Saturday, December 28, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I don't feel at all late extending a Merry Christmas to you! After all, the 12 days of Christmas run from December 25 through January 6 (Epiphany). So that makes me right on time, for once! I hope you and yours enjoyed the holidays. Thanks so much for visiting me over here at The Domina. I love reading your comments - keep them coming!

I can't wait to share more of my art adventures with you next year! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Year in Socks

In case you didn't already know it, I'm a pretty dedicated knitter. Socks are my favorite things to knit. I always have a pair of socks in progess. I even knit socks in while in labor (until I couldn't hold my hands still enough!) So I guess I like to knit socks. A lot. Don't believe me? Take a look:

Not as many as some previous years, especially if you figure that two pairs were baby socks, but when you figure it's about 350 yards of yarn per adult-sized pair....that's about a mile of yarn! 

If you don't have a pair of hand knit socks, do whatever it takes to get some! They fit perfectly, are so warm and cozy, and wear like iron. My oldest pair is 10 years old, and have only been darned once. Wool is amazing stuff - it absorbs up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp, so it keeps you warm even when wet. It self-extinguishes if it catches fire. The natural crimp (or curliness) of the fibers create bulk and loft which trap air, making it an excellent insulator. Wool is elastic and resists wrinkles. It's 15x more durable than cotton. It's anti-microbial and hypoallergenic.

His sweater is waiting to become YOUR sweater!

And it felts....remember that sweater you threw in the washing machine and it shrunk into Barbie-sized apparel? Yeah, felting is simple the cuticles of the fibers locking onto each tighter and tighter as the wool is agitated. But this isn't a bad thing (unless you did it to your favorite sweater). Felted wool is very dense and warm - great for mittens, slippers, hot pads, and more. And because knitting that's been felted won't unravel, go ahead and cut up that mini-sweater and make something new and wonderful with it! I made some slippers from a thrifted sweater that I intentionally felted (just wash with HOT water with your next load of towels or jeans....and throw it in the dryer, too. The more abuse, the better it felts).


As much as I love wool, I usually choose "superwash" wools when I knit socks. This means the wool has been treated so it won't felt. I don't need to worry about my socks shrinking in the wash! 

And just how many socks have I knit?? I lost count, but I rounded up almost every pair I have in the house for you to see (I know 2 pairs are missing from this pic). About a dozen more have been given away as gifts. The center blue/gray striped pair is the first pair I ever knit, 10 years ago. 

(Before you go crazy, these aren't ALL mine. Five of these are my husband's. He loves hand knit socks, too!) 

Are you convinced hand knit socks are the way to go? Try making your own - it's really not that hard! Everything you need to know is online and FREE! Happy knitting!

Monday, December 9, 2013

I love Handel's "Messiah" (which I will forever pronounce "Mezziah," thank you, Dutch ancestors) - how can you listen to it and not be moved and inspired? 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sharpie Sunday

Another drawing to go with the Song of Solomon series. Enjoy!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Praise God!

It's Friday! Thanking God today for warm weather, sunshine, a house full of music, great news from a friend, and a finished school week. The kids are excited about that, too!

I'm considering having this piece printed as notecards - what do you think?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Creating Art with Toddlers

I thought I'd talk a little bit more about making art with children, only this time focusing on the wee ones. I doubt there is anything more creative and energetic as a toddler! Their little minds are full of wonder and the excitement of discovering this wide world for the first time. My children are past this stage now, but I remember getting surprising questions like "Do fish have tongues?" And you know, I had to look that one up! ha! :)

Painting or drawing with a tot is a great way to help them learn colors and work on fine motor skills. But most importantly, the time spent having fun together is priceless. A good smock and some good supplies are all that's needed. Cheap supplies typically don't work well and end up in frustration for everyone. 

Encourage them to explore, if that means making different types of marks (loops, dashes, dots, squiggles) or creating fantasy animals (giraffes with wings!). They learn best from example, so try it yourself! Experiment with different methods of making a textured background - stamping is great for this and easy for little people to do. Bubble wrap is fun to stamp with, or roll a yarn-wrapped pencil through paint then across the page. When you're finished, save those painted papers!! They make great backgrounds for future drawings, or use them to cut up for crafts, cards, and more!

Recently while camping, I had my sketchbook and paints out, which drew the attention of two curious little boys, ages 4 and 2. I wasn't quite ready to let them play with my brushes and paints, but I could tell they wanted to be part of what I was doing. They told me what colors to use and pointed to where I should put them on the page. I made random shaped blobs. After a bit I switched to my trusty Sharpie and started doodling over their shapes. When they realized I was drawing flowers instead of trucks, they lost interest and moved on to other play. But that was fine - we had played with the paints for about 30 min, which is pretty long for a little tyke's attention span!

