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Portraits of Gratitude 2014


There’s a certain degree of perfection that people try to attain as the holidays approach. The perfect Thanksgiving meal, the best presents, the ultimate in outdoor Christmas light decorations. And I’ll admit I fall prey to it just as much as the next Joe. I find myself lured by the Siren’s call. The one that insists that everything must be homemade to be acceptable. Make your own butter! Needlepoint that pillow! Craft your own Thanksgiving centerpiece from fishing line and dried cranberries! And sometimes I succeed, patting myself on the back as I create my own Thanksgiving table runner from ribbon and construction paper. And other times I fail miserably, as evidenced by the burnt homemade granola bars now lining the bottom of my garbage can. And the pressure of being perfect, of creating the ultimate moment for your family is, dare I say, exhausting. And virtually impossible.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I feel like there is also tremendous pressure to be as grateful as you possibly can. Of savoring each and every moment of the past year and never, ever forgetting to be appreciative and humbled by the bounty of our lives. And as much as I wish I could, I just can’t seem to find the energy to be grateful all the time. I mean, I wish I could. I wish I could be one of those amazing people who go through every second of every day soaking up the wonder of life and saying little prayers of gratitude to every flower, every tree, every moment of sweetness. But I’m tired, people. And I find it almost impossible to feel grateful when I’m scraping doggie doo-doo from the bottom of my son’s tennis shoes. “Isn’t it wonderful that he had so much fun that he walked though poo without noticing! I am grateful for those small moments of happiness!” Nope. It’s just poop on a shoe. I don’t mean to say that I don’t experience moments of great thankfulness, in which I am literally overwhelmed by the beauty and sweetness of my life and the people in it. I do. And I cry over it quite often. But it’s just not every second of every day. At some point I think you have to put the grateful voice on mute in order to get the laundry done , pluck the gray hairs, and start all over again tomorrow. And that’s OK. It’s OK to be tired and cranky and ungrateful…just as long as, occasionally, you turn the volume up on that little voice that’s telling you to stop and put down the fabric softener and the tweezers and remember that even though we may be baffled by the complexities of life, at the rhyme and reason for the events that unfold before us, we can be mindful of the wonder inherent in the journey. My life is messy. It’s loud and frustrating and beautiful and sad and outrageously funny. And I wouldn’t change anything about it. But in loving my life as much as I do, there comes a freedom to be irritated by it. To loathe making lunches every morning. To cringe at the urine lurking behind the boys’ toilet. To roll my eyes each and every time my husband rearranges the dishwasher with the precision of an engineer. I think we work hard enough that we’re allowed to sigh occasionally out of complete frustration, while never forgetting how lucky we are to be irritated by anything at all. For it is in loving something so completely and so generously that we are able to feel the flip side of it, and yet still continue making the lunches, and cleaning up the pee and watching the gray hairs accumulate like a badge of honor.

That said, and in the spirit of last year’s post, I give you my 2014 Portraits of Gratitude…

I am eternally grateful that I married this guy…

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And that I can easily drive and see a place that looks like this:

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That, despite the distance, my children can have friends like this:

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And that this coffee mug exists…

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For letters like this (please note President Taft trapped in the bathtub)…

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For these two amazing, funny, crazy, inspiring boys of mine

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Who send me texts like this

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And for people who write books like this

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And students who make art like this

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And this

ella creation

And who never let me forget that I am learning from them

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For a small Beastie

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And a thespian

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That this guy picked me up from the airport

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When I got to fly across the Pond and drink tea with my dear friend

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And go back to the one place in my life that truly changed who I am

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For mother and grandmothers all rolled up into one

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For furry things

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And furrier things

eliot

I am grateful for kitchens

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And for the friends who cheered me on as I read my heart out

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And for jumping in, white bra and all, without a single moment’s hesitation

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Let’s all give ourselves a break this Thanksgiving and aim less for perfection, and more for perfect chaos. For though we grumble and grimace, our lives are full of everything we can handle. And with each new memory, whether joyous or heartbreaking, comes a firmer ground on which to stand. (Hopefully with no dog poo on it).

