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Archive for the ‘The Joy of Creating’ Category

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Long ago there was a pop song with a first line of:  “When you come to the end of a perfect day . . . .”  As I recall, the song was rather goopy, or at least that’s the way it was sung.  A little over the top in corny sentimentality.

But there is such a thing as a perfect day.  I know, because I have a lot of them.  Yesterday was one, with the visiting Daane great-grandchildren: Olivia age 9, Brynn age 7, and Lucas age 5.

Since a picture sometimes is indeed worth a thousand words, here are some pictures along with words to fill in the gaps:  :)

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↑Making beautiful silk scarf gifts with Sharpies® Markers.  All three Daanes were involved, but Olivia was the most stalwart at this phase of the day.  She stuck to the project the whole time.  The scarves are normally laid on freezer paper, shiny side up, with Styrofoam underneath the paper. But I’d forgotten the freezer paper at this point.  (The markers give off fumes.  Hence the face masks.)

After lots of marking, the scarves are bunched up and stick-pinned to the freezer paper (which I finally did add before the spray job).  They are sprayed liberally with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) from a spray bottle.

The alcohol causes the ink to bleed—a gorgeous sight to behold.  When the scarves are dry (this doesn’t take more than one to two hours or so, depending on the prevailing humidity) they are ironed with a HOT steam iron.  Voilà!  Lovely gifts, pictured below!  ↓

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Other activities: ⇓

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Then some music.  ⇓

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And LUNCH!  ⇓ Grandpa made wonderful peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Grandpa likes natural photos.  So he insisted on pictures with food in mouths.  How natural you can get?

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Finally, Grandpa relaxed with his Cable Sports Channel.  ↓

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A PERFECT DAY!

NOTE:  Online sources for the scarf project:  plain white silk scarves—all sizes up to dancing veils (WOULDN’T THAT BE FUN!)–Dharma Trading Company; large pieces of Styrofoam—Michael’s (There may be other good sources, or you may have some in your garage); Sharpies Markers—big packs at Michael’s and JoAnn Fabrics. 

Make sure you get Sharpies Permanent Markers—size “Fine” which are not all that fine but they work “fine”.  Do not get the oil based markers.  Those are more for hard surfaces.  There are also “Brush Tip” Permanent Sharpies.  Those are great!

All of the above is available onlineGone are the days of tedious shopping excursions with limited results and poor selections.  The world is at our fingertips, with no driving and no battling the crowds.

But the alcohol and freezer paper are DUH—at your supermarket or Walmart.  The masks are DUH AGAIN—at Walmart or in any drug supply store.  You can get the markers at Walmart also, but the selection can be “iffy” there.  Online is better.  You probably have some stick-pins around your home.

Now all you need is a gift list.  Most everyone has that, about this time of the year!  :)

Margaret L. Been, November 2014

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lovers at a ball

Here we are (or I should say “were“)—Joe and I, obviously smitten with each other—at one of my High School formal dances in 1950.  Back then ordinary dresses were called “frocks”, and formals were called “gowns”.  Our life was romantic in the mid 20th Century, and our romance will always flourish.  After 61 plus years of marriage and countless joys and challenges, we are still smitten with each other.  And although currently my closet is void of actual formal gowns, it abounds in frocks which I love to wear.

Dressing with a flair for romance does not have to mean spending a lot of bucks (although it can).  Nor does it even begin to include the “Hollywood Glammy” look, worn by today’s female “stars” with their body parts falling out of the garments.  (In the 1940s and 50s, Hollywood gowns were truly glamorous.  Whatever happened to good taste?)

To me, romantic dressing is simply a matter of what (the colors, styles, and accessories I enjoy) as well as how (with the confidence that I am doing the best I can with what God has given me).  My mother’s classic advice will always ring in my ears:  “Fix yourself up every day (regarding personal hygiene, arrangement of hair, facial cosmetics, a lovely perfume or cologne, and the wearing of apparel) as best as you can.  Then just forget about yourself and have a good time!”  Wise Mom!

Of course there have been times over the years of child raising, when the recipe for looking my best hit the fan.  There were times of mucking out a sheep shed where I was less than cosmetically interesting.  But hey Mom, I was still having a good time!

Which brings me to an important aspect of romantic living:  the zest for living.  For me, God’s Grace through faith in the Lord Jesus has augmented that joie de vivre which has been a common thread running through my family of origin and my parents’ and grandparents’ families as well.  Somewhere back in the Scottish Highlands and the Swiss Alps there must have been some Campbells and Longeneckers who were having a good time.  Maybe they were partially “high on life” because of their hilly or mountainous locales, but here I am—not tremendously higher than sea level, and still “having a good time”.

