Thursday, March 31, 2011

belated fortune cookie wisdom wednesday

as you know, i've been helping a dear friend deconstruct his life and prepare to move the fates only know when i was catching up on one of my favorite bone tickling blogs, bent objects by terry border, and came across this pic, i knew then and there i had to share it!  terry has the most amazing sense of humor and i've been enjoying his blog for a long time and hope you will take a few moments to check it out (no affiliations, blah, blah, blah....just an fan). 

in any case, aside from being very funny, it spoke deeply to my friendship, too.  it's hard to see someone's life go to pieces...whether by his own hand or not.  you begin to think about how much he will be missed and how you never had the time to do this and that grand plan... then you start examining your other friendships and relationships and begin to put them into perspective, as well.  gratitude.  definitely the word for the moment. 

i have deep gratitude for my friends, near and far. both in real time and in cyberspace. 

just wanted to let you all know how much i appreciate you!

meanwhile, my house is looking rather like i'm packing up moving myself as i've been the recipient of many of my friend's collected treasures. antiques. artwork. rugs. and so forth. so, essentially, i'm remodeling...

this, combined with sketchy internet services whilst providers are battling it out, and i've fallen sadly behind on my mail and my blog.  both of which, i apologize for.  i have a lovely stack of boxes that i have been refraining to open until i can share them with you all:

there are doorprizes from the one world one heart event this year; some gracious and kind gifts from readers; fun things from auctions; and a few other treasures found whilst on cyber journies. all patiently waiting until i can do them justice and share them with my cyber friends!  don't ask me how i'm restraining myself...cuz i really don't know.  but i am.

hopefully, i'll get to start opening them next week...just as soon as i finish getting my house back into some semblance of order!

until then....


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

deconstructing a life

a good friend of mine is undergoing extreme transition. his job has been phased out. it happens to so many of us.  but when your profession is specialized, it's not like you can just run out and get another one.  there is a process to be followed. most likely there will be continued education (not so easy for us 40+ers). he is most likely going to have to move to pursue his education and further employment elsewhere. after all, there aren't that many jobs here in montana...and fewer still of the specialized variety. 

he wonders, "will i even be able to make it?" and "will i end up a pauper the rest of my life?"  "is there room at the mission for me?"  well, the last question won't have to be considered since he has many friends who have offered to open up their homes to him (including myself).  however, he is taking it all very hard.  and who could blame him?  his life's work is hanging in the balance.  decisions have to be made. 

he's decided to start fresh. he's giving all of his worldly belongings away, save for a dear few necessities, so to ensure an easy transition to where ever it is he will end up.  it's hard for him. he's a collector.  a collector of memories, furniture, clothes, and things that make him feel at home.  it's hard for me to watch, being a collector myself.  but, i'm helping him in any way i can.  helping him sort. pack. deliver items to new owners.

he is often quiet.  introspective. unsure.  that, i think, is the most difficult thing to watch.  he's a very independent person, so watch...and be all i can do.  every spare moment this week as been spent at his side.  will continue to be so until we are done deconstructing his life. it's very painful. watching someone condense their life into a few boxes...

i can't help but wonder, "what if it were me?"  hopefully, i will never have to find out. 


p.s. my internet connectivity still languishes while the evil at&t trashes alltel's connections in favor of their own.  looks like it may be a month before this is all said and done with.  i am not happy with them!  i am looking for other options...but will most likely resume regular posting as soon as my friend is finished with needing my help during this move.  i may not be able to connect through my own network, but i can always take my laptop to a local hotspot and connect there.  don't know why i didn't think of this before!

Monday, March 28, 2011

sweet potato & chicken casserole

just thought i'd share a recipe from time to time and am kicking it off with one i made for my elders at the cottage today...

sweet potato & chicken casserole

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - diced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half or light cream
  1. preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. add the onion and garlic, and cook until just starting to turn golden. mix in the sweet potatoes and carrot; cook and stir for a few minutes, until lightly browned.
  3. move the vegetables to the sides of the pan, leaving the center clear. add the chicken; cook and stir until seared on all sides. scatter the flour over the top, and stir it in. gradually stir in the chicken stock, mixing carefully so that no flour lumps form. scrape any bits of food from the bottom of the pan while you do this. pour in the wine last, and mix through. transfer to a casserole dish and cover with a lid.
  4. bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven. remove from the oven, and let it cool just a little before stirring in the cream (or else it may curdle).
i doubled this since i had to feed 12 light eating residents and 2 staff, and it was the perfect amount.  at home, it usually feeds four.  i chose to serve it over rice today. i have served it over potates with equal success.  add a side dish of crisp green veggies of one sort or another and you have a tasty meal!

bon app├ętit!


