Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I spent an evening last week trying my hand at homemade baby food. It seemed like a fun, productive thing to do and I assumed it might be a money-saver (although, honestly, I didn't do the math). After reading a bunch of recipes, I realized that you basically just chop, cook and blend. Sounded easy enough, even for this not-so-great cook (who doesn't usually enjoy the fine art of cooking)! I'm thinking that $15 of fresh fruits and veggies in the freezer will last us a looooong time.   

So far, it's going over real well... ahem.
Here's to hopin' that someday he'll actually enjoy all this mush I made!

Monday, January 30, 2012

I shall thank Him...

The LORD is my strength and my shield; 
My heart trusts in Him, 
and I am helped; 
Therefore my heart exults, 
And with my song I shall thank Him.
Psalm 28:7 

- when he wakes up singing
- all day coffee and tea, warmed 8 times
- Papa and baby's saturday morning jaunts, so I can catch a nap (and that he gives up his only day to sleep in for me!)
- a student's hilarious artist statement, recounting a dream about art class and Mrs. James giving him the "smack-down"
- a new frame for old art
- bible curriculum collaboration
- lovely end-of-quarter art projects
- dinner at my parents, with most of the kids and "special friends" (kisses, Kimmie)
- fresh fruits and veggies into homemade food for the wee one
- rainy days
- a new enthusiastic and gifted art student (and a slight raise to boot)
- rice and pot-stickers
- these cute, hard-earned, little chipmunk teeth!
(no time these days to link up, but thanks-listing inspired by A Holy Experience)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

hallway gallery wall

Finally. This has been on my to-do list for...pretty much ever.  Armed with a Christmas gift card and a week off, Brian and I went out to gather some mismatched frames (mostly cream; a few silver) to create a gallery wall for our little hallway that goes between our kitchen and living room.  I love the way a gallery wall allows you to cluster random albeit meaningful pieces of art and ephemera in a beautiful way.  I have plans for more frames, more special art/photos/momentos, but here it is as it stands right now. It's a lot of fun to find new things to add and I've already changed out quite a few pieces. I cannot wait till Levi starts art-making! (did I mention he got finger paint in his stocking? too soon?)


1. A cut-out from an old book of Middle Eastern designs - just beautiful and also a reminder of the Yemen days.
2. A bitty picture of sleeping Levi when he was only a couple weeks old. Taken by Brian, to be used for my birthday present which was a locket with this picture in it. love.
3. Hard to see, but a lovely little line drawing of trees that Brian let me have from one of his journals. He's makes great little doodle-sketches and I was so happy to be able to frame one.
4. Meaningful Bible verses handwritten by my friends, Kristin and Lianna, attached to snacks in a care package when I was particularly overwhelmed by work and motherhood. I made a collage of them on a piece of pretty scrap paper. Good reminders of God's love and friend love.
5. A gorgeous detailed drawings of a hand decorated with henna/mehendi designs given to me by Madhiha, a Bengali third grader, who I taught in Detroit. One of the most gifted art students I've ever had.
6. Since it fit the color scheme, I added the collage I made for Brian a couple Christmas' ago. The Salem Covanant of 1629. Great reminder of why our city was founded.  
7. Sea Kettle keys! just wrote about this...check out the new yellow frame.
8. A painting of Sea Kettle done by our neighbor about 50 years ago. Very charming! There are even funny little stork babies living in our tree.
9. From an old alphabet book found in my Nana's book room. It reads "The Nightingale, the sweetest bird, who in the evening late, can o'er the land be loudly heard, caroling to his mate" (reminds me of Bri);) 
10. The back of our reply postcard from our wedding invitations. Love the red stamp we used. 
11. L's handprint. cute.
12. photobooth strip we took when we were engaged. We used this image for our "Save the Dates"


Here are some other great examples of gallery walls:
  • @younghouselove (probably my favorite, they inspired me to think about light colored frames, since I'm generally a dark-wood kind of girl...although my style isn't quite as matchy.)
  • @iheartorganizing 
  • @apartmenttherapy (love how they "hid" the thermostat)

What would you frame?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

this and that

just a little bit of this and a little bit of that...

