage an interesting decal onto.  When I am out and about, I tend to look through sewing/craft departments and often find interesting bits such as the tiles.  One of my most recent finds was in a discount bin containing discontinued items - a small package of ladybug buttons.  Looking at these now, I can picture them being sewn onto a flat braid, likely a black one with hints of red peeking through.  I suspect that this is going to be my next project on the braiding loom.

My mind seemed to be on overload for the better part of the past week and I have made a lot of notes to follow up on with more than a few projects on the horizon.  Looking at one particular web site that I enjoy,, I found that Marisa has added some wonderful neon accents to her product line.  Washi tape, stickers, paper tags along with a few other items found their way into my cart and I am looking forward to playing with these pieces and adding them to some collage ideas that have been percolating in my mind.  Marisa writes a fun blog that you would definitely enjoy, especially the ones put up on Mondays entitled "Monday Eye Candy."  Pictures of different paper crafts and such are put up for all to enjoy and will definitely make you smile.  Having a look at the blog will certainly entice you into her web shoppe and I can pretty much guarantee that you will be wanting to pick up on some of the lovely washi tape.  I suppose I mention that because that is one item I am always drawn to admire and most times to buy a few rolls.  Adding the tape to cards, envelopes, loot bags and such is an easy way to bring them up to the next level and to colour coordinate these items to a particular theme.  If you see something you like, best be quick about ordering them as they fly off of the shelves! The nice thing about overindulging in the goodies from Omiyage is that they are calorie free and will not go to waste whilst waiting for you to decide which project you want to use them in first.  But, do use them!  How sad to buy these items and not put them to good use as soon as possible.

Now, what else has been percolating in my busy little mind?  Percolating may not be the most wisely chosen word since I found myself making a lot of coffee over the past week.  But, maybe that was why I made so many notes to follow up on!  I am starting a project that I may have alluded to previously, a new journal with larger paintings or collages to follow based on the journal pages.  Since I am progressing using Suzi Blu's book, "Mixed Media Girls," the idea of doing a journal containing pages of children, faeries and other majickal creatures has again crept into my conscious mind.  Suzi's book is a wonderful guide on how to achieve the winsome child faces that I hope to draw.  Her idea of basing your proportions using graph paper is spot on and I now keep a book of graph paper nearby so that I can practise at a moment's notice.  I still need to work on the body proportions, but feel that the work on the first page of my journal will commence soon.  I am working on selecting colours, patterns, and other elements to make it special.  The subject will be a little girl dressed to the nines in all her faerie splendour, complete with the requisite wings, trying her best to turn the family feline into an elephant.  Molly Cat has informed me that she will not pose for this particular piece, feeling that it is below her dignity.  I will just have to make do with pictures of Molly in her various poses in order to capture the correct posture of the sleeping cat I see flopped out on the chair.  As soon as I complete this piece I will share it with you so you will have an idea of where my mind flits to when it escapes a mundane afternoon in the flat.

May was a good month in which I managed to finish reading a few books.  Friends brought me over a copy of "Fifty Shades of Grey" which I plan to start later today.  I also have a few other books loaded on the e-reader and am anxious to start.  A few pertain to the art of writing and an equal number will hopefully teach me some new techniques to try in the studio.  So, it would appear that June will be a month of learning again.  But, every month should be one in which we learn new things.

With just a few days left in May, I still want to enjoy each one of them rather than just dash into another month without a thought.  I will make notes regarding which books I should keep handy to refer back to for artistic tutoring and I also need to make notes on which balcony plants need to be replanted.  I did not get around to replanting the rosemary and must do that this week to ensure that I have a good crop to put away for the winter months.  The geraniums are blooming nicely, but I have yet to go out and pick up the pansies that I really would like to see sitting on the outdoor table just outside the slider doors.  If the weather is nice and I have the scooter charged up, I just might make my way to a vendor on Monday that I know to have a nice selection of plants.  Getting my treasures home could be a bit tricky, but I will make sure that I bring a few bungee cords to tie a flat down to the cart on the front of the scooter.  Surely, if I drive slowly, carefully, a flat of assorted plants will survive the short ride home.  Then, it will be back to the shoppes to pick up another bag of soil and a few more pots to provide homes for the plants.

With all of these activities/ideas floating around, I wonder if I will accomplish all of them?  I really hope to do so in order to make the most of each day.  The prospects of colourful plants on the balcony, journal pages to complete, and cords to be braided, all call out to me saying that I need to complete this first rather than something else.  Just so much temptation and only so many hours in each day and I hardly know where to begin.  But, as with any journey, it all begins with one step.  What step will you begin with this week?  I would love to hear from you about what you are beginning or finishing, if that be the case.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Making progress slowly, but steadily!

Another week has passed by and I have to wonder where all that time went.  Is it not strange that those days, with untold potential, could race by at the speed of sound and leave so little done behind?  I try to make the most of each day as best I can.  Some days, moving around is difficult, so any tasks requiring me to walk for more than a few moments or to stand too long, will be left to deal with at another time.  This past week was one in which I managed to capture some extra time to read, practise drawing, work on braiding as well as deal with the day to day activities that demand my attention.  So, the week was a success in a manner of speaking.

I am watching my little garden develop slowly, but surely.  From what I am seeing, the rosemary plants will need to be replanted as I obviously did not get enough water to them.  This time I will plant the seeds in larger pots which will hold the moisture longer.  The parsley is off to a good start and I should have a fairly generous crop of different types of basil.  No sign of flowers as yet so I might break down and buy a few pots of pansies to lend some colour amongst all the greenery.  One the tomatoes get going I can look forward to splashes of red on the balcony.  Hopefully the naughty little birds that come to perch on the railing mind their manners and leave my crops along.  But, just in case, I have my water squirting bottle handy to reinforce my rule of leaving my crops alone.  Sounds mean, but in another flat, I had some creature toss my plants about, taking them right out of the soil.  I never caught that thief at work, sadly.  So that little garden did not end happily.

The books on my night stand are growing each day as I delve into different artistic pursuits.  Suzi Blu's book "Mixed Media Girls" is definitely a favourite go to book already.  She has such a nice way of giving you the information in stages to help you to build up the skills necessary to draw your own version of how you envision a character to appear.  One of the best tips that I have learned this week is that balancing the positioning of the eyes is key to making your character look realistic.  So, Suzi's advice is to use graph paper to work on and practise placing eyes in the correct position.  My thought at this time is also to practise the different looks depending on how low the eye lid is placed.  It is amazing how just a slight difference in where the eye lid is can totally take your character from appearing bright and eager to slow and contemplative.

