Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Morning coffee and knitting
Some years are difficult for obvious reasons. And some years just present one smallish thing after another, like a steady drip of water on a stone; by the end of it, you find yourself worn down just the same. 2012 has been like that here. I began it in a hole, resource-wise, being treated for Lyme, sleeping all the time, in constant pain. The more I talk to others who have had Lyme (and we are everywhere here), the more I realize that for an adult to come out of it unscathed is the exception rather than the rule. My energy isn't back to normal. My hips, I think, will hurt for life, especially when it's damp or cold. My carefully calibrated emotional ship was knocked sideways by the fatigue or the pain or the spirochete or all of it, who knows? And while everything that followed--which I won't discuss, because it doesn't involve just me--was minor in the big scheme of things, it all just wears. And I'm weary.

Given that the next month isn't one I can just check out of, I realized I need to conserve. The list of things I've given up on or failed to even begin is getting pretty long. I'm not going to complete Art Every Day Month--I stopped at Day 21. I'm not making any Christmas gifts this year. Last year just about everyone on the list got something handmade, but last year, oh, last year I felt so good and happy and full of energy! (I miss that feeling.) I feel bad the kids won't be getting something made by Mama, but they're not deprived in that area by any means. I'd rather make cookies with them, and watch holiday specials, and drink hot cocoa, and snuggle under a blanket reading stories. And I think it's a good time to put away the computer as much as possible, so blogging will be spotty to nonexistent for the rest of the year.

I have a countdown calendar to prepare, and a kid to homeschool, and a new gluten-free cookie recipe to try out to see if it will work for our co-op holiday party. I have red mittens to finish knitting, and Santa requests to process. I have a holiday season to pace and enjoy. I hope you enjoy yours as well!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

AEDM2012: Days 19-21

Happy Thanksgiving! Today I am thankful that we are not tied to hard-and-fast traditions and can make the holiday work for us instead of the other way around. To that end, we had a lazy morning, the kids are watching the parade, I'll be serving dinner at regular dinner time (because my kids really don't like having their large meal in the middle of the day, holiday or no), and I didn't have to do any extra cooking or cleaning. It's just the five of us, having a relaxing low-key day together at home. Thankfully! (Some years I'm game for a busier holiday. This is not one of those years.)

So I'm catching up here with the pieces created Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. This simple Life Map uses watercolored circles glued onto a watercolor background. The radiating spokes (written thoughts about each life stage) were just off the top of my head, and the path ends where I am now: parenting children (not babies any longer).

On Tuesday, I created a map of Monday.

I charted the day by the hour. It's hard to see in the scan, but I used grey watercolor to shade the nighttime hours and yellow to shade the daylight hours, although to be accurate I would have used grey for the day (no sun that day) and black for the night (but then you wouldn't be able to see my handwriting). You can see that particular day began at 2 am when my four-year-old showed up at our bedside, upset over a dream. Of course she spent the rest of the night with us, poor girl. The day ended around 11 when I finally went to bed. (No, I don't get enough sleep.)

On Wednesday, I used a grey watercolor pencil to make a sketch of a sea serpent, inspired by the old maps that purported to chart even the sea monsters.

I found this guy on an endpaper map from a library book about the Parthenon (we're moving into Ancient Greece in our homeschool), but that map was clearly inspired by early maps.

I'm hitting a wall, though, when it comes to mapping and map-inspired ideas. What might you like to see me map? Suggestions welcome. And it's funny, I keep coming across maps at home--such as a postcard with a bedrock map of Connecticut that I picked up at a CT state park over the summer purely because I liked the visual effect. Funny brain.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

AEDM2012: Days 17-18

I spent the weekend making a map of the Land of Oz. I used my pre-cut pieces of paper and just kept going. If I were to do this again (and I might), I'd arrange the pieces ahead of time so that they cold fold down into a book and open up into a map. So consider this a second draft. My first draft was created along with my two younger kids--you can read about that little project here, if you want. We were mapping the Oz of the book, so this map contains quite a bit that isn't even mentioned in the movie. First I'll show you the pieces all laid out together so that the locations are where they belong, in relation to each other:

 All the action in the story primarily happens North (where the house lands) to South (where Glinda's castle is). The Wicked Witch of the West's castle is, of course, in the West. The East isn't mentioned at all in the book--we have no idea what's over there. Here are the map pieces one at a time, following the path from North to South:

From the house's landing spot to the second ditch

Over the river, through the poppy field, and into the Emerald City

From Emerald City to the forest with the monster

Into the Country of the Quadlings

 And, of course, over to the west for the castle:

Land of the Winkies
I do see a combination handmade book/map of Oz at some point in the future--but after this month is over, I think!

