Creativity & Meditation – Needle Felting

The latest and greatest art project of mine is needle felting.  I happened to come across this craft at the Nihonmachi Street Fair in SF a few weeks back.  This man (I love that it was a man doing this…) had created some beautiful little animals out of wool.  I thought they were cute but not all that amazing.  But for some reason, the kids and I kept going back to his booth to admire his work.  He explained how each creature is made from wool that he pokes at with a needle or multiple needles until the wool is felted (compacted together) in the shape he wants.  While my son bought his sister a small round animal for her birthday as a surprise I decided I had to try felting.

My sister I came across a felting book at Borders and some wool at a great yarn shop in the Castro (Imagiknit) that carried wool roving (brushed out wool) and felting needles.  I took it home and began my first project, a little cat.  It took hours and was much harder than I imagined.  Think cotton ball that you poke at until it becomes as firm as a tightly wound ball of yarn.

Since that awkward little cat, I have created my own line of “classic toy” replicas which include sock monkeys, raggedy ann, teddy bear and gumby & pokey.  I’m too tired tonight but will get my son to photograph them tomorrow so I can post photos.  They are soooooo adorable, if I say so myself.

I’m learning tricks of the trade with these little creations and made quite an investment in equipment and supplies.  Although you can get by with just a needle or two, a small bit of wool and some recycled foam as a work surface, I have to have every color I may possibly need at the moment I may want it; and because the needles break very easily I need extra needles on hand, and of course who doesn’t want the needle holders that hold multiple needles to make the work go that much quicker.  Needless to say, I’m in for about $150.  Shh, don’t tell my wife.

What I love about needle felting is that it is a very portable craft and even more than that, it is quite meditative.  It is relaxing as the time flies by while I try to felt one more leg or one little detail. It takes hours.  I spent about six hours to complete a five inch sock monkey!

Beyond the 3-d sculpting, I tried my hand at needle felting onto material.  I bought some wool suiting in beautiful solid colors at Discount Fabrics for a great price of  $10/yard!!!  And thanks to the cruel honesty of my niece and sister-in-law I got rid of the “granny” purse I bought to hold my felting paraphenalia and designed my own wool “Mary Poppins” bag that can hold all my wool and tools  with a little needled sock monkey on the front.

I love being creative!  And I love sharing the creativity.  Last week was my 55th birthday.  Happy Birthday to me….  One of the best things about my birthday was, as I sat at the dining table on my birthday eve needling, my daughter cut a piece of wool fabric and started needling something too.  I thought it was a bookmark like I had made for her a couple days prior.  I didn’t get to see what it was until the next morning on my birthday.  Because the kids were going away for the week to Farm School we celebrated my birthday on Sunday instead of Monday.  She had made a small stuffed pillow with “I (heart) You” needled on it!  She wanted to make sure I had a gift on my actual birthday!  But the gift was passing on a new craft to her.  After seeing me needling for just about a week, she was comfortable to create something on her own.

And then there’s Baby Girl, my grand niece, who is only 5.  Needle felting can be pretty dangerouns because the needles are barbed and very sharp.  They also break very easily.  I’ve broken many needles and also poked myself drawing blood on more than one occassion.  But as I sat needling at my brother’s house, BG watched intently and then decided she wanted to do something.  I worked with her embellishing my sister-in-laws piece before she took off with her own style doing some 2-d work on the wool suiting.  Fortunately I had my needle holders with me to make it a safer adventure for her as she poked and poked and poked.  Orange and green and white wool mingling with the crimson wool fibers of the fabric.  That little girl must have spent an hour with me side by side, each of us intent on our own little projects while sharing our creative energy.

It’s late, I’m yawning but what would ten minutes of needling hurt?

Good Night…..

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Vacation

It’s been more than two weeks since I’ve last written.  Where does the time go?   Well, I was gone for 10 days on vacation without my laptop.  My kids had their Apples but we didn’t really have free wireless so there went that.  But that wasn’t even the issue.  The issue was, I was on vacation.  And vacation meant no time constraints.  No homework.  No cooking.  No cleaning.  Just doing whatever whenever.  The first five days that translated to 2 and 3 a.m. nights or should I say mornings, which would usually be a problem.  But because there was no work, no school, no gotta get up and make breakfast, there was no problem.  I let my body dictate.  And let me say, that my body took over where my mind stopped.  I was so tired that it was hard to think at times.  Since I had nothing to really think about other than what shall we eat or do for fun today, my mind wasn’t too taxed.