"Mixed Media Girls" comes along with an instructional DVD with Suzi giving some lessons on making your mixed media girls along with some great tips on how to achieve some great looks with your mixed media pieces.  Covering the final piece with beeswax will seal and take care of the edges that might otherwise detract from the look.  The warm wax is spread across the canvas and settles around all the edges of material that you may have glued to your piece. Once the wax is dry, you buff it up with a soft cloth and the effect is that of giving a softer look, almost ethereal to your piece.  I am all up for that!  So, this week will be spent in the studio working on my mixed media girls.  And, thanks to Suzi, I have a project in mind that I will share with you once I actually get down to working on it.  For now, I need to perfect my drawing skills and get face proportions figured out.  But, I think with this book beside me, the skills I have not been able to develop just might have a chance to allow me to put together some quirky little ladies.

Of course the kumihimo braiding is still a force to be reckoned with in my life.  I have become addicted to it and I now automatically keep the loom ready to go with the warps in place so that should I sit down to watch the news on television or listen to some music, I can start making another braid.  I tried making one out of one quarter inch ribbon and it turned out very nicely if I do say so myself.  I am going to get some end caps made to finish off the braid and add a pendant to my newest necklace.  Two other braids that I made were done with embroidery floss which makes for a much finer piece of cord.  Truthfully, even though the embroidery floss takes much longer to work up into a braid, I still prefer working with it because of the end result.  The fineness of the braid just is more feminine, dainty and I can envision sewing a few strategic pearls to accent a delicate pendant at the focal point.   Kumihimo is definitely a skill to master if you want to work on something without having to follow a scripted pattern.  Once you get into the rhythm of working with the warps, auto pilot goes on and the braid just happens.  You can be having a zen moment and be totally relaxed by the time you finish with your session.  My problem is, I do not want to stop and have actually spent an entire afternoon working on one of the braids.  Like I said, this is addictive, so be warned if you decide to give it a try.  I still have not mastered adding beads to the warp threads, but I will get to that point.  I think I just need to focus on the braids for a bit, see how the square loom produces a flat cord.  Plus, I hope to try the round loom with sixteen bobbins which should prove interesting.  I picked up an extra pack of bobbins for this reason and will let you know how that little project turns out.  I suspect that once I get into the rhythm of moving the threads and turning the loom just slightly to make my way to the next pair, I will be able to produce braids that should be somewhat thicker, but still maintain their daintiness.  Again, this is something I need to do in order to figure out how it all works together in the scheme of things.  You know, the worst thing to happen would be for me to not like the look of the braid.  That does not deter me from trying since I would still be learning whilst working on the project.  As long as you learn something from what you are doing, you are not wasting time.  

A few friends will be dropping by later in the week.  They were supposed to come last week, but a death of friends father had them traveling in the opposite direction to attend the services.  So, brownies, cookies and something else, not yet determined will be baked off mid week.  I suspect there will be chocolate brownies along with butterscotch ones since one of the lads coming has a particular fondness for that particular variety.  The main thing is that I will spend some time with three of the people I love the most in the world.  We have been friends for thirteen years and just seem to know when the other needs to hear from one of us.  So I will be spending an evening with three of the people I love the most in the world.  Here is hoping that we are still getting together over platters of brownies in another thirteen years.
I hope you have an equally satisfying week!  Take some time to learn a new skill, plant some flowers or read a good book.  Anything that gives you some personal satisfaction and relaxes you would be perfect to get you to your zen place.

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What are you reading this week?

 I have to admit, I am totally addicted to reading and cannot leave my flat without bringing either a hard copy or my e-reader to keep me busy whilst waiting for an appointment or sipping a coffee at a kiosk.  Reading is so much more than a luxurious way to spend my time, in fact I cannot think of going through a day without spending an hour or two curled up enjoying some form of a book. 

Although I enjoy good fiction, lately I have found myself reading two well written books pertaining to business.  Arlene Dickinson's "Persuasion" and Robert Herjavic's "Driven" are both loaded on my e-reader.  Both authors are panelists on the Canadian version of Dragon's Den and prove themselves to be adept as authors and business leaders.  I have finished "Persuasion" and found the book to be a very personal account of Ms Dickinson's ascent into becoming one of the top CEO's in Canada, her company Venture Communications being a leader in coming to the aid of companies needing assistance in turning their image around.  Whilst I am just over half way through Herjavic's "Driven," I can see that this is a book that I will likely go back to reread again and again.  While he writes about how his early life as a young child arriving in Canada from Croatia, he transitions his story into an outline on starting up and running a successful business.  Both books provide a lot of life lessons that will be beneficial even for those not planning to start up their own business and I can definitely say that both books are top reads meriting five star ratings.

Moving on through the books spread out on my coffee table/night stand, I am also working my way through "Braiding with Beads on the Kumihimo Disk" (Karen DeSousa),  "Doodles Unleashed" (Traci Bautista) and "Mixed Media Girls (Suzi Blu).  I am hoping that the first book will help me learn the beading techniques and patience required to work tiny seed beads into some jewelry that I am trying to produce.  Yes, I am still deeply intrigued with Japanese braiding and whilst I have a long way to go before I would deem myself proficient in the art, I have to confess that even though I have torn apart several braids to rework them, I am not disheartened. The braiding involves a fair amount of concentration, but at the same time seems to make me relax.  The dancing bobbins of thread attract the attention of one very lively little kitten who desperately would love to capture and run away with one.  So far, I have managed to keep Molly Cat from tearing apart any of my work in progress, but keeping tabs on completed braids is proving to be a chore.  For some reason, Molly loves to play with the completed braids, tossing them into the air, catching them and I suspect she is pretending that they are little critters needing to be banished from our little home.  No damage has been done and I have to admit, I do laugh at her antics which only encourages her to be even more naughty.  Regardless, I will work my way through the book and hopefully be adding beads to my braids successfully within the next while.

I have acquired a square kumihimo loom which produces a flat braid as opposed to the round braids that make their way off of the round loom.  I guess that makes sense when you think about it, but then, I have never used a loom before and this art form is new to me and anything could result from the continuous moving of the warp threads.  Please note that "warp" is referring to the threads and not to the speed at which I am producing the braid.  I have been using embroidery floss to make the braids and this makes for a very finely woven braid, very appealing I have to admit.  I am not one who is drawn to chunky jewelry, but that could change once I try something different.  Finding some coarser crochet cotton left over from another project, I suspect that I will give this a try to see what kind of braid results.  Any time spent working on this and learning is time well spent to my way of thinking.  My line of thought being that as long as I am learning something, the time I spend "playing" is really adult education of some sort.

The other two books are hopefully going to help me in my quest to learn how to draw with better accuracy whilst still encouraging me allow the free spirited artist within to just "go for it" and have fun.  Traci Bautista and I seem to be cut from the same cloth in that we both find art tools in every room of the flat.  The pattern of paper towelling can be transferred onto card stock, plastic lids from different jars can be inked to make circles on wrapping paper, and straws, stir sticks and skewers can all be used to scratch patterns on your mixed media pieces.  "Doodles Unleashed" provides a lot of ideas without telling you how to make a piece of art.  The prompts are there for just that reason, to give you an idea to try something different just to see how "your" piece of art develops.  You learn to save those odd bits of paper, thread, and crayons and pull them out in front of you to see just what you might come up with on any particular day.  The point is to have fun with your art, not to set out to make a predetermined piece that everyone else might also make.  Take some basic guidelines, and just let your piece develop the way you see it and with the colours that you feel like working with.  That is my kind of art!

