Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Best Parts of the Holiday Weekend, Part I

Although I did not photograph the all of the best parts of the holiday weekend--yet, I must say there were two highlights:

the beautiful dinner TOMA prepared: baby collard greens, potatoes, carrots, and onions and the pork shoulder with peach sauce...

and this, in my front yard at the bird feeder:

an immature Cooper's Hawk (?). TOMA built a lattice to train the grape vine and hung the bird feeder on it to get it away from the walk-way and banisters. He could not understand why the feeder was not empty at the end of the day. I told him that there was probably a hawk in the area... This one looks like it is probably the offspring of a couple nesting in the METRO cellular sign 1/2 block away in the strip mall this past spring. I think the birds had a little more protection when they had the house on one side of the feeder. I feel badly for the sparrows, finches and starlings, but this was an amazing site on Sunday. Right as we were ready to leave the house--only a few minutes and we would have missed this--10 feet from the front door! It was a thrill!

I am not the best at identifying hawks, even at this distance, but I am pretty good with songbirds. If fact, I won a beautiful print from Love Myrte in the Netherlands, by identifying a bird in a new print by a snapshot of the eye, eye stripe and eye line. Her work is absolutely beautiful, and I am very excited.

Off to work in the studio for 45 minutes before I must get ready for work.

Baci e abbracci

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The long weekend is about to end, but as sad as I am about that, I still have one more full day. What a great holiday! It started on Wednesday night when work dismissed at 3:00 p.m. So we got home to an early start. TOMA started our Thanksgiving meal and went to the gym. This allowed me to bake a cake for him. As Gomer Pyle used to say: "Surprise, surprise, surprise!" He came home from the gym astonished at first whiff of the cinnamon goodness of the apple cake (his fave from my repertoire). This put the long weekend off to a great start.

Thanksgiving Day was full of nothing. A long nap and dinner, just the two of us. TOMA made a wonderful pork dish from American's Test Kitchen and it was fabulous. He made a side dish of baby collard greens, potatoes, carrots, and onions. The pork had a peach sauce with peach slices which subbed for the cranberry sauce. It was perfect.

Friday we helped a friend who needed the cupboard stocked. It was a little tough on us, but we are very lucky to have jobs, and an abundance of food. We have taken a few hits lately in the checkbook, but have the ability to rebound.

Yesterday was the best day. I sewed most of the day, with the exception of a trip to the Home Depot. I finally purchased a Craftsy class (because they were 50% off this weekend) and even though I have not watched the complete course, I learned how to make a pressing board. Easy-peasy--two by two feet. I am very excited.

Today, a trip to Jersey as TOMA made a Craig's List purchase of a miter-box and I am going with him to meet the person at a WaWa to pick it up, sewing, baking (which I will tell you more about in a later post), and knitting. I am hoping to work on a drawing that I am very, very, very past deadline on... :-( (Fear is a great proponent of procrastination.)

More later... Baci e abbracci

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The "Most Wonderful Time of the Year..."

Just when the election ads finally end, the holiday ads begin. It is a never ending barrage of  loud, garish music and voices spewing from the TV. I have to say that Target and K-Mart have the most annoying ads. (Did you notice that they have put a look-a-like into the ads to play the weird holiday-crazed brunette character from last year?)

Also, I find it disgraceful that stores open their doors on Thanksgiving Day, making their employees give up their holiday for the greed of their employers while they are probably spending their Thanksgiving in some resort or have a caterer slaving in their kitchen and serving them hand and foot. Really, have we become such a consumer driven nation that we cannot spend one day with the stores closed? Are our electronic devices, Smartphones, and tablets no longer enough to keep us satisfied?

What would happen if we could no longer use our devices? If we had to actually take our eyes away from the screen and face our fellow human beings? If we had to walk and talk without texting, or drive without surfing the net? OMG what if we had to pay attention to our kids while shopping, strolling, or sitting in the park without yapping into the cell phone? Maybe, we would turn back into humans instead of rude, thoughtless, careless beings getting in the way of others who do pay attention when walking, who do hold the door for the person behind them, who do drive and watch the road.

Working and living in the city can be stressful. I live near strip malls--literally 1/2 block from my house--and although sometimes it provides convenience, most times it just makes for a trash-ridden street and crazy people rushing around like maniacs in their vehicles. So between getting around the center city area for work and my NE Philadelphia neighborhood for living it seems to be a never ending affront of people who just don't seem to care about anyone but themselves. They litter around our homes and drive offensively bullying their way around without concern about your safety, even when they are in a vehicle and you are on foot.

