Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Spirit

This Christmas, Yule, whatever we call our winter celebration was one of the best we've had in years ... many years! Maybe the best ever because having your own child makes all the difference in the world at this time of year. Angelo's first few Christmases were punctuated by sadness for me due to circumstances beyond my control from several different angles, but this year in our new home, it was very special. DH and I decided that since we bought each other a house, we would just buy/make for Angelo and Dana. I was so relieved with this decision, not just from a monetary standpoint, but having just moved ALL our stuff (which always seems to be a LOT, if not too much despite all the trips to Good Will and very reduced buying), I just couldn't face trying to find a place for anything else. We just don't need it.

I was pleased with what we got Angelo- all books, puzzles, art supplies, some pirate dress up accessories and one hand made wool felt robot puppet I actually managed to squeeze in with all the craziness. Oh, and a few trains he asked for- the only things he asked for*- because I truly understand obsessions. ;) Since he makes up stories to go with the trains, I consider them all good tools for a creative mind. :) *He excitedly described what Christmas day would be like and included party mix and trail mix, so we had party mix Xmas eve while watching the Grinch and trail mix for breakfast Xmas morning. I put together both from the bulk and natural sections of our new grocery store.

Dana got her super cute and sweet doggie travel bag I made for our super cute and sweet girl and a new bandana. I don't put her in costumes, but she doesn't seem to mind the bandanas, so I do accessorize the pup. :) I will take a picture of the bag and post it at another time.

These pictures are from our awesome back yard snow ball fight/sledding/romping play time and what Angelo wore outside later because his coat was wet and we didn't know where any other coats were for him (it worked out well for my amusement, I think.:)

Stately doggie in the softly falling Xmas snow.
You can still see him smiling through all the layers. :)
Kicking a snow covered ball.
A new train gets to play in the snow.
Really happy pup!!! :)

He had a very warm-y vest of mine underneath and it worked out nicely that the pirate gear was made of wool. My cinched up trench coat fit the bill nicely too. :)

Hope your holiday celebrations were full of warmth and happiness!!! :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

We're Here!!!

About a year ago, DH and I decided we needed to move. We wanted to be in a more "trick-or-treatable" neighborhood for Angelo. We were seeking more of a community and easier access to playmates, sidewalks for doggie walking, etc.

So, in January, we started sorting and boxing, tossing and storing, and repairing (way more than we intended to thanks to the major snow/ice damage, oi!) Once all the repairs were done, we finished the painting and staging, and called in friends to help with the final push. By the end of May, we were able to put the house up on the market.

If you've ever had your house on the market with a toddler and a dog, you know just how *fun* it is getting everything clean and staged when a realtor calls you and wants to show the house in an hour. Yes, we asked for 24 hours notice, but you just don't turn down a showing, especially in the current market. At least we were cleaning the house more regularly. I use the term "we" somewhat loosely, though DH did help when he could. Murphy's Law dictated that most of the last minute showings were when he was working and getting more than the usual volume of phone calls.

We had a few people interested, but nothing came through. We were really discouraged when we only had a couple showings between August and September. We were ready to take the house off the market for the winter after Thanksgiving if we didn't get an offer by then.

But, by the end of October, we did! 10 days later, we'd looked at 27 houses in Pittsburgh. (oh, yeah, remember when I talked about how transient Morgantown's population is and how difficult it makes it to form community? We decided that because we already have so many friends who have roots in Pittsburgh and we already drive there so often, that we would move there instead of across town in Morgantown.) Amongst all those houses we found one that is just what we need and love. Built in 1881, rooms to serve every need and plenty of updates to allow us to focus on being more social and connected rather than on fixing the house. *LOVE*

*Insert much drama with the details of inspections, delays, packing, moving brother to his apartment, etc.*

We closed 5 days ago and are overjoyed with the house, our neighborhood and the proximity to so many friends we've known for so many years. And though there are still boxes everywhere, we even have our Christmas tree up. Angelo is soooo excited! You can see him playing on the deck in the pictures and Dana standing guard. :)

Hope you have very Happy Holidays too!!! :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

I made an apron

I didn't make the deadline to have it submitted to the gallery, but I made this apron, my first one ever, for the Apple Cider theme over at Tie One On. I don't know why the idea of making aprons is so appealing to me, but it is. I've been using this one, but not in a traditional sense and it has been fun. I didn't measure or follow a pattern. It's all rectangles, so with the exception of making the ruffle, it was pretty easy and fun to make.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Art

This first piece of art was a last minute Halloween crown. I just felt I needed one. Angelo is modeling it here since it's adjustable and he is such a cute model. :) I made more Halloween art, but will post it later, maybe.

