Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Soul Food From Southern Voices

I've been in a melancholy, pensive mood this week. When I feel this way I like to listen to sad music. When I'm sad I like to feed the feeling I suppose. Gosh, when I feel this way I like to feed myself. I've been remembering things, things that make me sadder, but things that have shaped who I am today.

While driving home listening to sad music and thinking my sad thoughts I began to muse about Southern writers and soul food. Southern writers seem to have more to say about life, happy or sad than almost any others. Their writing feeds your soul. It is rich with the gravy of life and love.

We know we've come home to where we're known best when we read Lee Smith. We feel part of a genuine community when we read Fannie Flagg. William Faulkner is a visit to the psychiatrist's couch for a look into the psyche (although no Southerner worth her salt would ever let anyone know she needed THAT type of help). We finish a Tennessee Williams' story knowing we are not the most dysfunctional family in the neighborhood. Dorie Sanders writes wise fairy tales of simple dreams come true. Harper Lee teaches us to value and respect all human life. Anne Rice adds the gothic touch that reflects the brutish and macabre in us. Kaye Gibbons writes about confusion and pain and the triumph over both. We are more profound because of Eudora Welty; her vision is so perceptive.

These writers remind us of our heritage, our unique voice, our history, our worst selves and our best selves. Their books are like a meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, greens and cornbread. When we finish reading their words we are satisfied and content.

Do you have a favorite Southern writer or book? How does it feed your soul?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pico De Gallo

Tonight I cooked Chicken Fajitas and made Pico de Gallo as a topping. I couldn't find/didn't want to take the time to find the recipe so I just made it up. It turned out pretty yummy. I put lots of cumin in my Mexican dishes.

I keep boxes of Green Giant white shoepeg corn in my freezer. It tastes good in a variety of recipes and it cooks in minutes in the microwave.

I made the pico with corn, fresh tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro and Vidalia onions. I'm not known as a neat cook.

I sauted chunks of chicken, onion, and bell pepper seasoned with cumin and Dales sauce and rolled it up in warm flour tortillas. I finished my fajita off by topping it with the Pico de Gallo , salsa and lite sour cream.
I can't break the habit of cooking for a house full even though it is just me now, so I boxed up lunches for 3 days.

It makes a filling meal, but not too heavy.

ps This 2 1/2 ft tall flower has come back each year in my flowerbed since I planted a wildflower mix a few years ago. Does anyone know its name?


I've been tagged by Rachel at seeking delightful pleasures to list 7 weird/random things about myself.

  1. My favorite curse word is "crackers" and if something is really bad I say "crackers and soup."
  2. I absolutely hate it when the plastic shower curtain blows in and sticks to me when I am in the shower.
  3. I would be a like to be a high school or college history teacher.
  4. One of my favorite literary characters when I was a pre-teen was named Candy Kane. I once took art from a woman named London Bridges. We had a customer whose name was Minnie Tartt.
  5. I like to drive fast with the windows down and the music very loud. (But I don't do this often because I don't want a ticket and I don't want to mess my hair up... : (
  6. I would like to have a piece of art published in this magazine. ( I actually did have a tiny mail art envelop published in the Oct 2007 issue but I would still like to have something else published one day... reminder to self...make something and send it in!)
  7. I miss having children at home. ( I don't miss cleaning up after them though)
I tag Lavinia Ladyslipper of Birdbath Chronicles , Willow of Life at Willow Manor and Look Beyond the Picket Fence. You go girls!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Just Puttering Around

I made these little bird cutouts last night. I was inspired by the bird embellishments on her scrapbook layouts. I drew the shapes onto cardboard. Cut them out. Glued on scrapbook paper. Used ink pads to color feet and beaks and to outline the bird. Cut out birds eggs and nests from a sheet of ephemera to use for wings.