But, I still would like to learn to to draw faces of a somewhat realistic nature but still have a certain whimsical charm to them.  Just to be clear, I am not aiming for the clown like faces sporting dunce caps on them, I find these just a tad too over the top.  I enjoy simple faces that have a natural but doll like look if that makes sense.  I am not trying to draw or paint portraits, just to give the idea of a face without too much emphasis on detail.  Express emotion, have some realistic qualities, but at the same time be fun and allow me to personalize them according to how I feel on that particular moment.  "Mixed Media Girls" encourages you to find the look that is authentic to your style of art and make interesting mixed pieces that incorporate all mediums to come up with textured art that appeals to you visually and emotionally.

Sounds like quite a lot on the go right now and yes, it is.  But, I love being challenged, tempted and eager to get moving every day.  Reading has that capability about it.  Amazing how powerful the written word can be and where it can take you if you let it.  What books are you reading and where are they leading you?  Will you try a new recipe this week or think about putting pen to paper to build a start up plan for a business?  Take time to read for at least an hour each day, whether it is fiction, an autobiography or whatever appeals to you.  It really is time well spent and you never know where your journey might take you.  You know, we might even cross paths!  Now, that would be fun and possibly dangerous in the best of ways.

Have a wonderful week and take some time for yourself to curl up with a good book.  I promise you, it will be time well spent!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Moving along at my own pace

How can a week have gone by already?  Every Sunday I sit back and make plans for the upcoming week only to find that I rarely work past the halfway mark on said list.  I find that terribly frustrating in some ways and in other ways feel that this seems to be the way my life runs.  Always a step or two behind where I had hoped that I would find myself when I do a little mental check of how the week is progressing.

I had hoped to finish reading "Persuasion" but that did not happen.  I have made good progress through the book and am thoroughly enjoying it.  My e-reader tells me that I have read just over 80% of the book and with that in mind, I expect that I will reach the end by Tuesday or so.  I make no promises on that as I know that my plans can change without notice, on just a whim.   The e-reader seems to keep tabs on my reading habits and sends me messages every so often, just to make sure that I am aware of how my reading habits relate to my day to day life.  I tend to do most of my reading between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.  My reading periods tend to range between 1 to 1.5 hours though I have read for over the 2 hour stretch on a few occasions.  When those magic moments occur, I receive a little message saying "Gee, you must really enjoy this book!  You have been reading for over 2 hours."  I suppose that these little messages are meant to encourage you to read even more and they do.  I have to admit that I look forward to these little e-notes and find it amusing that a little machine takes such an interest in my reading habits.  How sad is that!  Needing validation from my e-reader that I am putting my time to good use.  This seems to be a sign of the times, we need to know that we are not wasting our time.  But, what determines if something is a waste of time?

Admittedly, I do not like to think that I waste time.  Making the most of each day is something I strive for, but truthfully, what I consider to be a good use of time may not be the best in the view of others.  If you do not find yourself drawn to the pursuit of art in its many forms, then you would find my playing with coloured inks, paints, Japanese papers and other mediums to be a colossal misuse of the afternoon and early evening hours.  I find that I can lose myself whilst working on different colour intensities and enjoy the time I spend working on these in combination with other colours.  Reading books on drawing techniques and practicing in hopes of becoming a better artist seems like time well spent to me.  And, I can share these thoughts with you since you are following on my journey, whereas if I were to share these thoughts with others, I would find that they get that glassy eyed look signalling that they have mentally checked out for a bit.  I am careful when I am out with others that I try not to get into long discussions of what art forms I find interesting at that moment in time. 

My interests vary each day according to what I may have read online, heard about on the radio or caught a glimpse of in a magazine.  I am still deep into learning about braiding, a Japanese art form known as kumihimo and spent a lot of time trying a few braids over the past few days.  One in particular took over 8 hours to complete and is about 16 inches in length.  Yes, that was a long time to spend on one piece, but when you take into consideration that I was working with embroidery thread, you can well imagine how fine the resulting braid is, meaning that it is not a chunky braid, but a slender one with the colours entwining throughout the rope.  I learned how to whip the ends of the braid so that a end cap can be attached allowing the piece to be made into a necklace or bracelet.  Making an end cap out of 18 gauge wire is on this week's agenda as is learning to work beads onto the braid.  I did try with some beads that I had on hand, but realize that I need to start off using smaller seed beads in order to learn the technique.  I will persevere with the hopes of making a few pieces of jewelry to add colour to my wardrobe as well as to make a gift for a friend who is moving away shortly. 

Today is a day that I have set aside to do some cooking a la Julie Anne Rhodes' PCApproch.  Armed with her menu plan, grocery list and instructions, I have pulled together a few recipes to cook up today and freeze so that dinner can be on the table in minutes when I finally clue in to that rumbling feeling in my stomach.  Seafood risotto, cashew creamed soup, chicken breasts stuffed with herbed goat cheese and a wonderful orzo spinach salad are in the planning stages in my kitchen and will be portioned out and frozen later today.  A marinated salad of mixed vegetables will also be accomplished before the end of the day which comes in handy for the mid afternoon munchies that hit me regularly each day.  Far better to plan ahead and have a container of these waiting for me in the fridge than to make a piece of toast with peanut butter.  I have a love of bread that I need to curb and I am hoping that if I make up a container of vegetables that still have some crunch left in them, that I might get past the craving for carbs. 

Julie Anne (@JulieAnneRhodes on Twitter) mentioned in her blog that giving a membership to her site for a Mother's Day gift would be wonderful for all mums.  I am thinking that a membership would be a lovely gift for new mums who find getting meals on the table along with all the activities involved with taking care of a new little person, to be a bit daunting.  This time of year finds us looking for bridal shower gifts, wedding gifts and so on.  How nice would it be to open up a package to find a new piece of equipment for the kitchen along with a membership to PCA?  Knowing that many new couples like to spend time in the kitchen together, giving them the gift of weekly menus along with the recipes provides them with the tools that will enable them to eat healthy meals on a daily basis without the need to do a major cooking spree every single day.  Take a look at Julie Anne's site at to read about the Personal Chef Approach to cooking and how you can purchase a membership for yourself or as a gift for someone in your life.  I can vouch for the cost saving using this approach to cooking!

Another friend, Jodi, has a wonderful Etsy site that you might want to take a look at if you are looking for a Mother's Day gift.  Mother's Day in North America is on Sunday, May 13 and Jodi can arrange to ship your gift.  She makes the most unique jewelry and I am quite certain that you will find more than one piece that would be perfect for your mum.  Check out Jodi's shoppe at to find something lovely and different.  I find myself going back to the site often to see what is new and get ideas for what might be interesting to wear.  I met Jodi through Julie Anne's web site and we tweet back and forth regularly sharing thoughts on what we are cooking.  You see, everything revolves around food, or so it seems.   

