Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Born to Make Art

Recently I embraced a new determination to "make Art".  Actually, I feel I am coming full circle... returning to the Art of my youth.

There was a time I painted and created and took pencil to sketchbook and enjoyed spending hours embroidering wall hangings to pretty up our early apartments.  I spent free time making art just for the sake of... making Art.  All kinds of Art.

But something began to nip away at the part of me that made Art.  Trials.  Heartache.  Hope deferred.  Life unexpected.  Tears.  Colors turned to shadows.  Life became too hard. Getting up each morning required all my faith and energy allowed.

Being a person born to make Art, creativity would find some way to break through the fog to light our world.  Cooking and baking would always bring joy as tried and true recipes shared space in my kitchen with new foods and spices and herbs and good knives.

I cooked for the Art of it as I discovered Jacques and Julia and Bon Appetit and lovely cooking shows of long ago.  I think creative cooking stayed with me because it was always needed.  We tend to eat three times a day.  More if one is a Hobbit.

There was a short season when creating with fabric rose to the surface.  But eventually the sewing machine gathered dust and the fabric I kept was placed in boxes and later in drawers.  In the midst of... Life... I grew tired of sewing.

But somewhere in the back of my mind, I would remember I was born to make Art.

Homeschooling provided it's' own creative opportunities but some of those years were among the darkest, when all energy had to be given to learning and teaching and doing laundry.

Somewhere in my reading through the years, I recall a statement made by an author about why we do not always accomplish what we desire.  He (or she) wrote that we tend to default to what comes the easiest and what we do best.  Even if we desire to try new things.

For me that was preparing food for family and friends.  When my daughter-in-law recently commented on the delicious lemon scones I had sent home for her, I told her I had the Spiritual gift of cooking and baking.  It's there somewhere in Corinthians.

I do have my scrapbook journals but they are not the creative Art as so many I have seen online. But I am glad I kept them through the years.  For they are as close to the Art of my youth as anything accomplished in the last decades.

Of course there is writing.  There has always been writing.  Ever since I scribbled a quick last minute homework assignment in English 101 and the Teaching Assistant at the University used it to teach the class.  But once again... I defaulted to what came easily.

But what about the Art of my youth?  I has sensed a desire to return to more visual arts in past years.  The thoughts would float through my mind but found no Place to land, the old desires were nudging at me again to make Art.  It was as if God were trying to get a Truth through to me and I had put up a wall between Him and me in that area.

Until Michigan.  My epiphany week.

Perhaps it was simply wisdom which comes with another decade.  For certainly there must be some equity in the universe for what the years do to the body!  Or perhaps it was the place.  Or the people, those I loved most in the world together with time to talk and sit at the table and walk and just... be... together in one place.

Perhaps just a change of scenery made it easier to hear from Him, trading cornfields for the beach.  But Truth began to dawn on me and the separate yearnings for the Art of my youth... that which was so near but far enough out of my reach to frustrate... it began to become clear.

I turned my back on the Art of my youth because I listened to the lies of the enemy.  Some coming through the words of unkind teachers which turned from opinion to ... in my mind... truth.  But not real Truth.  Not God's Truth. Then there were the whispers of the enemy saying my Art was not good enough.

Were the years wasted?  Oh, no.  Not at all.  Art was still made.  Just not... that Art.

But He has been whispering that it is time.  Time to restore the Art of my Youth.  Time to do that which was only "good enough".  Time to ponder what has been floating around my mind.  Time to let it land.

That has been the precipice of redoing my Study, of reorganizing my Stuff, of tossing what has not aged well while stored and making lists of what is needed... to make room in an already tight budget to Create.  Nothing too expensive... glue and double stick tape and perhaps an embroidery pattern here and there.  Maybe some glitter if I really want to get wild and crazy.

Part of the epiphany was oh so obvious.  I needed to set aside some of what I had been spending time on to make time for Art.  I didn't need to do it all... just one or two choices from the past.  So the materials of old were gone through and sorted, some thrown away as no longer usable and some salvaged.

