April 8, 2011

Dyeing for Color

Posted in Artsy Stuff, Girl Stuff at 12:03 PM by Robin

Although you wouldn’t know it from the weather (we just woke up to three inches of snow this morning), Spring is (technically) here, and, of course, Easter isn’t far behind. I haven’t been much in the mood for cooking lately, or for posting recipes, since I kinda-sorta took the month of March off from dieting. I managed to maintain, but boy, I was just sick of Atkins for a while. I’m hopping back on the bandwagon again, though, for April, and the numbers on the scale are moving downwards once more.  However, I think I’ll try blogging about things other than food once again, like the good ol’ days, just cuz I’m kind of in that sort of a  mood.

Also, I have been madly obsessed with decorating my house lately. I think I can attribute that to the weather as well. Not only am I sick of the brownish rolling hills behind my house, and the yellowish grass, and the dull brown sapling trees in my neighborhood, but the walls in my new house are painted brown from head to toe, and I have absolutely no curtains up anywhere, and all my ten-year-old furniture is looking more faded and dull every day. I am longing for COLOR! I find myself fantasizing about it. I have subscribed to about fifteen new home decor blogs in the past week which share a common theme of being bright and cheerful and filled with a rainbow of hues. Therefore, in honor of my current obsession, and in hopes that Spring will finally decide to get cooking, I will now present to you a bunch of BEAUTIFUL ideas for decorating Easter eggs. If the weather won’t oblige and you have no money for new furniture, some bright colorful eggs are a great cheap way to brighten your home and your day. (FYI–all of these are from Martha Stewart, who I don’t like much personally, but she sure does some beautiful crafts).

A side note on this: I am a terrible mother. I hate doing crafts with my children. The reason for this is that I am too much of an artistic perfectionist. I have a hard time relinquishing control over the end product and just letting them make a mess and have fun. If you are like me, then maybe you could let the kids do their own thing, and then have your own station set aside for the stuff you want to display. Just an idea.

P.S.  Eggs are great for Atkins!

Decoupage Eggs

I LOVE LOVE LOVE these eggs! You just take craft paper punches of different sizes and shapes and punch out several colors of tissue paper. Then you paint a thin film of decoupage gel, or Mod Podge, on a boiled or blown-out egg (if you’re the kind of person who has the patience to blow out eggs), or you could probably get some wooden eggs and paint them white. Pick up a tissue flower with your paintbrush, and paint over it with the gel. Sooooo bright and cheerful and cute!

See video here. (The egg part starts at about 5:15).

Martha also did some decoupage eggs using paper napkins with a beautiful cherry blossom design. She just cut out the flowers and painted over them, letting them dry between each piece. She got the napkins from a specialty store online (see here for details). I ADORE these eggs (and by the way, that’s totally the color scheme I want to use on my new kitchen). 

Masked Eggs

Most of us have probably used tape, stickers, or rubber bands to create interesting designs on eggs at some point in our lives. However, you can use this masking technique to get a nice print of a leaf or blossom on your egg as well.

Use a small paintbrush to paint egg white on the back of the leaf or whatever and adhere it to your egg. Cut up a pair of old pantyhose into four-inch squares, lay the egg in the center of the square and pull the nylon taut around the egg, securing the extra fabric with string or an elastic. Again, dye the eggs for ten to fifteen minutes to achieve a high contrast image. Remove egg from dye and blot with a paper towel. Snip the string or elastic to remove the nylon and peel the leaf off. Dry on a rack.

More detailed instructions here.

Silk-Dyed Eggs

I am including this one because it looks great, but it seems like kind of an expensive project. Who just has tons of silk scraps lying around their house? But watch the video, just so you can say, “Wow, that’s cool!”

Lace Eggs

I love the delicate, intricate patterns you can get using this method! It’s so easy and yields beautiful results!

