The Bird Project

Since, the beginning of the year I have been drawing a bird a day. This project is to bring awareness to birds and to have fun learning about all the bird species around us.

I have been posting them to instagram but, feel it would be fun to do blog posts for each collection I end up finishing. Or a daily blog post since I write quite a bit about each bird along the way. Let’s catch up, this will be a super long post, compiling each sparrow and what I wrote about them.

I LOVE Sparrows. There are so many and their subtle differences is a puzzle I am very into solving. These are your standard, LBBs, Little Brown Birds. At a fast glance they all look the same. You have to study and look delicately for the differing patterns. It is even the same in their songs. A Song Sparrow vs a Savannah Sparrow sound almost the same except for a small tonal change between them.

I have spent many hours, looking at my photos, books, the web, other people’s photos and listening to audio clips amongst these sources to learn these subtle tell-tale signs.

Here is first collection is Sparrows. These collections will culminate into a limited edition poster print. This one is now available in my shop.

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This Chipping Sparrow can be seen across all of the continental United States and into Canada and Mexico. It lives full time in southern areas and breeds in northern regions. Soon I should be seeing Chipping Sparrows here in California. There has been one reported at a nearby park. They will come to feeders, especially looking for black oil sunflower seeds.

The Chipping Sparrow I have drawn is in its non-breeding colors. Their breeding colors are a gray face and black bill with a distinctive rufous cap.

foxsparrow-caseygirard

 

The Fox Sparrow. My mom had been wanting me to see one of these. There was a particular birding outing we took with the goal to get me a Fox Sparrow.

Let me clarify getting a bird for a birder. When you bird you create a “Life List”, this list is species of birds you have seen across your whole life. Getting a “Life Bird” means seeing a species you have never seen before. There are around 914 species of birds in North America with over 10,000 across the world with new studies suggesting there could actually be over 18,000 due to better exploration and study. I have a life list that is 228 species long. I have a lot of birding to do!

The Fox Sparrow is one of the birds that has much variation with 4 distinct subspecies, Thick-Billed seen mostly in California, Red mostly across the east coast but crosses the continent to Alaska, Sooty seen along the west coast, and a Slate-Colored inner western states.

I have seen the Sooty subspecies. Once ever so briefly as it sang and a second time as it foraged for a morning meal. I got to watch it scatter ground debris find a worm and eat it. I love the chest patterns on Fox Sparrows, it looks like paint brush marks. That is the defining mark of these birds. No other Sparrows’ chest marks look quite like that. The reddish coloring seen across the species is similar to a Fox’s coloring hence naming this the Fox Sparrow.

I think I have seen a juvenile of this species at my feeder but, my yard doesn’t yet have enough shrubs to really draw them in. They need good cover to feel comfortable to visit your yard. Another year of growth, then maybe!

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There are 29 Sparrows in my Western Sibley they all look pretty similar on a first pass view. So, to take away some of this overwhelming feeling, you start with what could you be seeing. This dramatically brings the number of options down. The ones with cool names, Lark, Vesper, Lincoln, Fox, and even Song Sparrows will most likely not be at your feeder. You will see those on walks in nature. Also time of year matters, I have 3 kinds of sparrows at my feeders right now and that will change around April down to maybe 1.

So, you are probably working with 1-3 species of sparrow at your feeder. If you are on a nature walk I will need to make a longer post about that. For the yard Sparrows I see, I have House, White Crowned and Golden-Crowned Sparrows. They all look fairly similar, with mostly gray bodies and faces, similar checking patterns across the wings and white wing bars. The biggest give aways are their beaks and the tops of their heads. Also for House Sparrows, the males have a dark face and throat which gives him away but, the females look pretty similar to female or immature White and Golden Crowned. Golden-Crowned Sparrows have gray or bicolored beaks with also yellow. The breeding adults give you an easy spot with a thick black eyebrow then gold and white feathers for their crown. The immatures are tougher, they have a gray brown face all the way up except for a yellow fore-crown that could be hard to spot unless they are looking right at you. I find I can tell if it’s a Golden-Crowned Sparrow by how wise it looks. To me these birds have a sophisticated air, their face seems to be a bit bigger and their eye more wise looking. Also they are overall just a bit darker.