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Happiness is a Button Turkey


I figured it was high time to bring out the Thanksgiving decorations. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving gets the short end of the drumstick when it comes to pure volume of decorations.  But what it lacks in volume, it certainly makes up for in quality. For, of all of the holiday-based school art projects, the Turkey Day creations are, by far, my favorite.

I bring you, Exhibit A:  “Pine Cone Turkey with Mae West Feathers.” Why don’tcha come up and see me sometime?

Exhibit B: “Handprint Turkey with Hat.”

Exhibit C: “What I’m Thankful For Pilgrim” – please do read the fine print on this one. At the time, my three year old was apparently most thankful for chicken breasts.

Exhibit D: “The Milk Carton Mayflower” for those apparently non-lactose intolerant pilgrims

And, finally, I bring you this years Exhibit E: “Button Turkey.” My son was tasked with decorating a paper turkey with anything he wanted: crayons, paints, feathers – and my son, a man after my own heart, chose buttons.

Sometimes there’s nothing more wonderful or important than sitting down with my child and making a turkey out of buttons. Luckily, my son was able to find a button in the shape of a hat to really highlight this turkey’s rakish good looks.

When it comes to Thanksgiving craft projects, I’m not a believer in purely “child-based” projects for the holidays.  I think all members of the family can come together and create beautiful pieces that will last a lifetime.

Thankful Jars
My favorites are “Thankful Jars,” which provide a great opportunity for families to work together.

  • Depending upon the number of guests you’ll be having this Thanksgiving, purchase the appropriate number of Mason jars (which you can find at any grocery store).
  • Let your creativity run wild and decorate the jars any way you like. My children and I like to pick out pretty fall-colored ribbon and make construction paper leaves and flowers.
  • Also, we like to take pieces of paper and, in my children’s handwriting, write each guest’s name.
  • Punch holes in the base of each leaf, flower and name card and string enough ribbon through each to tie a bow around the mouth of the jar.
  • Cut four to five strips of white paper for each jar – large enough for your guests to write one thing for which they are thankful.

As a pre-dinner activity, have everyone fill out their papers, fold them and tuck them inside their Thankful Jars. At dinner, go around the table, allowing everyone to read theirs aloud. The best part is that you can save particularly special ones.

Unfortunately, for my husband (the consummate Yankee fan), I saved his. Derek Jeter and Katie? At least I made the cut.

Table Runner

Another of my favorite family projects is a handmade table runner. Because I’m something of a paper nut, I had the bright idea to create my own table runner out of wrapping paper.

So, gathering all of my crafty courage, I visited The Container Store. My sons and I found two beautiful papers, one brown floral for an accent and one that looked like cream-colored linen as a base. We also picked up a large spool of satin ribbon to match the papers.

  • Once you have found wrapping paper that best suits your Turkey Day color scheme, measure your table and cut one of the papers (which will serve as the base) to cover the length of the table and about a foot and a half wide.
  • Then, take your accent paper and cut it into enough 1-by-1-foot sections to span the length of the base.
  • Glue those accent sections onto the base paper, leaving about an inch in between each section.
  • Take a hole punch and put holes every six inches along the perimeter of the runner.
  • String the entire length of the ribbon through those holes and tie in a pretty bow at the end.

I love my table runner and have used it on everyday occasions!

I know full well that I will be that mother who consistently breaks out the art projects from years gone by as a form of holiday decoration. And I will blow the dust off of the Milk Carton Mayflower each Thanksgiving. And the Dinner Plate Heart (don’t ask) each Valentine’s Day. And the Athletic Sock Snowman each Christmas.  And I will smile at the time gone by and the small hands that made each treasure .

