Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Octoberish










Things are feeling decisively Octoberish, which is just fine with me.

September felt like a rush of happy events. All good things, but I'm certainly ready for some Octoberish rest.

We started September with one last trip to the sea. A birthday celebration of a dear friend, and a chance to getaway with two other couples. We stayed in a condo right on the beach. Lovely, is all I can say. It was the first time we had left our now BIG-kids at home and they did great. Oh! how far we have come from those early days on this blog. {Wow, just went back to archives, 9 years ago… that truly was Confessions of a Grade School Mom. I can tell you, that was the last time I've had a hard-lemonade (yuck!)…  I can tell you my m&m habits have not changed. But those sweet babies… whew! I'm quickly approaching that target-shopping mama… but that's for another day.}

When we got home from the beach it was time to start teaching art, which I really enjoy. I will admit, teaching two full days a week has been an adjustment. I've had to re-learn how to manage the home, school, and extra curricular activities while "working." But when my little artists are sitting at my table, it feels like a privilege.

Special Olympics Equestrian Tournament is also a September event. This year The Girl was old enough to be a youth volunteer. I hope to sit down in a few days to post my thoughts on this year's events, but I can tell you this: spending a weekend with the riders, families, and volunteers working diligently for one goal is an amazing experience. It is long and hard work, but getting to share in the joy of others is a valuable gift, and far exceeds the effort. More on that to come…

Before we could wash the horse dust from our chaps it was time to dive into birthday celebrations for my seventeen year-old. Seventeen sounds so old, and honestly, I've struggled. It is hard for me to sit in the moment today, without thinking about the tomorrows. But I'm learning to keep my mind steadfast
on the gifts given right now. So we celebrated The Boy (who is quickly becoming a man)
with cake, and friends, and lots of love. It was a great birthday!

This month also brought a change in the air, and on the trees. Everything is getting ready to show their color before a long winters rest. I love to watch the change from day to day.

September has been full and hearty, and October feels like a good time to rest.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Work in Process: The Studio










My studio is shaping up as I prepare for a new year of teaching art.

Earlier this month I walked into a local consignment shop and had a love-at-first-sight moment with an antique breakfast hutch. I wanted to take her home then and there, but I hemmed and hawed (and hemmed some more) and waited three weeks to bring her home. I have to be honest, I don't do this sort of thing with furniture and home goods, but in two weeks I will have nearly 20 students coming to the house each week for art class. I needed some place to store supplies.

Now I can't imagine what I did without it. I love to just sit and look at the shelving and am very thankful to have a home for the endless supply of paper and paints in the cupboards and drawers of this beautiful hutch.

Of course, this new piece of furniture required a complete overhaul of the studio. I threw out/gave away over 10 bags of scrap fabric, leftover yarn, crayons, used paper, stickers, decade-old scrapbooking supplies, patterns, dried paint, empty markers, chewed up pencils, and sorted through several years of Christmas cards sent to us over the last 2 decades. Whew! it was a crazy three days… but, I am so happy to have an organized space; to have the WHOLE table to work on! {swoon}

The minute everything was in place I wanted to play, but I also didn't want to mess things up too much. I chose the least messy project to start: crochet.  I re-opened my Etsy shop (after a two-year hiatus) and listed my Blue Flowered Cowl and the Vintage Lace Wrap for sale. Then I made a blanket for a new baby at our church, based on a free pattern inspired by Call the Midwife. The pattern was simple and easy to follow, and I finished it quickly. When it was done I decided I needed to try my hand (again) at a Japanese pattern for a scarf. My favorite thing about that scarf is the name of the pink yarn: Rosalinda. (I pick my nail polish based on names too.) In the end, I'll wear it, but it is too short---which is what sometimes happens when you are using scrap yarn.

When Rosalinda was finished, I was "in the zone" and my crochet hook would not be put down. So I found this post on Moogly for a hat using a QuadTr (who knew?) to make really cool looking braids. By the end of last week, I had made one in Paloma Grey, and another in Oatmeal. This afternoon I have started a Popcorn Blanket square, though I'm not sure I'll make a whole blanket, I'd like to see how this pattern works out. That, my friends, is how you spell c-r-o-h-e-t--c-r-a-z-y. But, I'm using up a drawer full of yarn and I'm grateful for this last summer whirl of creative fiber art. Soon it will be time to haul out the paints and have fun with my students. Can't wait!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Tale of Two Sandwiches

One of the things I love about cooking this time of the year is The Sandwich.

These two sandwiches have been on my dinner rotation a lot this summer: The No Mayo Chicken Salad and The Grilled Veg and Cheese. 

Let me tell you about them…

The No-Mayo Chicken Salad Sandwich



You may have heard this before, but I'm not a fan of mayo. I know, I know. I have lived in the south long enough to know that dissing on the mayo is kin to sacrilege, but I just can't help it. There is nothing that will bring on the heeby-jeebies faster than seeing mayo being spread on something delicious. It's just disgusting not my thing. So you might imagine that a chicken salad sandwich would not be high on my list of eating pleasure. However, I do like the chicken salad alternative, Brianna's Poppy Seed dressing, which is not only vegan* and delicious, but blessedly mayo free. 

