Wednesday, October 31, 2012

family photos with the Maggiacomos

I recently had the privilege of doing a family photo shoot with some good old friends.  I photographed them a couple of years ago and it was time for some updated shots. 

I love this family.  They are such a great bunch and the boys are perfectly funny, cute, energetic, kind and a little bit mischievous... just like little boys should be!  It was a gorgeous October day and we took a stroll around Salem, enjoying the autumn leaves and color, the Atlantic and the playground (tip for getting good kid shots with REAL smiles? bring them somewhere to play!). 

Here are a few favorites.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Outside my window...windy and wet remnants of Sandy, emptied trees and piles of fallen leaves.

I am thankful...for a safe and restful "Hurricane Day" nestled in the Kettle playing, reading, watching a fascinating documentary, cooking and eating with Brian, Levi and Uncle Chris. No damage and no power loss. Yes, thankful.

I am thinking...that Levi and I are going to need to leave the house today. shop? Library? a visit to Grampy's?

In the kitchen...been on a bit of a cooking-kick..if you can believe that. Recent culinary delights; Crock pot Chili, Quinoa Salad, Lattice-Top Chicken.

I am wearing...probably unflattering but totally comfy, hurricane day #2 clothes

I am creating...sketches for album/branding artwork for a new hip-hop recording artist (surprising, I know)

I am going...tplay, read and make forts with Levi and catch up on grading art projects during nap time.

I am reading... more poetry by James Weldon Johnson, after reading this

I am hoping (and praying)... that Dad's recovery continues to go well, that the cancer was completely removed, that he would be completely healed. 

I am looking forward to...dressing up with my family and going to a halloween party tonight at the Ranges.

I am hearing...the wind dying down, Levi's quiet hums and darling funny little words.

Around the house... a happy, been-in-the-house-for-48-hours-straight, mess.

I am pondering... the art and ideas of  "Gerhart Richter Painting"

A few plans for the rest of the week...

-rake leaves (ok, I might leave this for the man of the kettle)
-some family Halloween visits with the babe
-plan new elementary art lessons
-start some Christmas projects
-Girl's Night Out with the lovely ladies of highrock
-go to a friend's birthday gathering and photograph a 1st birthday party
-start a painting

Hope everyone else is doing ok 
and weathered the storm in safety!

Monday, October 29, 2012

autumn beach day

(both of our schools are closed today and we're here riding out Hurricane Sandy cuddled up in the Kettle - stay safe everyone!)


for a mist-laden Atlantic
long stretches of glistening beach, 
round, wet and colorful sea stones,
 quiet lapping, 
stones skipped, 
gull calls, 
tiny snails,
exploration and wonderment.

a perfectly quiet, refreshing, beautiful day-cation in coastal Maine.
(York Beach, Maine)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

this and that

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

- Dad came home from Mass General on Sunday (which I thought was VERY early considering he had a whole lung removed!), but he seems to be recovering from the surgery quite well. I was worried that he'd get bored and stir-crazy being home all day recovering..but my fears were laid to rest when I called him yesterday to see if he wanted a visit from Levi and I and he was too busy with visitors, naps and small group for us to come over! A good problem to have, I guess. Thanks for the continual thoughts and prayers...

- the knitting needles are out again, just in time for some way-cute James family halloween costumes (can you even wait for the reveal?!)

- Every Levi-stage is my new favorite. 1 week? Awesome. 6 months was totally the best. No 8 months. No, definitely 1 year. 14 months? THE BEST. How long can this possibly go on? (3? 13?)

- speaking of the little dude, the other day I realized that I haven't used my alarm clock in 15 months.. for some reason that blew me away. 

- next week my high school art students are bringing in their independent projects that they've been working on since the beginning of the school year. From what I can tell, these will be the most interesting and varied independent projects I've had yet...a plaster mask, a sculpture made from pieces of an old boat and broken pots, 2 hand-sewn period colonial outfits, photo-realist ink and pencil portraits, a robot made from pieces of junk metal, and a life sized baby elephant made out of paper mache!? (just to name a few) I hope they look as good as they sound! We'll soon find out..

- Just starting thinking (in earnest) about Christmas projects. Lots of ideas...excited.

- I have a word doc on my computer called "The James Family Quote Book" really should just be called the "Brian Only Quote Book". It is here where I document the constant hilarity that comes from my husband's mouth. They may only be funny to me, but here are a few recent goodies for your (possible)enjoyment:

"I've had to stop signing my emails with "sincerely" since I started including one cheeky statement in every email."

After paint balling: "I don't think I hit anyone. Kerrie, if I went to war, not a day would I last. I'm a terrible warrior." 

