The mighty Potato Frog

For the last two weeks I’ve been struggling. Struggling to concentrate or do anything. It’s my friend K’s fault! She gave me the most amazing book for my birthday and I have been shaken, enthralled and swallowed whole by it. I read a lot, but not too many books have had the effect that Mariam Petrosyan’s The House, in Which… has had on me. I cannot put it down and when I do, all I can think about is The House.

My friend chose this book very carefully. And as hard as it is to cater to the literary taste of another person, she hit my bulls eye with this one. The writer’s words paint such a vivid story of a disabled children’s boarding school that I feel part of it. Of the struggle of the individual, the fights of the collective, the clashes of the rules, the sparkles of good and the damp blanket of evil. I find myself thinking about it all the time.  And no wonder, because it is not only the author who is playing with me, but K, who has chosen to hide puzzles and games among the pages for me.

One of these tasks that I had to perform was to draw. To showcase the drawing I would have done on the wall of one of the notorious rooms in the school. Now it is quite different to live and breath the story, and quite another to be asked to become part of it. To become one of those suffering character that painted his hopes and desperation on that wall. I thought a lot about it, but the thinking did not help. When I closed my eyes I did not see anything. And then I thought I’d just pick up my brush pen and see what would happen.

Potato Frog
The mighty Potato Frog

The bed was the first thing that appeared. Then I wanted to draw a whale that was about to swallow it up whole. Like the one that swallowed up Jonah. Then instead of a fin horns and spikes started to appear. Before I knew it he had mighty arms, claws and legs bent, ready to jump. This was me. The other scribbles were the ones I imagined were already there, drawn by the other kids who are my roommates.

K laughed when she saw it. She immediately christened it Potato Frog. At first I though it was an insult. But the more I think about it, the more I like it. The creature looks scary at first, ready to eat you up and take you to the fiery netherworld. And then again, when you think about it, it is as vulnerable and fragile as the kids in the story.

I can report that I passed the test. I am not sure what lies ahead in the book or in the puzzles that K has hidden for me. All I know is that I cannot wait to find out!

Woman whispering

I have been thinking about having another drawing for my blog header. I already made a little doodle, sketch which I wrote about here. But with all the commotion of this summer somehow this project slipped to the bottom of my priority list. Looking at the date of my post I’d even say some dust has settled on the drawing. The thing is, even though I have not touched the drawing, I have been thinking about it ever since. I have been collecting ideas, adding elements here and there in my mind, and I think I found what I was looking for.

Woman whispering
Woman whispering

Although my style, my techniques, my freedom in exploration has changed considerably since I first started exploring art, the initial love affair I had with women with wind blow hair has remained. The playfulness of the wind, of the rays of the sun on the strands of hair is something that fascinates me to this day. Therefore, I thought it would be important to take this inner voice seriously and see where it would take me.

So here she is. Bare and vulnerable, as she is just coming to life. And yet I already have her hair flowing and moving like the sea. Some might think that red is a very harsh color, even one that brings on thoughts of fire and devastation. But the thing is, for me red is life. Red is the color that brings vibrancy, the color that lives and breathes energy. I love this color, and I cannot dream of anything else that would represent me, my inner most soul better than this color. From here I’ll continue and see where she wants to go. I’ll just have to listen very closely to what she whispers into my ear.

What is a year?

Usually we stop and reflect on our deeds (or lack thereof) at year end. Ask anyone, I am definitely one of these people (you might even find a post about it here). However, when I realized that a year had passed since I first ventured into the scary realms of this corner of the internet called blogging, I stopped in my track. It was not the end of the calendar year, but an important milestone in my life. It took me, however more time than usual to be able to put what I felt into words. For there was a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that I didn’t quite know what they were. In fact it took me a week long hiking trip in the wondrous woods of the Bükk to finally get it.

