Saturday, December 31, 2011

Storytelling Sunday, The Words: One Last Christmas Tale

Sian is starting a new year of Storytelling Sunday, with a twist. She's focusing on telling stories with photos (or words, if you prefer). She's also suggested starting the year with a New Year's story, but I have one last Christmas story I want to share. Because when I told it to my 16-year old son, it brought such a smile to his face that I didn't want to forget it before I wrote it down. So, I created this art journal page.  It's simple, but Uncle Dave says that's okay.
The journaling reads: "Christmas, 1995. Henry was seven months old and waited and waited and waited for relatives to arrive so he could open presents. We piled his gifts around him on the couch. He opened the first one - Tigger slippers. He put them on. And promptly fell asleep!"
To see more stories, click on this link.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Highlights

In no particular order, here are ten highlights from my year (like my blog, they are highlights of my art, with a little life thrown in).
1.  Tim Holtz's Creative Blocks Class (and an untold follow-up story)
In July, I took a wonderful class with Tim Holtz.  It was so much fun, and I love the project I made in the class. I wrote a glowing review, in which I mentioned how much I needed the class because my dog Gypsy was in the middle of a serious medical crisis and how wonderfully genuine Tim Holtz continues to be, despite his enormous success. What I haven't shared (until now) was that I received an email from Tim a few days later thanking me for my review and what I said about him and (very sweetly) inquiring about Gypsy and sending get well wishes because he is such a dog lover. The email meant sooo much to me and was definitely a highlight of the year.
2. Sian's Storytelling Sunday.  I adored writing these stories and reading the ones posted by others.  So glad to hear that she's continuing the tradition - with a twist - in 2012. Check back tomorrow for my first story of the year.
3.  Watching this boy grow up. Henry turned 16 this year and is doing so well. It especially shone through during the time we were gone in England, and he stayed here by himself.  He took good care of himself, his dog and our house. I'm really excited about the man he will become.
4. Cheryl Johnson's Photography Classes - The Twelve Days of Christmas class really helped me understand white balance and taught me to take pictures at night.
And her portrait class (Beautiful People) completely convinced me that I could take portraits.
5. Gypsy
She walked into our life, and like they say about many shelter dogs, it's not clear who rescued who.  She has brought such joy to everyone in our family.
6. Counterfeit Kit Challenge Blog. I am so glad that I found this blog. I have loved shopping my stash to put together "kits" and the using those kits in projects. The blog has tons of fantastic ideas for creating your own embellishments, sketches, and a really nice community feel to it. 
7. Houston Memory Cards and Heritage/Genealogy Project.  One of my goals for the year was to work on my heritage album and genealogy project, and I made substantial progress this year. Midway through the year, Sian came up with an idea she called "Captured in a Card."  It was a way of capturing memories and illustrating them at the same time. I took the idea and used it to create a series of cards about the summer I spent in Houston a a child. I loved this project!
8. My 2011 Intention and OLW - I'm fabulous and healthy. And I've documented it all on my blog and in my art journals. I lost almost 30 pounds this year. I can run a mile in less than eight minutes, and I feel great about myself.
9. Meeting blog friends - Deb here in California and Jacky in London.  So Awesome.
10. The Summertime Photo Scavenger Hunt. It was so much fun to run this hunt, and I can't believe the magical moment when this pirate walked off a ferryboat or when Deb and I saw this gentlemen:
All-in-all, it was a very good year here on Gallorganico. Thanks for being a part of it!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 Intention

I blogged yesterday about my "One Little Word" for 2012:  home.  Just like last year, I have also chosen an intention on which to focus.  My intention is "Don't give up before the miracle happens."  My yoga instructor said this last month when we were getting into a particular twisting pose and we needed to hold it for a few seconds before everything slid into place.  Although the position felt uncomfortable, I took a deep breath, relaxed into the pose and felt . . . fantastic. I was so glad that I didn't give up before I reached that state of repose. And I thought the idea behind that statement was something on which I could focus this year.  Sticking with it, not giving up, trusting in myself that my effort would pay off.  Since then, I googled the quote and found that it's actually part of the Twelve Step Recovery Program.  And sometimes the butt of sarcastic jokes.  But, I still like the quote and what it stands for. 
So, it's my intention for 2012 - something to come back and remember and focus upon from time to time.  Have you heard this quote before? What do you think of the quote?  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 One Little Word: Home

