Friday, December 31, 2010

Step Forty Nine: A gift...

Dear Fi,

As you can see I am very desperate determined to post this step before tomorrow ;) However, it is not so much about starting the New Year with a "clean slate" (for that, it would be more appropriate if I finished writing my paper... and if I had done it a long time ago ha, ha). I think it is more about a proper closure to 2010.

For the last post this year I decided to post pictures. No, not because I wanted to have one more step easily done ha, ha ;) As I was reflecting on this year, I realised how important photography has become in my life. Suddenly, I realised that for the last year and a half my life has become enriched by taking pictures in ways I would have never predicted.

While I was working on editing the pictures for this post I noticed how immersed I was in the creative process, how time does not matter, and how much I enjoyed experimenting. I finally admitted to myself that I like to take pictures and then to play with them; even though most of the time I have no clue what I am doing. Probably because of this "not-knowing" I feel free to experiment. I am not a photographer, I am an amateur and a learner, so I can allow more room for mistakes and less for criticism and self-judgment. This combination is so rare... it does not translate to my painting or writing...

So today my Dear Fi, I am posting digital pictures on purpose.

I was inspired by this shiny ornament I received from not so Secret Santa and wanted to capture the magic it brought to my life. So, I tried different things to do this. I took many pictures, I adjusted the object or my perspective, I waited for the light. But mostly, I was in a different world.

When I say that I become immersed in the process, I mean that I forget about everything else. I become very focused and I work quickly. I feel the excitement and some kind of "rush" or "high" ;) After downloading the pictures more fun begins. I can sit for hours with enormous patience and experiment. While playing with the pictures I disappear again. Time does not exist anymore. Doing this kind of work allows me to be playful and it is fun. I have been programmed to work hard, so taking pleasure in doing things that come easily to me seems like there is no value; like it is not "real" work. However, it is a joyful and exciting process for me... an undervalued gift...

As I said, I am not a photographer. In fact I have never owned any camera or took much pictures before our Unravelling class in summer 2009 (except for taking dull pictures of my cute children with my husband's camera). But I always wanted to have my own camera. For many years getting camera and learning how to operate it was my dream. I have my camera now and even though I still do not know how to use it at least I can experiment ;)

Through different projects I discovered that taking pictures nourishes my creativity, helps me to reflect on and to document my life. It is an instrument for my inner growth. Besides, Dear Fi, if not for photography we  probably would have never "met".

I am grateful for this and I want to honour this today.

Love :*

My Dear, I wish you a wonderful Year 2011!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Step Forty Eight: Homemade Christmas Cookies {Story in pictures}

Dear Fi,

I won't write many words for this post. First of all I managed to make the cookies (with some help, as you will see!). Second, I took 169 photos of the entire process of creating, baking, decorating and displaying... Then I managed to choose!!! some of the photos, edit and resize them for the need of this post. So, I think it is justifiable to tell the story of making our first Christmas cookies in pictures ;)

What I can tell you though is:

1. We all had a great time through the entire process!!!
2. My children mastered the icing application {I was totally surprised how poor my skills were in comparison to theirs}.
3. The cookies turned out to be very tasty {even the ones with rainbow colours and variety of decorative sprinkles - I can attest because I ate them all a few of them}.
3. The recipe for the cookies came from Poland and my lovely aunt Teresa dictated the recipe to me via Skype.
4. I won't share it only because I don't feel like spending another half an hour translating the recipe {he, he}.
5. I would send you a few cookies, but you understand Dear Fi, that they would probably not survive the journey across the ocean. Anyway they did not last long here either. Extinction of the last one was captured here ;)


Ta-dam! The last picture!

Step Forty Seven: Flamenco Dancer

Dear Fi,

It is hard to believe that December is almost over! Soon our 52 steps project will be over too... Three posts for December (for me) and three more weeks in January - that is all that is left... If there is one thing I've learned during our journey it is the fact that it is not hard to create every week, what is hard, and what takes more time than the actual creation is writing, preparing photos, and publishing.

The pictures for my posts were imprisoned in my camera since my Mac died on me again (sic!!!) at the beginning of December and nobody had the time to take it somewhere to fix it. I uploaded all pictures to my cute but small tiny microscopic netbook which is not designed to work with pictures and it also doesn't have any programs for editing them. I spent a few hours trying to choose and edit the pictures for the step 47 and 48 {believe me painting and making Christmas cookies took me less time... ha, ha}.