So, that is how this past week played out and how this week is starting off.  I think that spending a few hours in the kitchen will put me in a zen spot mentally and allow me to mellow out as well as put some ready to heat meals in my freezer.  That will allow for more studio time and hopefully, some finished pieces to put up for you to see.  I am moving along at my own pace and whilst it would be nice to move forward a bit more quickly, I am content that as long as I am working on something, that my time is well spent.

Have a wonderful week!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A week of braiding, reading, and planting

Oh, it has been such a busy, but fun week.  A satisfying one in which I learned a new craft/skill.  A week in which I took the time to think about a book I finished last week, found myself engrossed in another, and watched as little seedlings grew just a bit more as more seeds sprouted.  Yes, weeks like that are extremely satisfying.

I am not saying that the week was without problems.  An extremely windy day managed to pry my window screens from my bedroom window and by the time this was noticed, the screens were long gone.  So, at this time, I am unable to open the window lest something fly into my flat.  New screens are on order and the company that is to install them and who installed the first set of screens, has been asked to make sure that the screens are now screwed into the window frame preventing the wind from absconding or a wee feline from pushing the screen out and find herself on the ground below the window.

As you know, last week I told you about Twixt, the book written by Diane J Reed.  I find myself still thinking back to the book and the story.  Diane, if you are reading this, I think you could write another book carrying on with these characters as there is more to the story of Chance Murphy.  I am not prepared to let him go just yet and feel as if I have lost a friend with the book ending, the story completed.  I am certain that Chance has more life lessons to teach us in his gentle way and so I ask you to at least think about another installment about the man/bird.  Enough said.  I will only add that if you enjoy a story with a bit of the mystical in it, then you really do need to read Twixt.  I would be interested if you found yourself as involved as I did and reluctant to say good-bye to the characters.

The next book on my reader is Persuasion by Arlene Dickinson, a very successful entrepreneur who runs a major company in Canada with branches in Calgary and Toronto.  The book covers a bit of her early life, where she was, what happened to bring her and make her who she is today and lessons in how to go through life successfully either in business or I have found that the lessons in the book can be applied to your daily life.  The book is a good read, chatting to you as if you both were sitting in a cafe chatting comfortably and you find that the discussion is one that you want to remember word for word in order to make notes about it at a later time.  Good common sense advice given in a way that you do not feel that someone is preaching to you and making you feel incompetent.  I am enjoying the book immensely and cannot wait to get back to it each day.  I suspect that I may have a couple of late nights in order to find more time to read since the daytime hours are full with me spending time in the studio, trying to stay on top of the tidy up required to keep one's home in prime condition and all other tasks that crop up in my daily life. 

My little garden is progressing nicely with more seeds sprouting and waiting their turn to be potted up into larger pots that will hopefully be their final home.  More seeds are ready to be planted in order to bring about more crops of basil and dill for later in the season.  I suspect their will be a few more seeds planted to bring about some flowering plants, just to add a bit of colour to the balcony.  Keeping an eye on all the plants and seedlings to make sure that they are watered enough keeps me busy along with the potting up of the larger seedlings.  I have hauled home enough soil that I am certain the shoppe clerk must wonder what I am doing with it and what kind of garden is growing on a balcony.  Some day when everything is growing and showing a lot of greenery, I will take some snaps to bring along with me when I am out shopping and show the clerk just what I have been trying to accomplish.

The big project for the week was to learn about kumihimo, the art of Japanese braiding.  I purchased the loom from an online supplier of beading supplies and it arrived very quickly.  I watched a tutorial on a web site and away I went to load up the loom and see what I could accomplish.  The art of braiding is actually very calming and you can easily find yourself in a zen like mood whilst calmly moving one thread to another position and on and on.  I was foolish enough to use embroidery floss for my first project and it did take considerable time to produce the strand of braiding that will likely become a bracelet or a bookmark.

Moving on to the next piece to be made, I used a material known as rat tail, a tightly wound piece of fabric that is much thicker than embroidery floss.  This actually worked up into a lovely piece suitable for a bracelet once the proper end caps and clasps have been added.  Surprisingly, I had woven the piece in less than

Just because I was curious as to how the finished project would turn out, I tried the braiding using thin ribbons that I had on hand.  These translated into a lovely braid that worked up quickly without too much angst.  In fact, I was able to do the weaving and watch a bit of telly at the same time. Now, I am not saying that you do not need to be mindful of what you are doing.  That is not the case.  But, when you are moving along nicely, feeling confident that you can follow the pattern without actively thinking about each placement, you will find yourself relaxed, in a happy place and able to listen to music or be somewhat aware of whatever babble is currently being shown on daytime/night time telly.  I find the braiding much more interesting than the television and find myself thinking that certain colours of ribbon would be quite attractive if paired with some beads I picked up on a whim not so long ago.  There are directions for weaving and working beads into your project in online tutorials and I hope to tackle this variation sometime in the near future.  At this point, I find myself content to work with just the threads and want to try a few variations on the placement of the threads.

I see that there are several good books available on the art of kumihimo.  I hope to purchase one or two of these to get more ideas as to how to proceed with the craft and what all I might be able to make.  From what I have seen online, there are a lot of bracelets and necklaces that can be made, with some of them being very trendy while others would be suitable as gifts for the more traditional persons that are in our lives.  Kumihimo is definitely something that I will be working on for quite some time.  I have included some snaps of the pieces that are currently done in terms of braiding.  They need only have the end posts added along with clasps or split rings on which keys can be placed.  A few may become bookmarks and I would likely finish those off with some beads to swing on the end of the braid.  Might just as well make pretty bookmarks instead of using a stray piece of paper.  The nice thing about the weaving is that you can easily tuck it in your purse and pull it out when you find yourself waiting at the doctor's office or when you are sitting having a quiet cup of coffee in a food court.  I love being able to work on pieces to keep my hands busy whilst out and about on my day.  Idle hands and all that, you know.  I am just not someone who can sit idle for any length of time or I begin to get stressed and feel that I should be doing something.

So, that is the week that was.  This week will find me continuing to read Persuasion and working on my kumihimo braiding.  My little garden will continue to grow or so I hope and I plan to plant up more seeds on Monday.  I am eagerly watching my plants in anticipation of the herbs and flowers that will hopefully appear in due time.  That is part of the joy of gardening, the anticipation of what is to come along with the realization that a certain amount of work that will be required to make it all happen.  Everything that brings joy or satisfaction requires a certain amount of effort.  That is the way life is supposed to roll out or at least that is my belief.  No gain is made unless a certain amount of effort is expended. 

