Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Art Journaling - September in September

Typos in paint -- I can't even be bothered trying to fix them. But I do know how to spell practice, just not how to paint it!

This is what I did last week.

These pages got their start with leftover paint from the week before. I squeezed out waay too much green for the stencil I was using, and didn't want to see it go to waste, so I turned the page and glopped on that green. Then I added bits of red and black that were also on the palette. I also flipped the stencil from the previous page and pressed it on these pages. Then I propped the book open, or so I thought. Not well enough, cuz the pages stuck a bit. Hence the white shmears.

Once dry, I stenciled across the top with some stencils I got in a book awhile ago. Black acrylic paint, of which I again squeezed out too much. That made my journaling decision for me. A small round brush and a bit of water. I want to work on script more with a brush. Printing is fairly easy but I need more practice writing with a brush in hand.

Those lovely green rhinestone flowers are Kaisercraft, and the cheese label is just something from my stash. It's delicious cheese!

Monday, September 26, 2011

September Art Journaling

The idea is to blog about life, but life keeps getting in the way of blogging! I blame it on the rain. Its been a big time suck in so many ways and continued this weekend, wreaking havoc on soccer schedules and yardwork. Always something.
So once again, I'm playing catch up with my art journaling. October will be here in less than a week, and I'm finally sharing some September pages.
One of the problems with not sharing weekly, is that I can't quite remember how I did some of these.

September Week 1

Awaiting my Julie stencil order, I pulled out some CWS stencils that I already had, and played with a couple, using Adirondack wash, Perfect Pearls Mist and Glimmer Mist. Maya Road Things To Do list, AC Date sticker, and some decorative paper tape by Cavallini & Co.I didn't spend much time on these pages. This was our first full week back home and we had a lot to do as a result of being away for so long.

September Week 2

This background really evolved. I started out spraying some Adirondack wash and Perfect Pearls. I then sprayed water to create the drips. That also muted the colours. I gessoed the raindrops through my brand new JFFB stencil. Love these!
Now this is a place to play and learn and I learned that a sponge brush isn't the best applicator for my purpose. Between that and the curve in the pages, some of my raindrops lost their shape. Oh well! I used the stencil to trace the raindrop shapes from some of the week's photos, and included them. Journaled in the remaining teardrops using FC Pitt markers.
Forgot to mention that both of these were built on gessoed pages.

September Week 3

With all of the France business mostly behind us, I was able to spend a little more time on these pages. While the gessoed base was still wet, I added strips of a polka dotted fabricky paper that was in the box with sneakers I purchased a couple of months ago. I tore them, so there's no consistency. I used gel medium to make them stick. The gesso alone wasn't quite cutting it.
I signed up for Julie's Stenciling 101 and this page made me realize I need to visit it and learn how to build more brilliant and defined layers. I also need to develop patience. The background might look better had I let it dry, rather than dabbing at it with a paper towel. Couldn't help myself!!
I used Julie's chevron stencil on the right, with a heavy bodied acrylic. Same with the punchinella dots on the left, but there I went over it again with a different color and ultimately covered it with jockey stamps! I also used a home made stencil -- the packaging from a 6 pack of Trader Joe's yogurt. With my fingers, I applied a white acrylic to those 6 holes in the yogurt pack. I patiently waited  before adding any journaling and doodles. I added the 3 Australian stamps, layering one of them on a blank Lisa Leonard tag that I had been hanging on to. A little distress ink around the edges of that tag and those stamps. Done.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Guatemala Sunday