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Portraits of Gratitude 2013


There’s a certain degree of perfection that people try to attain as the holidays approach. The perfect Thanksgiving meal, the best presents, the ultimate in outdoor Christmas light decorations. And I’ll admit I fall prey to it just as much as the next Joe. I find myself lured by the Siren’s call. The one that insists that everything must be homemade to be acceptable. Make your own butter! Needlepoint that pillow! Craft your own Thanksgiving centerpiece from fishing line and dried cranberries! And sometimes I succeed, patting myself on the back as I create my own Thanksgiving table runner from ribbon and construction paper. And other times I fail miserably, as evidenced by the burnt homemade granola bars now lining the bottom of my garbage can. And the pressure of being perfect, of creating the ultimate moment for your family is, dare I say, exhausting. And virtually impossible.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I feel like there is also tremendous pressure to be as grateful as you possibly can. Of savoring each and every moment of the past year and never, ever forgetting to be appreciative and humbled by the bounty of our lives. And as much as I wish I could, I just can’t seem to find the energy to be grateful all the time. I mean, I wish I could. I wish I could be one of those amazing people who go through every second of every day soaking up the wonder of life and saying little prayers of gratitude to every flower, every tree, every moment of sweetness. But I’m tired, people. And I find it almost impossible to feel grateful when I’m scraping doggie doo-doo from the bottom of my son’s tennis shoes. “Isn’t it wonderful that he had so much fun that he walked though poo without noticing! I am grateful for those small moments of happiness!” Nope. It’s just poop on a shoe. I don’t mean to say that I don’t experience moments of great thankfulness, in which I am literally overwhelmed by the beauty and sweetness of my life and the people in it. I do. And I cry over it quite often. But it’s just not every second of every day. At some point I think you have to put the grateful voice on mute in order to get the laundry done , pluck the gray hairs, and start all over again tomorrow. And that’s OK. It’s OK to be tired and cranky and ungrateful…just as long as, occasionally, you turn the volume up on that little voice that’s telling you to stop and put down the fabric softener and the tweezers and remember that even though we may be baffled by the complexities of life, at the rhyme and reason for the events that unfold before us, we can be mindful of the wonder inherent in the journey. My life is messy. It’s loud and frustrating and beautiful and sad and outrageously funny. And I wouldn’t change anything about it. But in loving my life as much as I do, there comes a freedom to be irritated by it. To loathe making lunches every morning. To cringe at the urine lurking behind the boys’ toilet. To roll my eyes each and every time my husband rearranges the dishwasher with the precision of an engineer. I think we work hard enough that we’re allowed to sigh occasionally out of complete frustration, while never forgetting how lucky we are to be irritated by anything at all. For it is in loving something so completely and so generously that we are able to feel the flip side of it, and yet still continue making the lunches, and cleaning up the pee and watching the gray hairs accumulate like a badge of honor.

That said, and in the spirit of last year’s post, I give you my 2013 Portraits of Gratitude…

I am eternally grateful that I married this guy…

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And that I can easily drive and see a place that looks like this:

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That, despite the distance, my children can have friends like this:

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And that this coffee mug exists…

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For letters like this (please note President Taft trapped in the bathtub)…

Top.bmp

For these two amazing, funny, crazy, inspiring boys of mine

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Who send me texts like this

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And for people who write books like this

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And students who make art like this

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And this

ella creation

And who never let me forget that I am learning from them

IMG_1641

For a small Beastie

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And a thespian

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That this guy picked me up from the airport

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When I got to fly across the Pond and drink tea with my dear friend

248249_10151429715578479_671330544_n

And go back to the one place in my life that truly changed who I am

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For mother and grandmothers all rolled up into one

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For furry things

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And furrier things

eliot

I am grateful for kitchens

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And for the friends who cheered me on as I read my heart out

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And for jumping in, white bra and all, without a single moment’s hesitation

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Let’s all give ourselves a break this Thanksgiving and aim less for perfection, and more for perfect chaos. For though we grumble and grimace, our lives are full of everything we can handle. And with each new memory, whether joyous or heartbreaking, comes a firmer ground on which to stand. (Hopefully with no dog poo on it).

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Raising the White Swimshorts, or The Battle of Turning 40


sundek-white-blue-volley-swim-shorts-men-product-3-6026934-301973630_large_flexI worry that the slow, oozing descent into middle age has already begun for me and I blame it on the swim shorts. Gone are the days of the off-the-rack one-piece. I’d say bikini, but the last time I wore one of those was in high school on Senior Ditch Day and I spent the entire afternoon rearranging it at the bottom of each and every waterslide. No, my one and only foray into bikini-dom was about as successful as my one and only foray into smoking when I singed the back of a little person’s neck at a concert with my ash. A once-in-a -lifetime experience.

