29 April 2011

art house.

I'm a miserable blogger these days, but today i feel compelled to offer an update for my two or three faithful readers. it's now almost May, and time for that pitiful Christmas elf to move down the page a bit. at some point, i'm going to work on an overhaul of this blog, i think. it feels like a new start has been looming for awhile now. something about springtime maybe.

Most of the writing i've done the past few months has gone to the Art House America blog, where my friend Jenni is the editor. yesterday, i had a new piece published--my observations on living in the South. A much better reason to visit, though, are the two other new essays in this week's edition.

In Food as Gift, my longtime friend Christine wrote about the community farm-store she and her husband run in a Dallas neighborhood. Our little town of Kingston Springs recently started a Saturday morning market as well, with local growers bringing baskets of lettuce, radishes, and other fresh produce to sell. One of my favorite things about traveling to Paris was the beautiful open air markets in the Rue Cler area where we stayed. There's something about finding a bit of soil still clinging to the roots of my vegetables that I find oddly reassuring.

Alice, another dear friend, shared an essay on creativity and community that socked me in the heart. While I am someone who creates instinctively, whether through art or writing or photography, there are definitely times when I think, 'what am i really creating that means anything?' sometimes it feels like i do it more as an outlet, some sort of therapeutic, self-serving expression, than for the sake of truly pursuing beauty. So that's when I set it aside for awhile.

Alice expressed my feelings so well when she wrote:

What she said that day gave me freedom and permission to look into the eyes of a friend and see a painting in progress, to be surprised by the melodies of memories triggered at perfect moments, to tease out the poetic rhythms of any given day. I began to realize that while many of my friends make art with guitars or paintbrushes, my preferred medium is the fabric of human relationships: making lasting connections between people and seeking to illuminate the image of God that each person bears.

So often lately, I am struck by how much of a 'painting in progress' I truly am. Most of the time I just want to hurry the process along, to force myself into a completed work, free of all the messy layers underneath. And lately, out of sheer need, it feels, I am much more drawn to the relationship kind of making than I am to creating art. At least for the moment, the memory-making seems so much more vital, the forging of friendships a lot more important.

27 December 2010

the day after Christmas

i haven't been able to post this entry until the day after the day after Christmas, and that is because the day after Christmas was spent somewhat leisurely and far from my computer. we awoke to a living room covered with stacks of toys, books, and empty stockings strewn all about, then made our way to the kitchen for scrambled eggs with a side of leftover stuffing, and the biggest mug of coffee we could find.

i surveyed the wilting garland on the staircase, droopy and scattering its needles, then tried to make some sense of the chaos before me. everything seemed to be leaning. a rumpled sprig of mistletoe hung over my head. weeble wobbles swayed between my feet next to a wisecracking spiderman doll. i persuaded Eli not to eat his entire chocolate Santa in one sitting, enticing him instead with half a dismembered gingerbread man and a dinner roll with butter before he headed out to play in the snow. he was clutching his new friend, Teddy, ("a sweet little bear, but not a real one because that would scare me"---as described in his letter to Santa Claus).

jeremy spent a good chunk of the morning pulling apart the broken dishwasher, while i hunted around for appropriate-sized batteries, folded laundry, and stole quick glimpses of my fabulous new cookbook--Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights, until Eli appeared at the back door with an ear-to-ear grin and presented me with a gift...a large chunk of snow encasing a petrified assortment of leaves, grass, and more than probably, chicken poop.

(page from sophie dahl's cookbook.)

we spent the afternoon with some dear friends who are like family to us, gathered around their table for Sunday lunch. it was nice to be amidst a larger group since we'd had our Christmas dinner as a family the previous night. it had been just the four of us, our dining table, and an enormous spread to give thanks over. jeremy and I roasted our first turkey together, carefully basting and poking at it every few minutes. while we cooked we munched on the stinkiest round of melting Camembert, spooned onto crackers with a dollop of fig jam. we caramelized shallots to mix with Brussels sprouts then sprinkled them with bacon and shreds of sundried tomato. we mashed butter and cream into potatoes, tossed a salad, then poured a glass of wine for me and a winter ale for the turkey-carver. for dessert, a buche de noel complete with a tiny, sugar-sculpted mushroom dusted in cocoa.

one of the joys of being home this Christmas season has been creating our own family traditions, like chocolate-filled croissants for breakfast and the buche de noel for dessert. and yes, while most roads do tend to lead to chocolate in this house, we managed a few traditions that did not involve eating. we adorned each window of our house with a wreath, watched The Polar Express ninety-nine times, and painted glass ornaments for the tree in our entry hall. Eli and i made reindeer food from glitter and rolled oats shaken in a brown paper sack, then flung it out across the lawn. of course there's also been cookie-baking and trying out French chicken dishes in our new enameled dutch oven, a gift from Jeremy's parents. both of these required liberal quantities of butter.