Where’d I go?  Las Vegas, baby!  Oops, I’ve been corrected by my daughter several times that it’s “Vegas, baby!”  I haven’t been there since 1973, fresh out of high school.  And let me tell you that the Vegas of today is nowhere near the desert it was 37 years ago.  I remember Caesar’s with it’s huge open air parking lot on the left (the side to park on in case it rained, since the lot on the other side was prone to flooding).  And there was MGM down the road and one other big casino/hotel.  That was it.  That was the strip.  And the strip was the main road – no multiple lane freeway, no high rises, just lots of open space.  But that was then and this is now, where casinos take up a full city block plus!  And you don’t have to travel the world to go to Paris or Venice or New York.  You can see the sights in Vegas, baby!  No, I am not on commission from the Vegas Visitors Bureau!  I’m not even into hospitality services.  But I’m sure glad my in-laws are.

I just heard the story for the first time on this trip about my sister-in-law’s father.  He insisted that one of his daughters work for the airlines so he could get free travel.  Two of the sisters did but their dad died the week before he could make his first flight.  He was a smart man to lead his family into hospitality.  Their employment with airlines and hotels has given them passes to fly and stay cheaply.  And I do mean cheaply!  I have been fortunate enough to enjoy some of the same pleasures on this vacation, staying in the JW Marriott, a resort away from the glitz and the glamour and the bustle of Las Vegas.  I loved it, my wife loved it, our kids loved it.  We don’t get pampered very often in everyday life (not that we don’t deserve it, because we absolutely do!) but we sure do know how to enjoy it!

Anyway, back to the trip.  We went to Vegas, baby! for a family reunion/85th birthday party.  There was family and friends from Hawaii, Utah, San Diego, L.A., San Francisco, Marina and Vegas, baby!  Altogether, about 60 people at the party and up to 30 hanging out together in various arrangements.  One night we went to the arcade at the Excalibur – kids and grown ups!  We had so much fun cheering each other on at the carnival type games, spending countless dollars for that gotta-win-dragon by whacking a witch into a cauldron or trying to be the first to fill the balloon with water.  I don’t know if the topper was when Brian caught the basketball but dropped his daughter or the girls vs boys brother-sister match on the video guitar.  We, women had such high hopes for the girl, only to lose.  Fickle as this family is, it didn’t take long to go from a cheer -“Go, go, go!” – to a jeer – “Loser!”  The best part of it all, is that nobody really takes it seriously — there was lots of laughter and just good company with family.  I guess I’m fortunate that way – to have such good people in my life.  Don’t you wish you were that lucky?

It’s a funny thing about vacations — you usually come back needing a vacation.  I am so tired.  We’ve been back since Saturday and it’s already Tuesday but I still haven’t recuperated.  I wasn’t actually ready to come home.  You know how sometimes after a while away from home you’re ready to get  back to your bed, your comfort zone?  Well, this time it was so far removed for me.  I just wanted to be away and got really sad when we had to  come home.  I would have been content to stay away at least another week!  But we do have to pay rent and school tuition and food and car payments and utility bills and you get the picture.  I’m ready to go again and have already started looking for the future.  But for now, I’ll have to dream about it since I am falling asleep.  Please forgive my typos as I wish you a good night.  (Just let me know C so I can edit since I’m too tired to even read it though.  And I hoped you notice that tonight’s blog really is a rambling mama blog…..

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hormones, hormones, hormones, hormones

I think I made a mistake.  I thought at 11 years old (almost 12) the kids could handle the responsibility of getting a new game, going to bed late at night (11:30), planning for their homework and packing for vacation on the weekend.  But I was blinded by the desire to do something nice rather than seeing how that might have been too much to expect.  So instead of coming out like the awesome parent I was told I was about an hour and half ago, I am now the tortuous mother who didn’t quite lay out what needs to get done tomorrow (homework & starting to pack before any game playing) in a “nicer” way.  I was told by my daughter that I don’t want them to have any fun.   Did I mention they have a  birthday party for a cat they want to attend?!  Is that fun or what?  On top of it all, my son is also giving attitude because he didn’t like us arguing in front of him right before he’s going to bed.  Woe is me, if I had only been a smarter parent, not bought the game, and sent them to bed early…   We’d all get more rest and better prepared for the day ahead.  Okay, now the girl’s called me back for a kiss and a hug because she can’t go to bed upset even if she is still annoyed!   The hormones are going to get the best of me!