In both cases when I finally finished my projects it was late and the last thing I wanted to do was to edit pictures and write about my work he, he. Unfortunately, most of the pictures I took were dark and I knew that it would take me forever additional time to fix it, unless I just give up on them and post them straight from my camera. But the pictures were huge, so I needed to resize them anyway...  and with the end of semester (my practicum evaluation and papers writing) and with Christmas approaching... I just left everything as it was Dear Fi and I didn't post at all.

So, finally here I am posting my December posts.

The pictures below show the process of creating this painting. The title comes from my husband {at a certain point this is what he saw in this painting and as he confirmed - he can still see the dancer in movement}. I wanted to play with the idea of covering colours with white, as I did in my other step. The reds and purples were "calling" me for a quite a bit lately, so I decided to use the strong colours as a background. I really enjoyed using a painting board for this project.

After finishing the background I chose various papers and covered them in gold, red and purple, I wanted to glue some paper scraps to my painting. 
After tearing a few scraps and gluing them to the painting I started to cover the background in white. I also used some wooden tools to carve on the top of the white layer, so the background colours would show up. While painting I decided to add more scraps. 
After covering the background in white I started to play with some pastels and paints to add some details. 
Then I blended more colours to the top white layer. 
{This is when my husband saw the painting and said that he sees a woman dancing and that apparently she is a Flamenco dancer ha, ha. Apparently, the gold scraps represent her hands in motion}.
At this point I didn't like the end effect (not because all I could see was the Flamenco dancer now!). I didn't like the gold scraps. They were too big. This is why trying to lessen their presence I added more stuff. 

Too bad the pictures were taken late, because even with all that editing, the colours don't show properly. I'm not very happy with the end result. However, I was very happy with the process. I really enjoyed playing with all these various mediums and I really had fun while working on this piece.

I do not have a title for this piece, so this is why I used my husband's idea ha, ha. However, what I see in this painting is movement and aliveness, so somehow it might represent "A Dance of Life" ;)

Love :*

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Step Forty Six: Tree

Dear Fi,

My plan for today was to post all of my December posts. Yes, that was the plan. However, there were also other things I wanted to do today too ;) It is late, we just came back from our anniversary dinner and are supposed to watch a movie together. So, all I can do is to try to post as much as I can. I have four posts ready to upload and publish, if I can just post this one today it will be great.

The picture above is one of my old drawings I found a few weeks ago and decided to bring back to life. I wanted to draw it with black ink or marker and then add some colours here and there. As you can see (below) it didn't go according to my plan ha, ha, ha. I just drew the tree and then ran out of time and decided to leave it as it was.

I hope that you had a great time and survived the Christmas craziness with a smile, this is what I was trying to do for the last couple of weeks. I didn't want to take a break from our steps, but I had no time for posting, and I still have one more paper to finish... However, I want badly to update my steps before the new year, so see you soon!!! 

Love :*

Step Forty Eight: Unwinding after a hectic Christmas! :-)

Dearest Sylwi

Again, I've missed a week! I crept onto our blog today to make my apologies and post... and then had to laugh when I realised you were late again too! Phew! Well, tis the season to be rushed off your feet, so what were we thinking when we said no to a little blog holiday?!

Anyway, I'm actually glad today that we said 'no!' as it forced me to do something creative when I would otherwise have been in bed sound asleep! ;-) I feel much better for having squeezed this Step in!

Last week, as you know, I was going to make Christmas cookies. When I finally did find the time though, it was too late! I'd already made a half commitment to myself to eat better and baking sugary sweets doesn't figure in that resolution. When I say 'half commitment', I'm sort of at the planning stages right now (I'm still eating an awful lot of rubbish!) but when it came to cookies my guilty conscience got the better of me. So, no cookies for last week's Step. I'll have to think of something else instead. Maybe I can find a raw cookie/cake recipe and try that instead. So, last week's Step is still outstanding... I shall post it this week (I hope!) ;-)

This week, I was looking for something quick and colourful and I found exactly that on the lovely "HonestlyWTF" blog. They've created a very cool tutorial for making friendship bracelet necklaces and I was instantly smitten by the gorgeous styling and photography of their post.

They recommend using two colours and making multiple strands. With no time to spare, I decided to do four colours on one strand! hee! ;-) So, I found a scrap of rope that began life as a handle on a bag and began winding four different colours of embroidery thread around it.

