Category Archives: Things I Love

Natural Dyes and Paints

Natural Dyes and Paints

I took a natural dyeing class at the Museum of Arts and Design. It was a fun experience and I was so glad I attended. I am always drawn to the natural approach to any process and the avoidance of chemicals whenever possible so this class was right up my alley. The Fall 2014 issue of my favorite magazine,  Do It Yourself,  had a whole section on natural dyeing and  this class was a great opportunity to learn even more. The instructor, Isa Rodrigues, is an artist in residence at the museum and  is the Adult Programs Director at  the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn.

The actual process is simple and requires very little  in terms of supplies. Large pots, strainer and  bowls, containers, mordants and various plant materials. Mordants act as a bridge between the fiber and the dye.

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The plant materials are shredded into the pots to which water is added.

 

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This mixture is heated and turned off before it reaches a boiling temperature.

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The plant material is strained from the liquid to which the mordant treated fabric is placed into the strained liquid.

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The mixture  is being stirred gently to ensure even coverage.  After a half hour and a great question and answer exchange with the instructor, the dyed swatches  that looked like this.

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The cotton and silk  fabrics received the dye differently; the silk resulted in a more brilliant color while the cotton swatches had a more dull and muted appearance.

Here is the dye process using pokeberries. Although toxic to humans if ingested, it appears to have medicinal qualities when cooked.

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What  I love about this process is that it is highly experimental and the results aren’t always predictable. It requires a trial and error approach and is sure to take full advantage of one’s creative abilities.

By the way,  you can also make natural paints as well. I attended a free class hosted by The Textile Arts Center. Here is my swatch card from the class. The same paint was used on both sides; however, the right side was primed with Gesso.  It was very informative, as well, and it opened up a new set of creative doors for me.

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What do you think? Do your find natural dyes and paints intriguing? Have you tried either one before?

My Seedlings Are All Grown Up!

My Seedlings Are All Grown Up!

Remember these tiny seedlings?

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I am finally starting to see the fruits of my labor. My seedlings have matured and are now flowering. The tomatoes are growing nicely.

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The peppers are starting to appear as well

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Just a few days prior, I had mostly lush green growth with very few blooms . So I took the advice of  Elisabeth over at  Artistic Expressions by Elisabeth  and treated them with  Epson Salt. So I did just that before going away for a few days. When I returned little flowers had emerged everywhere and a few tomatoes as well.

The seedlings matured faster in these City Picker Garden Bed kits than they did in the ground. It was a rough start at first. One of the wheels didn’t stay in the socket and later collapsed. That was a big deal since portability is one of the key features.

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The plastic cover acting as mulch secured by a over sized rubber band popped by day 3. I was annoyed but when I called the company and they offered to send me a replacement container and more bands I was satisfied. Although, the rubber band popped again the foliage holds the plastic  layer in place.

As for the ones I planted in the ground. although I staked it early on, it grew it so fast  and unruly while I was away that it was difficult to untangle the new growth in an orderly fashion.

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I did the best I could using gardening tape, but it remains a hot mess.  That’s okay, though,  aesthetics  isn’t the goal; the produce it yields is all that matters . Stay tuned……

What”s going on in your garden?

A Blogging Metamorphosis

A Blogging Metamorphosis

It’s been over a month, one month and two days to be exact, since my last post During that time, I sat down to write countless times. I would start typing and a feeling of uneasiness would take over.    I would stop, walk away only to return days later to an uncompleted post. Blogging used to be so much easier for me. Lately, it has been feeling forced. I’m at a crossroads. I want to continue blogging and sharing  but perhaps in a different way and about different things. I’ve been doing some soul searching lately but the answers are taking their time to manifest. And so, I find myself  in limbo, not sure what to do. Does that make any sense? If it doesn’t, that’s okay; I’m confused as well. What I don’t want to do is create filler posts that don’t represent my true voice because authenticity is very important to me. I want whatever I’m writing about to originate from within,  a special  gift from me to you.     I noticed that life lately has been filled with too many blurs and unfocused  moments.

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Blurred moments are a reminder that I am not living with intention. A couple of weeks ago, I was co-facilitating a workshop entitled ” The Happy Life Guide” and gave a talk on journaling.

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It was a great experience because journaling has played a major role in my life offering me clarity, vision and focus.