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Harris’s Sparrow, this is the first rare bird I went out to find on my own. I think my need to go out and see this bird without having my Mom around to take me was the sign, I had become a birder. My son came with me and as luck would have it we ran into the Sequoia Audubon Society President and she helped to point out where this bird was hiding. It was also wonderful to meet such a friendly person and feel welcome to join other local birders. I have now joined them for two birding walks and am looking forward to making any other walk that I can. I am up extra early today for the walk in Pacifica, all part of the Great Backyard Bird Count for this weekend.

This Harris’s Sparrow is in its first winter. If it was a full adult it would have a black feathers fully around its face, over its crown, and down its throat. Although, I think this first winter coloring is quite striking.

These birds don’t live in California almost at all. We can get a rare sighting where one has joined a flock of Golden Crowned Sparrows but, they really live in the middle of the continent. Although, this flock joining happens widely across the rest of the states. So, if you see a flock of Golden Crowned Sparrows look closely, you never know if a Harris’s Sparrow will have joined them.

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This White-Throated Sparrow, I saw in North Carolina when I was visiting my Mom in the first week of September. If you know Sparrows, you know White Throated Sparrows don’t usually make their way to their winter locations especially this far south this early. They arrive closer to November.

When I saw this bird land at her feeder I knew something was different. It didn’t look the same as the other Sparrows I had been seeing so, I made sure I took a photo. With Rare birds unless you can really describe the field marks it is best to have a photo for your observation to be confirmed and accepted in ebird. This was a sighting we needed a photo for. Honestly, when I described what I had seen to my Mom she hadn’t believed me, I was so glad I had taken my photos. It surprised and excited her to see me started to take note like a real birder.

I have yet to see a White Throated Sparrow in California. They do winter here as well. They seem to join groups of other winter Sparrows more than come in a group.

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Here is a winter bird for my yard, the White-crowned Sparrow. They are native birds along the coast here in Northern California. Around October they show up in my yard and stay until April. Then I won’t see them at my feeders again until October.

They are super cute, traveling in a flock of about 5-10 birds. They feed off the ground and their hopping and running about makes them almost look like mice.

They have beautiful songs, usually my first alert to their presence is their singing.

vesperspsrrow-caseygirard

Vesper Sparrow, the last of the streaked sparrows that I have seen. Vesper Sparrows while common across the continental United States are not common in the area of California I live. However, there is a small group of them at a recently opened Open Space in the hills along the Bay Area Peninsula.

I was getting rare bird alerts, yes I get a daily email telling me where rare birds are near me, for a few weeks before I could make the trek out to see it. Going to look for a rare bird is odd. You might see it because it is a bird that follows regular patterns and perches in open territory as part of it’s behavior. This Sparrow was just out on the trail right as you begin the hike of this open space. I could see this very white looking bird at the edge of the grass. I got pretty close took some photos then it noticed me. It took off to its resting place and we didn’t see it again. We easily could have not gotten a view of this bird.

When I go out to look for rare birds that is really when I feel like I am playing Pokemon Go in real life.

The complete white eye ring is the big sign that you are seeing a Vesper Sparrow.

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Song Sparrow, I am learning as I go through all of my pictures it is still hard for me to tell the difference between a Song, Lincoln, and Savannah Sparrow. I also realize, the Song Sparrow is busy and therefore, very hard to get a photo of. I found a couple and they are such blurry reference photos. Also, this bird is so wide spread and so common to see, I think we didn’t put as much effort into getting photos of it. In my excitement of learning the sparrows, I think my Mom’s response to “what sparrow is that!”, “oh another song”.

If you are birding especially during the summer and most of the rest of the year and you see a streaked Sparrow, it is most likely a Song Sparrow.

The males will sing often and they are kind enough to perch just at eye level on exposed branches, usually, so you can see and hear them clearly.

