Friday, November 30, 2007

Divine & Regal Inspiration

On Green Pepper Press Network Street Team this month's crusade (which I am participating in a very last minute way although I have had nearly all of this post written and saved for well over a week) pertains to who or what inspires you. I have thought about it in various levels of intensity since I found out about the latest challenge. Inspiration is a consuming interest to me and it has always informed more than art to me. I began to write a very silly post about my "muse" which made the question all the more complicated than it really is.

A friend of mine helped me realize the enduring essence of my inspiration. Each of us has themes which weave through our lives and make themselves known to us by their multiplicity and commonality. They are so prevalent and so pervasive they may even be overlooked. My muse must have her due though as she is a goddess: she is Athena. No matter where I am, or whatever else I think I always return to Athena and the values she represents: wisdom, justice, fairness, bravery, craft, reason, resourcefulness and cunning.

The image above is from a tarot card from the Goddess Tarot Deck by artist Kris Waldherr (her websites are wonderful--start at Art and Words) given to me by a friend who knew of how much I admired Athena.

I have three more goddesses who inspire me: Persephone, Queen of the Underworld; Psyche, goddess of the soul and Hestia, goddess of the hearth and home. Recently I would add Hecate, goddess of crossroads and Queen of the Night, a complicated and intriguing goddess to my list of Greek goddesses (I am in the process of moving beyond only my beloved Greek mythology, although I shall always prefer it to Roman).

Mythology calls to me in an indelible way which encompasses so many realms of my life. It informs my desire that all things have depth of meaning and have a dynamic historical narrative and precludes simplicity, but dictates strength, beauty, richness, complexity, symmetry, and femininity.
Another strong feminine presence that inspires me is Elizabeth Regina Tudor. I believe to me she is a flesh and blood manifestation of Athena despite her legendary temper and selfish manipulations. Not only does Queen Elizabeth, the persona and icon inspire me, but the land she ruled, the fashions she regaled around court in, the architecture, fabrics, colors, literature and facile and witty mind all call to me.

Do you have a mythical or larger-than-life muse (or muses)?

Of course I have a myriad of other influences and inspirations, but this time I am going to leave it with these glorious archetypes of women.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Holiday Party Invitations

I have been a bit remiss in my posting, but then again who am I disappointing? It is lovely to feel no guilt! I have been working another post, but it hasn't come together entirely yet so I thought I would share something else instead.

Tuesday night I created the invitations for the upcoming party we are hosting. I made one design and then changed it up a bit with different papers and two different colors. It is a tag again which is not very creative of me, but I figure if I need to take an easy out in order to actually do the invitations then why not? I went with the pale turquoise & green colors because I am currently drawn to the combination. You can't tell in the picture but I outlined the central snowflake with a glittery white (stickles for those familiar with such a product and offhand I can't remember which of the five whites I used).

Now if you receive a holiday card from me this year don't be surprised if it looks familiar....

Friday, November 09, 2007

Beauty Captured in Paint

Today for some reason I wanted to refresh myself on the art of a fine artist I discovered through Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion which is a magazine I adore. In one issue they showcased a home in which the owners had many lovely pieces of art on their walls and one such painting pierced me--decadent, luxurious, gorgeous, lavishly detailed and reminiscent of European nobility and royalty in the days of the Divine Right of Kings, the painting also had decidedly irreverent and grotesque touches--I was immediately enraptured.

The artist is Julie Heffernan of New York and I searched for her work online some months ago and revisited it again today. Her painting is so intricate and beautiful if not for the touches of decay and the sinister, it would be too much. Like any great pastry chef knows that a dessert must not be too sweet, so does Julie Heffernan know that beauty needs ugliness to juxtapose and ground it.

Don't take my word for it--here is but one example of her work (being sold by PPOW) entitled Self Portrait with Men in Hats 2007 (all her titles begin with Self Portrait and the titles themselves are so humorous):

For more examples of her incredible work go to PPOW. For those like me without the ability to buy the actual art they are also selling a full color catalogue of her latest show, Booty, for $20.00.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I am on a love tirade. How can someone so consumed with something be so inept at it? There was little story clip today on NPR today narrated by a woman about her friend's search for love...this friend had breast cancer and when she would worry about not finding anyone the narrator would actually think: "yeah, she may never find someone." I have thought I was like the single friend (but without a life-threatening disease). By the way, the single friend's story ended up happily. What were my reasons: I wasn't pretty, I was not attractive enough, I wasn't smart enough, I was too boring, too dull, not gregarious enough, not happy enough, too fat, not nice enough, not ambitious enough, too odd, bad skin, too lazy and the list goes on....