This piece, I made a long time ago when the free to print company www.ilovetoinspire.com asked me to do some collages using their materials. I used a quote and background from their site and cut it out in the shape of a house. The quote says "In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." It surfaced a few days before Thanksgiving and I thought it was pretty appropriate to have it out to go with the theme of the day, especially with the house image.

The set of Christmas houses was for a blog challenge over at Art Chix Studios. I used their mini wooden houses, vintage letters background, Christmas fun images and Christmas post image. The challenge was to use their baroque trim in a holiday art project and the stars and medieval borders worked out nicely for this project. If you like it, pop on over to the Art Chix fan page and comment. It is a contest and I could win a $20 gift certificate for more Art Chix art supplies! Please, feed my addiction! :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving Day

These are pictures from our walk this morning. It's the second time we've all ventured out together. It isn't exactly a great work out for me and not much at all for Dana, but Angelo really gets some exercise! And we all get outside and get to walk next to the creek. Today, we even saw a flock of turkeys in the woods! Over the weekend, Dana and I were able to get out for a couple walks and covered twice the area in about half the time, so I got a good work out and Dana a decent one. I may need to get out the roller blades! She's a very fast doggie and is a great trainer! :) I've also done more yoga lately and even taught a private lesson last week. This weekend, I'll be going to the Jill Parker workshop and show in Pittsburgh!!!

I thought I'd share my Thanksgiving menu. It is set up to maximize efficiency since I'll be the only one cooking (I suggested to my husband that he shop today and I cook tomorrow while he plays with Angelo. Really didn't want to deal with those crowds since we have had so much on our mind and waited until today to finalize our plans.) Normally, I avoid the microwave and the last time I bought a frozen pie was last Thanksgiving. Not that I've ever made one from scratch or bought a fresh one either, but it's Thanksgiving. And, of course, it suits my gluten-free, non-goitrogenic vegetarian diet. I won't be eating the pumpkin pie, so I'm taking the easiest way out possible with the frozen version. So, here it is!

Thanksgiving menu:

1. Mashed Potatoes: http://www.mashed-potatoes-recipe.com/healthy-mashed-potatoes-recipe/


1 1/2 lbs potatoes (Yukon Gold are arguably the best potatoes for making mashed potatoes, Russtes are also good)
5 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
Salt and Pepper

So we can really call this recipe healthy, we kicked out the cream and replaced it with milk. Cream has more fat which is bad for you (if you eat to much of it of course). It is also nice to hold back on the salt if you want to avoid some of the problems that to much salt brings (like high blood pressure).

Let’s get started – peel the potatoes and cut them into big pieces. Big pieces absorb less water than small potato pieces. More water – watery potatoes with less taste. Cover them with cold water, add salt, and bring them to boil and then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. How do you know potatoes are cooked? They must be soft if you sick a knife or a fork in the fattest potato in the pan.

Done? Now you need to drain the potatoes and then put them back on low heat. This will make all the water evaporate (be carefull not to burn them) and potatoes will taste better – less water – more taste. Heat the milk (don’t add cold milk) and add it together with butter. Also add some salt and pepper. Now all there is left is to use a wire masher and mash the potatoes and this healthy mashed potatoes recipe is finished.

2. Roasted vegetables:

4-5 medium carrots

1 acorn squash

1 butternut squash

1 sugar/pie pumpkin

olive oil

fresh parsley


Cut up all veggies and parsley, drizzle with olive oil and mix well. Put all on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.

Put in oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

3. Turkey substitute: follow directions on package.

4. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free corn bread: follow directions on package.

5. Sage butter: http://www.ifood.tv/recipe/sage-butter

1 stick {1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage plus whole sage leaves for garnish if desired

In a bowl combine well the butter, the chopped sage, and salt and pepper to taste and chill the sage butter, covered, for at least 1 hour or overnight.

The sage butter may be made 4 days in advance and kept covered and chilled.

Garnish the sage butter with the sage leaves.

6. Frozen pumpkin pie: follow directions on package.

7. Baked sweet potatoes: poke holes with fork and microwave on high for about 5 minutes, covered. Let sit at least 1 minute.

I hope your Thanksgiving is full of comfort and family warmth!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Random Report

Well, I won't go into all that I've been up to for the last couple weeks, but I thought I'd tell you some of what I did before breakfast today:
1. Let doggie out
2. Got doggie water
3. Got myself water
4. Got Angelo food
5. Built a castle (out of blocks)
6. Repaired a train track (made of wood)
7. Looked for "James" (who is still eluding us)
8. Did some yoga while Angelo climbed on me and asked me to read to him, look for wheels to a train, etc.
9. Read "Go Dog Go" to Angelo
10. Read instructions for Dr. Levine's Ultimate Weight Loss Formula online since I asked they not send me the printed version.
11. Opened said formula to find printed directions.
12. Started coffee.
13.Posted to Blog.

