Category Archives: Life Balance

Tis the Season to Keep Life Simple, or the Benefit of Unifocus

Mrs. R was a patient woman who coached me through five years of adult piano lessons. Sage quips rolled off her tongue,  salve for my frustration and disappointment. It was her notion that “there is a season for everything” that had the strongest stick-value, and I hope she would be flattered to know that I have since passed it on many times over.

Julia Cameron talks about the benefit of repetitive, mindless activity, in that it seems to invite creative percolation. Without effort, ideas just show up. It’s like a brainstorming party — for 1. My notable moments of cerebral luminescence seem to come while I am either driving (alone) or working out at the gym.

Last week’s commute was 200 miles’ worth of ruminations over the loss of my muse. If this is a game of hide-and-seek, she’s won. But how to explain the abyss? There can be no other explanation than this is the season of teaching; I have yet to learn how to parcel out some, but not all, of my self. Sad, but true.

As I recuperated from three wisdom tooth extractions today, and followed doctor’s orders to rest, the luxury of unstructured time came to my rescue. An shop reminded me how much I love vintage fashion, which led me back to the photo above: a corner of my craft room. Although I haven’t left the sofa in hours, I’m enjoying that ‘home at last’ feeling.

Anyone else out there have trouble managing their ‘best’ energy?


Come meet my friend …

Braided SistersThere’s a new gal in the blogosphere and I thought you might be interested in following her Year in the Studio. Her journey has just begun and I think it’s going to be a fun one, with some surprises along the way. She’s super talented, funny, and a dear friend. When you meet her, you’ll understand why I wanted to introduce you. Happy visiting!

Artist Date: Western Avenue Studios

This is a still life I used as inspiration, back in the day when I was designing custom placemats. The delicate balance between two complimentary colors has always intrigued me. How much orange can you mix with a handful of purples before the combination turns unsavory?

A field trip to Western Avenue Studios (Lowell, MA) last Saturday ignited my creative engine like a double-full-strength espresso, and I was reminded of these photos taken when I, too, rented studio space in a building filled with a dozen painters, a basket weaver, a jeweler, and a mixed media artist.

These placemats were for a family with younger children; the deep colors were intended to mask food splatters. The color scheme was pulled from their Sunday dishes.

All of the artists in our building came together and put on a one-night open studio extravaganza. In a three-hour period, five hundred visitors toured our studios! This panel of placemats (pre-cutting and -sewing) was on display outside my room. Sadly, the effort required to maintain a cohesive, organized group was unappealing to some of the artists, and any future plans were abandoned after our first and only event.

This 12-harness cotton and silk fabric was inspired by Gustav Klimt‘s painting “The Kiss.”

My loom was given a new home years ago, and now I have a crafting space in my home. But walking through the Western Avenue Studios building had me thinking about the energy generated by a creative community. I like to think I brought a bit of that home with me, and it wasn’t even Open Studio Day (12noon-5pm, first Saturday of each month). The processes of making and writing are solitary. But an afternoon spent admiring the work of others, engaging in conversation with kindred spirits, are bound to revitalize and inspire.

My daily Vitamin “N”

beauty shotI love my public radio stations, but too often the message is doom-and-gloom, and frankly, it’s stressful. Who needs a reminder of what’s going wrong in the world?  Richard Louv, on the other hand, during a recent radio interview, soothed my spirit as he proselytized on the benefits available to all of us with a regular dose of Vitamin “N” (for Nature). Even the title of his latest book, The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit-Disorder, has a hopeful spin.

ready for the pickingI love the idea of fresh, clean produce. So it was a real treat to be able to go blueberry picking at an organic farm with a friend last week. All the while, humming to myself about the hefty dose of Vitamin “N” that was part of the deal.

Rosaly's Organic FarmI like the idea of easing bits of nature into my everyday life, rather than pretending I’m going to go hiking on the weekend.  (Not going to happen — or if it does, only rarely.) Puttering in the garden, or dead-heading and watering my window boxes, certainly qualify as communing with nature, but I know I need more than that. Foraging for blueberries — even if they are someone else’s cultivated bushes — felt just right and put me in a glorious mood for the rest of the day.
farm to table blueberriesAnd the bonus is, we’ve been munching on these beauties all week!

Just like Artist Dates, I think I need a list of Nature Dates. Would love to hear your ideas on how you incorporate the natural world into your life. Do tell!