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I’ve written about my journaling experiences here and here.  It was a treat to share my experience in the hopes of inspiring others to give it a try.  Journaling, on an as needed basis, works for me. The frequency varies according to what is going on in my life.  However,  if I put it off when I feel the need to do so, I can literally feel myself getting off kilter. Like journaling, I decided not to be so consumed with the quantity of my posts and focus all my efforts on the authenticity of my messages and blog when I have something I truly want and need to say. With that in mind  blogging pauses will be inevitable; however,  rather than  force myself to post for the sake of posting, instead,  I will look forward to and wait for the nudge from within to share and connect with you. Do you have a life practice that keeps you grounded and on point? Also, for the bloggers out there, can you relate to my blogging quandary? Any advice?

A Special Day With a Little DIY!

A Special Day With a Little DIY!

I rarely talk about my kids in depth and when I do, I do so sparingly. When I started this blog, I wanted to share my story through my DIY journeys without putting too much of their stories out there; that is up to them if they so choose.

However, with epic moments comes exceptions with their permission of course.  Last Sunday, No. 1 Son graduated from Springfield College ( Massachusetts)! It was a beautiful day and I am  so very proud of him. From my perspective,  his educational journey included some challenges, however, he triumphed in the end and that is all that matters.

On Saturday, we had a celebratory dinner with a few of our extended family members. We dined at Tao’s, a restaurant, a place we frequented on occasion during our Springfield visits for Family and Friends Day, school performance, etc.

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The Asian and Japanese cuisine is as great as the service. It was the perfect place to celebrate.If you are ever in the neighborhood, I highly recommend it. It’s located at 31 Harkness Avenue, East Longmeadow, MA.

For dessert, I gave each person a single serve cake in a canning jar. I actually assembled them using cupcake slices and alternating it with layers of cream cheese frosting, all made from scratch of course.

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It was time consuming but I love offering a little DIY touch  whenever possible. However,  if I ever make them again, which I’m sure I will because they’re fun, I will bake the cake in the jars instead

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After dinner, we went back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep,  an early wake up call and a quick breakfast before the heading out to the graduation. This is our last walk through the corridor of  the Residence Inn in Springfield where we stayed many times. We prefer their apartment style layout. We’ve grown very loyal to the entire Marriot brand throughout our many travels.

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I love taking pictures of my guys from the back. I don;t why, but I do. Even with the blur factor, it’s still special.

And the graduation ceremony begins; It was held at the MassMutual Center.

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I’m so glad No. 1 Son is tall, I can spot him anywhere. It made picture taking from afar that much easier.

 

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He’s about to get the official handshake. Missed  that one, oh well.

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One week later, I am still elated with joy. There’s nothing better than watching your kids succeed. Job well done! It was a special day for our family and I’m so glad a woman stopped and offered to take this picture for us.

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A blessed day all around. I’m so thankful. One down!

 

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One to go!

 

 

 

Loving The Voice

Loving The Voice

The Voice Season 6 has been a thrill to watch. The caliber of vocal ability is astonishing. Whenever I watch a competitive show, I usually root for the underdog, provided he or she has a sweet, humble disposition. Well this season there aren’t any underdogs. They’re all good! I do have my favorites, however, and sadly two, Sisaundra Lewis and Delvin Choice, have been eliminated. Even though they’re no longer on the show, I downloaded their songs so that I get to listen to them again and again and again….. As the semi finals approach, I will continue to cheer for Josh Kaufman.

The performances that blew me away are:

Though the show is about vocal ability, I find the fashion intriguing. I have such a deep appreciation for how people use fashion as a form of self-expression.

While Delvin adds unique flair and styling to otherwise traditional pieces

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Josh has a vintage vibe that usually includes showcasing the ankles

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and Sisaundra is all about classic style mixed with statement accessories.

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As for the back stories, I have mad respect for both Sisaundra and Josh; Any parent can relate to the difficulty, heartache and mixed feelings of being separated from their children. However, by example, they are teaching the invaluable lessons of realizing one’s passion, following one’s heart and pursuing one’s dreams. Kudos to them for taking the plunge.

I hope Sisaundra and Delvin will reach their dreams along a different journey and Josh will triumph in the end.

How about you? Are you a fan of the Voice or any other competition shows? What are you most passionate about? Has pursuing your passion caused you to make hard decisions?