Ali Edwards popularized the idea of choosing "one little word" on which to focus each year.  I've been playing along with the idea for several years now - starting with "open," continuing with "flow," and last year focusing on "health."  For 2012, I've chosen the word "home."  It means several things to me.  I want to work on finding my creative home, tending the relationships that are the home for my heart; and fixing up my physical home.  Last year (especially the second half) was busy.  Too busy, really. I had a very full course load at work, traveled and did too much volunteer work.  
This upcoming semester will be much better. I will only be teaching one morning a week! So, I'm planning to use my extra time to tend things here at home.  It feels good, and it feels right. 
Creatively, I see myself focusing more on my original art - drawing and photography, especially.  I want to incorporate more of these things into my collage work.  I also plan to continue working with plaster.  I've signed up for a couple of classes that start in the next week.  Faces 101 with Carla Sonheim runs from Jan. 2 - Jan. 6.  It's all about drawing and painting the human face - I think the goal is to great 101 different faces!  Creative Jump Start Summit 2012 with Nat Kalbach is a free class with a month's worth of creative inspiration. I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm looking forward to it.  I also have two photography classes - a Photo Shop Elements class and a creative exposure class - that I bought and never started. So, those are on my agenda, as well. Do you have any creative classes on your agenda?
I'm looking forward to spending more quality time with my husband and children.  There's so much going on in the kids' lives these days, and I realize how fleeting our time with them will be - they will be off to college before we know it.  And, when they do leave, I want to make sure that my relationship with my husband is such that we are looking forward to many, many more years together.
Finally, there's a whole laundry list of things that need to be done around our house - from hardwood floors and fence repair to serious cleaning and purging of storage spaces and the back lot.  I'm hoping for a lot of "before" and "after" pictures in that regard!
So, have you chose a "word" for 2012?  And I'm curious if any of you took Ali Edwards' One Little Word class for 2011 and whether you would recommend it? Let me know!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Home for the Holidays (+ Family Jeopardy)

My family and I headed to  Southern California for Christmas to spend time with our extended families.  My brother (above) lives in the house he inherited from our parents, where we all grew up.  We had a wonderful time visiting with each other, eating and exchanging presents.  Our dog Gypsy even got to play with her dog-cousin Patches.
The game of "Family Jeopardy," which I put together using this tutorial from Carrie and a fantastic template from the very generous Deb (thanks Deb!), was a definite highlight of Christmas Day. Our  categories included "Pete or Carmen" (those were my parents); zodiac signs; May birthdays (there are six in our family); college/university (places we attended); high school days (significant events that happened during H.S.); significant years; the next generation  (questions about the grandchildren generation); pets (that was a popular one); this and that; and favorite sports teams.  I had people draw numbers, and they played in teams of two. This worked out well for us.  And the winners were my sister-in-law and my niece:
We also fit in a movie outing (Mission Impossible), a trip to play Lazer Tag (surprisingly fun and perfect for a big group), and a shopping trip to spend gift cards.  All-in-all, it was a very full and fun visit "home." 
I put "Home" in quotes because, although I spent the first 17 years of my life in this house and all my brothers and sisters live nearby, at some point, I really began to think of the house where we live now as our "home."  Perhaps because we've lived in our house for about 20 years and have raised our family there. Or because we have set down roots in the community and really feel like it's where we belong. I'm sure my kids consider it (and not my parents' old house) their "home." 
But I wonder, 25 years from now, will they still consider it "home?" Or will they have created a new "home" someplace else?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from my family
to you and yours!  I treasure each of my readers and blog friends, and I wish you all a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Around My House