Just a mention of a web site that has just celebrated its first anniversary.  Julie Anne Rhodes, the chef behind has an approach to cooking that we can all benefit from trying out.  The Personal Chef Approach provides you with recipes for a week's worth of meals that can be cooked in a few hours.  You set aside a few hours to do the cooking of all the entrees and freeze them for later use.  In my case, I can decide what recipes I am going to cook and whilst it takes me a little longer to get the cooking done in my small kitchen, the end result is that I have enough meals put away in my freezer to last for two to three weeks.  I do not have to worry about what I am going to eat for my evening meal each day, the meal is portion controlled and I save money in that I am not tossing out unused food that is beyond being safe to consume.  Julie Anne puts up a new menu each Wednesday along with the directions for cooking and the shopping list.  All you have to do is go through the shopping list, mark off items you already have in the pantry and shop for what you need.  Then, pick the time when you can have a few hours to cook, using the oven, your slow cooker and the stove top.  Get other items ready to go into the oven and you are in the home stretch, meaning that you will soon be portioning out the meals, cooling them and then freezing them until you are ready to use them.

I really recommend checking out Julie Anne's site and joining the group.  Membership gives you access to the recipe library as well as the forum where we all chime in with our opinions or ask for help with something cooking related.  Molly, Julie Anne's assistant, joins in and answers questions, especially those related to baking.  Julie Anne's specialty is getting you cooking some amazing meals without the stress of not knowing what to cook, what to buy, how to safely handle the foods and freeze them.  The site has web tutorials to help you learn new procedures.  It is as easy as signing up for a membership which is more than worth the amount you will spend each month or if you are wise, purchase the yearly membership and save a few dollars.  Give it a try for a few months and see how much you come to depend on the site for meal time assistance.  You will never look back to how your dinner time prep used to be.  You will have more time for activities that you want to pursue or time for you to spend on yourself, your family.  Truly a win/win situation!

Have a wonderful week!  I hope you have plans to work on some personal pursuits whether they be of an artistic or other nature.  Take some time to enjoy each day, you never know what pleasures await you at the next bend of the journey.  Let me know what you are doing and how your garden is growing, how your art project is progressing.

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A week of gardening, art and majick

Hard to believe it, but another week has passed by.  Whilst it may have seemed slow paced by times, in fact, a lot happened and somehow, I found myself running to get certain tasks completed on time. Usually, just in time.  Hard to fathom how I could run behind when I really do not have a schedule that is engraved in stone.  But, I too frequently found myself lost in the art of painting, gardening or spending some quality time reading.  These activities, along with tending to a furry flat mate who was not shy about letting me know that it was time to play, seemed of more importance than pushing through another load of laundry or sorting out cupboards to make a shopping list.  I frequently looked up from what I was doing to find that three, four, or even five hours has elapsed.  Mind boggling how that can happen!

You see, some days I find my concentration level lacking in quality and my mind flits from one thought to another without pause.  I can be loading up my paint tray with acrylics only to find that what I would really rather be doing would be to pour yet another cup of coffee and sit down to read with a wee furry kitten settled down for a nap on my lap.  Molly gets a tad annoyed when I reach out to grab the largish mug of coffee as it unsettles her from her preferred pose whilst dozing.  This week was one where my attention span was relentlessly focused and I somehow managed to paint, read, garden and then some when it came to activities close to my heart.  It was definitely a week of pure majick!

My little garden is progressing nicely with several pots already out on the balcony allowing the newly sprouted seedlings to toughen up and get ready to stay outside.  I have planted the seedlings up into larger pots and hope that these will provide sufficient room for them to grow over the next while.  The little greenhouse contraptions have been suited up again to house newly planted seeds which will provide more basil, some godetia, sage, and cilantro.  Once these seeds take root and start sending up some greenery, I plant to plant up a few more seeds allowing for more basil, some pansies, and a few other plants that catch my fancy over the next week or two.  I have set some basil, parsley and cilantro seeds aside to get another crop growing inside to keep me in fresh herbs over the fall and winter.  At least, that is the plan for the moment.  This could change should my harvest of herbs provide more than I can reasonably expect to use even with freezing some of the bounty.  My little Garden of Eden is proving to be an interesting experience and keeping me busy with all the misting, potting up and keeping a watchful eye over it to ensure that all seedlings are happy for the moment.

When I was not tending to my garden, I was in the studio staring at blank canvases that somehow ended up being completed for the most part, in one sitting.  Consequently, there are three new snaps of completed acrylic paintings that have touches of acrylic paints, not that you would really notice these little touches.  I know they are there only because that is how I added accents of colour here and there.  But, truthfully, these could have been accomplished with washes of acrylic paints thinned out with a bit of water.  That would not have allowed for me to experiment with the inks to see what all could be accomplished with them.  I still aim to work with the inks exclusively to see how far I can push their capabilities.  You never know what you can do until you try a few things out on test canvases.  But, I can tell you that it is easier to work on larger pieces than it is to try to push detail onto smaller pieces such as ones in the 4 by 6 inch pieces that I have been experimenting with lately. 

I am trying to paint the same subject in three or four different ways, seasons if you will.  I have done up one canvas, a landscape, primarily in blue, a second, another landscape, blue with purple, and the third, a floral, in yellows, oranges, citrus like tones with some deeper red tones.  This week, I hope to push the envelope and try a similar scenes, but done in blacks, greys with the possible inclusion of  smokey blues.  Something very dark that would beg someone to ask what I might have been thinking about whilst painting such a dire scene.  The truth is that when I am painting, my mind goes all over the place whilst still concentrating on what is unfolding in front of me.  I lose complete track of time unless the telephone jars me to consciousness and forces me to reach over to grab the handset.  Luckily, I have two handsets in the studio.  One is cordless, the other plugged into a telephone jack in the wall opposite to my preferred perch when painting.  So, the cordless pretty much follows me around allowing me to keep in touch with the outside world or talk with the postal delivery should there be a parcel requiring my signature.  Very handy, as it turns out I had two such deliveries last week.

Now, on top of gardening and painting, I spent some quality hours with another book loaded on to my e-reader.  "Twixt" is a book that I learned about when Donna J Reed (@TWIXTbook) started to follow me on Twitter.  I look at the bio of each person who decides to follow me and I was intrigued to see that Donna was the author of a book.  I then went to a book site to read about "Twixt" and knew that it was one that I needed to read starting immediately if not sooner.  I do not want to spoil the story for anyone, but "Twixt" is definitely a majickal read, one that will capture your attention as well as your heart.  The love of a mother for her daughter who seems to be trapped within her body and is unable to respond will without a doubt have you anxious for her safety and for her own spirit and soul to return to the little one's body.  A stranger, who rescued the mother and child in one instance, returns to once again save the child from another terror ridden incident where she has wandered away from home in the dark of night.  This mysterious man weaves himself in and out of life deftly.  But sadly, he appears unaware of his importance in their lives.  Whilst I still have a few chapters left to read, I can highly recommend this book and give it a five star rating.  How can a grown woman become so addicted to a book?  I love anything that is suspenseful, especially if it involves characters from the outside the realm of our day to day lives.  We all need a little majick and yes, I realize that this spelling is not the conventional one typically found in most dictionaries.  But then, this type of majick is not the oft depicted pulling of a rabbit from a hat.  There is a huge distinction between the two of these spellings and you need to look into your heart to see the difference.

