Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Art Room Diaries: Winter Evening Showcase

Over the past couple of nights, the time I might have spent writing a blog post was instead spent putting together a slideshow to present at my students' "Winter Evening" event this weekend. The night is a fundraiser for our yearbook and literary journal (the same ones that I helped start when I was a student there!) and it showcases the work and talents of many of the students we have and classes we offer.  I haven't shared my kids' work here in a while, so I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone. Without further ado...just more proof that I have the best job in the world (other than being a mama, of course). :)   


Monday, January 27, 2014


The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness. 
Psalm 41:3 

(I'm sure there are countless things to be thankful for this week...but right now I'm feeling most thankful for our health and that our family is finally on the other side of the nastiest of tummy bugs. PHEW.) 

Friday, January 24, 2014

sunset over Boston and the in-between dates

(taken from the road to Nahant)

Apparently we really tuckered out the little guy during our day in Boston on Monday. As soon as we got off of the subway and into our car, he was out like a light.
Ever since becoming parents, Brian and I have become experts at finding unexpected and in-between times to "date". These times are often just what we need to purposefully slow down and cherish our beloved in the midst of these crazy full days of parenting.
So, as the baby slept(can I still call him that?), we slowly meandered along the coast toward home, hand in hand, as the sun set over the city. I'm always so very thankful for a peaceful, perfect and unexpected date in the in-between. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Christmas Projects 2013: Levi's Bookmarks

Levi and I worked together (sorta..haha) to create bookmarks for his Christmas gift to his grandparents and aunts and uncles. 
We began by doing a little photo shoot of him reading a favorite book (One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey) in front of one of our bookcases. I waited until he was in a silly enough mood that he would ham it up in front of the camera and I didn't have to wait long. :) 
Next, I picked 5 favorite shots, stacked them in the "collage" mode of Picasa (google's free photo editing program). I ended up being able to fit 5 bookmarks side by side on one 8x10 page. When I finished creating the collage in Picasa, I sent the file over to CVS and printed enough copies for the amount of bookmarks I needed (I think I printed 2 in color and 1 in black and white, so I ended up with 15 bookmarks). Each bookmark was cut out, I glued an appropriate quote on the backside and then I laminated them. Easy peasy, cute and they seemed to be a big hit!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Christmas Projects 2013: Back Massage Shirt

This was a lot of fun. Levi's Christmas gift to his Papa was a back massage shirt. I think this was one of the first projects I ever "pinned" and I've been wanting to make it ever since. This year, Levi was finally at the perfect age for it. 
Using fabric markers (or fabric paint) I drew some roads and other fun details on the back of a white t-shirt. I added a wooden car that Levi could use to give his Dad the "massages".

(Our shirt was inspired by THIS one.)

Monday, January 20, 2014


You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
    You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!
Psalm 30:11-12


- Saturday morning spent with friends at the art museum, an awesome new exhibit (birds playing guitars!), lunch out and a snowy walk on Essex street
- a small ladies group meeting, catching up with scones and surrounded by candles
- HUGE snowflakes
- a visit to the hospital to meet baby Jude
- "Papa, there are coldies on my pants..can you put them in the dishwasher?" (Levi, on realizing his pants were covered in snowflakes)
- baby girl's first case of the hiccups
- a few hours of alone "office hours" at Jaho with a cookie and latte
- Levi, singing his way through the day
- fun night of talking shop and art hanging with Kirsten
- a great ArtSpeak planning meeting (more info on this awesome event HERE)
- a fabulous MLK Day; sleeping in (thanks to my gracious husband) subway ride to the Museum of Fine Arts with a very excited little boy, a full day of art and fun with my boys, lunch by the prudential, sunset drive on the coast... 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sea Kettle Studios: Shop Update!

This spring I painted about 50 necklaces for the craft fairs I participated in during the summer months.  This week I finally got around to listing the rest in my shop on Etsy (it's been on my to-do list since August!). Prices have dropped and I'm hoping to get rid of some inventory in the next couple of months. Valentines Day and Mother's Day are coming up! :)

Christmas Projects 2013: Leather Moleskine Journal Cover

If you know my husband, you probably know that he's never without at least one moleskine journal. He's always jotting down creative writing ideas, philosophical and theological musings, song ideas and if I'm lucky, poems for his wifey. :) 

For Christmas this year, I decided to make him a cover for his small moleskines. I ended up using THIS tutorial because of it's simple design and I liked that it held two journals that are easily switched out when you fill them up. After constructing the cover with leather and elastic, I used a wood burning tool to add some custom designs (peacock feathers are symbolically inspiring to him) and then I finished it off with some pretty beads for the ends of the bookmarkers. 