Look for rusty streaked birds to identify a Song Sparrow. However, if on the West Coast they will be darker. This is another bird with a lot of variation between regions. There are still markers that give you the clear id. Rounded tail, white throat patch, and central concentration of streaking making a spot on the front of their chest. 

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The Savannah Sparrow another beautiful streaked Sparrow that often has yellow lores (the feathers above and beside the eye near the beak) that give you a fast id. Although, it isn’t on every Savannah Sparrow. When you see a Song, Savannah, or Lincoln Sparrow you have to hope you get a long enough view to tell them apart. Their differences are so subtle and you have to be ready to spot those differences in an instant. Another id mark that sets the Savannah Sparrow apart is the tail, it has a notched tail where the Song Sparrow has a rounded tail.

The Song Sparrow and Savannah Sparrow also have crazy similar songs. They both sound like bugs with high lilting notes then a buzz but, the Song continues with more lilting tones. I haven’t managed to train my ear to hear the difference.

In winter time you are usually going to see Savannah Sparrows in groups in open habitats. They  will almost never come to your feeder. This Sparrow is also smaller and has a shorter tail.

These birds were originally named by Alexander Wilson, not because of the birds loving grassy spaces but, because he first saw this bird in Savannah, Georgia.

lincolnsparrow-caseygirard

The Lincoln’s Sparrow. Trying to id this on a foggy morning was a special chore, it was also my first time deciding I wanted to know the difference between all of these birds. I had heard there was a rare Vesper Sparrow at a local hotspot the week before and I was desperate to see it. Putting down the idea that I would see a rare bird I starting looking at obvious-sure-to-be-around species which, still gave me a great list of neat birds to see.

Lincoln’s, Savannah, Song and Fox Sparrows were all likely options for Sparrows with streaking down their chests. Lincoln’s stand out from the other limited number of Sparrows with chest streaking (this is how you figure out the id, you narrow your list of possible birds by using categories within categories.) by having very fine streaking that breaks up into separate marks as they descend. When in brighter lighting you can also see the chest feathers amongst the streaking are buffy in color. Those two elements should give you the id. If you want to go deeper, grey eyebrown, gray beak, pink legs, and a buffy eye-ring are also present.

 

It has been awesome to get to know sparrows. I look forward to seeing more and learning each of them as well. I always take a closer look at each sparrow.  There is always the chance there could be a rarity in the mix.

 

Plein Air Painting

I was able to go on a road trip for Memorial Day. It was so neat to see the coast of Northern California. A friend and I drove up to Crescent City to visit a friend. Doing a short day trip. Mostly we spent a lot of time on the beach. The goal had been to find agates but, I decided to paint. I used some mussel shells to hold my water and used a newly set up gouache travel kit. This is what I made:

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Crescent City

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Oregon

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I loved having time to stretch my painting skills. I hope I can do some more of this during the summer. We will see what I can do. Perhaps another trip up the coast and I can also spend time drawing the trees in Humboldt County. Also, next time I won’t forget my coat. It was so cold!

Shared Sketchbook 2

This sketchbook is on a very relaxed schedule. Thank you for that eHawk! I had our book for most of the fall and then past Christmas. Then I finished a Holiday card for the family and couldn’t postpone anymore. I hadn’t intended to dally on my page for that long, I even had an idea.

This is what came of it.

CaseyGirard-Page2

This is a battle in Thailand of the bugs and faeries there. It was so much fun to look up all the bugs and apply their coloring and wing designs to the faeries. Of course looking at this more now I wished I could manage to get my humanesque (in this case) bodies to have depth as much I do with animals and bugs.

I practice, I started out drawing people when I first found I couldn’t stop drawing as a kid. I still practice figure drawing. However, whenever I leave my sketching level I lose whatever gesture I have expressed in my sketch. I think this is a common problem and one that is worked out by 10,000 hours practicing. One of my goals for this year to spend even more focused time on them. I am hoping some other mediums will help me find the missing piece.

Until then looking forward to what eHawk draws next.