Is it working?  Well, I made a very pretty card to send to some dear friends.  I started work on a new and somewhat different scrapbook journal (more about that later).  And the third project... something with yarn... will be started this next week.  Who knows, perhaps someday I will even pick up paints and canvas again.  But there is enough Art to be made here at home with what I already have for the moment.

What about you?  Has the Creator been whispering in your ear or bringing hints across your path?  Is there Art He wants you to make?  Do you have the gift of seeing Beauty through the lens of a camera?  Was there a time you lived for the aroma of oil paint on canvas?  When was the last time you finished a needlework project hidden away in a drawer?

Have you always wanted to learn to make wedding cakes or sushi or pickles?  Do you long to create watercolor journals?  Have you bookmarked knitting blogs even though you do not knit?  Or perhaps your bookshelves contain numerous books about writing but you never write, even letters.

Does your heart beat faster when you walk by a display of beads and baubles, thinking of jewelry which could be made?  Would you love to know how to form pottery or stitch quilts?  Not for money for that would put too much pressure on the learning.  Maybe someday but not now.

Has the enemy of your soul told you that you are now too old?  Or perhaps he has said you are not old enough?  Or not talented enough?  Or not smart enough?   I've heard all in my life.  Over and over and over again.

Let this be your epiphany... your wake up call... your permission note!

None of us want to come to the end of our lives and wish we lived our minutes differently.  For how we live our minutes determines our days and our months and our years.  I don't know about you but another birthday has me realizing life is too short to wait for another time and another place.

What is He nudging you to make?  What Art is within you just waiting to come out?  What is the longing of your heart, that Art you were born to make? No longer worrying about the grade from a teacher.  You are now mature enough to set aside the scoffing of family and friends.  Only you and your Creator may understand.  But that is okay.  Have fun!  Take joy!  Make Art.

Photo:  A long ago scene from my deck when I enjoyed a solitary quiet time with my Bible, tea, cinnamon toast, and a favorite book, Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer.  She explains Making Art like no one else I know.  (The book is called The Hidden Art of Homemaking in paperback.)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Eating out of the Pantry

From Mavis at One Hundred Dollars a Month
Today I'm pondering the subject of using my pantry.  Since my husband no longer has the seasonal work he had for around ten years (they are cutting back substantially), we have been eating out of the pantry lately instead of adding to it.

It's not a bad thing really... as long as we will be able to restock at some time in the future... to depend on the pantry.  You certainly learn what you use quicker than expected.  For instance, we ran out of a few items that I thought I had plenty of in stock.  Items like trash bags, dishwashing liquid, and even condiments like mayonnaise. 

Eating out of the pantry has again proven there are essentials to have on hand.  Those items which, when they are available, provide meals on the table more easily and at a good price.  

I so often think of the way past generations cooked when they needed to eat from what they stored from the harvest... and how they used what they had to extend meals.  For instance, potatoes and carrots were slow roasted with a very small roast last week (along with two cans of Cream of Mushroom soup to form a gravy) and provided a filling and tasty meal when Mr. & Mrs. Christopher had dinner with us.

I ran out of onions once and realized just how often they formed a basis of cooking.  I've decided they are essential to stock and as many as possible.  I use less garlic but when I need it, I am glad to have it in the bowl on the table. 

Although I have the powdered versions of both on hand for recipes, sometimes they cannot be substituted for fresh .  I'm thinking minced dried versions of each would be excellent additions to the pantry?

Anyhoo... even if you don't have to eat out of your pantry due to a loss or reduction in income, it is a good thing to do it once in awhile to see what it teaches you.  You will probably have a few surprises, too.

Remember how I said before that I listen to news reports to see how the pantry purchases may be affected?  I'd heard just recently that the severe drought in California will cause grocery prices to continue increasing.  Some items more than others should the drought not be broken soon.

