Thursday, January 22, 2015

Jan. 22 {pretty, funny, happy, real]

1. Pretty: I love the floral postage stamps and floral prints of these Cath Kidston fold & mail stationery. Do you match your stamps to your envelopes? I just ordered some new stamps so I'd have a better variety to choose from. The local post office only ever seems to have U.S. Flags. It's fun to receive mail with a little more pizzazz, don't you think?
Letters & Cards ready for mailing
I had an idea I'd make bookmarks to send friends and family for their birthdays this year. They turned out pretty large. I'm going to tweak the process a little bit for the February birthdays.

January birthday friends
2. Funny: #ChipotleEveryDay it's not just a hashtag, it's reality. I live 17 miles from the nearest Chipotle. I place an online order once a week, pick it up, and put it in the fridge for my daily lunch/dinner. I love that their ingredients are completely gluten-free (other than flour tortillas). It's great to have this little convenience.
Mmm, guacamole.

Seriously, every day.
3. Happy: Happiness is a full fridge. I'm trying a new routine. On Mondays, after the kids leave for school, I order Chipotle online and drive down to Whole Foods for the grocery shopping. You can't beat the beautiful containers of cut fruit and veggies and so many gluten-free options. Then I swing by Chipotle for my rice/beans/meat order pickup and I'm done shopping for the week. 

A full fridge: It never lasts, but it's good while it lasted.

4. Real: The Bill. This grocery/Chipotle run was about $200 and most of it will last a week. This is not the cheapest option, but it's the more convenient option and keeps me from resorting to drive-thru or pizza as often. It's a busy season of life. Last night I made alfredo pasta with meatballs, tonight will be vegetable soup. Rarely do we sit at the table together to eat. Homework, rehearsals, swim lessons, etc. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

So Much Life

Well, I didn't intend to take that many days off blogging in between posts. Just so many things happening, I didn't know where to begin.

First off, I decided to take "Advance" to heart and started researching again exactly which classes I needed to finish off my social studies endorsement. I have a B.A. in History already, but not enough US history to make a good high school history teacher.

I need a year of U.S. history, one class in Pacific Northwest history (a state requirement to graudate high school, usually completed in 8th grade), one American government class (POLS 202) and unfortunately one class in macroeconomics (ECON 202). I figure I will get the poli sci/econ stuff (which will be more of a struggle as some math may be required) out of the way first.

I have applied for admission at the local community college, which offers all these classes, and will do one class per quarter. Then, after that, I apply to the Masters in Teaching program which will take two years and get me a secondary endorsement in history/social studies. So, I'm going back to school in a couple months!

And then, ten days after I applied for registration, I got a job offer out of the blue. Part-time, which is perfect, and maybe with benefits, even better. So, now suddenly, I'm going back to school and working part-time. Well, gee, "Advance" was the right word for 2015 after all!

How will it all work out? One day at a time. I started thinking about Lillian Moller Gilbreth (the real life "Cheaper by the Dozen" mother) again and how she managed it all. She had eleven children when she was widowed and a professional business to take over as well as her husband's speaking tour. While she had a flawed perspective on some things (eugenics) she was truly amazing in many ways. I'm spending a little time re-reading her book "As I Remember" and a comprehensive biography written about her, "Making Time: Lillian Moller Gilbreth -- a life beyond Cheaper by the Dozen."
Gilbreth Family
One of my favorite quotes from her children's retelling of their lives goes something like this: "Mother was afraid of storms and would hide in the closet terrified, but when father died she stopped being afraid. The worst had happened and nothing would frighten her again." That's a loose paraphrase. I identified with that a lot though. When children are depending on you alone, you realize that there isn't time for being silly or stupid or fearful. You lose a lot of your fears when you compare how small they are to the big things you've already survived.

So, Advance! And welcome to the challenges of 2015. 

In the mean time, I went down two rabbit trails of research. It's relaxing.

1. I read through the lineage of the modern Japanese imperial family and drew a family tree. The emperor and empress are probably the world's cutest elderly couple.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, 2015
As a long time fan of the British royal family, it is interesting to note the differences between them. The Japanese imperial family is much more confined and conservative--the women have a very peculiar formal court dress that is something in between modern and Victorian (why don't they wear traditional Japanese dress more often, I wonder?)--and very strict inheritance laws.

Imperial family at New Year's Day lectures.
There was a movement to allow girls to inherit a few years ago and then one of the emperor's grandsons finally had a son and so the issue was dropped. About fifty percent of the Japanese imperial family have no children, a few never married. Of those that have children, they are overwhelmingly girls. Very different than the European royals that almost always marry and have two or three children. I wonder how much is genetic and how much is self-restraint. After WW2, all Japanese nobility were disinherited and made commoners with the exception of the descendants of Emperor Taisho, the father of Hirohito (Emperor Showa), and all daughters of the emperor automatically become common once they marry (unless they marry a prince, who would have to be a cousin at this point, and unlikely, given the dearth of males in the family). I also learned that Japanese emperors and empresses are given new names after their death, in fact they have several names over a life time: a childhood name, an adult name, possibly a ruling name, a posthumous name.