He really loved this gift and uses it daily. At some point I'd love to make more of these..it would be so easy to customize the cover to fit any sized journal/book and the opportunities for the burned designs are endless!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Christmas Projects 2013: Book Safes for the guys

I find it can be tougher coming up with good homemade gifts for the menfolk, but Brian and I were really excited about our chosen project this year. These book safes ended up being more of a difficult endeavor than we initially thought, but we learned a lot along the way and it all worked out in the end (even if it was just in the knick of time!) 
We began by scouring a used book store for thick and nice-looking books that would be appropriate for each recipient, then we followed THIS tutorial to create the safe compartment in each book. The only thing that we did differently was that we ended up using an oscillating multi-tool (a handheld saw type thing) instead of using an exact-o knife to cut the box..MUCH faster, especially if you're doing more than one book. When we were done, we thought it would be fun to fill each compartment with some things you might "hide" like a mini-squirt gun, chocolate coins and a little journal. ;)

Monday, January 13, 2014

with my song

The Lord is my strength and my shield,
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
Psalm 28:7

Thankful, for - 

- Him, whom my heart trusts
- Genesis, Matthew, Psalms and Proverbs all at once.
- sweet thrift store dollar finds
- oreo truffles
- inspiring and encouraging work meetings (SO blessed)
- Naumkeag dinner with friends
- snowball fights
- long-awaited embroidery collage projects
- a new super-sucky (in a good way!) vacuum
- hilarious and interesting late-night documentaries
- playdates with highrockers and Levi's love for his friends
- the "you be the monster and I'll hide" game...over and over.
- Brian, writing and playing new songs, intermixed with toddler jam sessions
- Levi's funny and creative stories while he plays
- a winter day, mild enough for a long walk for coffee and art with my best buddies...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Christmas Projects 2013: Lace Boot Socks

I was inspired to make these lace boot socks after watching an episode of one of my favorite tv shows, Shark Tank (small businesses pitch to millionaires/billionaires to see if they can land an investment in their company. It's more entertaining than it sounds!).  Apparently people will pay an arm and a leg for these pretty socks, but I thought that 1. my sisters would love a pair of these and 2. I could probably make them pretty easily myself.   

My first attempt consisted of simply sewing lace around the top of the sock, but I realized that the lace doesn't stretch, so my socks didn't fit once I finished sewing (total FAIL).  I worked on my next pair with another crafty friend and we found a few tutorials that mentioned needing to stitch the lace while the sock was either on you or stretched out enough so that you have enough lace to fit around your leg.  I ended up measuring the largest part of my calf and cutting a piece of cardboard half that size (so that it doubles when you put the sock on it) and sewing the lace onto the sock while stretched around the cardboard.  After hand-sewing the lace, I added a couple of buttons on the side. 

A cute and simple project for any boot-loving lady!

(Also, the white lacy bowls that I used to house the socks and yesterday's handwarmers were made by dipping a crocheted doily into fabric stiffener (I used Mod Podge's "Stiffy") and hung over an upside down bowl to dry. Love these!)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Christmas Projects 2013: Fleece Pocket Hand-warmers

After I finished the infinity scarves, I made a couple of extra little goodies for the girls. The theme this year seemed to be turning into "keep warm", so I decided to make everyone pocket hand warmers (besides my sisters, I'll share their gift tomorrow).

For my pocket warmers, I cut out 4 hearts from a piece of fleece, then sewed around the edges, keeping a little more than an inch open. I added some pomegranate vanilla essential oil to a bowl of rice and filled each heart with the scented rice. Next, I stitched up the hole and voila!

To use them, you simply stick them in the microwave for about 30 seconds and then put them in your pockets to keep your hands warm. Cute, useful AND they smell good! 

(hand warmers inspired by THIS post

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas Projects 2013: Infinity Scarves for the gals

This fall, my sister asked me if I had any time to make her an infinity scarf. When I started looking at patterns, I immediately thought that they would make perfect Christmas gifts for the ladies of the family this year. 

I used a couple of crochet patterns, one in a "V" pattern and another more lacy pattern, just for variety's sake. Both patterns called for a largish crochet hook and bulky yarn so even though infinity scarves are veeery long, they were relatively quick to work up. I used a nice (and somewhat pricey) yarn, so I took many trips to the craft store to get almost every skein with a coupon (I even Black Friday-ed it for the first time this year, just for the crazy yarn sales!). I'd recommend doing the same, since these scarves take on average, 3 skeins each. 

