January 31, 2014

One Little Word 2014: January

Happy Chinese New Year!
The year of the horse. I am a horse, so this is a special one for me.

As you might recall, my word for this year is Cultivate. I am taking a more laid back approach to my word this year. Am picking a theme for each month, and then seeing where I end up.

My focus this month was to cultivate creativity. Sometimes I feel like I get stuck and need a jumpstart to get my juices flowing again. Here are some activities that worked for me this month:

  • Cleaning. Purging. Sorting. There is something about touching everyone in my space and evaluating whether it still makes sense for it to still be there. It has been my experience that clutter saps energy and creativity. And it can be overwhelming. Where does one start? What works for me is to pick one spot in a room, crank up some great music (ABBA anyone?), and remove everything from that spot. Clean. Decide whether it still belongs. Recycle what does not. I do not set a target goal for the entire room getting complete - that is too much pressure - I simply go until I'm done. And this is when the magic happens. That clean spot inspires me to do it all again the next day. And slowly but surely I've got a space that feels great and works better. 
  • Making a new journal. There is something about starting over. A clean slate. Put that old journal aside. Let go of what seemed right last year, and simply focus on what feels right today. I've decided to use larger pages, and play in individual signatures this year. Something that was inspired by the travel journal I took to Sri Lanka. Serendipity indeed.
  • Read. Books. Blogs. Magazines. Simply read. This is a tried and true method for me. I find inspiration in what others are doing. In seeing how others see the world. 
  • Play dates. Play without intent or attachment to the outcome. As adults we set sucked into the notion that there needs to be a return on investment (ROI) to everything. While that might well be true for some things, it does not apply to play time. Schedule time with yourself, or a kid, or with friends to have a play date. And then play. With art supplies or without. It does not matter. The only goal here is to let go of the outcome.
  • Chillax. Take all that pressure of yourself, and tell your gremlins to shut up. You are not creating a piece that will hang on the walls of MOMA. Get messy. See what happens. Share your creations with others. Or not. And whether you like it or not, turn the page and start over.
  • Exercise. Indoors. Outdoors is better, but this month has been so cold I have not felt like long walks outside much. However you do it, it gets the blood pumping, and clears the cache.
  • Try something new. Whether this is a class, or a new art supply, or simply making your first chai tea latte, a message gets sent to your brain that the world is full of exciting possibilities and fun things to explore.
These are some of the ways I cultivated creativity this month. How do you do it?

January 30, 2014

Cinemascope: The Fall (Season 1)

Cinemascope is a 2014 blog addition where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2013. What got my attention about this series is that Gillian Anderson (aka Scully of X-Files) stars. Sold.

Plot line: A psychological thriller that examines the lives of two hunters. One is a serial killer who stalks his victims in and around Belfast and the other is a talented female Detective Superintendent from the MET who is brought in to catch him.

This is really good TV people. It is a UK show, so the pacing is not like you'd expect if you watch American thrillers. This is quite a disturbing show, so be warned, However, the acting is fantastic, and I was sucked into the story immediately. Season 1 is only 5 episodes long, so get the DVD, make some popcorn, or better yet a stiff drink, and settle in.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a TV series worth watching.

January 28, 2014

Journal page: Creation process

I decided to capture the creation stages of my most recent journal page.

Step 1: Apply masking tape in a random pattern.

Step 2: Gesso the pages.

Step 3: When gesso is dry (or maybe not as in my case), spread acrylic paint all over the pages.

Step 4: The messier the better. Though to be honest, I was a little horrified with it at this stage. Here is a closeup of the mess. Nice textures no?

Step 5: How much worse can it really get? I pulled out a stencil and watered down black acrylic paint in a spray bottle and did some spraying. Not really much of an improvement.

Step 6: Might as well go all in. Circles stamped with white acrylic and a bottle top.

Step 7: Closeup of the mess. Was liking it more at this point.

Step 8: It need something. Had just read Saga, Vol.1, and thought an image from there would perfectly capture the mood I was in. Traced it, and glued down the tracing paper image with gel medium.

Step 9: Painted her with watercolors, and gave her a border to make her pop out from all that textured mess. Final step was a date stamp.

And there you have it, a true mixed media spread. I realized only afterwards how well it reflected my mood that day, and how playing in my journal helped soothe me, and get it all out. 