Just this past week I read there is a drought in Spain that may cause much higher prices (and possible shortages) for olive oil, since that country is the primary producer.*  If you have the funds, it would be a good time to stock up now before the higher prices make it through to the grocery stores.

Since I mainly only deepen the pantry when possible, there is little I found I don't use.  I keep in the pantry what I know we eat and deepen it by purchasing extra of those items when possible... instead of just storing food to have on hand for an emergency.

There is a place for storing emergency food supplies if you have the extra income and space.  Not everyone can do that these days.  But everyone (except those of us actually eating out of our pantry!) can deepen what they do use by buying a little extra here and there!

*Drought in Spain... here.  If you do a Google search, you will see that this is big news worldwide.

Image: From this website, one of the best online for valuable information!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Inspiration of Tasha Tudor

I have different categories of heroes.  Most would be located under the file folder labeled... Faith.  A few heroes may be found if researching... Art.  There are some writers whose skills take my breath away.  Still others are those whose gardening and homesteading and cooking and needlework skills amaze me.

But there is one woman whose inspiration stands out in the category of... Lifestyle.  That is Tasha Tudor.

Albeit not a woman of faith.  If truth be told, she could come off as a tad strange at times if one were to only look at her ummm... religious (if it could be called that) philosophy.

But Tasha was a genius at creating the world in which she wanted to live.  As she illustrated this world, the rest of us would feel as we could step into it from time to time.  What did her world bring us?  A feeling of Peace perhaps.  And Beauty.  And that longing we so often feel for another Time and another Place.

Tasha gave us permission to surround ourselves with those things which cause our heart to sing.  Not many went to the extent she did and neither could they.  But we can pick here and choose there and find a way to capture what we find Beautiful in our days.

I realize if a young decorator were to walk into my Study, she would most likely think "out of date" and "eclectic" in a not-so-chic way.  But that is okay.  For I think should she stay long enough, she would sit for awhile in the overstuffed chair and listen to the Andrew Peterson Channel on Pandora and perhaps have a cat come over to say hello... and find peace.

Tasha showed us it is just fine to love the old things.  In the midst of iPads and iPhones and laptops and 24 hour news and satellite TV... we can unplug.  We should unplug from time to time.

Tasha reminded us to try the old recipes and the ancient skills of making our own (anything) and that one could transfer their own Place into what they love.  And sometimes all we need is to see one other person on the planet understands when we say perhaps we were meant for another age, such as the way I could move to Colonial Williamsburg.

Happy Birthday, Tasha.  One who created Beauty in her own little parcel of the planet.

Photo: Tasha Tudor at Home: photographer Richard Brown

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Listening to Blessings

This is one of those Balm of Gilead songs in my life.  I've been listening to it this morning.


We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Framing Faith by Matt Knisely, a review

Framing Faith is a very interesting book, especially for anyone wanting to slow down and really look at life.  For those of us who desire to see God's hand upon our journey.

Matt Knisely is a storyteller with words but especially with photos.  He is an award winning photo journalist who has traveled worldwide to capture the important events of modern history through the lens of a camera (actually, numerous cameras).

But in this book, he reminds us that often the best "images" are those we see when we are least expecting them.  With people we may view as unimportant.  In places we may not see as important.

Throughout the book, the author shares the similarities between taking award winning photos and seeing God's Story in this world.  Some of the chapters are:
  • Focus:  Discovery
  • Focus:  Attention
  • Focus:  Purpose
  • Capture: Moment
  • Capture: Perspective
  • Capture: Subject
  • Develop: Processing
  • Develop: Darkness
  • Develop: Light
Anyone God has made to create will find much that is helpful in this book, whether you are a writer or a painter or a knitter or one that sculpts clay into images I can recognize.  But if you are a photographer in any sense of the word... and one who wants to follow Christ even more closely... this book is for you.