Here's the result of our work. I call it "Gabe's Garden." 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Painting with a 7 yr old

I confess, the cheery & chipper holiday spirit just wasn't in my heart today. It was a long day filled with many frustrations with the kids (kids doing kid-things), topped off with me not feeling the greatest. AND we had to make our weekly trek to the grocery store (nobody's favorite, but we like to eat, so.....)

After we returned and everyone got their schoolwork squared away, I stole some time to do a little painting. Dinner was in the crock pot (I love winter - soup season!), so my 7 yr old son and I collaborated. I figured working with him would loosen me up and be relaxing, if not entertaining. Oh, yes! It was just delightful. It reminded me that kids are kids, and that's part of why I love them so.

[Total side track: When I took my very first art class, my professor emphatically told me - in front of the entire class - that I had forgotten how to play! Ouch. His words stick with me to this day and inspire me to try new ideas without being so uptight. It's just paper, after all]

We started out painting a messy color background, then I asked him what it made him think of.

Spring. And whales.

So we dove in (ahem), passing the Sharpies and white Gel pens back and forth, occasionally turning the paper around so we could add to each other's doodles. He drew a tree - which eventually turned into a jellyfish. I drew some seaweed, which he later made into a dragon. We added loops and squiggles and bubbles and leaves....

And then he announced that the page was full - and we were done!

Whenever I flip through my sketchbook I will see this page and remember our mom-son time, and how mom needs to chill out and see the jellyfish in the trees.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New! Addressing!

I love getting a hand written letter in the mail - something that seems very rare in this age of emails and quick notes on Facebook. Wouldn't you agree that there's so much more expression in a letter written by hand? Combine that with beautiful handwriting (another dying art!) and a simple letter becomes a treasure

Like most things, first impressions are important. So I've been brushing up on writing addresses with my pens. I'm really excited to send out Christmas cards this year!

If you're interested in having me address envelopes for your next party or Christmas cards, contact me. I'd love to work with you!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sharpie Sunday

Playing around with the idea of a series inspired by Song of Solomon, studies from my sketchbook.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Good Morning!

It's a bright sunny day here on the east coast. Here's some sunshine for you in case you're stuck under some heavy  November clouds.

Maybe you noticed a new button at the top of the blog? Click on the "shop" button and you'll be whisked over to my Etsy shop, where you can get some sunshine for yourself or a friend.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sharpie Sunday (revived)

The four kids and I are down with nasty colds this weekend. I let them sleep in and made egg nog waffles for everyone. A little love makes waking up with stuffy noses and sore throats just a little bit more tolerable. Sickness in the house means passing the time with lots of board games. While the kids played a rousing round of The Farming Game, I doodled a bit and came up with this. I guess I'm breaking my rules about not starting Christmas before Thanksgiving Day!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Art History with kids

We're doing a survey of Art History in our homeschool - today's lesson featured Greek art. For me, it was a challenge to condense hundreds of years of stylistic development into a 30 min lesson, but I think we covered the main points. The biggest hurdle was finding examples of art to show the kids that weren't nudes. With maturity, I think study of such artwork is legit given a proper understanding of the artist's worldview, but for the 7-13 yr olds I think it's wise to discuss that humanist view before exposing them to it. Every lesson we talk about the artist(s)' view of God, and their view of Man as shown through their work. This makes interpreting and responding to the art easier to do....unlike the modern response of "how does it make you feel."

But I digress...... a big part of our study today was the black-figure and red-figure kraters and amphora. The kids saw the development from the Geometric period up through the much more developed high point of Greek culture. We laughed at the "apple core figures" and marveled at the details that went into portraying the drapery on later pieces.

And then we made our own amphora - using a scratchboard technique. This was a simple project, using only paper and crayons. A heavy layer of red/orange was put down, then the kids colored solid black over that. They could easily "scratch" away their designs using a toothpick. I think the results are great!

Some decided to create their own mythological scenes.

Others were inspired by the geometric figures and designs (with a Lego snake thrown in for good measure)

It's so much fun to see the different ways kids approach a project - some slowly and carefully, others with great vivacity. Each personality really shines through. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Some big announcements are coming in a few days! I can't wait to tell you!

In the meantime, you'll notice a few changes happening with the blog. Be patient while I work out the bugs and make everything just cozy for my guests.