Thanks for checking in.

January 27, 2014

Recent Reads

4. Everything We Miss
This little graphic novel is a quick read, but one I think will stay with me for a long time. The story is primarily about the end of a relationship, and the beauty and opportunities we miss because we are focused on what we think is more important. Surreal with moody, lovely artwork. The vignette about the asteroids? Brilliant. Rating: 3 stars.

5. Hilda and the Bird Parade
This graphic novel, targeted at the middle grade reader, is the third in a series, and I have yet to read the other two. At the start of the book, we met Hilda, a little blue-haired girl who explores the outdoors with a sketchbook, pencils, and a book about Rock Moss. But things change dramatically when Hilda and her Mom move to the city of Trolberg. The story explores themes of independence, friendship, kindness, and the courage to be yourself even if it means you don't fit in. A lovely story for kids, especially girls. Rating: 3 stars.

6. Blue Is the Warmest Color
I've heard rave reviews about the movie of the same title, and wanted to read the book before I saw the movie. Yes, I am one of those people.

This graphic novel is about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a young French girl who has to come to terms with her sexuality in a world that wants her to be someone she is not. A chance glimpse of a woman with blue hair unsettles and thrills her. Coming out can be a heart breaking process. Can Clem navigate those turbulent waters?

I so loved how the author illustrated this story. The use of monochromatic colors with that pop of blue so wonderfully captures the moment when one's life changes tracks. Reading this story took me back to all those firsts - first lightening bolt hit, first love, first kiss, first heartbreak - all those highs and lows that seem almost unbearable. I cannot wait to see the movie. Rating: 4 stars.

January 24, 2014

Cinemascope: The Godfather

Cinemascope is a 2014 blog addition where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 1972. This is an oldie but goodie. I have probably seen it at least a dozen times, and after reading the book for the first time recently, decided to watch it again.

And you know what? After all this time, it still holds up as one of my fave movies. It is so good. The acting, the dialog, the photography. All superb. This is a movie that I loved better than the book. Yes, the book helped flesh out some of the background stories, but Coppola is masterful at cutting and polishing until all that is left is a diamond. Sparking and wonderful.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see this, or like me you are seeing this for the umpteenth time, this is a movie worth watching.

January 23, 2014

Journal page

My new journal is a larger size than I am used to, and it is so fun to have all that extra space to play in.

I really liked the graphic novel Blue Is The Warmest Color, and cannot wait to see the movie. Decided to capture the cover graphic in my journal, and quite love how this turned out. Pen and watercolors.

January 22, 2014

Project Life 2013: Week 48b

This is week 48 part b, and I am still playing catch up. In addition to the insert I created for this week, I decided to make two double spreads for the week. We jammed a lot in, and I wanted to capture the sense of how packed it was. Highlights of this week included exploring the Ancient Cities, all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As always, click on images to view larger.

Here is the two page spread:

Left side:

Right side:

Additional freebie supplies used this week:
Thanksgiving card by Cathy. Leaf journal cards and Awesome speech bubble by Katie. Love this arrow element by Melissa. Alphabet elements by Shabby Princess. Star and heart bubble element by Traci. 4x6 collage templates by Liz.

January 21, 2014

Play date with Jonah

My 9 year old nephew was over Sunday morning, and we had such a good time with him. The kid is growing up so fast, and I loved getting a chance to check in with who he is right now.

One of the things we did was make cards to mail to family and friends. I am reminded of a Ben Franklin quote: We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!

Supplies: Layered template by Katie.

January 20, 2014

Recent Reads

1. Humans of New York
The author walks around New York City and photographs people on the street. This is a book of some of his photos with captions, or snippets of conversation with the subjects. I love projects like this, and was delighted to get a glimpse of humanity in all its diversity. It makes me want to move to NYC. I had not heard of the author and his really popular blog, but plan to add it to my feedly list. Rating: 4 stars.

2. Saga, Volume 1
This volume collects Saga issues #1-6. 

From the blurb: When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. 

This is a fun, unique, crazy, imaginative graphic novel. Love how deadpan the words are compared to the fantastic art. A heads up that this is an adult, or mature YA series. Definitely not one for the kiddos. Have already got the next one in the series lined up. Rating: 4 stars.