This week looks like another busy week!  It appears that I am in sync with my inner muse and can hope to accomplish or at least spend some quality time in the studio.  It seems that my mind is working overtime and wants to paint as much as humanly possible whilst still spending time with all other artistic or creative endeavours.  Books are definitely at the top of my list with fiction, artistic technique and jewelery the subjects I am drawn towards.  I found an article about a Japanese braiding technique known as "kumihimo."    Pursuing this art form is at the top of my list since any and all Japanese arts are of interest to me.  Painting on rice paper also intrigues me and will likely be something that I try out in the future.  But, for some reason, jewelry is part of my dreams and I seem to focus on the types of bracelet, brooches or necklaces being shown in magazines and in jewelry shoppe showcases.  Knowing that buying some of these pieces would involve some serious money, I would rather learn on my own how to make some interesting techniques that could lead to either wearable art or become part of a piece destined to hang on a wall at some point.  I will keep you posted as to how this learning adventure progresses and where it takes me.

Meanwhile, I am planning a little trip to a store carrying art supplies hoping to find some glue and a few other items that I need in order to proceed on my journey.  Having a look at some beading supplies is something I anticipate doing soon.  Whilst I do not have a firm plan as to how beads will work their way into what I am doing, I am equally sure that the many patterns, colours and variety of beads will come to play and influence the colours that I choose over the next while.  My little garden will take up a certain amount of time between the tending and planting of seeds.  Truthfully, I cannot wait to see the plants grow and become more than just little bits of greenery sprouting on the top of the soil laden pots. 

I would love to hear about what you are up to whether it is gardening, reading or creating artistically.  It is always fun to hear about what others are doing and perhaps get inspired to try growing a particular plant or or embrace another type of Japanese braiding.  Time spent learning something new is time well spent.

Have a wonderful week!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Life in the not so Garden of Eden

I wrote about my gardening plans last Sunday and I am picking up from where I left off at that point.  My not so "Garden of Eden" is progressing nicely, albeit not as lush in greenery as the first ever garden was reported to be.  My little garden is still very much in a start up phase with more seedlings sprouting and showing signs of life.  Of course, I am still planting even more seeds in hopes of bumper crops of flora and fauna that will amaze not only myself, but some of my skeptical neighbours.

Admittedly, three types of basil, at least two of parsley, savory, rosemary, dill and a few other herbs will most certainly provide not only myself, but a few carefully chosen friends.  The little crop of tomatoes will be frozen for use through the fall and winter months if my plants decide to go wild and send out bounteous blooms that all lead to my much desired fruit crop.  Cherry tomatoes are so wonderful in salads, but I enjoy just a few cut into chunks with basil, a goodly amount of black pepper and just a splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar.  I can actually smell the scent of the ripened tomatoes as I type this post.  More likely the scent comes from the tomatoes on the counter top waiting to be sliced for the evening meal rather than my very much over active imagination.

All the seedlings that I planted about ten days ago have sprouted with the exception of a few.  My little green house contraption has done its job well and the seedlings continue in their development and will be planted up later this week into their starter pots.  The starter geraniums that I purchased have also gone through an amazing transformation and now look like proper healthy plants with one plant even in bloom today.  I was out and about one day this past week and found some more scraggly geraniums hiding under a shelf in a shoppe and got them for a decent price.  So, six more little plants have been potted up into two pots and whilst they still look pretty gnarly, I expect with a little TLC that they will turn around and be splendid within a week or two.

I must tell you this, I have more seeds on their way this week from a splendid greenhouse operation that offers all things related to growing herbs, the plants themselves, seeds, dried herbs as well as essential oils.  I am truly excited at the prospect of the seeds arriving this week and cannot wait to plant said seeds.  My line of thinking is to compare the run of the mill seeds I purchased locally to the very much touted high quality seeds from the catalog of goodies of all things pertaining to gardeners.  I will let you know whether or not it is worth the investment to buy the higher quality seeds.  Truthfully, the cost of the greenhouse seeds was very similar to the ones I purchased already.  It will be interesting to compare the basil genevose from each purveyor to see if the plants differ in quality, the abundance of leaves and the ever important taste test.   I am making notes as the days go along so that I can review them in length before the garden of 2013 is planned and planted.

Looking through seed catalogs is rather like looking through clothing catalogs.  You try to envision how the plants will look growing on the balcony in different pots.  You wonder what combination of herbs will best serve you in terms of usefulness.  This leads to research as to the recipes you favour and the herbs used in each as well as searching out what variety of that particular herb is best used in said recipe.  This gardening is not as simple as it sounds and involves as much mentally as it does physically.  Research seems to be involved in every aspect of my daily routine lately, but I will go into that at another time.

So, as I mentioned, most of the herbs and flower seeds have sprouted little seedlings that still need to develop a bit more before being potted up.  I have brought home numerous pots for this part of the gardening cycle as well as two huge bags of potting soil meant especially for what I am doing.  Once the plants have grown a bit more and been potted up to the next size pot, I will put them out on the balcony for a few hours each day to harden them off and get them used to being outside in all that wonderful light.  My luck, it will rain when I am planning to do this or just be dark and gloomy.  Not to despair, I will still put the little plants out and hope that they get used to being off of my inner window sill and kitchen table.  Molly Cat is getting anxious that her window perch has been taken over by greenery that she is not allowed to nibble on.  My lovely yellow kalanchoe is showing evidence of Molly's quest for fresh nibbles with little yellow remains of blooms being left on the rug.  Sighhhhh!
Keeping Molly from plants is like trying to keep a brownie addict from inhaling the freshly baked pan cooling on the counter.  It just cannot be done to any satisfying degree of proficiency. 

What else is going on in the life of the artist in training you might ask?  Well, I am trying to capture hand poses using my lovely wooden mannequin.  I am keeping the poses politically correct so as not to upset anyone who happens to open my sketch book.  My cleaning lady was here this past Friday and I very prudently put the mannequin in my studio out of her line of sight.  Poor Judy was terribly concerned when she first saw the mannequin and backed away from it as if it were some evil talisman of impending doom.  Really, it was in a very natural pose and not anything that should have alarmed anyone.  But, my Judy is a very skittish lady and becomes terribly agitated over things like books I use for research, some of my dark sketches and so on.  I have found it wise to do a decluttering process prior to her arrival and put away any materials that might spook her.  I smile as I type this as I realize that I left out a book on the significance of different candles and the rituals in which they are used.  Ooopsy!  Note to self:  take note of books I leave on the bedside table and put away any of them that are not main stream fiction.

