Archives For photography

The Macaron

Mary Liz Ingram —  November 12, 2015 — 2 Comments

MacaronCan a three-year-old appreciate a macaron?

She will look at the choices, ask what are the flavors, contemplate which may be most delicious. She will choose a pink one, because it is beautiful and pink. She will eagerly await the little dainty treat, and finish all her supper. She will hold it carefully in her hand, and look at it closely. She will rub the smooth top with her tiny finger, and peek into the middle to see what color is inside. She will sniff it and look at it one more time before taking a little bite. She will say “mmmmm” with as much pleasure as I, and eat the whole thing carefully and slowly. We will say French words while we eat our macarons, and feel very fancy.

So, yes, I think a three-year-old can appreciate a macaron.

Bon apetit.

"The Macaron," 20x25 watercolor on canvas

“The Macaron,” 20×25 watercolor on canvas

Beach Adventures

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 4, 2015 — Leave a comment

There’s this magical place where the sands are untouched, smooth and white as snow; where the sky stretches on in the vastness of blue, where the sea oats whisper and the ocean rolls, where a river of amber flows shallow and changing into the turquoise sea. If you listen, you only hear the quiet breeze and the gentle splashing of your bare feet as you tread gingerly up the river towards the lake. The dunes are safe from the traffic and trash of humans. The herons watch you approach, and the little fish dart in the skim of water.

This is where we find respite for a week each September. I take the hearty adventurers up the tidal river towards Alligator Lake several times each day, and always in the early morning when the cotton candy clouds hang lazy in the sky. With a net and eager eyes, my son watches for crab. His lithe little body, tanned by the sun, moves with patient energy. He appreciates the stillness of the place, the untouched nature. I’m proud as I watch him wonder.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure and honor to offer a pastel demonstration at one of the monthly meetings of the Mountain Brook Art Association. Just back from the most recent beach trip, I chose a picture of my son in the beach river, green net in hand, looking up at the beautiful sky with his little feet in the damp sand.

Beach Adventures, 16x20 pastel

Beach Adventures, 16×20 pastel

At the demonstration, I was able to share some of my favorite materials and techniques. Below is a list of some earlier blog posts about my favorite materials:

Sennelier, Paris... My favorite!

Sennelier, Paris… My favorite!

Sennelier Soft Pastels:

The Darker the Better

Love at First Sight

Full Circle

Spraying Pastels:

To Spray or not to Spray

SpectraFix Pastel Fixative

SpectraFix Follow up

Papers & Boards:

Pastelbords

Pastel Ground:

Applying Pastel Ground

The Spanish Steps

Black Board with Golden Pastel Ground

 

Winter Trees

Mary Liz Ingram —  February 23, 2015 — Leave a comment

Everyday, lately, I watch the winter trees. Some days they are dancing in the wind, some days they stand still as statues. Often they are mobbed with chattering black birds.

The dark, bare branches look like ink against the gray sky, so I drew them. I let the ink drip down the crinkled paper, as I held it upside down. When I turned it right side up, I found a tree:

Winter Tree, ink

Winter Tree, ink

Today, the trees were rain-soaked and slowly moving, here and there. I wrote down a little poem while I sipped my coffee:

The trees stand

like frozen sentinels

drenched by a cold winter rain.

They watch me with

arms spread high and wide

daring me to hear them

to feel the bare morning

to come out of my house

and reach to the sky.

Wet to the bone

they tease me

as I sit in my warm chair

wrapped and snug.

With waving wet arms

they tell me to come out and see

come out and dance

and feel the rain.

Southern Hygge

Mary Liz Ingram —  January 19, 2015 — 2 Comments

This weekend has left several improving marks upon my life.

It began with a challenge: an attempt to clarify a fuzzy whisper in my mind.

Feeling another step in the right direction of living well in my place, it tickled the edges of my thoughts. The many tasks and routines and duties of daily life crowded out any understanding. For the weekend, I decided an easy and concrete way to lessen the buzz and listen to life is to set aside the smart phone. You know how it is these days…our children telling us stories or asking us questions while we continue staring at the screen, looking for who knows what.

Be present, original photographyIt started with a sentence: “Be with the ones who are here.”