This is a fairly typical morning for me, though lately, you can sadly reduce or eliminate the amount of yoga I do and it's one of many reasons for Dr. Levine making an appearance in my life. (Another is so I can find jeans that fit in _any_ size. My current shape is just not working for that as far as I can tell and I don't want to torture myself trying to find any anymore.) So, I'm glad I got some yoga in today and I think I'm going to try to do some Belly Dance DVD's/ drills/free weights at the gym once Eric gets back from Charleston Friday. Most days, the classes are over in the aerobics room by 6:30. Was killing myself to get to Zumba, but 5:30 when nap goes late and the gym is 20 minutes away with no traffic (and fighting traffic at 5:00 is ridiculous) is so stressful. Does the hour of Zumba make up for the stress getting there and the time it takes out of my evening that is so short anyway? Lately, I guess not. :P Would be nice if it weren't so distracting to exercise here in the morning (or evening for that matter), but such is life with a toddler. I'd also like to figure out a way to work in a tricycle ride/doggie and Mommy walk in when the weather isn't terrible. Now, to make it all happen...

I've started on some projects for the Puppy: a super cute and sweet doggie travel bag for Christmas and a scrapbook because my sister got me a super cute album that goes so well with the super cute paper I got recently. I figure I buy the supplies often enough that I might actually want to complete an album. I've made a complete one for my step daughter years ago, one that was mostly complete for my husband for our 2nd anniversary (we just celebrated our 10th) and a handful of pages for Angelo, the pups and our beach trip we took recently. I'm trying to marry some art techniques and scrap booking because while I enjoy the idea of creating something that celebrates and records the memories of my family, I kind of look at it as another task I have to complete. :( I'm trying to make it more fun and less of a struggle for myself. I'll admit that saying that makes me feel like a bad mom and that I have to get over it.

OK, this is going long. Will post some Halloween art another time. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Art Retreat Report

Where do I begin? How about some of the things I made in preparation for the art retreat?

First, I made crayon cupcakes (which I did a whole post on here), which I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years- since I got Collage Unleashed by Traci Bautista. They were easy to make and Angelo helped me by peeling off the wrappers (I had some boxes left over from his birthday party and a few broken ones I’ve collected. Really surprised there weren’t more broken ones) and breaking up some of the crayons. You can give them to your child or use yourself for some interesting coloring fun or use a craft/travel iron (one without holes) to make some really cool backgrounds. For the backgrounds, just melt some crayon cupcake onto the iron and smear around on cardstock or watercolor paper (I like the latter better). You can also melt some regular crayons without the paper onto the iron and do a print or smear around also.

I also tea dyed some silk gauze, cotton cheesecloth and cotton muslin. It helped with some great antiqued collages, including a Halloween one using an image from my collage sheets available on Etsy.

I filled my dye tub with enough water for the fabric to move around in, heated, but did not boil the water, added about 10-11 cheap tea bags, wet, rung and added the fabric and then let everything sit for a couple hours or so. I stirred once or twice, but since I was going for an aged look, was actually looking for a few dark spots.

Then I got to the retreat (I’m skipping over a lot of stuff, like how I was excited to go, but in tears because I’d be away from my babies so long and how I agonized over packing and shipping my supplies. I get separation anxiety with my family and my art supplies.) This is what my room looked like:

I was spoiled all week. I didn’t have to cook or clean, make my own coffee (which was available all day) and someone else (my husband mainly) was providing child and puppy care. And, best of all, I got to spread out my supplies and leave everything and make art as long as I wanted, only being interrupted by food and potty breaks. I didn’t even sleep that much since I was so excited about all the ideas I had. I got to make the shrine for Tara, which I’ve wanted to make for a very very long time. It was labor intensive and sweet and emotionally difficult at the same time. I don’t think I would have been able to do it at home. It took so long to make, I think I would have had to spread it out over months and I might have gotten discouraged. There, I was able to work for hours straight (except for food, potty breaks and getting some experimentation out of my system). Once it was finished, I banged out a bunch of Artist Trading Cards, some small canvases and a cardboard piece. I will post pictures of all that later, but for now, I’ll add some pics of my dyed paper towels (which I hung on the line outside to dry and thought looked like tie dyed cloth diapers). The technique for this is also in Collage Unleashed.