We decorated our tree.
Went with the family to San Francisco to check out the downtown window displays, have lunch and do a little shopping.
Went to Christmas tea with some friends.
And went to a gingerbread house decorating party.  Tomorrow we'll leave bright and early to spend the weekend with our families.  I put together a "Family Jeopardy" game, thanks to this fantastic tutorial from Carrie.  I think it will be tons of fun.
Hope your holiday is shaping up well!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Visit to the Tree Farm

We took our annual trip to the tree farm to cut our tree.  Although there were some happy moments to be had by the family:
There was also a lot of teen attitude (Henry had a cold and Clara really wanted to stay home):
It was a far cry from last year, as described in this post and pictured here:
But I trust that, in time, they will remember it fondly. And I hope that someday they will bring their kids to the same tree farm and tell them about all the fun they had coming. Because that's how traditions start, I think.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

We Spread Our Dreams Beneath His Feet

Blog-friend Sian posted today about the poem He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by W.B. Yeats. It reads:
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

I found the poem touched me, as a parent. Because I've been thinking a lot about how the children grow. And whether they will ever appreciate or understand or be touched by all the dreams we have for them.
Because last week, while helping my boy study for the art history part of his sculpture final exam, I realized that some of what we have done for him really did sink in. Even though at the time, he looked bored and annoyed that we were dragging him all around the world. Because he would rather be home with his friends or playing play-station than wandering around Paris or Budapest or Prague. But then, while discussing Frank Gehry, he said "I remember we walked by that dancing building all the time in Prague, and we saw the Disney Music Hall in L.A." And later, when explaining how Dale Chihuly had a "full ride scholarship" to Murano, he recalled our visit to that island near Venice and also the Chihuly sculpture he had seen in Seattle last summer.  My boy, the soccer player, had something to say about Rodin, too, and Deborah Butterfield. Because we dragged him through those art museums and cities all around the world. Because we spread those dreams beneath his feet.  And now, it seems, they've given him wings. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Music to Bake By

School's out, and I'm celebrating by drinking a little wine, baking a few cookies and listening to some great tunes - let the holidays begin!
I'm going to my annual cookie exchange tomorrow. You can read more about it in this post. This year, I settled on "Cranberry Hootycreek Cookies," which are full of yummy oatmeal, dried cranberries, white chocolate chips and chopped pecans.  Here's the recipe:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup softened butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
(red & green m&m's to garnish)
Directions:  Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Cream butter, then add sugars, eggs and vanilla.  Mix in flour mixture and oats, then cranberries, chips and nuts. Drop by spoonfuls on parchment paper. Push a few M&M's on top of cookie.  Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.
Beverly is having a virtual cookie exchange, and I'm linking up to it. Grab yourself a festive beverage and go to this link to find more recipes. Although usually I drink champagne while baking (read the back story in this post), tonight I enjoyed a very nice Chateauneuf-du-Pape. 
I also enjoyed some awesome music tonight.  First up is Natural Born Lover by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings:

Followed by Jenny by Walk the Moon - the regular version and an acoustic version because I can't decide which is better (which do you like better?):

And, finally, anything by Ben L'Oncle Soul but especially Soul Man here's the English version, followed by the uber-cool French version (you can choose your favorite!):

Do you listen to music while you do Christmas baking? Do you have any other good music to share?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Cards from My Stash.

I'm finally getting a break from work and have been getting in the Christmas spirit.  I am thankful and excited about all the Christmas cards I have been receiving from all over the world! That's just one of the fun benefits of blogging, I think.
Each year, I send out two groups of Christmas cards.  My talented, crafty friends who I know appreciate a handmade card get one of those.  My noncrafty (but still wonderful) family and friends receive a photocard. I ordered my photo Christmas cards yesterday, and they should arrive by the end of the week. I also started addressing handmade cards for my crafty friends.  And then I realized I didn't have enough!
I had been saving this post from the Counterfeit Kit Challenge blog about using your stash because I thought it would be a fun thing to do when I got a bit more time.  So, I reviewed and started to go through my stash to find some things to make another dozen or so cards.  And I had so much fun!
Most of these cards combined a variety of embellishments in my Christmas stash, including patterned paper, stickers, tags, paper piecings, felt fusion, etc. It was totally fun to mix and match things. I hope the recipients like their cards. How are you coming on sending and receiving cards?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Class Review: Shimelle's Pretty Paper Party