I have one more post until I'm caught up. I'm starting to run out of ideas though...

Monday, November 19, 2012

AEDM2012: Days 13-16

I finally scanned this afternoon, so I'm sharing three map-inspired pieces from last week. It counts as four days' work, though, because I carved another stamp, which took two full episodes of Freaks and Geeks on Netflix.

But I'm getting ahead of myself! The first thing I did was slice some printed-out maps into 1-inch strips. Then I glued them down with gel medium. This first has strips of the topo map that inspired the line maps in this post, arranged with space between the strips. When it was dry, I rolled some gesso on top. It's really light and delicate and hard to scan. The only other thing I did was add a light wash of blue watercolor in between the map strips. It's hard to see in person--it's so delicate--so it's probably impossible to notice here.

"File Copy"
I have to angle my screen just right to see this at all. I really love it in person.

The next piece used strips from a much more colorful 1947 map of Rhode Island and some of the surrounding states. I glued those down without spaces, added the gesso, and decided it needed a big compass rose. So big I had to go buy a carving block because the ones I have are all 4x6". This is the stamp I drew and then carved.

And here it is on the map collage.

I don't know if you're getting how much fun this is. Granted, some days I am just, What on earth am I going to do on this map theme again??? But I'm really enjoying a lot of what I come out with.

Finally, this last piece (for this post) is inspired by a 1997 topo map of the area around Killington, VT, which is also where I was married, two years later.

This was drawn with Zig Millennium pens and colored in with colored pencils.

I will continue to try to catch up with the posting without slacking on the making! Reminder, more Art Every Day Month participants can be found here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I went out to fill the bird feeder this morning and frost was everywhere, shining in the sun. This isn't our first frost, but I was out there at the right time for it to catch my eye, so once the bird feeder was filled, I went back inside for my camera.

I'm still using an automatic and lusting after a digital SLR so I can control the focus better.

Mostly, these shots focused the way I wanted them to.

What I would really like is to save up for a digital SLR and buy it with my own money; being a non-income-earning mother is a lovely luxury, of course, but sometimes my utter dependency on someone else's income gets to me.

I don't do well with cold, dark winter. It's good for me to stop and take notice of the small bits of beauty. They are worth going back into the house to get the camera. Stand still and recognize, before the frost melts and the fleeting beauty disappears.

I'm still plodding away on my art every day project, although I don't quite always manage to make art every day. I have more to share, when I get to scanning and posting.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

AEDM2012: Playing Catch Up

Today's the 13th and it's not over yet, and by my count I have 11 pieces, so I'm only one day behind. That's because on Friday night I went to a friend's house instead of into the basement to create something, but getting out of the house was a good thing. We were juggling cars last week, so Friday, which is usually a long day because it's our homeschool co-op day, was even longer. Anyway, enough of my excuses. I have three maps to share today.

I drew this one on Saturday, using watercolor pencils. It's inspired by game boards, and again, I don't get too personal here, but this is drawn from my own experiences over decades, and is only meant to reflect my own experiences, and obviously in general terms because the map isn't that detailed.

As always, clicking makes it a little bigger.

This next one was drawn Sunday. I only used pencil, so I tried to adjust the scan digitally a bit so it shows up a little better. I tried, anyway. As I mentioned last time, I discovered USGS topographical maps are available as free downloads. Bliss! I love topo maps. Of course they're much smaller than the originals, if you print them out, although I already printed a 1958 map of Rhode Island and portions of the bordering states using the poster setting, so I have 12 sheets of paper to piece together to make the whole map. This pencil sketch used an 1899 map of my town as inspiration--it's not meant to be an exact copy.