It was a wonderful week. I laughed, I cried and I have been trying to adjust to being back “in the real world”. I also have been refusing to clean up after anyone but myself and occasionally Angelo (and once Dana, but usually I don’t have to do that. She’s such a good girl!) I’ve noticed that after a week of having to do it all [mostly] by himself, my husband is more self motivated in taking care of Angelo and the house. This is excellent, because I definitely plan on running away, um, I mean taking another trip by myself again in the near future.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hold True to the Dreams of Thy Youth

I added this picture to my Etsy listing for Vintage/Antique boy images. It was something I started in the collage workshop I taught in Charleston and finished later.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Crayon Cupcakes

I posted these pictures on Face Book also. Anyone who commented on them digitally or in person assumed I made them for Angelo, which makes sense, especially since we've been doing a lot of projects recently. However, they are for me and my mixed media art! :) Melt them on a craft/travel iron (no holes) and then smear on card stock to create a background! (Wipe off while hot to clean iron.)

Angelo did help me with them. He peeled off the papers and broke some of the crayons for me. I'm surprised we didn't have enough already broken to use, so i guess we'll have to color a lot more! :) And Angelo will get his own too, don't worry. :)

Cut apart disposable muffin tin (you'll be able to use multiple times), round corners (especially if little ones are helping), put broken crayons and glitter in tins. Avoid putting all 3 primary colors together or you'll get some muddiness.

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. Put tins on cookie sheet and into oven. Let melt about 10-12 minutes. Do not move the tins and let cool in the oven. Pop out and you get these cool crayon cupcakes! I'm sure Angelo will love playing with his once I make him some too. :) I'm going to use mine at the Art Retreat!!!! I'm so excited!!! :)

Angelo got his own set!  He liked cutting them apart with his plastic Melissa and Doug scissors and the cut edge made a really cool surface to color with. :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Delish Pumpkin Soup

After going to the Farmer's Market on Monday and Rich's Farm today (to pick out pumpkins), I found myself with lots of fresh vegetables! Today, I thought I would make a big batch of soup and freeze the left-overs. After much debate, Angelo helped me to decide which soup to make by picking up a pumpkin at least 3 times and saying "Can we make pumpkin soup?" Well, pumpkin soup it was!

I adapted this recipe from Ultimate Vegetarian (Parragon Publishing 2003) (Here is a picture of what the book's soup looks like. Mine didn't photograph well ...):

I doubled the recipe. This fed two adults and a toddler tonight and looks like we have enough for two more dinners (for all of us) and a lunch (for one of us- maybe enough for Angelo and I to share).

About 6 lbs. of "pie pumpkin" (one medium small and one small)
4 small or 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
About 6 TBSP of butter (you could use olive oil)
1 1/2 medium Onions
About 3 cloves garlic
About 7 cups vegetable stock (or at least 4 cups veg stock plus the remaining amount in water)
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp orange zest (I used a tiny grater instead of a zester) (optional)
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper

1. peel, remove seeds and cut pumpkin into 1 in. cubes
2. melt butter in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. add onion and garlic an fry over low heat until soft but not colored.
3. add pumpkin and carrots and toss with onion 2-3 min.
4. add stock and bring to boil over med. heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add ginger, lemon juice, orange zest, bay leaves and cover and simmer over low heat for about 20 min., until pumpkin is tender.
5. Calls for discarding orange zest, if using, but what I used was so small, I left it in. Discard bay leaves. Cool soup slightly then press through a strainer or process in a food processor until smooth. ... so they say. I used a potato smasher and just smashed in the pot until I got a consistency I liked and it was really easy and pretty fast. No transferring from pot to food processor and back again.

I served it over garlic rice (recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking):

2 cups long grain rice
6 cloves garlic, lightly mashed and peeled
5 TBS olive oil
1 tsp salt

wash rice in several changes of water. drain. soak rice in 6 cups water for 1/2 water. drain thoroughly.

heat oil in heavy 2 quart pot over med. flame. when hot, put in garlic. stir and fry until garlic turns med brown color. add rice and salt. stir and fry another minute. add 2 3/4 cups water and bring to a boil. cover tightly, turn heat to very, very low and cook gently for 25 minutes.

