Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Tips, Part Two

Fortunately for you readers, I had yet another Sunday that resulted in even more holiday tips!  So here you go:

1)  Before you make not one, but two trips to the store to purchase tree lights, and then put them ALL on the tree, be sure and check the contents of the grocery bag that's been sitting all week in the corner with the ornaments.  You never know.
2)  Consider whether you really want flashing lights before you put the blinker bulbs on, string all 800 lights on your tree, and put up all the ornaments.  They just might be more irritating than listening to "Jingle Bells" over and over again.  It's true.
3)  When taking entire strings of lights off of the tree because, a) you can't find the one little bulb that causes the string to blink, or b) the whole string goes dead and you don't know why, it's much more satisfying to cut the darn thing off with clippers and just toss the all the pieces in the trash (after all, you have an entire grocery bag full of extra lights!)

4)  When you use clippers to cut the long strings off, be careful that you don't accidentally cut into another one that was meant to stay on the tree. 
5) When you attempt to add the new strings of lights to the already decorated tree, it's best to not have young children around, just in case a few choice words slip out.
6)  When picking up the shattered ornaments, be sure and use a broom and dustpan so as not to cut yourself.

7)  Keep that broom and dustpan handy as you admire your handiwork, just in case the dog's tail does a major sweep across the beautifully decorated tree.  Sigh...

This concludes my 2010 Holiday Tips segments (with any luck); I hope you enjoyed them and are able to put them to good use in your own preparations for the season.  May your holidays be full of blessings and stress-free gatherings with loved ones!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Just being real...

I was feeling a bit like this raven lunatic at times today, but I learned a few things, and that's always good. I thought I would share them with you, to possibly save you a little time and trouble.  I'm always wanting to help, you know.  Maybe you already know some of them, but just in case, here are a few of my learnings and (mostly) holiday tips:
  1. If your mood is already 'iffy', going through the garage and pulling out all the holiday decorations is not going to help improve it.  Seriously.
  2. If somebody (a grown son, let's say) offers to put up the outdoor lights, don't assume that just because he's an engineer, he'll actually think through where the cords will be plugged in.  You might just find yourself having to plug them in in three different places (one being the dark corner of the garage that requires the use of a flashlight); with a long extension cord hanging down the side of the house from the 2nd floor; and another thick cord coming in through a window on the 2nd floor so that you can't close it.  It could happen.
  3. Before you go meandering through the neighborhood because there's a break in the rainy weather, turn off the homemade soup that's heating on the stove.
  4. If something has not been displayed in years, count on it taking ten times longer to set up than it should.  (For example, a German wooden pyramid purchased 30 years ago when living in Hamburg.)  By the time you dust it using Q-tips to get in the tiny spaces, glue together the loose candle holders, take it apart to figure out why it's not spinning smoothly, put it back together again, glue loose candle holders together again and again and again, then finally get it going, you'll have lost a couple of hours and it'll be dark outside.                                 
  5. It's a mathematical certainty that 80% of the glues you own are dried up (this isn't so much a tip, more like a fact.)  Count on it.                                    
  6. Do not expect the cute little kitty to be as excited about the reindeer kitty hat as you are.
  7. Always keep tissue handy for when in case kitty draws blood.
But the best tip of all?  When your frustration level reaches a peak, a good old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwich will change everything!  True!

Of course, it'll all be worth it when the grand-girlies lay their eyes on the magical twirling pyramid (just so long as we keep cute kitty's tail away from the flames).  Ahh, note to self:  keep the fire extinguisher within easy reach...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting to Know Orly...

I am SO very honored to have Orly Avineri joining us in February for An Artful Journey Winter Retreat.  I was fortunate to meet Orly at Journalfest last year, and I wanted you to meet her as well! She was gracious enough to answer a few questions that reveal who she is as an artist and as a person.  You would be giving yourself a great gift to spend time with her this winter.  (Honestly, I would pay to have her read the phone book, she's got such a presence about her.)  You just can't help but smile when you're around her, and come away knowing that everything will be fine, better than fine.

I know that you enjoy teaching in natural settings--can you tell us more about that?
Although I fully enjoy living in the proximity to urban settings and happenings, I crave closeness to nature. I yearn for a direct, sensorial, and tactile relationship with the soil in which plants grow. I long to see natural beauty, smell pines or eucalyptus, touch natural textures, and hear the rain through the stillness of the earth. It is through the stillness that my senses are filled up and strong urges to create emerge. I believe that others are looking to have the same sensations and to evoke similar urges in themselves. We all need a space to connect our inner landscapes with those around us.  An Artful Journey will provide such space.

