Monthly Archives: May 2016

(question): i really wish i could…

Kristin piano

Me, piano recital photo, circa early eighties, dress made by my grandmother. Also, I have trouble imagining myself with bangs, but apparently I used to rock them.


Good question: Is there something that you can’t do (at all, or very well) that you wish you could do?

I liked this question when Caroline first asked it, but now I think I love it, because it made me stop and think about the differences between talent and practice, something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Sometimes when I post things I’ve made or projects that I’m working on, I get a lot of feedback that includes the word “talented” in it. It’s always a sweet thing to hear, but I never really think about my work as being driven by talent.

As someone who works in a creative field, and is also surrounded by (and perhaps attracted to) creative people, I feel like I spend a good portion of my days being inspired by, and in awe of, many talents that I don’t possess. Not in an envious way, really – I’m just constantly amazed by the diversity of talents and infinite variations on the shared fruits of these gifts, so much so, that I often find myself saying “I would love to try that out sometime”.

But in naming something that I can’t do, I also have to think about those things that I can do, and it’s not a small amount of things. I’m not the “best” at any of these things, but I do think I’m pretty good at generating an idea in my head, gathering up the resources to try it out, and I’m patient (and sometimes lucky) enough that it turns out like I imagined. Most things that I do well, I do them because I practice. A lot. And I don’t really consider that a talent, just a good effort.

My initial response was this: I’d love to be able to speak other languages more fluidly. That probably has more to do with practice than talent, but I do believe that some people pick up languages far easier than others. I love to read things in other languages – it’s an enjoyable stretch of my brain – but I’m a reluctant speaker, and not a great conversationalist in a foreign tongue.

At times I’ve thought it might be cool to be a great athlete – or, to be honest, have any sort of athletic tendencies at all. I’m (not so) secretly terrified of things flying towards me that I have to catch (or duck). I tend to freeze, or turn around and run away screaming. But I don’t think I really wish for this talent. I’m okay admiring athletic skills in others, particularly when they are playing for my team.

This is a tough question! But I think I know what my answer is. I’d love to be able to sing. Like, really sing. I can carry a tune or sing in a crowd. But I’d love to have one of those amazing voices that stops you dead in your tracks. I’m not sure I’d ever have the confidence or desire to be the one that is called on to sing something in front of a crowd, but I’d love to have some pipes good enough to encourage me to try it! I recently attended a funeral, and an 85 year old man was one of the speakers. He spoke of a well known German poem / prayer that is frequently sung as a lullaby by children, and he recited the English translation. After he spoke, his wife opened her mouth and began singing it in German, no microphone, just her lovely, clear voice that filled the space and brought everyone to tears. I think I’d love that talent – not for the applause or the attention, just for the ability to lend sound to the moment, and give voice to deepest grief and purest hope.

writing practice, practice in general

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I really appreciate all the suggestions and questions, here, and on my instagram post, about things you’d like me to write about this summer. I’ve given myself a little (lighthearted) challenge to post something daily during this first month of summer, leading up to a much-needed and much-anticipated, beach vacation escape. I’m hoping that I can get back into the practice of writing – it’s not unlike the practice of anything else I do. I’ve been reasonably successful at scheduling in time each day / week for cooking good food, exercising, reading for pleasure, etc., that I feel like it’s time to pick up the same practice for the act of writing. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or polished or full of well-lit, well-edited photographs. It just needs to be something.

I wrote down all of your ideas, and the outline filled two pages. If you think of anything else, please let me know. I’ve fleshed the list out with a few ideas of my own. When I publish this post we’ll be on the other side of one of the busiest stretches of life that I’ve think we’ve encountered yet – it’s really stretched from our NYC trip in mid-March through the violin concert and reception last night. E’s done with seventh grade, F’s wrapping up first grade today. We have the glorious look-ahead to a three-day weekend; it couldn’t come at a better time. I have things that I hope to do, but at the top of the list is sleep. Good, hard sleep, on clean white sheets, under a lazily spinning fan, well past the point that daylight and birdsong floods the room. And then, some writing.

treat yo’ self

Raffle 5

Every year, as part of the girls’ elementary school soiree (the biggest fundraiser of the year), I help put together the auction items – live auction, silent auction, and four to five incredible raffle baskets. The raffle items are collections of donations that can be worth as much as one thousand dollars – not a bad haul for the price of a few tickets!

