Saturday, September 3, 2011


Last Saturday on a sheer whim, I registered myself for a workshop at CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in Lisle. Never been. Always wanted to go. One workshop intrigued me. It was on enameling. I got to make an art jewelry pendant: a ruffly little disk with a nest and eggs in the middle. I managed to get through the three hour class without sticking wire through my fingers, or spilling anything, or burning myself on the kiln, or setting the hotel on fire with the blow torch.

The instructor, Jean Van Brederode, was a natural teacher and appreciator of art. This came through in her comments and observations during the evening. I learned that one of the beauties of enameling is the process of creating a shiny piece out of dust (glass particles, really) that can surprise and delight you as it cools. What you see isn't always what you get. But the end result could tickle your soul. And, as many students found, if you don't quite like it, you may recolor it and fire it again.

I chose a cobalt blue for the background color, but sprinkled in a little pink to see if I would achieve a sort of violet hue. Jean explained that since the particles are glass dust, they don't "mix" together in the kiln. Still, I wanted a little visual texture so I went for it.

The wire bird's nest started out to be a lighter brown. After the first firing, although Jean commented on how I achieved the robin's egg blue color very well on the little eggs, I couldn't just LEAVE IT ALONE..... I had to add a little more color. The second firing affected the brown in the nest, though, and it looks almost gray now. Well. All I can say is..... sometimes more is more. But sometimes it's better to just be happy with whatcha got.

After buffing some bumps out of the enamel pendant, adding a copper jump ring for hanging, and wiring on a little bird, the final step is the wire wrapping. We melted the end of the copper wire using a blow torch, which created a teardrop and a cool oxidation on the shiny copper finish. (I'm not sure that's the word, oxidation, so I hope you get the idea).

The workshop was just what I needed to kick me in the butt creatively. I was inspired by the new ideas and the stick-to-itiveness of my classmates to achieve the desired colors they wanted. Jean was very complimentary of everyone's work and marveled at the final products. Immediately I had the desire to play with more color combinations and copper sizes, and the wheels started turning in my brain..... "How can I do this without actually purchasing a kiln?" "If I went this direction, what kind of crazy cool flowers could I make?" "Maybe there's a co-op of artists in my area who get together and fire enamel, and I could join them?!"

For now, I'll just start a meager list for Santa Claus. If I finished the cluster of projects I already have started, I'd feel better about launching into enameling jewelry. Or, maybe the desire will overwhelm me and I'll be doing blog posts about firing a new color.

Meanwhile, click over to Jean's shop on Etsy, "Charmed I'm Sure," and take a gander.

Monday, August 29, 2011


During the summer, my garden takes up lots of my spare time (hence, the delay since my last post). But home grown tomatoes are a necessity of life, and so it goes.

It was a crazy summer of weather, with a storm in July that knocked out power to much of our county for DAYS. After all the rain, which came in bursts, the weeds arrived in full vengeance. Turn my back for a week, maybe 10 days, and... HOLY @#(&%^&#!!!!! The buggers have taken over!

I am thankful for the help with watering the garden in between bursts of torrential rain. (My watering buddy is mostly my son, who likes to water but gets most of it on himself rather than the tomato plants). And now, it's harvest time.

...and there are more coming.........

I have a little rabbit who has been a visitor since the spring. I'm thinking he is the one who has sampled many tomatoes but decides each time it's not for his palate. He (if he is indeed the culprit) takes one big bite out of the ripest tomato and leaves it hanging there, forlorn.

I also have "volunteers" in the garden. These are stray seeds that managed to flourish from being rototilled into the soil and sprung forth, encouraged by the hot midday sun. I'm usually so curious to see what will be produced on the vine that I don't pull them like those darn weed invaders. This year I have some weird cross-pollination between a gourd and what I think is a yellow crookneck squash.

Could be that the yellow squash, if left alone, gets a hard exterior and BECOMES an ornamental gourd..... or it's just completely a mutant. Most of them have become a blazing orange color with a hard and bumpy exterior. They will be fun guests in Halloween and Thanksgiving décor. I also have mini pumpkins and the usual dill weed that came back this year.

But back to the tomatoes. After a few days of being preoccupied with other things, I surveyed the garden to see that there was about a half bushel of ripe tomatoes. Not just ripe, but bursting with juice and hanging there like overfilled water balloons. Some had even let loose and dropped to the earth before I could pick them.