I also have a pot of vegetable stock cooling on the stove, using the peels, ends and greens from this soup. It is so easy to make! Try it and you'll never buy pre-made veggie stock again!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tomato Canning Feminists

Before I elaborate on the tomatoes, I just want to give a little update on my second detox attempt. It will be short, because I had no major symptoms. It went well. Don't go to Wine and Jazz festival and then up your detox efforts the next day and all should be well. :)

I'm currently reading "Radical Homemakers; Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture" - "Mother Nature has shown her hand. Faced with climate change, dwindling resources, and species extinctions, most Americans understand the fundamental steps necessary to solve our global crises-drive less, consume less, increase self-reliance, buy locally, eat locally, rebuild our local communities.In essence, the great work we face requires rekindling the home fires.Radical Homemakers is about men and women across the U.S. who focus on home and hearth as a political and ecological act, and who have centered their lives around family and community for personal fulfillment and cultural change. It explores what domesticity looks like in an era that has benefited from feminism, where domination and oppression are cast aside and where the choice to stay home is no longer equated with mind-numbing drudgery, economic insecurity, or relentless servitude.Radical Homemakers nationwide speak about empowerment, transformation, happiness, and casting aside the pressures of a consumer culture to live in a world where money loses its power to relationships, independent thought, and creativity. If you ever considered quitting a job to plant tomatoes, read to a child, pursue creative work, can green beans and heal the planet, this is your book."

This book has spoken to me in so many ways, and I'm barely into part 2. I've known for so long that "working for the man" didn't make much sense to me. You work and work and work and don't have time to clean your house, do the laundry or cook from scratch. You also don't have the energy to put into personal relationships or build community bonds. (Even though I've not worked for an employer [except for contracting with WVU for classes here and there], I still am feeling the demanding requirements of teaching weekly.)I'm more inspired than ever to:

1. Plant a garden

2. Sew clothes and toys for Angelo, re-usable shopping bags, baby wipes, cleaning cloths, napkins, and any decorative home items we might "need"

3. to dye/re-dye/tie-dye stained clothing to extend its life

4. Frequent thrift stores even more for art/craft supplies, clothing, dishes, books, etc.

5. cook more from scratch (including making all sauces, crusts, mac n' cheese, and any other "convenience items" we used)

6. make more of an effort to make the local farmer's markets. (Morgantown and Cheat Lake) Last year, we did a CSA, but the schedule was difficult to adhere to.

7. use cloth training pants for Angelo at least part of the time.

8. find a source for raw milk and make our own yogurt

9. find out how and make our own flower essences

12. Weave!!! I love yarn!!! (and have a ton of it)

11. Frequent libraries more(for free books to learn more skills, story hour to take advantage of social and enriching activities for Angelo and used book sales for cheap used books for more skills and art supplies)

12. Barter belly dance lessons, Reiki, Occupational Therapy evaluations for puppy sitting, baby sitting, photo developing/printing, ...

13. Build community by inviting friends for potlucks, attending WV Sprouts meetings, letting them know about library and other activities I'm already going to.

14. Learn to make wine.

15. Discontinue all magazine subscriptions and look at online articles.

My last few Face Book posts have highlighted a couple inspiring quotes from the book. To sum up, family is really important to me and spending more time at home, nourishing our family, acting as a cohesive unit is my ultimate goal. I told my brother-in-law, Mike a few years ago, before we had Angelo that I "just wanted a peaceful life". These goals will definitely help me get there. :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

OK, Let's Try this Agian

So, you know when I said there was nothing major to report on the detox? Well, that nothing major was a headache and neck and shoulder soreness and it quickly turned into something major. I'm very sorry to say that I'm more of an example of what not to do for a detox than what to do.

Do not:
1. Assume a yoga sequence including sun salutations, many twists and bellows breath is not going to do much to detox. (I'd started this several days before starting the Detox tea.)

2. Assume that when you add lemon juice in hot water and diluted apple cider vinegar it will not do much for your detox efforts.

3. After assuming that your previous efforts were just going to wick off some water weight and do some light cleansing drink wine with guests (or by yourself) over the weekend before beginning or go to a wine festival (even if the samples are small there). Duh!

4. Decide that even though the timing isn't perfect (because your husband and only true support is out of town and you are the only one there to take care of a toddler and doggie) that "you've got to start some time". (It is true that timing does not have to be perfect, but I have to say this was my worst assumption.)

So, I stopped drinking the detox tea after a couple of days. I was cranky, mentally foggy and in pain while I was the only one here taking care of Angelo and Dana. I also had a gig on Saturday and knew I had to be recovered enough to perform. Now, I know what will work for me and what won't and am starting over today.