How does your environment influence your art?
All the environments in me and those that surround me influence my art; material, time, geography, and my emotional world. Chaotic environments bring about raw and honest expressions. However, minimized noise, quieted inner and outer voices, reduced clutter and distraction, bring about art that is contemplative in nature. Art that is revelatory yet holds mystery.

When did art enter your life, and how did it manifest itself?
It entered when I did. As long as I remember. When all was inconstant and love did not seem to be readily available, a piece of paper and a pencil always were. Later on my doodles and drawings provided me with welcomed yet unexpected attention, attention I didn't seem to draw from just being me. Then my creativity was tremendously uplifted by a new spirited mother that appeared in the second half of my childhood years. Since the beginning and till today, art has provided me with the sweetest sense of identity. It is in art that I can lose myself and be found, all at the same time.

What recurring themes come up for you in your journaling?
My own, very special contradictions, fascinate me. Attempting to unify myself through the practice of art journaling seems to be keeping me creating. The interplay between opposing elements, paradoxes, inconsistencies of memories and views of my worlds are constantly expressed in my journals. Concepts of vibrancy and darkness, being prolific vs. having an artist block, innate creativity vs. learned, being outgoing vs. painfully shy, being benevolent vs. selfish, loving vs. holding back, being complex vs. simple...that sort of thing...the list goes on and on. The broad theme can be found throughout my work.

What sets your journaling workshops apart from others?
Art journaling for me is the most honest form of art. The most compelling element of it is that rather than create with beauty in mind, beauty comes into view through the process of creating. It's the ultimate form of expression and as such I have a holistic approach to it.  Interdependence, balance, and interplay between physical and spiritual aspects of the process are highly encouraged through thought and emotion provoking prompts, introduction of unconventional materials, and engagement in unfamiliar processes and techniques, personal explorations and discoveries.

Your work is so deep and thoughtful; what has been your greatest influence?
I believe my work was greatly shaped by a deep sense of lack. Absence of things that I greatly needed. It emerged from empty places. My voids influenced it. It is from the nothingness that my need to fill up blank pages came about, to create spaces that are self-sufficient, worlds that are rich. My work contains my world and those worlds I create for myself. It clearly defines my needs for me and fulfills them in a peculiar way.
What do you hope your students come away with, particularly when having the luxury of spending 3 uninterrupted days with you?
The rare opportunity of having a continuous and indulgent 3-day workshop will provide students with time to really shed layers of defenses and truly allow themselves to be in a beautiful natural flow of creativity. Students will come away with a grand sense of renewed joy and awareness of their powers to express themselves freely and abundantly. This will translate into a sense of health, both physically and spiritually. Beside it doesn't harm to go home with a stunning journal filled with natural and self made personal wonders.

What are you most looking forward to, as you prepare for An Artful Journey?
Driving up from Southern California to the enchanting mountains of Santa Cruz, with my 12 year old daughter, to take part in a most beautiful collaboration of nature and humanity to make art, is what I am immensely looking forward to. Absolutely the best way to celebrate one's birthday in my world.

For even more insight into Orly's creative spirit, check out these videos on her blog.  There are still a few spots open at the retreat—you can read all about Orly's 3-day Nature Journaling workshop here.

Thanks, Orly, for sharing your Self with us--can't wait to see you in February! (and maybe YOU too...) 

Monday, November 29, 2010

The great escape

A couple of weeks ago my friend, Robin, and I took off for the tiny town of Neskowin on the Oregon coast. We had nothing planned, nowhere we had to be—we packed up her car and left Portland behind as we meandered down the highway toward the coast. We stayed in a funky condo right on the water, and spent a blissful five days doing whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.

                Robin's amazing fabric hearts
We stitched (well, mostly she stitched); we watched the ocean change moods almost hourly; we ate a whole lot of really good food; we walked a bit; we went rummaging through antique shops; we drove; we ate some more.

                            My little stitched 'no-things'

I took a good fall one morning when I ran outside and slipped in the mud, landing flat on my back. Check out the cool mud pattern on my sleep shirt (yes, I still had my jammies on--don't ask).  This is only a smidgen of the damage to my clothes; I completely ruined a brand-new sweatshirt.  Luckily, I was able to limp walk away with just a bruised tailbone and some neck/back pain for a few days.  I got off easy, that's for sure.  A good reminder for me to slow down...

Robin and I met some years back when we both attended Artfest and shared a rental car from Seattle to Port Townsend. I had already planned to stay over in downtown Seattle for a couple of days after the retreat, but Robin was due to head back to Sacramento. On the way to the airport, she turned to me and asked if she could use my phone.  She called her husband and told him she'd like to stay a couple more days...and the rest, as they say, is history. We don't get to see each other more than once or twice a year, but we just pick up where we left off.  Our friendship is easy, and solid, and true--and I'm very grateful for it.  It sure is comforting to know there's someone by your side just in case you take a little tumble from time to time.