What makes a blog a place you want to come back to? Feel free to leave a comment.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Call Her Blessed

The sunshine pouring in through the kitchen window prompted me to pick up the brushes and play around a bit. This one has been marinating in my mind for several weeks. The quirky letters are growing on me - what do you think?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The beauty of a word

One word to contemplate, to open a door in your mind. Word alone has power.
I love painting words!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Illustrated Recipe

My sketchbook is filling up with faces - something I'm making myself practice because I'd consider drawing faces my weakest point as an artist. But after filling a few pages with asymmetrical smiles, broken noses, and spaced out eyes, I needed a break! 

I put my pencils away, picked up my beloved Micron .005 pen, and just let go.

And dinner was on my mind, too. It made for a happy result, I think!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Watercolor and Lettering Love

I hope to start producing more paintings in the near future, perhaps to sell prints. My sketchbook is filling up with ideas! Here's the first of them...

Well, it was a start at least. I tried using acrylics on colored paper, but it kept looking like an 80's neon poster, so I switched to a more familiar medium: watercolors.

Oh, how I love the fluidity and flow of watercolors! Can you tell I love typography, too? The graphic designer in me keeps popping out whenever I paint.
watercolor, approx. 11x14"

pencil included for scale - those were some tiny letters!

*all images copyright of Sara Hemmeke, 2013. Please do not use or repost without linking to this blog. Thanks!

Friday, August 23, 2013

His Mercies are New Every Morning

Hey there! We're back from a great camping trip up around Lakes Michigan, Superior, and Huron. Now it's time to settle back into school routines and try to get some more painting done. I'm toying with the idea of putting my art up for sale, perhaps on Etsy? It seems like a big step, and of course the more I think about it, the more my brain shuts down and the creativity seems to dry up. Oy. So I got my hair chopped off. (OK, that had nothing to do with fostering creativity, but a change is so refreshing!).   
From the brushes - His Mercies Are New Every Morning.  

Some days playing with the paints is so rewarding, other days it's just a struggle. This is a good reminder to not get bogged down and start each day afresh!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Brrr! I need a Quillow (huh?)

It's almost 100 degrees and the humidity is drowning us. So why not sew up a toasty quilt? No, I haven't gone mad, just getting a head start on winter. It will eventually get cold again, right?

My friend Jess over at TwinFibers knew I had a son who loved polar bears, so she sent me her scraps from the Brrr line designed by Laurie Wisbrun. They've been marinating on my fabric shelf for a little too long. I loved the fabric, but was short on ideas. Enter another friend, who gave me the needed inspiration during a conversation about camping and the lack of packing space and who really needs to sleep on pillows when you're in a tent anyway?

A lovely solution: a quillow! 

Um, what?

Quillow, you know, a quilt that folds up into a pillow. Genius.

This was the perfect use for those polar bear fabrics - I added in a solid red to break up the busyness of the prints and give me the wee bit more yardage I needed. The back is a simple white muslin I had on hand (which is terribly wrinkled - apparently my iron is on strike).

Then there's a fun surprise! See the red pocket on the backside, above? When you fold the quilt up and flip the pocket inside out to contain it all, you find this log cabin block! Yeah, it was a bit fussy to piece, and yeah, it turned out just a wee bit too small to hold the quilt without wrinkles and puckers, but I still love it, and so does my son!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A new member in the family!

She finally arrived! Proud to announce a new family member (in my fiber family, that is). Meet Greta, the little Kromski Mazurka spinning wheel. Isn't she pretty?? Well, she was, until I artlessly plopped that gray merino on her distaff. No time to sit and be vain, sweetie, there's work to do!

And she spins so well, despite my awkwardness. Steve realized AFTER I bought this that I have no idea how to spin on a treadle wheel (I have only used drop spindles and my walking wheel to date). Hey, the concept is pretty much the same, right? Make the wool twist - easy.

 So far, it's looking good. We'll see how the yarn plies and finishes.
For those of you that don't know, the U-shaped piece with all the little hooks is called a flyer, and the gray yarn is wrapped around the bobbin (which comes off). 

Love all the turnings and that rich mahogany stain. This is a used wheel, signed and dated 2002 on the bottom. She's in great shape with nary a scuff mark on her!

 Family picture, with big sister in the background. Poor old girl has been neglected, and likely will be for some time, what with the little upstart stealing the show. Big Bertha's a bit persnickety to spin with, but I'm rehabilitating her. Despite her stripped tension screw and franken-head, she still has fine lines for being 200 yrs old and can spin her share. I bet back in the day she was a great dance partner.

It's not all spinning happiness here today. I found THIS - my favorite drop spindle - under hubby's chair.... and no one is 'fessing up to it. I suspect sword-play. Hmmmmmm.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kids' Summer Reading Reviews: "Penny Dreadful"

"Penny Dreadful" by Laurel Snyder
2 out of 5 stars
grade level: 4th-7th??