So, if you're going to detox after a long period of time,

1. Assume your efforts will release plenty of toxins.

2. Make sure you have support in your efforts (if not your partner, then your friends, neighbors, extended family)

3. Eat plenty of fresh, raw vegetables and fruits, drink a lot of water and avoid processed foods. Yoga Journal has a 3 day detox diet here: http://www.yogajournal.com/health/2582 And more detox advice, as well as poses to incorporate here: http://www.yogajournal.com/health/2581

4. Find ways to relax as much as possible. Yoga is a great way to break a sweat (detoxifying in itself), help the detox process, as well as relax.

5. Know that your efforts will be rewarded by feeling lighter, cleaner and clearer in mind, body and spirit.

One of the ways I'm relaxing is editing some photos for collage sheets! I have several ready to go and am scanning more photos to have even more done and posted by tomorrow, ready to purchase. I'll be changing the Halloween art kit page, linked to the right to the collage sheet page. The Halloween art kit will be there, as well as Vintage/Antique girls, boys, babies, toddlers, ladies, gentlemen, mother and child, couples and whatever other categories I come up with from my collection. :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Let the Detox begin!

Now that Angelo has not nursed for 3 weeks +, I've started a gentle detox. Just some lemon juice in hot water in the morning, some Yogi detox tea (just picked it up yesterday, so on the second cup- yummy!), and cutting down on grains and dairy. Nothing major to report, but I'll keep you updated.

I'm also going to an art retreat in upstate NY!!! I'm soo sooo sooooooooo excited about this, I can't even begin to tell you. But, I'll try. It is in Greenville, NY in a rural Victorian inn with forest reserves and antique shops nearby. Besides as many art supplies as I can stuff into my two checked and 1 carry on bag will handle (I'll save a pocket for clothes and deoderant, but that's really not too important), I'm taking a journal to do plenty of writing (daily, which is plenty relative to what I do now) and a yoga mat, maybe even a blanket (though don't want to take up too much room so I can fit in more art supplies) so I can do yoga outside.

It is a self-directed retreat where breakfast, dinner and an afternoon snack are provided. They have converted the carriage house into the art studio. I think there are 13? 15? rooms, so I won't be crammed in there with a bunch of people. I'll be free to just make and make and make as much as I want!!! That will go reallllllly far with detoxing my mind and spirit.

I was nervous right after we booked it, of course, because it will be a whole week away from my babies and I've not been away by myself even overnight since before Angelo was born. But, I got over that and am just so so sooooo excited!!! I leave in less than a month!!!

Don't want to write too much now since Angelo is finally asleep and it's just me and the kids here until Friday when Eric gets home from Charleston. Lots of people out of the office and he was called in to cover. So, I'm going to take advantage of this time and glue some stuff! :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Weaning after Extended Breast Feeding

As I said in my last post, I am in the process of weaning Angelo. I guess I'll consider him officially weaned once he does not ask to nurse, even once, for ... I don't know, a week? A month? We have now not nursed for over 2 weeks and the process has been much much harder on me than on him. I didn't expect myself to be so sad, but I've talked to someone who gave me a lot of insight and done some soul searching to figure out how to work this out for myself.

So, how did we do it? The whole process started a long time ago when I stopped letting him see my bare breasts during the day, because that made him want to nurse immediately. This was well after we started solids, but he was walking. I don't know exactly how long ago it really was. Gradually, on his own, he found enough things to occupy him during the day so that he only asked to nurse in the evenings when he got tired. But, at night, I couldn't say exactly how much he nursed because I was mostly asleep myself.

After being done mentally for months now, a few weeks before we stopped nursing altogether, I stopped nursing him for the only remaining session we regularly had during the day by lightly saying "no, it's not time to go to sleep". Then I offered to snuggle and read a book or something else that offered comfort.

The last time we nursed, I was prepared to start the weaning process "soon"- that night somehow by lessening the number of times we nursed. We had no commitments that weekend and could afford to lose sleep. I knew it wouldn't be easy, and was prepared to be as gentle as possible while shielding myself from the inevitable tantrums that lay ahead. This is just Angelo I'm talking about- do not assume your child will do anything the same way because every child is different. Our last session was not at all enjoyable, I'm sorry to say. I was so done mentally that I had no tolerance for his rolling around and switching side to side over and over (because my production was so low at that point), that I told him we would hug and were all done nursing. I've done this before quite a few times and he often threw a fit, but sometimes accepted the outcome quietly and snuggled in. There were times when I was under stress and my milk production lower than what he wanted that he said the "nursey [was] broken", and since I denied further nursing that night because he was having to work so hard to get milk, I told him the nursey was broken. That's what I told him for the next few days (nights) when he asked to nurse. The first two nights were extremely difficult for both of us. Me wanting to give in, but knowing I couldn't or we would never be done and I had to be and him wanting his biggest source of comfort, his easiest solution for sleep. But, the third night, he only asked to nurse once. Eric started taking him to bed before me, reading to him and snuggling him until he fell asleep. We have had many nights since when he has not asked at all and he sleeps for very long stretches at a time. I hope I don't jinx the whole thing by reporting that in fact now, he sleeps for about 8-9 hours straight and even has slept a couple times here at home for his nap! If you know what our nap time struggles have been, you know it has been a very long time since he has not slept in the car for a nap.