 

Why a Blog or Art

It’s been an increasingly slog of a process creating art for the past 3 years. I know there is still joy in making art and occasionally I actually get into a project and am happy for the work. Most of the time however, I start to work and instantly get tired and want to go to sleep. I can only assume it is a depression. I have been trying to make art for over 10 years now. There are some years you could discount, when I was focused on designing or raising children but, I was always making art and hoping to find security in selling it. I probably went about it all wrong. I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and she said she never put the expectation on her art to make money, that in doing so would have put an unfair pressure on it. Perhaps that is the burden my art is living under and why whenever I attempt to be creative I am overwhelmed with exhaustion.

I’m sure some would say I am not cut out to attempt a career in art. However, I can not believe I am alone in feeling hopeless looking at years of work not finding their audience. From all the stories I hear this is a familiar circumstance. The artists that become successful never give up and just keep making until they finally find their people.

I find my deepest struggle is the since of being completely alone in the search of support. I am introverted but, I am extroverted too. I need to feel I am part of something where a group is succeeding. However succeeding may be expressed, gathering together in support, enjoying a common love, building a project that brings people together, anything that causes a sense of community.

Art is not a group effort most of the time. There are critique groups and online chats and conferences but, they aren’t always reachable. Critique groups struggle to meet, online chats aren’t necessarily at good times of day, conferences are expensive. Social media creates a community but, it’s easy to be lost in the crowd. Any time taken away from posting for any reason and suddenly your relevance is gone.

Time is a limited commodity. I need to be making art but, I have a need to know people see it and want to see more. Being a part of an online community means putting myself out there potentially sounding stupid or giving up my feelings to strangers who may not care and may make me feel worse.

What I know, I want to share my thoughts. I want to share my art. I don’t know why there is a fire inside me that burns to keep trying. I can’t imagine not honoring that feeling.

I’m going to keep trying. I’m not going to give up on myself or my work. No matter how much doubt lives in here. I feel so ridiculous needing to say all of this. Being an artist seems like it should be the easiest job in the world. I can tell you it is not. It requires more than just doing the work, it requires courage and heart. There is a mob of people saying art isn’t a real job, isn’t a skill or deserving of any compensation. There is a subtle war on art. Maybe because artists help us stay human, keep us connecting to each other, bringing a sense of wonder, remind us to ask questions and seek improvement in our lives. These are valuable components to life.

I hope this time I belief my own words and stay committed to myself. I have been sketching and practicing quietly for myself. I have needed this time and more time than I expected to work internally. I think this time I am ready to start sharing. Now to end here and go prepare some more blog posts.

Thanks for reading.

Halloween Coloring Banner

I created a Halloween Banner this year. Between #inktober, #drawlloween, and a parent run fundraising group at school I got inspired. Special thanks to Megana.

The banner reads “All Hallows Eve” and has 13 unique characters decorating each flag.

I loved drawing all of these characters and I had meant to share more of them daily. I’m sure I missed some of their specific #Drawlloween days while I visited the East Coast last weekend for a family wedding. I’m still settling back home after a packed week. Saw cousins, aunts and uncles I love but, rarely get to see. Dressed up in my favorite Rent the Runway dress. Partied, danced and celebrated a beautiful union even though I couldn’t feel my feet from cold and too small shoes. And handled a car accident that happened in my yard in California via text at 0200 from North Carolina. It feels like more time has passed than really has.

Catching up, here are a few banner images.

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You can purchase the full banner as a digital download here. It’s my first digital download on Etsy so, please message me if anything goes wrong. I will fix it!

Tidying is Magic

Well back in May I decided to make magazine containers MagazineBox for my son’s Zoobooks and my Hornbooks. Then I was making teacher gifts for the end of the year and realized making a small box for the items would be helpful. I still had a pile of cardboard so, I built boxes. This started a side tracking project where I made many more boxes with plans to continue making more. Everything I am using is recyclable and reusing shipping boxes we get. In this day of two day shipping it’s easy to have a pile of boxes. (To note I still shop locally whenever I can). All of this makes me happy and it’s honestly a lot of fun. I can use up decorative papers I have had and after checking out piles from neighbor’s spring cleaning I got a free roll of thick craft paper for covering. I also might have wrapping paper I keep that I am can apply to the outsides too. My hoarding of paper is finally going to something!