All you do is get a wide strip of lace long enough to wrap around the egg with a couple of inches left over. Wrap the lace around the egg and twist the ends until tight, then secure with a small rubber band. Leave eggs in dye (which according to Martha, should be warm) for ten to fifteen minutes in order to create the greatest amount of contrast. After removing the eggs from the dye, blot gently with a paper towel and dry on a rack.

See the video here.

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March 6, 2009

The Things That Scare Us Most

Posted in Artsy Stuff, Days of my life, Deep thoughts, Just thinking..., Parenting, Something exciting! tagged , , , , , , , at 12:35 PM by Robin

book

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, in a brazen fit of ambition, I have decided that I am going to write a short story.  Since that first post, I have actually managed to sit down on two separate occasions and begin fleshing out the little idea in my head, turning vague concepts into characters, researching a few things on the internet that reinforced the idea for inspiration, and have gotten to the point where I actually saw the opening scene of my story unfold in my head as if I were watching it on film.  I have written three pages.  It doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s three more pages of fiction than I have written in twelve years, so I guess I’m off to a good start.

The main obstacle I find myself facing is my own criticism.  I hold pretty high standards for the books that I read. I expect not only a certain level of literary fluency from the authors I enjoy–an ability to describe images, events, and dialogue in a way that you actually forget that your eyes are looking at words on a page and instead, feel like you are “watching a TV in your head”, as Parley put it–but also a bit of meaning, some sort of insight into human nature, or at the very least, something about the characters or story line that I can relate to, that I can see myself in.  It is very hard to write something knowing that what I write might not meet those standards.  I know, I shouldn’t expect to be brilliant at something the first time I try it.  You can’t expect to play “Flight of the Bumblebee” the first time you pick up a violin.  The hurdle is in getting yourself to press forward and do it anyway, even if your first attempt, and even your second or third, totally sucks.

I’ve found that I have this problem in quite a few other parts of my life. I’m pretty adventurous and am always up for trying something new.  But I find that those things that I am most interested in doing, my real dreams, I tend to shy away from. Not because I am scared of the thing itself, but because I am afraid of not being good at it.

For instance, I have always wanted to learn how to paint.  Ever since I took my first “real” art class in seventh grade and learned there was more to artistic expression than crayons, markers, and construction paper, I have longed to be able to use those oil paints and water colors to create something beautiful. When I was in high school, I worked at a hobby and craft store, andpaint there became acquainted with the tools of the trade–cadmium blues and sulfur yellows, different textures of paper and canvas, gesso and turpentine and about a million different kinds of brushes, natural and synthetic.  They all fascinated me, but with no training, they also scared the heck out of me.  I knew I would never be able to do anything right without someone to tell me what everything was for, and since the supplies were so expensive I didn’t want to buy them and just fool around on my own.

After that, in college, even though I had chosen an English major, I could still choose a certain number of electives.  My eyes always lingered on the art classes, but there was always a materials fee that seemed too high for my student budget to do just for fun, and so I never took the opportunity.  I’m really kicking myself now.  It would have been worth the $150 or whatever it was.  I mean, it wasn’t like I was paying for tuition or anything! (Seriously, I had two scholarships. )

Anyway, my point is, that I long to take painting lessons now, and yet I’m scared to death to do it in case I’m not very good at it.  Because I’m scared, I use money or lack of child care at the appropriate time as an excuse to avoid having to put myself to the test. I’ll admit, I’ve found that I do this in many areas of my life. The things that I want most are the things that scare me the most.

So, how do we get past this excuse-making and get to the point where we can take that leap to pursue our dreams?  I think the key is having someone who not only says, “I know you can do this,” but who is also willing to give you a kick in the pants and say, “Just do it, already!”  Someone, like the mother bird, who will push us out of our comfort zone in the nest and force us to try out our wings.  We have to stop making excuses and confront our fear of failure.