The results are gorgeous and I only wish I had longer to make others, or to turn this into something... but it's the holidays and I don't. But Yee Har! I posted something... finally! :-)))

Lots and lots and lots and lots of love to you. Hope you're having a superb Christmas! Speak sooooon!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Step Forty Seven: Origami Christmas Tree

Dearest Sylwi

This week, I began with one idea and ended up with a completely different version of it!

For a while now, I've been fascinated by Fair Isle knitting patterns. I wanted to paint my snowflake the other week with this pattern. In fact, I wanted to paint several snowflakes with different patterns and hang them in a garland, but papier-mâché didn't turn out to be my strongest skill (ha!) and time ran out!

So, this week, I thought I'd do a simple origami Christmas tree, but use paper that I'd painted with various Fair Isle patterns to fold the tree with. Again, time ran out! Grrr! So, with no time to paint, instead, I decided to keep it simple and just make a quick origami card.

First, I folded the tree, following this origami Christmas tree tutorial that I found on "Ish" blog. It's a wonder that I got around to anything else today, once I started scrolling through Carole's beautiful blog. It's fairly addictive, browsing through all of her inspiration and ideas!

For the tree topper, I then followed this great star tutorial on the 'Extreme Cards and Papercrafting' website (where I got very distracted by a whole host of other brilliant tutorials that I'd also like to try!)

As the pentagon for the star needs to be cut out perfectly, in order to not mess up the paper folding later, I found one on Google here and traced it, just to be certain that my edges were all straight.

A bit of glue and some sparkly hearts later and ta-dahhh!

Nothing like the pretty picture I had in my head when I began, but at least I created something. And I'm FINALLY back up to date with my posts. Yahoo! :-)

I know you're busy this week, but hope you're still managing to have some fun in the run up to Christmas.
Lots and lots and lots of love to you.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Step Forty Six: Some good news! :-)

Dearest Sylwi

I'm not only behind with my Steps, but also with this 'congratulations!' card that I should have sent off a few weeks ago!

A very special friend of mine announced that he and his wife are expecting a baby next year! Awww! So, here's the card I made for them this afternoon out of brown paper, red embroidery thread, white paint and a pencil!

The Mum-To-Be is Polish, so I was wondering if you could give me some help writing it?! Or, at least, what is the word for "congratulations!" in Polish? :-)

{ Almost caught up with my Steps. One more to do this week. I won't be posting it today though. I haven't even decided what I'm doing for it yet! ha ha! But I will post it sooooooooooon! ;-) }

Lots and lots of love

Step Forty Five: A slight obsession with snowflakes!

Dearest Sylwi

Good Grief! What a few weeks?! I have no clue where time went, but it WENT! And fast. Hopefully, I can catch up with my missed posts today... that's the plan anyway!

I've missed being here. I'm so glad you were here instead, though. I dropped in to read your posts and they cheered me up no end!

I did actually make this week's Step during the correct week, but it went so horribly wrong (ha ha! I think I say that every week!) that I didn't want to upload it. I wanted to take some time to better it and ... well, then... the week's flew past and I completely missed last week's post, so I realised, that I have to upload it ... in all of its imperfect glory! ;-)

So, here it is! Snowflakes again! I'm obsessed with them.

Somewhere on the web {which of course, I can't find now I want to give credit! I'll keep looking and add in the link, when I find it!} somebody blogged about a project they did where they cut 2 identical letters out of cardboard, stuffed in between them with paper and then covered them with papier-mâché! The result was large, solid letters that could be painted.

I thought I'd get adventurous and try the same technique with snowflakes. I had a zillion ideas buzzing around my head about how to do them and how I could paint them and even lots of different ideas for how I would use them... garlands for the Christmas tree or fireplace, window decorations, gift tags, hanging mobiles and so on! :-)

It all started out quite well. I cut out a typical snowflake shape from cardboard twice...

... and glued on little rolled up pieces of tissue paper for the stuffing.

I then glued on the second piece of cardboard and was ready to begin with the papier-mâché.

... which is (a) where it all began to go wrong and (b) where I forgot (in my panic) to take any pictures of the unfolding disaster! heeeee! ;-)

I quickly realised my snowflake was far too small for wrapping wet, gluey newspaper around! It would have been much easier to wrap a larger snowflake. It was very fiddly and quickly became a bit too wet and mushy!