Eggplant and Peppers

Eggplant and Peppers

Eggplant and peppers, hmmmm, that sounds like it can be a tasty combination.

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Fortunately, my eggplant and pepper seedlings are catching up to their tomato neighbors.

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A few days makes a world of difference. I love watching them grow little by little each day. It’s the simple things that make you sit up and take notice.

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Happy Friday!

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday! I love Friday’s. I look forward to Fridays. I always have. I raised my children on “Happy Fridays”. Sometimes I would buy an unexpected treat just to celebrate the completion of a busy week and the beginning of a two day break.

Just in case you may not be in a happy state as you start your weekend perhaps a listen to “Happy” by Pharrell might do the trick. It’s my new personal anthem because it’s an instant mood booster.

What song do you claim as your personal anthem?

Happy Weekend!

How Do You Get Into the Zone?

How Do You Get Into the Zone?

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I wanted to share with you my last read, The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. I loved it! Even though my book club met two weeks ago, I can’t stop thinking about the main character, Claire Roth, a struggling artist who supplemented her non-existent income by painting reproductions of well known artist to sell on reproduction.com. She lost her credibility in the art community when she made the decision to paint a painting for her married professor boyfriend who was lost in an artistic manic episode in an effort to save his reputation. However, it all backfired propelling her to take part in an illegal forging scheme at the promise of her own art show. Claire struggles with internal and external judgement of being considered a master artist or master forger.

But why can’t I get Claire Roth out of my head? Probably because I can relate to her creative abilities and her intense painting sessions where she could stay in the present moment and create despite all the chaos and drama in her life. Here are a few excerpts:

“The shower cleans the sweat and the odor of fear from my skin, but it does nothing to wash away the residual emotions smoldering inside my body. Once I start painting though, the feelings disappear.”

“As the excitement grows at the thought of working on my own paintings, I push myself even more. I’ve taken to sleeping in multiple, short stretches during both night and day, upsetting my natural circadian rhythms and further cutting myself off from the cadence of the world…………I remain in the zone for longer periods of time than I ever believed possible.”

“When he leaves, I go right back to work. the zone is the safe place for me now.”

I can identify with that zone, that creative place one can go to escape, a place to take a mini break from everyday life and just be, reconnecting with who you are, all the while, filling your internal cup. Like Claire, who gets into her zone when painting, I am in my zone. of course, when I dabble in DIY and pursue my creative pursuits. It’s an important part of who I am. It’s cathartic, my respite and my heaven on earth.

Can you relate? What do you get lost in? How do you get into “the zone”?

The Meaningful Memories of Our Lives

The Meaningful Memories of Our Lives

In my continued quest to scrutinize all my home’s belongings, it is now time to deal with the ephemera of or lives.

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This, by far, will be the toughest challenge. I have saved a lot of snippets from my children’s lives and have my own memory boxes filled with the remnants of my life too. Letters (who gets those anymore), programs, cards and …….. There’s a lot and way too much to continue storing.

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The good thing is it is it’s all organized and much of it is labelled or in folders and archival boxes. And then there are the photos.

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Trust me, that’s not all of them, there’s more. I attempted a few albums here and there. however, the majority are in photo boxes rarely viewed. That doesn’t serve me or my family. I can do better.

So I’ve decided to reevaluate, purge, reorganize, digitize and assemble these meaningful remnants of our lives in a way that can be appreciated. I want to create containable stories of our lives that we can peruse instead of having to pull them from boxes in a closet to reminisce.  And so I have been perusing the internet looking for ideas and advice. I encountered this divide between those that save everything and those that save very little or nothing.

Aside from report cards and awards, I plan to ask my children what they value and evokes meaningful memories. And I’m sure this report on Mesopotamia won’t make the cut..

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I want it to be about them and for them. And if they don’t want to be bothered in the decision making  then I will have to rely on my own discretion. Hopefully,  a memory box, a binder and a photo album should suffice. The rest will be digitized and only a click away from their viewing pleasure if they would like  to take an all inclusive trip down memory lane. art page I get paralyzed by the artwork, though. I just love these chalk prints. Their masterpieces in my mind. I know, I know,  it’s not about me, it’s about them.

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I titled this one “boy floating in water”. I framed and hung it up on No 2 Son’s bedroom wall.

 

 

 

He painted it some time ago and has since taken it down and replaced it with this one. That’s a tell tale sign of what’s important, wouldn’t you say?

