Thursday, December 31, 2015

What to do, what to do

This is true joy of life -- the being
used for a purpose that is recognized
by yourself as a right one, instead of 
being a feverish, selfish little clod of 
ailments and grievances, complaining
that the world will not devote itself
to making you happy.

                                                                             --- George Bernard Shaw

How and where will I add value?  What might my purpose(s) be in the new year?  How can I use my time to its best advantage so I can be as productive as possible in fulfilling ways?  These are the questions I'm pondering as I contemplate my goals for the new year.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I'm Thinking of a Word.....

For several years, I picked a word intended to be my mantra for the coming year.  I have to say that  I wasn't as dedicated to the purpose of this practice as I might have been.  That changed last year.  After my sister's death, I selected "attitude".  I wanted to remind myself that so many elements of my life are affected -- positively and negatively -- by the attitude with which I approach them.

I think it worked. I believe became more aware of how I responded to things and adjusted my attitude when it warranted it.

And then I forgot to set a word this past January.  But as I reflect on the year I think my mantra (retro-actively of course) would have to have been gratitude.   It follows well on the heels of "attitude".  With the right attitude it's much easier to practice gratitude, to see the good whenever I can.  I've tried to be more cognizant of all I have to be thankful for.

With all this in mind I've selected "perspective" for 2016.  I want to keep things in perspective, to be honest about the value of some things and the drain from others.  To realize what really should cause me stress and what shouldn't.  To acknowledge and make choices based on the fact my life is pretty sweet.   Kvetching should be kept to a minimum.  I want to be realistic about what I can and cannot do.  And I want to approach things with a good attitude -- even the things I'd rather not do -- and be thankful for the opportunities I do have.

What do you think?  Will you select a word for the new year?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I wish you peace and joy.  Love and laughter.  Time with dear friends and family.  Wonderful memories.  All that best life has to offer.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Some Facebook Favorites

In light of the mostly balmy December weather we've had, I thought a year-end review of some of my favorite Facebook pictures from the year's garden might be in order.  Some of these also made an appearance on Instagram.

Giant snail on the patio
Up close and personal with a lady bug swarm
Mini moss, taken in December!
Double-yolk daisies

Bad, but lovely, bugs eating my roses.

One of the many hawk wasps (also known as cicada killers) that graced my garden.  This one was more than 2" long.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hanging Around for A Year

Northern Westchester Hospital, one of our area's hospitals, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this coming  year.  To help decorate the halls, artists of the Katonah Museum Artists Association were invited to submit work of a celebratory nature.  Two of my photos were selected for display back in September and I dropped them off at the hospital this week.

In between running errands, I thought I'd stop by to see if anything had yet been hung.  As it turns out, they've all been hung; the labels just aren't quite ready.  Still, it's exciting to see my work hanging in the hallways that are traversed every day, hopefully giving people a bit of beauty at a time when things might not be so great.  Here are my two photos; both are 18" x 24" on wrapped canvas.

Georgia Poppy (L) and Peach Rose (R) 

Hanging next to Georgia Poppy is a piece by Barbara Korman called One Hundred Candles.  I think it's great.

Of course, all our work will look better when the labels are finished, but I'm pleased even so.  These are hanging just off the main hospital entrance where lots of people will see them.  Yep, pretty cool!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ornament Reveal

I think it's safe to reveal the ornaments I stitched for my children.  Early in the year I select a "theme" so the children's ornaments are similar, but not identical.  I've stitched favorite book characters, representations of favorite activities; one year I stitched pairs of flip flops.  This year I gave a nod to my eldest who'll be moving after graduation.   The result: I stitched NYC ornaments to remind her of home.

The ornaments look a bit like traditional ball ornaments, but they have just a little bit of fluff.

I'm letting the children choose which ornament they'd like to keep.  The colors are a bit off in these pictures; the ornaments are much more vibrant in person and the metallic thread shows up more.  But you get the idea.

Next year, I'll pack up all my eldest daughter's ornaments so her Christmas tree won't look bare.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fashion Part III

For the most part, I loved every creation presented on the pages of the Fashion weekly planner.  Just a few had me thinking they were more for the runway than reality. Or at least, my reality.