It’s funny that I titled this tidying is magic and start with a story of hoarding becoming useful. I don’t think you should keep things with hopes to eventually use them. Keep only the things you know you will use and if you don’t start using it within a month you should really get rid of it. I have a lot of other found objects that I have intended to use. These items are now weights that fill my mind and keep me from creating anything. There is a fine line between useful found objects and over cluttering.

This need to find order is why I picked up the The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I heard it was really helpful for de-cluttering and it is true. It said the right words to me which, released my need to hold onto things that could be useful. This book brought me back. I actually had the chance when I was younger to experience the magic Marie Kondo talks about. I came back home from college after having been cramped into a tiny dorm space with a dorm mate who had also tried to bring everything she owned to college. I had actually used a Uhaul to move into a college dorm, it was ridiculous. Also arriving home I realized I had made my childhood room into a shrine. My walls were wallpapered in photos from high school, there were candles on every surface, I had collections of weird objects and toys, and I had two closets and a floor to ceiling bookshelf stuffed full. After a year of college I was ready to let it all go; I got rid of everything until I could fit my belongs that weren’t furniture into my 1992 two door Toyota Celica. The day I finished it felt like I was standing in a meadow of fresh air. I made art for the rest of the summer unencumbered.

I want to get there again. It’s harder to retain that little stuff with children. They have their own pile of things and there comes a point where you can’t just purge their items without their consent. You probably also have another adult living with you that may or may not care about keeping a small amount. Keeping your own items in check while being distracted by the people you are living with is a new challenge for me. However, I started to process. Eight bags have been donated and I did not keep track of how many times I have gone to the recycling bin. Friday I made art all day and started to write this blog How-To. It was the first time in a long time I didn’t feel like I should really be doing stuff around the house. I thought after moving twice in the past 3 years I wouldn’t have too much but, I did. Finally letting go of the extra and finding a space for what I’m keeping feels amazing.

Now, some of the things I am keeping do need containers and rather than go on a spending spree at the container store I am using the containers that are too often found at my front door.

Here is a step by step of how I make a box.

Tools I need outside of cardboard:

2Tools

Glue, cheap brush, container, exact-o blade, pencil, card stock
(not pictured) a ruler

Then the box. I hang onto a box that is already a good size. This way I only have to build a lid.

1thebox

Then I take off the 4 top flaps.

3bottom-cleaning

I do this laying a ruler along the crease then cutting it with an exact-o. I recommend cutting around so the flap behind your cutting hand is already gone. You of course have no option for that on your first cut. If needed I take a portion of one of these flaps and glue it to the bottom of the box where there is a gap between the base flaps. This way my box has an even bottom.

4bottom-clean

Then I have a box! Now I lay this box on top of the piece of cardboard I intend to use as a lid. If possible I use the already existing creases for the sides. I measure out from each crease or edge line, if there aren’t enough creases, 1 1/4 inches for the sides.

5top-cuttingout

Once everything is drawn I cut out the lid and crease any sides that need it. To form a new crease I lay a ruler along my line and fold the side across it.

6top-creasing

Now I have a top!

7box-topcut

To connect the four corners of the top sides I cut out 1 1/2 inch by 1 inch pieces of card stock. I make a glue and water paste to brush onto these pieces for adhesive. This is were I use my glue, container, and brush. I make sure the glue is more glue than water but, I eyeball this until I get a consistency that works for me. I brush a thin layer of this adhesive onto my four card stock pieces and let them dry for about a minute. Then I attach them to one end of two sides.

8Top-Gluing

I give them a minute or two to dry. Then I fold down the sides to touching and adhere the other side of the card stock to the adjacent side. This can be tricky and I usually have to reapply pressure multiple times until everything is stuck.

9top-finishedglue

Eventually it all comes together and I have a lid!

10Finished-base-box

Before I get to decorating I test the lid to make sure it fits onto the base of the box. Everything fits; now, I can put on the paper to make it mine.

