Sunday, January 31, 2010

When Your Heart is Filled with Dance

My friend, Meredith, and I have a lot in common.

Having Fun with Paint
We both graduated from college with a degree in English education.  We both taught English abroad (she taught in Bolivia; I taught in Okinawa).  We both taught English in the North Carolina public school system for one year.  We both dropped out of education after completing that year and are both "gladly" repaying the state for our short-lived career choice.  And now we both work at the same company.

Having Fun with Paint
Another thing we have in common is our love for dance.  I love to dance, and so does Meredith.  If the right song comes on the radio, you could probably find us bopping to its beat.  But between the two of us, Meredith has the heart of a real dancer.  With formal training in ballet and in tap under her belt, her love for dance is reflected in her personality.  She doesn't skip a beat and has a  graceful presence.  (And on those rare occasions, you can even catch her leaping in front of my office window like a sprite ballerina.)

Having Fun with Paint

So to complement her bright and cheery personality, I decided to create this collage for her.  Dance is how she is able to express herself.  Art is how I am able to express myself.  Here the two are dancing together.

Collage for Meredith

"Dance is the hidden language of the soul."
-Martha Graham

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Words to Live By: Week 33

My friend Jeanine is surviving and thriving after breast cancer.

I was looking forward to spending a day snow tubing in Boone with Jeanine, Jake, and the rest of the Patten clan, but our plans have been dashed by the arrival of snow.  Seven inches to be exact.  Looks like we'll all be playing in the snow whether we wanted to or not.

Funny thing about snow.  When it falls, it can make everything look so pristine and clean outside, reminding us that there is opportunity for change and adventure at a moment's notice.
Week 33
Week 33

With Snow, There is Snow Cream

Beginning Friday evening, snow began to fall... and fall... and fall.  It created an icy blanket on everything we owned.  For a week, we had been warned by the local weather channel of its impending arrival, but, living in central North Carolina, we take the announcement of snow with a grain of salt.  However, when it does come, we find ourselves ill-equipped to adapt to our new snowy environment.  Often advised to stay home and out of harm's way as the state tries to find the resources to clear roads and attend to weather-related accidents, it's a wonder that any good can come from snow.

Ah, but there is good.  With the arrival of snow, there is opportunity for snow cream.

Although I missed the opportunity to try this recipe last year, I made sure this year I was prepared.  So without further ado, here is how you make snow cream.

How to Make Snow Cream

Step One: After an hour after the snow has started to fall, put out a big kitchen bowl to collect the snow.

Step One

Step Two: Gather all your ingredients: 1 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Step Two

Step Three: Place the milk, sugar, and vanilla in a blender.

Step Three

Step Four: Add the snow to the blender.  Mix well.

Step Four

Hmm... It's not mixing...

Step Five: Unplug the blender and stir the mixture by hand.

Step Five

Step Six: Scoop mixture in a glass.  Garnish as desired.

Step Six

And now for the taste test...

Ready to Eat

It's a winner!  Next time you find yourself cursing the snow, try this recipe instead.  It may sweeten the experience for you.

Jason Likes It!

I'm in Love

"Snowflakes are kisses from heaven."
- Author Unknown

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Twice the Blessings

I was recently commissioned to design a baby shower invitation for Jeanine, whose friend, Melissa, is having twins.  The theme for the piece was "Two Peas in a Pod."

At first, I was nervous about doing a commissioned piece.  I had these thoughts in the back of my mind as I started:

"What if she doesn't like the design?"  
"What if I can't produce her vision for the design?"  
Worse yet, "What if she changes her mind and decides 'Thanks, but no thanks'?"

However, as I went through the process, I found that it wasn't as difficult as I had imagined.  Although I had fears of not living up to Jeanine's expectations, she willingly offered her input but made it clear that she was really relying on me to have ownership of the vision of the design.  She put all her trust in my artsy hands.  

After proposing a few sketches and receiving confirmation of the design, I was given free reign to make the design come to life.

2 Peas in a Pod Concept Sketch 12 Peas in a Pod Concept Sketch 22 Peas in a Pod Concept Sketch 32 Peas in a Pod Concept Sketch 4

In the end, I tried to draw the picture a little bit for Jeanine and a little bit for myself.  I know that I still need practice in finding the right balance between artistic expression and creating pieces for someone else.  But I think I will get there eventually and even have some fun along the way.

2 Peas in a Pod Final Product

"He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away."
- Raymond Hull

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Words to Live By: Week 32

My friend Jeanine is surviving and thriving after breast cancer.

Despite a little bout of insomnia, Jeanine is doing well this week.  In fact, she has been keeping me busy with a special commissioned piece of art for a friend of hers.  The piece will double as a design for a baby shower invitation.  (More on that later...)