This book was provided by the publisher for purposes of review but the opinion is my own.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Our Homes are a Reflection of Us

"She loved beauty and she was creative, but her creativeness found its joy in the shaping of everyday life to a form of comeliness, so that it became not just something that one put up with, but something that was enjoyable and lovely in itself."   
The Heart of the Family by Elizabeth Goudge

I'm continuing my ponderings about houses and homes this week.  That is always the case when I have been reading any of Elizabeth Goudge's Eliot Family Trilogy (see below).  They are among my favorite Goudge books and speak so often about how our homes can be places of healing and nurture.

When I was in my late teens, I took the D. James Kennedy Evangelism class at the Presbyterian church I attended.  In that class, one learns that to better know a person you should always try to meet with them in their own home... for our homes tell far more about the person we are than we think.

For instance, the books we have on our shelves, the artwork, the accessories, the clutter or lack of it... all come together to tell a Story.  That being the Story of who we are.

I've thought of that "truth" so often since taking the class and I've written about it for all of these years.  If one were to walk through my front door for the first time, they would know the family who lives here would be considered the "bookish" kind.

The Professional Kitchen-Aid mixer would be a clue that someone is a serious cook.  Artwork and books and Post-It notes and newsletters waiting to be read could come together to be used by a prosecutor if being a Christian were illegal in our land.

A detective would not take long to know someone lives here who may need a serious intervention for her passion for beautiful china.  Especially all things having to do with the delights of "taking tea".

They, of course, could get a wrong impression that the person who is the primary decorator of the home likes to spend money... rather than the person who decorates seems to have an inner sense of where to find bargains for pennies on the dollar.

That was a wrong impression given of the woman who decorated Pilgrim's Inn at one time for she was very talented in decorating with little money.  So we also must remember not to make sweeping assumptions when we walk into someone's home.

For instance, a great deal of clutter may indicate a person who is lazy.  But it also can be an indicator of someone who is not lazy but suffers from chronic illness.  They do need to get rid of a lot of stuff around them but that is more of an emotional issue than being lazy.  It took me years to realize I could not keep a clutter free home and clean all I once owned.

Of course, there is what I call the creative clutter of living.  These homes may have a stack of fabric and a basket of a crochet work in progress and a pattern cut out on the dining table or perhaps an old tablecloth covering the kitchen table with children's artwork drying before going to their home on the front of the refrigerator.

One may walk into the house to find a dozen or so decorating magazines being perused or the latest issue of Mollie Makes bookmarked at a knitting pattern that looks interesting.   Perhaps there would be the essentials for putting together a scrapbook of photos with stickers and washi tape and pretty colored pens and cut out pages of favorite magazines... all on the table or desk awaiting a free hour or so to create.

A violin or guitar or dulcimer or a stack of CDs sitting on the table would all indicate a music loving family lives here.  Should there be a piano against the wall in the family room of the home, the visitor may notice a variety of sheet music awaiting the family coming together after dinner for the making of music.

Of course, a completely sterile home tells a lot about its owners, too.  The home looks lovely but no living takes place there.  No real living.  Nothing so creative that it would cause a mess.  No teenage boys with their friends over who prop their feet on the coffee table or preschoolers helping to make cookies in the kitchen.  Messes are now allowed.

I must admit, I love playing Sherlock when I visit a home for a first time and it all began with the training received in my late teens.  But I also view the homes of other families to find what it is that make me feel warm and cozy when I enter their little domains.  I have written before that I realized I had a love of a few larger pieces of artwork here and there.

I had once decorated mostly with small pieces but when income permitted, my husband and I chose reasonably priced larger framed artwork from time to time and they made such a difference in the feel of the rooms.  All because I visited one very humble but lovely home where the family room was so cozy I still feel at peace thinking of it... and the quite large print of a scene from the West with cowboys and horses making their way through mountains hung over the sofa.