And then on Monday, I drew one in color.

I didn't use pencil at all for this. I'm trying to gain confidence in just setting down the lines in a permanent way, and it worked out fine. I stuck to the colors of the map--blue for water and marshland (still pretty marshy around where I live, hurrah for wetlands, I say), brown for contour lines, roads, and railroad tracks. But hmm, I think I feel a multi-colored one of these coming on, just to play. But I like the blue and brown too, for an authentic old-time map feel. And I like the Zig milennium markers and the way they feel drawing line after line onto the paper. Very soothing.

I have no idea what today's map might look like. Thirty map-inspired pieces! Can I ever just take on a challenge at face value without making it more complicated for myself? Yeesh.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Finished Knit: Baby Blanket and Hat

I finished the Easy Eyelet Baby Blanket with some yarn left over, so I decided to make a hat. I'm quite pleased with the hat, actually. I carried every 11th and 12th purl stitch from the ribbing up through the stockinette as garter. Then I decreased one stitch on each side of those purl stitches every other row, which resulted in a little star shape at the crown.

Just a little something extra for knitterly interest. The baby is due next month, so I figure even if this hat only fits at the very beginning, it'll be useful. I have a hard time with baby head sizes. My first baby had an enormous head. Of course that was the only baby that wasn't a c-section. I remind him of this when I get a chance. And then my next baby was six weeks early. I think my third and last was of an average baby size, but like I said. I have a hard time with baby head sizes. The mother-to-be works with my husband, so this will be ready for him to deliver next week, when he returns stateside from his latest business trip, so she will have it, hopefully, before the baby is born.

The details are on Ravelry here. I used Cascade 220 Superwash because I don't know the new mama well enough to say whether a fussier-to-wash yarn would be okay. My younger two children pet it and remarked how soft it is and how much a baby will enjoy it. My kids are fans of my knitting, which is nice.

And that's about it! Easy knitting, soft blanket. I'm a little behind on Art Every Day Month but hope to post on that soon...ish. I discovered you can download USGS topographical maps online. Holy moly. Old ones, too. Down a rabbit hole, I fell. Just dig down through the maps, and you'll find me...

Friday, November 9, 2012

AEDM2012: Day 8

Wednesday I felt a Sick coming on, so I crawled into bed around 7 pm with some tea and honey, the heating pad, and a bunch of books and knitting. I mainly ignored the books and knitting; I finished the tea and dozed on and off, crawling out of bed only to dispatch children to bed at their appointed times. I felt better on Thursday, so I suppose my proactive approach worked? But all I managed on Wednesday was a little bit of sketching.

So Thursday night, I headed downstairs to do a little daily art plus some. First, a map. I rarely go to my childhood neighborhood even in my head (never in person, anymore), but I decided to create this quick, childlike map in a sepia watercolor pencil, hoping for an old-time look.

You can click to make it bigger. If you lived in that neighborhood with me (hi, Jill!) you may not recognize what I chose to put here. The BIG HILL is of course not all that big; but it seemed that way. And I don't know if we always sledded down it--how could that be? didn't they plow streets in the 70s/early 80s?--but I remember doing it at least once. The "deep dark woods" was really just a patch of trees on a hill between streets, but I loved going there and pretending I was Far Away. The "pond" was probably just an exaggerated puddle in a swampy area, but I did fall into it once, when Michelle (whose house is at the top of the BIG HILL) dared me to walk out onto the ice, and I did. As I said, it was a puddle; I only got wet up to my knees or so when the ice broke, but the rocks--which were there as fill, because they built houses on that swamp the next year--all froze to my corduroys, and it was funny. And I marked the way to Stop & Shop because at five years old, I figured I'd have to live in my parents' neighborhood forever because at least I knew how to get to the supermarket from there.

Well. That's more childhood reminiscing than I am likely to do for the next year. And how about this --I realized a couple hours after I drew this that I signed it with my maiden initials, abc, rather than my current ones. I signed it with the initials of the person who lived there. Funny Brains.

