Friday, September 28, 2012

Mother Nature

Mother Nature, herself ... Valerie

Something I'm not often able to share with the outside world is my love of the outdoors. Over the last few years, my love for nature has been allowed to blossom, mostly due to the fact that I live with hunting, fishing, mud tromping, gun slinging, manly-men twins, that inspire my almost five year old to trom through mud, sling plastic guns and fish until he's on the verge of tears. (Please don't let them know I'm flattering them this much. It might go to their heads!) And we do this all with two high energy dogs that love the woods more then we do.

On an almost weekly basis we pack our backpacks with snacks, water, hats, sunglasses, and my camera gear, and head to the sight of that days adventure. This past week we went pheasant hunting in Spring Green, West of Madison, and despite all the times my little man asked 'are we to the farm yet?', I was thrilled. Each week I am pleased to realize what an amazing family we've become. Some of our most cherished moments have been shared under the canopy of oak trees, our in the middle of a rustling sea of prairie plants. Our best selves shine through when we are out here, because we are finally comfortable to be ourselves. We tell silly stories, play 'til we can't stand up any more and even let a few belches slip here and there. I live with boys, after all!

When we get back home after days like that, I can't help but feel claustrophobic, closing the door behind me as I enter the house. My spirit feels as free as a bird when I'm outside, and I can't help but feel like I'm in a cage when I go inside. I guess I'll have to listen to Free Bird today, let my hair down, and breath some fresh air.

a flashback to my childhood

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Time to slice

The final step of prepping all of my artwork for sale was creating and attaching tags for everything. I designed, printed, cut, whole punched and tied bows all day for the last two days. What a process! I now have everything done and packed in a box waiting to take the journey to Mineral Point. In the meantime, I'm going to run to St. Vinnie's to try to find some display boxes of some kind and design an artist's statement to be displayed by the artwork. Maybe by the end of the week, my products will be in stores! Keep your fingers crossed, everybody.

And, besides all my paper and wood crafts I've been creating lately, I've been a busy photographer, too. This past weekend we went hunting at a beautiful hunting preserve in Spring Green. To help this growing business, I'll be photographing hunts and events at their property over the next few weeks. I might even help with a bit of graphic and web design. I'm so happy my freelancing has been paying off lately. If I keep going at this rate, maybe by this time next year I'll be able to work from home full time. Again, we'll all keep our fingers and toes crossed.

And, if all goes as hoped, I'll be starting two new part-time jobs next week. A short time ago I stepped down from my fast paced, chaotic management position realizing that I needed to focus on the home front a little more. My life was getting away from me, and with Bodie starting school, I really needed to re-prioritize my life to focus on what really matters; a happy, healthy lifestyle for me and my family. So, to allow myself to make this change, I realized two things; one, I needed to start creating and selling my own artwork; and two, I can't work a full-time job while doing this and keeping up with my life. Well, low and behold, Craigslist connected me with a few job listings, and after a bit of patient waiting, I was called in for several interviews and already offered one part-time job. Next Monday I'll start at Hitters Sports Complex in Middleton as a childcare assistant and graphic artist. And, in the meantime, I am waiting to hear back from All Saints Assisted Living & Memory Care. They are in need of someone to help with the Activities Department and in their Kitchen. As my skillset really matches their need, they all felt like I was a really great fit. So let's hope my background check clears and that I get a positive phone call from them in the next coouple of dyas.

Even as a small girl, I had great fashion sense and a need to chat!

Which brings me to my little rant before I get back to the workshop. With all this excitement my life, I've become quite phone dependent. Well, yesterday, I get back home, go to check my voicemail and am greeted with a busy signal that just wouldn't go away. So, this morning, after almost 24 hours without service (gasp!), I decided to instant message customer service at Charter to see what the issue was. As is usual, I was bounced from one service agent to another. An hour after our chat session began, and after I run up and down the stairs about 20 times, disconnecting and reconnecting the phone and phone modem, I was ever so politely told that somehow, mysteriously, Charter switched the phone number listed in my account. So, now, I must wait again, for the geniuses on their tech team to fix the problem. Is Charter going to give me a job if All Saints can't contact me since my phone isn't working?

Ugh! Maybe, like my post title says, it's time to slice Charter. This isn't the first time mystery changes have occurred on my account. We'll see how they make up for this one!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Carving Break

So my hands don't cramp, I thought I'd take a break to show you what I'm working on today. In order to look more official, and to carve yet another linoleum block, I decided I'd make a linocut stamp/block of my new logo for Valerie's Workshop. Nothing huge, the block itself is only 2"x3", but super detailed. As I sat there carving, I wondered to myself about how my style has become too intricate. My next block is going to be something simple. Geometric shapes, here I come!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I have been hard at work, folks! In the last week I have put countless hours in creating art in the workshop, kitchen and garage, and I am proud to say I feel like I'm actually getting something accomplished. Colorful card sets have been compiled, 8"x10" prints have been photographed, and the Etsy store is being refilled piece by piece. And, with any luck, I will even have my products for sale at the Mineral Point Artist Annex in the next week or so. Before I get back to work, here's a peak at what I've been working on and what will be available for purchase sometime soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Holy Cow!