"You know what I'm gonna invent? I'm gonna invent a tall man's dresser.  No bottom drawers, they start 3 feet up. I'll call it ManDress." (mandress?! what?)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

living room sessions

..just doin' what they love best.

collaborative abstract art with Katie

Katie and her husband Matt recently bought a cute little house in the next town over and after months of rehabbing, they finally got to the fun part; making their house a home. And I guess that's the part where I come in.. ;)

The Antonells like simple clean lines, modern art/design and neutrals with pops of bright color.  When they were ready to decorate, Katie had the idea of me teaching/helping her create some brightly colored, simple abstract art for her walls...

Ok, honestly, I was a little lot skeptical, but my brave little sister went out and bought a bunch of canvases, so there was no going back! A few nights of painting later and we had enough art to fill many of her blanks walls with DIY abstract art.

We had tons of fun working together to create these pieces and I know I'm supposed to be "the artist", but Katie came up with great concepts and the majority of the designs were totally her idea. For example, the purple pieces in the living room were inspired by her house number, 99.

Not bad, little sis!

A few notes, in case you'd like to try something similar:

Materials: pre-stretched canvases, acrylic paints, palette knives and various sizes of brushes... (a sister with a little art/painting know-how? haha)

Purple 99s in the living room: I started with a pleasing curly line and then we switched off using purple and white to form the "9"s more clearly. We tried to keep it loose and a lot of the brush strokes visible.

Turquoise and white circles in the dining room/kitchen: We started by mixing a cool bluish-green and added a lot of white. We both had bit of a different shade and went to work creating texture by using palette knife to cover the background. After the paint was dry, we added some white over the dry paint for even more texture. We then painted the rims of various sized bowls with white paint and printed them onto our background in a pleasing design.

Small green/blue piece in the bathroom: This one started out as a very clean cut painting with crisp green and bluish-gray stripes.  It wasn't working for us at all, so I just started playing with it, adding interesting lines and textures with greens, yellows and blues. It ended up looking rather impressionistic, which we liked. 

Nightly prayer piece: Matt loves this prayer from The Book of Common Prayer and we decided to paint it in cursive on this large canvas for the bedroom. After painting the background white, I wrote out the prayer with pencil, then painted it with black paint. I love this and am thinking of creating something similar for my bedroom..lovely words to go to sleep to.

Monday, October 22, 2012

quiet and poised

Gratitude is a shield against fear and self-absorption. It makes the heart quiet and poised to listen.
-S. McCracken

Much to be thankful for this week...

- chili, cornbread and apple crisp with friends, Levi and his cousin laughing, playing and kissing..and the new cousin on the way.
- family dinner at the McKennas, Levi's very long and very awesome dance session
- those classes when everything just works just right, the lesson goes better than planned, kids make connections and create beautiful art.
- new words ("please" "bird" "bear" "food")
- friday night; 5:30 and in our PJs, eating pumpkin pancakes and bacon
- a donated drying rack
- family photo shoot with good friends
- Evan and Levi's "band"
- a saturday morning, just me; a pumpkin latte, time to put up the kids' artwork at school, the Tappet brothers laughing in the background, a trip to the art store and a clean, new sketchbook
- for a seemingly successful surgery for my Dad (though different than planned),  a better-than-expected-recovery,  getting to visit and lots of willing babysitters for Levi,  his "patience in affliction", a beautiful hospital view (the whole city of Boston from the 19th floor!), and an early release from the hospital.
- lots of kind prayers, hugs, emails, texts, phone calls (especially my special hug delivery in class from a sweet friend through her very sweet daughter..)
- good words about the sabbath, singing my husband's songs in church, multitudes of candles, a surprise gift with a beautiful teapot inside
- our refuge, our strength, our ever-present help in trouble

Friday, October 19, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

painting with baby

This past weekend Levi shed his clothes, grabbed a paintbrush and painted his first canvas with acrylics. 

He LOVED it..almost as much as I loved watching him.
Pure creative and kinesthetic joy, it was. 

And the painting is rather beautiful, I think!

Some tips and tricks for painting with a very little one:

1. I recommend baby to be as close to naked as possible and make sure to wear old clothes or a smock. You WILL get paint on you and acrylics are permanent.

 2. Offer a limited color palette; 2 primary colors that create a new color when mixed such as blue and red, red and yellow or blue and yellow. I also gave Levi some white to mix in. If you use too many colors all together (ie. red, yellow AND blue), the painting will probably end up as a muddy brown mess. Take my *art teacher* word for it. :)

3. Show baby how to use a brush but also show them they can use their fingers, too. Surprisingly enough, Levi much preferred the brush.

4. Give lots of "oohs" and "aahhs". Of course. 

5. Have a bath ready. No joke.
..and washing our hands was almost just as fun.
(photographs by daddy-o)

(My Dad's surgery went well yesterday, but unfortunately they ended up having to take out his entire left lung rather than just a part of it, as originally planned. It sounds like he will start chemo after he recovers from the surgery.)  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Art Room Diaries: beginnings

(Edited for grammar and clarity. That's what you get for writing a post during the Presidential debate!)