Also last night, I made some postcards for iHanna's latest swap, which has a theme of "empowerment," which can be interpreted any number of ways. I chose simply. Here's my group of cards to choose from (we only need five):

I already had all these backgrounds ready, so it was just a matter of deciding what to do with them. I am partial to the "Grow" cards; I think I will have to keep one for myself.

 Also using the theme of trees and growth:

And finally, more of the compass rose from earlier in the month. It's not the best choice with these backgrounds, but I think these two hold up okay.

There's still plenty of time to sign up for the postcard swap, if you're interested--right here!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

AEDM2012: Days 5 + 6

As anticipated, I didn't manage any art on Sunday, but I completed these three pieces between Monday and Tuesday. The first uses contact paper image transfers of a black and white photocopy of a Berlin street  map. It's an insert on a AAA road map of Central Europe from 1968. It happened to photocopy in pieces so that's how I used it, deciding to fill in the center with my own map-inspired lines.

Before applying the transfers I used red watercolor and plastic wrap on the paper for the background.

The second piece was also inspired by a piece of this same late-60s road map, the legend describing the international road signs:

You can read it if you click on it. I decided to take the organization of shapes (triangles for danger, circular for instructions, and rectangular for information) and apply them to babies/toddlers. I brainstormed quite a few possibilities and decided to include two of each. Wouldn't it be great if babies came with instructional signs?

You can click on that to make it bigger, too.

The final piece is an abstract road map using tape resist and a secondary color palette. The compass rose is an older stamp I carved quite a while ago. Without it, I think it's just an interesting abstract. Hopefully with it, it starts to make you think "map."

I'm having fun. It's a good challenge to ask myself to create pieces that can be considered complete, although I could see going back into some of these later, too. I've noticed, though, that I spend quite a lot of "art every day time" facilitating the kids' art. When I have time, I'll post their artwork, too.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

AEDM2012: Days 1-3

November is Art Every Day Month, and while I have no hope of posting daily, I do hope to create daily. Actually, I do that daily anyway--rarely does a day go by that I don't at least knit a little. But my goal for November is to create 30 pieces dealing with the theme of maps. Why maps? My kids like to make maps. I like maps--new ones, old ones, imaginary ones...they're intriguing. I recently borrowed Mapmaking With Children from the university library, seeking inspiration and ideas to use at home. My younger two kids and I found some old maps in the local antique store and made some color photocopies for collage purposes, and then while I was ordering some books for my daughter on Amazon, the site suggested I might like Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking. Why yes, Amazon, you smart cookie. Why yes I would.

So in other words, I have maps on the brain. To get ready for AEDM, I collaged with some pieces of an old US wall map (it hung in our hallway until it finally got too shredded around the edges and I replaced it). Around the collage, I brainstormed some map ideas, and when the Amazon order arrived, I read my new mixed-media mapmaking book. (It contains more step-by-step instructions on how to re-create the author's projects than I like, so I'm mostly looking at the pictures and reading the text for inspiration.)

November 1, I only managed sketches of ideas for compass roses--I spent most of the day vacuuming, doing laundry, and zipping things into allergen-free barriers thanks to my middle child's newly diagnosed dust-mite allergy. One of those sketches led to this painted rock, Orient:

I like clean geometric lines, but this was definitely informed by Mondrian, especially the color scheme. (Yes, a rock can be inspired by fine art; why not?)

Another sketch became this hand-carved stamp:

That was Day 2, Friday. On Saturday, I created these 2-dimensional pieces. I'd cut a stack of paper into 6"x9" pieces, so each finished work will be the same size...easier for compilation later, is what I was thinking. The first piece, Find Your Way, used the stamp and some purchased alphabet stamps.

I scanned this in, and the background, which is a mix of blue and green watercolor with plastic wrap on it while it dried, for the texture, is not quite as light and washed-out as it appears here. I used black block-printing ink for the stamps. The second piece, Map of My Brain, is also a scan.

You ought to be able to click on both of those for a bigger view. My brain hasn't been the best place in which to travel lately. For months now, actually. I don't usually get this personal on this blog, so I think I will just share the artwork without further explanation.