Friday, March 25, 2011


still having heavy connectivity and server issues during the transition from one phone company to the new one. meh! hoping it doesn't continue for too long...  it plays havoc on my uploading and viewing abilities!

meanwhile, i'm putting the repurposed time to good use.  my life and home has become choked with options and possibilities.  being a collector and gatherer, i tend to go overboard at times. never wanting to walk by that wonderful new fragment or resource.  i am finding that having too many options, too many fibers and fragments, too many books filled with other people's ideas, has become quite stifling. 

so, fabrics and fibers are being sorted and packed away, leaving only a small stack to which i will add from time to time, culled from the Great Stores that i seem to have amassed.  rather than having mountains of choices, i will be experimenting in forcing myself to make do with what i have at hand.  not scurrying about, rifling through a neverending sea of fibers to find that elusive "perfect fragment". 

i'm also finding new homes for a lot of my furniture, as my home has become cluttered with antiques and cherished sticks.  i need space. not another ottoman to trip over.  room to move. to create. to contemplate. i plan to redesign my studio this week. open it up. clear it. make space for the whispers to cultivate quietly...

yes. space for the whispers.

space for the cultivation of ideas.

space for the mending. re-integrating. repurposing.

space for new characters to manifest...


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

baby, it's cold outside

i was fairly certain spring was here.  
but nature had another idea...

hoping today might find a little warmth to melt these snows away.
like a midwinter bear, i spent the better part of the day sleeping.
making up for lost sleep last night...

until fingers started twitching...

it's just a little bit of needlewandering.  thought i'd meander through
a stack of vintage scraps and see what puzzled together...
i enjoyed the soft, faded colors in counterpoint to the bold hues
i've been working in so much lately...

i'm not certain what i'll do with it...or what it will become.
will have to sit quietly and let it whisper what tales it may have to share...


p.s.  fortune cookie wisdom wednesday is postponed.  i didn't venture out from under the comfort and safety of my quilt pile today to forage some chinese food.  will try to stop for some on my way home from work tomorrow night...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

tusker moon gets his blossoms

it snowed today. unexpectedly. after two weeks of beautiful weather. a sneaky storm just swept through and dropped wet, cloying snow on our heads.  all day. all evening. it doesn't seem to be anywhere near completing itself and moving on...

so, rather than sleep between shifts (as any reasonable person may have done), i sat and worked on tusker moon. he was whispering too loudly for anyone to sleep anyway! 

i decided he needed a bit more definition, so added some chain stitch. did some random seed stitch grass and then began stitching in the flowers.  i don't think i'm quite done with the flowers and grass yet.  but the moon began whispering in my other ear and it tickled. so i finished rounding her out and then stitched in that whispering mouth and observant eyes. she seems somewhat surprised. perhaps she's never seen an elephant dance before...


p.s.  updates may be a bit sporadic for a bit.  the evil monster at&t has bought out alltel and is in the process of screwing up everyone's service!  i end up with server errors more often than i get a signal, so i'll be needing to head into town and sit at the local coffeehouse to get a reliable signal. i'd rather sit at home and stitch my elephants and felines and whatever other critters present themselves amongst my fragments...

Monday, March 21, 2011

tusker moon

thoughts about a disappointing moon loomed. perspective interposed.  how on earth could a moon be disappointing?  played with fragments. created the reflection of a silk moon over a cotton, linen and silk landscape.

when i stepped back to examine what had been needled into existence, an overly cheerful little tusker danced through with whispers of promised flowers tossed into the sky and scattering the grassy ground around him!

in the snippets of time i've managed to grab between shifts, i've found a new friend. a happy little friend. with very large tusks and a penchant for dancing in the moonlight!

it will be fun stitching him down and embroidering in the flying flowers...


Sunday, March 20, 2011

moon hype

"the moon looks upon many night flowers,
the night flowers see but one moon."
- jean ingelow

what i expected to see


what i saw instead

it's strange what perspective can do to one's perception of things.  with all of the media hype yesterday, i expected to see a huge, gigantimongous glowing orb bouncing ponderously on the horizon....blotting out the surrounding sky. obscuring millions of stars.  instead, i was presented with a moon like most others. distant. pale. diminutive.

i was disappointed.

perhaps i'll find the moon i was looking for in fragments and cloth when i get home tonight....