The Sunday on which our mission trip team offers a presentation of their trip to the congregation. This year is Guatemala Sunday. They went to Guatemala. Last year was West Virginia Sunday. They went to West Virginia. You get the idea!
Guatemala was Nick's third mission trip. According to him, it was the best yet, and the most fulfilling. Our mission trip leader Elise laughs about this, as she has returned from each trip declaring it to be the best. South Dakota, Costa Rica, Vermont, Alaska, with Guatemala now topping the list.
The mission trip is usually late June or July, and the team comes together in September to share their adventures with our church. A special service with shared photos and recollections, followed by a coffee hour. I've always made a point of try to attend these mission trip Sundays. I remember how moving it was to hear the kids talk about their time with the children of the Rose Bud Indian reservation in South Dakota. Beautiful photos to go along with their life changing stories. Every year I marveled at this amazing opportunity offered by our church and looked forward to the day when my children could participate.
This year, when Elise was organizing the presentation, Nick offered to be an usher, and play guitar. No mention of speaking. She always asks that 3 or 4 of the kids offer their reflections on the trip. He didn't offer. And then, a couple of weeks before Guatemala Sunday, Nick told me that Mrs. S (Elise) had asked him if he could be one of those 3 or 4 kids, and he agreed.
The next surprise came when Elise was asking the kids to forward their intended reflections, so that she could make sure there would be no repetition. Nick advised me that he had nothing written, nor was he planning to. He was just going to get up and speak. From the heart. Noteless. Wow.
And wow us he did! Twice. Nick spoke at both the 8:00 and 10:30 services. Equally composed, thoughtful and hilarious both times.

The team, both students and adult leaders, donned their Guatemala t-shirts. Some wore jackets they had picked up in Antigua, where the group spent their last day before returning home.

Nick spoke. 

He played guitar.

And he made them smile. And laugh! Take a look at the others in the picture. All smiles!
He was funny, thoughtful, eloquent and composed. As someone who is not fond of public speaking, I marvelled at the ease at which he relayed his thoughts and feelings about Guatemala. He compared one week of Guatemala to six weeks in France, which is how his summer played out. How he enjoyed Guatemala so much more, for that one short week. The hard work, and very humble meals and housing more appealing than being a tourist, eating rich French food, showering daily and sleeping in a comfy bed. How much more welcomed he felt by the Guatemalans, as opposed to the French.
Nick might stand out in a crowd because of his choice of hairstyle. It's longer than most at his school, our neighborhood and our church. While I can't speak for what he's like at school, around here, he's pretty quiet. He surprised and impressed a lot of people last Sunday. In addition to the many accolades he received, a lot of people were surprised and impressed by his wit and sense of humour. Me, I was proud. Very proud. Way to go Nick!

Friday, September 23, 2011

A September Weekend

Not typical, but I've come to realize that most aren't. There's always something. This time, the excessive rain we've been experiencing since August finally caught up with us. Everyone was in a panic for Hurricane Irene, which we were thankfully home for. Damp basement, yes. But with the power flowing throughout the storm, our sump pump ran almost nonstop and prevented anything more than a few puddles from forming in the basement. Different story the Wednesday after school started. The rain didn't let up all night. We received a 5 a.m. call from the school district that there was a 2 hour delayed start due to the weather. After shutting everyone's alarm, I went back to sleep. We were still hearing the pump running, and there was no evidence of a power failure so we were shocked to find signs of a greater volume of water in our basement. It was gone by the time we looked, at 8:30 or so. But the damage was done. Clothing in the dryer was soaked, stuff was moved and tipped over and rubbermaid containers that had always been 'tall' enough, weren't. I was heartbroken to come across a container of fully submerged cook books. Cook books dating back to the early 80's. Cook books that were there because I wasn't using them, but couldn't bear to part with them. Thirteen cook books, into the recycling bin. And then Marc discovered another rubbermaid container full of cook books, also saturated. These brought the grand total to over thirty. Again, I hadn't been using these recently, but there were several that I would have kept forever. Cook books from my days at MTS -- recipes submitted by employees. I enjoyed looking at them. Remembering people I no longer saw. A Martha Stewart cook book, her first, that I purchased in 1982. It soon made me realize I had no desire to be like her, but I enjoyed looking at the pictures! And several cook books that were gifts. Gone. A part of the high recycling points rewarded to us that week. (we're part of a program that gives points for recycling based on weight, and that bin was especially heavy that Friday!)

