Friday, December 30, 2011

Doggie Art

Our son and his wife have two beagles.

Their dining room had a long, empty wall that needed some kind of art or decoration. Since they are both creative and like to think outside the box, they bought three canvases, painted them black, blending to mocha, blending to latte (we drink a lot of coffee in this house).

Their idea was to dip the puppies' feet in the paint and have them walk across the canvases.

But, after one race around the family room rug with painted puppy paws, they moved the project outside, dipped the feet and held them to dab the paw prints on to the canvas.

Add a few swirls. Doggie art.

Our granddaughter thought they looked like snowflakes. My first impression was flowers, like spring blossoms on a fruit tree. Granddad thought the swirls were like wagging puppy tails. A happy decoration for their dining room.

A Good Girl

June 1999 to December 28, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Puppy Story

"Oliver's Puppy Story" is an excerpt from Libby, my novel, still waiting and growing before being published.
Click here to jump over to WordsbyMo to read the story. This is a quick, light-hearted read for you as we move into a week of travels and visits and family gatherings.
Enjoy your holidays,
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

He Opens the Door

"To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out."

                        John 10:3

linking with others for a quiet Sunday at

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Vegetarian Lasagna with Meat

In our house, tofu is a four letter word. Duh, but you know what I mean. This recipe, adapted from the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook is one the guys  will actually eat and enjoy. I have made it successfully without meat. Usually, I add a pound of ground beef or sausage, mostly because they think the name, vegetarian with meat, is funny.
The pesto sauce is a big part of the success of this recipe - it gives the lasagna a unique, tasty flavor.

Vegetarian Lasagna with Tofu

For the sauce, I use a jar of Ragu rather than making a tomato base sauce.

1 package (12 oz) tofu
6 no-boil lasagna noodles
1/4 cup pesto sauce
4 cups baby spinach
1 cup mozarella cheese, grated

Spray the 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray. Place a strainer over the sink and crumble in the tofu, squeezing it dry of excess liquid, set aside. Spread some of the Ragu over the bottom of the pan. Layer the ingredients in this order: 2 noodles, 2 tbsp pesto spread on the dry noodles, half the tofu, 2 cups spinach leaves, (the cooked ground beef if you are adding it), 1/3 cup cheese, Ragu, (salt and pepper if desired). Place the remaining 2 noodles on the top. Cover with Ragu and the remaining cheese. I add a sprinkling of parmesan on top.
Bake at 350, 45 minutes until hot and bubbly.
Remove and let rest 10 minutes before cutting (the waiting is the hardest part of this recipe).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Less Than Perfect

Less than good news. A tough health complication with one of our sons. When I questioned the doctor about the change in prognosis, he said, "That was the hope. But it doesn't always happen that way." The bubble of hope, burst, the drops puddled at my feet.

What do you do when the answer is one you do not want to hear? When you are facing a long-term, complicated condition? If I look at the long line of weeks, months, years ahead, like the dotted white lines stretched off into the distance on a long road trip, I panic. Searching for hope.

Amy Carmichael wrote,
"In acceptance lieth peace."
For today.
Today's tasks.
This is the time I have.
To use, to love, to live.
With grace, joy, and yes, hope.

The day we made cinnamon ornaments, our house was filled with rich holiday smells. Together with a friend, we made a double batch, copying the recipe here. We mixed the cinnamon, the applesauce and the glue, rolled and punched out cookie cutter shapes, baked and rolled and punched some more. The process took a lot longer than we had expected, our ambitious plans far exceeding the day's limits. The plain cookies were set aside for a few days while schoolwork and doctor appointments and outside activities took over.

I started the painting on my own. Easy, right? With a couple of bottles of puff paint, draw in the simple designs. Not so easy. The paint squirted and blobbed. I was frustrated and whining about my lack of ability to make anything half-way respectable to give as gifts. Martha Stewart does not have to worry about losing her job to me. The guys came to encourage me, said they didn't look so bad, then they joined in to try. We laughed and congratulated each other on our small successes.