- I finally fed the baby some oatmeal. Let's just say that Dmitri seems to like it more than Levi. I guess we'll have to try something more tasty (kinda looks like nasty orphanage gruel..don't really blame the kid)

- it snowed!... it's gone!

- as a rather last minute decision, I decided to start an abstract paper sculpture project with my elementary kids. I've never done this before and they are turning out so darn cool! Don't worry, I'll show ya.

- got to skype with "Rwandering" Kimmie! She's happy and tan sunburned and just back from a safari. lucky.

- I tried to make an awesome poncho out of an old sweater on Saturday during our little snowstorm. I failed miserably. Then I tried to salvage the arms to make fingerless mittens. Also failed. Luckily I just found another newly pen-in-the-wash stained sweater. If at first you don't succeed...??

- Levi still wakes up at least twice at night (more when he's sick and teething) and I'm trying not to let my exhaustion get to me. This week, I'm afraid it did; cue grumpy mama. 

- and I've been drinking a lot more coffee recently..hmmm...

- for the past few weeks I've been teaching some stained glass/clown paintings inspired by Georges Rouault. Apparently I forgot that an inordinate amount of children are deathly afraid of clowns (or that their parents let them watch awful scary movies about them!). oops. 

- Recently, I went to pick up Levi from his babysitter (who shall remain nameless..haha) and his clothes were on backwards and he was wearing my sister's purple socks. I tried not to laugh too hard. Most of it was my fault - confusing outfit, leaky diapers and a forgotten pair of new socks. :)

- speaking of socks, the other day Brian and I realized that I had on his and he had on mine. cute?

- It kinda feels like spring right now, I'm reminding myself that it's JANUARY. 

-  I have a blank canvas and paints out on my kitchen table, an empty knitting basket in the living room, begging the question, "what's next?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nap-time diaries: Mug Cozy

I love a good project that I can start and finish while Levi sleeps. Last week I designed and crocheted a cup cozy during a nice long mid-morning nap.  I vaguely remembered seeing someone use granny squares to make a coffee press cozy and thought they might also make a cute cup cozy. I love the old-fashioned warmness of granny squares and they always remind me of my great Grandma Jones who first inspired my love of crocheting and knitting. Someday I'll have to dig out the first afghan I ever made from all of her old yarn scraps...it ended up being every color imaginable and as thick as a rug. It was a monster; but a meaningful monster, I suppose.

Aaaanyways. I figured if I crocheted 3 smallish granny squares (here's a nice tutorial), they'd fit pretty well around a mug. Using scraps from other projects (I think most were from this granny square scarf, actually), I created a 2-round square with single crochets (usually they are 3 rounds using double crochets)with a size H hook. I stitched them together and then single-crocheted a border around all three squares. The last step was to make 4 long chains, mine were 25 stitches, and tie to all 4 corners. Super quick and rather charming, I think...oh yeah and it keeps my tea warm. :)

(I know that's not the most detailed tutorial, if anyone needs clarification, email me and I'll happily oblige!)

Monday, January 23, 2012

my cups runs over

I thank Thee for the temporal blessings of this world
the refreshing air, 
the light of the sun, 
the food that renews strength, 
the raiment that clothes, 
the dwelling that shelters, 
the sleep that gives rest...
the happy endearments of family, kindred, friends...
My cup runs over. Suffer me not to be insensible to these daily mercies.
- from Evening Praise, "The Valley of Vision"

Also thankful this week, for

- a first *real* snowfall of the year and a beautiful, restful snow day
- endurance and strength when the whole family's sick and the little one is painfully popping teeth
- daily mercies, reminders of grace
- skyping with Kimmie
- successful oatmeal feedings
- encouraging tutor dinners, smooth and healthy transitions
- a quick and relatively painless car repair
- kitty's undivided attention as soon as baby sleeps
- stay-in-our-pjs-all-day-fridays 
- quiet
- tea, kleenex, excedrin
- how happy Levi is when his dad comes home
- football party with Mom and Dad J, and Uncle Roger (despite the fact they woke the baby with their winning cheers!)
- post bath mommy-baby snuggles..