Summer Horizon

Five and HopefulSchool’s out and I’m excited! Granted, I’ll have some responsibilities over the summer, and prep for the fall semester cannot be left untended, but in general I have two months in front of me and the creative possibilities feel thrilling. As if she could read my mind, one of my favorite entrepreneurial people, Barbara Winter, posted a link to this list this morning. After ten days in what is lovingly referred to as “the bubble,” I should take a few minutes and assess the creativity-strengthening benefits of my trip to Star Island. But right now I’m itching to do so many other things. There’s the Mitered Crosses Knitted Blanketto finish (hey, I even managed to knit while working last week!),

Lisa Allen knitting

Knitting on the job!

the query letter for the memoir that needs more work, that new bedroom quilt needs starting, and the livingroom windows beg to be draped in something more refined than Indian bedspreads.

Now, I’m talking to myself more than anyone else, but there are three things I know for sure:
1) the ‘doing’ cannot be accomplished while surfing inspirational blogs and photos on the internet
2) pure unadulterated focus is essential
3) persistence pays

Island Sunrise

A Recipe for Passion

Passion Mosaic
Photo credits: 1. Spring, 2. finished pile of new collages!, 3. Spring Commuting > Winter Commuting, 4. China Blue top – the back, 5. studio sneak peek, 6. Weaving Days, 7. A Little Bouquet, 8. Quilt Blocks, 9. shy, 10. rainbow geese quilt, 11. private garden, 12. Porto Seguro-BA, 13. Saturday love, 14 – 16. Not available

I asked my friend Trudie if I could share her recipe for “Passion.” Each week, she and her sister take turns offering up a word to use as a writing prompt. Although they live hundreds of miles and several states apart, this weekly exchange of thoughts and ideas has brought new closeness. Their agreement is that one cannot open the email from the other until her own piece is written and sent off. When I heard Trudie read this at writing group last night, visions of one of these fun flickr mosaics immediately popped into my head and I begged permission to share her ‘recipe’ here. Enjoy!


It feels as though the word would automatically print in big, flamboyant letters, so I decided to help it along with that.

Strong emotions, feelings, drive. Seems to me if I’m mixing up a potion of passion, those are ingredients I’ll put in it.

2 cups enthusiasm
1-1/2 cup continual learning
¼ cup vibrancy
½ tsp vanilla
dash cayenne pepper
Chocolate to suit tastes

Gently stir the continual learning and inquisitive nature, add enthusiasm and let rise until the level feels appropriate.

Dig your hands into it, kneading it gently and vibrantly as the spirits rise.

Combine the vanilla and cayenne pepper together and add to product, giving it the zest and sweet smell of joy.

Naturally if this recipe is for myself, chocolate is required. Add whatever feels like the quantity of the day.

Bake at 350

Note: Caution is advised. In creating passion in life, check to ensure the ingredients are mixed properly to give you passion that serves you well rather than eats you up alive!

Bon Appetit!

Life is Good …

Earth Day on Campus… now that the last of the essays have been read, the reading journals tallied, the anthologies evaluated, and final grades have been submitted. Phew! In case anyone is interested, it took me 30 hours, or about one hour per student.

Next? sort through the clutter of personal history that is currently residing in my dining room, now that we’ve emptied the storage unit (and reclaimed that monthly fee for our own use again!). One fun treasure that surfaced is the photo album I made after my second European hitch hiking tour in 1972. Particular snapshot favorites? Me, sun bathing on the beach in Paros (Greece) in November, fully clothed, including tights and heavy sweater. (I’ve never been one for bathing suits.) And then there was the interminable card game on the island, as my boyfriend and I waited for the return of my passport to the consulate in Athens. I was on a bit of a “Roots”-themed mission, determined to get in touch with my Greek heritage. Things began to go haywire during a late-night border crossing into Yugoslavia when I discovered I was in possession of someone else’s passport and mine was probably long-gone with another girl who had stayed at the youth hostel in Salzburg. Only the ignorance of youth can account for my thinking that it was a good idea to continue on into Greece with someone else’s identity.

Textile History

Handwoven rug inspired by Amish quilt designs, family heirloom crocheted bedcover, and South American donkey blanket, all piled onto restored antique rocking chair..

Amazing where a few relics can take one. But for this week, there’s nothing like the impending arrival of house guests to inspire a flurry of cleaning and tidying. And I’ve just washed a stack of cottons in beautiful blues — ultramarine to periwinkle, with a sprinkle of teal dots for pleasant measure — in preparation for the new bedroom quilt. Pure happiness. … back soon,