Something else I have been thinking about this week was inspired by waiting for my doctor in his office for a very long time.  (Just my regular three months diabetes checkup.)  Instead of reading the book I had brought with me, I found myself looking around the room.  I noticed how it was "decorated" for the one purpose in which it was used... a checkup of one's physical health.  No artwork... no reading materials... no place to set a cup of coffee or tea... just the essentials needed for a physician to do their job.

As I was sitting there (you can tell my thinking was on how rooms affect us), I thought how that is what my need to re-do the Study was all about.  I had not set up the room for the purposes I wanted!  It looked lovely and warm and cozy but it had been too dark to enjoy sitting at the desk and creating.  So the purchase of the inexpensive tea table and the repositioning of lamps solved that.

It is not perfect for until the large bookshelf is removed, I have no place to put the materials needed for my creativity out in the open.  But nothing is perfect and it never will be.  If waiting for all to be perfect to create... I would not make any sort of Art until it is accomplished amongst the angels.

I should have realized this long ago.  I am certain the reason I enjoy working in my kitchen is that it is set up for the purpose of cooking and baking and the doing of dishes.  A CD player was purchased with Amazon credit from the Holidays (I tend to receive very little credit in the summer but a nice amount when some of you lovely people do your Christmas shopping at Amazon by clicking on my widget first).

Having a CD player in the kitchen helps me keep my goal of turning off the background noise of the TV and surrounding myself with good music or a favorite radio teacher while the chicken is being cut up or the salad prepared.

So you can tell where my ponderings have been as I have thought through how my home is a reflection of the people who live here.  And the realization that how I have set up my space makes all the difference in the enjoyment of making Art... and dinner.

My home and I are both works in progress and will be until I finish this journey.  For instance, I have realized the need to stock my freezer with main dishes and baked goods to make it easier to show hospitality on days I am quite weary but I still want to have someone to dinner or just to sit down for a good cup of coffee and a scone.

I realized already that I must get rid of even stuff I like if I want a clutter free house.  More bags of good stuff were sent to charity a couple weeks ago.  Instead of missing it, I thought how someone would love finding such items at a price they can afford... just as I do when I am at Goodwill or a thrift shop.

So then it is a win-win situation.  My home is more clutter free and ready for the making of Art or the reading of a good novel or the ability to set the table without worrying about dishes tumbling and breaking off the shelves.  And someone else will find just the two-tiered silver serving tray they have been wanting for years, the one I never used even once.

If you love reading about houses and homes and the way they affect the people who live in them, you will love The Bird in the Tree, Pilgrim's Inn, and The Heart of the Family.*  (I have found some readers are not as fond of The Heart of the Family as the other two but I adore it.  I think it particularly speaks to those who are older or who have suffered deeply.)

It is quite wonderful that these books are now available in paperback and on the Kindle.  When I first read them, they were more difficult to find and much more expensive if not found at a library sale.  Years ago, I was able to locate a rather beat up copy of Pilgrim's Inn at a book sale and my library had to request The Bird in the Tree.   I finally read The Heart of the Family when it became available as an inexpensive Kindle download.

If you only read one of the trilogy, choose the first Goudge book I ever read... Pilgrim's Inn*.

If you have not had a chance to read all the comments from last week's Sunday Afternoon Tea, do go back and read them... here.  Readers shared about what makes a house a cozy sanctuary for their family.

Now it is time to sit at the desk in the Study and begin making a pretty card for my son-in-law's parents.  I want to not only write about Art but make it.

*Amazon Associate's Link

Image:  Interior With the Artist's Daughter by Duncan Grant

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My World this Week... kinda

There is a lot going on in my life with sick relatives and the return of heat and humidity causing moi' to be "under the weather".

So I will share quickly and without headers what has been going on in my world, actually in the past few weeks.  Think of it as a catch up post on the run.

Was reading...
Was re-reading
The trendy "beauty I am eating" photo.
Why my moss rose is all gone!
Victoria after we unpacked, "Do not ever go away again".
Missing... sigh.  The people and the place.

