On the Move

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Has life ever yanked the rug right out from under you with a whoosh?
We’ve been preparing to move and have no idea where we’re going. Or exactly when. This was not the plan.

Growing up my family moved around quite a bit. Since the very first move I’ve struggled with feeling like the outsider who never quite belonged or had enough time to feel settled before she had to move again. Even as an adult, when the moves were my choice, that feeling was stirred in the recesses of my heart.
Here it is again.

As we pack, I’m sad for all the dreams that won’t be realized here.
But life isn’t about our dreams, really.
It’s about being open to love and serve and become more like Jesus.
I can do that anywhere.

Maybe I’m not supposed to feel settled. Just maybe I’ve been looking at it all wrong. I’m pondering that idea while I enjoy our home for the time we have left.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Dare I say it? Christmas.

Christmas music has been playing in our local stores since November first. Yesterday the decorations were already up at the grocery store strip mall. That’s a little too soon, even for this elf.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas and everything that goes with it. I love shopping and wrapping and secrets and sparkly things and Christmas plays and lights… I really should have been an elf.  I was 10 years old  and in 5th grade when my (very mean) best friend insisted Santa wasn’t real. I still don’t believe her.

That’s me on the right, listening intently to what my future boss had to say.

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Every Christmas Eve Mom would bundle us up and we’d pile into the car to go pick our Christmas tree. We’d drink hot chocolate while Daddy brought the tree into the house and set it in its stand. We’d make a big production of giving it lots of water, hang our stockings from the mantel and go to bed. I couldn’t sleep wondering if every noise I heard might be Santa on the roof. It’s a wonder I survived the anticipation at all.

Our first house in New Jersey was a wee little two-bedroom rancher. You could see the entire living room from our bedroom door. On Christmas morning my sister and I would fling open that door and freeze in absolute wonder. The bare tree we left in the stand was now fully decorated and lit, the only glow in the room, surrounded by presents. Pure magic!  >sigh<  Goose pimples.

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Our magical tree, 1968.

I was eight when we moved across town. Our new house had two stories and the impact of seeing that sight as we flew down the stairs on Christmas morning was a new brand of magic that didn’t disappoint.

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Christmas 1972: I’m the elf on the left. 

Two years later we moved to Florida, and the tradition changed in a lot of ways, but Mom’s knack for the magical smoothed it over.

Then I grew up and learned a few things. Like Christmas trees are free on Christmas Eve. And Mom and Dad had to wait until we were sleeping to begin decorating the tree, so they got maybe 30 minutes of sleep Christmas Eve. And it looks like a lot more presents when the room is only 8 feet wide. And the tree looks much bigger when you put it on the coffee table and you’re only four feet tall.
And knowing the secrets behind the magic makes it even stronger, because it was made with love.

But the best part of being a grown-up is that I get to make the magic now. After all, I did inherit Mom’s elf gene.

Quilt Rags to Riches

A friend asked me to take an old, well-loved (= worn) 80s comforter and make a quilt for her daughter’s engagement present. When the box arrived, it was worse than I thought. The fabric was not only threadbare, it was so faded I had to rip seams to find out what color it used to be. I found a couple solids and a blender fabric that complimented the focal fabric, and used clothing interfacing to stabilize the older fabric and make its hand more equal with the newer fabrics.

My design idea was sparked by the pattern of some subway tiles, but, like a dingbat,  I relied on my memory instead of sketching them. The tiles were rectangular and without a picture to prompt my brain it turned out to be a math nightmare. So I settled on squares.  I practiced on this quilt (which is still unfinished…) making the construction of this quilt go much smoother.
I found the perfect floral for the backing that tied in with the focal fabric and gave it an updated look.

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A free-motion quilted rose motif to match the backing fabric tied it all together perfectly.

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Here’s to many happy years together under their new quilt!

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Hand-painted to Digital: The Process

I’m an old school paper, brushes, and paint gal. I’m pretty tech savvy and can hold my own with software, but digital art is a learning curve I’m still working to master. Imagine my delight when a client wanted a hand-painted header for her website! Be still my heart.

Everything was the same almost to the end when the header needed to be placed in its digital home. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at my process:

First, brainstorming ideas.

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Once we settled on an arrangement, I made the rough on vellum in pencil so we could move things around if needed. She wanted me to add ferns. 

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Then the fun stuff – choosing and mixing colors.

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Once the palette is approved the image is transferred onto paper, and I start painting. I like to work in small increments  – making a mistake means starting over, and I want to avoid that.

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When I’m not sure about an idea or stroke I’ll test it on the sidelines until I’m confident. I’ll play with a new idea and doodle with the paint until I find something I like. My clean palette looks like this by the end of the project.

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It’s exciting to see it come to life bit by bit! I work with like colors in the same sitting, if I can, for consistency.

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Sometimes things don’t go so smoothly.
See that extra piece of greenery top right? Directly below it I smudged the paint with my hand. Up top I re-recreated that section then used Photoshop magic to replace the smudged area with the clean version.

Once the original is finished, I erase all the pencil lines then scan it into the computer. My beast photographic scanner gives me super high resolution options to make sure details aren’t lost in the transfer. Then it’s time to remove the background paper in Photoshop. The aqua background is in place to illuminate any spots I might miss. (Yes, I am working upside down. I’ll also use my other hand when necessary to reach tight spots.)

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Once I’m happy it’s saved so we can add text.  And it’s a wrap!