Most importantly, especially as mothers, we have to remind ourselves that following our dreams is a worthwhile endeavour, and give ourselves permission to do things that may not be practical or essential to our family’s well-being, but will stimulate us personally and allow for our own individual growth and happiness.  I think, sometimes, it is very hard for a stay-at-home mom to separate herself from her home and her role as mother, wife and housekeeper, especially if she’s been doing it and nothing else for several years.  I think that we have a hard time allowing ourselves to have outside interests that take us away from our family for any length of time.  We get out of the habit of doing things just for ourselves.

So, despite my fear that the story I’m writing is a total crock of …ahem… not very good…I am forcing myself to write it.  I am trying to consider it an assignment, like a school project, that I have to get finished.  I’ll do my best, but I’ll try not to worry about what other people will think of it until it’s actually all done.  I have to remember that while making excuses prevents me from failing, it also prevents me from excelling.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Do you feel this way?  Do you put off your dreams?  What helps you to overcome your fears?  Thanks!

learning-to-fly

February 24, 2009

Raid on the Library

Posted in Artsy Stuff, Books, Days of my life, Family life at 11:14 AM by Robin

library-booksI took all the kids to the library last night (tip: strollers, while bulky and annoying, are a MUST for anyone visiting a library with a toddler who gets a kick out of running away from their mother amidst the maze of bookshelves).  As I was stacking up the various books on the counter in preparation for checking them out, I had to chuckle at the interesting variety of selections.  For a trip which included me and four children, we checked out a total of 25 books, three music CDs, and 1 DVD, on three different library cards.  (See if you can figure out who picked out each book!)

Charlie Bone and the Beast

Ghosts Beneath Our Feet

Neil Armstrong: A Biography

Renaissance Music For Inner Peace (music CD)

Shrek the Third Motion Picture Soundtrack (music CD)

Smallville: Soundtrack (music CD)

Little House in the Big Woods                 book-bigwoods

Abigail, the Breeze Fairy

Bella, the Bunny Fairy

Evie, the Mist Fairy

Katie, the Kitten Fairy

Georgia, the Guinea Pig Fairy (Yes, there is, in fact, a guinea pig fairy)

Harriet, the Hamster Fairy (who, I’m sure, is best friends with the guinea pig fairy)

Molly, the Goldfish Fairy

A Marital Relationship Book (which will go unnamed to preserve our dignity)

Ariel’s Beginning

Baby Signs for Bedtime

Five Little Monkeys Go Shopping (Thanks, Liz, for that suggestion–so funny)

Five Little Monkeys Wash The Car

Let’s Go, Froggy!

Froggy Rides a Bike

The Big Baby Book (for babies, not mommies)

My First Signs

The Sword of Shannara Trilogy (all in one big heavy book–rereading the classics!)  sword

David Copperfield (the Dickens one, not the magician–those book lists on Facebook have motivated me)

Scrubs: The Complete Fourth Season (DVD)

Up, Up, and Away: an Adventure in Shadows and Shapes

The Daughter of a King (by Rachel Ann Nunes-I love the art)  index_cover

The Secret of the King (the sequel)

Enchanted: True Love’s First Kiss

Yeah. That’s a lot of books.

I have also forbidden any children to check out either DVDs or computer games at the library, since a dollar a day can really add up quick.  Anyway, in case you were wondering what the Lambert family was reading, there you go! Your curiosity has been satisfied.  Have a great day.