Did it seem to you that we went from the beauty of summer to summer's end overnight?  I'm not talking about the weather as it is hotter now than it was in July!  The feeling of summer.  The look of summer.  It is just gone from where I live.

The garden is in a terrible state as what is there is going to seed.  There are a few leaves turning here and there.  The squirrels are quite squirrely (as proven in the photo of the moss rose above).

In my part of the world, we are now in that in-between state where it is no longer true summer but not yet true autumn.  But I hear the pumpkin spice latte is returning sooner this year.  That is a very good thing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Study Part Deux

The Queen
I've been tweaking the Study off and on since Christopher got married over two years ago.  It will continue until he moves the large bookshelf to his home (when their home office no longer is full of boxes!).

But I knew changes needed to be made soon to make it more user friendly.  There was not enough light for one thing.  It needed more color for another.  Just some minor changes here and there.

This past episode of moving things around and adding to them began in my usual If You Give a Mouse a Cookie sort of way when I found the perfect tea table at Goodwill for about $6.00.  It was just the type of table I've wanted for years, in very good shape, and most of all... cheap.

The $6.00-ish tea table that started it all...
The lamp was on the desk before the tweaking.
So it was placed under the window between the green chair (also from Goodwill) and the dresser that had been Christopher's since he was a little guy.  I gave him the large bookshelf but I kept the dresser.

I inherited this table from my mother so it is a favorite.
The gang doesn't seem to mind their temporary home.
The table that was once located where the tea table is now was moved to the place the Butler's shelves once held teddy bears and such.  Did you get all that?  The Butler's shelf has been temporarily abandoned to the garage while the occupants found a temporary home in another part of the Study.

Now a joy to work at this "desk".
I found the desk lamp for $1.99 at the Salvation Army store.
The votive candle holder is also from the Salvation Army store and just the reminder I need each day!
Some items over the desk and on the desk were switched out and around.  Like I said... much like the mouse being given a cookie in the book resulting in much larger ramifications... so was the addition of one small table to the Study.

The rug was brought in from my bedroom.  The cat was already there.
But I am very pleased with the results.  Once the bookshelf, which takes up a lot of room to the right of the desk, is out of here then I'm hoping to replace that area with more storage space for creative endeavors.

Not a great photo but you get the idea...
So these are the photos, some taken without a flash and others with it (those not showing the true colors or shades or anything about their objects).  But it was necessary on gloomy days.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Healing Quilt by Wanda Brunstetter, a review

This title is the third in the series about the "Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club" and as I had not read the first two books, it took awhile to sort through the characters.  However, once I got through that I found this book immensely enjoyable.

In The Healing Quilt, Lamar and Emma Yoder Miller have left their home in Shipshewana, Indiana for the much warmer winter climate of Sarasota, Florida to help Lamar's arthritis heal.  As Emma becomes bored away from family and friends, she decides to hold another quilting class and asks God to bring those He wants to the weekly classes she and Lamar teach together.

Which is how six individuals, each with their own problems, come together thinking they are there to learn to quilt.  Of course, the reader knows God has sent them to know Emma and Lamar for reasons far more important than stitching fabric together.

If you read many of Wanda's books, you will know she creates her own universe in which there are more... shall we say... coincidences than one finds in real life.  But they come together to paint us a picture in words, that of how God is at work in each of our lives for our good and His glory.

I definitely have to read the first two books in this series and I highly recommend this book.  I love the way there are highly unlikely people coming together for the classes and just as there are some hard times they go through, there is also a great deal of humor.

Like their biker dude former student riding his motorcycle from Indiana to Florida to visit them.  Yes, you read that right.  Biker dude.  Quilting lessons.  In the same sentence.

You can find out more about The Healing Quilt... here.*

This book was provided by the publisher for review but the opinions are entirely my own.

*Amazon Associate Link