So, for years I devoted myself to the one-piece, preferably with some sort of embedded cup and low hip line. And for a long time, the one-piece served me well. As well as a piece of lycra can do. But now, in its place, is the proverbial tankini, defined by a halter top and white “swim shorts” which, for some, might as well be synonymous with “I give up.” And as much as I should probably rage against the dying of my swimwear light, I’m really OK with it. I’ve settled into swim shorts with a whimper, not a yell, and I doubt I’ll ever go back.

I love my swim shorts more than is humanly appropriate. I adore them. I have, at times, taken them out of my drawer in the winter just to look at them. They have opened up a new world for me – one of independence and self-acceptance and I am forever grateful for that fateful Land’s End catalog which opened my eyes to this new and wonderful world. Gone are the days of tugging at the bottom of my swimsuit so as to avoid blinding passersby with my literally lily-white fanny. Gone are the days of walking with my legs slightly apart to give the inane impression that my thighs don’t ever rub together. And, perhaps most importantly, gone are the days of worrying incessantly about lawn maintenance. Please don’t make me elaborate. You know what I’m talking about. I’ll just say that, while the lawn is still edged, it’s not mowed within an inch of its life.

Perhaps I should be ashamed of the white swim shorts. Maybe I should fight back and use them as a reminder of what I don’t want to wear…or even use a string bikini as a carrot on a stick for a body goal. But I just don’t want to. I don’t want to fight this particular battle anymore. I’m done. I’ve Thighmastered and Nair-ed myself within an inch of my life and, as parenting books often tell us, you need to pick your battles. And this is one battle that I am happy to wave the white shorts, I mean, flag over.

Which isn’t to say that I won’t continue to fight back on certain things. My mother has always said that women of a certain age shouldn’t wear short sleeves. And as I watch my arms get older I wonder if the threat of, what I recently heard referred to as, “bingo wings” (imagine an older lady yelling “bingo!” while waving her arms around and you’ll get the reference) might force me to abandon short sleeves forever, or at least tank tops. But I’m not quite there yet. I don’t have Michelle Obama’s arms, but I do like short sleeves and spaghetti strap dresses and as long as my arms maintain some semblance of elasticity, I’ll continue along the path of resistance.

And as I watch the older ladies at my local MacCalous department store purchase a year’s worth of tent-like underpants, I wonder when I will succumb to undergarments the size of picnic blankets. But, happily, I’m not there yet either.

The gray hair dilemma has me flummoxed. I don’t have enough to really go all out on full hair dye, and yet I have enough that I periodically catch my husband, who is five inches taller than me, staring down at the faint mohawk of gray lining the part in the hair. I’ve plucked the most offensive of them, and even tried that little mascara-looking do-hickey that dyes just the little patches you apply it to. But I do wonder what I will do as the gray takes over. It’s seemingly manageable for now, but what will I do when, as my hairdresser lovingly warns, “your gray goes from spotting to heavy flow.” I’m fighting it with a mascara wand and tweezers for now.

One fight I know I need to give up is my long-standing refusal to jog. For twenty-two years I’ve put off running for recreation (I don’t count running away from things in terror) since enduring four years of cross-country and track in high school. For decades I’ve told myself, and anyone who would listen, that I’ve “done my time” running. That a high school career of lumbering along, dreaming of tripping into a ditch to end the agony, was enough to last me a lifetime. But just today I ran. I tuned into my newly crafted Spotify playlist, the aptly titled “I Hate Every Minute of This”, and ran. And while, in my mind, I’m sure I looked like Andre the Giant running away from something, I did it anyway. And I’m going to do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And hopefully the next day. Until I like it. I have to like it at some point, right? I didn’t like it for four years as a teenager, but there’s still time.

Aside from the physical aspects of turning 40, I’ve begun to consider just what routines, personality flaws and other lifetime baggage I’d like to shed by the time I hit that particular milestone. I do think I’m finally at a place where I’d like to stop worrying so much what other people think. Not in terms of suddenly being mean and nasty and barreling down my social path like a bulldozer. I mean, as I near 40, I look forward to easing into a sense of self that precludes maintaining that ever-present “third eye” that’s constantly trying to see myself as other’s see me. I’ll admit I sometimes pick out outfits more for the other people attending the party than myself. And I have, at times, come home from a party and dissected everything I said and did to make sure I didn’t come across as odd. I edit myself from making the Monty Python references. Or singing at the top of my lungs. And I think about what my butt looks like from behind. And how I come across to my friends. And what the overall image people have of me is. And, after all these years, I’m finally trying to silence these judgmental voices in my head and just be authentic. To move into a psychological space in which I’m just more welcoming of myself and who I really am.