And I’m not just talking about my hormones!  How’d you like to be in a two mom family with twins — both moms peri-menopausal and the kids entering adolescence?  That’s four of us undergoing major life changes spurred by hormones.  As if just one of us isn’t enough.  Can you imagine what our household sounds like on some days?  Or I should say some minutes.  Because as you see from the story above, emotions in our house are quite dynamic – nothing stays the same for too long!  And the sad thing is, it’s up to the parents to set the tone, to make the right decisions, to be the leaders, the guides for their children.  How do you do that when your body is making you go through as many changes as your twin tweens?  One minute I’m flashing (hot flashing) and the next I’m flashing emotionally.

Hot flashes, our own private summers, as we call them here.  It all started when my wife was pregnant.  She had been taking so many hormones, she was flashing all the time.  Since none of us were ever as hot as she was, we called it her own private summers.  Well now it’s stuck and she’s not the only one with private summers.  There was a time that I said I was having the “warms” because I would just start to feel a little warmth in my upper body.  But now I can feel myself just start to sweat. Fortunately, they don’t last very long.  Unfortunately, they occur quite often in a day. But since their duration is usually not more than a few minutes, I don’t trip on them too much.  And that’s always a good thing for hormonal women – don’t trip!

Isn’t it an odd phenomenon that when you’re suffering from hormonal changes, you add hormones to calm things down.  Yep, I’m talking HRT, hormone replacement therapy.  What do you want to replace?  You have enough hormones that are wreaking havoc in your body/mind, do you really want to add more to the mix?  My answer is yes!  I started to have horrible headaches that lasted months, it was the additional hormones from a cream that helped my body to settle down!  But this is only good for the grownups, not the kids.  Aside from not wanting to introduce unnecessary medication to any child’s diet, wouldn’t it be awesome to put kids on an even keel?

I’m actually as tired as the kids I just put to bed.  My eyes are closed and my head is heavy.   don’t even think I can proofread this post because I can’t open my eyes.  And I’m falling asleep.  So excuse my typos unless you have a need to point them out, then feel free to drop me a line (you know who you are).  Until then, let me lift my heavy head from the pillow, and open my eyes enough to hit the publish button for this post.

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Little Pleasures

Hello you out there in the netherworld.  Or should it be the net-her-world?  I am so busy at work, I can’t believe it.  I’m already at 140-175% of volume of last year.  And after a day at the computer, I don’t want to come home and cook or help with homework or pay the bills or do anything remotely resembling work?  Fortunately, Christiane, cooked the rice and prepped the pork chops & broccoli for last night’s dinner.  And tonight she picked up the kids and started dinner while I put gas in the van and ran to the pharmacy.  I know it doesn’t sound like much to make a person happy, but since I usually do the pick up and the cooking, it was a treat two days in a row!  We have to enjoy the little pleasures.

In order to enjoy them, we must recognize them and be grateful for them, like — good health (even though I have a lingering inflammation that won’t seem to go away despite alopathic meds, accupuncture and Chinese herbs); wonderful kids (even though they drove me batty today with their insolence); a house to live in (even if it is a rental that has no insulation so the heat escapes quickly in the winter); a job (even though we are about to take a 4.5% pay cut and the City is looking at our health plans and retirement next); food on the table (even if I have to figure out what to eat and then cook it); family vacation coming up, visiting with the Hawaiian side (even though some of the time will be without pay and it’s a long 11 hour drive); and friends (that I hardly get to see because we all lead such busy lives)! 