A zest for living the romantic life translates to daily happiness for me.  Barring horrific circumstances (and the world is full of those!) happiness is a choice.  My  desire to live each day romantically, with a mind to providing a setting which nourishes my soul and that of others around me, is indeed a choice.  But I cannot recall ever wanting to choose differently.

Creating beautiful and useful objects is a huge factor in my romantic lifestyle.  I often wake up feeling less than physically fabulous.  HOWEVER  knowing that I have a garment in process on the knitting needles or a watercolor drying on the work table—or soap curing in the kitchen—serves better than cannon shot to get me out of bed, and almost as effectively as caffeine to sort me out—gimpy body notwithstanding.

Romance can be audible:  from outdoor sounds—wind, rain, birds, insects, coyotes, etc. to the music of man’s God-given creativity.  On a rainy afternoon I love to immerse my head and heart in arias and overtures from Verdi’s passionate operas.  I frequently play romantic old tunes—“As Time Goes By”, “Deep Purple”, etc.—on my piano as well as favorite classics and the haunting ballads from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and other 20th Century musicals.

Joe and I recently attended a fine production of LES MISERABLES at a local dinner theatre.  Fantine’s solo, “I Dreamed a Dream” is among the most poignant vocal narratives I’ve ever experienced—a recital of a clandestine, heartbreaking love affair.  The incredibly tender melody keeps rolling in my head.  I play a simplified piano arrangement of it, while adding interpretive arpeggios and random chords.  Most unforgettable music—whether jubilant, poignant, or just plain sad—will always contain something of the romance factor:  expressing my love for God, for my country or a person—or some statement of the human condition, replete with a life-affirming quality of beauty.

Thus I celebrate romance.  The word “romance” has meant many things to me over many years:  the love which my husband and I have shared since 1950, a love for beauty to inspire the eyes and ears while stirring the soul—and an appreciation for the many aspects of life which add roundness, firmness, tenderness, strength of mind, zest for living, and depth of awareness.

These aspects of romance and thereby human LIFE, are enhanced and perfected by the knowledge that all good gifts—material and sensory as well as spiritual and eternal—come from the one and only Triune God.  Praise Him!

Margaret L. Been, November 2014

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winter spinning wheel yes

Lest yesterday’s poignant piece leads you to believe that we harbor sadness around here, please think again.  I experience the poignancy of change, but always with gladness and appreciation of the moment and season at hand.  Each has its beauty and meaning.  Each is accessible when we have layers of wool, and I do.  Each has its unique message, new every year.  And due to God’s faithfulness, each season will return.  So I will take you on a photo tour throughout our home, which we dearly love indoors and out.  Indoors is especially cozy and inviting.

Above you will see one of my two highly efficient fine spinning wheels on which I produce beautiful yarn for knitting.  For 18 years I raised my own spinners’ flock of quality wool sheep:  Border Leicester, Cotswold, Romney, Targhee, Corriedale, and Shetland—plus Angora goats for mohair.  I still have some of my Shetlands’ gorgeous brown wool.  But being a color freak, now I purchase dyed fleece and roving from suppliers of which their are loads—readily accessible online.  The green wool in the baskets pictured here is Merino—the world’s softest fiber with the exception of silk which I also order and spin.

In this spinning wheel scene you can see some of our eastern exposure winter garden.  Here the fussy, shade lovers reside.  When we moved to Nashotah in 2009, it didn’t take long for us to realize that our violets did not enjoy our new home as much we did.  Here we have natural gas heat, and alas there is a heat duct blowing down over both of our winter gardens.

The succulents featured in the next photo do not mind hot dry air a bit.  But African violets are really jungle plants.  They thrive on the moist ground in the humid section filled with tropical trees and lush undergrowth in Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Horticultural Domes.  Now, after 5 years of prematurely loosing violets, I have installed them in Wardian cases (one of which is visible behind the wheel)—attractive little greenhouses patterned after an invention by a 19th century English doctor (Dr. Ward) who built the house-like glassed in shelters to protect his plants in his London home.

 

winter garden again yes

Above is a glimpse of our southern facing indoor garden replete with succulents.  These plants, along with my Louis L’Amour novels provide a western fix for the Colorado and New Mexico aspect of my life.