Also, I’ve been more aware lately of the decisions I make in life and why I make them. I’ve attempted to be more carefree and take more risks when it comes to everyday pleasure. Case in point…we recently came home from our annual vacation to Maine and, while there, we had the pleasure of attending a long-time island favorite’s 80th birthday party. We celebrated with a gorgeous cocktail party on the porch of their cottage. The gin and tonics flowed, the sun set over the Atlantic and, soon after the party came to its beautiful end, my two sons wanted to jump off the high dive of the wharf because high tide was hitting later that evening. So, they trundled off to change into their swimsuits while my husband and I made our way down to the wharf to meet them for their moonlight dip.

Once there, with the moon on the water and the smell of the spruce trees and the sounds of the waves hitting the pilings, I regretted not changing into my swimsuit with the boys. Until I realized that one doesn’t necessarily need a swimsuit to take advantage of an amazing moment. Which is why I jumped off the high dive, holding the hand of my older son, wearing khakis and a white bra with the underwire sticking out. And the action of not caring, of not being eternally mindful of what I looked like to the world around me, and just seizing the moment for myself and the memories it would create, was truly liberating. Yes, my father-in-law, with his aquiline nose high in the hair, watched me from the dock, but I didn’t care. I leapt and I loved every minute of it.

Now that we’re back, and I’ve had a chance to go through the myriad photographs from that trip, I was happily reminded that my dear friend was on-hand to capture the moment. And there, among the photographs of lupines and lobster boats and gorgeous ocean vistas, is a picture of a nearing-forty woman, in mid-leap, the moon reflecting off of the underwire of her white bra. And while I wore soggy khakis instead of my white swim shorts, the freedom remained the same.

No matter how you look at it, turning 40 is a milestone. Whether socially inflicted upon us or not, the fact remains that, for many, turning 40 is like a huge age-specific New Year’s Eve. We have the opportunity to create resolutions for ourselves and enter this new epoch with, perhaps, a little less clutter. I, for one, am hopeful that my 40s will be full of new adventures and laughter and just a little less worry. That I’ll run in short sleeves, making Holy Grail references in smaller-than-a-tent underpants. And that I’ll leap, whether in soggy khakis or white swim shorts, into the cold water and love every minute of it.

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Museum Masters

getting-personal-deacon-627I was so thrilled to jump-start my Winter Session of Museum Masters with an artist I admire greatly. Richard Deacon, a Welsh-born artist, writer and sculptor, has created, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful and compelling pieces of sculptural art in the world. Deacon’s sculptures are abstract and often constructed of everyday materials and, while a true artist at heart, Deacon prefers to speak of himself as a “fabricator” as opposed to a “sculptor.” In class today, we discussed Richard’s colorful childhood as the son of a doctor and a pilot who moved with his family every two years or so. We learned about his early dabblings in performance art, including his piece Stuff Box Interior in which he built a box and bolted himself inside, like an art-minded Harry Houdini! We also took a close look at some of his most famous works, including Let’s Not Be…

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I’m a Finalist!


Thanks to all of the wonderful people who nominated me this year, k.t. blue designs Museum Masters is an official finalist in the Red Tricycle Totally Awesome Awards for 2012! Voting is now open for this amazing award! And I’d love love love your votes!

To vote, just visit this page, enter San Francisco as your city, and vote for me! Voting ends November 30th…

I will be so grateful and humbled and honored and thrilled with your votes! As will all of my students who are just the most awesome students in the entire world.
As an added incentive, just let me know you’ve voted, either by e-mail at katie@ktblue.com or by commenting below and you’ll be entered to win a 8×11 matted print of any k.t. blue designs piece you want! I mean, really? How can you lose!

Again, thank you so much for your support….All my love to you all!

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My two cents


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Obama
copyright k.t. blue designs 2012

 

They tell me a picture’s worth a thousand words. Let’s hope this one is worth just a bit more…

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October 26, 2012 · 8:54 am