This reminds me of a game we used to play with the kids – fortunately/unfortunately.  Fortunately I got off of work early yesterday; unfortunately the kids took a long time to get their things so we could leave school; fortunately I was in a halfway decent mood and decided not to let it bother me and take them to get Mitchell’s ice cream; unfortunately I didn’t realize I had no cash until we were waiting in line; fortunately they accept visa; unfortunately, there was a $9 minimum and our ice cream cones cost only $8.50; fortunately, I thought to get Christiane one… You see how it goes.  It’s really fun to do with the kids because it gets them thinking andyou can throw all kinds of kinks in to the stories – just when it seems like it’s going well, it takes a turn for the worse.  Maybe it’s just my sinister side that likes torturing the children that way!  I love messing with them – keeps them on their toes and makes them laugh.  Actually, they are a good audience.

Speaking of them as audience, have you ever paid attention to the lyrics of Rock-a-bye Baby?  That used to be my son’s favorite bedtime song.  Now it’s less a go-to-sleep song than a time-to-chuckle-before-we-go-to-bed song.  And all because we broke the song down.  Who would put a baby in a cradle in a tree in the wind only to have the baby come crashing down along with his cradle?  Another favorite bedtime song – Lullabye.  We, well I changed the lyrics to: “go to sleep, you little creeps…”  Another big hit!

At least they are asleep and without a song and a snuggle.  I couldn’t snuggle with the boy because I’m so tired I feared I would fall asleep.  So instead I’m blogging with my eyes closed.  I think it’s time to say good night…

“Good Night!”

and thanks for visiting the site.  y’all come make now.

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Time Flies

I can’t believe that it’s been over a week since I last wrote.  Thankfully, yesterday was the science fair, which means the kids’ science projects are done!!!!!  Yeah, yeah, we know that it’s the kids’ projects not ours but for those of you without kids at this age, you can’t imagine the work it takes from the whole family, whether getting supplies, creating the time, the space, helping with layout, proofing, brainstorming.  For those of you whose children are already grown, you can smile, grateful that you’ve already done your bit.  Anyway, nothing lasts forever and neither will this night of downtime from school projects because now it’s time to begin one in history.  It’s four weeks away but we’re taking a family vacation in two weeks which leaves one week after vacation when they are due.  So, if your math is as good as mine, that leaves only two weeks to write a paper and create a complex 3-d project or get it close to completion!  In the words of Charlie Brown, aargh!

Time flies.  And it’s sad to me that I’m always looking to the future, not that forward-looking is bad–it’s just when looking to the future means stressing about what’s coming up next, like school apps, and taxes, and summer camps and open enrollment for health and dependent care….It just never ends.  Seems like I just finish one thing and the next is already due.  It’s not like I want to think ahead.  We are actually forced to.  In December, we are filling out school forms for the next September and estimated tax returns that are due in April; hunting for summer camps in Febr-April that won’t be used until Jun-Aug; mapping out our leave time so we can have some vacation time for the school breaks in March, September, November and December; planning out our Saturdays for at least two months at a time for soccer.  But I’m not complaining.  I’m just noticing how hard it is to be present in my world when so much leads me to the future and how that makes time fly even faster.

My son lives in a different world than I do.  He was born with the slow gene.  Or maybe it’s the relaxed gene.  I understand from others that may be a male phenomenon.  I don’t necessarily agree with that viewpoint because I personally know other boys who are not like him.  He could take 10 minutes to tie his shoes.  I’m talking literally, not exaggerating.  Every morning, I’m saying, “Hurry up.  What are you doing?  Do you have your homework, your lunchbox, your whatever you need?…”  And he always tells me the same thing, “I’m doing it mom,” or “I’m doing my best.”  And yes, even though it may drive me batty when I’m trying to get us out of the door in the morning so we can get to school and to work on time, when I can take a step back, I really appreciate that he can be that way in the world.  He doesn’t succumb to the pressure imposed by those outside of himself.  He quietly goes through the motions at his own pace.  Even those times when I’m screaming, “Hurry up.  You can take your time when it’s only you, but if you have people waiting for you, you need to pick up the pace!” he still goes to the beat of his own drum.  Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking, “He’ll learn, he can’t always go at his own pace.  There are times, like a job or other people, that he needs to consider.”  I do try to instill that message but I don’t think it really works on him.  He’s just not that kind of hurry-up-guy unless it’s a run to the Mac Store or Game Stop or something else that is in HIS interest.  Boy, then he can fly like a bat out of h—.  But that too is rare.  So I continue each morning with my mantra, “come on, get your things ready, we’re leaving in 15 minutes.”