I added it to my phone’s lock screen photo, my favorite photo. Each time I lift it and push the magic button, I am reminded to be present. Most often, I put the phone down. I needed nothing; just an idle addiction to “news” and “notification.” When the timing is appropriate and I am the only one here, I browse. Friday afternoon happened upon an article introducing cultural concepts from outside the US. Several of these ideas struck chords in my heart and set off a light bulbs in my mind. I ate up as much information as I could to understand (and correctly pronounce) these new terms.

It begins with an “H”: The Danish Hygge (pronounce something close to “hue-gah”)

A warm, cozy sense of well-being; being grateful for the present moments, for warming, light-filled simple things. Like walks in the woods, bundled in soft clothes. Like a warm cup of tea, or hot chocolate by the fire. Like snuggling on a deep couch with your family, or taking time to pet your dog. Watching your children run and laugh and play down a trail; watching the sun rays through the trees, shining off the puddles and warming your face. A home that exudes welcome. Good friends and good company.

In Denmark, they say this contributes to the Danes being the happiest people on earth. Filling their homes with candles and lights and joy and camaraderie. I ordered some string lights for our home (with Christmas past and hygge not quite celebrated here, they proved hard to come by!) and have candles in mason jars on my mantle…a southern type of hygge. I’m ready to bring warmth to these cold winter months and more peace and awareness into our daily moments.

It starts with an “S”: The Japanese Shinrin-Yoku

Translated as “forest bathing,” we immediately explored this concept of “spending time in the forest and natural areas,” which is supposed to be “good preventative medicine.” On our sunny and mild January Saturday, I loaded up the three kids and headed around the way to our nearby Red Mountain Park. We wove our way through the forest, up and down and around the hilly trails and through the tall, tangled towers of bare trees. We soaked in the forest, the sunlight, the changing earth which darkened the nearer we came to the old iron ore mines. We explored and adventured.

It was good for the soul.

The two children who had earlier been squabbling as we stayed indoors now laughed and ran and chased each other, finding rocks and sticks and life. The mother who was tired, morose and irritable breathed deeply and gazed warmly at the world and with so much love and gratitude at the scampering kids. Can hygge and shinrin-yoku go together? Fusion philosophies, like fusion food? It seems that way.

There is so much to learn in the world; so many ways to improve our lives so that in turn, we may improve the lives of others. In our fast, competitive, needy American life, these slowing, peaceful, contented cultural concepts sound like good medicine. I already feel a difference in my life, just from the first days of appreciative attempt. I wish the same for you, along with a warm and welcoming winter.

Explore, original photography

Explore, original photography

 

The Garden

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 23, 2014 — 5 Comments

For months, I’ve been consumed with my latest project:

My fabulous front yard garden.

I’ve researched, I’ve measured, I’ve sketched and planned. I’ve shoveled dirt, I’ve carried rocks, I’ve moved buckets and buckets of soil. I’ve planted, I’ve watered, I’ve problem solved, I’ve watched food grow, I’ve eaten produce from my front yard.

With my trusty helpers, including the 2 year old, we have made my dream a reality and I have to admit I am super proud – giddy even. If you follow my blog, you may remember my post from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, when I was first inspired to plant the garden. Well, I’m happy to say I DID IT. I did it!!! And if you follow me on Facebook, you’ve been barraged with garden doodles.

In planting, I tried to be responsible – environmentally, economically and practically. After a persistent search, I found an amazing deal on recycled fire bricks ($25 a ton!) to edge my garden. I ordered a huge dump truck load of soil at the best price. I compost and I now own a $40 rain barrel. I ordered non GMO seeds ($.99 sample packs!) from seedsnow.com and they grew. I shop at my local Homewood Garden Shop and have healthy blueberry bushes and lovely plants.

I worked my butt off building and planting this garden.

Beginning at the end of August, in the Alabama heat, I made it happen with my ever-present garden buddy. My kids, especially my son, now understand exactly where food comes from and how to grow it and care for it. My son waters it, pulls grass out of it, harvests the radishes, and takes a walk through it every time I open the door.

My garden is planted to grow community.

I didn’t know how that would work, but the first day I was out there I had real conversations with a dozen people, neighbors and passers-by. I share food with my neighbors and have met all sorts of new people. My kids tell anyone who asks about the plants growing, and I find that food is an easy thing to discuss, a common denominator.