When going on dates all these lists of things would berate me and I would feel sorry for the guy I was on the date with and with a sense of relief set him on his way to finding someone better. Dating for me is being exposed and vulnerable to all my fears all at once. Am I good enough? Are my looks tolerable? Do I have enough to offer someone else? Can I meet their expectations? How much will I disappoint them? Can I keep them entertained and interested? And I hate giving anyone the power to judge me and for me to care about their judgment. It was torture because I was so focused on what was wrong or potentially wrong with me and trying to foresee what would be the reason for the inevitable rejection (and honestly feeling better when it happened the rejection happened because I could go back to not being scrutinized).

I also got the sense that the person I was on a date with could take or leave me...they were dating to date rather than out of interest in me specifically. Actually I am not certain when anyone has been interested in me in particular....

There was quote from A Caribbean Mystery, a Miss Marple mystery by Agatha Christie I recently read that struck a chord with me:

“Miss Marple sighed, a sigh that any woman will give however old at what might be considered wasted opportunities. What was lacking in Esther had been called by so many names during Miss Marple’s span of existence. ‘Not really attractive to men.’ ‘No S.A.’ ‘Lacks come-hither in her eye.’ Fair hair, good complexion, hazel, quite a good figure, pleasant smile, but lacking that something that makes a man’s head turn when he passes a woman in the street.”
Why is something that is so basic for so many, so damned complicated and hard for me? Any and all advice would be welcomed to help this hopeless, hapless dabbler!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I believe today is a maturation day. A lot of things are bubbling along in my mind without any real output only a sense of anticipation like something exciting is going to be produced or realized.

Tonight is my ATC trade, which is held once a month. I helped to begin this trade back in 2003 after participating in numerous and various type of art trades online. One of the reasons I thought of beginning this local trade was to meet new people. I go through periods when I brainstorm new and interesting ways to meet people--I dub these my social periods. I am undoubtedly now going through a social period (as opposed to my hermit periods when I have so little social interaction I might as well be a ghost)--scheduling & hosting parties, participating in group activities, thinking of new ideas, working on my correspondence (which never is exactly where I want it to be)....

I am wondering about living a different type of life...a slower, deeper life. Some people move to other countries to escape the hectic pace and demanding lifestyle found in modern day United States. I don't think I need to go that far. I believe doing small things help to make a single day matter: sharing a meal with another person, writing a letter, chronicling the day in a journal, calling a friend, making a birthday card, looking up at the stars, walking and looking around you.... There is no end of things to enjoy.

I do have dreams of living in a place where I can walk through woods and tall grass. I have no idea if I will ever get there, but it will be interesting to find out where life leads me....

Credit: The photo was found at Bay Area Hiker.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More Beast than Beauty

On days like this I wish I had guest bloggers or a set theme for days to make writing a full post easier. There is always things to write and yet sometimes I lose my way to how to write the myriad of possible topics.

I was listening to NPR (big surprise) and heard a couple of tv writers (the folks currently striking) discussing how they began working together on college radio. Their radio show only had one phone call the entire time they broadcasted. In fact their audience was so small they skipped one night and no one noticed--not even their boss. One good thing about so few people listening to them was they felt a freedom to try and do anything. They ditched the proscribed format and did what they wanted to do. I think I often feel that way with my blog. A few people read, but not many that it constricts me.

This month on TCM they have guest programmers each night who choose 3 to 4 films and they speak about each film before and after with Robert Osborne (how odd am I that I look forward to Martha Stewart's night?). Actually of all the line up's I think I most identify with Whoopi Goldberg's who kicked off the month. There seemed to be a theme about beauty with her choices and included one of my favorite romances of all times: The Enchanted Cottage about two less than beautiful people (she is supposed to be terribly homely--Dorothy McGuire can never even remotely be that and he, Robert Young, is scarred in World War II) marrying, falling in love and "being transformed".

Whoopi Goldberg's first film choice was La Belle et la Bête. I had seen this film before in high school French class, but I believe I was more impressed with the beauty and ingenuity of the special effects and all visual aspects of the film this time. Even though the dialogue is a bit overwrought, I nonetheless wanted Belle to fall in love with the Beast. I want to have my ideals of love affirmed even if only in fairy tales and fantasy. I feel a great affinity with the Beast whereas Belle is too kind, too loving, too beautiful and too noble to seem more than a lovely dream.

I think I truly took this all to heart. I think I see life too much like the stories I read or see on film. In fact most of my life I have thought I was unworthy of love because I could never live up to the ideal of Belle. There is no fairy tales in which the "ugly" woman is valued for her heart, dignity, intelligence and bravery and finds love--they are nasty stepsisters or evil shrews. Beauty in such tales seems to endue the heroine with virtue whereas ugliness equates a twisted soul. When my physical appearance never met with my high expectations, I thought I had failed. I then cast myself in the role of the cursed Beast and I have to admit I hoped for some male counterpoint to Belle--a Beau I suppose you could say--that would somehow see the beauty within me.