I may only manage sketches today, as well, as I'm heading out shortly to my assigned clean-up spot. I have to park, check in, and take a shuttle to the shoreline, which is under restricted access. I'm not sure what to expect, beyond coming home chilly, tired, and perhaps a little gutted.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Garter Stitch

I began this blanket a few weeks ago--it's intended for a baby due in December--but I made huge progress on it this past week. It's a simple garter stitch blanket that grows out from one corner, then decreases down to the opposite one (Easy Eyelet Blanket). I've knit it numerous times, including one for each of my own children, which are still on their beds. It's a blanket that well outlives the baby years. And, as the name says, it's easy. And there is nothing like garter stitch to soothe a knitter.

I knit loads on this blanket while waiting for Sandy, during the storm, and after. I worked on it during my middle child's allergist appointment. It sat in my lap while I kept him calm during the scratch test. This blanket grew so much this week, it's almost done. I hope none of the anxiety transfers to the baby. I may have to give it a wash first, just to be sure.

We are fine...far enough from the coast that we didn't need to evacuate. We lost power for much of Tuesday--it stayed on all through the storm, but then they shut it off while they were making repairs in the area. A huge tree was down, all tangled up with wires, not too far from here, and I think our power went out when they began working on that. Truly, we were lucky in Rhode Island. Damage to coastlines and buildings but not people. I've signed up to help with debris clean-up this weekend (I'm waiting to hear if/where I've been assigned), and I've donated online to help victims further away. And I keep knitting, because it soothes my anxiety, which seems to have increased, generally, with age.

Garter stitch, garter stitch, garter stitch.

I hope all of you and all those you know and love are safe, every day. It's what we all hope for, isn't it? Every day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

List-It Tuesday: Overheard

Yes, it's Thursday. I've had a couple of Weeks Like That, okay, and only two days late is actually pretty impressive, considering. The topic this week is overheard, and it's just too juicy to let slip by.

My daughter takes a preschool gymnastics class. Last year, when both my older kids were in school, I spent the 45 minutes sitting and knitting. Most parents stand at the viewing window and chit-chat, but I was too tired and achy from Lyme Disease to stand for more than ten minutes at a time. (Sad but true.) This year I have my eight-year-old with me. He does his math chapter and then we play some Uno, or he might read while I knit, or, usually, some of all of that. Today, I eavesdropped a bit. Some of these were said by parents, and some were said by the group leader who runs the before-school care for kindergarteners. In case you can't read the scan (the scanner doesn't like the spiral binding) or my handwriting, here is what it says:

* You're not being a nice boy. You're staying right here. Who's going to win this battle? [This was said by a caregiver--not sure if she was a nanny or a grandmother--but it seemed pretty clear to me the kid was winning.]

* Every single one is like chipped but a handful. I don't know what I was thinking when I registered for these. [Sigh. A few of the moms have a "like" speech impediment, as you'll notice. It like drives me like crazy.]

* They're like up the walls.

*Then it all like slowly unravels.

*I was feeling in control of my life for like a little second.

* It's definitely like guilt.

*I'll be making like 15 things for the school bake sale.

* Please sit down on your bum and eat. Sit down and finish your lunch. I'm going to have to glue you to that seat.

* Do not put that over your face like that EVER! You can see through plastic. You can't breathe through it.

*If you did say it don't say it again because it's not appropriate.

It's worth it to go back to Aimee's post and check out all the links...some good overheard stuff this week!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sewn: Sparkly Princess Cape

I've had this cape in my head for a long time--since I made the skirt out of the same fabric, actually--so it's just as well my daughter decided she needed a sparkly cape for her Halloween princess outfit. She was more than happy for me to use the fabric we already have, too. I wish I had better photos; it's grey and dim today, and I had to use the flash indoors. But you get the idea, and I'll be sure to post photos of the entire princess outfit after Halloween, although they are forecasting rain for Halloween, how dare they?!

I used two layers of a basic cape shape. The underneath layer is the blue satiny stuff, and the top layer is the sheerer, sparkly stuff. I hemmed the sides and bottoms of each piece separately, then zigzagged them together at the raw neck edge before sewing on the narrow binding that extends into the ties, which you can see below.