An abundance of tomatoes leads to 27 versions of tomato salad, tomato pie, marinara sauce, BLTs, etc., etc., etc. One of the simplest ways to present tomatoes to the dinner table, right out of the garden, is layered with fresh buffalo mozzarella, drizzled with a good olive oil, and sprinkled with fresh basil, salt and pepper. (Sometimes I also use balsamic vinaigrette, but not this time.)

And then there are the low maintenance, lovely-to-see-you sunflowers.

So unassuming.

So cheerful.

So tall and stately.

I imagine they have little gossipy conversations about me behind my back.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Great Women

Last month, in honor of Women's History Month, the Lake County Women's Coalition held its annual brunch. The theme "Our History is Our Strength" was enhanced by a presentation of women "firsts" on a national level, then on a county level, and then members of the group were honored.

I volunteered to do table decorations. Gulp.

Since the group chose black and white with pink accents as the color scheme, I thought of a way to use pages of history as the visual. I have an old set of encyclopedias in the attic that I could never part with (called "The NEW Funk & Wagnalls" -- hah-ha!) that I dug out and scanned pages mentioning notable women. I trimmed, folded, and fashioned them into flower fans and glued them onto dowel rods.

Then, I remembered I purchased a set of ceramic numbers from a clearance rack a while back, knowing that someday I'd find a good use for them. The numbers helped fill the base of the glass vessels, to which I added some pink crinkly paper.

In the centerpiece I used larger ceramic balls with letters on them. Looking at this now, how fun would it be to make these flower fans out of spring colors for Mother's Day, or bold stripes for a child's birthday? You know..... have fun with it!

I think it all came together just fine at the brunch, alongside my humble home baked muffins (3 kinds) and blueberry brunch cake. (To find out about purchasing the display pieces: Hemingway Hurricane or the French Wire Tiered Stand, click here. They are part of the Willow House line.)

As I was working on this project, I thought about all the women in history who didn't have their stories told. And how remarkable the women were who garnered the esteem to land a page (or less) in my old encyclopedias. How women contributed to history loudly, in protest groups. Quietly, in sewing circles and prayer groups. Slyly, through dinner table conversations. Thousands and thousands of women who changed history in ways we will never know.

I am so thankful to be a part of the Lake County Women's Coalition and to have contributed in a very small way to their ongoing amazing efforts.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Smile: The Genuine Article

Today I read this achingly beautiful blog post, which touches the recesses of my memory on so many levels.

I'm sharing this in honor of one of my favorite and valued people on this Earth, who frequently says to me, "We have to get your smile back."


Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Week of Valentines, Sweeter Than Sugar

Valentine's Day was a week long celebration this year. (Shouldn't it be that way every year? I vote YES.) There is the planning.... helping my son address and assemble Valentines for his classmates with careful consideration. Then there is the actual day, with chocolates and surprises, giggles and hugs.

There were moments throughout the week when I was reminded why I love the people who make the sun shine a little brighter in my life. And there were hours when I embraced my responsibility to love and care for them.

It became evident this week that we should try a new course of action in the treatment (rather, management) of my son's sensory processing disorder. A re-commitment to a dairy-free and gluten-free diet. I had let it slide for a variety of reasons when he started Kindergarten, and to tell the truth I was never too strict about it the first time around. But, now it could possibly make or break the success of his therapy. Who picks Valentine's Day week to explain to a child he can't consume sugar, flour, or milk? Sheesh.... there are easier things, for sure.

My mom's birthday is the day after Valentine's Day, and my sister's is a few days later. So we got together for a dinner and a combined celebration on the weekend -- which also meant another round of Valentines with the cousins. And more sweets. It was day 3 of the gluten-free diet, but I allowed my son to feel "normal" with our family and enjoy cake and ice cream. And my worst fears didn't come true. The sky didn't fall; the earth didn't come to an end. Everything was fine.

Valentine's Day week ended this morning, with my little one climbing into bed to snuggle. He slept an hour later than usual, which was the first reason to smile.

Then came my sweetest Valentine, ever. Not wrapped in a box, not laced with sugar. Not stamped on a conversation heart.

"Mom?" said a little voice.

"Yes?" I answered.

"I'll always love you."

Take that, Hallmark.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Painterly I Proceed

I have the blues.

Buried in a blustery blizzard of blue.

Must paint through it.

Cool light-hearted aquamarine washes into baby blues. An ominous cerulean dances with a little cherry blossom pink.... and who shows up but the flirty periwinkle?

The colors dance into a background for a Valentine promise.

"Blueness doth express trueness." ––Ben Jonson