The beginning of the school year is always busy but this year feels more so than usual. I've been teaching a lot of new projects, which is exciting, but also means significantly more planning and prep. The time I might spend painting, crafting or knitting has been temporarily overtaken by working through these new lessons and creating examples to inspire. So far, it's been totally worth the extra effort; a month and a half into the school year and beautiful and meaningful art pieces are slowly but surely filling the art room!

Here's a little glimpse of some of the creative challenges we've been working on of late..
(Left to right: movable dragons inspired by Smaug in "The Hobbit,  fantasy environment dioramas, ink and watercolor medieval castles, hybrid creature collages, wild things inspired by Maurice Sendak)

(Left to right: modified contour drawings, self portrait silhouettes, 1 point perspective drawings)

(Altered book pages inspired by specific elements and principles of design, Trompe L'oeil observational drawings)

(P.S. Dad's cold seems better and his lung surgery reschedule was rescheduled for today at Mass General in Boston. Lord willing, he will be in for surgery around 1:00. Thanks for your prayers!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

(..especially of the New England variety!)

(from a Sunday afternoon mini-hike at the Arboretum in Portsmouth, NH)

Monday, October 15, 2012

give one more thing

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, -a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
-George Herbert

Thankful this week, for...

- the city, bustling
- my new camera
abstract painting night with Katie
- caring employers
- a house filled with the smell of crock pot meals
- nap time rest
- new teeth
- listening to creative journeys
- yet another amazing trash pick
- nursery organization and Jaho treats
- church
- the laughter of my boys
- Levi, covered in paint
- a saturday afternoon date; gallery visit and a long walk in our old haunts

Friday, October 12, 2012

update and a photo-walk

First things first. Dad update. He went to the hospital yesterday, but was exhibiting some cold symptoms so they sent him home.  So, the surgery has been postponed and we're not sure of the new date. He calls the doctor on Monday to check in and reschedule. Thank you for all of the prayers (and emails, and phone calls and EVERYTHING) means so much, so very much.

On a much more fun and much less serious note... my new/old camera came in the mail yesterday! Even though it's the same model as my broken one (Nikon D40), it's newer and seems like it has barely been used. It really feels like a brand new camera, which is kinda fun.

Levi and I immediately decided to take her for a spin around the block(s). Here's a little glimpse of beautiful Salem in October (minus all the scary kitsch, 'cuz I decided to leave those lovely photos for the tourists). 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

a prayer for healing

(today my Dad is having surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and lymph node from his lung - pray with me?)

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 
We enjoin your divine mercies.

Lord, why do we suffer?
Why do we hurt?
Shall our only answer
Be the eternal abyss of the cosmos?
Shall our only answer be the whirlwind of unknowing
Which engulfed Job?
Why do the wicked flourish,
While the righteous waste away?
I am left speechless, left with the words,
“I will trust in you, my God.”
God, we ask for the sending of your healing Spirit,
Which came to us through Jesus, as he breathed upon his disciples.
This Spirit gathered in your people,
To be warmed by the fire of divine presence.
Around this warmth, may Dad
Be healed and taken into your care.
Like the blind man whom Jesus healed,
May he become a sign
of your glory, calling you the Anointed One,
The one who also anoints us and points us to the Love of God.
Grants us your healing peace, Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Outside my's way too dark to be awake. I kinda thought a day at the fair without regular naps would certainly warrant a sleep-in for the little guy. nope. 

I am thinking...about how to teach my high schoolers the subleties of value and tone.

I am thankful...for a fun day at the Topsfield Fair with the Bjorks and Antonells; especially free ride tickets, fried dough, baby quails, the demolition derby and Brian and Levi's duck race win!

In the kitchen...ingredients for a beef stew and other warm crockpot meals and yummy leftover wedding cake

I am wearing...a snuggie. don't judge.

I am creating...some sketches for a piece of art for ArtSpeak (our church is putting on an event this spring to show visual art and have a gallery opening with poets, writers, actors and musicians.) 

I am do laundry, wipe a runny baby nose and grade my high schooler's altered book projects, this morning

I am reading... "For the Beauty of the Church" together with some other creative friends

I am hoping (and praying)...that Dad's surgery to take out the cancer in his lung on Thursday is perfectly successful and that he recovers quickly.

I am looking forward to...Friends Weekend 2012! (2011 here)

I am hearing...Levi sniffle. :(

Around the house...learning to live contently in never ending toddler-made messes

I am to incorporate some helpful teaching techniques

A few plans for the rest of the week...

