Sunday, February 27, 2011

* Take Time For You: Nurturing The Creative Process For Moms

Circle Book by MaryLea Harris (2005)

I know that you think we're pretty artsy around here,
and we are. We make crafts and create little 
fun games and "lands" daily, but I considered myself
to be an "artist" before mommyhood and sometimes
feel like I don't get that creative studio time anymore 
to make my "own" art.

MaryLea at her Graduate Art Exhibit (2006)

Creating art is not something that I am able to do everyday
but I do spend a lot of time in my own head
thinking through ideas; so that when I do get the chance,
I can use my studio time productively. 

For me, making art requires self-discipline. 
After graduation, once I didn't have "scheduled" blocks of time
for art making, I've struggled to balance the demands of 
daily life, motherhood, a household to run, and content for this blog
with my own needs and desires to create.

E and MaryLea painting together (November, 2004)

"All children are artists
The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
-Pablo Picasso

As a child, I didn't need a scheduled block of time
to make art. Why do I need it now? 

Because now I have this inner critic;
the mean voice inside my head that tears apart
every idea that enters it...

You know that voice, right? 

The one that says things like:
"That's already been done before" 
"That was made better than whatever you'll come up with"
and my usual suspect,
"Shouldn't you be doing constructive things with your time?"

Keeping a visual journal or sketchbook
to jot down ideas, sketch, collage,
or make lists is very helpful for my process. 

Star Book by MaryLea Harris (2005)

I do a lot of brainstorming in the shower or while I'm driving --
Please Note: I don't jot down ideas or sketch while 
I'm doing either of these activities! 

A book that I have found to be very useful over the years
"The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity"
by Julia Cameron.
I turn to this book whenever I have artist's block
or feel as though the creative well has run dry.
Some of her exercises may seem too self-help/touchy-feely
but I do find her main points to be quite helpful. 

Her second book, "The Vein of Gold"is nice 
but it is essentially just a rewritten version of her first book
 with more quotations. 

Here's my summary in case you don't want to buy the book:
Julia Cameron suggests the following activities
to bring about the artistic muse for any form of art
 e.g. writing, music, or the visual arts 
(I would add crafts to that as well!)

* Morning Pages *

3 pages written longhand of whatever comes to mind every morning 
when you first wake up. This can be challenging for mothers of young 
children especially if you're co-sleeping 
(I used to journal while nursing my babies 
and my handwriting looks like a serial killer's in those posts!)

If you are not a morning person and more of a night owl
(like me), I suggest doing this in the evening 
(or whatever time of day feels right for you -- naptime?).
It can be anything; I use it to empty out my head,
to get ideas down on paper, and to work stuff out.
I call it my "brain dump."

Sallie and Darbs - two of my BFFs (2010)

* Artist Dates *

"1 hour or longer block of time spent weekly on yourself
and with yourself doing something festive
to engender release and inspiration."
 This can be a field trip to Walmart or JoAnne's to look at fabric,
a visit to an art gallery, listening to music at a coffee shop,
attending a poetry reading, browsing the library,
or whatever gets you going.

I would add, as a mother of young children,
that date nights with the hubby (and some with girlfriends - your "tribe")
are pretty darn important too!

(my real life tribe 2010)

* Form a Creative Cluster *

I call this my "tribe"
A group that you meet with face-to-face, or on-line, 
or on the phone to serve as your creative support group.

I have my "real life" tribe (support network) of girlfriends
and my "on-line" tribe of bloggy girlfriends --
both groups are critical to my emotional and creative well-being.

This can just be two people, 
it does not have to be a large group.

Think: book club, knitting group, 
craft night, coffee dates, 
walking partners, etc. 

This group will serve as your cheering section or 
the people you bounce ideas off of.

C and E, Outer Banks, North Carolina (2010)

* Walk (or Run) Daily - 
Get Outside *

A friend of mine once called this "walking your dog"
Even if you don't have one, you should
get outside and "walk your dog"
everyday to clear out your head and get 
some fresh air (this is also great for fighting the blues).

This was easier to do when I was still in college
and had to walk outside to get meals three times a day
but now I find that I can go several days
without leaving my home, office, studio, or car.
If you can take a 1-hour walk at least once a week,
that's great - as a busy mom I do mine on the weekend
while hubby plays with our girls.

Julia Cameron suggests taking a "prayerful" walk once a week.
I call it a gratitude walk where you conscientiously list
and vocalize your gratitude 
for everything about your life that you enjoy.
I also find that simple stretching (Yoga is great)
and deep breathing/meditation can be very restorative.