About a week ago, we had sadness when he asked to nurse and was denied (though I always deny kindly and acknowledge that he is sad and I'm sorry he is sad, and cuddle and tell him I love him very much.) I no longer tell him that "the nursey is broken" since it is clear to me that I do have milk to give him and don't feel it is right to lie. I just simply say no and hug him and if possible, find a distraction. I know he asked a few days ago to nurse, but the event was fairly insignificant. Now he usually announces that it is time to get out of bed now and go get an apple or play with trains.

I still respond physically to his cries, though am in less physical pain. There are many reasons for sadness with this process- different for everyone, but the biggest and most obvious being that it is an end to a very sweet and close part of your relationship. I already have been taking the opportunity to read to him more, pick him up a little more than I was and give him extra hugs and kisses. I planned some bigger activities for us to help with the distraction and then we happened to already have a beach trip planned, which helped tremendously. He was so tired from all the playing and new experiences that I didn't need to worry about him waking up. At least once he asked to nurse and my instinct said it was because he was thirsty, so I offered him water and he excitedly accepted. Another time, I suspected he was hungry and he was happy to take an apple instead.

I wanted to write out this process for myself and then someone suggested I write it out. I agreed it was a good idea. I wanted to do some sort of "ritual" to properly end the relationship and and then someone suggested I do some sort of "ritual". I agreed it was a good idea. I'd heard of people throwing parties and before I asked on the Mothering Face Book page for ritual ideas, and someone suggested a party or something special for the child. I agree that it is a good idea for other people if it seems right. But not for me. In truth, Angelo is still doing much better than I am. Then, Mothering suggested that I write a letter to Angelo and I agree that it is a perfect idea for me. So, I've started by writing to the people who read this blog. :) This is the link Mothering sent me www.mothering.com/breastfeeding/dear-lily It made me cry- a lot, but not in a bad way.

My friend JoAnna asked me in the comments to the last post how I'm getting Angelo through it to help her and her daughter. I was about to post the link when I saw her comment when I realized that I should start by writing out the process here. I've tried doing numerous searches for suggestions on gently weaning after extended breast feeding and had no luck. They were all very vague suggestions like "be gentle and loving" or to just let the child decide when it is right and let it happen "naturally". Sounds pretty vague. So, hopefully I've given enough details that my suggestions for being gentle and loving are actually helpful. If not, please ask for more details. Writing it out has helped me tremendously, so thank you! :)

I knew it was time to move on, I just had to listen to myself and do it. As it is so often important when mothering, follow your instincts. They will guide you the best way since they are coming from you. :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Moments of magic

Twice this morning, Angelo sat up in bed, very sleepily and clapped when he looked over at me. He was happy I was there. I was happy I was there. :) Later in the day, he came up and said, "My friend Mommy is not gone." "My friend Mommy"! So sweet!

I think the fact that he is finding extra happiness that I'm still here, not going anywhere may be related to our ending our nursing relationship. I don't know if psychologically I'm ready to say he is weaned, and my body certainly hasn't gotten the message, but we have not nursed since Friday. I intended on doing extended breast feeding and following his lead for the most part. But, I've finally reached the point where I have to stop. I have to detox and get some energy back. I feel he's old enough, has reached a maturity level that I can reason at least a little with him. It has been tough on both of us, but going relatively well. That's all I can say right now.

I went to see Eat Pray Love today. A couple posts ago, I mentioned the Italian theme running through my life? Well, she goes to Italy in this movie! I didn't know that before I went to see the movie! I knew India, but not Italy! I was especially struck by the guy in the barber shop's description of Americans and her learning "the art of doing nothing". I think that's why I have enjoyed the company of Italians so much- I've felt this American need to go, go, go, do, do, do exhausting, pointless and nearly disgusting. That "American work ethic" combined with perfectionism has had me want to run for the hills! Why can't we just "be"? Hmm.. well, I think I'm getting the message. :)