A year has passed, and I gotten a year older. But as not only the second, but the first number character flipped – from 3 to now 4 – it got a bit strange. Strange, because I started hearing the “Oh, believe me there is life after 40” jokes and I just didn’t get it. I felt nothing of the worry, anxiety that others told me I should. Hiking in the quiet forest, hearing nothing but my panting while climbing the mountain I had plenty of time to think and reflect. And that is when it hit me: I never felt more alive, more happy and more like I am in my own skin then right now, when I did turn 40. And the why is right here, written all over this little diary I now call my blog.

drawings
From left to right: Still life with fork, Lake Balaton – Keszthely, Still life with lemons and a glass, Angels on glass, Lake Balaton – Swans, Notre Dame, Still life with lemon and vase, The City Hall – Stockholm, Still life with lemons.
drawings-2
Selection of drawings from The 100-Member Kitty Band series.
paintings
From left to right: Saint Anne with savoy cabbage… (detail), Szentendre, My Camino, Poppy, Cornish Harbor, Coneflowers, Szentendre (detail), Poppies, Padstow Harbor (detail)
crafts-1
From left to right: Family Frost, Bunny, Rooster, French Hen, Scrummage the mouse, The Gardeners.
crafts-2
From left to right: finger puppets, e-reader cozy, owl keyholder, mobile cozy (detail), sock monkey, mouse applique, airplane mobile, Grumpy the cat, The Little Mole’s Trousers – Treasure Seeker Card Game.

In a short year I turned from an avid social media recluse to someone who has found her voice in this realm. From someone who thought of art as chachkies a year ago thinks of it now as one of the most important things in her life. Through the rediscovery of my love for creating art I found unexpected techniques, materials, tools. I found long forgotten sets of pencils, pastels, even a box of oil paint so old it solidified to a rock right in the tube. Art has put down its foot in my fantasies and dreams so hard in fact, that it has solidly shoved out Excel files and Power Point presentations, my demons from them.

But something I was not expecting is that what I make is somethings others would find inspiring. That there would be more than 700 of you out there who read this blog on a regular basis. I cannot be thankful enough for the friendships I’ve made through the blogging community. The inspiration, ideas we’d share, the discoveries they’d initiate. I never in a million years thought that a musician who inspired me would actually find the drawing I dedicated to her and post it on her Facebook page. So when more and more people around me at this age start turning inward and lose their footing and inspiration in life, I think I found mine. And so something that started on a whim, something I did not expect to last more than a week is now here to stay. Hope you stick around with me for more!

The 77 day challenge – weighing in

I read an article by Melanie Stefan the other day that proposed a radical idea, to make a CV of our failures. The publication argued that making such a document would bring to light that not all paths are black and white. As she put it “...it will remind you of the missing truths, some of the essential parts of what it means to be a scientist — and it might inspire a colleague to shake off a rejection and start again.” (And here substitute scientist for human being)

So I started thinking. In this world that looks at the firsts but forgets about all that follow, where success and achievement is glorified and failures are shunned, my 77 day challenge should not be spoken of. Rather I should skulk away quietly and forget it ever existed. Because if I look at my plan this way, I failed. I did not finish it. But you know what? That statement would not cover 10% of the truth! Therefore, I decided to share with you the white and orange version of the past 77 days; what I have learned and discovered. And I do this with the hope that it will inspire those of you who struggle, to continue on your own paths. Whatever that path may be.fitness planStatistically I have a 62% success rate, or rather, I failed 38% of the time. I did not do any physical activity besides walking to the train station and getting to work on 29 days out of the 77. But I never gave up and I did not cheat myself with lame excuses or shading in days that didn’t really happen. I accepted an embraced my reality.

And during this time I have learned to listen to my body. To say no with my brain when my heart wants yes, yes, yeeeesssss. If I was so tired after work that I felt like a zombie I did not force myself to do the exercises. And I think that the time I gave myself to re-energize and regenerate did pay off.

I have learned to be more patient with myself. When the muscle in my leg said no thank you after 15 kilometers into our hiking trip to the Buda mountains, I took it easy and did not rush things. When I sprained my left foot while wearing my new (flat soled!) strappy sandals I almost cried with frustration. But I did as the doctor ordered and stayed put on my bum for a week.

But one of the most important things that I learned is not to loose my focus. Not to confuse my path with my destination. Because what I really wanted is to get in the habit of regular exercise. To do this for myself and for my health. What I envisioned originally as a birthday gift for myself, namely to climbing a 900 meter peak would have been a cherry (with a good dollop of chocolate syrup on top). But that is only part of the path, not my current destination. At this moment in time it is not realistic. Someday I am sure I will do it.