In all the ways we are supporting her, Jeanine also supports so many around her.  Here's an excerpt from a email she sent me last week after checking out the new website:
I usually do not peek at my Words to Live By's b/c I like to be surprised when you give them to me.... but I peeked because I went to your blog through this site. LOVE the one for this week. Your words that you write on your blog make me feel so good. The funny thing is that it has been the positive people around me- like you- that have made me realize how lucky I am to have such great people in my life. Who else would sit in isolation with me for hours on end??? You are a remarkable woman and you do a great job embracing inochi. Love ya and good luck with the site.
Thanks for all the faith and support, Jeanine.  It's immeasurable like your zest for life.

Week 32
Week 32

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Donning Our Crowns

Not too long ago, my friend, Shannon, informed me that she needed something happy for her office wall.  "What would you like?" I asked.  "Oh, I don't know...Surprise me," she said.  The gauntlet was thrown down before me - a challenge!

After thinking on it for a while, I knew exactly what to draw.

After researching some images online, I found the perfect models from which to create Shannon's piece.  For months, she's been trying to find a cute cloche hat but has been unable to find one.  Why not showcase the hat of her adoration in a work of art?

Artwork for Shannon

To begin, I drew the designs on paper and inked them in with Sharpie.  Next, I scribbled color onto the designs using my favorite coloring medium, water color pencils.

Artwork for Shannon 2

Once the color was completed, I carefully blended the colors using a small water color brush and water.

Artwork for Shannon 3

After the color dried, I used my handy Cutter Bee scissors to cut the designs out of the paper.

Artwork for Shannon 5
Once the figures were removed, I selected a coordinating piece of designer scrapbook paper in which to paste the designs.  I used Mod Podge on the back and on the surface of the designs to adhere them to the scrapbook paper.

Artwork for Shannon 6Artwork for Shannon 7
The figures started to bubble as they dried, so I used a blunt plastic tool to smooth them out.

Artwork for Shannon 9
To finish the piece, I added a quote to the drawing that I thought reflected the feel of the piece (oh, how I love my quotes).  I hope she enjoys it!

Artwork for Shannon 10

"We just know inside that we're queens.  And these are the crowns we wear."
- Felecia McMillan

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Inochi Designs is Online!

One of my new year's resolutions was to build a website to showcase my artwork and other creative interests.  I attempted this effort in 2008, but didn't really follow through with the updates or maintenance.  However, my good friend, Alfonso, offered to help me to get Inochi Designs up and running in full force.

Since we both had the day off yesterday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we decided to get together and revamp the existing site.  I had a vision and prepared some sketches for Alfonso so that he would have an idea of what to build.  Much to my delight he was able to make it come to life.  It only took about three hours (and an agreement to watch Ninja Assassin with him at the dollar theater afterward).

Alf Computing

Alfonso preparing himself for greatness.

I'm pretty happy with the outcome.  Everything is consolidated and PINK.  Thanks again, Alf, for all of your HTML expertise!

Inochi Designs

"Goals are dreams with deadlines." 
- Diana Scharf Hunt

Monday, January 18, 2010


Last weekend while watching our nephew, Jake, Jason and I decided to bring the ol' Jasonopoly board out of the closet and have a go at it.  It had been ages since we played it, and Jake is always a willing participant.  We rarely find anyone who wants to play the game.  If you know regular Monopoly, you know how LONG it can take to finish and declare a winner.  (And it always seems like Jason wins!)  Even I need a little convincing sometimes to succumb to that kind of torture commitment.

The Return of Jasonopoly

Jason and Jake set up the board.

I originally made Jasonopoly for my beloved a couple of years ago as a special 30th birthday present.  Through the course of our dating and through our marriage, I learned that Monopoly was one of Jason's favorite games (as well as the long and torturous game, Risk).  To celebrate his special day, I came up with a "special 30th birthday edition" of Jasonopoly with all of the game pieces relating to significant events and trivia about the boy.

Setting Up the Board

Although we don't play it often, it's nice to bring it out every once in a while to celebrate the man that he is.  By the way, I won!

Jason Money

"I want a man who's kind and understanding.  
Is that too much to ask of a millionaire?"
- Zsa Zsa Gabor

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Words to Live By: Week 31

My friend Jeanine is surviving and thriving after breast cancer.

As I prepare the thirty-first entry for Words to Live By, I am astonished by how much Jeanine has overcome in the last six months.  Being diagnosed with breast cancer, going through chemotherapy, having the cancer successfully removed, and now going through radiation, she truly is an inspiration to me.