ATC's Inspired by Prompt 6 in Shimelle's Pretty Paper Party class: Printables. These are for the element ATC swap and feature element 64 gadolinium, which is used in MRI's and the green phosphorous in color TV's.
I'm having such a hard time trying to review this class. On one hand, I really got a lot out of it (learning some new techniques and revisiting old ones to complete lots of pages), and I found it to be a good value for the money.  On the other hand, I ended up vaguely dissatisfied at the end of it.  Perhaps I would summarize my feelings this way - it was a great class until it wasn't anymore. 
The class was scheduled to run from Oct. 17 until Nov. 25 - with 25 prompts plus some videos and other goodies - all for only $18 U.S.  The problem is that somewhere along the line, the flow of the class fell apart.  Near the end of the class, Shimelle hosted an online party which was open to the class participants, as well as other blog subscribers.  The online party also had a strong Christmas focus as Shimelle was gearing up for her Journal Your Christmas class.  For me, this led to a great deal of confusion about what to do and when the class was actually over.  And then, Shimelle had a bit of a personal issue (finding herself having to move living quarters on short notice) and JYC started up. The upshot of all this was that class participants received the final class prompt yesterday (on Dec. 11).  It contained a bonus pdf booklet of sketches and access to another class (both for free!).  The whole experience ended up being very disjointed, in my opinion.
I loved the first 20 or so prompts. I found them inspirational and informational.  And well worth the price of the class.  If it had ended there, I would have given the class a solid A or A-.   But, as a result of the confusion, I would give it a lower grade. The confusion frustrated me because I like organized, linear classes. I like to start a class, try hard to keep up and then finish it and call it done. 
So, overall, I think I would give the class a B or B-.  But I wonder if I'm being too harsh. I know a lot of you took the class, and I'm interested in what you think? Am I being too harsh? Did you experience it differently? And, for those of you who didn't take the class, I have a different question. When reviewing a class, how much weight should be given to the price of a class? Should a free or inexpensive class be judged differently than a more pricey class? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Class Review: 12 Days of Christmas 2011 (Cheryl Johnson)

I just completed Cheryl Johnson's photography class "12 Days of Christmas 2011," and I would say it was a winner! CJ offers this class free each year to a large (but limited) group of students. If you get the chance to sign up for it next year, I would definitely say that it's worth your time.  
CJ sends a new photography prompt each day from Dec. 1 - Dec. 12. The prompts are a nice combination of technical prompts (setting white balance, creating bokeh, shooting lights at night) and composition challenges (self-portrait, groups, outdoor pictures, etc.). There's a forum and (new this year) a facebook group.  The forum was not overly crowded, so it was easy to examine each photograph that was posted (about 40 per prompt).  A lot of the posted work was really inspiring, and I got lots of good ideas from the perusing the images there. Classmates were pretty good about commenting - most of my photos received feedback from 5-10 people. CJ patrolled the forum to answer any questions but didn't really offer much feedback on the images posted during the course. (Although it's possible she may add comments next week.)
Like most online classes, you get out of it what you put into it.  I only completed 9 of the 12 challenges (I skipped a photoshop tutorial, a group portrait exercise and one on writing with light). But those nine prompts taught me a lot! I now really know how to use the white balance setting on my camera, and I learned how to take beautiful night pictures (like the one at the top of today's post; please click on it to enlarge and enjoy the details). As a result of this class, I have already taken some beautiful holiday pictures, and I know that the photographs I take during the rest of the month will be better because of what I learned during these twelve days! Overall grade: B+
Anyone else have thoughts on this class? How are your December classes going so far?

Ten on the Tenth: Where Will He Go to University?