This year, however it is more realistic to do things on a smaller scale. We will not go on a tour of 40, rather only 20 kilometers. Something that with our current physical strength we will manage and enjoy. I do want my 40th birthday to be memorable, but not because I am stuck in the middle of the mountain unable to get down. Rather to have the energy to remember every single moment and detail. From cake to finish. And looking at things in this new orange hue I did pretty well. In fact, much better than expected.

Yeay for victory!

Board games are one of my family’s big passions. I think that is evident from the fact that I made a card game for my husband’s birthday. Whenever we can, we’ll play a bit. Sometimes we even invite friends or family over and play with them. I love that we have a variety of games: one for the days when after a long day at work we don’t really want to think too much, to the games where you do have to have a game plan at hand, to the down right cut-throat, hard core strategy games. But one thing that seems to be the same across the spectrum is the victory point marker: a bland piece of wooden cylinder. While the games may bring out the Hurrah! in you, the counter the Wughwugh, blah.
victory point markersThe other day while shopping in my local crafts store I spotted these little beauties. I swear I heard the “Take us home!” resounding. OK, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But I knew my family would love the idea and would wholeheartedly enjoy them when we play. What I like is, that there is an animal in the usual color scheme of red, blue, green, yellow and black(ish grey) as in most board games. So there is one to match your other (let’s say) wagons in the game. But even if you don’t want to play matchy-matchy it is still easy to remember that you are either the frog, the lady bug or… the bear.
victory point marker
victory point marker
bg with die embroideryAs I was already making a gift on the subject of board games, I decided to make these little figurines part of it. However, instead of wrapping them up, I put them in a little draw string bag I had, which I embroidered with a die.  So now the content and the bag match each-other thematically.
boardgames on shelfThe little figures now rest with the other games and game pieces on our bookshelf. They are ready to be brought out any time. And I must say besides the little spice they bring to any game, they do have an added bonus: as they stand upright they are easier to pick up and use. And no one can stack their marker on top of yours (Oh, how rude!). One thing we do have to be careful of though. In the heat of the moment it is also easier to knock them over. And that brings up the question: how well did you opponent keep track of your points until now? Hmmm…

Endgame

When I started thinking about the card game for my husband’s birthday, I knew I’d wanted to make a special box for it. For one, because both of us love beautiful boxes (something in our gene pools) but most importantly because we display our board games in our living room. And if it is displayed, I want it to look good among our other games. So with that in mind I started thinking and decided to decoupage a box in the theme of the game itself, Zdeněk Miler‘s Krtek, The Little Mole.

cardgame boxI tried decoupage earlier and I really liked it. I loved the idea of decorating a box, a shape with paper cut-outs. Making it unique. One thing I did not like about it though is the endless process of gluing, letting it dry, then varnishing and letting it dry, then reapplying the varnish… you get the gist. Added layers meant more time, more hassle and more sticky fingers. Until now! I discovered a hybrid, glue and varnish all in one. As you are gluing on the cut-out you just stroke an additional layer over it as varnish. Voila! One drying session and you are done. Genius!cardgame boxcardgame boxBoth the paper mache box with its magnetic closure and the little mole posters (from which I did the cut-outs) were from my local crafts store. I also decided to spice up the box with a play on images that you’d usually find on real board game boxes. Like the age warning or the Spiel des Jahres award sticker, which instead of the proper Kritikerpreis (critic’s award) features Krtekpreis, or The Little Mole’s Prize. The hilarity this caused was heard well beyond our walls.

cardgame boxSo here is the finished card game. Playing and reference cards, rules, a couple of mole hills and some clothespins that act as prizes in the The Little Mole’s Trousers – Treasure Seeker Card Game. (Phew, that was a mouthful!)boardgames on shelfWhen I gave the game to my husband he thought it is something I bought in a shop. Only slowly did it sink in that I made it for him. Since then we have played it many times. I can happily report that he loves it! We love discovering the mechanics and coming up with  strategies to outsmart the other. Sometimes we succeed, other times it becomes a lessons learned. But what I love about him is how he tries to help me rethink, rewrite the rules. Or is he trying to help himself? Whichever way it is, I foresee us playing with it more and more frequently. And if I may add, the game looks mighty fine among our other games on our bookshelf.