But the effects of the rain didn't end in our basement. Nick's School of Rock Funk and Reggae show was this weekend. Rehearsal Thursday evening, shows Friday and Saturday. But our Ft. Washington School of Rock flooded for the second, or was it the third, time this summer, which necessitated traveling to the not-so-nearby Main Line School of Rock location. For the rehearsal Thursday. For the show Friday. And for the show Saturday. It's a great venue, but the last minute change of plans kept us hopping all weekend. I had to remind myself that our inconvenience paled in comparison to what Steve at the SOR was going through. Again.

The show was fabulous, despite the last minute changes. We loved the show. It was quite possibly my favourite! I loved the music and loved that people were dancing instead of moshing. Yeah, I'm old!

And one of my favourite of the night:

Dancing sibs. Adorable!!

Normally, we like to attend both of Nick's shows. But we had other plans for Saturday night and Nick's blessing. Gaby had the opportunity to be a player escort for our MLS team, the Philadelphia Union, at Saturday night's game. The way Nick put it, if he had the opportunity, he would miss Gaby's concert for it. So with our 3 tickets instead of 4, we headed to the Union game.

We were advised to be there at 6:15, to give the kids sufficient time to get changed and briefed. Our soccer club had held a random drawing of interested kids, eleven and under, and sent a group of eleven. We were thrilled to see our neighbor Abbey was one of the group.

The kids and three parent chaperones, of which I was one, were escorted into a locker room just for them. And the kids escorting the opposing team from Portland. And the ball kids. The player escorts were all provided with full uniforms -- shirts, shorts and socks -- which were hanging under their name. Very cool!

We continued the hurry up and wait game, with the kids donning their uniforms, and then waiting around til it was time.

Check out her name!

Gaby and Abbey.

Marc caught the action on video, and we parent escorts were allowed to hang at field level while the kids were out there.

Gaby with her player, #8, Torres.

After the national anthem, the kids ran off the field, back to the locker room, and we packed up and returned to our seats. To watch our Union hold Portland scoreless. Zero zero.

For our soccer crazy girl, it was an amazing experience -- one she'll remember for a long time. She's planning to be back at PPL Park in three years, when she'll be old enough to be a ball girl.

Being September 10th, there was a special tribute before the game, recognizing the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Earlier on Facebook, a friend had shared a post suggesting a way to mark the date would be to bake something to share with local police or firefighters. Gaby was on board, of course. So on Sunday morning, she baked brownies, I baked pumpkin bread, we packaged both, and took them to our local police department.

They were happy to receive it, and the next week I came home to the empty container between the front doors, with a lovely note of thanks attached. Nice of them!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Day of School

Was yesterday. Gaby in her first day outfit, and Nick in his boxers cuz he goes in later, obliged by stepping out front, even in the rain.

I will remember this as the year we had a paper house number on the front door, from the time Nick painted the trim, in April, til, uh, who knows!

My Hurricane Birthday

All summer, I had believed I would be celebrating my 49th birthday in Paris. And right up until 4 days before my birthday, that was the plan. But because we came home early due to the unplanned occurences in our last week in France, the celebration would be in Oreland. The day Hurricane Irene was scheduled to settle into our area. My how plans have a way of changing!

Marc and I went out for breakfast, just the two of us. He was craving a steak, egg and cheese bagel, and I figured I could have an egg mcmuffin. On the way home we grabbed Starbucks coffees, something that we had enjoyed very little of over the summer. Neither of us are fans of French coffee.

Gaby baked and frosted red velvet cupcakes on Friday. I wasn't allowed in the kitchen at all!

And she made sure I blew out my candles while Claire was over.

Then the focus shifted from celebrating me, to celebrating the weather, once the rain started.