Witch Shrine

When I showed my husband this finished piece, he said, "Who knew an innocent little fruit crate could turn into something so creepy?" :) Exactly!!! Painted the wooden clementine crate, ripped, stamped and inked some skull paper and reassembled into a background. More ripping and inking for the mat. I altered the antique photo myself. My friend Brynna (my friend Terri's daughter) gave me the skeleton. The shroud over the top is tea dyed cheese cloth. I made this last year some time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Altered Book pages

These are the first pages I did in my altered book. Lots of painting and stamping with odd things. All the photos are from my own collection. I've done a lot since then and really love having a place where I can keep art all in one place and have backgrounds already painted and ready to go.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lina Cavalieri "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World"

Lina Cavalieri, the subject of these two art pieces, was a cabaret singer, opera singer and silent film star at the turn of the century (1874-1944). She was born an orphan in Rome, ran away from the orphanage and started her career shortly after (after first taking a collection at a cafe). Known for her dramatic skills, her charm, generosity and especially her beauty, she was known as "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World".

Like the "coincidences" I noticed when I posted the Cleo ATC, I am struck by how many Italian themes that seem to be appearing in my life lately. Lina was from Rome. My family and I attended a party at a friend of ours last week, Monia (and her husband Daniel and children Matthew and Jasmine) who is Italian and her party was attended mostly by Italians. (We had a blast!! Everyone was so laid back, yet also fun and energetic.) When we turned on House Hunters International yesterday, an Irish couple was looking for a home in Italy. Lately I haven't been willing to watch HHI because they seem to all be American couples looking for vacation homes on islands. :P But, I decided to check it out yesterday and was treated to beautiful scenery. And today, I look up Lina and find she is also Italian. OK, so not as many coincidences and maybe not as strong a connection as when I posted the Cleo ATC, but still striking to me. Maybe it's also because we have been talking more about getting the Rosetta Stone to learn Italian so we can teach Angelo. So, if you haven't made the connection, my married name is Italian, and that's why I chose an Italian name for my son. My husband's grandfather was Italian. How many times can I say Italian?

These images are from the Art Chix's "La Belle Epoque" collage sheet. Both pieces are on a substrate of card stock sprayed with multiple mica sprays with cheese cloth over top. That cheese cloth also embellishes the top piece. I also added decorative papers (some inked), stamps and dimensional stickers and sprayed the lace on the bottom piece with gold mica spray.

Life's Greatest Happiness

I made this ATC using inchies for the Art Chix turquoise inchies challenge. Images are from their cool butterflies/beautiful garland kit and My Lil' Love collage sheets. I painted a book page and glued it to an ATC sized piece of cardstock, tore the vellum quote, mounted the inchies on the "left over" part and put the quote to the side. Dementional paint outlines the inchies (except the middle one- I used a glitter marker for that) and the ATC.

If you try to read the text, it is probably one of the happiest moments in the book it comes from- the teenager who lives a hard life in the Appalachian mountains gets her first kiss. The guy will be her husband shortly after. I think the "Lil' Love" and the quote tie in nicely with this part of the story, though not all of it was intentional. :) It's funny what parts of a story end up as a background. It is usually completely ironic (a preacher coming to visit the couple on Christmas and the art was Halloween themed) or entirely appropriate (randomly choosing a book page to paint and it being this part of the story and already using a collage sheet titled "My Lil' Love".)

Couple Halloween things

Love Halloween! Never too early for Halloween art!

Chipboard base, paper backgrounds and borders (Martha Stewart and Bethany Lowe's Vintage Halloween), images Bethany Lowe's Vintage Halloween and Dover.

Paper background, Martha Stewart; image - Dover; crepe paper border pleated and glued; Distress Stickles (Ranger) inner border.

More Art Stuff

The base for this piece is an egg shaped playing card. Found a tin of them at the thrift store- score!! Painted with gesso, then sprayed with "Sea Oats" Starburst mica spray. The text is from an antique spelling primer, the bird and branch were cut out with my Cricut cutting system and then sponged with ink. The bottom border is wax paper sprayed with multiple mica sprays.
I got this image of Mata Hari from Art-e-zine. I cut the ATC background from card stock I sprayed with multiple mica sprays. Then I used a large background stamp, added the image and embellished with Distress Stickles (Ranger).

The photo for this work-in-progress came from Somerset Studio's "art to borrow". I cut the party hats from patterned paper and added fibers for the trim and pom pom. I drew in the wand and added color with colored pencils. I will be using this as a birthday card base. :)

Show Girl Tag

Made this tag using Art Chix's "Saucy Showgirls" collage sheet. I inked the tag with multiple colors and covered in a used dryer sheet I sprayed with multiple mica sprays. The bottom border is wax paper sprayed with multiple mica sprays and the border at the top is gold paper. The stars are brads.