Evening Dress, Richard Tam, 1960-65

The lines of this dress are still modern but I imagine if I'd worn this, I'd have left a trail of pink feathers in my wake.  Still there might have been someone elegant enough to wear this. 

"Flying Saucer" Dress, Issey Miyake, 1994

This dress, the name of which I think could also have been "Chinese Lantern", has me guessing how the wearer would walk or sit.  Were the bands stiff or did they give a little? Did it rustle when worn?  Perhaps I'm responding regrettably to the fact I could never wear it; alas, too curvy.  All that aside, it's totally cool and captured my imagination for sure.  

Evening dress, Yves Saint Laurent, 1969-70

Whimsical, yes --  a construction nightmare I imagine --  but I still can't see myself in this one.  I do wonder how heavy this was.  Do you think the feather neckline itched or tickled?  This one, I must confess, I think was more dramatic costume than wearable fashion.  I just can't see someone wearing this to a holiday party... 

And thus ends my brief survey of Fashion.  It was a great planner, inspiring enough that I bought a book called 100 Dresses about iconic and important fashion creations.  If you'd like, I can share some of that book with you too.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Fashion Part II

In the spirit of the holiday dress-to-the-nines season, I'm sharing dresses that were celebratory in nature.  They are indeed lovely creations, but how did these ladies sit without ruining their clothes? Enquiring minds want to know.  Any experts out there?

Fancy Dress Costume, Charles Frederick Worth, c. 1870
"Junon" Dress, Christian Dior, 1949-50
Evening Dress attributed to Liberty of London, early 1880s
Evening Dress, Charles James, 1946
(You can read my review of the excellent Met exhibition of his clothes here.)

Detail, Afternoon Dress, Charles Frederick Worth,  c. 1875
Tune in tomorrow for Part III, the final installment of my Fashion review.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fashion Part I

When I should have been doing other things, I lingered over the 2014 weekly planner I used for my to-do lists and still had on my desk. It was called "Fashion" and featured creations from the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I should have tossed the calendar long ago, but I couldn't; it's been fun to peruse.   But now the time has come. Before I do, I'd share some of the great designs.  These are a few of the pieces I imagine I would have liked to have worn if I'd been around when they were designed.  Heck, I'd wear these today.

Ensemble, Vera Maxwell, c. 1958

Evening Ensemble, Elsa Schiaparelli, 1939
(Don't you just love that quote?)

Evening Dress, Coco Chanel, 1926-27

Evening Ensemble, Gilbert Adrian, 1945
Tune in tomorrow for more....

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Tunes

The day after Thanksgiving, I pull out my collection of Christmas music and pile them next to the CD player.   I like to pick something from the stack that suits my mood or the task at hand. I need peppy music when I'm addressing cards but quieter music when I doing the dishes.  Sometimes I just want to dance.  Sometimes I feel nostalgic and want something that will conjure up memories. Here are some of my favorites; do you have any of them, too?

Any favorites you'd like to suggest to augment my collection?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What Was I Thinking?

I went to the mall yesterday.  I had grab bag and other small gifts to get and I wanted to take advantage of some of the sales.  I did really well until

I stopped to buy a swimsuit.

Huh?  What was I thinking trying on a swimsuit in December, just a few weeks past the Thanksgiving cake-fest?  And where am I going to wear a swimsuit in New York in the winter?  Anyway, I stopped... looked at the lovely blue ... took something with me to the dress room ... and then bought it.

I was totally suckered in by what I'm going to call "vanity sizing".  You know, when a shop marks the clothing size down a notch or two to stroke our egos.  It totally worked.  I haven't had a suit this size for years and there's no way I'm smaller than I was before.  (See my post here if you're wondering what I'm talking about.)  But I sure loved asking the clerk for a smaller size.  And then, the smaller suit fit. Whee! I know, I'm not supposed to care what size I am, but it sure was fun.