That way, the layers flutter individually as she runs.

It turned out just as I pictured it, and I am beyond delighted with it. My daughter seems pretty happy, too. And as far as Halloween sewing goes, this was extremely low stress.

Are you doing any costume creating this year? How's it coming along?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Birthday Shirt

It's about that time of year again...

I realized when I made last year's shirt that I was going to have to make this a tradition. This year, though, it's not a surprise (although she won't see the finished shirt until her birthday). She just assumed it was coming because, after all, her number is changing, so she needs a new shirt. She had advance say on colors and design. In the end, she chose what I wanted to do anyway--a four with a crown--although for a while there we were awash in her initial in a circle with a crown and the four. I'm happy simplicity won out.

Goodness. I love that design, I really do!

I also really enjoyed sharing photos of where I live in the last post. Here's one more, a different pond that I drove by four times today (on the way to and from preschool gymnastics, and on the way to and from karate).

I didn't have my camera earlier in the day, so this was taken about 5 pm and it's not as vibrant, but still. Autumn is pretty here this year. Last year we sort of missed the colorful part entirely thanks to Hurricane Irene. The leaves that weren't stripped were salted, or something like that. There are a couple of trees on the way into town that are, as my son put it, so bright that it hurt his eyes to look at them. Next time I go in that direction I'm going to have to make time to stop, find a safe place to pull over, and take some photos.

Finally, I signed up for the Art Every Day Challenge. It takes place in November. I don't think I'll be posting every day, but I hope to have something to show for every day, when I do post. By the end, I'd like 30 postcard-sized pieces of artwork. I'm thinking of a variation on a theme--an animal per day, or 30 trees...something like that. Usually, if I make time to draw, it's a better day.

Before that, though, I need to sew up a sparkly cape. I didn't think I was sewing anything for Halloween this year, but the almost-four-year-old has other plans, and who can argue with the Birthday Girl?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

List It Tuesday: I Love Where I Live

This week's theme is "What I love about where I live," and I felt it needed to be a photographic list as much as possible. So here goes.

I love my yard, especially the view off the deck.

I also love the animals that visit our yard or make it their home. The bird feeder is hanging from the tree directly behind the corner of the deck (you can't see it in this photo). A bunny has been lurking around underneath that white pine. We occasionally see deer, although I know they visit overnight when we don't see them, too, and I love when the wild turkeys march through. And I adore the reptiles and amphibians, like this common snake

and, of course, the red-backed salamanders.

I love that we live so close to the ocean. In less than fifteen minutes, I'm at the beach. Just knowing it's so close calms me; if I need to get there, I can (and sometimes I just do).

My kids are growing up with an intimate knowledge of the ocean; I love that. One of our favorite beaches is a barrier beach, with this salt pond behind.

We love it here. It's calm and shallow and we swim next to little fish and sometimes come across crabs and even horseshoe crabs, and I love that my kids (and myself!) have the chance to "know" these creatures in their own habitat, not just behind glass at an aquarium.

It's a slightly farther drive, but we can also easily get to some great tide pools.

There, we can find hermit crabs and snails and sea stars (although not this year), again, in their own habitat, where we are careful and grateful visitors.

I also love that in almost any direction we drive from home, we pass horses or cows.

And every time I go into town, I drive by a pond that is gorgeous in all weather. This photograph was taken on a very grey day last fall.

We are surrounded by all of this, yet we're only about 40 minutes from Mystic, CT, 45 minutes from Providence, RI, and 90 minutes from Boston.

I realized when I was thinking about this list that it doesn't include any particular stores or communities of people. Back before I had to cut out gluten, I'd have told you I loved a certain coffee shop, and the pizza place in town, and how we used to pick up our CSA share at the co-op, order a pizza for dinner, and then browse in the used book store. But the used book store closed, the CSA stopped letting kids on the farm so I couldn't work off half our share anymore, and most of us can't eat regular pizza. My love of this place is very much centered on the landscape. Whenever we idly talk of moving I always say I don't want to be any farther from the coast than I am now, and since it's about four miles "as the crow flies," that limits our options a bit!

What do you love about where you live? Is it the landscape, the community, or both?