Winter shawls yes

Back to the fiber thread (pardon the pun), here are some recent renderings from my yarn baskets and knitting needles.  (Unlike many folks, I knit all through the summer, even outside on the warmest days.  That is called “being a knit wit”.)

On the left is a shrug in process, knitted with my handspun yarn.  Next is a finished fringed shawl, also in handspun.  The almost center garment is a cape.  I make loads of these, because they are so much fun!  As well as adding buttons for decoration, I include buttons and button holes so that the garment will stay on the shoulders with comfort.  On the right is a HUGE poncho, probably good down to 20 degrees above zero over a big wool sweater.  The cape and poncho are made from commercial woolen yarns with a few funky synthetics thrown in for fun.

winter soap yes

And saponifying—that is, soap making—another year round delight.  These bars, made just yesterday, look good enough to eat. But I wouldn’t advise that!

winter painting yes

And art making, also enjoyed year around but really beefed up on winter nights!

winter tea yes

And winter tea parties.  Of course I continue my beloved iced tea all year (I didn’t think I had any Southern blood in me, but that’s what friends below the Mason Dixon line do).  However, when company comes, it’s hot tea and a chance to show off my English tea pots.  Guests may pick their pot, and cup and saucer of which there are MANY.

Winter Patio

Finally, here is a shot from last year.  It’s coming!  I’m thankful for all of the above, especially for my family and corgi, and of course for books bending multi shelves and stacked like leaning towers all over the home!

When the sun shines again (and it will) I’ll try to get some shots of glorious color.  That’s coming too—hopefully before the above pristine stuff!

©Margaret L. Been, October 2014

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Leonardo Aguilar II:  I know I posted this hombre before, but I couldn’t resist posting more.  Little Leo will be effortlessly bi-lingual.  His Dad reads to him in Spanish, and his Mom (our granddaughter, Jamie) in English.  Maybe I can pick up a word or two of Spanish from our youngest great-grandson!

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More Little Leo, in Great-Grammy’s Shawl:  I made this garment for a Teddy Bear, and then thought “Hey.  It would look even better on Leonardo II!”  He’s smiling as if he likes his colorful snuggy.

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A Backyard Retreat:  My friend Karen is a Master-Gardener, and she has the greenest thumbs (and fingers) of anyone I’ve ever known.  Here are some photos she took of her beautiful sanctuary in Waukesha.  Karen laid yards of winding brick pathway for an enchanting, rustic touch.  Along with the gorgeous gardens to grace her neighborhood, Karen has a Little Library where anyone passing by can exchange books.  How great is that!

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A Memorable Outing:  My friend Liz (pictured below) treated me to a day of antiquing, etc. just across our border—in Richmond, Illinois and the surrounding area.  The day was just right:  perfect weather, delightful browsing, good food, fun acquisitions, and best of all great company!

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A Time to Be Silly:  Our daughter Debbie took some of her grandchildren (our great-grandchildren—DUH!) on a surprise train ride and a vacation at a Wisconsin Dells water-park resort.  The Amtrak speeds by our road every day at approximately 4:20 p. m.  So on the day Deb was taking the children to the Dells Joe and I walked a few yards from our door, and waited at our road beside the Fire Station, so we could wave at the children as the train roared by.

Frequently I cannot resist being utterly silly where my children (of all ages!) are involved, so I had to do what I call a “Do Do Dee Dee Dance” with my derriere aimed at the passing train windows while Joe looked on very sedately from his 4-wheeler.  (Joe doesn’t do Do Do Dee Dee Dances.)  Meanwhile Debbie caught a blurry, impressionistic shot of the vaudeville act.

do do dee dee dance

And Our Private Heaven:  That long cold winter has morphed into luscious spring.  A month ago it looked like nothing was going to happen.  But now . . . !  The treasures in our patio garden are better than ever (I say that every year), and our patio is the perfect outdoor living room—with sun in the morning and shade for hot afternoons.

G 14 3    Garden June 1 - 2    Garden June 1 - 3    G 14 1

And SKY:  Those of you who have checked this site on occasion over the last five years know that I have a thing about sky.  As a child, I spent countless afternoons lying on the grass, watching clouds while searching for dragons, genies, and horses in the sky.

Now I recline on the berm outside our condo courtyard and watch clouds, with Baby Dylan (corgi) at my side.  That is our warmish day agenda.  On steaming summer days I flop on the patio lounge for afternoons of reading and cloud gazing, with ice tea ever handy.