3. Saga, Volume 2
This volume collects Saga issues #7-12.

In Vol. 1, we met Marko and Alana, two warriors who did the unthinkable, and slept with the enemy. And it was not even a one night stand. They got married and had a baby. Well, no-one likes non-conformists, and everyone is out to kill them. They have evaded assassins, and armies but will this little family survive meeting the in-laws?

There is more of an origin story theme to this collection - Marko as a boy, Alana pre-Marko, how they met, etc. While, I did not love this graphic novel collection as much as Vol. 1, it still explores interesting themes, and the art is wonderful. Now how long do I need to wait for the final collection in this trilogy? Am looking forward to seeing how this story ends. Rating: 3 stars.

January 18, 2014

Snow globe day

Today is one of those snow globe days. It feels like I live in a snow globe, and someone shook it up. Lovely to be home and warm.

For the past couple of weeks I've been reading and loving Shogun. Have been steeped in feudal Japanese culture. I'll post a book review shortly, but in the meanwhile, it has been fun to have meals with a Japanese flavor.

Sake, miso soup, veggies, rice and salmon. Delish.

January 16, 2014

Journal page

A new year, new projects. So fun. I'm doing something different with my journals this year, and will share that soon.

The first page of a new journal is always a hard one for me. There is something about that blank white page of a new unfamiliar book. Decided to get out some supplies and start playing.

This is what my desk looks like. The room is a mess and needs to be cleaned and sorted, but I'd much rather play than clean. I tend to listen to music or a podcast while I play, and this time I was entertained by a Book Riot podcast.

The page turned out nothing like I had initially planned, but that is half the fun no? Decided to use non-precious supplies on this mixed media page, including Sharpie Flip Chart and Disney Princess markers. They just make me happy.

I found this quote on Pinterest, and thought it was an appropriate one for a new year and a new journal.

January 11, 2014

Maysoon Zayid: I got 99 problems... palsy is just one

Loved this one. Funny and inpsiring.

If the video does not work click here.

January 10, 2014

Cinemascope: The Beaver

I love movies, but am often disappointed by the blockbusters. Oh, they might be entertaining, but I want something more. Cinemascope is a new blog addition where I will share with you movies I think are worth watching.

Released in 2011. I recall making a mental note to see this one. I mean, Jodie Foster directs and acts in it. I'd watch Jodie paint a wall. But then there is Mel Gibson, and a Beaver? Maybe not.

Turns out I was dead wrong not to add my pennies to the opening weekend box office coffers. This is a wonderful movie that explores mental health, and depression, and families struggling to cope with loss of various kinds. It sounds heavy and depressing, but it is not. Serious, yes, but handled with honesty and such a light touch.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see this, it is a movie worth watching.

January 9, 2014

The Morning News Tournament of Books 2014

It is that time of year again. One loved by readers. The ToB announced their short list this week.
Blurb: In case you’re new to all this, the ToB is an annual springtime event here at TheMorning News, where a group of the best works of fiction from last year enter a March Madness-style battle royale. In March, these novels will be seeded and paired off in an NCAA Tournament-like bracket. For each pairing, one of our esteemed judges will read both novels and advance one, with a transparent explanation of how they made their decision. Along the way, our ToB Chairmen, authors Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner, will weigh in with commentary, and you, the readers, will add your own.
Not sure what to read next? Check out the list here.

January 8, 2014

Love @chelmsfordlib

One of my fave places is my local library. If there was a map of my life, kinda like those plane route maps, my local library would be a major hub. I visit them daily, either in person or online.

Yes it is bitterly cold in these parts, but look at the sunshine I picked up at my library today. If you are a library patron you know what I'm talking about. And if you are not, you know not what you are missing.

January 7, 2014

Chai Tea Latte

It is tea drinking season in our house. Though let's be honest, when it is ever NOT tea drinking season? 

My sister introduced me to chai lattes last year, and I gotta tell you, I'm hooked. I've got a problem though, and it ain't just the $3.50 price tag people. The lattes I buy are simply too sweet for my taste, and since most places make it from a mix, there is no real way to solve that problem, other than to water things down.

So there I was at my local Barnes and Noble the other frigid day, and I ordered me one, and it got me thinking - how hard can these be to make at home? Well, my first experiement failed - let's just say that after a sip, I dumped it in the sink. 