Because the visual aspect of the items varies so much – many of them are big ticket gift certificates rather than big flashy items that would show up well in a physical basket – we opt to make posters to display behind the big fishbowls the tickets are dropped into. The event program has more detailed explanations of the prizes, but the posters are a fun way to organize this part of the event.

I’ve done many types and styles of posters throughout the years, but this year’s ice cream social theme seemed to lend itself to watercolors. I purchased four watercolor boards a week ago, so I wouldn’t have to worry about mounting them on sturdy backings, but it’s been so busy around here that I didn’t get a chance to start on them until the weekend.

On Friday night, after the kids were in bed, I finally had a chance. But I couldn’t do it. I was spent. Instead I sat down in the living room with a book and took a deep breath. The room was quiet, the flowers my mom brought the past weekend were fragrant and still hanging on, and I was admiring this watercolor that F made for her teachers recently. So even though I wasn’t technically working on the posters, my mind was churning through some ideas. And that painting gave me a good one.

Raffle 16

Saturday afternoon, armed with a second cup of coffee and some masking fluid, I got to work. I painted out “treat yo’ self” in masking fluid and let it dry. Then I set to work, layering in different colors, in an effort to get something that looked a little like melted summer treats.

Raffle 13

I took the lids from the large yogurt containers I was using for my water, and painted the rims with color and made a few “glass rings”. I built the colors up in several layers until I got the look I was going for. After everything was good and dry, I rubbed off the masking fluid, and voila!

Raffle 1

A second basket was titled “Goodie Two Shoes” – this basket had lots of shoes and handbags, as well as some great gift certificates for items to share with a friend. I took the idea of pairs into the ice cream realm and landed on these popsicle shapes – and just repeated them over and over again.

Raffle 7

I cut out a chipboard template, made a few measurements, and then traced the pattern around the board. I outlined each pop in masking fluid, and then tapped a full brush gently to get some perfectly round drops all over the board.

Raffle 14

I moved around the board again, layering colors in pools of water to create various popsicle flavors.

Raffle 15

Pulling masking fluid up when you’re finished is really fun – E helped me do this, her favorite part. I love the way the color seeps to the edges, and the white dots were just perfect scattered about. This turned out just like I imagined it in my head. It would be fun to do a set of summer-y cards with this technique – or maybe I’ll use the idea for the girls’ party invites this summer.

Raffle 11

I scored real popsicle sticks with an x-acto blade, snapped them in half, and laid them out on the board. E thought they were too long – and she was right – so I scored and cut about 3/8″ inch of each one. Thirty-two of them if you are keeping track. Because I’m crazy.

Raffle 6

That purple one looks EXACTLY like the blackberry yogurt breakfast pops I made last summer. Yum. These boards make me hungry.

Raffle 2

“You Can’t Top This” was supposed to look like a tower of ice cream scoops – but it sort of looks like marbles. Oh well. I used the circle theme to add details related to the prizes – this one included Disney World passes, so there are the ears!

Raffle 8 Raffle 3

For the “I Scream, You Scream!” poster, I turned a waffle cone into a megaphone and “shot” out a mass of ice cream colors and sprinkles.

Raffle 9

E cut the sprinkles for me, and I glued them on by brushing on light coats of glue and then blowing the sprinkles across the board.

Raffle 17

Colorful, fun, and the four boards took about seven-eight hours total, with drying and cleaning up time. Not too bad for last minute ice cream fun.

Raffle 4

The party was so much fun – the weather cooperated, and the venue, decorations, food, ice cream, people – everything was just perfect. A good way to mark off another great year, and an even better way to support the year to come. Summer’s almost here! Grab your popsicles – I’m ready!