I don't know what I will use them for but it was fun. While browsing tonight I noted that lookbeyondthepicketfence and I seem to be on the same wavelength. Check her cute bird pins out.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Sunday Evening

It is on again off again raining this afternoon, some lazy thundering from time to time too. Occasionally the sun peeks through to see whats happening but there isn't enough activity for him to hang around for long. I'm sort of lazy too.

I think I will post a few unrelated pictures.

These toys need to be put away. They were the play companions of my grandchildren the last time they were here.

I have a thing about drawing eyes. Whenever I begin to doodle I inevitably sketch a pair of eyes. I don't know why, I just do.
Does anyone remember Green Stamps? My mother and my grandmother used to collect them. You were given them by participating grocery stores when you made purchases. I still have a teapot my grandmother gave me that she got with her stamps.

About 10 years ago one of my daughter in laws introduced me to my favorite home store. None are located in the state where I live, nevertheless I have managed to visit this store numerous times since my first visit. I love the feeling of delicious discovery that I get just before we arrive. You never know what you might find there but the best thing about it is that it will be affordable. : ) Big Smile!!

I even made and swapped Artist Trading Cards with someone once who loved Ikea also. I know...crazy nuts!

Isn't the rose bush my youngest son gave me last year blooming prettily?

Yesterday I packed up this bag of childhood memories and took them over to my daughter's home. We found these things when we cleaned out recently. They were in want of a good washing and a little TLC.

I have a small collection of jewelry, mostly from the 60s and the 70s. My granddaughters like to model it for me.

And now this little blue fairy sends her very best wishes to each of you for a magical week.

Happy Sunday Evening!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Just Finished This Book

....."We were Birds Without Wings. You were a robin and I was a blackbird. And there were some who were eagles or vultures or pretty gold finches, but none of us had wings. For birds with wings nothing changes. They fly where they will and they know nothing about borders and their quarrels are very small. But we are always confined to earth, no matter how much we climb to the high places and flap our arms. Because we cannot fly we are condemned to do things that do not agree with us. Because we have no wings we are pushed into struggles and abominations that we did not seek and then after all that, the years go by. The mountains are leveled. The valleys rise. The rivers are blocked by sand and the cliffs fall into the sea." -Louis De Berniere

Book on CD-read by Hugh Bonneville

Roaming Around

One of my favorite things to do is to drive around downtown and take photos of old buildings. Here are a few from last weekend.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Have You Seen Becoming Jane?

"Her needlework both plain and ornamental was excellent, and she might have put a sewing machine to shame." ~James Edward Austen-Leigh, about Jane Austen

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Soft Sculpture

I used to do a lot of sewing. When I was in high school I made most of my own clothes-dresses with sweetheart necklines, dresses with pouffy romantic sleeves, pastel pantsuits. When my daughter was young I made many of her little dresses also. Lately I find my thoughts returning to those clothes frequently. I wish I had some snippets of all that cloth. I would really like to make some type of collage with it. One day the ideas that are swirling in my head will take shape and I will do something with these memories.

Speaking of sewing, while I surfed the Internet a few nights ago I found something I think is really remarkable. This woman has a whole gallery of her soft sculptures on Flickr. The name of her blog is Sewn By Blythe.

Phone sculpture by Blythe
Click here to see what I'm talking about.

So what about you? Do you sew? Can't resist buying beautiful fabrics.? Secretly wish you could find the time to make a quilt? Me too!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bon Voyage

Warning!! I am about to go all around the world to recommend a movie I think you might enjoy.

I finally found a few minutes to browse through my April issue of Traditional Home today. Near the end I found this beautiful home. The magazine calls this style "tradfusion: Trad marries Mod in One Fab Collaboration."

Simply elegant, don't you think?

Tres Chic, non?

But these special design front doors are what made me realize that a movie I love had been floating in the back of my mind almost the whole time I read this article.

("Ahhhhh, this is what I will blog about today" I thought as I got up to walk to the computer.)