as i navigated through the heap of gifts yesterday---Eli's pile of lincoln logs, Millie's ride-on ladybug, the beautiful quilt my mom and i gave to Jeremy (i chose the fabrics, she did all the cutting, sewing, and crocheting), and the breathtaking work of art that my husband commissioned for me from our friend evie coates, i was struck by all we've been given. more than just the material things, as wonderful and lovely as they are, i was reminded that we are steeped in blessing so much deeper. how amazing to have this cozy home where we can sit and watch snow through the windows while listening to the church bells on Main Street chime the tune to "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem." it's a place where we can pile up together on a cold December night to read the Christmas story to our children, knowing that it's beginning to hold real meaning for them.

(artwork by evie coates.)

i have heard a few other people say this recently, and i am finding it to be true. there is a new kind of wonder that comes at Christmastime when you have children, and it's found in two equal parts. there's the joy that comes from seeing their faces light up with excitement--a beautiful, childlike kind of faith. and there's also a rediscovery--a way that observing your children plunks you back into the magic you felt when you were a child. suddenly, i had all of these detailed memories of my own footed pajamas and listening for reindeer hooves, snuggled down with my sister in her canopy bed.

this Christmas morning, i woke up at 6:30 to hear Eli whispering excitedly to the little stuffed animals in his bedroom. i tiptoed in and told him to go look out his window. when he saw the snow covering the driveway and treetops, he literally gasped in amazement. All four of us creeping down the darkened staircase in our pajamas a few minutes later, i re-lived that glorious Christmas morning feeling of giddiness and hope along with Eli. it's a feeling i wish would stick around when the day after Christmas comes, and the day after that, and the day after that. i've decided that even if it's only once a year, i'll take it and hold onto it for as long as i can, knowing that next December is just around the corner.

08 November 2010

happy girl.

i could wait until i have time to download all of the party photos, the ones of Millie smashing into cake for the first time and smiling through a ring of purple icing. i could wait until i have time to properly describe it---how in the midst of joy, i also felt a little bit sad thinking of all the months that have gone by and how so many of them seem blurry. i could wait. but i also know that i don't get much time on my computer these days, and that isn't a complaint. it's because i am busy watching Millie grow new teeth (the top two have a huge gap between them that delights me every time she smiles). Or I'm busy searching for pajamas that are not only clean, but aren't stretched at the neck and shoulders where she's outgrowing them. I am occupied with watching Eli hop around the kitchen like a frog in front of his sister's high chair because of how she squeals with genuine laughter every time he ribbits. And then she scatters Cheerios across the floor and peeks over the edge of her tray to see where they possibly could have gone. I ask myself the same thing about the past 365 days.

so I won't wait because before I know it, six more months will have passed and she'll be walking and pulling things from shelves, and then i really won't have time to write it all down. for now, before I forget, i'll just post this photo. My friend Keely took it yesterday of Millie, the birthday girl. I love how happy she looks, just crawling across the floor in her tutu without a care in the world.

14 August 2010

tomato art fest, part 2

well, we didn't last long at the festival this morning. millie, in her butterfly sun bonnet, heated up like a little toaster oven ten minutes into the event. it was just too miserably hot to be outside, so we said hello to a couple of friends, swept through the art gallery, and hastily headed for the car.

i decided to go ahead and post the full views of my three art pieces here, now that the official "tomato art show" has happened. but just in case you missed it, the exhibit will be on display at the gallery for another month or so, i believe. i saw a lot of really unique work this year: felted pieces, some very detailed pen & ink, beautiful work by elizabeth foster whose paintings i admire, and lots of great pieces featuring animals and vegetables intermingled. so much talent in Nashville; i'm so inspired living here.

{click to enlarge}...

tomato study
{acrylic & paper on wood}

vine no. 4
{paper & string; acrylic on wood}

farm to table
{paper, ink, acrylic on wood}

13 August 2010

tomato art fest

everyone in nashville is grumbling about the weather. it's a sweltering August in our normally milder city, so i'm observing the seven foot tall sunflowers from inside, through an upstairs window with a view of the garden. their big yellow faces are bent, offering an umbrella of shade to the bountiful tomato plants, all tangled and bursting with red, yellow, and green fruit, some of them splitting open.

a few weeks ago, i plucked real-life inspiration from my husband's vegetable and herb beds by photographing the tomato plants in varying stages of ripeness. i used the images to create three pieces for this year's Tomato Art Festival.

if you are around the east part of town this Saturday (tomorrow!), take a peek inside the Art & Invention Gallery for a robust display of tomato-inspired creativity. we'll be swinging through for an hour or so in the morning and hope to see some friends and fellow tomato-lovers.