2. I developed an interest in postage stamps--not particularly because of their collectible value, but rather as another way of sharing art and color with the world. I love the way Patrick at Edelweiss Post uses vintage stamps arranged by theme or color to make stationery sets. I am all eager now to see each new stamp the USPS releases, though the "forever" value makes them a little boring. I think collecting stamps of small value, the ten cent/five cent/two cent stamps, gives you more opportunities for artistic arrangement. Why? Just to add color and interest to a personal letter or greeting card.
Lillian Gilbreth on a US stamp.
I will have to be on the lookout for this one!
I've been trying to get into the habit of writing letters more often, especially to the friends and family who are rarely on facebook. It takes a knack to have a conversation at a slower pace and keep it from being ridiculous and redundant. My dad (out of state) likes to email, but it's fast, almost too fast. Once we've exchanged the news there's nothing to say for a week until there's new news. But when you write a letter, it's like the conversation just keeps going from week to week; there's a feeling of being able to take your time in what you want to say and not being perceived as rude for not answering in five minutes. (Do you do that in your instant messaging or texting also? Just delay the reply to slow down the conversation? I admit it, I do.)

In 2013 I made a big effort to send a lot of Christmas cards and inside I printed a short letter about the history of Christmas greetings and sending cards. I realized at that time that the card is the gift. There isn't a need for exchanging other gifts with friends at the holidays when the card is beautiful, well-made, and thoughtful.

 My virtual stamp collection of Washington State theme stamps. So far, I've managed to collect only the 4-cent Space Needle and 25-cent 1989 centenary stamps and a few tribal northwest coast Indian art stamps as well. Shocking to see how much postage has gone up in my lifetime! The 25-cent stamp was first class when I graduated from high school. This year, I believe it has increased to 49-cents.

Stamp collection and geneology...retro cool or middle aged? ;)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

January in progress

The general mood of January in the Pacific Northwest is Sleepy. On most days, the skies are over cast and gray. It's a rare treat to have a sunny cold winter day with bright blue skies. It's a good time for indoor projects, like scrapbooking and drawing.
Baby born in winter's sleep,
Snowflakes fall, snuggle deep.
(Baby Born, Anastasia Suen & Chih-Wei Chang,1999)
Typical overcast evening in January.
My favorite places in my weather app: two for family out of state, and four of the best places in Washington. Almost every place is cold and dreary right now. Supposedly, January 15, St. Hilary's Day, marks the end of the coldest days on average.
Not quite fifty, but several shades of gray.
The Christmas decorations have been taken down. I actually started early (for me) this year, on New Year's Eve. It felt like time to clear away the clutter, however cheerful and colorful it can be, and create clear spaces and a simpler view for the new year. I left the outdoor lights turned on until the twelfth day of Christmas (Jan. 6) and now we are just waiting on a clear dry day to take them off the fence. After this coming Sunday's celebration of the Baptism of Jesus (Jan. 11), five Sundays of Ordinary Time follow before we suddenly find ourselves in Lent.
Where we are in the Year
I'm working on a new drawing, possibly the first in a calendar series. One of the interesting traditions associated with New Year is First Footing. In Scotland, the first guest to set foot in your house in the new year brings the luck with him or her. We haven't had a true guest in the house since Christmas (my parents) and no visitors inside the house at all until Tuesday this week. I guess we aren't as social as traditional Scots. In the "old country," this first guest was a planned event and was greeted with a festive night of toasting to the new year. I can barely stay awake for midnight. I can't imagine starting a party at that hour. But I think that's the way it is with many celebrations like that, they really only happen for an individual once in a while, few people celebrate a tradition every year without fail. And that's perfectly okay.

JANUARY (in progress)
The girl on the left is based on a photo of my 11 year old daughter and the four bubbles are to feature four famous men of interest to me that have birthdays this month: Mozart, Robert Burns, A.A. Milne (well, I thought Pooh Bear, his creation, was more recognizable than Mr. Milne), and Martin Luther King Jr., in order of the year they were born. I should have added Ben Franklin, but realized too late that he is also a January man. [Have you ever thought about why famous men and women are honored on their birthdays but saints are honored on their death days? (Only three saints' birthdays are celebrated: Jesus, Mary, and St. John the Baptist.) There are lots of famous deaths of non-saints, of course, but when future generations come around to celebrate the life of that person, it is usually on the day of their birth, not the day of their death. I'm trying to think of examples that don't fit this pattern. I will have to come back to it.] The center drawing is a PNW take on the Epiphany, with the three wise kings coming upon a small house in the woods (Nazareth, WA?) and Mt. Pilchuck and the Cascade Range behind. I want to tie all these elements together with some quotes around the drawing and then frame it up in a square border. 