My favorite story happened a few weeks ago. As we walked home from school, I began talking to an older lady about rosemary, as our kids were smelling it by someone’s mailbox. I just made a quick comment, not aiming at anything, not trying too hard. A few words later, we were talking about my garden. She was interested and missed her garden, as she said, “in my country, we have sun everyday and I grow many plants.” As we parted ways, I told her to stop by anytime and see the garden and take some herbs.

A week later, she stopped me at the corner with her two grandsons and asked if they could walk down to see the garden. On our short stroll, I find out they are from Haiti, and that her entire family was there during the earthquake except for her. She had arrived in the US four days before the quake for a wedding, and was plagued with anxiety over the separation at such a time. I now know her name, I know a portion of her amazing story, and the kids all ran together along the stepping stones of my garden.

Growing something, overcoming obstacles (like cats, cabbage worms, flooding rains, aphids…), being faithfully attentive and persistent…you learn things from gardening. About life, about children, about the world. I feel at peace and connected to nature when I’m checking the leaves and hearing the spray of water hitting the thick pile of green collards. It is a small miracle to see a snow pea sprout and grow out of the dirt, mere days after planting. There are more benefits to this garden than I can name.

My Garden Doodles thus far:

 

 

Love

Mary Liz Ingram —  February 16, 2014 — 2 Comments

“Love was made for me and you…”

I can hear Nat King Cole and see flowers and hearts and mushy, huggy love all around me.

Valentine’s Day has come around again.

The aftermath of children’s Valentine’s parties clutters my counters with tiny cards and candy wrappers, my toddler’s art work adorns the mantle draped with kid-painted heart garlands, flowers from my Valentine smile from the den table.

I really like Valentine’s Day. Many curse it, blaming Hallmark for sucking us into consumeristic spending traps. Many find it a lonely day that highlights something missing. But it is about love, and we all have that, in some form or other.

It’s a good day to show it, to whomever you love. Love is a big deal. You know when you love someone. You can’t help it.

This year, I have a Valentine and three tiny Valentines. I also made sure to tell my family and my friends “Happy Valentine’s” because I love them too. Love is bigger than a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a husband or wife. Love is for all of us.

Love looks different to different people, too. It’s not our job to say whose love is right and whose is wrong. We’re all human; we all know love. So let’s show a little more of it. A little more understanding for unknown struggles, a little more patience with those we don’t know, a lot less pointing fingers and telling others what to do, and a little more minding our own business and loving our people. It won’t hurt much, I promise.

Valentines from our daughter, colored pencil

Valentines from our daughter, colored pencil

From the mouths of babes…

The first conversation we ever had with our kids about homosexuality was about our neighbors. Two women who live together in faithful partnership. We simply told the kids that our neighbors love each other, but some people don’t think that’s okay. That was that.

But our eldest said, “Well that’s dumb! No one can tell you who to love!”

Smart kid. I agree.

 

Homemade Valentine cards, a family tradition:

My Hero, watercolor & ink

My Hero, watercolor & ink

 

For my 3 tiny Valentines

For my 3 tiny Valentines

If You Weren’t Afraid…

 

Keep Dreaming

Mary Liz Ingram —  February 10, 2014 — 1 Comment

Sunday morning, lots of PJs, snuggling and drawing. The 2014 Winter Olympics play on the TV, a recording from last night replayed for the kids.

My 8-year-old videos the already-recorded figure skating on a phone, enthralled by the young Russian who spins so fast you lose sight of what’s what.

Videographer, ink doodle

Videographer, ink doodle

 

My 6-year-old draws pictures of snow boarders and dreams of flipping through the air (something, I would argue, he already does off of my furniture).

Dream Sketcher, ink doodle

Dream Sketcher, ink doodle

The baby watches and rocks on her horse, periodically coming to see the drawings I’m doodling while sipping my warm coffee.

Horse Rocker, ink doodle

Horse Rocker, ink doodle

You know, it’s hard being a parent.

Being responsible for the nurturing and raising of a child, not to mention three. Responsible for encouraging talents, providing opportunities, while still keeping life carefree and simple and full of freedom to create and explore. So many, especially Americans, pack out their weeks with back-to-back extracurricular activities on top of homework and high demands for excellence. I’ve always promised not to buy into the crazy-busy schedules, letting my kids try one activity at a time.