Never has cloud gazing been more rewarding than it is here in the Lake Country, with the open expanse of park beyond our door.  We are surrounded by lakes, so there are nearly always clouds—ever changing, ever exciting to view.  I have years of cloud photos, enough to create a picture book.  (That’s a great idea, for next winter!)

Meanwhile, here are some recent gems, starting with a sunrise:

Sunrise 1  Sunday morning sky 2

Sunday morning sky  Sunday morning sky 3  Sunday morning sky 4

Yes, I’ll always have my head in the clouds.

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In closing, here is a confession of something that I never thought would happen.  (Daughter Laura, are you ready for this?)  My man is planning to get me a TABLET.  Yes, family, I’m finally taking the plunge.  Ever since tablets surfaced, I’ve said “No, I don’t want one”—and I meant it, at least I think I did.  But recently something snapped.  Now I look forward to having my very own tablet.

People with tablets appear to have thousands of pictures.  (Hyperbole intended, but perhaps it’s not hyperbole.)  Is this writer turning into an ex-writer, perhaps a “recovering” writer?  Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words.  :)  Well, we’ll see about that.

Margaret L. Been, June 2014

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Valentine bears etc.

1)  Bears:  In recent years I’ve received a Valentine Bear most every Valentine’s Day.  This year I decided to move the Valentine Bears from our bedroom settee to a living room sofa, to celebrate their day.  Well, you should have heard the hullaballoo coming from the Other Occasion Bears who were left in the bedroom.  “Unfair!  Discriminatory!  We are Entitled!”

So I promptly moved the Others to the sofa to join their Valentine friends, thinking they could all spend the day there and I’d move them back to the bedroom at bedtime.  Then Joe and I went out for a Valentine dinner.  When we returned home, we were greeted with a petition.  It seems the bears had a secret meeting while we were gone.  They unanimously decided to Occupy Sofa through next Thursday when a young man named Lucas is coming for wiener roll-ups, pop, and an afternoon of art.  Wisely, the bear contingent choose Senior Paddington Bear to present the request to me, as they know I love British accents.  And of course I caved in.  After all, that sofa is an extra.  We have plenty of additional places for people to sit.  And Lucas will definitely enjoy the bears.

Now, Dear Readers I know exactly what you are thinking:  “This woman is eighty years old, and the February Blaaaas have pushed her over the edge.”  Sorry, but I have news for you.  I’ve always been this way.

Shawls Galore

2)  A GOOD YARN:  My fellow Knitwits will love this one.  The stats always soar when I post a yarn and needles bit.  Above you will find a just off the needles shawl.  Who says old dogs (or people) can’t learn new tricks?  Up until a year ago I had Circular Needle Phobia.  But I have overcome, and now I can’t quit making shawls.  This one will go to our local Vince Lombardi Cancer Center, as my family members and friends are by now completely shawled, scarfed, and hatted out.  Note the colors.  They give you a clue as to what is frequently on my mind as I gaze out on our garden buried in snow.

Southwest

3)  FRESH DECOR:  It’s fun to greet a new season with a few changes.  For years we went to Colorado and New Mexico—often at this time of the year.  We love our old comfy couch (not the bears’ sofa, but the one Joe and I normally hang out on).  New fabric on the couch brings the Southwest right into our living room.

Taking a step

4)  THE BEST BLAAA CHASER OF ALL—A CHILD:  This is our littlest sweetheart.  A week ago last Thursday, Tuks came for an entire day.  She is eight months old, and has begun stepping between close furniture rather than dropping to her knees.  We had so much fun with Tuks.  She took good naps for us, and maintained her sunny personality throughout the eight hours.  She loves to eat, loves people, loves dogs, loves life!  Who can ever have the blaaaas with someone like that around?!!!

And here’s a parting thought to cheer you on:  In three weeks, DAYLIGHT SAVING!  :)

Margaret L. Been, February 2014

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My piano bar

It’s amazing how a “one-liner” can stick with you forever!  Years ago a violin teacher, Amy, shared an unforgettable one-liner which summarizes most everything I have endeavored to do for much of my life.  At a violin lesson years ago I was sawing through a seemingly boring and nondescript exercise in my Kreutzer, when Amy interjected a teacherly command:  “Play it like a love song!”

This concept revolutionized my practice sessions.  Heretofore, violin (and piano) teachers had stressed metronome-driven precision.  Now Amy was setting me free to transform even the most mechanistic of studies into a vehicle for interpretive expression.  The Kreutzer exercises came alive.  Suddenly they were beautiful—as I learned to play them with my soul as well as with my fingers.