Friday, March 18, 2011

elephants on the brain

i swear i must have elephants on the brain! not only have i been sketching elephants. stitching elephants. painting elephants. but today, i went in for my appointment with my ink artist and got an elephant inked on my right forearm!  hmmmm....are those nice young men in the clean white coats coming for me??

actually, oddly enough, i designed this ages ago...long before i began thinking about the elephant festivals! the elephant here is ganesh (a.k.a., ganesha) and is the hindu god of compassion and remover of obstacles.  even though he is a hindu deity, devotion to him is broad, including amongst the janes, buddhists and beyond!  being that the cornerstone of my faith is compassion, he has always been a favorite of mine along with avalokitesvara, kuan yin, and others.

the red lotus above his head is also very important.  this symbolizes the original nature of the heart (hrdaya). it is the lotus of love, compassion, passion, activity and all the qualities of the heart. it is the lotus of avalokitesvara.

the sanskrit calligraphy that i added below ganesh is "sankalp" which means "ceremonious offer."  in this case, referring to my own personal ceremonious offer of myself in service to others.  together with the mani prayer in sanskrit on my other arm, makes for a strong personal statement of compassion and devotion to others.

this sits well with my spirit. i am pleased....

now to go play with kavi and see how many more flowers i can "paint" on him before heading home.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

fortune cookie wisdom wednesday (on thursday)

okay, it's not wednesday. it's thursday. and i apologize for totally throwing you off like this. i mean, i know you all live for my fortune cookie wisdom wednesday posts... ha!  but i do have a good excuse: i just worked a triple, spanning 22 hours, then attended a mandatory team meeting, picked up dog and cat food (so they didn't eat me when i got home without any) and when i finally made it to the comfort of my couch yesterday, i was completely and unabashedly unconscious!

however, to make up for it, i had chinese food today so that i could share this week's tidbit of confectionary wisdom...

barbarella one said "a life without cause is a life without effect." true. but not generally possible.  mind can't remain quiet. it's very nature is that of a monkey...all boisterous and full of energy and thought.  and, as this wise little pastry has pointed out, it is our thoughts that create our lives!

i have found this more true than i ever thought it could be. when i continually thought "sheesh! i'm fat!"...well, i got fat. fatter. fattest.  when i changed that thought to "look! i'm thinner!" so, i got thinner!  when my thoughts dwell on sorrow and confusion, that, too, is what appears in my life.

these days, i'm very careful to think only on joy and compassion!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

and so the festival painting commences

i don't read the paper
and i don't watch tv and
people ask me how i
stay up with what's
going on and i tell them
breathing seems to
help and since i haven't
done serious damage
to anyone yet, they
usually leave me alone.
- brian andreas

i got to play a bit with kavi tonight. not only did he get a name (kavi means "poet", and if his whisperings are any indication, he is aptly named), but he also found himself stitched down to the background, a few gold coins added to his saddle cloth, some flowered ground to walk upon, and the beginnings of his festival paints!  these flowers are only the beginning.  there are so many more to add...and some beading, too, if kavi has his way.  he is a very flashy elephant...

being an elephant of no small means, he is bigger than i anticipated.  this ponderous pachyderm is not going to be for the faint of heart.  nor will he be for the dime-store novel reader.  however, being an afficianado of first editions, hard-cover releases, coffee table volumes, and over-sized children's books as i am, i don't think this tusker will present any problems in finding a tome worthy of his magnitude when the time comes...

but for the moment, he will need to climb back into my pocket.  i have a lot of work to do before my next shift begins and this one ends...  besides, it looks like today may turn out to be a rather rainy one and kavi doesn't like getting wet.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

heart blessings

the first time her laughter
unfurled its wings in the wind,
we knew the world would
never be the same
- brian andreas

a very special person, wanda, sent me this most amazing gift today. we "met" through the one world one heart event this year and have been exchanging insanity via email ever since.  you may remember that she was the one that licked everything on my blog so that no one would want any of it...especially the one world one heart door prize, sky flower.  she was the one who ultimately won the door prize, too. 

i had lamented that i didn't think of licking one of her dottie dolls that she had been offering on her blog and therefore did not win one.  well....who could have guessed that this amazing person set out to create a very special dottie just for me!  meet very own steampunk dottie doll!  the picture just doesn't do her justice...what with all of the wondrous little cogs and bits and bobs....and the custom steampunk goggles on her hat that you can't even see, but will do wonders at keeping bugs out of her eyes while she is out adventuring!

not only did i receive such a treasure, but i had to dig through piles of other treasures to get to her.  past oversized money (which will be terrific fun to play with next time i bind a a new book), a wonderful daily zen calendar for my desk, an ingenious compass, and the most amazing magic business card holder!

my heart is full. my heart is touched. i am overwhelmed with gratitude. thank you, wanda, for everything! george means more to me than you can know...