And boy, was I in for a big surprise when I got back home.  Max had taught himself how to read while I was gone—take a look!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hurry, hurry!

If you've been intending to sign up for the February Retreat, you might want to rush on over and register--most classes are almost filled, as is the Center! I'm thrilled with the response, and so pleased that there are so many returnees. It's going to be a really wonderful, creative respite after the hustle-bustle holiday season.
With the weather keeping me inside most of the past couple of days (crazy sun, rain, sun, hail, rain, sun, etc, etc. here in northern CA), I've been playing around with my Iphone photo app a little. Who knew?! (Probably everyone but me...) And aren't those cool ribbons? They just may end up somewhere in the gifties that I'm making for the journeyers. Hmmm....

This is my favorite corner in my family room, with flea-market dresser, vintage chair, and yes, that's one of Stephanie Lee's art pieces on the wall. LOVE her work! She'll be teaching here in February as well--lucky us!

Max is also using the weather as an excuse to hunker down and get cozy. Smart cat, that one!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I randomly picked a book off my shelf the other day (although I don't believe in accidents) and it turned out to be "12 Secrets of highly creative women" by Gail McMeekin. It's been on my shelf for years, but I've not really paid attention until now. I've been working my way back to my creative self, and there are some really thought-provoking passages in there. One of the chapters talks about our 'saboteurs' or inner critics, and this is pretty much what mine looks like. He's not a pleasant fellow at all. He's opinionated, bossy, and just plain nasty at times. He expects perfection, is judgmental, and he doesn't like criticism one bit. Since he lives with me, I decided to do some sleuthing and find out more about him, and what makes him tick.

Now that I understand his inner workings a bit more, I'm standing up to him instead of shooing him away and pretending he doesn't exist. I'm on to him now, and I'm taking my power back. I can now hear him out, thank him for his opinion, and then go on my merry way.

Once in awhile he has a good point, but mostly it's clear that he's just got his own issues. Biggest learning: It's not about me. Now that's powerful!

My goal is to end up living here, and I'm getting there, one step at a time. How about you?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


This photo pretty much describes how I've felt a good part of the past few weeks. The change of seasons and a few of life's curve balls hurled my way took the wind out of my sails for a bit, leaving me with little energy. I hate it when that happens! But I'm now back in the swing of things--getting excited for the holidays, looking forward to time spent with friends, and preparing for the February retreat. Lots of good stuff coming up!

Fortunately, I did manage to get up to Oregon to visit DJ for a few days--we spent some quiet time exploring country roads; meeting up with a fellow friend and fabulous artist/instructor; eating good food; and of course, taking photos. I didn't take many good ones, but I do like this one. Now you know how she gets all those great angles...lol!

And we came across this sweet little face in our travels one day.

The second part of our visit was back here in northern CA--we drove back down here, where DJ was finally able to go to the Alameda flea market with me. As we were nearing the end of the day, I was thinking I was getting off easy, having bought only a small handful of goodies. And then I saw this...

And this...

And what do you know, they both fit in my car perfectly! I had no intention of buying a mirror and a dresser, but as I walked around, I couldn't stop thinking about them. That's when I knew they were meant to come home with me! DJ shared some great photos of the day on her blog; she has a special way of seeing things, and captures images like nobody else. I'm so in awe of her work, as a photographer and as an artist.

And it thrills me that she loves to come up with ideas for the retreat! We got some felting needles, and she went crazy making these little flowers. So guess what I'll be incorporating into the Journey goodies?

On a completely different note, look what I got in the mail the other day! Another good friend found out that I'd never had a pear from Harry & David, so she surprised me with this goodness. I am so grateful to have such generous, uplifting souls in my life.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ping pong, anyone?

I've been feeling a bit like a ping pong ball in a clothes dryer lately (with bouts of stillness in-between), so bear with me if this post jumps a bit too! There are so many things that I'm excited about doing, that I find myself bouncing around between them all. Good thing I can still bounce pretty well, even if my bones do creak a little.

One of the highlights was a trip down to Santa Barbara a couple of weeks ago to visit my oldest son, Ryan—what a treat that was. I don't get to spend nearly enough time with him.

Ryan and the dog he wishes he had

Because I'm always looking for inspiration and cool artsy stuff for the retreats, we headed south to Summerland and Carpinteria, poking our heads into various galleries and antiques shops. A friend said that Just Folk is a must-see, and wow, was she right! A great selection of folk art and outsider art. One of their recent acquisitions is a collection of works by Bill Traylor—small pieces painted on bits of cardboard. They start at $85,000, so they were a bit out of my price range (!), but I did pick up a poster that the gallery had put together. Now I won't worry if the grandkids run into it and knock it off the wall! It's a really wonderful gallery, and the owners are very personable and interesting. Highly recommended!