Gimme this one, will you?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What Not to Do

I recently came across this little ( and I do mean small) book in a bin.  Published originally in 1913 by Blanche Ebbutt, the Don'ts (sic) For Wives  is a Dear Abby advice kind of book.  While some of the suggestions didn't mesh with today's world, some are timeless and especially appropriate for this season of buying and giving.  Here are two:

Don't take your husband on a laborious shopping expedition, and expect him to remain good-tempered throughout.  If you want his advice on special dress purchase, arrange to attend to that first, and then let him off.  Men, as a rule, hate indiscriminate shopping.  

Don't forget your poorer neighbours.  If every family that had enough to eat kept an eye on even one family that hadn't, there would be much less misery in the country.

What do you think?

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Love my Doctor (Subtitle: The Numbers Game)

I had my annual physical last week.  The only thing I really dread about the appointment is standing on the scale.  It seems we, as a female culture, are often obsessed with our weight.  This year the doctor's scale told me I had gained, again, and weighed almost as much as I did at the end of my pregnancies --- only, I'm not pregnant.

It appears I am, however, carrying a food baby.

I love to eat; for me, it is one of the pleasures in life.  I was all prepared to get an earful from my doctor when she took an unexpected tact.  She asked about my exercise habits:
- tennis for an hour once a week
- spin class for an hour twice a week
- walk the dogs for at least two miles five times a week.

She reviewed my test results:
Blood pressure: 102/64
Resting heart rate: under 60
Cholesterol/HDL ratio: less than 2.8

"Eh", my doctor said about my weight.  "Your blood work shows you eat mindfully. Your heart sounds good and it appears healthy with all the activity you do.  Look, don't worry about getting thicker in the middle; that can happen as a woman ages.  I think your weight is only a partial indicator of your overall health. Remember, skinny doesn't always equate to healthy.  Yes, you could eat less and lose weight, but the most important thing is that you're healthy.  That's what I care most about.  I'll see you in a year."

I love my doctor.  I think I'll send her a box of cookies.

And, I'm going to try not to obsess too much about my weight but instead, continue to focus on being healthy and maintaining healthy habits.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Practicing Gratitude

Last month I took a cue from others on Instagram to post moments of gratitude.  I expressed thanks for my three children,

for my husband and our 25 years of marriage,

for family meals,

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and all the lovely things that enrich my life, like reading.

The result of all this: I'm thinking more about gratitude.  I recognize it more often in every day things and I hope it's becoming a good habit.  Practicing gratitude certainly helps me keep things in perspective and to remember that most of what stresses me out or upsets me are really blips in the grand scheme of things.  

It's a wonderful thing.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Mailbox Surprise

Not too long ago, I made a quilt block for Frances Holliday Alford for her 70th birthday.  Yesterday, this lovely thank you note arrived.

If you look closely, you can see it includes a cancelled stamp.  And here's a fun tidbit; this 32 cent clipper stamp was issued in 1997.  How cool is that?  Thank you Frances!  What a lovely surprise.  I feel like we've done a kind of art exchange.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Heady Rush

Last night was the Scattered Books art sale event.  I set up my space with a two framed pictures and a few matted images.  (My cards were on a spinner elsewhere.) Here it is at the start of the event.

I'm excited to announce that Graphic Succulent, the purplish image on the right sold -- to a complete stranger!  Not a friend.  Not someone I've seen at other events. But someone who saw my work for the first time, looked at the piece, and thought it would make a nice gift.

8" x 8" Graphic Succulent  -- SOLD!!!
What a feeling; excitement, validation, pride, gratitude all rolled into one.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Traditions Now and throughout the Year

The tree is done!
Did I tell you how much I enjoy decorating our Christmas tree?  The moment I open the boxes of ornaments, I'm flooded by memories of what our children loved when they were younger -- Babar, Celeste, My Father's Dragon, Pooh Bear, the Calico Cat and the Gingham Dog -- and

what they loved to do.


I secretly stitch throughout the year, thinking of a trio of ornaments that hopefully will be meaningful to my children.  Sometimes my husband is surprised with an ornament, too.

The Grinch, my husband's favorite Christmas  special  character

I've also made things in homage to beloved pets

Made after Boo died
and just for the heck / fun of it.

Who doesn't want candy on their tree?

Stitching ornaments is a tradition I enjoy throughout the year, culminating on the day I reveal the new ones for the year.  This year's ornaments are still under wraps ----shhh!