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Corks, Corks and more Corks

I've tried to enjoy wine, really I have. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I gag every time I take a sip. I don't know...reminds me of cough syrup. Luckily for me, others like it. A lot. 

The other day my soon-to-be brother, Matt, brought me over an inordinate amount of wine corks.  I guess he mentioned to his grandfather (who's been collecting them for years) that I could probably do something with them. There you have it; I'm now the proud owner of hundreds of corks. 

So, what's a girl to do? I have plans for trivets, a plain old cork board, perhaps a bathmat? I started with something I knew I actually needed. In my cork-craft search, I saw a picture of a much-needed jewelry organizer.  

Not that I'm wearing a lot of jewelry these days with a little pumpkin who loves grabbing anything he can get his hands on...still, I love that they aren't in a great big knotted jewelry-ball on my dresser anymore. Now they look pertty, they're organized and they'll be waiting for me when I'm ready to don on my "jewels" again. 

Any other awesome ideas for corks? 
Any neary-by friends want to share in the wealth?
A cork craft party, perhaps? ;)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

This and that

These days I'm...
-learning how to comfort a sick and teething baby; bouncing,swaying, snuggling, gum rubbing
- sharing all nighters with a perfect teammate, exchanging knowing hugs and glances
- sleeping, needy babe in arms
- encouraged by daily liturgies
- rethinking blog design
- proudly posting beautiful artwork; energized by my students; collecting "junk" for new sculptures
- thankful for such wonderful work
- enjoying Downton Abbey dates
- settling into the dead of winter, trying not to get the blues
- straddling two churches, praying God's direction and wisdom for both
- planning paintings, soaking up inspiration
- thinking of Kimmie, praying for health and safely
- enduring my 3rd cold of the season; pounding tea, vitamin C and echinacea
- looking for a new knitting project
- bittersweetly buying baby cereal and putting off opening it (and kinda wanting him to stay little forever)
warding off worry; trying to live life in the moment.

What is filling your days?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Birds and Keys

My sister Kimmie (who is currently settling into her semester in Rwanda) made me some lovely paper birds hanging in a frame for Christmas.  It's hanging center stage in our kitchen and not only reminds me that spring is coming but also reminds me to lift my little Africa-dwelling sister up in prayer. 
Her charming hanging-frame-art got my mind going with ideas for what to do with a bunch of small square wooden frames I've had lying around for years.  Three old Sea Kettle keys have hung on a nail above a door since we've moved in. I'm assuming that they are original to our 200 year old house.  I've been wanting to showcase them in a special way and the hanging them in a frame seemed perfect.  2 hooks, 6 inches of wire and 5 minutes later I had myself some lovely key art.  

I enjoy looking at them and imagining who touched and used these keys during Sea Kettle's long history. When I'm feeling really day-dreamy, I can't help but wonder if Nathaniel Hawthorne brushed by those keys as he stopped by the grocery store for some feathers and ink. 

(I have since accidentally bumped into my key frame and smashed the red frame into pieces. Luckily, I have lots of similar frames, so the keys are now in a yellow frame...which I actually prefer, since Sea Kettle is the same color. Seems appropriate.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Thanks

It's the song of the redeemed
Rising from the African plain
It's the song of the forgiven
Drowning out the Amazon rain
The song of Asian believers
Filled with God's holy fire
It's every tribe, every tongue, every nation
A love song born of a grateful choir
It's all God's children singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns

Thankful, for
  • a grateful choir
  • Brian's breakfasts and spoken word concerts, just for me
  • A safe arrival in Africa
  • bowling and buffet engagement party for Katie and Matt (and that us parents had the energy to stay up that late)
  • a beautiful send-off to our fearless leader, getting to see my old profe, Kit, and many other old friends
  • the third service
  • baby belly laughs
  • the muted tones of winter
  • cheek kisses from George
  • listening to Brian sing Levi to sleep
  • lovely paintings in progress...