 

 

 

And it has gone beyond my children and extended it to my nephews and their basketball careers.

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My sister’s youngest is currently playing for the Boston Celtics.

And then there’s the sand art No. 1 son and I did together.  He was both Batman and Robin for Halloween. Hmmm, the creative wheels just started turning!  These might be  a nice added touch to a scrapbook page!

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Once framed and hung, I recently discovered.a poster from elementary school in the recesses of a closet. That handsome guy with the missing teeth is now  23 years old.

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It’s going to be hard to let go of some things, but it’s time and very necessary. I know it  will be in our best interest  to downsize our family’s memories into treasured keepsakes, manageable and in plane view, for our everyday enjoyment.

Okay so now it’s your turn!  Can you relate to any of this? Do you have a tough time letting go of life’s remnants and ephemera of yesteryear? What are your secrets for both enjoying and containing the memories? Please leave a comment below, I would love to know your thoughts.

 

 

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Between Naps on the Porch:Metamorphosis Monday

My Home is Almost Cured!

My Home is Almost Cured!

I haven’t been online too much because I am trying to keep up with my assignments for the Apartment Therapy January Cure; I started it at the same time I vowed to explore minimalism; actually both work hand in hand beautifully and shoving things in a drawer or closet is no longer an option.

So this past weekend, the assignment was to deep clean the living room. It wasn’t too difficult because my living room was already in a good place. To be true to the assignment,however, I did move all the furniture and vacuumed thoroughly including the baseboards. I’m still in the process of doing a family photo collage wall (Assignment 6 Making Your Home Your Own: Prep Artwork for Framing & Display). Haven’t located all the photos just yet and have to paint some of the frames but I’m just glad that I am on my way.
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I recently did a collage on the other wall after painting, but I’m altering that as well. I guess I have a thing for collage walls; perhaps because they can be rearranged and edited pretty easily.

Assignment #12 was bedroom  and wardrobe cleaning which I blogged about here and almost completed with the exception of my closet. Oh my closet, as tiny as it is, was a disaster. I’ll spare you the before pic. I took everything out and dove in.

 

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I want to try Project 333, limiting your wardrobe to 33 pieces of clothing for 3 months. You can read more about it here. It’s suppose to include shoes, but I didn’t take it that far, although I did downsize my shoes collection and donated 10 pairs and plan to list a couple I never wore on Ebay. The beauty of the Project 333 challenge is you can adjust it to your comfort level. There are no hard and fast rules. You decide what works or doesn’t work for you. So here’s my tiny closet that makes me smile each and every time I open it!

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I now have empty hangers!  And the top shelf  is devoted to most of my out of season clothing stored in those two grey totes.

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Assignment # 15, Declutter and Organize Bathroom Cabinets Cleanout,  which includes the linen closet, since there’s just no storage space in our pint size bathroom. Let.s just say it was another disaster that happened over time.

 

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You can see why it took me the better part of the day to get the job done and restore order.

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And yes, my heart sings once again. I’m in love with the order of it all.

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For those of you who may not know, square footage is a premium when it comes to New York real estate. I just went to an estate sale this past weekend. The home looked fine from the outside, but the entire inside needs to be gutted and the unfinished basement has some serious water and foundation issues; it was over-the-top moldy. The asking price is $869K. Realistically speaking, it would take at least $250K to fix it up. I know I digressed but I just wanted to explain why the majority of us live in tight spaces, real estate is very expensive. Even the million dollar homes are small and can still need work.

Back to the linen closet , would you believe I found a pair of my earrings stuffed in a bag of toiletries, left over from one of our family travels? They almost got thrown away!

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Here’s my outbox, a designated spot to put things to be donated tossed or waiting for a new home, looked like after a few of my assignments and decluttering sessions.

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I dropped off most of it off over the weekend. And a local animal hospital was as happy to take my old sheets and towels as I was keeping it out of the landfill. Yeah!

Flowers area a part of the weekend assignments so I picked up some from  Trader Joe’s. Their flowers are reasonably priced and I usually separate them and make two arrangements. One for the dining room table

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and one for the bedroom.

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Although this is the last week for the cure, I have a ways to go. The room by room project list I created at the start of the cure will take a while to complete. But in the meantime, everything is looking up! My home is almost cured and I am steps closer to my goal, keeping only what truly matters:)