Monday, March 14, 2011

elephant in the room

it's begun...

sketches litter my design desk.  piles and puddles of fragments and old garments fill any available space.  the elephants are preparing for a parade. ..

i decided to start with a few smaller cloths. book cloths, to be exact.  try out a few ideas. play with some embroidery and embellishment.  maybe move on to a pillow or two. before attacking some of the larger ideas that have been whispering in the back of my mind.

first up is the rudimentary fragments of  my first little elephant book cloth:

i thought a book cloth would be a worthy genesis for the venerable elephant, given that his memory is reknowned.  who better to remember where one left off reading?

the colors here are a bit off, i'm quite certain (at least, they are on my monitor).  the elephant himself is free cut from an old grey cotton luncheon napkin.  his head is cut separate from his body to allow overlapping for dimension and depth.  his tusks are free cut from an old off-white cotton dinner napkin.  his skull cap (which may be changed) is from the pocket flap of an old shirt.  his saddle blanket is from the end of a handwoven belt off of a vintage handwoven skirt.  his eye was cut from the same belt and is the center of a woven design.  his wine-colored background is torn from another vintage cotton dinner napkin.  the striped plum shirt will be the next layer. it is full of texture and detail that is lost in this photo, and is butter soft!  the cream dotted flower linen fabric behind that will be the backing cloth and is from a vintage summer jacket.

this little elephant  is as yet unpainted.  i'm thinking most of his "painting" will be done in thread with embroidery. tons of tiny lazy daisies and stars and swirls are at the forefront of my thoughts. filling my mind with their fervent whispers. perhaps some thin tassels or twists in the four corners...much like a magic carpet.

i'll be working a triple at the cottages over the next couple of days, so won't have a lot of time to play in my studio...but may have to tuck this little guy into my pocket and see what kind of mischief we can get into in our down time...


Sunday, March 13, 2011

seeing elephants

we are nearing the annual jaipur elephant festival in rajasthan and it has got me seeing painted elephants!

okay, so that isn't what a "normal" person might spend his afternoons thinking about...but who ever said that i was anything close to "normal"? ha!

i've always wanted to go to rajasthan this time of year and see the painted elephants in person. walk the streets where elephant owners spend weeks decorating their prized pachyderms for the occasion.  but, so far, i've had to content myself with a more vicarious viewing over the past several years. (sigh)

so, in honor of one of the most wonderful festivals of the year (well...that title is purely conjectural since i've yet to be able to actually attend one), i'll be whipping up a pack of pachyderms in cloth this week...

will they be fragments and cloths? pillows? stuffed critters? who knows? i'm not even sure...but i'm rummaging through my fibers and bits and pieces and pulling some wonderful things together to play with!  i'll post some pics tomorrow as they start to take shape...


Friday, March 11, 2011

remembering creativity

"All my scattering moments 
are taken up with my needle." 
~Ellen Birdseye Wheaton, 1851

this last fortune cookie wisdom wednesday brought a series of interesting observations that led me to think deeper on the subjects of silence. peace. meditation. stitching. and how they relate. digging through my photo archives, i realized, too, that there are many different forms of stitching in my repertoire.  i knit; crochet; weave; bookbind; embroider; rya; lacemake with shuttles, bobbins and needles; knot; prod and too many others to try to remember them all here. each and every form of stitch making brings me peace and balance.

peace, for me, however, does not necessarily relate to "quiet".  i'm not one to watch much television, however, music has always been an integral part of my life, whether playing or simply listening to it. to this end, when i am creating, i usually have some form of music on as well. it may be french cafe music; the rhythmic beat of the ivory coast; classical violin; a moody cello piece; modern improvisational belly dance rhythms; or flamenco guitar.  many would not think these to be conducive to creating. but to me, music plays an integral part in silence. it is the language between the silence that makes the silence so enduring.