I'm sure if I had more patience, or skill (this is my first time with the papier-mâché technique) that I could have made this work, but I was really beginning to get quite annoyed! Not least, because it was all taking so long. I'd forgotten that each layer needs to dry before you can apply the next.

I didn't get around to painting or collaging it - apart from a quick, messy coat of white. And so, this is where my snowflake adventure ended. A hugely time-consuming project for... well... a bit of a disappointing result. However, I did learn infinite amounts about papier-mâché and its (or should I say, "my") limitations...

... and despite the mess, I did actually really enjoy the project, for the most part! Although, I think I'll stick to buying my Christmas decorations in future! ha ha! :-)

Lots of love

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Step Forty Five: Crochet challenge

Dear Fi,
Crochet was on my 2010 list, and on my 52 steps list, and popped up from time to time in my thoughts during the year. To be honest, I didn’t think I would give it a try. I like to learn new things but it is more manageable when the circumstances are favorable ha, ha. I mean: time and peace of mind instead of hectic schedule, evaluations and the end of the semester. Also, I suspect that it is much easier to work with decent supplies... so this is why I won’t mention the brand of the kit I purchased for my first ever crochet endeavor. Of course I didn’t expect great quality while buying a kit for an 8 year old girl. However, I honestly expected some clear and simple instructions. 

It took me forever to start the first chain, and believe me it was not with the help of an illustration or any instructions. It was because of the five minutes of trying and trying very hard ha, ha. So, after the first five minutes I knew that instead of presenting you one of those cute, beautiful and colourful squares (I see and admire here and there in the blogosphere) I would need to try my best to proceed with the simplest chain square.
Things went wrong ha, ha. 

I would love to blame that plastic crochet hook and the cheap sample of yarn included in this set, however we both know that it would be silly he, he.

So I watched how the supposed square becomes shapeless the more I try to “fix” it... When the square starts to remind of a small circle I invited Danbo and promised to make a cute winter hat for him. 

What did I think??? 

That I would have time to crochet throughout the night to keep my careless promise? 

Poor Danbo he was so excited!

To save face I tried to outsmart myself. Can you guess how?

Can you guess now? Ha, ha!

So, instead of a cool and cute winter hat for Danbo I ended up with a formless purplish red old-fashioned bag Barbie wouldn’t ever wear...   
As you can see below my lovely Danbo was quite disappointed with the outcome too...  Despite of his dissatisfaction he agreed to pose with the bag.
I took many pictures of him with the hope of capturing a better grin on his face... 

with no success...
Ha, ha :)
Love :*

Despite of this unsuccessful “first attempt” with crochet I can tell you that even with that poor effect I really enjoyed it. So, learning crochet will definitely end up on my 2011 list. Preferably thought by somebody, hopefully by somebody with tones of patience ;) 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Step Forty Four: A postcard from the sweat lodge

Dear Fi,
You might remember (or not ha, ha) that I’m currently enrolled in First Nation Healing Practices class at the U of C (I need to pinch myself from time to time because this is my last class towards my degree and sometimes I cannot believe that I’m almost done!). Because of this class on November 21st I had the opportunity to participate in a traditional Blackfoot sweat lodge ceremony. 

In short: it was a HOT and AMAZING experience. 

I agree with Ed McGaa who wrote that “[w]hile the sweat lodge itself is simple to describe, it is beyond any mortal writer’s ability to adequately convey the ultimate culmination of spiritual, mystical, and psychic expression of the Sweat Lodge Ceremony. Everyone that I have seen experience [it] agrees wholeheartedly: the Sweat Lodge Ceremony is impossible to describe fully. You have to experience it to truly realize its fullness and depth”.
Dear Fi, it would be really hard to try to describe what happened to me as I was sweating through approximately three hours (with breaks of course!) and yet I would like to share this experience with you somehow... 
So I hope that the paintings below will help.
The first painting illustrates my perception before the sweat lodge. I didn’t actually paint it before the “sweat” but as I had been working on this post I realised that the process of transformation of this painting would be a perfect illustration of a change that happened “in me”. 
The second piece is a “new view”, an alignment in perceiving myself, my life, and the whole world after the ceremony... and as you can see, Dear Fi, the adjustment is quite huge ha, ha ;) 
It truly is...
Love :*