I wasn't blown away by this author's first book, but gave her second book a chance anyway. The writing has not improved, and neither has the plot. I think I'm done with this author for multiple reasons.

Synopsis: Penelope is an only child in a well-to-do family. Her life is boring and she makes a wish for excitement - any kind of excitement. Her father, the president of a prosperous company, comes home one day to annouce he's quit his job...and wants to write a book. For several weeks he shuffles about in a bathrobe while the family's finances go from bad to worse. In fact, they're broke, and the parents end up stressing and fighting about this. Penelope is a confused and worried on-looker, wondering if this is really the excitement she wished for.

Their fortunes change when the mom receives word that she's inherited a house in a rural community. They put their mansion up for rent and move to the sticks, hoping for a change in fortune. Turns out they inherited a ton of debt as well; money worries multiply. Their "house" is actually a run-down conglomeration of houses all built onto each other, and according to the will, the tenants get to live there rent-free. Penelope changes her frou-frou name after being teased and befriends a loud-mouthed girl who is not ashamed of being dirty or poor. Several other friends surface, all of whom have issues of one sort, but they're content to change what they can and live with what they can't.

A hair-brained spelunking scheme to search for a legendary lost treasures turns up to be a bust, and Penny worries that her family - and the other families in the housing complex - will be evicted. In a last-minute turn of events, the other families ante up whatever they can to cover the current month's debt payment, and then they have a potluck picnic. The End.

To keep myself from ranting why I did NOT like this book, let me list a few reasons, rapid-fire:
1. horrid family relationships, children are disconnected/out of touch with their parents
2. the theme of money issues as presented is too deep/complex for kids to relate to
3. the author tosses in a very-pregnant mom who refers to Jenny, her "wife" - either kids will catch on that this is a lesbian relationship or they will be totally confused. This served no purpose in the story at all and is just yuck.
4. The only 2 dads in the story are weak leaders/self-absorbed or paranoid/over-controlling/clueless.
5. I felt like the focus of the plot changed about 3 times - and nothing was really resolved

This book was not even fun to read - tons of worry, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, sad parents, disappointments. I know there are kids who could relate to some aspects of the book, but overall it seemed like the author muddled and lost control of the plot by trying to make her story as politically correct as possible - which only adults get.

What I did like:
1. The illustrations were well done and lively.
2. the main character was not afraid to make friends with people unlike herself

Next I'll be reading a new historical fiction about John Calvin- by Douglas Bond. My brain needs something solid after this!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

No Grays Allowed

Gray Flowers - Great lyrics paired with a sweet indie sound inspired me to do this painting.
Because we all need grays. 


Twinkle twinkle

Found time to sit with my brushes again while the kiddos did their own paintings. My youngest is really into all things related to outer space, so I was inspired to paint the stars.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kids' Summer Reading Reviews - "Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains"

Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains - Laurel Snyder
2nd-4th grade reading level
3 out of 5 stars

Lucy is a common milkmaid with an independent, firey temper. She also happens to be best friends with the prince, who is a bit of a weak-willed pushover. When the king decides it's time for the prince to find a suitable princess (hello?! He's only 12!), spending time with the very unsuitable Lucy is replaced with ruby-polishing and law-memorizing. Lucy suddenly feels angry and alone. She wishes she could talk to her mother about this, but she has been "gone" since Lucy was a tot. Father won't talk about her mother; neighbors sadly shake their heads and say little. In hopes that her mother might still be alive, Lucy goes up the mountain her mother came from to search for her. She doesn't find her mother there, but instead discovers the importance of true friendship amidst a crazy little town that is full of rules (rule-breaking is Lucy's specialty). In the end, we discover that her mother is in fact dead (completely burned up in a lightning strike, not even a gravestone to remember her by) and that the king is willing to bend the laws - justified as a "loophole" - so Lucy and the prince can get married (did I mention they're only 12?!).

OK, this was a fanciful, fun read, but the themes of "rule-bending" and rebellion that goes uncorrected raise a few flags for me. Both Lucy's and the prince's fathers are disconnected from their children's hearts, leaving them the desire to fend for themselves. Finding a spouse at such a young age is just foolishness. The story would've held together without the princess-hunting; the theme of friendship and loyalty are already there and could stand on their own. This is the author's first book - and it felt like a first book while reading it. The plot moves quickly, but the writing is not compelling. It's not bad, just not great. There are a lot of good points to discuss with my kids after reading this - especially how Lucy and the prince would've saved themselves a lot of grief and suffering if they had just talked about what was on their hearts with their fathers in the first place. How rules protect us, and when/if it is ok to go against those rules. I'm not a fan of books that portray overly-independent, rebellious children and disfunctional families, even if it does end "happily ever after."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kids' Summer Reading Reviews - "Clarence Cochran, A Human Boy"

Summertime is a great break from school lessons, but the free time can cause the kids (and moms!) to go a bit stir crazy. Last year we created a fun reading incentive for our kids -it was such a success that we're doing it again this year. After every 1,000 pages, we'll treat that child to some ice cream. Oh, and they have to write a 1 page book review for each book, too (this helps me check that they're not skimming).