For the outside I like a plain color because this box is going to be used for storage and I don’t want something busy that will catch my eye all the time. This is where I use my craft paper. To not waste my craft paper I only use it on the sides of the base of the box. However, on the top I use my craft paper for the entire outside.

When measuring the paper for the outside of my box I do this like wrapping a present. I lay my pieces onto the paper and take note of the corners with my pencil then ruler in lines between these dots. I absolutely could measure the box and note that on the paper but, I find it faster to use the box as my ruler.

Because this is a larger box I cut out each side covering individually for the base. Two of these sides with have overlap corner flaps and two of these sides will have straight edges. All of these sides will have top and bottom flaps to glue over the top and bottom edges of the base. This will give the finished box a clean look.

11bottom-exteriorpaper

The flaps have 45º angled edges. If you make them 90º angled edges the will bunch at the corners. I make my flaps 1/2 an inch wide. I then cut out all of my pieces using my ruler and exact-o.

I then brush on a thin layer of glue over each side covering. After a minute of dry time I press the base onto the paper and then pick up the base and rub the paper onto the base with my hands. This flattens out any bubbles or ridges. Usually I have to add a little more glue to the edges of the covering to get it to lay flat. I do this with either my brush or a piece of paper. I paint the corner of a piece of card stock and slide it under the side covering, between it and the base, to give it a layer of glue. Then I press the side covering down to adhere it to the base.

Note: I start with the side coverings that have flaps on all four edges. They provide full covering on their sides. Then I put the side coverings on that have straight edges to give the box a clean finish.

12bottom-exterior

Now for the bottom of the base I cut out a piece of card stock so the bottom is a little hardier. This way it can endure being pulled off a shelf over its life. I brush on a layer of adhesive allow it to dry then press the paper onto the bottom of the base. This way I can see how I am lining up my corners.

12bottom of bottom

Now I add my craft paper to the top. I use a similar process but all in one piece of paper. I use the lid to measure its size on my craft paper by making a note of the corners. Then I measure out the distance of the edges. I draw lines on the craft paper for all of these edges. Finally I add flaps to the top of all the edges so it glues around to the inside of the box. This again finishes the top giving it a clean look. I give the flaps 45º angles and 1/2 and inch of width. I also add flaps to the sides of two edges. This way it will wrap around and not cardboard will be exposed.

13top-paper

After measuring and cutting this out I place my top onto the paper to see that everything is the right size.

13top-test

If all looks good I apply my thin layer glue, allow it to dry for a minute, then line the top over the paper and press it onto the paper. I then lift paper and lid and smooth out the paper around the lid with my hands. I apply more glue to any parts that need extra with either my brush or paper.

14gluing-corners

I press the sides that have side flaps down first. This way the clean cut edge can come down second and make a clean finish.

15Top-papered

Now the outside of my box is done.

For the inside paper I choose something decorative. I won’t have to look at it all the time so it won’t be distracting day to day but, it will be a treat whenever I open the box to get something out.

When measuring out this paper I actually use my ruler and measure the inside of the box. I find this makes my final cutting much more accurate. I take measurements of the width and length of the bottom, then the height of the sides. I draw this onto my paper and give two sides flaps at the edges and the other two sides get straight edges. The flaps again have 45º angles at the corners and are 1/2 wide.

16insidebottom-cutpaper

Next I crease all the lines of this paper on the decorative side. I lay my ruler on top of the paper align it with the inside corners and fold the paper across the ruler to create a crease.

17insidebottom-foldedpaper

I also do this on the flaps.

18Ruler-foldingpaper

Now I test this paper to make sure everything fits. I fold it into shape and slide it into the box.

19insidebottom-test

If it fits perfectly I brush a thin layer of glue onto the inside of the box, not the paper. Once that has had a minute to dry I put the paper back into the box and smooth it onto the box with my hands.

I then repeat this process with the lid.

Now I have a finished box!

21finalbox 22finalbox-inside

I consider this generally archival. Say for 10 years? The outside papers are archival, the cardboard is not. It can work for loose sketches and artwork but, I wouldn’t recommend permanently. I also use these boxes for make-up, jewelry, craft supplies, toys, whatever needs a box!