And for now, I’m going to have to leave.  I’m so tired there’ s no more time or energy to write.    It just goes that way, especially when the twins were newborn.  I remember the choices were: eat; shower or sleep.  Right now I’m opting for sleep.  I closed my eyes for a minute while I fished out some words from the dark recesses of my brain and almost couldn’t open them up again because I was falling asleep!  So, good night and hope to catch you on the rebound!

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Julie and Julia…

I loved the movie Julie and Julia!  If you like to cook, it may inspire you like it did me. And even though I can’t pronounce it, I’ve now made boeuf bourgoignon at least five times! Since the day of the movie, my family looked forward to tasting it.  The making of it was a three hour adventure and a challenge.  I was cooking as an artist not as a mom – it was for creating something wonderful not just to feed the hungry throng.  I can no longer tolerate beef well but I couldn’t deny myself the pleasure.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The mushrooms succulent and full of flavor, the beef flavored by the wine, the roasted onions… ahhhhh mmmmm. It got rave reviews in the movie and at home.

I love when I’m in the mood for creating culinary treats.  It sure beats the daily grind of figuring out lunches, cooking dinner, doing homework, getting ready for work/school the next day and then starting all over again.  Creating can take much longer than cooking but time seems to fly and the rewards greater. And best of all, most of the time my edible experiments come out good!

Remember those 12 pounds of strawberries I bought the other day?  The first night I made chocolate covered strawberries while my daughter made chocolate & strawberry sculptures;  the next night  was filo packets of strawberries topped with whipped cream; and tonight was a glazed strawberry pie!

I like trying out new recipes and adapting them to the fast-paced lifestyle of my family.  Only problem is, I never write down my alterations so it’s hard to replicate what I’ve created.  I know, it’s  a big problem especially with this near- 55-year old memory.  Fortunately for my family the cosmos has put me on a creative roll these days and tasty new ideas keep popping up.

I won’t be popping up tomorrow morning unless I get a bit more sleep.  Good night!

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WISHES FOR PEACE THIS EASTER

Check out  a few photos of eggs we decorated today on my Easter Eggs Pics page.  My son did the photography for me.  Thanks son.  We were inspired today and spent about 3 hours coloring 3 dozen eggs with sharpies, wax and dye.

Tonight will be  an extremely short blog because staying up until 3 am doesn’t bode well when the day actually starts.  But somehow after yesterday’s late night blogging & chatting online and then watching the beginning of a completely engrossing movie about Rwanda, I managed to make it through a Spanish mass, lunch with the in-laws, the eggs, and creating an italian sausage-potato-mushroom-kale soup followed by a filo strawberry dessert.  Yes, part of the 12 pounds of strawberries I bought yesterday!  I have to get creative with them or else we’d tire quickly.  The soup was good but the dessert was a hit!

I sliced the strawberries which were huge (one was 3″ wide), sprinkled them with a little sugar and set them aside while the oven heated.  Then I cut 4 rectangles of filo, put a scoop of the strawberries in each, rolling them up and crimping the sides.  A little brush with melted butter and about 10-15 minutes in the toaster oven til slightly browned.  Served with whipped cream.  The strawberries still held their shape but were soft and juicy.  Good enough to lick the plates!

The movie last night was about the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda.  I am guilty of knowing that genocide in Rwanda exists but have not really given it more than a passing thought of it’s wrongfulness.  I was compelled to watch as horror unfolded for individuals and communities bringing faces to faceless statistics.  I didn’t realize how deep the emotions were that it stirred up for me until I went to bed thinking there are people who carry such hatred in the world, much of it based on religion or ethnic origin.

I think of my children or even me for that matter, who sometimes think they “hate” somebody.  But this hatred is nothing compared to the hate-fueled killing that goes on in the world.  So today, sitting at mass (I’m not even Catholic), of the few words I could pick up on here and there (I’m not a Spanish speaker) the one that struck me the most was Paz – Peace.  And that’s what I wish for all of you today and everyday.

Peace and good night.

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