As I walked down the hall I realized that I was listening to this CD. With it's mixture of songs and artists it is great French mood music.

Ah now, to the subject of this post....Bon Voyage, directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau in 2003 and starring Gerard Depardieu, Isabelle Adjani and Peter Coyote. It is the story of Paris in the 1940s just prior to German occupation. Even though the subject matter sounds serious, the movie is actually quite a funny farce, making fun of movie stars, government officials and the rich socialites of Paris who are perturbed that the Germans are interrupting their carefree lifestyles.

Since it is a foreign film you do need to be prepared to read the subtitles unless you speak French. Here is a link to the movie trailer. If you do see it please let me know what you think. I've seen it a couple of times and it never fails to delight me.

ps I forgot to mention why this magazine article brought the movie to mind. The movie star's French apartment is decorated in the art deco style. I was reminded of the glass doors at the entrance of her building by the front doors of this home. Yes, I do know that my mind works in a convoluted manner...what can I say?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Just a Couple of Pages

When I was taking watercolor lessons about ten years ago I realized that my life long habit of lazily avoiding hard tasks was getting in the way of what I really desired (sadly, this lesson applies to more than art in my life).

I came to recognize that the things about my finished watercolors that I didn't like had nothing to do with my ability to mix and apply paint effectively. It had little to do with understanding the mechanics of properly using the brushes. The reason my paintings dissatisfied me had nothing to do with my ability to paint and everything to do with the laziness with which I had executed the drawing underneath the painting. If the drawing had the wrong perspective, if the lines were sloppy, if my drawing didn't represent the subject faithfully how could my painting be a faithful representation of my subject matter.

It was at this point that I first realized I had to go back to step one and learn to draw. My technical proficiency is not now, nor probably never will be as accomplished as I would wish for.

All of that said to say, I do try to practice drawing a little every day. I am getting better. I know I'll never be a Leonardo though.

These are a couple of recent pages from my sketch pad.

On this page I am trying to work out some symbolic ideas for the mother earth pictures.

I have been reading Russian Textiles, a book I found at my local library. It has lovely illustrations of old fabric and amazing pictures of central Asian people. I haven't read much of the book because I keep finding things I want to sketch.

I find that I am drawn to faces.

I need the practice but I do think I draw better today than I did 10 years ago.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Playlist

If I was going to go to the trouble of setting up a playlist it would be a close double of this one. Sometimes I open two windows when I am online. One to browse and one to listen to this. Oh my gosh, this music is sublime. (most of it anyway) This blogger is Finnish. She loves nature and she is very creative.

Just thought you might like to take a listen today....just a short vacation into sublimity.

Hamish Macbeth

Recently, a friend suggested I read a novel by M.C. Beaton featuring a cast of lovable Scottish characters. I was hooked on these light mystery stories after just one book. The protagonist is Hamish Macbeth who is the constable of the small highland village of Lochdubh.

" the idea for the first Hamish Macbeth novel came to Chesney while she was learning to fly cast for salmon at a fishing school in northern Scotland. Macbeth is the town constable in Lochdubh, a small village in the Scottish Highlands. He keeps a low profile, preferring to have people assume he’s of limited competence and intelligence. But, despite the intervention of more high-powered police officials, he’s able to solve crimes by careful observation of the people involved. Hamish Macbeth’s quiet but steady process of investigation has lead one reviewer to say of a novel in this series, “The pleasures of the book are akin to those of a good gossip session with a perceptive old friend.”