5-Minute Friday: Friend

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Thirty years my senior, she is mama and friend rolled into one. Her soft voice and calm spirit sooth my often frenetic one. She loves unconditionally and nurtures relentlessly. She is home away from home, the voice in my head when I’m vexed. We met when I was 18 years old and rough around the edges. She recognized what I didn’t yet see in myself and built on that. On my very first visit I was especially cranky the morning I left. “You arrived full of smiles and you’ll leave the same way,” she said, hugging me. I put on my happy face and did as I was told.  There’s a security in the kind of love that accepts you where you are but loves enough to challenge your growth.  She’s loved me through marriage, babies, divorce, school, life. My daughter bears her name, a daily reminder of the grace that flows from her life.

Now I am 50 and she will be 80.  She moves a little slower since I saw her last, but not much.  Her relaxed pace forces me to breathe deeper, enjoy the moment, remember the day. We share and laugh as we talk of crafty things and inspiration, life and change.   Even without trying she challenges me to be better. That’s what a true friend does.

Five Minute Friday
Set your timer for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.  

 

Rethinking Lent

It’s been whirlwind tornado crazy around here the past couple weeks. A lot of it has to do with this hole in the ground….

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More on that later. I have some fun things to show you, but it’s Ash Wednesday, and I want to share something that touched my heart and shook my socks.

I had no idea what Lent was until my early 20s. The idea of the Lenten fast wasn’t something I contemplated until later in adulthood. I can’t remember exactly when I adopted the practice, but I do remember my desire was to be intentional about considering Jesus’ sacrifice.  Over the years I’ve tried hard to choose what I fast based on the amount of sacrifice for me – the point isn’t for it to be easy.  A few years ago I fasted chocolate, which was sheer torture because I forgot that my birthday falls smack in the middle of Lent, and I had to have not-chocolate cake that year. But as I willed myself to honor my commitment it made me think about the garden of Gethsemane and how easy it would have been for Jesus to walk away. And that’s what makes the struggle real, isn’t it? Denying my wayward heart for the heart of God.   And is there really anything I could give up that comes close to all Jesus gave?
Then there’s also the temptation to make the fast about giving up things that are bad for us –  like a 40 day no-fast-food kick-start – with hopes that it will become a habit by time Easter rolls around. Can anyone else relate?

Last week I read this post by Kim at Given Breath and it felt like fresh air floating through an open window. Go ahead and take a peek. Soak it in. I’ll wait….
As I read my insides sighed, yes!, and I began earnestly praying about something more meaningful to focus on this season. And it’s been hard,  because there are so many things I could abstain from.
I want to be the celebratory, hospitable, generous, and thankful person Kim speaks of, so this year I am approaching my fast in a different way. A deeper way. A growing way.

Scared is the New Brave

When I began this blog, my goal was simple – to create fearlessly. I figured if I was struggling with it someone else out there probably was, too. That goal remains in the back of my mind as I continue to fight the perfection monster and reclaim the child-like joy of creating. Fear has no place in creativity. We are made in the image of the Master Creator and He only asks us to show up. How’s that for no pressure? Show up and be who you are.  Too often I allow fear to keep me from awesome things. I listen to what-ifs and turn back to “safe.” Safe is boring. Safe doesn’t reach our goals. Safe doesn’t spark life, it hastens death.

This arrived in my in box from Lisa Jo Baker.  Not only do I love its message, it’s my colors, and I thought it would look fabulous here.  It’s big enough to print out and hang on your wall as a healthy reminder.

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Snowy Day

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This is my view today as I work.  All that snow makes it BRIGHT in here! I had to pull the shades down 3/4 of the way to keep from needing my sunglasses.   We don’t get much snow here in coastal Virginia, so when we do things pretty much close down – everyone’s working from home today.

There are squirrel tracks outside the back door. From the look of the muddy prints on the door, I’d say they wanted in. And no wonder –  it’s 12 degrees out there with a wind chill in the negatives. Brrr! I made sure my feathered friends have fresh water, and they’re thanking me by singing outside my window.

Red All Over

Do you ever get on a roll and one thing leads to another? That’s what’s been happening in the studio this week.   Saturday’s guild meeting was a jelly roll race, and I’ve had this luscious red batik jelly roll a friend bought for me a couple years ago. I love it so much I didn’t want to risk messing it up. (I know….)  I decided to take the plunge and use it for this project, with no idea how a monochromatic jelly roll quilt would even look.

First you have to sew all those strips together end-to-end. Very boring.  After trimming the seams I was left with a pile of bits that could not be wasted, so I had some fun and made wee 3-1/2 ” blocks….

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I used my wee blocks to spice things up a bit and add a row to the top for interest, and I’m in love with the result!

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Ringing in 2014

Happy New Year!

I can’t believe we’re already 5 DAYS IN to a new year! After playing hooky a little I’m finding re-entry a little rough, but I’m looking forward to this new year with expectation.

Last week I was thinking how I couldn’t wait to say good-bye to 2013 when God whispered in my ear, “It wasn’t all bad…” No, it wasn’t. The Lord remained unchanged, meeting every need and walking beside us through every trial, disappointment and twist in the road. We laughed, we cried, we played, we loved, we rallied, we said good-bye,  we learned, and we grew.

To celebrate, the Hunk and I spent New Year’s Eve at Christmas Towne.  I was trying to take a picture in front of the grand Christmas tree and failing miserably – phones aren’t shaped to hold in one hand AND push the button….  a very nice man offered to bail me out, so we have a memento of the occasion. It was 20 degrees, and we look like puffalumps in all our layers. 🙂

Wherever you are, may your home be filled with love and grace, and may 2014 be a year of Jubilee for you and yours.