February 20, 2009

The Nature of Confidence

Posted in Artsy Stuff, Books, Deep thoughts, Just thinking... at 12:08 PM by Robin

Here’s a little deep thinking for you all today…

I’m afraid I’ve gotten caught up in the whole American Idol thing again.  At the beginning of every season, I tell myself that I’m not going to watch it this time, that I’m going to hold myself aloof.  Or at the very least, I’ll wait until they narrow it down to the top twelve before I’ll watchdanny-gokey, or develop a favorite.  And then I violate all my principles and watch all the garbagey audition stuff anyway, although thanks to the magic of the DVR, I do skip through an awful lot of it (2 hour program seen in 45 minutes).  Like I said, I try not to develop a favorite this early, mostly because they really don’t show you all the contestants at first, but I have to admit, I’m really pulling for this Danny Gokey guy. I know, I know, it’s all about the emotional backstory the producers have been pushing–how his wife died four weeks before the audition, how he and his best friend tried out together and nearly made it all the way together.  I fell for it.  But, seriously, he seems like a really cool guy.  I mean I don’t necessarily think he’s incredibly good looking, but check out this picture, and just tell me that those eyes don’t make you melt!  I’m not going gaga over him, but I would introduce him to my single sister, if I knew him!

Anyway, one thing that always kind of bugs me on this show is how they’re always asking people “Are you the next American Idol?”  They love it when people get up there and go on and on about how good they are and how they know this is “their time”.  This is their dream, and we are somehow obligated to let them achieve it.  Usually, we find that those who are most vocal about their abilities don’t have the talent they think they do.  Other times, the judges berate some contestants for their lack of confidence on stage.  Even if they’ve got a great voice, if they don’t have an  interesting stage presence, they don’t cut it as a performer. There is a balance these Idol hopefuls have to find between having the right amount confidence in themselves and their ability to give a good performance, and having that confidence be misplaced, or turned to arrogance.

Now, if you know me, you know I am not the sort of person who will get up and demand the spotlight.  I’m also not the sort of person who will freak out or withdraw in embarssment if the spotlight happens to fall on me.  While there’s no way I would ever try out for a TV talent show (believe me, I know limitations), there are certain areas in which I feel a sort of confidence, a kind of internal swagger, about the quality of my performance.  Writing, for instance.  Writing comes to me very naturally.  I feel like I can express myself in writing as well as, if not better–okay, usually better–in writing than I can speaking in person.  I can analyze literature, write a satiric commentary on motherhood, compose a persuasive essay stating my thesis and supportive arguments in a logical progression, or express my views on LDS doctrine in a clear and interesting manner.  I feel very confident in my writing abilities in this area.

On the other hand, I admit, I have a fear of writing fiction.  It’s true!  While I wrote quite a few articles for the Friend during my internship, even the stories were based on something sent into the magazine by someone–the “true story” they always tell you their stuff is based on. They would send in a letter saying, “I know someone who had this cool thing happen to them,” or “my daughter had this learning experience.” I would then turn their brief relation of the episode into a full story, adding details and dialogue.  However, I haven’t done any really true all-on-my-own creative fiction writing since high school.

You see, fiction is hard!  You have to not only come up with a plot, but you have to come up with characters, and then you have to figure out what kind of setting they’re in (which, if you like fantasy, like me, is kind of a big deal, because you have to figure out things like magical rules, structure of government, relationships between different countries, racial tensions between different mythological beings, etc).  Then, you have to figure out what style your prose is going to be: simple and straightforward?  Or poetical and descriptive?  How do you use setting to influence the mood of the piece or the way characters relate to each other? 

You see?  Writing fiction is HARD!  Writing like I do when I’m blogging is easy because I just write what I think, and that doesn’t take too much planning.  I have a great deal of confidence in myself as an editor, as well, in my ability to work with someone else’s writing and help them turn their ideas into a more readable, more interesting piece of work.  What I lack confidence in is my own ability to be creative.  Whenever I come up with an idea, I’m too afraid to follow through on that idea and turn it into a real story.  I second guess myself too much.  The funny thing is, I still have this internal sense that I know I could write something good, if I could only get over my insecurities and just DO IT.

So I’ve got an idea I’m working on…We’ll have to see if I can get past the first page this time.  Finding occasion to write is difficult with small children around the house, of course, but I think I want to do it, just so I can prove to myself that I can. That doesn’t mean I’ll let any of you read it, though, so don’t hold your breath!