12 August 2010

Maybe tomorrow.

ne day, i feel sure, there will be a season when:

-i will no longer need coffee at two in the afternoon.

-we will invite our friends over for dinner again. more than twice a year.

-the tile around my toilet bowls will be clean.

-it won't take me three weeks to return a phone call.

-beds will be made.

-all Cheerios will disappear from crevices, cushions, backpacks, floorboards, rugs, and the inside of my shirt.

[hence, potentially, the ants will all go back outside.]

-i could maybe own a white sofa.

-we might finish a conversation sentence without uttering the words, "just a minute."

-we might finish a conversation.

-the car won't be filled with various twigs (used for killing lions, just in case i happen to see one on the way to the store).

-i will have forgotten the perfect 3:1 ratio of water to apple juice.

-the living room will contain more pieces of furniture than pieces of batman.

THIS is definitely not that season. but i also feel sure that once this crazy, so so so tiring, sometimes overwhelming season ends, i will miss a very many things about it.

28 July 2010


thirty seven began very well, over paper plates of oozy crepes with a dear friend. we broke at least four plastic forks cutting into them, while digging deeply into conversation that left me a little weepy, in a good way.

i spent the afternoon with my husband, splitting tasty sandwiches and sucking down basil lemonade through a straw. we talked uninterrupted, something we seldom get to do. he even helped me shop. and then we came home to the two sweet, sticky little imps---eager to show off helicopters made with boxes, crayons, folded paper and broken twigs, and eager to be hugged.

there was cake. and dinner out of Julia's cookbook after the kids' bedtime, something ridiculously rich with cream and port wine and tiny bits of onion that we soaked up with torn pieces of sourdough bread. we drank the french red wine we used to drink when we were dating, and decided neither of us like it very much anymore.

the day, all in all, could be described as rich. rich with indulgent food and drink. rich with meaning and conversations about real things, even sad things, but true ones. and rich with family: these three people who i love so dearly that it leaves my chest knotted most of the time.

i finished the day, listening to my husband softly snoring on the bed, an empty cake plate next to him, while i scrolled through photographs. last week, we had these family portraits taken at our house, and i couldn't believe how well this amazing photographer captured our lives. looking at them from this angle, outside in, made me fall in love with our house again. sometimes living here, all we see are the shabby places, but she somehow made the dust and chipped paint so beautiful.

looking into my children's faces, with their big, inquisitive eyes, i feel sure that this is going to be a year filled with good, messy and important moments to reflect on when i turn thirty eight.

17 June 2010

On a Good Day.

i love that my life includes:

-a firefly named Fred "sleeping" in a jar on the kitchen counter.

-gathering up handfuls of basil from the garden, little hands to help squeeze lemons and sprinkle pine nuts, and teaching my son to embrace his Italian-ness with a big plate of pesto fettuccine.

-a sweet baby girl smiling straight into my face the moment I open my eyes.

-dear friends who understand and don't judge when there's a messy house, a toddler tantrum, a scattered conversation that's interrupted by requests for more cheese and fixing broken helicopters.

-a record player softly buzzing and a pile of my dad's old albums.

-funny-looking chickens that trot around the yard like their feathers are on fire and remind me not to be so serious.

-amazing coffee.

-a million ideas of things to create.

-mail that isn't a bill.

-sips of wine on the porch swing with my husband at sunset. (the very best ending to any kind of day).

23 April 2010

this country life.

or so we call it.

i guess it's not really as 'country' as it could be. we have our own coffee shop and i can be at the nearest Target in less than twenty minutes. but this time of year, with winter now melted away, i start to remember exactly why it is that we chose to exchange our former city dwelling for this, a slightly slower pace of life.

it's mid-day on a friday and we're out on the porch. Eli, with a ketchup-smudged face and fingernails gritty from digging, is imagining his dump truck and fire engine are en route to Dickson (the next town over) to pick up some supplies. he personifies the word 'boy' and mimics jeremy whenever possible. Millie and I just sit on the swing where it's shady and observe.

i'd like to say we moved out here solely for our children so that they could grow up close to nature--playing in creeks, running barefoot through the grass, listening to the whistle of the train that rattles the plates on our dining room wall. all of those things are true; we do love the idea of being close to fishing ponds and a river to canoe. we like that there are more trees than buildings and very few police sirens. but in all honesty, we did this for ourselves as much as our kids.