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Well, would you look who came back to visit. 
Dmitri was not impressed.
"Scram, Squirrel. This is MY kingdom." 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christmas Project Round Up: Sea Kettle Christmas

Our big gift this year was a Christmas album. Yup. Why we decided to do this the same year that we had a baby? Not sure(cause we're crazy!). Not the wisest decision perhaps, but we had fun and made it work.  Brian is a fantastic music writer/arranger, singer, drummer, guitar player. I play the flute and can hold a tune. We hoped we had enough of the ingredients to create a laid-back collection of some of our favorite Christmas tunes for our friends and family to enjoy.  

Sea Kettle Christmas isn't perfect.  You'll hear a flat note here and there (mostly me!) and if you listen real close, you'll probably hear the crinkle of wrapping paper, the shake of a rattle, the creak of the 200 year old stairs, the coos of a baby.  We recorded it in our living room during November and December between work, chores, naps and feedings.  Despite the less than perfect recording circumstances (we did NOT have "studio silence" at any point) and a strict deadline ("should we record the vocals on this one again? NO, we have to leave for the Christmas Eve service!"), it was a labor of love and we hope our family and friends enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it. No matter what, many sweet memories were made. Being able to collaborate artistically with my husband is one of the sweetest blessings in my life.
I know it might be a little late for Christmas music, but here it is if you'd like to give a listen.

  Sea Kettle Christmas by seakettlers

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christmas Project Round Up: Levi's Gift - Footprints

Not even little Levi got out of making Christmas presents this year (being 4 months old was no excuse!) In December, he went to work making his grandparents, aunts and uncles some footprint art (cause what else is a baby to do?!). He was quite a trooper while Papa stamped his foot over and over again. Mama helped by framing his prints and writing a good "foot" Bible verse underneath. 
He even posed for some Christmas outfit photos to give away to his adoring fans...
One last Christmas round-up post tomorrow! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Christmas Project Round-Up: Crinkle Ribbon Toys

And yet another little Levi gift..last one, I promise! These funny looking things are homemade crinkle toys. I couldn't resist, since he loves crinkly things and I realized that I could make them with scraps of fabric that I already had lying around the craft room. Free gifts are nice, these days! He loves holding, squishing and chewing on these little toys and they are nice and small to throw in the diaper bag.  Here's the tutorial I used, although I made some slight changes to where I put the ribbons.  Also, don't wash and dry these in the machine! I washed another one I made and the plastic inside melted into a little ball. Definitely not as fun. :/

Monday, January 9, 2012

January thanks

Walk in the light, the beautiful light.
Come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright.
Shine all around us by day and by night.
Jesus, the light of the world.
- from Common Prayer, a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Still counting...
  •  a nice easing back into school
  •  students being brave and letting go
  •  Levi giggles
  •  car starter gift, the warmth it provides!
  •  a husband who does dishes, laundry, diapers, cooking and anything else; cheerily, no less
  •  common prayer; the early mornings and late nights
  •  a first tooth and a sitting up baby
  •  banging the piano with Papa
  •  mild winter days
  •  Katie and Matt's birthday party, lots of new "family" to meet
  •  morning chai 
  •  Kimmie time - before we send her off to Rwanda...and of course a new blog to keep up.
  • Papa, putting down the Russian novel, to read something a *little* less sophisticated...
(Dare to find joy? Join the thanks counting...)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas Project Round Up: Hand, Hand, Fingers Thumb!