And let me tell you, take some chicken breast and chop it up, throw some poppy seed dressing on it (I like mine on the dry side,) add some slivered almond and chopped grapes, and you will not be disappointed. 

Let me say it again, you will not be disappointed.

*I'm not a vegan but I have an Eater in the house who cannot have any dairy. 

The Grilled Veg and Cheese

Let me apologize in advance for this picture. The day I made this dinner I'd already entered The Hangry Zone. Every once in awhile the Stomach makes the Blogger care very little for staged photos. In the end, it doesn't really matter. This sammy is so good, it doesn't need a focused picture.  I won't say anything more, except to give you the recipe. (But really, it's a nice sandwich…and also mayo free.)

What you'll need:

A pound of zucchini, cut 1/8 inch thick, diagonally
3-4 slices red onion, cut 1/8 inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered ( I used mini bell's cut in half and used both red and yellow)
1 large tomato, not too ripe, cut 1/8 inch thick

2 Tbls Balsamic Vingar
1tsp extra- virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1.5 cup salad greens
5 ounces fresh mozzarella
6-8 fresh basil leaves

Single serving Torta bread (pictured) or 1-pound loaf ciabatta bread, cut in half horizontally

Mix up the vinegar, oil, salt and pep, in a mixing bowl. Toss veg in bowl with mixture. 

Spray grill with cooking spray, and light her up. Grill veg until tender (about 7 minutes) reserving leftover vinegar mixture. 

When veg is done, build your sandwich… layer cheese, basil, veg, greens, and drizzle reserved vinegar. Cover with top of bread, press lightly. Place filled sandwich on grill rack for 4 minutes or until cheese begins to melt. Cut in half (or in quarters if using large loaf). Eat!

Happy sandwich making!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer at The Little Yellow House on the Hill









It's hard to believe summer is more than halfway finished. The good news is that there are still 28 days left!

So far, we have had just the right amount of summer fun. You know, that sweet spot between summer is boring, and, what was I thinking when I planned this much? Either end of the spectrum is really tough, but that middle part? Yeah, it's good.

The Boy has been working as a lifeguard for a country club nearby, and The Girl has been taking full time care of that sweet puppy (whom we all adore, in case I hadn't mentioned it.) They both have had sleep-overs, swim meets, Netflix marathons, and lots of time with friends, which is exactly how it should be when the days are long and warm.

I've been on a major clean up here in the Little Yellow House on the Hill. We haven't moved in six years, and our accumulation was getting ridiculous. I can't stand the clutter, and I haven't done any deep cleaning (of significance) since last summer. I have been systematically going through each room, cleaning up and scrubbing down. I've been to our local Donation Center about five times in the last 10 days. It feels so good to clear space and get things sparkling again. Whew! Its like being able to breathe fresh air after a long time under a blanket.

I've also been working on a project with The Girl. We've been making art journals with the help of this book: Creating Art and the Speed of Life. We've completed the first three lessons (out of 30) and we are enjoying the time to be creative together. We won't finish before summer is out, so we will use it as part of her art curriculum next school year.

Speaking of school, I spent most of June preparing curriculum, and organizing for next year. We are ready… but it has been an adjustment coming to grips that our little school house will have only one student. The Boy will head to public school for his last two years of High School. He has been accepted to a program where he can earn some college credit while finishing out school. It is a great program and he is ready. The Mister and I are so excited for him, but the realities of my changing job description haven't come without some growing pains. It is hard to let go in these later teenage years. And this is just the beginnings…

Thank goodness there is much to keep me distracted… for instance, the neighborhood flowers. I am surprised every summer by the Hibiscus my neighbor keeps in her front yard. Each year she tireless works on her side of the hill, and each year it gets better and better. I'm thankful to enjoy her labor! The Hydrangeas are also so amazing this time of year, and thankfully I have a dear friend who lets me come to her farm to snap pictures anytime I want… and when I do, she'll most likely have hot tea and warm cookies to share. I should have taken pictures of her and those cookies… next time.

We still have so much to look forward to in the coming weeks. We will take a short trip north to visit dear friends before we all head back to school. And I've got a pile of books I'm plowing through (it feels so GOOD to read multiple books in one week.)

I'm sure in 29 days I'll be glad to have routine and structured order to my days, but so far this summer feels just right.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Snap It: Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study Blog Hop

I waited patiently for the Lord,
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet upon a rock,
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God. 
(Psalm 40:2-3)

Psalm 40 is a favorite of mine. About a year ago, early in the morning, while all was quiet but the lapping of the sea, I memorized these words. He tended my heart through His beauty set before me. The water, the clouds, the brilliant sun. His glory, my joy. 

It amazes me that the God who tends to all the earth, and everything in it, is the same God who redeems my life from the pit, who sets my feet on solid ground. 