On Sunday, we went down to the Arts and Crafts show down on the beach in Santa Barbara—beautiful weather, great company and lots to see. The one artist that really caught my eye was Neal Crosbie—I love his work! The photo doesn't do it justice at all, so check out his website. Best of all, he's the nicest guy; so genuine and humble. We spent quite a bit of time chatting with him, and getting to know him a bit. That's always the best part. I'm looking forward to purchasing a piece of his work, along with his book, Everything Be OK. I'll buy that.

Now, I've heard of people who look like their dogs, but never one who looked like their car...lol!

In stark contrast to the colorful art show was the Arlington West War Memorial display—it was on the other side of the pier, so I would have missed it if my son hadn't told me about it. Very powerful. No words needed.

I wish I could have stayed longer, as there's so much to do in the area, and a few people that I would have liked to have gotten to know, like these folks. They seem like they'd be very interesting, don't you think?

I've also been attempting an online class here and there. I say attempting because I have an irritating habit of signing up when I don't really have the time to fully participate—it's on my 'do better' list. (I don't like making resolutions, but a 'do better' list sounds reasonable to me.) Even though the classes have ended, I'm doing the exercises and playing every chance I get, bouncing from photoshop to stitching cloth, and then to my new-found obsession with zentangles (how did I miss this?), along with a sudden compulsion to carve rubber stamps. These last two are very meditative (the stillness part), especially when I'm sitting in the backyard with the sound of the water fountain in the background.

On the business side of things, registrations for the 3rd AAJ retreat next February are going great! It feels like a very special group of attendees (as are all of them), with a lot of repeat customers—always a good sign! There are still openings in all the workshops, but only a couple of spots in two of the classes. I'll be highlighting each class/instructor in future posts, but you can check out their blogs/websites by going to the Instructors page. A seriously talented, awesome, generous group (did I say talented?)—I'm so fortunate that they want to teach here!

We're having a bit of summer here (finally), so are doing our best to keep cool. Hope you're enjoying your weekend!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Counting down!

Only three more days until registration opens for the Feb. 2011 retreat! This all-inclusive retreat will take place from Feb. 17-21, with a maximum of 90 students. If you're planning on joining us, I suggest you register early as I expect some classes to fill quickly, especially since I've reduced the sizes. I am so excited for this one--it feels like a real winner already, with such a wild range of creative instructors. Do read the class descriptions carefully and check out the instructors' blogs so you know exactly what type of treat you're in for.

Orly Avineri's class focuses on nature journaling, and is sure to touch your soul in the deepest places.

Stephanie Lee will take you on a whirlwind ride exploring the many possibilities of using plaster in various art forms.

Nina Bagley is sharing her latest jewelry-making techniques with you, this time incorporating crocheting and fabric hearts in her pieces.

Albie Smith will share her wealth of knowledge in creating original papers of your design, which you'll then bind into a book of your choosing.
And Jesse Reno will open up a wellspring of creativity you didn't know existed in you, with his fearless painting class.
This is SUCH a strong lineup of creative talent and energy, that you can't possibly go wrong with any of them. It just depends on where your heart leads you at this time!

Registration begins this Tuesday, August 10, at 9am Pacific time. Registration is online only, and spots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. I hope to see you there!

ps--if you'd like to see photos of the recent Journey retreat last month, head on over to my Flickr page. We had an awesome time!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On why I've been MIA...

I could write a list a mile-long to explain my blog absence, but then you'd get bored and fall asleep by the time you reached #137. I considered doing blog "installments," but then I realized it would take me at least another 3 months to finish, as I tend to make things much more complicated than they ever need to be.

Once I remembered the old 'KISS' adage--Keep It Sorta Simple--I started breathing a little deeper and was able to start in on this post (yeh, I know it's supposed to be 'keep it simple, stupid', but I never liked the 'stupid' part, so I changed it. It suits me much better now).

But if I HAD done installments, these would likely have been the general categories:

1. Preparing for the Journey retreat (including lots of silly fun with DJ here)

2. Being swept up by another awesome Artful Journey experience...truly amazing! (Go to my Flickr page to see lots more pics)

3. Continuing the playtime after the retreat

4. Catching up with loved ones

5. Gathering goodies for the next Artful Journey retreat -- February 17-21, 2011. (Registration opens next Tuesday, August 10!)

6. Taking care of myself...
Anyway, that's what I was thinking I might post about. But since I'm not, I'll just leave you with a photo of a chap I met up at the retreat. He reminded me to slow down, be still, and appreciate the small miracles that surround us each day.