If like me you try these books and enjoy them, you will be pleased to know that M. C. is quite prolific. There is also a British TV series based on the Macbeth character, but I've been told the books are more satisfying.
  • Death of a Gossip (1985)
  • Death of a Cad (1986)
  • Death of an Outsider (1988)
  • Death of a Perfect Wife (1989)
  • Death of a Hussy (1991)
  • Death of a Snob (1992 )
  • Death of a Prankster (1992)
  • Death of a Glutton (1993)
  • Death of a Travelling Man (1993)
  • Death of a Charming Man (1994)
  • Death of a Nag (1995)
  • Death of a Macho Man (1996)
  • Death of a Dentist (1997)
  • Death of a Scriptwriter (1998)
  • Death of an Addict (1999)
  • A Highland Christmas (1999)
  • Death of a Dustman (2001)
  • Death of a Celebrity (2002)
  • Death of a Village (2003)
  • Death of a Poison Pen (2004)
  • Death of a Bore (2005)
  • Death of a Dreamer (2006)
  • Death of a Maid (2007)
  • Death of a Gentle Lady (2008)
So if you are in the market for something new, you might want to give M. C. a whirl.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

One Gardener for Hire Please!

I've never been much of a gardener. This is due to a couple of facts.
  1. I don't like hard work.
  2. I don't enjoy sweating.
  3. My yard is full of clay soil and rocks.
  4. The sun seeking plants that I love just die in my yard because I have too much shade.
  5. My lawn mower is broken.
  6. Did I mention that I don't like hard work?

But I was drawn out into my rocky, weed infested, leaf strewn back yard this afternoon because it is an absolutely beautiful day here today. In the lieu of "real" flowers I photographed weeds. You know they really are beautiful. Maybe I should just learn to be content with my overgrown weedy yard.

Don't these petals look like fine silk fringe?

And if you squint this could be a ball of gossamer fairy wings.

What do you think? Could this lichen be sheltering some magical creature under it's surfeit of curly gray-green umbrellas?

From an ant's perspective it is easy to imagine this tree might touch the sky.

Alas, one gardener for hire please!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Story Continues

Lavinia, the idea for this one was inspired by your birdbath chronicles. You got me to thinking....more mother earth exemplification.

Trying to Spin a Visual Tale

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Photo Mosaic

I ran some errands and took some photos on my lunch hour today. Here is a glimpse of what I saw.

Look closely and you might be able to figure out which store I went to and the fast food joint where I bought my lunch burger. Any guesses about the rest?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

6 Degrees of Separation

We have a temporary employee in our office whose real occupation is being a back up singer for James Ingram. She has sung with various artists throughout her career. Of course we didn't mince any words with her. On her first day there, no within the first hour we began questioning her. Who do you know? Where have you been?

This got me thinking about what the playwright John Guare said:

So I conducted an informal questionnaire this afternoon. I asked each one in the office at that time. Do you know anyone famous? Does anyone you know, know anyone famous?

This is what I learned.

Big D met Hulk Hogan through a former job. He also shook hands with Dennis Rodman in an airport somewhere in the good ole USA. Big D's mother once met Blair Underwood in a restaurant.

New mother K has a picture of herself with Alice Cooper so I assume she met him. (I heard this from someone who has seen the picture in question since New mother is at home presently with New baby).

Shoe loving A once met Barbara Bush and Kitty Carlisle although not on the same met Pete Rose and Mickey Mantle. He also met former AL governor George Wallace. Shoe loving A's mother met Lucy Arnaz. A's brother was BIg AL (mascot at the University of Alabama) and he has met Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler. Her family seems to attract celebrities, don't you agree?

A former employee had a picture of himself shaking hands with Al Gore. (again this information was reported to me second hand).

Back up Singer D not only knows the aforementioned James Ingram but she has also met all of the following: John Legend, Steven Spielberg, Patti Austin, Dave Koz, Phil Perry, Spike Lee, Johnny Carson, Barbra Streisand, Jesse Jackson, Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole, Debbie Allen, Tyler Perry, Berry Gordy, Roberta Flack, Whitney Houston, Patti Labelle and all of Earth, Wind and Fire.

Although, I have never met anyone famous I do have a good friend whose husband writes jokes for Jay Leno. And I was once in a restaurant at the same time as that redheaded girl on "That 70s Show".