I did finish reading Danny Price's "How to Make a Journal of Your Life."  It took me a little longer to get through it than I had anticipated due to my concentration not being what it normally would be.  This in no way reflects the content of the book.  Whilst I did enjoy the book and found it did give some interesting perspectives on how to put together a journal that truly reflects yourself, it did get just a tad overdone and rambled a bit.  I like a book that gets to the point, gives some relevant examples and keeps moving at a good pace.  Price's book gets points for offering up essential materials to have on hand, how to find a journal that you can work with along with some interesting stories and observations along the way.  But, it just gets a little too wordy and could have tightened up a bit in each chapter.  I do not need to be told when I can have a cookie and unfortunately, Price's reward for making your way through a chapter and following his directives, is to tell you that you can have a cookie.  He even provides you with his daughter's recipe for chocolate chip cookies in the event that you do not have a recipe to follow or a jar of store bought biscuits.  I would give this book four stars for its originality and ease of reading.  I was never bored, but then I was never so involved that I could not put it down to do something else.  I think you get my drift.

I did finish Bird by Bird.  I cannot recall if I mentioned that in an earlier post.  And so I am now on to a business type of book.  "Persuasion, A New Approach to Changing Minds" by Arlene Dickinson is my book of choice at the moment.  Ms Dickinson is CEO and the owner of one of Canada's top independent marketing firms Venture Communications and has a lot to say about how persuasion works into business modules as well as into daily life for everyone.  You do not need to be a business person to relate to what she writes, only someone who enjoys and respects another who is open and honest in their dealings both in the boardroom and out in their daily encounters with day to day activities of family life.  I sat for two hours Saturday evening reading this book and did not want to put it down even to fill my coffee cup once again.  I expect that I will be reading and finishing this book over the next few days and able to report to you next Sunday on how it progressed and whether I found it to be a worthy read.  At this point, I am thoroughly enjoying the common sense and pace of the book, leaving me to feel that Ms Dickinson does have something to say that will benefit everyone from the no nonsense business person right on to the parent being badgered to help out with yet another bake sale, charity benefit or chaperone duty on a school trip to yet another museum.  Yep, this is one smart lady and I have learned a lot already in the time spent reading her book.

I hope your week was as fun as mine turned out to be!  There is something about getting your hands dirty and planting a garden that is good for the soul.  To see results, the lovely little seedlings showing their tiny leaves and growing with each passing day that reinforces your determination to make this garden the best you can possibly achieve.  Add to that some noteworthy books that have captured your attention and you have the makings of a wonderful week that makes you feel that your time was well spent.  At least, I feel that my time was well spent despite the kitchen table being taken over by seedlings waiting for their moment in the sun.

Have a wonderful week and I would love to hear about your gardens, what you have planted, your hopes for the plants, and of course what you are reading at the moment.  You know, a journey is very personal.  Everyone goes at their own pace and follows the beat of the drum that they happen to hear.  You do not have to move quickly, in fact moving slowly and savouring each step is really the best way to approach this journey.

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The journey goes down the garden path!

Well, I am doing something that I have not done in many years.  In one of my moments when I thought I should take on something else just for the fun of it, I decided that I should have a garden on my balcony this year.  I have the odd house plant in the flat, but have not done anything full scale in terms of gardening in over thirty years.  Wow, that is a long time, but famous for my courage, I am willing to have a go at it again.

Gardening has been something I have dreamed of for quite some time, but I never quite got around to actually planting anything or getting a few starter plants to pot up.  So, right now, my kitchen is looking like a miniature holding station for little greenhouses, lots of green pots and another huge bag of soil propped up in the corner.  There are some little geranium starter plants that have been potted up into larger pots and much to my surprise, there are actually a few blooms shooting up and should be in full colour in a day or two.

What got me going on this mission was the thought of having fresh herbs to use and if there happens to be more than I can reasonably expect to use, I will freeze them to use at a later date.  Whilst chatting with my sister and talking about pesticides on vegetables in the grocery stores and sodium in tinned veg, she suggested that I might invest in having a few tomato plants growing on the balcony.  My balcony faces west and so it is more than sunny enough to support a few pots of tomatoes, the little cherry type that I enjoy so much.  I wonder if four plants will keep me supplied with enough tomatoes to eat and maybe some extra to freeze?  I will have to let you know as the plants develop and see the actual blooms begin showing me an idea of the crop yield.

As for herbs, I have indulged and have three types of basil planted along with some chives, rosemary and some savory.  Oh, and two types of parsley.  I got a little crazy when I was picking out the seeds and decided to go for broke and indulge the inner culinary diva that I would like to become.  Looking at all the pots on my table, floor and window sill, I am thinking this is going to be a fair amount of work over the next few months.  But, what would the journey be without a challenge or two along the way?  Signs of life are already developing in the little greenhouse contraptions that I bought to start up the seeds.  It really is quite exciting!  Molly Cat is quite curious about all the green pots that she is not allowed to touch, and so far, I have been able to keep her from exploring my little family of herbage plus some.  I am so hoping that she behaves long enough for me to get the seedlings developed to the stage where I can harden them off and pot them up into their final containers.  Pictures will come along as my little green babies develop their leaves.

But, you have to know that I could not just leave my yearning for a garden rest at this point with only a few geraniums for colour.  Yes, I did indulge in a few packets of seeds of a more colourful nature.  Morning glories, godetia, nasturtiums, a black flower with a white picot edging with a name I cannot remember for the life of me, along with a few more colourful blooms w ill be keeping the herbs company on the balcony over the next few months.  Somewhat giddy with the prospect of all these plants to enjoy, I have to hope that they all survive the germination process and develop into hardy little plants that colour up the somewhat austere look of concrete and iron that makes for a little extra living space during the warmer months.

I have thought about the process to keep all these plants growing and developing.  Doing my research, I selected only plants that can tolerate lots of sunshine.  Good soil that has a fertilizer in it has been brought in large quantities back to my flat along with the required pots to hold all these plants.  I have asked a couple of friends to help me out with bringing back a few containers to go on the railing, about four should do the trick.  All I need to haul back home now is a couple of trellises for the morning glories.  Oh, I guess I will need a few stakes for the tomato plants and will put that on my list for a later shopping trip when I am out and about.  As for watering all these plants, I figure filling a bucket at the kitchen sink and taking to the balcony on my walker and then using a plastic pitcher to distribute should suffice.  Judging from the number of plants, more than one bucket of water will be needed on watering days.  This is all part of the process and no journey is without a bit of work if it is to be satisfying.

You see, whilst enjoying the colour and culinary results, this journey is as much about learning from what I am putting into action.  I have never grown herbs in my life and figure this is the time to experiment.  I have learned so much from Julie Anne Rhodes (http://julieannerhodes

This post seems to appropriate since we are celebrating Easter, Passover, or other rites of the spring season.  It is a time when the days are growing longer, we seem to have a little more energy and want to indulge the senses of sight and smell.  I love the smell of potting soil, it has an energy to it that holds promise of things to come.  I am dreaming of the colour that will hopefully envelope the balcony in the days to come.  More realistically, in the months to come.  Whilst the geraniums will be showing colour in a few days, I am thinking that the soonest I will see any other colours popping up will be in about six weeks or so.  But, during the time waiting for blooms, I can quite happily tend to the watering and pampering that this little garden will take. 