The result? Less than perfect.
 Just like life.
 Just like today.
 Just like us.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Christmas Tour

For those of you who won't be able to come over and have hot chocolate and cookies with us this Christmas, here is a little photo tour of our Christmas clutter. Come on in!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Up Side of Negative Space

Did you do leaf rubbings when you were little? Tucking a leaf underneath a paper, then rubbing the flat side of a crayon over it, watching the edges and veins and stem appear on the paper? Or a penny? Rubbing the crayon over a penny hidden under the paper and Abraham Lincoln appears?

As a  fun art lesson, my friend Jane took rubbings to a whole new level. The challenge of walking around the house and yard looking for things with texture or raised design is a lesson in observation skills. Everyday things took on a new perspective. Embossed book covers. Buttons on a shirt. Labels on toys. The grill of the car. Designs on a bed frame. Coffee mugs with molded shapes. Basket weave. What other textures could you find in your house?

We used colored pencils, well sharpened, with the pencil held at an angle close to the paper and rubbing along the edge. The idea is to create a composition, to combine all the random designs in a way that creates an interesting-to-look-at piece, the only rule to completely fill the paper. By using a variety of colors, and by discovering a wide range of textures and shapes, old familiar things can be seen with fresh eyes.

A rubbing uses negative space by bringing out the up-side, by causing the high points to stand out in strong contrast to the low points. The pencil catches the raised parts of the texture or design, skimming over the valleys, bringing out the sharp lines of the object.

I love this painting of Jane's. In her art blog, she says, "I love the lines of old classic trucks, and I like to paint the patina of age because it’s interesting. The sagging corrugated shed roof emphasizes the atmosphere of ‘out to pasture’ and also creates an interesting negative space. I like to believe that age adds patina and interest to me as well. Mantra: stay active, keep walking, keep painting."

Creating a composition with the rubbings is like the overlaps in our lives as skills we have learned for one purpose are re-applied to something totally new, different and unexpected as the texture of our lives unfold. When directions change, when people around us grow and change, when the location of our house changes, what we take with us, what we bring with us forms a new composition. How we decide to combine the colors and the layout and the overlaps of design will be the art created by our lives. As we rub over different objects, like the rough spots in our lives, we unwrap a whole new way of seeing.

This holiday, maybe you would enjoy creating some rubbings, either with the children that are around, or on your own. I am going to take colored pencils with us on our trip, to do this with our grandchildren. Choose a Christmas theme, or anything else you think of that would create a pleasant, colorful design. Find raised designs, textures, imprints or shapes, like a treasure hunt. Creating art is never a waste of time if it helps you to see, really see, and appreciate and use all that we have, even the negative space.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


"And I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing. Also, the tree of the field will yield its fruit and the earth will yield its increase, and they will be secure on their land. Then they will know that I am the Lord..."
Ezekiel 34: 26-27

joining with others for a quiet Sunday at

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved.
One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely
achieve through one's greatest efforts."

-Albert Einstein

Einstein? He knew a thing or two.
Not just set goals, but pursue the goals.
And, how to develop that instinct for "what one can just barely achieve?"
I don't know of a way, other than trial and error. Make the effort, fall down, get up and go again.

I may be jumping ahead, here, thinking of goals for the New Year already. But really, we should always have goals, always have something we are working towards, each day, each week, each month. A big part of my traveling lighter theme is looking forward: where am I headed; where will my travels, my attitudes, my actions take me?

Start your engines...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Home for Christmas

"I'll be home for Christmas...
     If only in my dreams."

The first time some of our children were not home for Christmas was in 2001. Two of them were at the Naval Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, joining the Navy in the aftermath of 9-11.
I could not hear this song without tears.

We will not be at our house this Christmas, but we will be "Home."
Home with family, people close to us, building on memories and making new ones.
Home is not just a place for our feet, but a place for our hearts.