Ongoing Project: a scrapbook of ideas and pictures and journaling for 2015. I had fun picking out a new binder, paper and creating a cover. This is where I'm going to store all the little bits of memorabilia over the year. Things that don't belong in our family photo album, or in the very practical Household Hub Notebook, will go here. I had kind of given up on reading magazines because I just ran out of time to look at them, but now I'm excited to pick out a few and clip and glue in my favorite images and short articles.

My 2015 Yearbook ala By Sun and Candlelight
 The Household Hub Notebook was set up originally by my professional organizer friend Monika and I've kept it up for five years now. I go through it maybe three times a year. In here I put things like business cards, class schedules, doctor's referrals, warranties, any kind of necessary paper that I need to hold onto for a while. I don't put things in here like bank statements or utility statements, those go into my long-term file box until they can be purged (every 7 years).

At my desk.
The carnations and tulips are still looking fine. I switched out the nativity scene for a Stewart plaid serviette (that's fancy-speak for paper napkin).
If it's not Scottish, it's...ahem.
Scottish Heritage Days
Hogmanay - Jan. 1
Burns Night - Jan. 25

In a year, I usually manage to do something fun for one of these days, never all of them, lest you think I am an over achiever. I've still never been to a Burns Night supper, but some day I will, when I don't have to worry about finding babysitting and driving an hour or more to the closest event. Well, there is January, so far! Opera next week and a museum visit, I hope.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


The Last Day of Christmas
To celebrate the twelfth day of Christmas I bought fresh flowers, red mini carnations and parrot tulips. Carnations are January's birth flower. I was hoping to find full sized carnations for a drawing study but my local grocery store florist didn't have any.  

We also blessed our homed with blessed chalk by writing "20+C+M+B+15" on the door frame, as seen here in this list of epiphany prayers put together by my friend Mrs. Webb a few years ago. 

Blessed Chalk and a selection of prayers kept in a ziploc bag in my kitchen drawer.
I'm working on a new drawing with the theme of January, which might turn into a calendar page. 

I went from this to a piece of watercolor paper. I should finish it today and will share it later.
I also drew a little full year version of a calendar wheel but I'm not sure I love it. It feels like it needs a little tweaking yet.

I think it needs a darker border or something to finish it off. Not sure still. 

Taped to the wall for a new perspective and further thought.
One of my most important resolutions for 2015 is
"Draw More, Write More." 

Today I'm planning to put together a more organized daily journal notebook (inspired by Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight) to keep my ideas in one place. I have lots of random spiral notebooks that I hate to throw away since I've written good things I them, but I can never find anything again without spending a lot of time searching through every page. I want to be more deliberate and more organized about my writing and drawing this year, this seems like a good way to do it.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Word of the Year

Do you choose an inspiration word for the year? This is something I've been doing for five years or so. Last year I chose the word "temperance" and painted it on a little piece of scrap wood that I had in the house. I set it near my desk all year long and I looked at it quite a bit and it did inspire me to work on that virtue and think about what it meant.

The kids joined me in painting on the scrap wood but they had painted pretty designs only. This year a few of them were inspired to pick a word they liked and together we all painted (and in some cases I helped them finish) throughout the afternoon and evening as we watched movies, made meals and did other tasks.

My son chose the word "happy". I was thrilled that he understood the idea. He painted the background and I did the writing.

My youngest daughter painted two boards and entitled them "things I'm thankful for" and "things that make me happy." Right now they're both blank. I think she will add to them as she is inspired through the year.

My middle daughter painted a large blue box with glowing windows and I helped to finish it with Van Gogh swirls. I like this one because it reminds me of how we all started enjoying Doctor Who together this year. 

She didn't know what words to choose, so I thought about what goals she had set for herself in the new year and painted that. I admire her high energy and self-motivated spirit. She is always working to achieve new goals. 

My oldest daughter didn't help paint this year, but I took her New Year's resolutions and painted them for her, and wrote on the reverse two things she wants to leave behind in 2014. I love that she is reflective like that.

When it came to choosing my word for 2015, the first word that popped into my head was "advance." I'm not sure why. I guess it means "go forward." I think it is on my mind that I need to push ahead and not stay stuck in one habitual way of thinking and living. 

I have a friend who is in Japan for the New Year's celebration with her family there. One of the things they do on the first day of the year is to visit the shrine for the New Year's blessing, Hatsumode. They burn the old amulets, little paper packets with with good wishes or lucky fortunes written on them, in a heap and receive new ones. It struck me that choosing this inspirational word and displaying it for myself, is similar in some ways. Isn't it interesting how people all over the world have the same spiritual impulses even though they come from very different cultures?