Of course, the problem with this is that I need to know what these books are about as well! So I guess I unwittingly enrolled myself in this reading program. But my loss is your gain. I'll post my reviews here on the blog - hopefully you'll find some fun summer reading for your family to enjoy.

William Loizeaux; Pictures by Anne Wilsdorf Clarence Cochran, A Human Boy
Clarence Cochran, A Human Boy - William Loizeaux
2nd-4th grade reading level, 153 pgs.
4 out of 5 stars

Ever imagine what it would be like to be a bug? Or what it would be like for a bug to be a human? Clarence Cochran is your everyday cockroach, happily living in the kitchen of the Gilmartin family with his parents, brothers, and extended cockroach community. But one morning, Clarence awakes to find himself inexplicably transformed into a boy! His family and friends are shocked and shun him, with the exception of his tender-hearted mother. Yes, she gives comforting cockroach hugs and hears Clarence say his prayers after a long day of scampering about the kitchen, like any good mom would do. Before you get too grossed out, this book is the most heart-warming portrayal of cockroaches possible (is that possible?!). Just as he is starting to adjust to his new self, the Gilmartins discover the roaches and call the exterminator. Problems multiply, the colony panics, and a mass exodus is planned. Clarence takes a bold risk and uses his new-found human skills to embark on an adventure for survival. 

I loved everything about this book! It was so refreshing to find a book that boys will LOVE that isn't centered around pirates or sports teams. I giggled all the way through. This would be a great book to go along with an insect study unit, or an ecosystem study. There are lots of character qualities to talk about as well. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is the potential to see this as overly "eco-conscious". That is limited to one character for the most part. I see it as good fuel for discussion about our role as humans to care for the earth in light of the dominion mandate in Genesis.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fiber Festival Bingo!

It's spring - that time of year when sheep are shorn and their wool is celebrated by so many fiber festivals across the country. I'm looking forward to attending the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival next weekend. Even if you're not into yarn, spinning, or knitting, these fiber festivals are sure to give you lots of great food and plenteous opportunities for people watching! My kids enjoyed the cider donuts and sheep dog trials at one festival. I always enjoy perusing countless booths of vendors selling all sorts of unique items (not just yarn!).

How about a little Fiber Festival Bingo? Print it out and take it along to hone your people-watching skills. Or keep the kids busy while you shop for yarn.  Don't know where to find a fiber fest? This list has hundreds!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sharpie [Wednesday] ???

Wow - the weekend slipped past like a greased hog! A bit late for my Sharpie Sunday post, so here's a mid-week treat.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Crazy Life hits again

Hi there! Life has been full to overflowing lately! I haven't had much time to get around to anything creative outside of trying to figure out what I can whip up for dinner in 30 min or less. This weekend my daughter and I were able to tackle a couple of projects - I can't wait to show you pictures (whenever I find camera batteries!). Coming soon!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Big Blue

My grandpa is turning 92 this week! He's been a farmer all his life. In fact, he's lived in the same house his entire life! Just think about that - 92 years in the same house! Of course he's not out plowing fields anymore, but I know he'd love to be driving his trusty blue Ford tractor if he could. Since he can't climb up into the cab anymore, I thought I'd do a painting of it so he can still have "Big Blue" close by.

 This tractor is older than I am - as a kid I can remember him telling me how the hat the dealer gave him when he bought this Ford was the most expensive hat he ever purchased.....but it came with a great "free" tractor! Over the years he's modified it - built a cab to stay warm while plowing snow as well as giving her a few new paint jobs.
 My dad sent some reference photos of Big Blue as she stands in the barn. Thankfully he included a few different angles so I could see what was hiding behind the posts. Since I knew Grandpa knows every inch of this tractor, I couldn't fake any of the details! 
I have never attempted a watercolor painting of this detail before - I am so surprised how it turned out! I think I've found "my voice" artistically. Painting with a teeny tiny brush and getting all those shadows and details just right was immensely satisfying. You could say I even felt giddy while painting! What fun! 

Happy Birthday, Grandpa! I hope you enjoy your painting!