My blog has almost had 3000 visits! I can hardly believe it. In honor of the occasion, I've decided to spruce things up around here. Don't be surprised if there's a new look, shortly.

And please, share my blog with your friends. Monthly reader give-aways to start in October!

I know, you can hardly contain yourselves ...

On a completely separate note, here are a few things that have me smiling this afternoon:
- It's sixty degrees, overcast and drizzly. Autumn is arriving and today is the first day it has really felt nice in a while. Jeans, wool sweaters and boots, here I come! Not to mention our fall mushroom hunting season is here, grouse hunting is just about to begin up North (and I can legally hunt now!) and  our cabin is getting an addition. Just a few more weeks and I'll be lost in the north woods. 

- I have a crock of pumpkin chili with rib eye steak simmering away in the kitchen. When my other half gets home, I'll heat up the cast iron skillet and make us a bit of corn bread and crack open the last two bottles of New Belgium's Red Hoptober from our fridge. Comfort food season has arrived. I think the crock pot might just stay out of storage for the time being!

- I helped my Grandma customize her first computer. At 90 years old, she has a laptop and can send emails from the comfort of her own home. Before I know it she'll be setting up a Facebook account!

- My other half got home. Time for dinner :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Keepin' Busy

As this summer comes to a close, the sun setting earlier, the days cooler and refreshing, I find myself busy with all sorts of projects. Whether inside or outside, brief or time consuming, these tasks have been satisfying. For the first time in what feels like years, though is actually months, I'm taking time to do things I enjoy and that make our home feel more ... home-y.

The kick-off project was overhauling the back yard. I spent three days pulling, digging up and all together obliterating the weeds from the gardens, and gave them a satisfying kick to the curb with what used to be a patch of overgrown hedges. Once the back yard was complete, I turned inwards, to the house, that is. I put away all the flip flops and Chacos that littered the floors and then corralled all the army men, cowboys and action figures back to their baskets. As the house returned to it's organized state, a sense of calm settled over everything. (Or maybe that was just the breeze coming in the open window, wafting a candle's frangrence my way). 

We even had a couple of dinner parties on the deck, putting the proverbial icing on the cake for me. I filled the yard with candles and our bellies with hot food ... we grilled Burgundy pepper steaks from our favorite local deli and a basket of lemon butter asparagus. For dessert, we had the best chocolate cake ever, a rich, dense layer cake topped with semi-sweet ganache that I baked earlier that day and a couple sips of red wine to rinse it down. Some of my favorite moments are spent sitting 'round that table with friends. The most amazing tales seem to be shared after the sun sets, once dinner is finished and the only light that remains is from the candles in the center of the table. Our voices and laughter trail off into the darkness as we enjoy the comfort of each others company.

Now that the house was in order, and we were all feeling jovial and content, I deemed myself ready to work on a few fun projects. Out came the sawhorses, jig saw and clamps. On went the new, cute safety goggles, ball cap and shorts. And away I went. I cut curves and straight lines, zigged and zagged, cursed a few times and changed a saw blade. By the time I arrived at the sixth plank, the sun was slipping behind the maple trees and sweat was dripping down my back. Saw dust covered my black shorts and, conveniently, the puddle from the power steering fluid leak in one of our trucks. 

In a few minutes, I'l get back to my wood working, sanding and staining, but not until I finish the cup of coffee that's patiently waiting for me. Hopefully, tomorrow, I'll be able to start on my next project ... a bicycle themed lino-print using my 1967 Schwinn Collegiate as inspiration.  It feels so great to have the creative juices flowing again. With any luck, they'll be allowed to flow freely for a while.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Milestones and Memories

As I sit here typing, I can't help but gasp as I think how fast time flies. It feels like just a short while ago I was changing my son's diapers and taking him for walks in the stroller on crisp fall afternoons. But just like that ... poof ... five years fly by, and, boy, how things have changed!

Yesterday, I dropped my son off at his first day of four-year-old kindergarten. To say I was having a mommy moment is an understatement. I have never felt more proud of being a mother and have never been more proud of my little man. I am so happy he has reached this milestone in his life. I feel like the entire universe is at his fingertips now, and I cannot wait to see how he grows.

And as I realize all of the other things he has experienced in his short life, I cannot help smiling. We have shared so many incredible things as a family. From bike rides to the park on sunny spring days, camping trips on the Wisconsin River in the summer and sledding trips in the winter, we do it all ... together. 

I'm so happy I can share so much of my life with this special boy. He has such an incredible way of lighting up my world and spreading his joy of life with others. If only we could all have the optimism of a 4.75 year old!