But then I had three kids.

In a week of 7 days, extra stuff fills up the afternoons faster than I thought. What should they try? Dance? Piano? Gymnastics? Soccer? T Ball? …..

Swaying between doing nothing and too much, I let the Olympics inspire me this cold winter morning, and I signed up my flippy, head-standing, hands-walking son for gymnastics. It just felt right.

Ninja Training

Ninja Training

On the plus, the gymnastics teacher has tried out for American Ninja Warrior, one of my son’s actual dreams (he has trained by walking down the walls of the hallway, climbing door jambs, setting up courses in his room).

So it’s a go. And it works because it perfectly coincides with my daughter’s dance class. Knocking out two birds with one stone in one afternoon.

*Slow Exhale*

It’s a tough thing to be somewhat in charge of helping your child’s “dreams come true.”

I’m going with gut instinct and crossed fingers.

And lots of love.

Ice Skating Dreams, original photography

Ice Skating Dreams, original photography

Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me

-Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, Dream A Little Dream of Me

First Snowflakes

First Snowflakes

On Tuesday the snowflakes began to fall.

At school, I watched intently out my office window, watching the ground, watching the weather reports, watching for school closings. As the ground grew white, I grew nervous. A test drive around the lot and my fears were confirmed. There was snow and ice on the ground, and I had a school full of preschoolers and teachers.

I gave up on the school systems and called it: “Come get your preschoolers!!”

But like everyone else, I was too late.

An hour later, 35 of the 70 preschoolers were still sitting, eating, playing and waiting with many teachers, with a few snowbound parents and even some wandering, freezing high school students.

Outside the ground was white, the sky was white, the cars and roofs and bushes were white. The trees stood in dark contrast to the landscape: a world of black and white.

But inside, a study in contrast where lights warmed and hot drinks and food nourished the bodies and spirits of the stranded, my decisions were anything but black and white. Outcomes changing by the minute, as more snow smothered our chances of progress, I scurried back and forth communicating and arranging what had turned into a strange sort of rescue.

Stranded, ink sketch

Stranded, ink sketch

After parents had tramped and slipped for miles through the snowy hills of Mountain Brook to their happy, carefree children; after answering calls from parents whose cars were in ditches and ten car sliding pile-ups; when only a few were left, I traipsed across a flawlessly blanketed courtyard, breathing in the icy air and looking for the next step as my soft footsteps marked my path.  Behind me lay decisions and carefully placed prints; ahead lay the next phase of this snowy adventure.

Hours have passed and evening approaches. A few remain, but most are home…one way or another. I’d long ago given up any expectation of going home. Here till the end like a captain and her ship. With a few preschoolers remaining, we buddy up and find refuge for the night.

Bundled and loaded, we embark on a snowy trek: a teacher, two three year olds, two toddlers, a young neighbor and myself. We walk uphill, around a curve, up another hill, down and up and around again. The snow crunches, the air like ice, the world shrouded in a silent muffle of white. With two deposited at their temporary home, and carrying the three year old (whose first language is Chinese), we walk and huff and puff till the end. Four weary, frozen travelers finally enter a warmer world: a glowing room, crackling fire, flowing drinks, warming meal, smiling welcome. A refuge of Southern hospitality.

After nourishment and recuperation, a long night commences… sleeping in clothes and comforting weepy, home-sick children. My baby in my bed, refusing to remain in the loaned crib, she rotates all night with glow-in-the-dark passy, feet in my face and little hands smelling of cake. Reminded of days having an infant, I hummed and sang and deliriously whispered to her of puppies and kitties and cupcakes and flowers to keep her from again waking our little friend on his pallet.

Little Sidekick, ink sketch

Little Sidekick, ink sketch

Finally morning breaks. I knew it would come.

Deep freezing temperatures give way to hot coffee and a kind breakfast, day old clothes and friendly conversation, frozen plans but warm hearts. Seeing the news that so many spent the long, cold night in cars or walking down iced interstates makes us even more grateful for our situation, and also questioning when we could make it home.