there is a quote (i can not remember from whom) that says: “music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.”  for me, this is so completely true. this soothing, healing nature of music creates the perfect space in which i can create.  sometimes, when i am stuck, as i have been most recently, it is because i have forgotten the importance of music in my creativity. my guitar has gathered dust. my duclimer strings remain lax.  my doumbek sits neglected in a corner.  and my stereo stares quietly back at me from a silent shelf.

alan watts wrote: “we could say that meditation doesn't have a reason or doesn't have a purpose. in this respect it's unlike almost all other things we do except perhaps making music and dancing. when we make music we don't do it in order to reach a certain point, such as the end of the composition. if that were the purpose of music then obviously the fastest players would be the best. also, when we are dancing we are not aiming to arrive at a particular place on the floor as in a journey. when we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point. and exactly the same thing is true in meditation. meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.” to this, i could easily add the act of creating art falls under the same characteristics. when we create art, it is the act of creating that is the very point of it all. not what others see. not what will be created in the end. but the act of creating in the moment.

i had forgotten these things for a moment. i am glad that i have remembered them again.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

fortune cookie wisdom wednesday

yikes! and here i always thought the golden rule was an ethic of reciprocity. you know. do unto others as you would have them do unto you. but the cookie has a point. after all, silence is the loudest scream. even mother theresa told us that "we need silence to be able to touch souls" and lao tzu  told us that "silence is a source of great strength."

it is in silence, with the mouth shut, that i meditate each morning, though i strive to carry that meditation out into my daily activities...including into my speech.  if jeremy taylor is correct in that "meditation is the tongue of the soul and the language of our spirit," then keeping one's mouth shut and speeking with silence during meditation, one can truly touch souls as mother theresa admonished.

there are countless thinkers and great spiritual leaders who have imparted the wisdom of silence.  confucious told us that "silence is the true friend that never betrays.” emily dickinson wrote that "saying nothing...sometimes says the most.”  mahatma gandhi told us that "in the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.”  even helen keller shared with us her ideas on silence: "everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”

sometimes our lives are too full of words. spoken words. written words. thought words. is it any wonder i find the silence of meditation so refreshing and edifying? don't get me wrong...there is definitely a place for words and noise and buzz of daily life...but i think i shall focus a little more on silence. or at least on being silent and allowing the buzz to hum around me. open my ears and eyes. drink it all in. allow it all to simply be.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

a murmuring in the darkness

whether it is a minor disappointment 
or a major shock, 
is the signal that things 
are moving into transition 
in our lives.”
-William Bridges

transition seems to be a major theme in my thoughts these days. the transition of winter into spring (though at times this seems to be a false transition. snow has fallen. again.). the transition of life into death. so many elders have been passing these past couple of weeks at work. my artistic evolutions. friends becoming less than friends. others becoming other than friends. still more becoming more than so.

there is little one can do about these transitions in life. but to sit and watch. observe the little changes. digest the large changes. adapt. blend. become one with them.

they are not unlike the transitions of discarded fragments, stitched down. blended. woven. adapted. changed into something new...

spinning new stories. finding new lives. new experiences. this little guy has yet to begun whispering his story into my waiting ear... but something tells me that he has quite a story to tell.

meanwhile, there are too many voices murmuring in the darkness tonight.  like a rush of dark wings. fluttering all at once. i can't make out anything in particular. so i am contenting myself to just listen to the cacophony of feathered whispers...


Thursday, March 3, 2011

breaking through

"for a long time,
he flew only when
he thought no one
else was watching..."

been playing with string and scraps...doing my best to imitate the saint's cranky kitty...and scratching my way through this week long creative block and finally came up with this. it's not the best shot (the lighting is non-existent and reds are almost impossible to shoot with a non-professional digital camera), and it's not the complete project...but a sneak peek at my new keeping pouch. i still have a few seemingly random stitches to add here and there and then to package it up, filled with a small long cloth, and send it sailing its way to a new, dear friend's door who's been waiting ever so patiently for its arrival. doubly pleased i am that my break through was facilitated by a gift....

warm gratitude to you all for your kind and encouraging words throughout this fallow time!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

fortune cookie wisdom wednesday

hmmm...ordinarily i'd say, "just my luck. meh!"  but today i think i'm going to look at this from a different perspective and take it as a good sign. a sign that my fortune is open to possibility.  a reminder that i need to stop thinking in terms of limitations and instead think in terms of the many, numberless possibilities that await...