I grew up in the era of heart-rending love songs and idealistically elegant films.  The Hit Parade featured pop classic crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como—and the cinema portrayed love affairs framed in romantic settings.  Though some negative-minded folks might bad-mouth my early conditioning as being “unreal”, I praise God for it.  Beauty and elegance via entertainment, along with the beauty and natural elegance which my mother modeled every single day in our home, taught me something vital about living—and endowed me with a working philosophy, as succinctly summarized in Amy’s words:  “Play it like a love song.”

No, beauty and romantic elegance are not “unreal” when we attempt to bring these qualities to the most mundane of tasks, thereby inspiring and uplifting the moment—when our concept of outer beauty mirrors a quality of the inner soul.  We are free to choose, free to create with whatever we have at hand, free to play life like a love song—therefore highlighting our material reality whenever possible, with manifestations of inner beauty.

When we reflect on our loving, creative God—the Author of beauty (material as well as spiritual)—we realize that “playing it like a love song” can radically exceed some merely human philosophy on how to live.  Although beauty and/or romantic elegance need not take the form of a 1940s Hollywood production—or, for that matter, a Kreutzer exercise—the essence of gracious inner beauty can be palpable in diverse forms as well as applicable to most every circumstance and area of life depending on how ardently we love life, how we view life, and most vitally how we think!  Again, we are free to choose.

The intrinsic character of God’s beauty materialized at creation, when He spoke the beautiful Heavens and earth into existence.  Many centuries later, an Apostle whom we revere expressed God’s command for humankind through the priority of the “whatsoever things”:  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”  Philippians 4:8

Are there moments when your life exercises seem drab and routine, and your duties are characterized by metronome-driven precision?  Here’s an idea you might want to try:  Play it like a love song!

Margaret L. Been, 2014

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tall corn

↑ Taken a month or so ago, before the corn turned its beautiful tawny shade—this photo shows how bountiful Wisconsin has been in the summer of 2013!

Our littlest beauty!

↑ Our best summer bounty:  Adetokumba Bridget Josephine Adesokun, just 4 months old!

Our arbor

↑ I didn’t do any gardening after shoulder surgery, July 2nd.  But the garden “gardened” itself.  Our new arbor is a constant joy—a meeting place for sparrows, chickadees, goldfinches, and other feathered friends plus 2 chipmunks.  The hardy roses were here when we moved in 4 years ago.

The garden thrived 2013

↑ More patio garden.  The garlic chives, many perennials packed into the small space, and herbs/herbs/herbs thrived all summer (and many are still thriving) without a bit of help from a human gardener. 

Alicia and her beauties

↑ A family (among all of our children and grandchildren!) that knows how to live:  This one is Granddaughter Alicia with her husband, Dan, and their children left to right—Isaac, River, Cai, and Hannah.  Alicia home schools her young ones, and she puts  loads of creative ideas into motion.  She’s an amazing photographer—and I’m quite certain that Alicia tucked her camera into a tree (or plopped it on a stump) for an automatic “take” of this classic photo. 

And now for my fellow Knit-wits:  ↓

Another Prayer Shawl

↑ A triangular shawl—one of several which I’ve made in recent months.  The buttons are for decoration in this case.  They remind me of which is the “right side”, as the ends of the spliced yarns get tucked into the “wrong side”.  But I frequently make buttonholes for buttons which function, as well.  They keep a garment from sliding off one’s shoulders.

Rayon PC

↑ A rayon potato chip scarf—dressier than my past versions of this cutie, due to the elegant drape of the fine rayon yarn.  The button is a French import, a pewterish-looking rose—not just for decoration:  it works.

Lovely shell

↑ A very versatile shell of not-too-heavy and not-too-warm yarns.  A happy sleeveless concoction in warm weather, over just a cool cami— but it will double as a vest over a blouse in winter.

Shawl-ette Front

 ↑ A shawlette.  I love it!  It’s just the thing for a bit of extra shoulder warmth.  This is the front view.  The back is pictured below. ↓

Shawl-ette Back

This one was completed last evening, and now a similar version has hit the circular needle—in shades of coral and rose.  I’m incorporating “bubbles” by switching from a small to a large needle periodically, increasing stitches periodically for a few rows, and then decreasing—in a sequence of repeats.  Voilà, bubbles!  The border trim is crocheted.  It’s fun to include random pattern stitches, lace patterns, etc., while following the inspiration of the moment! 

Margaret L. Been, 2013

 

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