So what have I chosen to be thankful about today? I am thankful that I am not addicted to my electronic devices--although I use them, I do not have a smartphone, do not really talk on my cell (or land-line for that matter), and use my tablet and computer without excess. I think the one electronic device I most enjoy is my mp3 player. I listen to books and music while in the studio, knitting on the train, doing chores around the house, and walking outside. I know I am tuned out, but TOMA does not like the music I like, so I give him peace while enjoying what I like to listen to.

I am most thankful that I practice activities that occupy my hands. It is the greatest gift to be able to occupy yourself during a blackout (with a little added light), and to be happily solitary in many activities. I always have something to do--if I carry my tools or project with me--so I am never bored.

I know many of you have the same things to be thankful for as we share the love of making things. So even though it is traditional to be thankful for your loved ones, a roof over your head, and food in the fridge on this day--and every day--I suggest that you be thankful for the knowledge and creativity you possess. Even though I admit that some days it seems more like a curse--you know the days when nothing goes right and the seam ripper seems more like a sixth finger than a seldom needed tool--we, the creative are blessed with the ability to do what we do. Even if we don't do this full-time as our job, or have book deals, we are so lucky that we can find bliss with a ball of yarn and two sticks, needle, thread and fabric, or a pencil and paper.

(See I ended a negative start with a positive finish...)

Baci e abbracci

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

As you know I work at an art museum/school in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. I don't normally talk about work in this blog because you never know what might get you into trouble, but I will take the risk and tell you about an exhibition that opens this Saturday, November 17: The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World. Yesterday the staff got a sneak preview and although we did not see the complete exhibition, I was inspired by a couple of paintings.

First, go to the description of the exhibition to learn about 'The Linda Lee Alter Collection of Art by Women." There is a slide show of some of the works in the exhibition to whet your whistle. Then, if you are in Philadelphia stop by and see it. The opening reception is November 16 and it is hanging until April 7.

I assume that mostly women read this blog and other blogs like it, and it is great to see women artists who made it (names you would surely recognize like Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith) as well as those who are not quite as well known, but whose work would excite and inspire your creative endeavors.

One of my new favorites is Gladys Nilsson. I saw her watercolor paintings in another exhibition at work and fell in love with her whimsical style. Her paintings are colorful and wild, but neat and precise in execution. Yesterday I found two new artists to add to my favorites list: Barbara Takenaga and Melissa Polhamus. Two very different styles but both really impressive. Takenaga's work is absolutely amazing, full of color (which I love) and totally mesmerizing. I just wanted to look at it forever. Polhamus' work reminds me a little bit of Jim Nutt's work (who married Gladys Nilsson). I also wanted to study it for a long time just to look at the different things going on in the paintings.

Anyway, I am not an art critic in the least bit. I just know what I find inspirational to my own work. Check the exhibition out if you have a chance, and remember everything I said in this post are my opinions and are not the opinions of PAFA or anyone else who works there. (Better safe than sorry...)

Baci e abbracci...

Sunday, November 11, 2012


The Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show ends today and my friend and I attended yesterday. There was some really gorgeous jewelry and if I had the means I found a few artists whose work I would have definitely purchased.

The wearable art vendors seemed to follow the same trend as last year, which was felted accessories and garments. Not all, but many. They have upped the ante by using luxury fibers including cashmere and silk. Some really exquisite work. My favorites in the felted genre were Asta Barrington from Bath, England, WoollyMama from Burlington, Vermont, and Jeung-Hwa Park (who does not have a website, but can be found through Google).

Wallace-Sewell from London had the most beautiful silk woven scarves. 

K. Gereau Textiles also had some really nice designs out of felted merino and silk. When yarn of those combined fibers are felted, it looks a little like crepe because the wool felts and the silk does not. 

The last artist that really knocked me out was Stacey Lee Webber from Philadelphia. Her jewelry, made out of coins, was the most creative use of coins I have ever seen. I almost purchased a pair of cuff links for TOMA, but couldn't decide between two and then just decided against it because it was really the pieces where she used hinges that I loved--the bracelets and lockets.