I am altogether too prone to desire to structure my life within a more fantastical frame. I am not sure how wise it is to be so starry-eyed and romantic...I have struggled to suppress such a it better to be unconflicted or practical?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Holding Back

When I checked my email account this morning I had two comments awaiting me. One from another incredible artist from the Green Pepper Press Network Street Team and then another regarding my "Going to the Draft Pile" from the guy whose cd list I referenced. My first thought was: how amazing is the web when these things can happen? And another was I didn't properly thank him for posting such a comprehensive list and which allowed me to remember. If you have a chance go to his blog--the buKitzone. His most recent post, Reality check, refers to a what a true blogger is according to Matthew Good...I am not going to paraphrase a paraphrase (how do give the proper credit?). Essentially though it is about being authentic and not giving a damn about who may or may not be reading your blog.

I seriously wonder about this statement though. Who doesn't wonder about who is reading what they write? Who isn't at nearly all times reflecting an image of themselves which is not entirely complete? Why do they write? Does opening your whole life and thoughts to others make something more honest or is it merely a compelling need to be seen and heard above others?

I am new to the world of blogging and even when I am involved in something I am never as involved as anyone else (note the title of my blog). I have never been a fanatic about anything or rather I am passionate about a lot of things which makes it impossible to be dedicated to any one thing. My concentration is way too fractured and my commitment level has not been engaged on that level. I don't follow a band or a celebrity. I have never joined a fan club. I will be focused on something for a short time and then my attention is grabbed by something else. Even my so-called obsessions are conditional.

In all ways I hold back. A friend correctly said that about me earlier this week. I hold back to the extent I am not sure what it is I am holding back anymore. Often I hold back because to be a good person at times you must. To be a healing influence you must hold back emotional disturbances. To be a listener you have to bite your tongue. To accept you must withhold judgment. To keep another's secrets you burrow holes within yourself to hide those secrets. To be a good friend, daughter, sister, etc. you keep part of yourself only for them and not for others. To fulfill what others need you may keep your own needs at bay. To be honest I also hold back out of fear, for protection and also for selfish reasons. I will not lie that there is a certain self-righteousness in the act of holding back and pride in being the one to be the person people turn to when they need someone they trust.

Perhaps blogging is about the longing to stop holding back in whatever level or way you decide and to have hope that when you do you find yourself more than you were before....

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Holiday Cooking

Now that Halloween has come and gone for another year other holidays burst to the forefront, not to mention November being an important birthday month. I have come to savor each of the major holidays for their unique personality and spirit. As my family has matured we have changed the holidays to more appropriately fit with the character of our family.

Thanksgiving is a chance to be imaginative and try new autumnal foods. Unlike Thanksgivings of my youth when my mom slaved over the meal for a week and was devoured in a few short minutes we now divide the work between my mom, sister and I. Actually, my dad not too many years ago confessed to not enjoying Thanksgivings in which my mom chained herself to the stove and preferred her company to such a production. We now have very informal Thanksgiving meals in which we make a buffet of all the dishes and watch movies together most of the day. The sides my sister and I make are ever changing. One year I made a squash soup, but often we make a couple of new salads and at least one new vegetable dish. What has been permanently added to our meal are roasted root vegetables--in fact we eat them pretty regularly throughout the autumn and at times with a whole chicken roasting on top.

I made the pumpkin pie last year, but was not as pleased with it as I might have been. I believe I will try another recipe this year whether for a cardamom-buttermilk pie I saw in the November 2007 issue of Saveur (an excellent magazine which not only has recipes, but stories rich in food history and the cultural and emotional significance of food) or another tempting treat from Gourmet's November 2007 issue like the Cranberry Almond Crostata or from Bon Appetit's November 2007 issue: Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie (I was impressed with their multitude of Thanksgiving dishes in both these issues).
I have to mention my favorite part of Gourmet: the Editor's Letter by Ruth Reichl. I own her triad of food-centric memoirs and I love her ability to evoke the most vital and elemental of life's themes through food writing. If anything most informs my blog writing style it is the editor's letters found in magazines like Gourmet & Bon Appetit.

Christmas is our more formal sit down dinner when we splurge on prime rib for my dad and uncle (the rest of us are strangely disgusted with that piece of meat) and lamb for us (my dad who is otherwise pretty open to food will not eat lamb of any sort). I now make a much lauded croissant bread pudding studded with plump, tart, ruby-bright dried cherries (adapted from Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook which is a wonderful cookbook full of simple, but delicious recipes) and drizzled with nutmeg-vanilla crème anglaise (from Gale Gand). The bread pudding is so popular that I receive requests for it all year long, but I now refuse to make it for anything but the holidays in order to preserve the sense of wonder and specialness of such a dessert.

This coming holiday season I am thinking of beginning a new tradition--a Cookie & Ornament Exchange. It is all an idea right now, but I realize that celebrations sprinkled throughout the year are vital to me and for retaining friendships and fostering new ones.