Creativity during a pandemic

During the pandemic with endless days of solitude, I’m increasingly grateful that I discovered a passion for painting. I immerse myself in the vibrant colors and create art that continues to surprise me. Hours melt away….

Clearly I’ve been obsessed with the tiles I’ve been painting with alcohol ink, as evidenced by recent posts. I wanted to share a few of my favorite artistic endeavors in this post; all are alcohol ink on Yupo paper.

Surprise on my Porch

In September I took my first (and only since Covid) vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Traveling solo during a pandemic, I sought new experiences that were safe and uncrowded. The first was a pottery class at Fowler’s Clay Works, something I’d always wanted to try and I loved it!

My creation had to remain behind to cure, be glazed and fired. My expectation was to receive it after three months which would be mid December. To my surprise, it arrived on my front porch this morning. It’s so pretty and I flashed back to an especially fun and memorable day. I’m including photos and this link, https://spencesgirl.com/2020/09/26/tennessee-great-smoky-arts-crafts-community/ to my earlier post about the art classes I took in Gatlinburg if you’d like to check it out.

My first 24 tiles

I’ve been sharing my tile art through various social media accounts and garnering lots of positive feedback. One question (likely due to the number of posts) is “what’s the plan for these”? That’s a great question….for now I’ve been enjoying them displayed like this!

Creating beauty and focusing on art rather than the sadness, uncertainty and stress of 2020.
I pop in my AirPods, select my favorite playlist and start painting, like a spa day for my mind.

Fun with Painting

During my September trip to Tennessee I took a painting class introducing me to alcohol inks – and just like that I was hooked! These are paintings that I’ve done since returning home.

Sun Reflecting on Dewy Grass
Inside an Agate
Abstract
Abstract
Abstract
Morning Glory Leaves from my Garden
The view from my cabin in Wears Valley was my inspiration for this tile.

Tennessee – Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community

If you’re traveling in the Smoky Mountains, I recommend driving the few winding miles outside of town to explore the galleries and create your own art, watch for this colorful sign!

On this trip I explored the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community for the first time, discovering a number of artists offering “Create Your Own” art.  Looking specifically for less crowded attractions, I found Fowler’s Clay Works and signed up for a pottery class, something I’ve always wanted to try. Owner Mike Fowler was friendly and welcoming. Our instructor Rachel was fun and knowledgeable, guiding myself and my classmates, three ladies from Florida celebrating their birthdays in the Smokies. Separated by distance and plexiglass, we each created a piece of pottery while laughing and sharing stories.  I fell in love with the cool, wet clay and the focus required to shape it into a wonderful memento of my trip. It will be fired, glazed and shipped in a few months. I can’t wait to see it!

On an “art high” after my pottery class, I drove on to explore other Create Your Own offerings and found Sparky’s Glassblowing. After a brief chat with Sparky I signed up for a class the following week.

When I arrived for my class, his lovely wife got me suited up in a leather apron and protective eyewear. She explained Sparky would be masked but that the extreme heat of the torch would protect me from any airborne germs and the glassblowing booth was surrounded by glass. To my amazement, I made a glass bear and two blown glass ornaments in the span of an hour. Sparky has a great teaching style – safe, encouraging and a clever sense of humor that reminded me of Spence. The class was a delight!

With time before my next class, I continued exploring the art route and came upon Firefly Glassworks. Up a steep one lane drive, it’s a “drop-in” (no classes) fused and dichroic glass studio and adjacent workshop. Owner, Nancy Huff, was knowledgeable and fun to chat with while I designed a ring dish using colorful pieces of mirrored and dichroic glass in an abstract pattern.

My final class was at A. Jann Peitso Art. For 2 1/2 hours I painted side by side with Jann, (both of us masked), creating our own unique paintings using Yupo paper and alcohol ink. It was a fascinating process and I fell in love with it. Jann, an artist in her 80’s, is a soft spoken southern lady, superb teacher and has a lovely gallery filled with her artwork. She closes the gallery during classes so there are no interruptions. By the time I left, I had a completed painting (including matting), a certificate from the class, list of materials and resources for future painting endeavors and a conversation that I won’t soon forget. I’ve already acquired the materials to continue my exploration with this medium, I’m hooked!

NOTE: The classes were extremely affordable and for those items that needed firing, shipping was included.

Never say die…

I had great success this year in growing jalapeño, shishito and cubanelle peppers in pots on my deck. When the first freeze was forecasted a few days ago I looked at the number of jalapeños still growing and decided to bring that pot inside. Today, in spite of several frosts, I noticed that the pot with my shishitos not only still has peppers growing but is flowering. With that “never say die” spirit, I brought that pot in as well. Though I don’t imagine they’ll fare well for too long, I’ll enjoy every bonus pepper that I get!