Do you have any advice for this newbie gardener?  Will three types of basil, two varieties of parsley, some rosemary and savory be enough to keep me supplied with the necessary herbs over the next few months?  Oh, I forgot, there are a couple of pots of dill planted too.  Whilst I do not anticipate making any pickles, I still love the aroma of dill and think I can work it into a few recipes if I try and do the research necessary now.  Will my morning glories and nasturtiums keep me living a colourful life on the balcony?  Surely adding the godetia and other flowering plants to the mix will entice the neighbours to try and plant a garden of their own.  Maybe this will start a trend and neighbours will be comparing notes on what type of basil supplied enough leaves for a batch or two of pesto and what type of tomato was found to be the easiest to grow and provide the most fruit.  That is part of the fun of gardening, chatting with your neighbours and getting their pointers on how to stake up the plants that require staking, how often the plants should be watered and all those little tips that seed packets do not generally provide. 

What are you growing in your garden this year?  Do you have a favourite type of basil that you grow each year?  I am hoping you will share your knowledge with me whilst I blindly navigate this path on my journey.  I think I am going to need a lot of advice and suggestions!  And, as the season progresses, I will post snaps of my busy little patch of blooms and greenery.  By next Sunday, I should be able to post snaps of my cheery red and pink geraniums, that is if Molly Cat does not take a nibble on them.  I did find a few pieces of my yellow kalanchoe on the carpet the other morning with a certain feline looking somewhat guiltily away from me.  No, the blooms did not just fall off of the plant.  I know this because the blooms were just in pieces, as if a certain little black and white kitty girl had a nibble or two.  Thank goodness, she did not suffer any tummy troubles from this little escapade!  But, just to be safe, the kalanchoe is safely out of reach for the moment and I only need worry about the vase of roses and another little vase of miniature carnations remaining intact. 

Have a wonderful week and do comment and tell everyone about your garden plans for this season! 

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Monday, April 2, 2012

Caution! Slow moving artist!

So, another week has gone by and I cannot seem to commit to any one form of artistic endeavour or creative expression.  I have played with watercolours, acrylic inks, acrylic paints and watercolour pencils.  And yet, I just do not seem to be able to capture the ideas rambling through my mind.  Actually, the ideas seem to rocket through my mind at an amazing speed and it is difficult to document them all in a notebook that I keep handy for times like these.  It seems as if my brain is moving faster than it should in terms of ideas that I want to play with and explore.  This seems to be happening not only when I am awake, but also when I am sleeping, causing me some very vivid dreams.

The dreams have been so vivid and frightening as to cause me to wake up and flee the bedroom.  I have been so restless in bed trying to fall asleep some nights that Molly Cat has taken to sleeping behind my head on another pillow and she swats me with a heavy handed paw and lets me know that I need to settle down.  Knowing that I am more than likely going to head into another dysfunctional dream of some sort, I hustle myself out of bed and make my way to the kitchen and make a cup of tea.  Two consecutive nights in the past week found me without any sleep and I headed into each morning hugging my coffee cup and praying for the powers that be allow me to have at least a few consecutive hours of sleep during the upcoming night.

But, here is the double ended sword.  The dreams are scary, but make for interesting stories.  In fact, the dreams of the past few nights seem to segue into the next and are quickly filling a notebook that I grab as soon as my eyes open and I start making observations, notes, even little diagrams of what went on in my head over the past few hours.  I recounted a bit of the action earlier today to my sister and she was somewhat horrified and suggested that I need to get out of the bedroom when I wake up from one of these terribly frightening dreams.  And that is what I do and make the necessary notations whilst sitting in the comfort of my front room with either the radio or television providing some background noise.  I even keep a DVD loaded in a portable player for these nights of quiet horror.

I am not able to come to any conclusion as to what is causing the dream activity of the past week.  But, I do have enough material to research to try at some point to put into a book.  Whether anyone would want to read such dark thoughts is not certain, but judging from the audience for the Twilight series and The Hunger Games, I think the darkness that is permeating my subconscious is more than a worthy opponent for either franchise.  That may sound terribly egocentric, but, I have been the one to view the events taking place and I am quite certain that most people would be horrified at what has taken place.  I have looked over my notes and wondered how to pull them all together and strangely, the opening sequence for the story shot into my mind.  If the dreams terrified my sister, I do not want to think how the opening of the story would affect her.  To that end, it appears I will be researching mortuaries, what happens within and afterwards.  The unfortunate part of all this is that it appeared to be me in a leading role of this dark and gloomy horror flick.  Translating it all into written word is going to take some doing and I may just have to change the story from being told in the first person to some other form.  I am not so certain that I want to be the one that meets their demise and would rather push that role onto another unsuspecting character.

Now, back in the studio, I find that I am drawn to the darker shades of blue and now want to incorporate watercolours, acrylic paints along with acrylic inks all on one canvas.  I have been playing with each medium independently and on different canvases.  None of them are capturing what I see in my mind and truthfully, I am seeing far too many ideas that need to be put down on canvas in some way.  I suspect that I need to slow down my thought process and allow myself to let one thought at a time percolate and develop.  Then, that would be the time to jot all the ideas down in my journal along with ideas of how to put them on canvas and what mediums should be used and to what extent.

Even now, late into the evening, I am debating whether the next few hours would be best spent in the studio or in bed, trying to capture the ever so elusive few consecutive hours of sleep.  At this point, I am leaning towards the studio in hopes of getting something down, anything, just to prove to myself that I still can make art.  It has been a bit of a dry spell, but not due to a shortage of ideas or prompts.  It is most certainly due to an overactive mind finding itself overflowing with a wealth of ideas and the flow will not stop long enough to allow me to finish one piece.  I run from one piece to another and back and forth until I am exhausted. 

watch the pottery shards cover a fair expanse of the room.  But, that is a story for another day!

How has your week been?  Are you able to find some studio time or time to just let your thoughts wander?  Hopefully, your thoughts wander to more pleasant places than mine have visited this week.  I am laughing whilst typing this as I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoy thriller movies and books.  But, I just never thought that I would find myself walking my way through these nightmarish waters each night when I finally hit the wall and find those few precious hours of rest.  I am wishing you pleasant dreams both during the day and night, depending when you allow yourself to rest.  Here is hoping that you find inspiration in your dreams and are able to make good use of the resources provided by your subconscious.  That is how I am hoping my week will play out! 

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

P.S.  I did bring home the hand mannequin from the art shop last week and am enjoying trying to capture the poses on a sketch pad.  My cleaning lady came in on Friday and when she walked into the front room she spotted the mannequin sitting on a table.  She backed away and looked somewhat terrified, asking what that "thing" might be.  I reassured her that it was only a wooden hand with movable joints that allowed me to pose it in different positions.  Whilst she did calm down, she did give wide berth to my much sought after prop.  I think I will put it in hiding in my supply closet the next time cleaning day comes around.  One thing I have learned over the years is that keeping your cleaning lady happy is a priority in order to keep some semblance of order around the flat.  :)