Let’s End This Hiatus

It’s been much too long since I posted to the blog. I apologize to you readers, I hope you will find me and come back. I wasn’t completely uncreative in my time away. If you followed my instagram I kept up with regular posting. I just wasn’t able to commit to the more lengthy blog. Also, most of my creativity has gone into non-art projects. However, since the beginning of 2015 that has slowly begun to change. My plan is to get back to posting regularly with new pieces and consistency. I have been floating for many years between projects and my ‘look’. My time off has given me a chance to explore myself and find what it means to be true to me. This is a brief history of what I have been up to since December of 2013.

After the holidays of 2013 I started baking. My daughter got old enough to be distracted but, not for long enough to sit down and draw. With this obstacle, I decided it was the time to learn how to make croissants. If you continued following me on instagram you will have seen all of my batches. I even got a sweet nod from the baker, Joanne Chang, who provided me with this wonderful recipe.

Attempting and then succeeding at making croissants gave me new confidence within myself. Since then, my goal has been to make as many of our meals, snacks, desserts, and treats as possible from scratch. I use a variety of sources, my favorites being Giada’s Healthy Cooking, Isa Does It, My Whole Food Life, Joanne Chang’s Flour Cookbook and Alton Brown’s recipes. These are my go-tos. Each brings its own batch of food to us. Given that we have to eat and my children are all-encompassing the rest of the time, I have allowed myself to take my creative space in cooking.

In the spring of 2014, we moved. We have settled ourselves down in Redwood City, CA, becoming home owner’s again. We have built garden boxes and set up house.

The garden boxes took over mine and my husband’s lives. As we rolled from setting up house the seedlings that I had brought over in containers went into these garden boxes end of May. By mid June we were up to our ears in cucumbers and additionally fruit from generous friend’s fruit trees. The canning bonanza that sucked up our summer began. We have made everything from jam to pickles to lemon curd. We have had enough pasta sauce to last the year from over 150 lbs of tomatoes grown from our Amish Paste tomato plants. It’s the common CA “problem” of an abundance of produce. A problem I am enjoying having and beginning to gain control over.

In the fall of 2014 our oldest started school and our youngest began climbing. I’m not aware of any productivity from this period of time. My life became a series of challenges to have cat-like reflexes catching my daughter as she ran, climbed, fell, and leaped. My back is a constant disaster. I have had multiple instances where contorting myself inappropriately has been necessary to protect her from injury. I was injured in most of these moments with muscle strains and bruising. My eldest provided challenges of the emotional sort with questions and confrontation to express himself and gain understanding of the world. I feel that all of this is par in having children. However, as the primary care giver art has had to stay in the trunk.

Until March, when I was able to run an art show for my son’s school auction. With the help of the auction coordinators and my co-art show coordinator we ran a great show and managed to sell almost all of the art. For myself, I created two original pieces that were successfully auctioned off. I pulled from the garden for my inspiration. 

After the auction I was brought back to cooking and gardening. I offered a service of making a pie a month as an auction item; since, I wasn’t able to complete a third art item. With my successes in croissants I have gained some skill in putting butter and flour together to make delicious. Pies have been the latest in my food time commitments. Thus far I have made, apple, key lime, orange, strawberry-rhubarb, strawberry, cherry, strawberry-peach, pecan, and of course pumpkin pies. I have tried many pie crusts and find that Joanne Chang’s and King Arthur Flour’s are my favorites.

Although, this spring as my daughter obtains more independence and my son has settled down, I am finding a better balance of all my desired activities. We finally had a fence put in which, gives me freedom to garden during the day; since, my daughter can no longer run away. She is entertained by eating strawberries from our patch and I can weed and manage our plants. I am done exploring all the options and keep my cooking to what I need and definitely want in our cupboards. This also means, I do not accept or take on more food than I want to process. My daughter has consistent sleeping patterns which, is giving me structured time to work. It feels like everything is coming together. We have firm routines now and no plans for more disruptive moving. This should mean I will be able to consistently create for a while. Here’s to starting the plan.