 

Another week of delicious meals from HelloFresh…

When I received my box on Tuesday this week I was disappointed to see that the two entrees I received were not the ones I selected. The good news was two-fold 1) the ones they sent were meals that looked delicious and 2) when I called, they immediately applied a credit to my next order. I offered to send photos and it was not necessary. An email arrived within minutes apologizing and documenting their resolution. I couldn’t ask for more.

Especially now that I’ve had both meals – absolutely loved them.

The first one I fixed the day I got the box. Although I’ve enjoyed some pretty spectacular burgers in my lifetime, it would be easy to say this might have been the best one ever.

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The Melty Monterey Jack Burger with Red Onion Jam and Breaded Zucchini. Seriously. This burger rocked my world.

Tonight I fixed the Sweet as Honey Chicken with Green Beans and Jasmine Rice. And again, I had a meal that was delicious and flavorful but also it was one of two 540 calorie meals that were offered for this week which was a nice benefit (others being higher in calories but still balanced and healthy). If I’d had this in a restaurant I would have sent my regards to the chef. As it was, I patted myself on the back.

So far, I’m a fan of HelloFresh and with each new box, I feel certain that my positive experiences will continue.

This blog represents my opinions and enthusiasm but no compensation from HelloFresh. From inception I didn’t want to have advertisements on my blog, (no judgements) simply my preference.

PrivateFly, a truly exceptional company

On February 8th, life took a serious turn. An emergency room nurse called to tell me Spence had been brought to a hospital in Ft Lauderdale where he’d been visiting his BFF for a month. I flew to Florida the next afternoon arriving at 1:00 a.m. February 10th. Little did I know how long we’d be there. As days passed, it became clear I had to get us back to Michigan. I googled “private plane charter” from my iPhone. True of any Google search, the choices were endless but my need was immediate. I chose the first option that appeared. That option was PrivateFly and I believe divine intervention led me to these angels.

Valentine’s Day was my first call to PrivateFly. I connected with Denison, explaining our situation learning he was even based in Fort Lauderdale.  A worldwide company, PrivateFly is world class in every aspect – professional, hardworking and compassionate people that made me feel they cared. When I knew Spence would be discharged Saturday 2/18, it was late afternoon. I feared given the weekend and President’s Day that we wouldn’t be able to  seriously begin the process of putting a flight back to Flint together until Tuesday.

That’s when PrivateFly surprised me as they worked on our behalf 24/7 – all weekend! Denison, Marion, Pierre (who’s based in London) and Jeremiah answered my calls on the first ring, updating me by phone and email as they searched for the right plane and best bid. By Sunday evening, they’d found our flight. In short order I was printing contracts on my hotel’s printer, faxing them back, finalizing everything by 10:30 p.m..  Marion was in constant contact that night, even arranging pickup from our hotel to the tarmac (in a brand new black Town Car no less).  Our flight on Tuesday morning was stress free and pure bliss. Capping a wretchedly stressful thirteen days, these wonderful folks at PrivateFly put smiles on our faces. Denison even came to the airport to meet us. The flight lasted two hours and thirty two minutes from wheels up to wheels down, bringing Spence and I safely home in total comfort, seven newspapers, fluffy blanket included.  With lovely gifts from PrivateFly and refreshments including a delicious fruit and dip platter, we’ve completed another item on our bucket list though not in the way we could have imagined.

Needing to get home quickly under crisis circumstances may not have made us PrivateFly’s typical clients.  I rarely write endorsements on products or companies as you know if you’ve followed this blog.  In a world where we’ve become accustomed to low expectations, I felt compelled to share our experience with PrivateFly.  Every expectation was not just met but exceeded and I’ll be forever grateful for them.

Here’s a slideshow documenting the day we finally flew home to Michigan:

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Safety instructions for our Lear Jet 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl’s Day Project – Bath Products

If you’ve followed this blog, you may recall my five part DIY Bath Products series from late 2015 when I made them for gifts – and for myself. Throughout the year – typically on rainy/snowy days, I’d haul out my supplies and expand my bath products repertoire and inventory.  Working with essential oils is not only fun but the house smells pretty amazing.

My lifelong BFF and I had discussed doing a Girl’s Day of making bath products for the last several months.  To her credit, she set the date and a plan to make: 1) room and body sprays 2) foaming liquid soaps 3) facial sugar scrubs and 4) foaming bath salt scrubs. The coldest day of the year thus far with bursts of snow and wind, it was a good day to be indoors  Shortly before I arrived, she’d texted me a “how about some homemade soup?” to which I quickly replied “Yes!”.

After a very satisfying and delicious lunch (completed with veggies, dill dip and Pinot Noir) we set to work.  Since the wine was opened, we felt it would be wasteful not to finish it off.  This served to enhance our creativity (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).  When you’ve been friends since you were two years old there’s a history of hilarity, silliness and laughing till you’re crying (or snorting) that is tapped into. For several hours, we embraced our zaniness as we worked on our fragrant endeavors, measuring and blending away like we were chemists. Or stand-up comics.  Or both.

Dont’be fooled, the gin is an ingredient for the products….

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Fun with funnels……

 

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My products