The pits of life will come, be it the ones we hastily dig ourselves, or the ones in which we are shoved. In the end, it doesn't really matter. There is mercy in the pit, and we aren't meant to live there. Pits of any kind give us the opportunity to remember Who we belong to, and to call out "Abba!" He will come, and lift us up, and give us solid ground to stand.
 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8: 15-17)

 P31 OBS Blog Hop

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Summer: It's Just the First Week











It's delicious, this time of year, when the whole summer is set before us. As I type, I have (officially) been on summer vacation for about a week.

I've already dipped my toes in the Atlantic with a handful of friends. I took the puppy to the river for her first swim, and met (from afar, but still too close for comfort) one of my least favorite woodland creatures. Isn't it bad enough that Copperheads are slithery and poisonous? And now they swim? Ridiculous.

I wrapped up my last art class with my 3rd-5th grade girls. I cannot express how much I liked working with this group of girls. They are fun, sweet, and talented. They jumped into every project with excitement, and encouraged one another the whole way through. I just enjoyed being with them.

The day after the class ended, I received a book The Mister gave to me at Christmas. The Charlie Harper Coloring Book of Birds had been on back order for 6 months, but it came just on time. I cannot wait to decide how I am going to work Harper's art into next years curriculum.

Yesterday I took The Girl and her friend to the pool and they asked if I would take their picture while they flipped there wet hair back. It only took 147 shots (give or take a 100) to catch the double-flip action, but it made for some great fun, and I got to sit pool side on a lovely morning snapping away with my camera. Win-win.

The Boy started his new job as a lifeguard at a Country Club in our neighborhood. Because I do not belong to that club, and sixteen year old boys tend to frown on their mothers visiting them at work to take pictures, I did what any logical mother would do: I went covert. Which means I convinced my husband to drive me around the backside of the club, so I could lug my big old camera and snap away like some international spy. It would have all gone as planned, except I didn't count on their being two life guards. Apparently, the second guard, located just on the other side of that chain-link fence (but whom I did not see) took notice of the crazy person snapping pictures from a car through the gate. I may, or may not, have freaked out the second life guard (so much for covert.) But I got the shot I was looking for, and when The Boy got home and said that his shift was great, "except for when some weird person was taking pictures through the gate." I shook my head and said, "Huh, that is a little crazy."

So it starts. The days when the calendar has a few beautiful blank spaces left to breathe. And I get the opportunity to enjoy my family, my friends, and my home. It's gonna be a good summer...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Valley Living (Blog Hop with Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study)







"I will set pines in the
wasteland,
the fir and the cypress
together,
so that the people may see and
know,
may consider and
understand,
that the hand of the Lord
has done this,
the Holy One of
Israel has created it."
~Isaiah 41:17-20

I grew up in the Tucson valley, a desert dweller from birth. On every side of our dusty town stood stately mountains in shades of purple and blue. My heart favored the range to the north, with her familiar jagged peaks and her promise of green trees and cooler weather. In 30 minutes you could drive up her climbing road, leaving the prickly wasteland for the comfort of "real trees" on (what felt like) the top of the world. The scripture above reminds me of the desert, and the respite in the mountains for those who live in the valley.

Living as a desert dweller in the valley wasn't difficult. But it was sometimes hard. After all, there is the heat, and the thorns, and the slithery animals.  Seasons don't change with significant signs of showy bloom or vast changes in temperature. Occasionally the winds blow storms in, covering everything in dust, while prayers for rain are whispered.

As far as the calendar is concerned there are four seasons, but in the desert, seasonal variant is not a pendulum given to sway. It's range, in temperature and color, is subtle at best. The desert valley has a beauty of it's own, but you mustn't look too closely, lest you get poked. So, when I was young, I would look to the mountains and pine away, for a life lived on mountain tops.

And so it is spiritually, when I find myself in a season of dryness; when the work is tough and dry winds make vision fuzzy. 

King David, long before he wore a crown, tended sheep in a valley. He toiled and cared, and waited on the Lord. He had brothers who thought him too small, and his work not important.Yet, with his eyes on the Lord, he did what he was called to do. And when the time came for him to fight a giant named Goliath, it was David's strength in the Lord that won.

The Bible is full of lessons in the valley. There is battle and beauty there-- a breeding ground for dependance on the Lord. It is Him alone who quenches our thirst when living in arid lands. When the day is long and the scenery the same; when unrelenting heat presses in and discouragement settles in like so much dust, we can remember our True Strength, and cling to Him. He is the same God who turned a Valley of Trouble to a door of hope.  He can do that with our valleys too.

Twenty years ago I moved from the desert, to a little yellow house set in the piney woods, but He's never called me out of the valley. I can visit the mountaintops for refreshment and rest, but my strength is born when I focus on Him in the battles and beauty of valley living. 


Psalm 121

I look up to the mountains;
    does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
    who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
He won’t let you stumble,
    your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s
    Guardian will never doze or sleep.
 God’s your Guardian,
    right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
    sheltering you from moonstroke.
  God guards you from every evil,
    he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
    he guards you now, he guards you always.
(MSG)

P31 OBS Blog Hop