Here's another little gift I made for Levi.  When I take care of Levi's friend Evan, we often read the book "Hand, Hand, Fingers Thumb" (again and again and again!).  I love a book with good rhythm.  This one has great rhythm and a fun story about about drumming monkeys ("dum ditty, dum ditty dum, dum, dum!").   Levi really seems to enjoy the book too, so I bought it for him and then created a sock monkey with a drum to go along with the story.  I used the classic sock monkey pattern and then created the drum out of a little round wooden box I found at the craft store. I painted it to look like a drum from the book, mod podged it and then attached a string (hole on either side and knotted it from the inside).  Although he doesn't appreciate it entirely now, hopefully within the next year he'll enjoy making his own monkey drum while we read the book. 
(A couple of years ago I made another "prop" to go with a book when I created my mitten full of animals to go with "The Mitten". I'm planning on saving this one until Levi gets a little older, but it's a fun idea if you have an older child.) 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Christmas Project Round-Up: Gnomie Hat and Mittens

I made this little hat and mitten set for my babe.  These were all done in an afternoon, so a very quick knit indeed! I stumbled upon this gnomie hat pattern and the mittens are actually the same pattern as the paws from his bear costume, I just used bigger sized needles. I put them on a string so we wouldn't lose the them (huh, can I put his socks on strings? I lose baby socks like nobody's business!). 
I think this set would be the perfect winter gift for any little person, if you can stand the cuteness. And come on, you could probably knit these up in less time than it takes to get through crazy holiday mall traffic. I try my best to steer clear of that place as much as possible!  
Ain't he the cutest little gnome you ever did see? 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas Project Round Up: Tricky

This present for Brian and Levi came about in a funny way.  You may have seen the very popular book/elf called "The Elf on the Shelf".  We were in Target in November and Brian saw it and said "I used to love my Elf on a Shelf when I was a kid, it was one of the most magical parts of my childhood!" Well,  of course I was intrigued and decided to try to make my own elf for Brian and Levi.  Eventually I realize that Brian definitely did not have the book, considering it was only published a couple of years ago and that he really just had some cute little elves that he used to play with (and yes, they look a lot like the "Elf on a Shelf" elf!).  

After looking further into the new phenomenon, I realized that the book is a little creepy. Apparently the elf is sent to spy on the kids and report back to Santa as to whether they are good or bad. They also aren't allowed to touch the elf?? I don't know, just not my style. Santa was never a big deal in my house growing up, so I'm not really into having a "Santa Spy" hanging around. I'm hoping my kids are motivated to do good in other ways. 

Anyways, I decided to make a new little elfish tradition for Levi and Brian.  I made my little elf out of wood and fabric scraps (sorry, no specific tutorial, I just raided my craft room and went at it quite haphazardly). When I finished, I put him in a box with a little elf bed (I mean, you wouldn't want to put the poor little guy in a cold hard box by himself) and a little note from Santa on the top. The note basically said that "Tricky" would spend the holiday season with our family, but to be careful since he is little mischievous.  The idea is that every day in December Brian or I would hide the elf somewhere in the house or create some sort of mischief for the elf to have done for Levi to find.  Simple and fun and hopefully no creep. :)
(I found the bed at the craft store in the wood section, I think it was a mini-tray. I painted it green and made a mattress, pillow and quilt out of fabric scraps.)
(I put a thin wooden wheel-type thing in the bottom of my elf so that he would sit.  He is filled with stuffing, although there isn't any in his arms and legs.  His head is just a wooden piece I found that had the craft store.)

Can't wait to see what sorts of mischief he gets into next December!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Year of Blessings

Thank you, Lord, for - 

- precious family and friends
- a slowly growing belly and beautiful baby boy
- many wonderful "firsts"
- new lessons learned, stretching
- a sister's engagement
- a warm, colorful home
- slowly figuring out how to navigate parenthood
- the most loving, self-sacrificing husband and Papa
- a new gift, a new tradition 
- laughter and joy
- mistakes and forgiveness
- our other kids, our students and the lessons they teach
 - collaborative art and music
- love overflowing 
- all of the specific beauties of winter, spring, summer and fall

an abundantly blessed year.