Hey, wait a minute, let me see....there is no more than three degrees of separation between me and all of those celebrities named above. COOL BEANS!

Please try this experiment at home and let me know the results.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Famous Epitaphs

I know, I know, what in the world is she thinking of! Well, I titled the first part of my day today as "Black Mood Tuesday" (although it did wear off as the day progressed : ) so I may as well carry that thought to its conclusion tonight. So with that said, I give you these thoughts found on the tombstones of these famous departed folks.

Quoth the Raven,

-Edgar Allan Poe

"That's All Folks"
-Mel Blanc

Or what about...

A tomb now suffices for him whom the world was not enough
-Alexander the Great

Try following these rules:

How to Stay Young
  1. Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.
  2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
  3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
  4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in Society. The social ramble ain't restful.
  5. Avoid running at all times.
  6. Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.
-Leroy "Satchel" Paige

When your life comes to its end maybe you would be interesting in being laid here along side the heart of Robert the Bruce. His heart was taken on crusade as a talisman, but only made it as far as Granada. It was returned to Scotland and laid it to rest here in Melrose Abbey instead.

Or perhaps you would rather be buried where the rest of Robert the Bruce lies...Dumfermline, Scotland. If you enlarge this picture you will see that King Robert the Bruce is carved out along the top of this church.

The cemetery where Samuel Taylor Coleridge is buried is quite beautiful. His remains rest here in Grasmere, England along with those of William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.

Stop, Christian passer-by:
Stop, child of God,

And read, with gentle breast.
Beneath this sod

A poet lies, or that which once
seem'd he--

O, lift one thought in prayer
for S. T. C.--

That he who many a year
with toil of breath

Found death in life, may here
find life in death:

Mercy for praise--to be
forgiven for fame--

He ask'd, and hoped
through Christ.
Do thou the same.

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Legend has it that the Rock of Cashel is where Saint Patrick first used the shamrock to explain the concept of the holy Trinity to the Irish.

I'll end this somewhat macabre post with this very humble epitaph from the grave of Roy Rogers.

The Cowboy's Prayer
Oh Lord, I reckon I'm not much just by myself.
I fail to do a lot of things I ought to do.
But Lord, when trails are steep and passes high,
Help me to ride it straight the whole way through.
And when in the falling dusk I get the final call,
I do not care how many flowers they send--
Above all else the happiest trail would be
For You to say to me, "Let's ride, My friend."
Roy Rogers

Monday, April 14, 2008

Playing with Paper and Photoshop

Let me begin this post by confessing that I have a paper fetish. If it is made of paper, I love it. Calendars, magazines, artwork, books, cards, photographs, stamps, postcards, ticket stubs, and Chinese fortunes.

With that said, I went to my favorite scrapbook store on my lunch hour today. I haven't been there in over 2 months because I can't just go in and look....I HAVE to buy. The store was filled with beautiful patterned paper. And I bought.

Tonight I scanned a few pieces of paper into my computer along with three pen, ink and colored pencil calendar cards that I drew recently. I began to manipulate the images digitally to produce the following pictures. Some are more successful than others, but the outcome is all part of the process of trial and error

This is where I began. Photoshop allows you to work in layers. Each action can be applied in it's own layer and discarded if it doesn't work. There is so much this program can do. I am familiar with only a tiny fraction of it's capabilities.

This is the same image with the colors inverted. I especially like the colors on the chair in this one. Funny how different the colors and patterns are when you see their opposites (on the color wheel).

Here is one with the 3 different cards altered slightly and then a colored pencil filter was used.

In this next one I began to get excited by the alterations. I like the way the whole image is softened and begins to read as a whole instead of it's individual parts.

This is just taking the last image a step further by removing most of the color.

Along the way, I also began to cut out smaller slices of the picture to form new images.

My favorite pictures are these.

I like the relative simplicity of the last three images. I may go back later and add some text to each. Maybe a favorite quotation or word.....