I also enjoy gardening and doing this with my hands in the dirt
when the weather cooperates!

Here are my own additions to the list:

Sunrise, Outer Banks North Carolina (2010)

*Get Enough Sleep* 

I aim for 7 hours a night and am a better mother for it.
It means less time spent in the evenings online and
watching shows in the DVR, but by shutting down
and going upstairs by 10pm,
I'm actually a pretty nice person during the day
 and I get a lot fewer colds than I used to!

E's sandy toes Outer Banks, NC (2010)

* Decompress and Communicate *

Being home with small children is very isolating. 
It's rewarding but also very. hard. work.
It's strange to go all day without talking to anyone
over two feet tall -- talking to your spouse
(or a friend, other mom, etc) is something that can easily
be pushed to the back of the priority list.

If I don't unload my brain and
talk to another grown-up
regularly, my brain gets too full and overwhelmed
then I have a mini mental breakdown where I'm
crying and snapping at my kids. Nothing creative
is going to happen when I'm like that.

Hubby and I try to skip turning on the TV a few nights
a week (we can't give it up completely)
 and just sit and talk to each other 
(Shocking! I know!)
Frequently, we'll have a glass of our favorite wine
(Bogle Cabernet)
and just turn on some classical music. 

Hillwood House Gardens (2010)

* Drink Enough Water * 

I really don't feel well when I skip this one...
As a girl who has a special gift for growing
kidney stones, I can't stress this one enough.
I'll get through a day and realize the only thing I drank
was my cup of coffee and one sip of milk at dinner...
If you drink water daily your skin will be clearer,
you'll have more energy,
and you'll get fewer colds.

I'm also a fan of taking daily Probiotics and Vitamin D
(Florastor for me, Jarrow Formulas: Yum-Yum dophilus
chewables from Whole Foods for the girls)

If you don't stay hydrated and rested, your brain
doesn't work at full speed and that inhibits your inner artist.

I know this is a departure from my regular posts,
but this one has been rattling around in my brain for months!
Thanks for sticking with me and I'll
get back to my regular crafty goodness this week. : )

Painting by MaryLea (2006)

"The road to authentic art is through the discovery of yourself"
- Julia Cameron


pink and green mama

Friday, February 25, 2011

* Homemade Gift: Hand-tied Fleece Blanket

"E" wanted to make a special gift
for her little sister's 4th birthday this week. 

("C" was so little then!)

 When we saw some tie-your-own fleece blanket kits at 
our local Walmart.... 
(I've seen them at JoAnne's too)
we knew it would
be the perfect surprise to make for "C." 

The perfect Homemade Gift (sort-of).
With a Kitty Cat!

"E" did a great job hand-tying the whole blanket
with double knotted fringe sides. 

Elly Cat "helped" too - by lying on it and 
refusing to move while we were working --- booger. 
Good thing she's cute.

Mama did the cutting,
"E" did the tying. 

We got the whole thing made 
in about 45 minutes. 

The end result was an adorable pink
fleece kitty blanket that "C" LOVES! 

She's slept with it every night
since she opened it 
and drags it downstairs to sit on 
while we play.

This was a great sibling gift project
for our household. You could do the same thing
with a kit or just two pieces of fleece 
from the fabric store. 

An easy (and useful!) homemade gift 
for kids to make for 
siblings, grandparents, neighbors
or to donate to:
 your local nursing home, hospice, animal shelter, 
or children's hospital.

Now "C" and I might have to get 
some fleece and make one 
for her big sister's birthday next month!

pink and green mama

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

* The Cardboard Box Cat Fort

I started to call this post, "The Cat Box" and then I realized it sounds like 
I'm writing a post about a litter box! 

The girls call our big box fort, "The Cat Box" or "The Cat House". 
"C" calls our sensory rice table the "Kitty Litter Box"

It was great fun and a wonderful photo prop at "C"s Pink Kitty 4th Birthday party
this past weekend.

It all started with a ginormous appliance box from our new wall ovens.
I actually had my hubby trim 2-3 feet off the box since it was taller than me!

Then, I cut an arched doorway and some window openings.

"C" helped me paint the box one sunny morning in the art studio.
A mini paint roller made it go pretty  quickly, it took us about an hour to paint the whole thing.

Then, I painted kitty cats, grass, and a tree.

The scrapbook flowers are leftover from that cute book of  punch-out flowers that we
(there is a link at the end of the heart box post if you're looking for your own 
paper flower making book!)