After six weeks of dining out, I was so thrilled to be back home and cooking in my own kitchen. Even on my birthday. But I let Marc do the honours on the grill. Besides, the rain was well underway by dinnertime!

Yummy food and a toast. No, we didn't get enough of the champagne in France. (It was much better there too!)

My focus shifted to the weather. The rain just kept coming. and thankfully, the sump pump just kept running in the basement. When high winds are a part of the forecast, I never mind the kids falling asleep downstairs. We have a lot of big trees in our yard, and well, I'm not the only person I who does this. I have several friends and acquaintances who keep their kids on the main floor during high winds.

There were also a couple of tornado warnings just after 11 p.m. And the power went out for , oh, perhaps 10 seconds. But that was enough for me to make sure there were tealights lit in most of the rooms in the house.

(See Marc sleeping on the couch -- not a care!)



It appears I was the only one concerned about the rain, possibility of flooding, high winds and tornados. No one else lost any sleep over it!

Six Weeks of Art Journaling on the Road

I had taken the time to prepare to continue my art journaling on the road. I packed a travel kit with watercolours, scissors, adhesives, tape, markers, gel medium, among other things. I gessoed six sets of pages, one for each week we were scheduled to be away.

I saved all sorts of ephemera from our travels - brochures, ticket stubs, newspapers, napkins, menus, business cards. The gel medium was perfect for adhering these items to my pages. The first few weeks, my pages looked pretty similar.

July Week 3:

This week was a day in Paris, 2 days in Reims, 2 days in Paris, a day in Reims and then back to Paris for the weekend. Included bits of a Paris map, train ticket, napkin from a restaurant, newspaper, Reims map, Louvre brochure. And doodles with markers and watercolours.

July Week 4:

We were on the road, waking up in Germany Monday morning, spending Monday night in Munich, Tuesday in some Italian town just inside the border, Wedneday in Florence (delightful!) Thursday in the Cinque Terre coastal region of Italy, ending up in Monaco on Friday, for several days.  These pages were more of the same: maps, business cards, menus, newspaper and brochure bits. Doodles and bits of journaling.

August Week 1:

We started the week with a couple more days in Monaco, then hit the road Wednesday for a leisurely drive through France. Nice, Aix en Provence, Lyon, Dijon, Troyes, and back in the Reims area for the weekend. More stuff from our travels. Menu, parking vouchers, cool foil packaging from a Monaco chocolate coin.

August Week 2:

Most of this stuff was odds and ends from a quiet week in Reims, and a quick weekend trip to Belgium - Brussels and Brugge. A cool business card from a not so delicious crepe restaurant, more maps, wrappers from the free chocolates in our Brussels hotel. Journaling. Doodles.

August Week 5:

An entire week in one place is reflected in these more simple pages. We stayed put. Played soccer. Walked. Fed the ducks at the park. Did laundry once. Visited the hospital once. (Nick's hand -- cut that wasn't healing well) and of course the Police Station, in Reims, called the Hotel de Police. We did discover that fabulous bakery with the crispy baguettes and yummy meat pies.

And the last week of journaling on the road, my August Week 4:

This one, start to finish, was completed at home. I didn't even look at these pages that last week, til we got home. I had it in my head to use clouds, and perhaps rain, to document the crap. But I realized that being my birthday week, it wasn't all bleakness and clouds. So I cut out cardboard clouds for the left side, and a cardboard sun and rays for the right side. After a quick wash of yellow watercolour, with the sun in place over top and the clouds on the other side, I spritzed the pages with a few different blues. Journaled the 'bad' stuff in the clouds and the good, on the sunny side. Along with my age. It's just a number, right!?