Snow, ink sketch

Snow, ink sketch

After a wintery walk back to the preschool to restock supplies (diapers are a must!), a sudden chance arrives…a window of opportunity to attempt the journey home. Again, we are rescued by the kindness of others, as a Tahoe-driving preschool dad comes to our aid. We begin the detouring, slow-sliding, wreck-passing, sidewalk-driving, careful-navigating, backtracking, long drive to Homewood.

We pass a tangle of chaos: cars upended, cars in rivers, garbage trucks and mail trucks abandoned, car pile ups blocking entire roads. People walking everywhere, people helping everywhere, people hosting in homes, pushing stalled cars, offering rides, sharing advice, giving encouragement.

Through one last snarled junction, I see my snow-covered home and my sweet little preschooler’s worried father. Relief, appreciation, joy…hard to describe the emotions that filled my soul.

At the end of this adventure, as I sit by my fire in my chair in my home, a simple thought covers my mind:

No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

We are all neighbors…

and there is no place like home.

 

Special thanks to my amazing staff of preschool teachers for keeping the kids warm, happy and safe; to Bonnie Hartley, for creating a food and drink-filled refuge in the fellowship hall; to Nikki Still & Celeste Henderson who stayed till the end; to the Alex who pushed the double stroller of babies up snowy hills and took in two children; to Alex, Linda and Scott Kingsford for opening their home to “preschool refugees” and sharing their food, love and resources; to my little three-year-old sidekick for the night, for his calm and cheerful disposition and trust in me; to his parents, again for trusting me to care for their baby; to Scott Miklic for driving us home when the outcome was only a chance; to my husband and daughter for walking through the snow (twice!) while they were sick with the flu, to pick up our son and our neighbor; to my Dad for helping us get our car back days later; to Heather and Barry Brown for sheltering and comforting other stranded preschool families, that they had never met, for the night and the day; to the drivers who picked up walking parents and helped them get to their children; to teachers who slept at schools and kept children safe; to good, kind people everywhere who made an unbearable and dangerous situation for so many Southerners an experience of the greatest humanity and love.

Southern hospitality at its finest.

Holiday Show Recap

Mary Liz Ingram —  January 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

While busy with commissions before Christmas, I have also been busy with art shows. Here’s a quick recap of the Mountain Brook Art Association Holiday Show.

Swept

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

This morning a giant metal claw scooped up our huge trash pile and hauled it away to the dump.

Normal procedure for a Monday morning in our suburban neighborhood, lined with rows of cute little homes, shade trees and garbage cans.

But it hurt this morning.

Little dirty tractors that had been left in the yard too long; IKEA cups that never made it back inside; wood from projects with kid-hammered nails poking out on all sides; sand buckets with cracked sides; empty dog food and grass seed bags; old crocs and dirty garden gloves; and of course plenty of sticks, wisteria vines and leaves.

Watching the little green tractor escape the claw and roll into the street actually made me tear up a little. For several reasons.

The first is sentimental, picturing my little boy rolling it through the dirt, now it’s being crunched by the garbage man…the usual weepy mom stuff.

But more so because of our shocking wastefulness. So much waste, just sitting on the side of the road. An embarrassing pile of American garbage. We buy, we play, we forget. We want, we get, we abandon. We accumulate so much, we have to throw away.

We regularly purge our home. It’s small and crowded with humans and pets, so there’s not lots of space for junk. I just put a big bag of who-knows-what on the porch for donation last Saturday. But the house is still full of junk, and we just keep filling it back up.

I’m reading a book right now with the tagline “An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” We as Americans are surrounded by excess, and we always have our hands out for more. We may be thrifty (I am the queen of hand-me-downs, if I do say so myself), but we still crave more, more, more.

I feel swept away in the current of life; we’re all going the same direction, and we’re getting there fast. Too fast. So fast we miss tons of life, so many experiences, because we’re always trying to get to the next place.

We rush, we buy, we use. I want to scream STOP! and get a grip, a hold onto something that will help me pause. Moments flash by in a flood and I’m caught in the current, getting glimpses, a few deep breaths before diving in again. I want to control the current, but it is impossible. How can I work with this current of time and days, to use my strength to chart my own course? To avoid the whirlpools of excess, to escape the “habits of the mind,” and find more peaceful waters?

I simply don’t know.

But I want to.

And I aim to try.

So stay tuned…