I grew up with the idea that I would have a "dream home" someday. That a building with doors, walls, windows, floors, ceilings, nails, screws, bolts and hinges and a garden would be my nest. Instead, the structure that is "us," our family, is my dream home. Together, as we talk, we build the walls and open our doors to new ideas, new possibilities, new additions. The kitchen is the heart of our home, our table the center of our games and activities; the heart of our holiday gatherings is food. Like a ceiling, we cover it all with laughter. The connections between us hold us like nails, screws and bolts. Watching them grow, pruning them when needed, watering them (feeding them some more), and pulling out some weeds become my gardening tasks. Hinges make me think of the guys wrestling, piling on and over and around each other on the floor. Hinges and doors would also represent the comings and goings, times we can be together, and times we are distant. As we share thoughts, it is like looking through a window to their perspectives of the outside world. The memories are the building blocks that connect it all, forming a home of people and combined places and stability. What I expected would be four walls on a solid foundation has formed a shape that no hands could build. A "home" I'll be happy to go home to for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Cora

I posted a new short story on my other blog, click to jump over to The Cora Lives On.

This is a photo of a painting of the actual Cora F. Cressy, a five-masted schooner, painted in 1912 . The painting, by S.F.M.Badger, is on loan to the Maine Maritime Museum. This short story is a fictionalized piece of my family's history, Cora being my great grandmother (the woman, not the ship).

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Jesse Tree

This is our old Jesse Tree Wreath, one we made years ago with another family, the kids all helping to make the felt ornaments. We would go through the book (by Dean Meador Lambert) each day leading up until Christmas, telling the story of Jesus through the Old Testament up until His birth. Some years it became more of a burden than a gift. In busy years, we would get behind, the guilt would settle in and it would hang on the wall, an uncomfortable reminder of one more thing we should be doing.

We still use it, but as a pretty decoration, a fun reminder of past Christmases, without the guilt.

This year, from, I printed out a new Jesse Tree project. We got a little mini-tree in a pot, hung a few small ornaments and a star garland. I cut out the pictures, backed them with cardstock and self-laminating paper, punched a hole, and we hang them with rustic twine. Simple and easy.

The lessons, downloaded from the website, include the Bible verses, a life application, usually some simple project, and an insightful perspective of hope and love. 
"A tree with roots deep into the past,
that finger right out through the Old Testament,
back to the very beginning,
and with branches that stretch so high and wide
you can see the whole grand panorama of God's story
from the very first blink of the first star over Eden
to the blinding light over Bethlehem."

You may be light years ahead of me in understanding this, but I am fascinated by the theme of wood through the stories: the stump with the shoot of Jesse, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the saving of the family through the ark made of wood, the armload of wood Abraham and Isaac carried to the sacrifice, the wood of Jacob's ladder, the blood sprinkled on the doorposts in Egypt--all pointing to the wooden manger, and the wooden cross. Profound lessons.

We are staying several days ahead, without the guilt, reading two most days, enjoying the discovery and hanging each new ornament (our little tree will be hidden by the time we are done!).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Light

"Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world...'

"And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp not the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them..."

                 John 8:12, Revelation 22:5

 gourd ornament art by Jane,

joining others for a quiet Sunday moment at

Friday, December 2, 2011

Simple, Easy Wreath

Seems there are a lot of these fabric wreaths around this Christmas and I wanted to make one.

Most of the directions involved using a glue gun, which I couldn't get excited about, or buying a special type of wreath form - not expensive, but I'm really trying to avoid any extra spending for non-essentials.

When I saw this design on a blog (don't remember which one, sorry) I knew I could easily do it and that I already had all the stuff for it. The eyelet pieces were random sized scraps stashed in a box. The wreath form I had was split and falling apart. I almost threw it away last week, but stuck it in a corner thinking I might find a use for it. Glad I did. Tying on the pieces will hold it together, extend its usefulness, and it was free.

This is all incredibly un-exact. I used a ruler as a guideline, cutting the eyelet pieces a little longer than twelve inches and a little wider than the ruler, about an inch and a half. I didn't worry about marking or cutting straight lines. No idea how many I cut, I just kept cutting until I used up all the eyelet fabric. Each piece was tied snugly, alternating whether the ties were on the front or on the sides, adding ties all the way around. It took me about an hour, start to finish. I like the stray threads, the unfinished look. I wouldn't have chosen white, but so many of the ones I saw in the photos were white and they were so pretty I decided to try it. Not bad for stuff that was sitting in a box or almost in the trash.