How to Ruin a Vacation

Blogging, picture taking, photo editing, and journaling came to a screeching halt the day after I wrote my last post. On Friday August 19, overnight, our rental car was broken into. We discovered it Saturday morning. The broken glass and empty trunk were our first clues. Marc's golf bag, clubs, and extensive assortment of golf gadgets, gone. Golf attire, gone. Two pairs of roller blades belonging to Marc and Nick, gone. After a trip to the police and change of rental car, we tried to salvage the weekend. And we were doing pretty good til Tuesday night. The 23rd of August.

Marc and I had decided to take the train to Paris that evening, for a quick dinner, and to pick up a bigger rental car that we could return to Paris when we went home. After the car break in, Marc had moved up his return flight and was coming home with us. The new rental car we had picked up in Reims was too small and would have to be left in Reims. We thought we had found the perfect solution: combine a quick date night with picking up a new car. All good, right? Well, it didn't turn out that way.

We arrived in Paris at 6:00 after a 45 minute train ride. We walked from Paris Est to Paris Nord, where we would pick up the train to the airport, for our car pick up. We made a fateful decision to have dinner at a restaurant just outside the train station, before continuing on to the airport.

In retrospect, we did a lot of things differently. We sat outside, which we hadn't been doing too often, since smoking was allowed. But it wasn't too busy because it was still early, around 6:30. The waiter seated us at the end of a section of empty tables, beside a lone diner. We should have asked to sit in the middle of those empty tables. But we didn't.

What ended up happening, less than 15 minutes after we had sat down, was that the man next to us left, and walked off with Marc's backpack. And we didn't notice. Even after Marc's backpack had mysteriously found its way to that man's feet. Marc was a bit suspicious, but apologized, and returned the bag to it's place under his feet. But he didn't wrap the straps around his legs, as my seasoned traveler often does.

A few minutes later, the waiter asked Marc if he had his bag. We looked down and it was gone. What a horrible horrible feeling that is. The waiter said he saw the man cross the street and head for the train station. He and Marc made chase. Marc said he thought it was strange that the man wouldn't have entered the Metro station on our side of the street, rather than opting for the train station that was crawling with police and soldiers.

In retrospect, and we find ourselves saying that alot, we think the waiter was in on it. He seated us and continued to serve in between our tables, rather than from the empty side. That man, seated by himself, neither ate nor drank. While I believe I would recognize him, I remained focused on his unattractive hands and strange white phone, not his face. And obviously not focusing on him when I should have been.

That horrible horrible sick feeling was justified. In Marc's haste to take care of everything that busy Tuesday, he had traveled to Paris with his laptop, iPad, video camera, 2 external hard drives which he normally doesn't carry and which were his computer back up and waaaay too many of our photos, headphones, bluetooths, fancy computerized pens, you name it. The GPS we thought had been stolen from the car, which we later found in the hotel room, lost for real this time. Because Marc had met a colleague at the mechanic's that morning to give him a lift to work. The hard drives, normally in the hotel safe, were with him because he directly transferred data to someone who couldn't open the emailed version Marc had sent. And because the first colleague needed a ride again after work, Marc was rushing to make the 5:15 train. The thought of trying to leave his backpack behind had crossed his mind, but with an upcoming meeting in Ireland, he figured he might get some prep work done for that, during the train ride.

All things we should have done differently, but didn't. I was carrying a new purse that we had bought on the weekend, an early birthday gift for me. The zipper was all wonky, wouldn't close properly. So upon arrival in Paris, I gave Marc our passports. Thankfully, those, along with his wallet and cell phone, were in his pants pockets. Not so, my camera.

It was loose in my purse, and somewhat awkward, so when we were sitting down for dinner, I asked Marc to put it in his backpack. He obliged. So that too, was gone.

But having had a computer crash on me, and loosing a mere 3 weeks of photos several years ago, I now religiously back up photos before deleting them from memory cards, and I carry 6 CF cards for my camera, so that I can change them out every day or two. So I really lost nothing but the camera itself. I told Marc it would have been SO much better to lose my computer. Photos backed up on CD's and CF cards, both of which were in the hotel room safe. And not much else of importance. Yeah, it would have been an inconvenience, but I've backed up my computer before, so the recipes, files, contacts, are somewhere safe at home. Perhaps not completely up to date, but also not completely loss. With that hard drive gone, Marc lost templates, files, years and years of work. And between that and the computer, the three months of work that he'd done in Reims was lost. Not completely. But probably close to half.