It is days like yesterday that I really wish I had either a pocket full of money or better yet the talent and innovative ideas these artist have. Executing these designs takes patience and talent, but the true talent to me is coming up with the ideas. The artist did not come up with anything new. I have seen felt and silk combined, felt and shibori combined and woven silk scarves, but the use of color and detail was really amazing. Asta dyes all of her own fabric and does some machine embroidery that is quite unique. Actually, it was Asta's work that I was most sorry I could not own. The feather cashmere scarves with the fern-like fringe were begging me to take one home, but at $180 each that was just not happening in my lifetime. The satin pea pod scarves were also whispering to me, but again out of reach.

The rest of my day was quite nice. After the show we had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and then visited a yarn store. Then we sat at Barnes and Noble and knit over some refreshments. See below for the spoils of the day. I had coupons and a gift certificate, so the book below was about $5 out-of-pocket, and the shawl pin from the yarn store was also $5. I also purchased some yarn for gifts. (Shhh, I know, I was supposed to only use yarn I owned, but I told you I would not stick to that plan and I chose yarn that was not outrageous.) I would like to make some of TOMA's men friends hats and found a pattern at Purl Soho's site, purlbee.com (Thank you hats). Actually, I thought of making the hats after I saw the pattern. TOMA expressed a desire for one as well.

So, even though the slow, walking-stopping rhythm of the show is a true back-breaker for me and I was exhausted from that, it was a great day filled with treats for the eyes, imagination, and a couple for the studio.

I have been working on some sewing exercises from the Rayna Gillman book previously mentioned. I made some sachets using lavender sent to me from Apifera Farm for a donation we made in memory of Blue. She posted the story of how we came up with the money for the donation. If you read the story you will find out that the money was not ours, so I decided to make the sachets from that batch of lavender for people going through some sort of ordeal. I've made four and have given away three of them. The picture below is the last one I made and is waiting for a person to need a little pick me up.

Off to do some chores...

Baci e abbracci.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Out of the Darkness

OMG! as a person born and raised in America I now know how spoiled I truly am. On Monday evening we lost electricity. Sometime in the middle of the night we got it back. I realized that I am so dependent on the things I have come to take for granted. Once we returned to work on Wednesday and had to leave and come home to a dark house such a depression came over me. I don't know if it was the difficulty of preparing for the work day without light, or coming home to chores without light that did it, or that I could not draw or use my sewing machine (I spent every evening knitting and reading with a light that hung from my neck), but it was just so uncomfortable emotionally that I started crying at work yesterday when I found out that the promised restoration for last night was moved to Monday, 10:00 a.m. The only reason we have power right now is because the thing next to the transformer started sparking last night due to the wind and the fire department (who was patronizing to the neighbors when they arrived), and the electric company were bothered enough by our complaints of possible danger of our flat roofs and the tree next to the utility pole possibly catching fire that they finally fixed the problem that had 29 households without power for almost a week in a major city.

I understand the priorities and economics of the situation, but being one of the unlucky 29 while watching the neighbors across the street enjoy lights in the evening is frustrating. It was especially frustrating to know that it was a quick fix if only they could send out someone to take care of it. I do appreciate the electric company employees working around the clock to restore power and know that everyone cannot be fixed at once.

All throughout I admitted that I was lucky. I have a roof over my head, clothes and blankets to keep warm, a gas stove and hot water and a job to go to during the day, but I just couldn't help being down. It is a great lesson to actually to be without and suffer a little, but know that you are still a lucky one because your suffering will end. It reminds us to stop looking at the "haves" with envy and to keep your eye on the "have nots" to remember to be thankful everyday for what you do have. As my husband always says when I complain that I don't have enough energy/time to be creative--life is a struggle, it used to be that you woke up, got your work done, and went to bed. That was life for his grandparents and parents in Italy. Americans are all about "living your dreams," they have forgotten the life of their ancestors, the everyday struggle with no time to have fun or be creative. Just being tired to the bone from working the field all day only to get up and do it all again until you rest in a pine box.

Anyway, the house is almost back to order. The washing machine is spinning, the dryer is turning, the heat just kicked on again, and the clocks are ticking the day away, but I am not going to fret if I don't get to sew today, because we still have to do a big food shopping trip. I am going to just be happy that I can watch a movie tonight and take advantage of all of my advantages in life.

Wow, see what happens when you don't watch T.V. or listen to anything but classical music on Pandora for a week. You just knit and think, knit and think, knit and think...

Happily with power in Philadelphia. Baci e abbracci...