If you were to interview this boy about his college plans, he would tell you that they include a desire to try to play soccer at that level.  Here's his current top 10 favorites (plus a few extras for good measure):
1. Santa Clara University
2. University of Washington
3. University of Oregon
4. University of California, San Diego
5. University California, Santa Cruz
6. University of California, Santa Barbara
7. California State University, Sonoma
8. Gonzaga University
9. University of Colorado, Boulder
10. Oregon State University
11. University of San Francisco
12. Seattle University
13. Holy Cross
Chosen for a combination of ability to play soccer, reputation, cost, collegiate environment, learning environment and location.  He's just a junior, so he won't actually begin applying until next fall. But this is the year to start thinking and dreaming about where his future lies.
Anyone have any experience with these? Or any reactions?
Offered as part of Shimelle's Ten on the Tenth Project.  See more here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Little Weekend Pretty

Still swamped at work. Still swamped with kids' volunteer work at school (Henry's soccer team and sports team photos for Clara's school). Won't get to really start thinking about Christmas until next week . . . at the earliest.
So, in the meantime, here's a little weekend pretty for you. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Camera Geek Talk

I'm enjoying Cheryl Johnson's Twelve Days of Christmas photography class and finding it somewhat manageable to squeeze into my hectic work schedule. The class is a nice mix of composition and technical assignments. I'm learning a lot, in particular, about shooting inside my house (something I do fairly rarely). I'm learning about setting my white balance, which is really crucial. I'm also learning about using some different camera settings.  I have to admit that I get pretty stuck on using the "running man" setting and "aperture priority." 
So, I'm curious. For those with DSLR camera, what settings do you use most? And why? Do you use the "p" setting (program) and, if so, what else do you set? Are you a manual kind of gal? If so, are there certain settings you go back to time and time again?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Storytelling Sunday: Connected Memories

I woke up Friday already exhausted.  It was going to be a very long day at the end of a very long week. I couldn't remember the last time I had a chance to stop and breathe and relax, to sit quietly and just be. I had to skip my Thursday morning workout because I was drowning in work  assignment, family commitments and (most of all) volunteer work for my son's soccer team. I had driven the team to a soccer game on Thursday night, not getting home until after 10:00 p.m. And, on Friday morning, I rolled out of bed early because the soccer team had agreed to run a snack bar at a huge wrestling tournament hosted by the high school. I was in charge of opening the snack bar and overseeing it from 7:45 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and then returning to oversee the closing shift from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. I had arranged for a delivery of tamales to sell at the snack bar, and at mid-morning, the tamale man arrived.  
They smelled delicious - warm and savory and like my Grandmother's kitchen. I grabbed a couple of tamales and sat down in the sunshine to enjoy the taste of memory, mixed with chicken and masa and chili. And in that moment, so many memories came flooding back. Of the time I made tamales with my Abuelita in her kitchen in Texas. Of the many trips with my mom to neighborhood kitchens to pick up tamales for Christmas. Of sitting and sipping tequila with my father over a steaming plate of tamales on Christmas morning. 
For me, tamales are inextricably bound up with Christmas memories and my Latino heritage. They connect me with my childhood and with the generations who have come before me. And, since my son's soccer team is almost entirely Latino, they also connect me with my present and my future. I took a deep breath, finished my tamales and returned to the snack bar. Thoughts of my past and my future swirling through my head. 
At the end of the day, after my closing shift, I bought a dozen tamales, and passed them out to the students who had helped during the day and others I met as I walked across campus. Every person who took one smiled in anticipation, as if I had given them a gift.  
This story is offered as part of Sian's Storytelling Sunday and is inspired by her Christmas Club storytelling project. The photograph above features a fork from my grandmother's silver plate table setting and a lace doily which she made. For more stories, go to this link.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Starting December Off Right

This Christmas, 
I will believe . . . in myself
I will be grateful for . . . happy moments with my children and husband
I will always remember . . . to breathe.

Journaling prompt from Shimelle. It will be a challenging month. I won't actually really start thinking about Christmas until the kids are out of school mid-month. But that's okay.

Photography prompt from Cheryl Johnson's 12 Days of Christmas, playing with White Balance. I shot it with my WB set to "shade." I'd never even realized that was an option because I hadn't realized there was a second page of WB options to scroll to on my camera menu!