i don't really bake, but the idea of making lots and lots of pies in summertime appeals to me. maybe this will be the summer, i've been thinking lately. as i've mentioned before, jeremy has always considered himself an old soul. he likes wandering around dusty bookstores, planting things, working with his hands. so this home, tattered and torn up as it may be in places, really suits us both.

also, now we have chickens. this Easter, we adopted six little peeps from a nearby farm and are building them a mansion in the corner of the yard. their names are Freida (aka Fred), Agnes, Penny, Lolly, Daisy, and Mr. Belvedere. yes, they are all hens.

so sure, there are still days when we itch for a little more noise and better restaurants. we miss our friends being down the street. sometimes we think back to our old house and our old garden and frown at the numerous (though dwindling) projects still before us. but then one of us will stop and remind the other of all the progress we've made. i'll point out some bit of trim that jeremy installed, and he'll remind me of our beautiful, cozy master bathroom that we worked on together.

here in our little patch of country, and not just in a literal sense, the grass is slowly but surely becoming greener all the time.

16 February 2010

this was today.

i confess: sometimes Eli spends more of his day with a floppy-shoed mouse and the man in the big yellow hat than is good for him. try as i might to juggle it all in perfect balance, there are just those days when, let's face it, a family really needs clean socks and the sheets changed and two week old lasagna removed from the fridge. so i have to do what i have to do to make it all go.

and then there are days, like today, that are a closer picture of what i strive for. a better balance of time. i am not sure how it happens, really. i mean, i feel like i come into each day with the same amount of hours and as much determination as the day before. yet some days feel like flops, and others i'm actually able to shower, use my toothbrush before noon, kiss the boo-boos, fold the laundry, answer countless questions beginning with "why" and still have energy at the end of the day to make a decent dinner and clean up the kitchen.

this morning began like most---feed Millie, find coffee.

and then, and i write it down here mostly just as proof to myself that these days are indeed possible, i:

made banana pancakes. got dressed, actually put some make-up on, AND deodorant, AND brushed my teeth, AND plucked a few stray eyebrows. got the little people dressed. washed a pile of baby clothes. put together an alphabet train puzzle with Eli and sang the ABC song every time we added a piece (so, um, twenty-six times). gave Millie a bath and put the yummy-smelling baby oil on her. fixed broken train tracks. made turkey melts while holding Millie. talked about life and cars and gardening and snow and chickens and schedules and vacation and kids with Jeremy over lunch. watched Millie smile while Jeremy sang to her. read a book involving a drum. figured out a way to make a drum EXACTLY like it out of a plastic container, some string, some tape, and two dulcimer hammers. taught Eli "Yankee Doodle" and "Deep in the Heart of Texas". took a quick coffee break while rocking Millie and watching a show about how see-saws work. noted parallels between life and see-saw. tried to help Eli build a see-saw EXACTLY like it out of a piece of wood, a plastic tractor, and a pair of headphones. (did not succeed). rocked Millie some more. added some ingredients to Sunday's leftover beef bourguignon to make a pretty fantastic pasta sauce. ate at the dining room table like real people. with a vase of flowers even. cleaned up. kissed Jeremy goodbye as he left for tuesday night work. made aprons into super hero capes for Eli and me. saved the planet forty-two times by running around the house and making super hero noises. baked brownies. let Eli lick the spatula and didn't freak out about salmonella. built a fort. tucked Eli into the fort and scratched his back until he fell asleep.

of course, in between, there was also lots of diapers and spit-up and crying and consoling and cheddar cheese goldfish mashed into the living room rug.

days like these are good. they may be fewer than i'd like and tomorrow i might not be wearing a clean shirt, but what's so wrong with a teeter-totter rhythm to things? true, some evenings i look back on the hours of the day and feel that i accomplished nothing. i beat myself up a lot. i think this is normal though, and it keeps me clinging to the truth that I am loved regardless, and that my children are going to be okay.

i also don't post here as much as i used to. i want to, because writing is a good outlet for me and i miss it when i stay away too long. but on days like today there's not a moment to write, and on those bad days, i'd feel much too guilty stopping to write a blog entry about how my three year old is in the other room watching television. but i think i still need this place sometimes, to stop and remember things. to take notice of them because they are small but important. like it or not, these days are flying by me (Eli just turned 3) and though I might be a super hero with clumsy legs wearing an apron on my back and brownie mix in my hair, i know i need to try my best to catch them.