The police in Paris were little help, advising us we'd have to wait for at least an hour to file a report, and explaining that it was not allowed, in France, to view security camera footage. Now we realize that there's a good chance our thief was not on the train station footage, but we didn't know that then.

We still had to take the train to Charles de Gaulle airport, pick up our car, and drive the hour back to Reims.

We were so done. Defeated. Deflated. Discouraged. Wanting so desperately to JUST GO HOME. This was Tuesday night and we had busy plans for the rest of the week. Drive 5 hours to Amsterdam on Wednesday. Marc was jetting off to Ireland from there Thursday, for his meeting, while the kids and I toured. He'd return Friday morning, we'd get back to France for Friday night, celebrate my birthday in Paris Saturday and fly home Sunday.

But we wanted none of that. We just wanted home.

Marc notified employers and colleagues and the short version is that we did make the decision to return home Thursday. Ireland was out of the question as Marc had nothing for that meeting, what with his computer being gone. We certainly didn't feel like a road trip. We were anxious to get home, more than a little concerned about our financial security being breeched with this theft. While Marc didn't use this computer for most of our financial stuff, when he was on the road, he would pay bills, view our accounts, that sort of thing, from this computer. We wanted to get home, notify the bank, credit card companies, credit reporting bureaus, and of course, our insurance company. So we paid a $1000. change fee to come home three days early.

But in all bad things there are always silver linings. As the immigration officer pointed out upon our arrival in Philly, we were all there, intact, no broken bones, physically unharmed. He said he'd seen a lot worse. Many times. This fellow was actually hilarious and lightened our mood significantly.

We caught the early train home. Our wonderful neighbors were able to have our car waiting for us at the train station, and because we were home so early, I managed to pick up accumulated mail before the post office closed.

Our house was still standing, the cars all there, and most importantly, the basement was dry! We were so anxious, with the excessive rain that made August an all time record month for our area. Certain that we would come home to a musty soggy basement. Damp yes, but never full of water. Again, our neighbors had checked everytime it rained, redirected downspouts, and all remained dry. They moved our cars around to make it look like we were around, and our home was just as we left it.

We got home two days before Hurricane Irene was scheduled to hit. In time to hunker down and defend our home! To celebrate my birthday by candlelight, as the lights waivered, but the power remained, enabling our pump to keep running and our basement to stay relatively dry. Our original return flight on the 28th was cancelled due to the hurricane. The airport was closed. The trains stopped running. So we would never have made it home that Sunday. Coming home early was a good thing.

We're knee deep in insurance claims right now. I really should be doing that instead of writing this. But I'm tired today, after a somewhat sleepless rainy night. The rain makes me nervous. I'm always afraid that the power will go out and the sump pump will stop running and our basement will fill. It's happened before; its not just my wild imagination! So I figured I could more easily write with a tired brain, than try to properly document everything required by the insurance company. That's tomorrow's job.

Small victories and good things happening, reminding us that all we've lost are things. The hard drives are actually the worst, especially for Marc. But he's rebounding. School's started, Nick has his Funk and Reggae show at the School of Rock this week, Gaby's soccer season starts Saturday, and her name was chosen to be one of eleven UD kids to walk our pro soccer team, the Union, onto the field for this Saturday's game.

And we got our $1000 back from US Air. The day after we returned home, US Air announced they were waiving change fees for folks trying to reschedule their travel around the hurricane. So we sent them an email, asking if they would consider reversing the charges, given the situation. It took them over a week to get back to us, but it was worth the wait. That money will cover one of the deductibles for our two insurance claims!