- Creative Arts group meeting
- help Ariel decorate and organize the nursery
- start a painting
- attend an apple orchard baby shower
- get my new (old) camera in the mail
- go on lots of walks, enjoy the hustle and bustle of October in Salem with this cool kid and his also-cool daddy...

Monday, October 8, 2012

brother's wedding thanks...

..for a warm October wedding, a happy brother and a new sister, meaningful homily, good marriage reminders, deep purple dresses and tan suits with sperrys, beautiful flowers, sunshine (when it should have rained), yummy food, a cruise around the harbor, ocean breeze, fun photo shoots, family and friends, my dancing baby, a new marriage. 

(of course, as a bridesmaid, I couldn't take pictures during the ceremony and then I dropped and broke my camera (!!) right before the reception. So, here are a few shots that my sister's boyfriend, Kevin, and I took in between...(ok, mostly Kevin! Thanks, Kevin!)

P.S. Yes, it was quite traumatic dropping my camera. The fix would cost at least as much as another camera, so I ended up finding a good deal on a used camera ebay and it should be here in a week or so. Crisis averted. Kinda. Ok, back to the good stuff...)
Congratulations to the newest McKenna family!

Friday, October 5, 2012

wedding weekend, commence!

We're all gearing up for a full and busy weekend! Tomorrow, my brother Jonny is marrying our soon-to-be-sister, Sarah. We are all very happy to welcome her into our family and excited to be a part of their special day; I'm a bridesmaid, Brian's a groomsmen and Levi is a ring bearer(we'll see how THAT goes..he'll be cute as a button, so that's all that matters, right?).

Today: sister Kimmie coming in from PA, rehearsal dinner set-up, manicures with the girls, rehearsal, topped off with a bbq and apple pie dinner
Tomorrow: Morning wedding at our old church (where the Mr. and I were married) and reception on Boston Harbor! 


(be back on Monday with wedding photos, perhaps?)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

some yum my humble opinion.  

I was given this recipe at my bridal shower from a friend (hi, Amalia!) and it has become one of our all-time favorite recipes here in the James household. We feasted on one last night and it was just so good that I thought I'd share the love. Not only is it super easy and super yummy, but it's also a great way to use left over/extra meat and vegetables. It's also a good last-minute dinner, since you probably have most of the ingredients already. And without further adieu... 

What you need:
1 cup of precooked meat (ham, bacon, sausage etc.)
1 cup of vegetables (our favorites: tomato, broccoli, asparagus)
1 cup of cheese (any type you'd like, a mixture is nice)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup bisquick
Salt and pepper to taste

What you gotta do:
1. Preheat oven to 400
2. Grease pie plate
3. Add meat, veggies and cheese to pie plate.
4. Mix eggs, milk, bisquick, salt and pepper in a separate bowl, then pour into pie plate.
5. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the knife comes out clean.
6. Serve with salad or fruit. 

Bon App├ętit! 

(look at me, the notorious non-cook posting a recipe! Don't get used to it, people. Although, I WILL link to Lianna's cooking blog when she starts it...ahem.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

To my Sleepless Bride

We are wed in sleeplessness,
It is our "poorer," our "sickness,"
While "richer" and "health"
Last thirty minutes.

But this is still, indeed, a wedding,
Albiet uneven, some vow-words
Scrawled large, others in tiny print,
Others with invisible ink.

The heaviest words take form,
Alphabetic anvils bear down
On our gentle frames; we toughen.
Make us gentle again, O Lord.

Wing in the flocks of little words
The ornaments of love, unweighed
The feathered promises, so light
You need not ask us to obey.

-B. James

(words found in my inbox after a night of little sleep, an ever crying baby, anger and misunderstandings...and then I sat with tears in my eyes because of how he loves me.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

a baby shower for the BFF

This past weekend my friend Brynn and I hosted a baby shower for my best friend, Ariel and her husband Aaron (who also happens to be my pastor). 

If you know anything about Ariel, you know she loves Ireland, breakfast foods and the color green...

so "a green-Irish-brunch baby shower she shall have!", said we!

Monday, October 1, 2012

the perfecting

Our knowledge of God is perfected by gratitude: we are thankful and rejoice in the experience of the truth that He is love . . . -Thomas Merton

- Sunday afternoon blogging in a snuggie, next to my cute and warm napping husband
- rainy days and slowly changing leaves
- my candy corn stash
- those long teething naps after those long teething cry fests
- a quite fun and quite successfully thrown baby shower for my bff
- a specially crafted duct-tape gift from one of my middle schoolers
- friend dates
- a new-old phone from Rachel, and perfect timing
- unexpected and mid-week family fun days; apples, cider, farm animals, uncle Chris
- Levi, happily clutching and gnawing on his apple
- the highrock ladies small group, their honesty, care and friendship and the new creative arts group, their passion and inspiration
- forgiveness, unconditional love
- cuddly blanket weather
- my boy, and his adventures