I think everyone really liked their scarves and they are super soft and warm. It's nice that you can wear them in a few ways; around the neck twice, three times or folded in half and tucked inside each other (nice and flat for putting on a coat) I liked how they turned out so much, I even made one for myself. :)

(V Pattern HERE, Lacy Pattern HERE - obviously this last pattern is just for a regular scarf, but I crocheted until about 65 inches and then attached the two sides together to make it into an infinity scarf.)

Monday, January 6, 2014

in the morning

"weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."
Psalm 30:5

Thankful, for...

- this recurring conversation: Me: crying. Levi: Mama, don't cry! Look, it's the morning! (truth)
- the kindest and most comforting of husbands when I'm feeling anxious and overwhelmed and how he can make me laugh no matter what.
- a good transition back to school; fun with Japanese sumi-e painting, 2 point perspective and cubism.
- driving lessons for Levi, in a nor'easter
- being snowed in for a few days with my favorites
- normal and healthy heartbeats and growth ultrasounds for baby girl
- Levi's music: his made-up songs, his passionate drumming and guitar playing
- sweet morning wake-ups by my newly freed-of-his-confining-crib son
- a constantly warm tea kettle full of orange peels, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; a constantly sweet smelling sea kettle
- seeing people wearing my Christmas gifts
- newly cleaned and organized corners and closets
- old stuff, reused and repurposed
- settlers and sundaes to celebrate my sister's birthday, and of course Katie herself!
- warm drinks, warm blankets, warm clothes, warm husband..warm anything.

Friday, January 3, 2014

these days

these days, I'm - 

- thankful for a long and lovely winter vacation and a nice big nor'easter that kept Mr. James home for a couple of extra days
- eating way too much left-over Christmas candy
- enjoying the hilarious things that come out of my son's mouth and quickly filling our new "Levi-isms" journal (this morning: Levi: Kitties like kitty food. Brian: Yes, that's true. Levi: You're true, Daddy. You're always true.) 
- trying to finish lesson plans up 'til baby time
- listening to hours of my 2 year old's drum practicing - he's very serious
- building up my home management binder (or "Control Journal") inspired by The Fly Lady (and shining my sink nightly, of course!).
- writing lots of Christmas project posts
- nesting like crazy; cleaning and organizing the kettle, room by room
- using my label maker and washi tape on everything
- wearing my comfy new moccasins and wishing it wasn't so wet and snowy, so I could wear them out of the house
- feeling my baby girl twist and turn and nudge (much more gently than her older brother, so far), trying to keep her foot out of my rib
- giggling at an awfully cute and funny New Year's interview video from Levi (HERE, for those interested)
- getting back into my blogging grooove!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014: Anchored

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Hebrews 6:19

Perhaps I was inspired by the nautical metaphors in the prayer I read and posted yesterday, but when I started thinking about my word for 2014, I kept thinking about the words of Hebrews 6:19. This verse has always been a favorite and during this season of life, it seemed right to have my word of the year be "anchored".  

I have such a tendency to get overwhelmed and anxious. You name it, I can come up with a reason to be anxious about it...money, a new baby, lesson planning, making dinner, paintings, dealing with a two-year old's antics - the list goes on.  This year I want to be anchored more securely to my hope. I'm praying that Christ and his promises would be readily in my mind, in my heart and on my lips. I want each day of 2014 to be not be characterized not by my anxiety, but by peace in my saviour.

One way that I've decided to be more "anchored" is by committing to read through the entire Bible over the next 12 months.  I have tried this undertaking a few times before, but not necessarily with a great plan of action. I usually start with Genesis and get bogged down somewhere in the middle of Leviticus. This year, I bought a small paperback "One Year Bible" which divides the entire book up into 365 days with about 15 minutes a day of reading. Each day has a selection from the Old Testament, New Testament and a Psalm and Proverb. I'm hoping that this format will be less overwhelming and give me more of a chance to be successful. We'll see!

Now, obviously it's what INSIDE the Bible that counts, but visual beauty is obviously a big motivator for me, so I decided to cover my new Bible with some pretty papers, add my word of the year to the front with my label maker and use an old ship postcard for a bookmark.

Here's to an anchored 2014!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

a prayer for the new year

Thou art good when thou givest,
       when thou takest away,
       when the sun shines upon me,
       when night gathers over me.

Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,
       and in love didst redeem my soul;
Thou dost love me still,
       in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.

Thy goodness has been with me another year,
       leading me through a twisting wilderness,
       in retreat helping me to advance,
       when beaten back making sure headway.
Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;

I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past.
I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.
If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation,
       thou wilt be with me in them;

If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation,
       I shall not drown;
If I am to die,
       I shall see thy face the sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot,
       grant me grace that my faith fail not;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
       I can make no stipulation;

Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,
       as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.

-from The Valley of Vision