Real buttons glued to the center of each flower
added the final perfect touch of whimsy.

We've had so much fun with our new box fort that it's living in our playroom
with plans to go out to the backyard shed for some yard/garden play once spring arrives!

Happy Fort Making!

pink and green mama

Monday, February 21, 2011

* Birthday Party Highlights: Pink Kitty 4th Birthday Party!

My sweet little "C" is 4 years old!

This mama can't believe how quickly time is flying by.
What better way to celebrate 
than with a pink kitty themed birthday party?!
I always try to pick a theme with the girls
for their birthday that represents who they are that year. 

"C" had a Very Hungry Caterpillar 
party for her first birthday.

Age 2 was a quiet family event with all of us down with the stomach flu. 
yuck : (

Last year's Third Birthday was the huge

Age 4 has been all about Cats (especially her "Rosie Cat") so,
 Pink and Kitty Cats it was!

I decorated our "seasons" tree with 
photos of "C"s favorite stuffed kitty friends.
We also had some pink roses 
in pink water (food coloring!)

 I made this little pink kitty box 
to hold "kitty treats"
(e.g. Snack Bags of Cheddar Gold Fish and 
Cheddar Birds)

As the kids arrived they selected a beanie baby kitty
to adopt and we filled out an adoption certificate.

The kids made tags (with office tags) 
and ribbon collars
for their new kitty friends. 

The kitty adoption center run by big sister "E"
(best big sister ever!)

The kids made Kitty Toys out of 
pipe cleaners, feathers, and colored masking tape.

An easy craft for the 4 and under crowd in attendance at our party.

Like Kitty Magic Wands!

Stickers and scrapbook paper make 
store-bought bubble favors so much cuter!

Our games and decorations
 were homemade.
It was fun to think up ideas with the girls and make them
together before the party (that's half the fun!)

We had a Rainbow Rice Sensory Table
set up in the playroom with little toy Kitty Cats,
sparkly pom-poms, scoops, and empty (clean) cat food cans. 

It was a big hit with all of the kids at the party!

We also made a Feed the Kitty Toss Game.

We drew two kitty heads on foam core,
cut out big mouths
and tossed little catnip mouse cat toys into them.
(we just leaned them against two kid's chairs)

I wanted to make bird and fish bean bags 
but ran out of time!

I read "If You Give A Cat A Cupcake" 
to the kids.

Note to self...
Don't let your husband take a photo of you 
making monkey sounds.

(It's almost as bad as a driver's license photo!)

Then the kids decorated their own paper cupcakes
with stickers and dot-a-dot markers.

We played pin the cupcake on the cat
The younger kids weren't too sure about the blindfold,
they just wanted to stick their cupcakes to the cat.

I painted the kitty on brown contractor's paper.

His pale pink nose doesn't show up well 
in this photo... I promise he does have a nose!

We also ate whipped cream like kitty cats
with our own little (clean) kitty dishes
that I bought for each child at the Dollar Tree. 

I made strawberry cupcakes with whipped
vanilla frosting and pink sugar sprinkles. 
Love these little pink Wilton brand 
cupcake holders I found at JoAnne's.

And yes, that's my awesome Martha Stewart
cupcake stand I got on clearance last year (love!)

"C" helped me make these 
little homemade kitty cupcake toppers.
We used a Martha Stewart punch to make the 
scalloped circles, then added little kitty and puppy stickers.

I used my glue gun to sandwich a toothpick
between two circles for each topper. 

The homemade "kitty house"
(painted box with scrapbook flowers)
was a huge hit with the girls.

They spent a lot of time playing house
with their stuffed kitties in there!

Great for fun photo opportunities too! 

For the favor baskets I made these fun 
mini cupcakes out of marshmallows
dipped in candy melts
(plus sprinkles and a red hot cherry on top!)

The homemade bag toppers said, 

"Thank you for coming to C's 
Pink Kitty 4th Birthday Party!
Having you there was better than cupcakes!"

I made a mix of pink strawberry marshmallows
 with chocolate melted on top
and white marshmallows 
with pink candy melt topping.

I found the green favor baskets at the Dollar Tree.

They were our cat carriers
and held all of the party goodies:
Beanie Baby Cat,
Feather Toy(s)
Adoption Certificates,
Paper Cupcakes,
Cat Dish,
and a Homemade Activity Book/Coloring Book.

Best kitty friends always hug goodbye.

It was a Purrr-fectly wonderful party!

Happy Birthday Sweet "C"

pink and green mama

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