Why do I reinvent the wheel when the entire world has posted how to make one you ask? Good question! 

So today, after a bit of web surfing, settled on this recipe. I made a few modifications:
1. I used a Stash teabag instead of Tazo
2. I used Almond milk instead of Soy
3. I used only two teaspoons of agave nectar. Next time I'll use even less.

I kept my expectations low, and took a sip.

And it was sooo good. Mission accomplished. Let me know if you try it, or have your own top secret recipe. Now please excuse me while I enjoy my latte glow.

January 5, 2014

Wild Card Weekend

This is wildcard weekend baby! Guess it only excites you if you are a football fan. American football that is - not soccer. There are four win-or-go-home games this weekend.

Both games yesterday were good and went down to the wire. The Colts and the Saints advance, while the Eagles and the Chiefs hit the hot tub.

I watch with tea and cookies. Not typical football fare, but keeps me warm and happy.

January 4, 2014

Recent Reads

146. Inside Guide: Sri Lanka
A decent guide book for planning a trip to Sri Lanka. Rating: 3 stars.

147. Sita's Ramayana
Jacket blurb: Told from the perspective of the queen, Sita, it explores ideas of right versus wrong, compassion, loyalty, honor and the terrible price that war exacts from women, children, animals and the natural world.

The Ramayana is one of the great legends of ancient India, and as a kid I devoured this story in graphic novel format. I think of it as India's Helen of Troy epic, and I've always wondered what Sita's point of view would be, so was delighted when I found this graphic novel targeted at the middle grade reader.

I really liked the folk art style of the graphics, but was disappointed with the text. The writing seemed rather stilted and awkward at times. Also, I wanted more insight into Sita's thoughts and emotions, and her interactions with Ravana. There was still too much about Rama and the boys in this for me. 

As an aside, having just visited the Kingdom of Lanka, I appreciated the sense of place even more. Rating: 3 stars.

148. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
The author has a blog, and this is collection of some of her fave posts. Stories about life, dogs, dealing with depression, dogs, childhood memories, dogs. Did I mention dogs? So think about this as a collection of mini-essays with illustrations. Some made me laugh out loud, and the art while simple is quite expressive. Rating: 3 stars.

149. Brewster
Some reviewer said that this book is like being in a Bruce Springsteen song. I'd agree. A coming of age story, set in Brewster, New York. While the writing is lyrical in parts, I'm calling it quits at page 106. It is probably all me, but I simply do not care what happens to the characters in this novel. I might try again at a different time. Rating: 1 star.

And that wraps up my 2013 reads. My Goodreads log shows me at 152 for the year - the difference is probably books that I did not finish and decided not to note here. I will post a best of 2013 reads soon. I hope you had a great reading year as well. Do let me know, or link to, your best of 2013 reads.

January 3, 2014

One Little Word 2014

If you read my blog, you know that rather than make resolutions, I pick a word each year. I've discovered that having a word as a focus, shapes my year dramatically. I am affected physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in unexpected ways.

Past years:
2008: Health and Wealth
2009: Passion
2010: Connect
2011: Explore
2012: Light

My word for 2013 was Begin, and each month I paired my word with a theme and set three goals.

Beginnings are hard. The outcome is often unsure, and failure is a very real option. It was the perfect word for me. I learned much about myself and my world view, and got to know intimately those voices in my head. I did things I would not have thought myself capable of. I had failures too, but I moved the ball forward, and that was often enough. I remember reading someplace that we set these goals for ourselves, and them beat ourselves up when we fail to meet them. Crazy making no? So, I am learning to be okay with good enough. I don't like it. But I keep beginning.

My word for 2014 is CULTIVATE. Here are some facets that excite me:
Tend | Grow | Harvest | Plant | 
To nurture or foster | Enrich | Elevate | Woo

I wanted to take a moment to thank those of you who read along, share your journey, and inspire me. May 2014 be the best year yet.

January 2, 2014

Diana Nyad: Never, ever give up

In the pitch-black night, stung by jellyfish, choking on salt water, singing to herself, hallucinating … Diana Nyad just kept on swimming. And that's how she finally achieved her lifetime goal as an athlete: an extreme 100-mile swim from Cuba to Florida -- at age 64. Hear her story.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.