I know from the moment she found out she had cancer that it has not been easy for her, but she rarely shows it.  Even now with the toll radiation has on her energy, she finds the time to shop, an activity that once left her winded or fatigued.  Her seeking-the-bright-side kind of attitude made me realize that it was time to update the tag line I use to preface each entry for Words to Live By.  I think it's most appropriate.

Week 31

Week 31

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Words to Live By: Week 30

My friend Jeanine has cancer, but cancer does not have Jeanine.

Jason and I happily watched Jake this weekend while Jeanine and Terry had a mini-vacation in the mountains.  Although Jeanine has been preparing herself for radiation treatments, the vacation was as much for her as it was for Terry.  He has been her rock, but even men of steel need a break from reality, even if it is for only a short while.

Week 30

Week 30

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Pleasant Surprise

In my line of work, creativity is limited, and for good reason.  My job requires that a lot of t's be crossed and i's be dotted.  But, when I get the chance, I try to squeeze in a little bit of creativity where I can.  Some of this need for creativity came back to me today in an unexpected way.

Last month, I had to send some secure materials to a client to review.  To emphasize the security of the document, I covered the outside of the sealed envelope with a skull and crossbones.  She found the drawing amusing to say the least.

When I received the secure document back this morning in an unassuming FedEx envelope, this is what I unearthed from its contents.

For Me?


“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise.
It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.”
- Ashley Montagu

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Creative Duo

Lines go here.  Lines go there.
And soon a figure emerges
From the lines intertwined
On the page.

She is pleased with herself.
A nice doodle to end the day.

Roses in Black and White

She asks the boy how he likes it.


"I think it would look really good if you colored some of the roses red."


She sighs... and realizes he's right.
What a nice creative pair they make.

Roses with a Splash of Red

"It has been said that art is a tryst, 
for in the joy of it maker and beholder meet."
- Kojiro Tomita

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Words to Live By: Week 29

My friend Jeanine has cancer, but cancer does not have Jeanine.

Jeanine has big plans for 2010:

"2009 is finally over!! This year I plan on winning the HGTV dream home, running a 5K with Jake, becoming a stand-up paddle board guru, traveling to Canada, sipping wine with my husband in Napa Valley, betting a $100 on a black jack hand and winning, starting to write a book, researching how to start a foundation, and continuing to kick cancer to the curb each day. How about you?"

Yes, indeed, how about you?

Week 29

Week 29

Friday, January 1, 2010

Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu (Happy New Year)

Happy New Year!

I decided to start a new tradition in our home and commence the eating of toshikoshi soba on New Year's Eve. What's toshikoshi soba? From what I learned from my mother, it is the eating of noodles on New Year's Eve to bridge the old year to the new year. In Japan, eating these noodles on New Year's Eve promises one longevity in the New Year. There are various ways to prepare the noodles. The recipe below shares how I prepared the noodles based on a recipe my mother gave me.

  • Pork ribs
  • Noodles (udon or buckwheat will do)
  • Chicken stock
  • Chicken bouillon cubes (2)
  • Salt
  • Soy sauce
  • Hon dashi (Japanese soup base) (or dashi no moto if you can find it)
  • Green onions
  • Red pepper flakes
  1. Place the pork ribs in a large pot filled with water. Place the pot on your stove top and bring it to a boil. Once the water has begun boiling, remove the pork ribs, and pour out the water.
    Making Toshikoshi SobaMaking Toshikoshi Soba 3

  2. Place the pork ribs in a fresh pot of water and begin boiling again. Boil for one hour.

    Making Toshikoshi Soba 4

  3. Once the pork ribs have finished boiling, set them aside. Add chicken stock, a large splash of soy sauce (for color), both chicken bouillon cubes, and a large pinch of hon dashi to taste.
  4. As your soup base simmers, remove the bones and fat from the pork ribs. Cut the meat into large cubes and add them back to the soup stock.

    Making Toshikoshi Soba 6

  5. In a separate pot, boil your noodles. Follow the instructions on the noodles' packaging.
  6. To eat, put the noodles in a bowl and add the soup and pork separately. Sprinkle the top of the noodles with sliced green onion and red pepper flakes.

    Making Toshikoshi Soba 7
When eating your noodles, it is important to remember to maintain the integrity of the noodles. The longer the noodles you eat, the more luck you will have for the New Year. The only catch is, you have to eat these noodles before midnight on New Year's Eve. Luckily, I got home early from work and made them as a late lunch for me and Jason before heading out for New Year's Eve festivities.

If you choose to follow this tradition, I hope you enjoy the recipe. By the way, it's not considered rude in Japan to slurp your noodles, so slurp away!

Happy New Year!

"Worries go down better with soup." - Jewish Proverb


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